The Drink: some people are so Absinthe Minded

absintheIt was the decadence that attracted me.

I had the luxury of attending an absinthe tasting event yesterday in Vancouver, not at a local bar but instead a very rare tea shop – of all places. “OFive Rare Tea Bar + Shop” sets itself apart from all the rest as Pedro, the proprietor, makes personal visits to all the global farms supplying his teas. Aside from this, the place offers made in house tapas & macaroons and exotic spirit tastings on occasion.  This being one of those occasions- an Absinthe tasting of rare vintages (one being white) with pairings of tapas & teas and a fairy truffle to finish (matcha, white chocolate ganache, pixie dust).  For a different experience, why not?

Absinthe was the drink of 19th-century Paris.  At the time, the French wine industry had been decimated, and absinthe, with its otherworldly color and reputation for spurring creativity, matched the decadence and glamour and artistry of the era.

Referred to as “the green fairy“, absinthe was banned for a century for inspiring madness and murder.  In the United States it only became legal again in 2007, the first time since 1912.

So let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Absinthe does not make you hallucinate nor is it wildly addictive.

tea fairy cocktail: gin, cilantro, matcha, sugar syrup, egg white, absinthe, bitters. Gordita: caramelized hibiscus, avocado, goat cheese.
tea fairy cocktail: gin, cilantro, matcha, sugar syrup, egg white, absinthe, bitters. Gordita: caramelized hibiscus, avocado, goat cheese.

It will not cause you to lop off your ear, unless (possibly, on the off-chance) you are a deeply disturbed painter racked by poverty, heartbreak and mental illness.  Rather, absinthe is a good drink. It is reminiscent of Pernod, a kick of licorice with a lingering menthol taste. (The similarity is not coincidental; Henri-Louis Pernod first commercialized absinthe in France in 1805.) Absinthe’s flavor comes from its muscular key components — anise, wormwood and fennel — and though it’s certainly an acquired taste, there’s also something appealing about the ritual and presentation of it. Absinthe has its own special glasses, slotted spoons and drips.  Absinthe even has its own verb, “louche,” to describe the milky cloud kicking up when water hits the drink. Watching this — on the right night, in the right light–you start to understand why artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Rimbaud and Verlaine found inspiration in the stuff. And you start to understand why people might think it contained a little bit of black magic, too.

wordpress2But what happens to an illicit drink when it is robbed of its illicitness?

Part of what gave absinthe so much power – in the mind, if not the marketplace — was its lore and illegality. Like opium, absinthe conjures exotic images of romantic destruction; unlike opium, absinthe isn’t actually dangerous. A great many people have learned about absinthe through films, where it is a stand-in for lawlnessness and vice. “Moulin Rouge,” “From Hell,” “Murder by Numbers,” and the frat-boy midnight movie “Eurotrip” all featured absinthe as a trippy narrative device–at the very least, an opulent set piece. But the drink’s place in pop culture is perhaps best encapsulated by “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who also happens to be a vintner), where history’s bloodthirsty count sips from a green bottle

Pedro with one of the absinthe bottles
Pedro with one of the absinthe bottles
Granita - in between tastings: hibiscus, tonic, lemongrass, baby grand fir
Granita – in between tastings: hibiscus, tonic, lemongrass, baby grand fir

marked “SIN.” So dangerous. So lavish. So goth.

Have you tried it?

The next moonshine tasting is on Sunday, June 28th with TEA + TEQUILA + MEZCAL!  Mexican spirits, Tea, Tapas, Truffles, Fine Art.

O-FIVE RARE TEA BAR – 2208 W. 4th Ave.

This is what else you can get. Granita with Hibiscus & Orange shaved ice & lovely Matcha Macaroons.
Granita with Hibiscus & Orange shaved ice & lovely Matcha Macaroons.

Taken from


Funny French Quotes

French women will dress to take out the garbage (you never know….)buffet2


“Boy, those French! They have a different word for everything.” ― Steve Martinbuffet3

“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”
― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifestobuffet4

“La vie c’est comme la bicyclette : quand on arrête de pédaler on tombe.”
― Albert Einsteinbuffet

“Life is like a bicycle, when you stop pedaling you fall.”

B Well – with bread, champagne, chocolate and romance

shhh - Copyà la française – the TOP 5 Beauty Secrets of French Womenshopper - Copy

fatfrenchMireille Guilliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” has another book: “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: Ageing with Attitude.

This book covers everything from skincare secrets and fashion tips to the role of relationships and the importance of relaxation.  The path to ageing elegantly lies in lifestyle choices and attitude adjustments rather than botox and collagen fillers.  After all, while American, Brazilian and Chinese woman lead global cosmetics surgery figures, French women don’t even make the Top Ten.facelift2

Her book, French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, in which she recommends bread, champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and lifestyle, captured the imagination of an overweight world tired of yo-yo diets and became a runaway best seller around the world, hitting the top of the best seller charts in many countries, including the USA, where it was number 1 on The New York Times Bestseller list. It has been translated into 37 languages. She followed it up with another best-seller, French Women for all Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasure.

Many of my friends were astonished that I disclosed the coveted gastronomy and lifestyle secrets of French women in my books. They’d probably be stunned to find out that I’m willing to share our beauty secrets as well! But here they are—the five beauty secrets that French women swear by:

Secret #1: French women know that hydration is the key to good skin and good hair. I strongly recommend drinking a glass of water before going to bed and first thing in the morning. Water is the French women’s secret weapon—for skin and beauty, for health (flushing toxins) and for weight control (don’t snack when you think you are hungry, your body is really thirsty).

Secret #2: French women appreciate that good circulation makes one glow. French women are not afraid of using cold water in the shower to get one’s circulation going. It is certainly part of my routine. The opening then closing of the pores with hot then cold water, the shock to the nervous system and wake-up call to the brain of a cold shower, and the rigorous towel wiping after a cold finish to a shower bring blood and color to one’s skin.

Secret #3: French women are taught and know grandma’s beauty rituals work. My Mother taught me, for example, to clean my face thoroughly every night before going to bed and to apply a mask periodically (her fifteen minute version included cucumber slices over the eyes and a crushed strawberry-honey mix for the face); and she taught me to rinse my hair with cold water with an added tablespoon or vinegar or lemon juice for added shine before moisturizing.

Secret #4: French women navigate the health benefits and risks of the sun
Apart from a Riviera-bronze fixation in the 1960s and 1970s, French women are not sun-worshipping lizards. *(see link for my self tanner recommendation below). Today they are much more likely to apply their tan from a tube or bottle than from a month at St. Tropez. They are careful to wear sunscreens and look for appropriate SPF in their beauty emollients. And while they are likely to sit in the shade to protect their skin, they are equally likely to be out and about in the sun, enjoying its light and benefits, by walking or doing some light sports or movement as part of their weekly routine.

Secret #5: French women know one can go far with a great haircut, a bottle of champagne and a divine perfume. Nothing more needs to be said about this one!

Internationally best-selling author Mireille Guiliano (Meer-ray Julie-ano) was a long time spokesperson for Champagne Veuve Clicquot and former President and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (LVMH). Recognized as “an ambassador of France and its art of living,” by the French daily Le Figaro, USA Today further dubbed her “the high priestess of French lady wisdom.”

(my product review on St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse):

We North American women are not totally outdone by the French.  We have some tricks up our sleeves too.  Check out…..

From last week:  If you missed Brad King’s interview with Kathy Hartford, the author of Fit, Fun and Fabulous at Any Age here’s the link on “Transforming Health” at Voice



Drugstore Diva – ScandalEYES

Rimmel Scandal EyesP.R. – Scandal Eyes from Rimmel

I really like easy eye pencils. Fat or thin, high-end to low,  I don’t care as long as they work well.

Recently I purchased the ones shown here from Rimmel for about $5 each – all three cost less than the price of one that I’ve bought from places like Sephora.  Nice range of colours too.

This eyeliner is extremely soft so it goes on nicely and stays put for hours.  I would recommend using the white to rim the inside of your lower lashes for a bright-eyed look, the golden/beige for the lids to open up the eye and the vibrant blue on the upper lids very close to the lashline to make your whites look whiter.  What I’m finding out is that maybe I need more sleep but in the meantime these help.

Have you tried them?  What else would you recommend?

On the RUNway – Love LACE

Some things never fade from fashion – one of them is lovely lace.


It’s such a fabulous fabric that wearing even just a hint makes women feel more feminine.  You can take lace anywhere,  from the bedroom to the boardroom .  It’s just how you wear it.  Wearing a lace camisole to the office is only appropriate if it’s underneath a blazer or cardigan obviously.  All white lace – too bridal.  Sometimes a lacy garter nobody sees is nice too…for the right situation.

Take a look at recent trends & adapt them to your own style:

Used as both accent and the main attraction, lace was spotted all over the Spring/Summer 2013 runways. katherine

Just Cavalli - ELLE
Just Cavalli – ELLE
Maria Valentino/MCV photo (4).
Maria Valentino/MCV photo (4).
Lace Nails from The Kit.   I'll pass on this one.
Lace Nails from The Kit.
I’ll pass on this one.

Lace dresses are often either conservative or coquettish, but these strike a lovely balance. Think Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (can’t you see her in the green one?), not the Queen Mother. Playful colors counter the naughtiness of the lace, creating a sexy attitude that’s anything but stodgy.

You have to be careful here—lace can get cheap-looking quickly. Choose high-quality material, and pair vibrant hues with shoes in the same color family or in a metallic. Wear hair loose to keep the overall look easy- going and fun.

Photo: (left to right) Vera Wang, Burberry Prorsum, Alberta Ferretti, Roberto Cavalli.  Taken from

I may wear vintage lace but lace will never get old for me.

One Pan Pasta – for the lazy gourmet

Here’s something you might not have thought of before but not only does it work – it works surprisingly WELL.  One-Pan Pasta!  (not to be confused with first cooking the spaghetti & tossing it in a pan of already made sauce a la Sopranos.  Are you kidding?  No need to over work yourself.

At the Start
At the Start

There’s a tiny restaurant in the Puglia region of Italy where the chef places dried pasta in a skillet with water, tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Then he cooks everything together and it has become their house dish ever since.

I had to try it out myself because it seemed way too simple and I wasn’t sure how everything would turn out.  So…

After laying out enough linguine for two people in a skillet, I added about 1 ½ cups of water – enough to just cover the pasta since there was no actual recipe.  I added the above ingredients but instead of putting in fresh tomatoes I just used a can of peeled plum tomatoes with the juice.  Also a bit of tomato paste as I thought there was a bit too much water at first, a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes & a squeeze of lemon.

Almost Ready
Almost Ready

Once the water had boiled away we were left with perfectly al dente pasta in a creamy sauce that coated every strand & tasted like something you would find in a restaurant in the tiny village of Puglia.

This is the perfect glamping dish, or for times when you don’t have too much time or just for those that love pasta (like me) and are always looking for new ways to cook it.

Tell me if you’ve tried this before.

Seen in the city – All that JAZZ & more

Vancouver is on sensory overload.  It’s like Feast or Famine – where do you go when there’s so much happening in one day? This past weekend alone was alive with the sound of music and the aromas of all kinds of cuisine and street shopping.  I tried to take in as much as I could with the help of a friend & managed to do exactly that.


Friday kicked off the 28th Annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.  The festival brings us 11 days of pure musical enjoyment with 1800 musicians, featuring up to 300 concerts at over 35 venues – many of them free.  What a treat.

Friday I went to Pat’s Pub (attached to the Patricia Hotel – definitely not a 5 star) for the first time to hear Hugh Fraser (pianist, trombonist and composer) and his jazz band.  They were great, the food was really good too & inexpensive.  I didn’t like the location, but once inside you forget all about the hookers standing outside, especially when the music starts.  Some history on the place:

Established in 1914 The Patricia Café (its original name) was run by Will Bowman and was one of Vancouver’s jazz hotspots at the time. Pat’s Pub is thick with jazz history; some of the musicians who played at the Patricia Café at the time were influential in the transition between ragtime and jazz piano styles. Most notably is Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton who at the age of 28 made Vancouver his home during August 1919 thru to January 1921. During his time in Vancouver “Jelly Roll” Morton performed in the Patricia Café as well as roomed in the Patricia Hotel. To this day the Pub’s original wood floor exists as a reminder of its history.


On Saturday –  I loved the sound stages that were set up at Robson Square for the first time.  My friend and I sat on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery while listening to wonderful Jennifer Scott’s Brasileira band and then following that, a most amazing fiddle player by the name of Kytami.  Then we wandered over to another stage set up behind the gallery for a little bit of big band jazz.  Good times.

Greek Festival
Greek Festival

Sunday was a bit dreary weather wise so we opted for some shopping on South Granville which had a weekend long sidewalk sale & then up to West Broadway for Greek Festival.

It’s all Greek to me:  The yearly Vancouver Greek Fest took place on West Broadway between MacDonald and Blenheim from 11am to 9pm  which included musical and dance acts and other various activities and presentations showcasing Hellenic culture, Greek tourism, and Greeks (and non Greeks) in Vancouver. Of course there were several food tents with delicious Greek food, and refreshments.  Many local merchants were set up  on the street as well.

Then….food cart

For the Foodie or at least the Food Cart fans:  Food Cart Fest started on Sunday, June 23 and will take place every Sunday from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. until September 22.  Over 20 of Vancouver’s top Food Carts is complemented by community markets, live music and DJs, craft food vendors, kids activities, and lots more.

This year they will be operating out of a new location on 215 West 1st Avenue (on the south-east side of the Cambie Street Bridge). The site is next to the Seawall and a short walk from the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station, the Aquabus’ Spyglass Place Dock, and major bus routes along Broadway, Cambie, Main, West 2nd Avenue. In short, it’s a much more convenient location.  Admission is $2. Children 13 and under get in free.

So what’s happening in your part of town?

Quotes – the GOOD LIFE

Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued – Socratesgood life

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge – Bertrand Russell

The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values – Norman Thomas

Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about – Rollo May

If you want to have a good life, you should focus on your family, on your business, on your dog, on your fun, and you’ll have a good life – Adam Carolla

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile — Unknown

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – ― Marilyn Monroe

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – ― Mae West

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”- ― Oscar Wilde

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – ― Dr. Seuss

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
― Mother Teresa

B well – while living it up

Finally….my kind of advice!

Eat, Drink and be Gorgeous - CopyEat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Living well While Living It Up

From *Esther Blum, an expert nutritionist at Dr. Perricone’s flagship Manhattan store, comes the breakthrough news that, yes, you can eat and drink what you love and still look and feel gorgeous. Esther reveals the secrets to beautiful skin, a fantastic figure, and peace of mind all while living the good life.

It’s about knowing how to make the right choices: Which cocktails cause the least damage, is a Merlot better than a Margarita? What natural supplements combat out-of-control hormones? With a troubleshooting section on treating specific ailments, delicious recipes, and fast fixes, Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous makes it possible to have that piece of cake and eat it, too.  Sounds good to me.

*Esther Blum is a Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist practicing in Connecticut

On a similar note:

**Don’t Miss:  Brad King discusses the FIT, FUN and FABULOUS Lifestyle with Kathy Hartford, author of “Fit, Fun and Fabulous at Any Age” (along with its companion journal and cookbook) on “Transforming Health” at VoiceAmerica.comfitfun

Here’s the Link:

I love these new age lifestyle programs!