Posts tagged ‘IWant’

Memories of Paris: possibly the best macaroons ever

Anyone’s who’s halfway serious about macaroons (or macarons, if you want to be really Frenchy) will know that the best ones are to be found in Paris. Moi, I am not serious about macaroons at all as a rule. I first tried some in Taipei, out of a neighbourhood bakery, which was a big mistake because they weren’t much different from pastel-coloured biscuits – two floury, crunchy slabs sandwiching a squirt of randomly flavoured buttercream – not impressive at all. I did not know what was the big deal with them bloody macaroons.

In the course of my pre-trip prep, I was trawling Tripadvisor for places to eat in Paris when I realized that Pierre Herme ranked in the top ten of >6000 restaurants there, and technically, it is not even a restaurant, but a patisserie. Thus it was decided. I told Mr. Manx, “Mr. Manx, we shall visit Pierre Herme when we are in Paris.”

He replied, “As you wish, my love. Is it one of those steak tartare places?”

I said, “No. It sells macaroons.”

He said, “Macaroons? Those pastel-coloured biscuits? You hate those pastel-coloured biscuits. I hate those pastel-coloured biscuits.”

I said, “I have reason to believe that the pastel-coloured biscuits we had in Taipei do not qualify as macaroons. I think it may be that macaroons and pastel-coloured biscuits are two different things. In fact, these are so different that they are spelt ‘macarons’.”

And so it was.

Please pardon the lighting in our Paris apartment. It turns everything yellow when it was really a bright, lovely assortment of colours.

This is a box of seven and these fellas cost something like €2 apiece. Here’s what I remember of them. From bottom upwards:

#1 is Mogador, which means passionfruit with chocolate. I think it must be a point of pride with M. Herme to create taste combinations that are unintuitive and therefore intriguing. This one pairs the bright acidity of passionfruit with the tongue-coating creaminess of milk chocolate. Clever and tasty, but, as Johnny Depp says in Chocolat, “Not my favourite.” Also, I find bright yellow an unappetising colour, unless it’s on Cheetos.

#2 and #4 are the same – caramel with fleur de sel. This one turned out to be my favourite, so I’m really glad I went with my gut and got two.  This one has it all – the heavy, burnt lushness of caramel and then the surprising zing of the pinch of salt that lets you keep tasting the caramel again, over and over. This is the one that pops into my head when I think about macaroons macarons at all.

#3 is pistachio. I’m afraid I don’t have much recollection of pistachio. It was good, certainly, but didn’t stand out.

#5 is ispahan, which is rose with raspberry and lychee. It was my second favourite in the bunch, because eating it was such a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. If you nibble a little bit of it, you get the light, airy flavour of lychee-tinged rose, which somehow you don’t taste as much as smell. Then if you take a bigger bite, you get a hit of tart raspberry jam that brings you back to earth in much the same way as filling your lungs with the first breath of air on a cold morning.

#6 is chocolate, which always has an unfair advantage with me, because as long as there’s plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and not too sweet, I will like it. This had plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and was not too sweet. My third favourite.

As a fitting counterpart to #1, #7 is chocolate and cassis, which explains its purple tinge. Like #1, this was an unusual combination, but I found this pairing of dark choc and sweet berry rather more appealing.

The lighting in the bathroom was much better for photo-taking, though not so good for eating in

Here’s a close-up of a semi-eaten #6. You can see how thin and crisp the outer shell is. You have to be careful just picking up these babies because they’re so delicate. When your teeth meet the shell, it shatters gently and immediately. The fluffy part inside is cool, sweet and airy, and you can’t always differentiate it from the filling, which is very thick and plentiful, and very fresh. When it’s in your mouth, you’re never quite sure if you should chew or just let it melt. I tend to chew, which brings the textures together beautifully, but then the experience doesn’t last so long. 

It’s a testament to how good these were that, after our return, Mr. Manx has, upon passing certain shops, said things to the effect of, “Oh, they sell macaroons here – shall we get some? Should we get six, or ten?”

I hear that Pierre Herme can now also be found in London, so, Kel, since you’re coming along in my suitcase, we can go pig out some day.


December 9, 2010 at 10:49 2 comments

Memories of Paris: A L’Etoile D’Or

What’s that, you say? Well, it’s only the best sweet shop in Paris, owned, managed and run by Ms Denise Acabo. Here’s a picture of the great lady together with me and Mr. Manx, who was reflected in the mirror. In case you’re not sure, Ms Acabo is the one with the blonde braids.

We didn’t have long to spend there, so most of our time was spent choosing nougat bars, chocolate almonds and sugared pecans as souvenirs for our friends. But as a treat for myself, I bought a Bernachon chocolate bar – Kalouga, since I am in a caramel mode these days – which I haven’t eaten yet and am saving for either a very good or a very bad day. Christmas ought to qualify.

Mr. Manx took a picture of some old periodicals on display. I swear, neither Ms Acabo nor her shop have changed. At all.

My French is as good as non-existent, but I managed to establish that:

1) Ms Acabo has been running this shop for about forty years (!) and is over seventy years old (!!!).

2) It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Once she sees your eyes light up, she will give you a tour of the treasures in her shop in French, and somehow, you will feel that you understand.

3) She uses a special wrapping paper with those illusion pictures – you know, the ones that should be turned upside down or have a hidden face somewhere.

4) She’s pretty big in Japan (hur hur, Alphaville fans). She’s appeared in Japanese magazines and, indeed, there was a Japanese tourist who popped in to buy sweets and take a picture with her.

5) Pistachio and dark nougat bars are far better than plain.

6) A L’Etoile D’Or is the only place outside Lyon that sells Bernachon chocolate, which is supposed to be fabulous. Customers are not allowed to touch the bars on display. Now I kinda regret that I only got one. I never got to break that last 100-Euro note…

7) Under no circumstances whatsoever will the combination of chocolate and peanuts be tolerated on these premises. Ever.

8) Ms Acabo believes in gentlemen. After I had made payment, she wouldn’t let me near the bag and instead held it out to Mr. Manx, and I caught the words “l’homme” and “portez“. Wahaha!

I think it’s fantastic that someone has invested this much passion into a sweet shop. This is sort of place that will stay the same over time and will never franchise. I do hope I get to come back to it one day.

A L’Etoile D’Or is at 30 Rue Fontaine, 75009 Paris, quite near Moulin Rouge. No website either, but lot of reviews if you Google it.

December 6, 2010 at 08:56 Leave a comment

This close to reprieve

Spring and autumn are my favourite times to visit a place, because it’s cool without being frigid and there won’t be a rowdy summer crowd. I’ve been to Australia, Taiwan and Japan during these seasons and have been so envious of their weather then. Well, on Saturday night, Mr. Manx and I are flying off to Paris and England! I cannot wait to be there. I was there once before as a kid. My parents took Wedoryn and I on a package tour before spending some time in England, where they went to university. In the strange way that childhood memories have, the brightest recollections are of the least obvious moments. I do remember Disneyland, but with nothing of the vibrance of Trafalgar Square, where I had a whale of a time hiding handfuls of birdseed in a five-year-old Wedoryn’s cap and sweater, then watching him get obliterated by a frantic cloud of pigeons (there are no more pigeons there now, but that’s how I want to remember it). I remember thinking that Sacher Torte was no big deal (‘cos it was dry and I didn’t like cream) (sorry, Austria) and crazily worrying at one point that we were running out of money because my dad told me that English money was worth much more than Singaporean (I was also thinking that this was not fair; my twelve-year-old self had no grasp of economics; not that I have any now).

Mr. Manx has never been, so this will be his first chance to get some authentic European memories.

Other than the awesome fact of being there, here’s what I want as a souvenir of the trip:

Well, OK, no, I don’t want Ms. Olsen Twin ‘cos I prefer dudes have Mr. Manx (this is the primary reason, non?) and it’s not even exactly her bag I’m lusting after, but these pictures show the best approximation I could find. What I want is a Chanel reissue (therefore with the Mademoiselle instead of the CC lock on Ms. OT’s bag) in distressed red (darker and more veined than Ms. OT’s bag) and silver hardware (completely different from Ms. OT’s bag), size large (similar to Ms. OT’s bag). If I find it and get it, I would certainly wear it with a black dress or with neutral-top-and-jeans like Ms. OT in the first two pictures, but definitely not with evening wear. Maybe it’s just my funny eye, but I’ve never fancied Chanel classic flaps as evening bags. Expensive, luxurious and beautifully-made though they are, to me they lack the frivolity? whimsy? essential uselessness? of a real evening bag. It probably has something to do with the combination of boxy shape and shoulder strap. Besides, if one carries a Chanel classic flap to a posh event, one runs the very real risk of meeting five other women in the room with the same idea – tres bummer. Now, if one, on the other hand, carries a non-black, functional-sized Chanel classic flap in the daytime, one stands a much better chance of being quite unique.

I like being unique.

October 7, 2010 at 13:40 4 comments

My picks from the Hobo International sale

Let me be absolutely frivolous today and talk about a new bag brand that’s caught my eye (this happens quite a lot when I’m on call. Yes, I am blaming my addiction on the work system). It’s called Hobo International, a company started by a lady named Toni Ray who should be in her seventies now. She came from a poor family, got abandoned by her husband when she was pregnant, then got fired from her bag-and-shoe-making job when she was fifty. So she turned to the only thing she knew, which was making leather bags.

The thing I really like about her leather bags are their pockets. These things have veritable arsenals of secret pockets tucked into their little bodies. The best examples are the clutches. I TOTALLY see these two beauties in my near future – perhaps not in these colours, but definitely the architecture.

This is the Lori clutch in White Vintage leather. At 13.5 inches across, 7 inches high, and 1 inch deep, it’s quite a whopper, which I consider an essential criterion for a daytime clutch (there’s still an aching corner in my heart for you, Lauren Merkin Tatum). That asymmetric curve speaks of cool confidence that doesn’t need to shout to be heard. It also reminds me of the Dior saddle bags. The real abracadabra, though, lies in the inside. The clutch contains a paisley lining that boasts not just a zip and a slide pocket, but also eight credit card slots. I cannot begin to express how absolutely brilliant I  think that is. I could leave my entire wallet (or wallets, since I carry two) at home and yet be able to find my plastic in two seconds. How could it be that this is the first clutch I’ve seen with this superb idea? And it doesn’t cost the earth either. Current sale price is US$118.80, down from US$190, which makes it about S$166 now.

This is not a lipstick holder. This is the Eden clutch in Shadow Patent leather. It’s smaller than the Lori at <11 inches across, 4.5 inches high and 1 inch deep, but it’s no midget either. There’s even a handle at the back to grab on to. Little Miss Perfect, you say? Complete with petticoated polka-dot skirt and high backcombed ponytail? With a ribbon? Well, exactly! I think it’s cool the way this clutch conveys all that just by being plain and boxy, with a big button. It’s so 60s, it would be mind-blowing with a contemporary outfit. As for the inside, in addition to the zip and slide pockets and the credit card wall, there’s also a centre divider with a second zip pocket and a tiny removable change purse. Not kidding. It’s that adorable. It’s on sale now for US$76.80, down from US$128, which converts to about S$108.

Drool-worthy? I certainly think so. If you like, here’s the link to Hobo International, so you can see what rocks your boat. There is actually a bag called Katie, but, alas, she does nothing for me.

Addendum: the sale was announced yesterday and closes on 8th Jan 2010, their time. That makes it roughly our Friday afternoon. It was serendipity to have stumbled onto this site today. It was definitely meant to be. I’m not gonna wait on Rue La La’s sale to start just when HI’s ends. I’m buying now! 

January 6, 2010 at 21:40 Leave a comment

Rebecca Minkoff Nikki Hobo is coming to town

After nine blissful hours of sleep (Friday night feels so good after two calls and before a free weekend!), I woke up to check my email and was most excited to find that my Rebecca Minkoff Nikki Hobo had arrived at Viaddress and that it has already been picked up by Fedex.

This is a Rebecca Minkoff Nikki Hobo in Cloud Grey; mine is in Jam Purple. Making something in Jam Purple is a surefire way of getting me interested in it.

And it’s slated to arrive on Christmas Eve at about six in the evening. Merry Christmas to me, hohoho!

December 19, 2009 at 11:34 2 comments

In the arsenal of this online bag-shopper

After my first few weeks as an online bag-shopper, I thought I’d share some of my experiences. I’ve come to think that online shopping is da bomb when it comes to bags. Unlike clothes or shoes, there are no worries about quirks of fit. There’s no such rubbish as one country’s size 8 being another’s size 12, or if the object runs true to size or not.  Of course, you don’t get to see the bag’s exact colour, or feel how smooshy it is, or try how it looks in proportion to your frame, but you can always Google up some info and pictures.

But the very best thing, in my opinion, is that online shopping lets you enjoy some pretty amazing discounts on designer bags. Here are a couple of sites I’ve been visiting:

Reebonz – this is a Singapore-based site that holds two-day sales of various luxury goods and events, such as Prada, Miu Miu and Gucci bags, at up to 60% off. Payment is by Paypal or major credit cards. Being a local site, they’ll get the goods to you a week after the end of sale, maybe a bit more if it’s peak period. And they do deliver. I’ve had two bags from them already – a red Kate Spade Carlsbad Vanessa and a brown Coach full-leather shoulder bag, both at sub-S$400. Both were new and full of that magical leather smell, and had original prices of S$600-700ish. Very yummy. I recommend heartily.

Gilt Groupe – this is a US site. It offers a better variety than Reebonz – bags, clothes, shoes, wines, jewellery, watches – also in two-day sales. I like that it stocks odder brands (to a Singaporean, that is; an American might disagree – whaddaya say, Vric?) like Rebecca Minkoff, Francesca Biasia, Lauren Merkin and Botkier, also at significant discounts. For example, I ordered a Rebecca Minkoff Nikki Hobo, which goes for US$595 on the RM site, but which went for US$298 on GG. I read that RM bags are available in Singapore, at a place called Quintessential, but I have heard that prices begin at about S$900. The main problem with ordering from US sites when you’re in Singapore is that these sites 1) don’t ship outside the US and 2) only accept US-based credit cards. So how is it done?

Answer: delivery sites that give you a US address and concierge services, then ship your stuff to you in Singapore.

Viaddress – you can choose to pay either S$4.95 per package or S$9.95 a month for unlimited packages. The (free!) concierge service is pretty good so far. They ordered the RM Nikki from Gilt Groupe for me. My favourite part is that they process the order within twelve hours of submission. That is vitally important in sales that last only two days. Furthermore, they send emails telling you when your order has been accepted, or is being shipped, by the merchant. Also, the cap on each free-concierged package is US$1000, which is pretty generous unless you’re buying diamonds or furniture. The one thing I definitely dislike about Viaddress so far is their website, which comes in annoying rainbow colours and is not very user-friendly. I cannot comment about the shipping charges or speed of delivery yet, but I will when my Nikki arrives.

Borderlinx – a site that only Citibank members are eligible to use. Same principle as Viaddress, but loses because 1) the (also free) concierge service only operates during US office hours and takes up to three days to place your order, making it perfectly useless for two-day sales, particularly those that take place over the weekend (and that, Kel, was how that Lauren Merkin clutch and I parted ways); 2) the cap on each free-concierged package is only US$500, which would have worked out to 5/6 of a full-priced Rebecca Minkoff Nikki. Hmm. Still, it is usable for non-time-limited discounted items, such as the Kate Spade Boerum Hill Brennan I ordered. However, they sent no emails updating me on the status of the order processing; I had to log in obsessively to check. Let’s see how it does on shipping charges and speed.

Thus equipped, are you game to give it a try? I’m happy for you to use this link to Reebonz and this link to Gilt Groupe to take a spin (that’s the only way to obtain access to the treasure trove). But now that you also know how to snag your preciouses back to Singapore, gals, it ain’t just hypothetical anymore.

December 17, 2009 at 20:43 6 comments

Testing testing: the Borderlinx concierge service

One of the drawbacks of online shopping is when you see something you like and click ‘Add To Cart’, and after you’ve painstakingly typed in your name, address and credit card number, they tell you that they’re sorry, but “this item can only be shipped to destinations within the United States”. Then comes the time for choice expletives. Worse, this usually serves to increase your desire for the unattainable object.

Familiar, yes? This happened to me over this clutch below.

That’s a Lauren Merkin Tatum clutch, in dark brown serpent-embossed lambskin, which I found on the Gilt Groupe site, but GG is another story for another day. Thanks to Chanel, I find that the word ‘lambskin’ now oozes buttery-soft, supple decadence, about on par on the swank scale with ‘foie gras entier’ or ‘Godiva couverture’. And Lauren Merkin – that’s a brand that makes bags and accessories. I’m very drawn to it because it uses rich and sometimes unexpected materials to create bags in clean, simple and classic styles. In addition to the usual lizard and croc prints, there are also metallic and woven leathers, in gridded, tiled or marbled patterns, as well as fabrics like silk, crochet and even raffia. Every girl needs a timeless and match-everything baggie that she’d proudly wear to leisurely lunches and weekend high teas, non?

Furthermore, Gilt Groupe has a sale on this particular clutch. Its original price was US$325, but it is now US$138. When I saw that, the Finding Nemo seagulls flocked into my head – y’know, the ones that go, “Mine? Mine?” 

So of course this had to be one of those sites that do not deliver outside the US. Not only that, they do not even accept credit cards with billing addresses outside the US. Grrr.

Enter Borderlinx, which is just the thing to combat this problem. This is a site that gives you a US, as well as a UK, shipping address, so that your favourite ang moh sites will have an address that they can send your stuff to. Then Borderlinx DHLs your purchases back to Singapore. Registration is free, and they charge only if and when you actually use their services. Furthermore, Borderlinx has a concierge service that acts as middleman if your card doesn’t have a US/UK billing address. You just leave details of the site and your object of desire, and they will process it for you.

There are caveats: first and foremost, only Citibank card members get to register on Borderlinx. Secondly, the concierge service only operates during office hours, so there is a chance that the apple of your eye might still slip away.

Still, that’s better than nothing, eh?

So, in the new Home Of The Manx style of bold bag-related adventures, I have actually placed an order with the Borderlinx concierge services for this Lauren Merkin Tatum clutch. I have no idea if it will come to fruition, because the sale started on the weekend, and I am crossing my fingers that Borderlinx gets there before the last piece runs out. It doesn’t help that the time difference between there and here makes things pretty much the other way around. Brrr.

Let’s see what happens.

December 8, 2009 at 00:09 4 comments

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Welcome to my blog!

My blog-name is Katie but I will not respond if you call me that in real life because it's not my real name. Yes, I do practise virtual-world paranoia. No, I do not enjoy stalkers. But I do enjoy writing and having folks reading said writing, so welcome to my world. It's nice to meet you.

Playing in my head over and over again argh

I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song (Jim Croce)

Book(s) of the moment

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

Books read in 2010 and 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) - 'cos the movie's coming out!
Frankenstein: Lost Souls (Dean Koontz) - ah, bugger, it's part of a series! Now I hafta find all the books...
Dismantled (Jennifer McMahon) - oh, good one
Tigerlily's Orchids (Ruth Rendell)
Shutter Island (Dennis LeHane) - reminds me too much of work
Holy Fools (Joanne Harris) - it's official: I prefer her scary books
A Series of Unfortunate Events; The Unauthorized Autobiography; The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket)
The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
The main books - 11 so far - of the Southern Vampire series; the Aurora Teagarden series except for A Fool & His Honey - that makes it 7; Sweet & Deadly (Charlaine Harris)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)
Room: A Novel (Emma Donaghue)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The Bachman Books (Stephen King)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
The Sandman, Vol 1 (Neil Gaiman)
The Burden (Agatha Christie) - her crime novels are waaay better
Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

Visit my photoblog!

I started my first photoblog on 3 May, 2009. Each post features one picture, with a little story of how it came about. Do take a look by clicking on: Manx Pictures
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Don’t say I didn’t say this…

Disclaimers: 1) I cannot help but bitch about work sometimes, but everything here comes under the realm of personal remarks, and nothing here is said in my professional capacity. Nor does anything here reflect the opinion of the institutions that employ me. This is just me shooting off. 2) Most identities have been anonymized, particularly those of folks I know on a personal basis. Same goes for my workplaces. However, commercial and public places and figures remain named. Otherwise some things just wouldn't make sense. 3) Links and sources have been provided where appropriate and possible. They are not meant to challenge anyone's ownership. If this causes any discomfort or offence, please let me know.


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