Monday, 14 July 2014

Vienna, City of Fabulous Cakes & More

Last weekend I had the chance to explore the beautiful capital of Austria. It's true what they say about visiting Vienna: you will eat endless amounts of cakes, you will be tempted to buy a ball gown and gloves for the upcoming ball season, and when you aren't wandering around one of the many impressive museums, re-fuelling with a large tasty schnitzel is a must. 
Schnitzel: it's what the Austrian doctor ordered
72 hours isn't nearly enough time to see all the sights of Vienna. If you are thinking of heading to Vienna soon, here is what I recommend packing into your itinerary:

LET THEM EAT CAKE
I've never been to a city where cake eating was a daily ritual and necessity - and  yet, the people of Vienna are very trim and energetic. Must be something in the Viennese coffee! Here are some tasty treats you cannot leave Vienna without trying.
Apfelstrudel - one of your five a day?
Sachertorte is such a typically Viennese pudding that it should really be pictured on their bank notes. There are different recipe variations, but essentially Sachertorte is a double sponge cake with a layer of apricot jam underneath thick chocolate icing. It is delicious! Hotel Sacher is an institution in Vienna but it is also a tourist trap. When I saw a line out the door of visitors waiting to buy a piece of Sachertorte, I went to Demel instead for my afternoon Viennese cake fix. 
Originally founded in 1876, Demel is a world famous Viennese chocolatier, pastry, and cake shop. Vienna takes its coffee very seriously and there are more than a dozen different types of coffee available in Demel's bustling cafe. The selection of cakes, chocolates and pastries are incredible, but save room for the signature violet and blueberry ice cream! If you're lucky enough to have a sneak peek downstairs, you will encounter a land of couture Demel cakes worth a staggering amount with A-lister client testimonials on the wall from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Muhammad Ali, Elizabeth Taylor and more. The cakes are almost too pretty to eat:
SHOP
There are plenty of luxury designer shops and chain fashion stores to choose from in Vienna's 1st district, but my attention turned to local designer Lena Hoschek. A former intern of Vivienne Westwood, Lena's designs are fabulously flirty and feminine with influences from the 1960's. 
Photo credit: lenahoschek.com
Just trying on one of her yellow and white picnic chic dresses made me feel like Mad Men's Betty Draper. The search for the perfect summer party dress is now over! Realising my credit card sadly couldn't take any more damage from Lena Hoschek's latest collection, I headed over to the super hipster 7th district and perused some vintage shops...  
...where I quickly realised that the 80's are back - Vienna Calling anyone?!
Sadly these leopard wedge Gaga-esque beauties weren't available in my size:
Bring a sweet treat back home to your loved ones with Austrian Mozartkugeln Chocolates, which are sold in every shape imaginable and make great presents. There are chocolate stores all over Vienna, but I always find myself shopping for goodies in a local grocery store no matter where I travel. 
The Vienna grocery store chocolate selection!
RELAX
Yes, I am drinking the Park Hyatt hotel Kool Aid as their PR, but it's hard to beat staying in the brand new Park Hyatt Vienna, which opened last month. The hotel is exquisite from top to toe and the location is very central. 
The 100-year-old building was formerly a bank, so there are lots of historical Viennese influences discreetly displayed throughout the hotel. History buffs will have a field day here! The charming hanging artwork pictured in my room is actually an enlarged typically Viennese brooch.
For a dining experience you won't forget, try The Bank restaurant, which is elegant and glamorous in appearance with a WOW, I want to try everything! menu to match. I feasted on grilled beef tenderloin Rossini with madeira sauce and summer truffle on top of potato gratin. It was easily the best steak I have ever had.  
Even if you aren't necessarily a spa person, you have to check-in to the hotel's Arany Spa for a swim in the golden brick lined pool, where the bank's vault was once located. This is as close to gold as I will probably ever get!
Fashionistas will love the hotel's very chic Coco Chanel inspired mirrored staircase. 
Make your way up the stairs in the afternoon to find an array of cakes, pastries, chocolates and more. I'm telling you, it is a mystery that everyone in Vienna is so thin!
Lemon drizzle cake with cherries and eclair
Three flavours of summer truffles, swoon!
EXPLORE
Vienna is home to so many historical buildings and museums that it's hard to know where to start.  If you're tight on time and weather permits, I would suggest walking around the city for a dose of culture and fresh air. St Stephen's Cathedral is absolutely marvellous and well worth a visit. It's in the centre of the city with a massive spire, so you can't miss it! 
We beat the afternoon heat in the Belvedere museum and admired one of the latest 'must-see' exhibitions in the museum's Austrian gallery, Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. It's there until the end of August 2014, so go quickly to avoid disappointment! 
I was most impressed with the stunning Austrian Parliament Building on Ringstraße boulevard and can only imagine how gorgeous it must be inside.
You can't help but love Vienna's fashionable street cart horses, which wear these colourful headpieces to keep the flies at bay- the stylish way! For a dose of serious horsey culture, book a tour of the remarkable Spanish Riding School in advance as tickets sell out quick. 
After a day of sightseeing, you can treat yourself to a super healthy vegan, rice milk, coconut milk or oat milk ice cream at Veganista, which is the health-conscious hangout in the 7th district's Neustiftgasse street. The basil flavour (aka 'Basilikum' in Austrian) is one of their specialty flavours. 
A trip to Vienna wouldn't be complete without a coffee stop in the historic 130 year old Cafe Central, which is famed for once being a popular meeting place amongst Vienna's poets, artists, writers and philosophers. The building's remarkable architecture will take you back in time and the menu isn't too shabby either.

Vienna offers so much: history oozing from every corner, some of the world's best music, delicious food, a vast selection of museums to explore and brilliant shopping. I can't wait to return for a longer visit and hopefully one day attend a Viennese ball. I may have to lay off the chocolates if I want to fit into my ballgown though!
Tschüss!

Monday, 30 June 2014

BLONDON'S Summer Superfood Salad

At the risk of sounding a bit pathetic, one of the things I miss most about America is the extensive range of salads available no matter the season! Just try comparing your average salad menu in London to say the salad selection at The Cheesecake Factory and you will see what I'm talking about. I don’t usually like to mix sweet and savoury foods, but I recently constructed a fruit filled chicken summer salad based on one of my favourite American salads, Panera's Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken salad. It’s healthy, easy to prepare, credit card friendly, and is an ideal lunch or dinner for those warmer summer days when you want something light yet filling. It is so refreshing and healthy, you can’t help but love it. Here are step-by-step foolproof instructions on how to create my Summer Superfood Salad:
Prep time: 30 minutes; serves 4

Summer Superfood Salad Ingredients:
- 2 cups of cooked boneless chicken breast
- 2 cups kale
- 1 cup watercress or lettuce of choice
- ½ cup crushed almonds
- 2 cups of grapes, halves
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- ½ cup light or regular feta cheese
- 1 ripe avocado
- a pinch of chia seeds
- a pinch of sea salt
- juice of ½ a lemon
- a pinch of chilli flakes

Start with watercress or lettuce and two cups of kale. I lean towards watercress as I find it’s a nice balance paired with kale for a salad base.
Next up, add two cups of washed halved grapes. Halving the grapes with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors is probably the most time consuming step of making this salad, but halving the grapes makes the salad extra juicy and is well worth the fuss! 
Pour in two cups of halved grapes on top of the base of the salad. If you’re trying to channel your inner domestic goddess, then neatly place the grapes in a corner of the salad – this step isn’t necessary whatsoever but will add to the final effect. You’ll see for yourself soon enough! 
Then add one cup of ripe blueberries adjacent to the grapes in your salad. It’s starting to look rather colourful, isn’t it?
Now for a dose of heart healthy and natural fat carbs, add a half cup of crushed almonds to the salad. It should be pretty easy to find crushed or chopped almonds in a supermarket, but if all else fails then whizz whole almonds in a food processor briefly or crush them with a rolling pin whilst inside a sealed bag for the ‘crushed’ almond effect.
Add the half cup of crushed almonds to the other corner of the salad. 
Slice up half a cup of feta cheese into neat small blocks. I was trying to be extra healthy due to the fact that bikini season is on my doorstep, so I opted for light feta cheese.
Toss the feta cheese blocks next to the crushed almonds in the salad.
Avocados are one of my favourite fruits. They are filled with antioxidants, a variety of vitamins and are a good source of fiber. I used an avocado in this salad as a creamy and healthier alternative to dressing. Make sure the avocado is ripe otherwise it will make mushing it up much more challenging. 
Cut up the avocado into small pieces in a mixing bowl - watch your fingers as avocados can be slippery!
Add a dash of sea salt for extra flavour…
…followed by a pinch of chilli flakes for extra kick in your salad. As you can see, I LOVE chilli and tend to go overboard in the spice department. Add as much or as little as you wish.
Then cut a lemon in half and squeeze the lemon juice onto the avocado and spice salad dressing mixture…
…it should be looking like this:
Using a small fork, stir and mush the avocado mixture as best as you can, so it almost resembles a more runny version of guacamole. 
Add this creamy mixture to the centre of your summer superfood salad, which should be channeling the colours of the rainbow by now.
I have joined the chia seed fan club recently and can’t help but sprinkle them on vegetables, stir fries and salads as much as possible. Personally, I find chia seeds to be rather tasteless , but they give you energy, add a nice crunchy texture, and are a great source of antioxidants and omega-3. 
Sprinkle a small layer of chia seeds on top of the salad. 
Last but not least, add two cups of cooked chicken to the salad. I prefer to use a rotisserie chicken for extra flavour and to save the carcass to make home-made broth, but feel free to use your cooked chicken of choice for the salad. 
This eye-catching salad is great for sharing. If you’re having people over then I recommend placing one cup of chicken on each side of the salad, so you can let guests serve themselves to whichever parts of the salad tickles their fancy. Be warned, this dish is a crowd pleaser and will make your friends think you can cook!
Even though this salad always looks far more fancy when you arrange it in the bowl by ingredient (as pictured), I find it tastes best when it’s all mixed up together, so I typically ruin my picture perfect salad within minutes of creation. If you're prepping this salad for your next meal, remember that it also tastes great chilled.Whether you’re entertaining on a budget or just want a quick and tasty health-conscious dish this summer, this superfood salad is always a hit. Happy summer salad-ing!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Summer Beautification Essentials

At long last the warmer and occasionally sun-filled June us Londoners have been waiting months for has arrived! It's finally that time to pack up your oversized winter coats and tights and dig out your favourite sunglasses, espadrilles, summer dresses, and short shorts. The start of summer has officially begun and I think it's safe to say that most of us are jumping for joy in excitement.
I rarely write about beauty products, but if you're about to stock up on summer beauty essentials before enjoying al fresco rosé fuelled lunches, lazy sunny beach days, dips in the ocean and the upcoming outdoor summer festivals, it would just be wrong not to tell you about my favourite products for summertime. Who knows, you might fall in love with them too! So without further ado, here are my unbeatable beauty buys for the summer months to make you feel and look your best:

Tangle-free beach hair made easy
My life-long pal and go-to hair guru, Johne Barretta, recommended that I try Rene Furterer Fioravanti, a very effective shine enhancing and no-rinse detangling spray, which has made getting ready so much faster now that I don't have to spend any time combing tangles out of my unruly mane! This product is perfect for hydrating and de-tangling your hair after a long day at the beach or in the pool. Just a few sprays on damp washed hair leaves your locks looking extra shiny and feeling super soft. It also has a lovely refreshing cinnamon and ginger scent to it, which I've found rather addictive.

The best hair oil on the market
Johne also introduced me to Oribe's Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil, a brilliant hair product which does exactly what its name suggests- think of it as liquid gold for your hair! I was previously wary of hair oil, as it left my hair feeling oily and weighed down, but just 1 pump of Gold Lust on blow-dried locks will make you a hair oil believer. I find this product instantly absorbs, leaving hair feeling moisturised, strengthened and conditioned without being weighed-down, and 1 bottle will last you ages. If you're going to be in the sun a lot this summer, then Oribe Gold Lust needs to be in your bathroom cabinet for hair care 101!  


The smell of summer
After wearing Viktor & Rolf's Flower Bomb perfume for years, I swore there would never be another scent I would love as much. Then along came Bon Bon, Victor & Rolf's newest addition, which is fruity, girly and ultra flirty - perfect for the summer months ahead. I know what I will be spritzing on myself from now on! 

Pucker Up
I had never experienced wind burn until last week when I was on a safari in Zimbabwe in Arctic temperatures - who knew Africa could get so cold in June?! My buddy Lorrave came to the rescue with Lucas' PaPaw, a glorified all natural form of Vaseline made down under from Queensland's fresh fruits, which immediately seeped moisture into my ultra dry skin and chapped lips. I am now a convert and carry a tube of this ointment with me everywhere. Much more than a lip balm, PaPaw also treats a number of ailments including sunburns, rashes, burns and chaffing. Whether you are laying out by the beach this summer or climbing Mount Everest in extreme conditions, PaPaw has your back!

Get bronzed not burned
All it takes is one bad sunburn and you will put just about anything on your body to ensure you never get burned again. My friend Hetty got me hooked on Institute Esthederm's Bronz Repair Body Lotion, which cleverly works with your skin's natural defences to neutralise the negative impact of sun, so your skin adapts more quickly to sun exposure and leaves you bronzed and burn-free. I found that my tan lasted twice as long when using this product. Need I say more?

Glisten & glow
When I read that Blake Lively uses Laura Mercier's Body Bronzing makeup, I immediately went to buy a bottle from Space NK. I know, I know, it's rather pathetic really, but I was desperate to discover Blake's trick behind her year-round perfectly bronzed stems. Her secret is now out of the bag, as this genius tinted cream leaves your skin looking flawlessly radiant with a Tahitian honey glow immediately after application and it won't stain your clothes, towels, or bed sheets! London has been known to be overcast over the summer months but that doesn't have to stop you from having a sun-kissed glow 24/7 with the help of this tan in a tube. Looking as good as Blake Lively just got that much more attainable! 

Neon nails
Nothing screams SUMMER quite like a neon coloured manicure and pedicure. While white nail polish is technically 'on trend' right now, my go-to colour during the summer months will always be neon pink. Gwen Stefani, my girl crush and favourite rock star, has teamed up with OPI to make a limited edition of nail polish colours. I immediately gravitated towards her Hey Baby neon pink hue....because I aint no hollaback girl, I aint no hollaback girl (sorry, but I just couldn't help myself!).
"Hey Baby, Hey Baby, Hey!"
I have tried and tested this polish and can safely say it brightens up any outfit and instantly makes you feel in summer mode - whether you are in the office or frolicking on the beaches of Saint Lucia. 
Have a summer beauty product that you can't live without? Then tweet me at @RousInDaHouse; my bathroom beauty product cabinet is always expanding. Hope your summer is already off to a great start - happy beautifying!