Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interview: Looking for the secrets of Mary's secret ingredients

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered on Twitter Mary's secret ingredients and instantly fell in love with the idea. But what and who is behind this project? I tried to answer a couple of my curiosities in this interview!
For now, the boxes are only available in the USA.

Products to inspire your cooking

- What is in Mary's secret ingredients box?

MARY’s secret ingredients boxes are filled with an assortment of unique, gourmet, artisanal ingredients and small kitchen products to inspire your cooking to create wonderful tasting food. The box contains real size products not samples. For the cost of $25.95, the value of the box will be at least $30. (FYI the value of our last box was $52)

- What's the story of your idea?

In 2011 Mary, a food and cooking lover, wanted to share her passion and culinary experiences with other gourmands/foodies, created her blog LOVE-the secret ingredient.
Every week the blog serves up engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship to its followers. Posts include proven, scrumptious, healthy recipes and celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food. The idea behind this blog is to engage a convivial community of true foodies and home cooks. The goal is simple: to encourage people to fall in love with making great, healthy food and to share it with those they love. Pour love into your cooking and it will always taste better!

Every year, thousands of exciting new food ingredients and products are introduced across the U.S. If you are a foodie who loves to both cook and eat, how can you possibly know about all of them? Mary is here to curate them for home cooks all around the U.S.!

While delighting 28,000 followers with her blog LOVE – the secret ingredient, Mary is on a new mission. Two, actually: To deliver her favorite ingredients packed in seasonally themed sets to your front door, and to help hungry children across the country.
As a passionate cook, Mary always looks for new inspiration and interesting flavor combinations. With LOVE – the secret ingredient, she shares her expertise, passion and her all-time favorites with you. In each box you’ll find mouth-watering sweet and savory products to create wonderful tasting food. On the LOVE – the secret ingredient blog, Mary will share recipes to inspire, which will include ingredients from the boxes.

The box is ready!

Target: the epicurean 

- What is your target?

Basically, the epicurean… those who love to discover new tastes, both gourmet and healthy. People who want to take care of themselves and those around them and that are interested in discovering and learning to cook with new products, or expanding their range of culinary experimentation. Whether you're an experienced cook, a kitchen adventurer, a cautious cook or a novice, MARY’s secret ingredients will be right for you!

- How do you pick up the ingredients?

Mary wants to highlight specialty, artisanal and new, quality products that she personally likes. She also wants to help small producers expand their reach. She is curating the ingredients for the box along seasonal themes.

Only 40 minutes to have your meal ready

- What recipes do you suggest? How much time do you need to cook them?

The recipes are posted on the LOVE blog and Mary aims for a 40 minute time to make.

The content of the box. The mortar and the pestle are not included in the box.

- Do you also have gluten free or other products for people with various dietary restrictions - such as kosher?

While these are not entirely specific goals we will have these types of products in the mix. Our summer box turned out to be entirely gluten free.

Let yourself surprised

- Why would you recommend to someone to order the box?

First of all, for the fun of being surprised and for the excitement of opening the box and discovering the contents. It's a present!

Secondly, it’s a great way to discover new products. MARY’s secret ingredients introduces its subscribers to new and artisanal ingredients, products and recipes they might not otherwise discover or try, with the convenience of having it delivered to their door.

Finally, buying a box is also a good action. As a proud supporter of the worldwide organization Feed The Children, MARY’s secret ingredients contributes to help fight worldwide hunger.

- What is the feedback you received so far?

In one world POSITIVE! From everywhere we have received excellent feedback on our first box. Whether it is from our subscribers, our followers, our partners, foodies or bloggers.

Some secret recipes:

Here are some details about the recipes associated with the box, on Mary's blog, LOVE-the secret ingredient.
Here are the post revealing the secret ingredients of the summer box and the first 2 recipes Mary has created so far using the box ingredients: 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Provence inspiration in Berlin

In the vicinity of Fasanenstrasse, in Uhlandpassage, there is a small shop where you can feel the fresh air of the beautiful Provence. Inspiredly called 'Charme de Provence' it offers mostly furniture and accessories as well as inspiration to the happy owners of country residences. But although you might be a bit far away of owning two residences, one of them out of town, the furniture can easily be used for a 'normal', year long apartment or house.  
The furniture is simple, of massive wood, but big enough to require spacious rooms. The lamps and other decorations are also simple, aimed to create comfort while offering the occasion to enjoy the simple things in life. 
Although most of the furniture is ready made, it is possible to request your own models, especially suited for the dimensions of your room. Everything takes time. A really special piece of furniture may take 4-5 weeks to arrive to your door, and for the mirror, around 6 weeks.
Besides the furniture, natural products, sold at quite high prices, are also available, among which a full variety of products based on argan oil.
There are a lot of small details that should be considered when you decorate your countryside residence and this small shop, has a lot of interesting suggestions.
I especially loved the white simplicity of most of the porcelain sets. In such a company, you can fully enjoy the quietness of life in the middle of the nature. 
The customer service is very friendly and ready to help with suggestions and answers to different practical questions. My only problem concerns the overall design of the shop as such, where so many nice things are crowded in haste in the show rooms. When you have such a beautiful range of products, it would be a smart idea to care about a certain design sending the guests inspiration about a specific lifestyle. Small details will turn the shopping experience into a very pleasant visit. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hat hunting at Galeries Lafayette

Summer time is here, the sun can shine - but only from time to time - and it is about time for some new hat(s). As in Berlin the fashion style is always open, don't worry to look too extravagant if you are wearing a hat. At the local Galeries Lafayette, ground level, I discovered recently a very interesting store, with as many hats as I want, especially suited for the summer.
The predominant brands present in the shop are Sebergerger and bedacht. The styles covered are diverse, from sophisticated family gatherings to simple head coverings against the sun. Also, many can suit without problems the autumn and early spring season as well. The materials are good quality and most probably if careful enough, can last more than one season. 
Many models are available in more than one colour, and sometimes a colour change completely the style and other outfit requirements. In this case, for instance, I love all the three colours, and I already had in mind three different outfits and occasions I can wear it.
Those models are perfect for the beach or maybe for a full day hiking in the mountains. A classical model, of good quality that might suit especially people over 1.65. If you wear such a model, be sure that you are wearing some flowerly dresses, or at least some pastel colours
It's no age limit for wearing hats. Child, teenage, young adult, married or waiting for your other half, hats are for everyone. This colourful corner was maybe supposed for youngsters, but I bet you can proudly wear it if you are not going to high-school any more. 
The average prices are moderate to high, but the sales season is open and there are plenty of affordable items. The one from the picture are my least favourite but the items are high quality and may look very friendly on your head. 
My favourite models of hats should be stylish, simple, but with that something that makes a difference. If the hat is beautiful, I prefer to focus all the attention of the outfit on it, accepting a dress or other item that is mono-colour for instance.
 Sometimes, a little piece of material placed on the right corner can change the perspective completely.
This selection is one of my favourite, because of the colours, simplicity of the line and the special effect on my head (I spent some good time trying a lot of them; for journalistic purposes, of course).
If looking for some elegant outfits for autumn, this hat can say a lot about you, in a modest distinguished way. I am sure I will be back soon, for more serious shopping. Hat hunting can raise a lot of serious questions, after all. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Funny bags, with some animals too, by Marc Jacobs

With a serious collection of animal prints bags and clutches, Marc Jacobs developed for this summer also a couple of smaller accessories for the needs of the inter-connected people, such as iPad and laptop covers. Made out of a special plastic or resistant textile, they have funny animal faces prints, in natural environment or in the middle of famous travel landmarks. 
If you love both animals and travel, those might call you name. The average prices - especially now in the sales season, are around 70 EUR. My favourites by far are those for tablets, as they have a unitary concept and looks less kitch. 
If you plan to spend some delicious days at the beach, be sure that you send the right fashion message. With this original beach bag - I'm sure that you can easily wear it in town too (although not for the daily food shopping, I hope) - you will show that even though you may look quite easy going, your standards are high, and you will not thing twice before paying a high price for a proper branded beach outfit. 

Summer outfit inspiration by ZARA

Summer is arriving unexpectedly and leaving when you need her the most. As for the stay, is very easy to count the days of the full sun in Berlin. Such a problematic weather raises a lot of problems for the wardrobe, but anyway, with so much travel, especially in sunnier places, I can afford from time to time some extra-luggage.
A couple of days ago, I entered a ZARA shop close to Friedrichstrasse and out of many interesting outfit combinations - once upon the time, I used to be a faithful followers of this brand - I spotted a mix that was looking quite good for me: the long yellow skirt, the large - maybe a bit too large, hope they have smaller versions too - brown blouse, plus the snake-print blazer and the assorted sandals. The grape-like beads aren't on my list, though.
The big advantage, beside the nice combination of pastel colours, is that you can wear them in different moments of the day, at casual parties and in the office, for the beach cocktail as well as at a date, in late spring and early autumn, besides the summer.