Monday, January 18, 2016

Istanbul Story: A Walk Through Gülhane Park

A wonderful way to pass a few (or even many) hours in Istanbul, is going to Gülhane Park. Gül means "rose" in Turkish, so the name of the park means rosehouse park. The flower arrangements are lovely, but what I valued the most was the shadow from the old trees, especially the tall plane trees. They help you escape the hot summer days and the hustle and bustle from the Sultanahmet or Eminonu area. The tranquility is wonderful for a city like Istanbul, where you can never hide from agitation.

This park was originally part of the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace, and was open as a park to the public in 1912 for the first time.

If you slowly walk uphill around the exterior wall of Topkapi Gardens, you will see a gate which leads towards the castle. And close-by a simple coffee and tea house with one of the best views of the Bosphorus which I had.  This was the best place to find tranquility in the oh-so-busy-and-loud Istanbul. It was the place where I found peace and enjoyed everything that was happening to me. So why don't you take a walk up there as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

zChocolat is Spreading The Love...

...the love for chocolate, that is, by having introduced this new series of products: the chocolate spreads.

I was more than overwhelmed when I received my own jar of almond spread, one of the 3 flavours from the collection. It's my favourite thing to have at breakfast or for sweet snack, and it goes particularly well on warm toast bread. It's also recommended on pancakes or warm waffles, but I wouldn't like anything to distract me just a tiny bit from the wonderful flavour of this spread.

By now you know have learned a great deal about the zChocolats' classic assortments from my previous posts. The chocolates are handcrafted in France by the World Champion Chocolatier and Meilleur Ouvrier, Pascal Caffet. For him, chocolate is an experience, which you will surely understand once you taste one of his 26 recipes created especially for ZChocolat, for which he uses no preservatives, no artificial colouring, 100% pure cocoa butter, modest sugar, high cocoa content, no alcohol, and only the best choice for the other ingredients as well, such as Piedmont hazelnuts, Iranian pistaccio, violets, raspberry, Sri Lankan coconut etc.

But let me tell you a bit more about this new line of products zChocolat has. The spread collection is a flashback of childhood memories. There are 3 jars to choose from in this collection: peanuts praline spread, hazelnuts praline spread and almonds praline spread. They are handmade, crafted from finely crushed peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds combined with at least 40% Ivory coast milk chocolate. It's delicious,  and it's a "nutty" spread for sure.The crunchiness of the spread is in perfect balance with its smoothness and it just leaves you craving for more. For more memories from the past, for more you-time when you enjoy a good sweet breakfast or an afternoon tea with zChocolat's spread collection, for more such delicious bites. Once again, this brand has now failed in surprising me and has done a great job in choosing this line of products to make. For children or adults who dream with every bite...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Passion in a Cup of Tea

It's the season of warm drinks - mulled wine, hot chocolate and teas being the favourites. 
I am really passionate about tea, black tea! There are at least seven different ones in my kitchen cupboard,  Earl Grey, Westminster, Assam, Darjeeling a.o. and I love to use different type of sugar to sweeten each one. Their perfume and flavours are so different, but in winter, there is a special extra which is missing. So I start using the black teas as a base for my WINTER teas.

One of these which I have created is a mixture of English Westminster with the content of one passion fruit for one liter of water. You will notice that it gives an exotic touch to the tea, makes it milder but also a bit fresher due to its soury taste. This tea has become a hit in our family and with our friends who were lucky enough to taste it. It really tastes great. But what tastes even better is the tranquility which having a cup of tea gives you. It's my favourite me-time: having a cup of good tea and reading a book.

I dare you to try my recipe. You will love it!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January - Winter Sale - The Month For Investments

Buy a sleigh in summer and a cooler/a fan in winter - but does this theory apply to closet shopping lists as well? For me it works - if you are on the look-out for classical items which are never out of fashion. But it applies also to services, cosmetics and other items. This is now the best month of the year to buy and invest in things, because most of them are on sale after the holidays. Here's a list of some things I recommend you to buy in January.

Invest in boots.
Yes, January is a good time for winter shoes in general. I am not referring to those one-time-one-season items in pretentious colours but rather to classical leather boots in black or dark brown, with a comfy sole, ideal for wearing every day and for many kilometers of walking. In the last years we've seen that, even if boots come out in fall in the shops, they are not required that much due to higher temperatures. However, when it starts getting cold outside, it's around boxing day or after New Year's Eve. So go out and buy those classic ones - at half the price. And they will last you for many seasons to come.

Cashmere - Invest in softness and cosyness.
Cashmere is one of the most loved fabrics this season as well as one which keeps you warm and comfy. But it's most of the time too expensive. My advice - buy in January! A beige cardigan or a camel brown or light grey sweater and a more colourful shawl would be nice additions to your wardrobe. You will see that you will easily manage to combine these items of clothing with everything that you already have in your closet and you will look very stylish and classy. Take a look at some pieces here from The Outnet, one of the most famous fashion outlets online.

Jewelry and Sweets - the gifts from the heart
If you start planning your Valentine gift in time, this is the perfect timing for the purchase of jewelry or chocolate, as their prices go down after Christmas and are always lower this month than they'll be in February. Just to name two examples, check out the Swarovski and the Godiva sale websites online for the markdown.

Cosmetics - investing in your outer beauty
Indeed, there are a lot of sales at really great cosmetics as well. Many, due to the fact that they have a Christmas packaging. But if you buy them for yourselves, that does not matter at all. I've also seen high end products such as items from YSL, Clinique, Guerlain, Dior etc being sold at lower prices. Sephora, a huge cosmetics retailer, is also advertising its sales products. You can get discounts starting 30-40%, so it's a great deal! Especially for the high end ones!

Travel. Invest in memories!
Or should I say, flights? Well, you start having all the early-booking offers if you are looking for tourism packages, but January is a great month for plane tickets as well. I've already bought 3 for myself. European travelers will notice that most of low-cost airlines have European tickets starting 25 Euros (for the return trip, that is)! But major companies such as KLM, Quatar, British Airways etc have now the period when they are posting lowered priced ticket offers for exotic destinations (starting from Europe). So imagine flying with around 500 Euros to the States or to Asia. If you're adventurous, now's the time to grad these offers!

As you're planning your newest purchases, I'm wishing you good luck and enjoy your acquisitions! Invest wisely!

(Picture Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - from top to bottom)

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Istanbul Adventure

Three years ago I wandered to a new territory, set foot for the first time in Turkey and visited Istanbul with my friends. Last days I was there with my amazing mother, with whom I have already been on so many adventures before and with whom I like to explore the unknown and discover new cultures and territories.

This adventure is something I am still processing, as it is truly amazing. Take note: this city has not been created for a city break only! Whoever plans to do that in Istanbul, commits a huge mistake. For this city has so much to offer, more than one can imagine, and way more than I have expected, and I am glad I was able to offer it more than one week of my life and get so much more in return...
However, I couldn't have enjoyed as much as I did, without a proper planning beforehand. The dimensions of the city are huge, but so is the number of interesting place to visit. I will detail more on those on future posts on the blog, so stay tuned!

Ligos, Byzantium, Constantinopole, Istanbul - it is many cities in one and yet one city with so many stories to tell. So many people have passed through, have been its guests, have left a mark on it or were influenced on their own by this city. The old city center, Sultanahmet, still breathes these stories of the past. With every footstep you take, you go where millions have already been before you, you are overwhelmed by the greatness of the constructions, by the simple moment you spend at a corner tea house sipping your tasty black Turkish tea, you are tangled within the streams of people walking each day on those streets, your blood starts rushing once you step into the Bazaar and start negotiating, and you are yet surprised by the tranquility which you find in even central parks, such as the Gulhane park, close to the Topkapi Palace.

Then you take a look at the Bosphorus, or even ride its waves to the next shore, you breathe in the air around you and just smile: you have made it! You are in one of the greatest cities in history (and in the world), and you have become part of it, part of its history. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Time for Meze in ISRAEL

You barely sit down at the table, and, even before getting the menu, you see some restaurant employees bringing you a big glass of lemonade or chilled water and one of them holds a platter with lots of small bowls which they place on your table.

These are the Meze, or, starters. It is a word I have heard being used in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus as well (I'm including only my personal travels here) for small bites of a dish. Usually put in the middle of the table, to share. Just a way of making a feast out of every meal. And it's about the spirit of community, of enjoying together, of sharing with your friends, family and all your loved ones.

But it is also about the pleasure of eating and what better way to discover a community or a culture than through its food. Meze in Israel have a wonderful mix of influences, most of them due to the great location at the Mediterranean but also very Eastern and with Arabic influence. Hoummus is never missing, but you also find a lot of dishes with or made from eggplants, you see salads made of carrots with spring onions but also ones from carrots with fresh coriander leaves (wonderful combination - I used this recipe at home as well).

 Here you can see how a table for two can look like in Israel... and all my cousin and I ordered were the mains (on the plates in front of us). Yes, the mains are rather expensive (and from the countries I've traveled to, Israel was unfortunately one of the more expensive ones when it came to food), but we got all what was put there in front of us, plus tea and desert at the end of what we can call a feast, not a lunch! Oh, and in case we would have been starving, we would have gotten refills on those meze, with no extra charge. In the end, it is so important that with only one lunch/dinner, you can learn so much about the culinary culture of a country and about what locals do when they meet: enjoy live to the fullest!

Monday, June 29, 2015

zChocolat - One Way Ticket to the South of France

It's the end of June, end even though my body is here, in Bucharest, I can not help to admit that my mind is elsewhere, wandering through the stone pebbled villages of the South of France. 

I can hear the steps I take down the stairs, walking towards the market place. Looking to my right, there is a small local bistro - most of the guests there are known by the owner and, while they are waiting for the food, they exchange some news and gossip. Just in front of the bistro, in an earthy-sandy square, some men are playing a boules game (maybe petanque), cheering or getting angry about it, depending on what team they are on. The yellowish colour of the stone houses reflects the warm sun of the noon and my eyes are drawn to my left, where the colourful market is waiting for me to absorb all the local aromas - the spices, the flowers, the food...

Once I open my eyes, I am back to reality, back in Bucharest. Fortunately, I have received this week a one way ticket back to the South of France: the new collection from zChocolat, with LOVE from PROVENCE. Once I opened the basswood box I discovered, to my delight, the typical recipes from Provence. The chocolates from the traditional collection, some nutty, some flowery in their aroma, and some just pure chocolate, are accompanied by southern French delicacies such as nougats, calisson d'Aix or the pates de fruits. Reminding me of the boules, the men were using in their game of petanque, are the round, chocolate-coated Provencal hazelnuts. The latter I am tasting now for the first time made by zChocolat. The verdict is simple: I can not get enough of them! I close my eyes and take a bite - the crunchy-ness reminds me of the sturdy construction of the southern villages, and the chocolaty coating, which slowly melts to reveal its wonderful aroma, emphasises the mildness of the sun and how it perfectly covers those buildings. Another bite, and I am back there. Thanks to zChocolat I now have the perfect vacation in a box - the essence of a wonderful region of France, all inside the new collection, inside my Provence Zenith Box.

You can now order the collection from here. The best thing about it - zChocolat orders are shipped anywhere, so you can soon receive your one way ticket to Provence as well! And zChocolat also has a summer packaging, which takes care that all their wonderful chocolates and delicacies arrive in perfect condition anywhere in the world.
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