I spy with my little eye... The Paradis - French Kitchen.

The french restaurant Le Paradis du Fruit was always one of my favourite places to catch up with the girls in Paris. The concept of healthy, light cuisine wasn't really popular in France 10 years ago so this little gem was a novelty at the time: I remember I discovered frozen yoghurt thanks to them. So when I heard they were opening a branch at The Beach, I couldn't wait to check it out. 

They've always been known for their healthy menu but also colourful interior design featuring Philippe Starck details. Just walking into the restaurant feels like you've had a shot of vitamins!

I was happy to see that their menu is still as healthy and appetising as it used to be: the salads and smoothies without any added sugar are the highlights. But since I was there for breakfast, I decided to go unhealthy and get the French breakfast... You can get the French girl out of Paris but you can't get the croissant out of the French girl.

I started with a kiwi/apple/mint smoothie that looked a bit surprising to be honest because the kiwi and apple juice didn't mix nicely, but it was refreshing to see something normal and not utterly perfect in Dubai. The very few juices I make at home tend to look a bit strange too, which is why: 1- I stopped making them, 2- I could tell this was freshly made. It was tasty and light, just as promised.
Then I tucked in the pain au chocolat: I hadn't had such a light and buttery pastry since La Serre, and my lovely breakfast buddy Tjasha who definitively knows a good croissant when she sees one agreed that it was one of the best she had had in Dubai!

The bread selection with home-made jam were nice, and the coffee very good, but what I appreciated best after the menu and pain au chocolat is the service. It was fast, efficient, smiley and french! Whether I was talking to the waiter, the manager, or the guy making smoothies and juices behind the bar, everybody was speaking french, it definitively felt like home!

Happy gal! Thank you Le Paradis - French Kitchen, I will be back!

More information on: http://www.leparadisdufruit.ae/

I spy with my little eye... a road trip to Saida and Tyr.

What I loved the most about Beirut was the joyful, constant and loud mess! Jumping in a car with all the cousins, turning on the cheesy music, singing and dancing while racing with my uncle's car, stopping on the way for mana'iches, fooling around at the check points, and ending up by the sea, feet in the water in December.

Yallah, let's go to Tyr!

But first, let's stop in Saida to visit the old soap factory (that just happens to be in a gorgeous house).

Saint Exupery said that love wasn't looking into each other eyes, but looking in the same direction... Looks like lil sis' and her boyfriend are on a good track.

Might as well get coffee and pastries while we're here... We haven't eaten in 1h30, we definitively need a snack...

Then let's have a tour of Saida's soukh. (Note to self: shopping with a Lebanese family is the best way to test one's patience.) Bananas anyone?

Or maybe 10kg of fresh meat?

And my personal favourite: the disco veggie stall!

Eventually we got back in the car and headed to Tyr to find... the sea.

Cousins made plans to cross the sea.

And Lebanon gifted us with a gorgeous sunset. What an amazing day!

I spy with my little eye... a New Year.

Sometimes all you need is some time out and family to reboot. And that's exactly what I did in Beirut over the holidays: no phone, no emails, sometimes no electricity but LOTS of food, card games and laughter. I've always felt more French than Lebanese despite being half half but 10 days in a real city with no sparkle was exactly what I needed after 3 years of full-on Dubai. I know I'm a bit late but we're still in Jan so I'm enjoying the "holiday mood" extra time with a belated Christmas post.

Here is lil'sis who just moved from Paris to Beirut with Birdie, the most silent pointer on Earth. She never barks, and all she asks for is cuddles.

Birdie was very keen on the celebration, here she is, discussing with my mother. Yes, we do have that habit of discussing with pets. It applies to dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, parrots... I will never forget Jujupe, my grandfather's parrot in Nigeria, who used to play around with lil'sis: she would make her run down the stairs several times a day by taking my aunt's voice to call her.

Family portraits with the aunts.

Funny how cooking the turkey is a woman's job but carving it is always a man's job.

Birdie's best Chrismas present: cuddles with my cousin!

Happy times always lead to funny selfies, or "ussies" like my aunt calls them. "Did you take an ussie?" "Sorry, a what?" "A picture of us, an ussie!"

And it always ends up with flowers and hugs, happy times!

I spy with my little eye... Christmassy Cocktails!

Less than 10 days to Christmas and I'm running out of time. I still don't have all presents figured out, which is a great excuse to have cocktails and brainstorm so you can imagine how perfect Royal China's invitation to a mixology class sounded! Being raised in a French family came with a wine education (do not mess with my red wine: the last sommelier who tried to have me drink Syrah through a blind test was La Petite Maison's and he got disappointed), but I am clueless when it comes to cocktails. I learned how to drink martinis here in Dubai with my New Yorker friends, I know how I like my Bloody Mary and I like a good Hendrick's G&T but that pretty much it. Which makes me the perfect candidate for a mixology class!

I will be honest, I can't remember the recipes, but what I will take with me is that a good mixologist is one that serves as good a story as a cocktail. It's all about the entertainment and spending a good time. And at this game, Drago, Royal China's new mixologist was a real treat: good banter with the gentlemen, flirty with the ladies, I highly recommend him. Oh and the drinks were good too (nearly forgot about them!).
My cocktail education is clearly not done yet, I still have a lot to learn. For now, I am happy to observe and enjoy the ride and pretty colours!
Thank you Royal China, looking forward to more cocktail adventures!

I spy with my little eye... the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow - Take 2".

Take 2 of the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" is with Aseya from Hello Pretty and Pretty in the Desert! She picked a 1920's burgundy little hat that I absolutely love!
For her look she chose to stress on the lips with a burgundy red lipstick and subtle brownish eye shadow. I love how her blond hair highlights the colour of the piece.

For me, she decided to keep it low and simple stress on the pink cheeks. It ended up being quite a natural dolly look, nothing flapperlike, no big eyebrow, no dark eyeshadow, just something light, which I love: the star is the hat!
I loved spending time with Aseya; half American, half Emirati, she's one on those people who have been in Dubai for so long they know all the good places and are unimpressed by the city of bling's Extravaganza. And I like that. She is easy going, chilled, fun and professional. So I figured if I liked her, you might like her too:
HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
Aseya: It would be Georgia O'Keeffe's Abstraction Blue. The colours are so soothing, I would just flaot around in the painting all day.
HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
Aseya: It would be the late 60s/early 70s. I really love the music from that period.
HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother/father?
Aseya: Cropped pants always remind me of my mom, and traditional Emirati kundooras always remind me of my dad.
HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
Aseya: Christmas trees always take me back. Every year :)
HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
Aseya: I'm usually rushing around before a trip, so I am too busy to feel like I'm on holiday. But as soon as I'm in the new city and I open the curtains and look outside, I get that feeling of excitement that comes with being able to explore a new place.
HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride?
Aseya: Betsy Johnson. She seems like she would be a riot!
HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
Aseya: I make a really great fudgy chocolate brownie.
HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Aseya: Listen to your body; it knows what is best for you. Pay attention to changes in your mood and feelings.
HOB: What book changed your life?
Aseya: "Tuesdays with Morrie" was the first book I read that made me feel emotional. It really made me think about life.
HOB: The movie you've watched 30 times but might watch again tonight?
Aseya: I don't watch too many movies, but I love the show Arrested Development and I rewatch it every year.
HOB: Three favourite spots in Dubai?
Asyea: Smiling BKK, the Meydan Bike Park (I love skating there at night, when it's quiet and dark), Souq Al Bahar.
Don't forget to visit hellopretty.com

I spy with my little eye... a truffle galore.

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing food with D. and we were debating expensive taste, how very Dubai of us... The conclusion of this crucial conversation was that we both loved truffle, but I could live without oysters and she didn't understand caviar, but since we had truffle in common, I figured she was the perfect date to test the Oberoi Dubai's truffle menu at their restaurant Umai. the Oberoi has a special place in my heart: I love their warm hospitality mostly embodied by German chef Dirk Haltenhof who always has a story to share.
I will admit I didn't think they would push the truffle tasting so far as to put it in the cocktails! To be honest the white truffle pear Martini didn't work for me. The fact that I don't like pear should have been an indicator though... But D. was happy to take over my glass while I tried the Truffle aperol Spritzer, I'm usually not an Aperol gal' but the truffle was an interesting twist. All in all it was interesting but I'm not sure I would make it a regular.
 If the cocktails were not my thing, I loved the menu: mixing Japanese cuisines and truffle is not an easy thing and Chef Haltenhof made it work, Bravo Monsieur!
I was expecting black truffle since this is the one I am used to, but I was a little bit wary because it is a strong flavor and a whole black truffle menu would have been a bit much. So I was happy (and kind of relieved) to see that half of the menu was based on white truffle, which is a more subtle taste. The truffle scented dim sum smelled and tasted) heavenly.
I didn't know what to expect with the truffle lollipop, so these meat and truffle cheese balls were such a good surprise! The texture was rich, the cheese was melting, it felt very indulgent.
Then came the sushi with the truffle infused rice, followed by the truffle mash and black sea bream, that was more of a classic dish.
I enjoyed all of it, along with the joyful conversation of my truffle cocktail infused lovely friend! Thank you to the Oberoi for this unexpected experience, they keep surprising me and my palate and we are both loving it! Keep an eye on that hotel, they are full of surprises!
For more information, click here.

I spy with my little eye... the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow - Take 1".

As you know it by now, I love my hats and my collection is growing every time I travel. They are usually hanging on the wall in the living room, on display (so I can grab one whenever I want just before I go out). I don't know why we stopped wearing them on an everyday basis, probably out of convenience I guess, but I refuse to let them on the wall of the living room. So after a couple of months of thinking and discussing with beauty bloggers, I came up with the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" project. The concept is easy, I simply asked a few beauty bloggers to choose a hat and create one contemporary look on themselves, and one vintage look corresponding tothe era of the hat on me, just to show that they are all wearable nowadays.

So here is Take 1 of the "Hats of yesterday and tomorrow" is with Anna from The Sparkling Blueberry. She chose a 1950's sailor hat, one of the most wearable hats that I own: an easy felt dark blue. She created a very modern colour block look on herself:

And for me she used darker colours, with a burgundy lipstick and very dark eyes for a dramatic 1950's look Ahoy sailors!

So you have it: 1 hat, 2 looks!
I had a lot of fun working with Anna, she is very professional, focused, sharp and creative. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know her better so I asked her to answer the HOB interview:

HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
Anna: There was a famous Hungarian painter Pál Szinyei-Merse who has this amazing painting called “Picnic in May”. That art piece for me showing something that I can really imagine doing in the 18th century. It’s so laid back, calm but playful and flirty in the same time. You can see it here.
HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
Anna: I love the 17th-18th century, mainly the Romantic era (note: I'm not sure if it's called like that in English too, but in Hungary we call it British Romanticism in literature). I miss the lifestyle and habits that, for example, Jane Austen (my favourite writer) pictures in her work. But sure that has a darker side as well, because those centuries were great for the richer but much worse for the poorer.
HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother/father?
Anna: My father has a weird attraction for flat caps, so every time I see one it makes me smile and think “My Dad can really rock this one”. My Mom is into fur…but not the regular “rich fur” ones, but more of the old, second hand and weird type of fur coats which sometimes makes her look like she just stepped out from Game Of Thrones.
HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
Anna: The smell of hot, hazelnut flavoured oatmeal (my favourite childhood meal) and the air in the forest filled with the scent of wild mushrooms and fallen leaves. (We spent million hours in the forests collecting mushrooms with my grandparents and parents)
HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
Anna: Good question. It’s very rare that I can completely switch off. Sometimes the fact that you don’t have to go to work doesn’t mean that you don’t work. My brain is always “working” thinking on the next thing to do, the possibilities, creating new ideas etc. If I can just completely empty my mind, sit with a glass of wine at a bar in Paris and just enjoying the moment, that’s when I feel I’m free.
HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride?
Anna: I think Isabel Marant could really enjoy one, without making any scenes because of the sand on her sneakers ;)
HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
Anna: Easy to answer; my favourite recipe to make -and to eat as well- is Potato Casserole. That’s my ultimate number one food, which I make really good. Unfortunately my husband don’t like it in general, so I haven't had it for 2 years, but you reminded me now so I know what will I have this weekend J
HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Anna: People are not changing, accept them as they are or don’t even start with them, but never ever believe that you will be able to change someone.
HOB: What book changed your life?
Anna: The one that taught me how to read in first grade… since then I’m completely addicted to the letters doesn’t matter if it’s reading or writing. I had a lot of nice memories according to books and sometimes they really planted thoughts in my head, but none of them were literally “life changing” so far. I’m still looking for The One ;)
HOB: The movie you've watched 30 times but might watch again tonight?
Anna: Ok… that’s awkward but I can watch Harry Potter movies over and over again no matter how many times, and same with the LOTR sequel as well. This magical/fantasy thing can really switch me off.
HOB: Three favourite spots in Dubai?
Anna: 1- Burj Al Hammam in the Jumeirah Beach Plaza. That is my favourite restaurant, where they serve the nicest Lebanese dishes and they have the best Kibbeh Nayeh (raw meat paste)
2- Safa Park and now Zabeel Park with the Ripe Fresh market: During the cooler months it was such an amazing experience to wake up early and to go out to feel like in a real market, just like in Europe. The vendors and the crowd also has great variety, there are organic food stands, clothes, décor and even beauty items.
3- Mercato Mall: It might sounds funny but this small mall in Jumeirah is my ultimate favourite. It’s so refreshing after the huge and crowded malls, and the selection of shops and services are almost perfect (I miss an H&M from it, but whatever…).
Have a look at The Sparkling Blueberry!
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