This week in NYC we really started to feel the chill creep up. Instead of rushing for cashmere throw blankets and Farmer’s Market hot apple cider, we’re burying our heads in the proverbial sand and grasping one last inch of summer. How? By throwing a Rum Punch Party! We highly recommend you do the same to celebrate National Rum Punch Day on Saturday, September 20. Here’s how:
Step 1: Mix up one or all of our preferred rum libations (recipes below)
Step 2: Tune into some Reggae and steel drum beats (may we suggest the Jolly Boys?)
Step 3: Fill your home with sand and palm trees and transform your bathtub into a swimming pool (optional)
The New York Times recently reported that the place to find great coffee in NYC is everywhere. Cult roasters and specialty ateliers are king. Starbucks is out. Dunkin’ Donuts who? Sipping Muganjo at Kaffe1668 and browsing cafe-slash-design shop Budin has put us in a coffee state of mind. Let’s take a closer look at coffee culture across the continents. How do you take your coffee? Elephant dung or two shots of rum?
Dotting the vineyards of Napa Valley are specialty coffee shops serving brews with coffee ice cubes. The sun shouldn’t water down your morning routine.
GERMANY Nothing says “guten Morgen” like two shots of rum, a cube of sugar, and whipped cream. Oh, and coffee, of course. You will typically find Pharisӓer coffee in Northern Germany. In the shopping-savvy Cologne or the posh-centric Düsseldorf, seek out the locals-only spots.
THAILAND Brought to you by the elephant you rode in on, Black Ivory Coffee is made from native Arabica coffee beans that have been consumed by the local elephants, digested, dried, and then brewed in a special 19th century Austrian-style siphon.
ITALY Affogato (literally meaning “drowned”) is a “hot-meets-cold” specialty, adding the richness of vanilla gelato to Italian espresso. Enjoy a cup on your break from winding around the Venitian canals or navigating the Roman ruins.
The Tokyo bustle leaves no time for waiting in coffeeshop lines. While on the go, pick up a Boss coffee from local vending machines. Depending on the season, this delicious canned coffee can warm you in the winter, or cool down your summer.
Made from caffeine-free wattleseeds, the Wattlecino is popular for its chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut profile. Enjoy buzz-free relaxation at the Sydney harbor, beverage in hand.
MOROCCO While shopping the Souks of Marrakech, stop for a café des épices. Stall owners brew their choice of spices into coffees laced with everything from ginger, black pepper, sesame, cardamom, and more.
At AMPR, we’re lucky to work a stone’s throw away from the Union Square Greenmarket. With August’s cornucopia of locally grown produce, it’s hard to shake that “so-many-recipes-so-little-time” feeling while meandering through the various stalls. But fruit-wise, delicate berries from the Hudson Valley – in our opinion – always steal the show.
Fruit tarts are a common sight in France, a country that’s home to a number of exciting properties represented by AMPR. Last week would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and we’re celebrating her legacy of French cooking with a classic tart native to windswept Oléron, a scenic island off France’s Atlantic coast. The recipe is featured in Ruth Reichl’s book Tender at the Bone (a joy to read, by the way!) preceded by a few descriptive lines that had us chomping at the bit to get our hands in the flour:
Danielle took her finger out of her mouth and took a bite. I watched her. She took another. And another. I took a bite myself.
It was magnificent. The fruit was intoxicatingly fragrant and each berry released its juice only in the mouth, where it met the sweet, crumbly crust. “Why is this so much better than other tarts?” I asked.
Madame Deveau looked at me with something like interest. “The American wakes up,” she commented. “It is that the products here are so good,” she said. “Good butter from fat cows and wild berries grown in the island air.”
While we can’t comment on how the Big Apple’s Greenmarket compares to the fat cows and island berries of Oléron, we can happily confirm that this tart is a welcome taste of summer – anywhere , anytime. Now, be inspired!
Oléron Raspberry Tart
1½ c. sifted flour
¼ c. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch squares
2 tbs. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
¾ c. blanched almonds, toasted
¾ c. sugar
3 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. raspberries
2 tbs. currant jam and/or powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)
Place sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter squares to the flour mixture and blend using a pastry blender or forks until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add cream to the egg yolk and pour into flour mixture. Mix lightly with a fork until the pastry holds together in a small ball. If it’s not moist enough, add a tablespoon or so of water.
Sprinkle some flour across a counter and push the dough with the heel of your palm until it has been worked through. Do not over-mix. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the dough and allow to warm on the countertop for ten minutes. On a floured surface, flatten the ball and roll it into an eleven-inch circle. Fit gently into an eight- or nine-inch tart pan with a fluted edge and removable bottom. Press into pan gently, being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim off the edges and freeze for ten minutes to firm.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and filler and bake for five minutes more or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool while making the filling.
Blend the almonds and three tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until it is a fine powder. In a separate bowl, cream butter with the remaining sugar, and then add the yolks. Fold in the almond-sugar mixture and vanilla to combine.
Spread the almond mixture into the pre-baked crust and top with two cups of the fresh berries. Sprinkle the tart with two tablespoons of sugar and bake for 40 minutes or until just set. Cool at least two hours.
Just before serving, cover the tart with the remaining two cups of raspberries. Garnish with powdered sugar or brush the top with a simple glaze made from two tablespoons currant jam heated with one tablespoon of water. Bon appétit!
Ready to become a star? After the success of last year’s contest, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is once again looking for an enthusiastic elephant lover and budding TV star between the ages of seven and fifteen to become this year’s Roving Elephant Reporter for the 11th Annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand.
As the Roving Elephant Reporter, the winner will become a star of the elephant polo circuit, delivering a television report with VIP access to all areas of the four-day event, including exclusive interviews with participating players, elephant experts, and celebrities.
The winner, along with an accompanying adult, will enjoy an all-expense paid seven-night stay at Anantara Riverside Resort & Spa in Bangkok and Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa in Thailand, including return air fares. The reporter will get to explore the Royal seaside town of Hua Hin with a series of signature excursions, including an elephant trek through a local vineyard, a specially devised kids Thai cooking class, an art class on the polo pitch, and more.
“Being the winner of last year’s Roving Elephant Reporter was the most amazing experiences in my life,” said the 2011 winner, 14-year-old, Ann Skelly from Ireland. “From helping with actual vet checks, interviewing the elephant experts and the players including the New Zealand All Blacks and German royalty, to seeing the elephants up close was truly an awe-inspiring experience and I wish all the entrants to this year’s competition the best of luck.”
With the launch of American Airlines groundbreaking new route between JFK and Tokyo’s Haneda International airport, located much closer to the city center than the traditionally used Narita Airport and with much faster immigration, everyone is talking Tokyo these days. Now that the “Vertical City” is faster than ever to get to, head there to experience some of its popular summer festivities. Here’s the latest scoop of summer city happenings from Park Hyatt Tokyo:
Mark calendars for June 27, 2012, when Park Hyatt Masters of Food & Wine will host a special Brewmaster’s Dinner as part of the brand’s global series of seasonally and locally inspired culinary events. The event, held in collaboration with Kanagawa’s Sankt Gallen Brewery (renowned for its locally-produced craft ales) will offer a tasting menu of six-courses, each complemented by vintage labels, as well as a chocolate stout and a surprise ale from the brewery’s cellar.
Summer is the season of fireworks – especially in Japan. Almost every night, communities around the country stage lively firework displays to illuminate the night sky. The biggest and most popular of these is the Sumida River Fireworks Festival on July 28. During the festival, twenty thousand sets of fireworks will light up the Tokyo summer sky and the event also includes a competition for the best fireworks.
The Tokyo Sky Tree just opened as the world’s second-tallest structure. Standing at 2,080 feet, it takes about 50 seconds for the high-speed elevator to zip visitors up to the lower observation deck at 1,148 feet, and another 30 seconds to reach the higher deck at 1,475 feet. Don’t miss the vertigo-inducing glass floor!
On the last Saturday and Sunday in August, around 1.2 million spectators flock to city’s shotengai (shopping promenades) for the 53rd Annual Koenji Awaodori Festival. Over 12,000 participants from 188 groups of choreographed dancers and musicians will parade through the city streets in traditional obon dance costumes, accompanied by traditional Japanese instruments such as the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute, and the kane bell.
Celebrate the end of summer by attending the September 2012 Grand Sumo Tournament. From September 9 – 23, wrestlers young and old from across Japan will come to Tokyo to partake in the event. Hakkeyoi!
Everyone seems to be talking about the new “Chocolate Diet”, including The New York Times. With a new study showing that people who eat chocolate frequently have lower body mass indexes than those who it less often, we’re all about indulging our sweet tooth – in moderation of course. Here are some of our favorite places to satisfy a chocolate craving and stay healthy.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The sweetest way to satisfy a sweet tooth? A trip to the Santa Fe Chocolate Trail, of course! The Inn on the Alameda even offers a special “Check Into Chocolate” package. Designed to let you sample the unique hand-crafted delicacies created by the talented chocolatiers of the City Different, this tasty package won’t break the bank or your waistline. With rates starting at $340, this package includes:
Two (2) nights in a traditional Queen or King Room or a Deluxe King accommodation
Four (4) melt-in-your mouth bolitos, the signature chocolates from Señor Murphy, Santa Fe’s first local chocolatier, upon arrival
One (1) $30 gift certificate to dine at the Chocolate Maven, purveyor of some of the tasty treats found in the Inn’s Breakfast of Enchantment, serving high tea Monday through Saturday from 3-5pm
Since November, London’s famed boutique hotel, The Halkin, offers Couture Chocolate Afternoon Tea. The concept was created by William Curley, four-time winner of ‘Britain’s Best Chocolatier,’ for The Halkin as part of the hotel’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The exclusive new menu gives traditional afternoon tea an unexpected twist and is to be found in the hotel’s newly-transformed lobby bar, the Assouline Culture Lounge, showcasing coffee table books from the renowned book publisher, Assouline. In addition to the English teatime classic of freshly-made scones with clotted cream and jams and a selection of sandwiches, guests can choose from William Curley’s à la carte selection, that includes a Chocolate Financier with Passion Fruit Curd and a Sea Salt Caramel and Raspberry Tart. Priced from £37.50 per person, the tea is available daily between 3 and 6pm.
Located on the ground floor of the newly opened Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, Numero Uno is a chocolate lover’s paradise. The boutique features over 100 types of chocolate, mouthwatering cakes, and delectable pastries made from raw ingredients imported from Europe. Visitors can also enjoy rich coffees and a selection of indulgent hot chocolates. Deli-style sandwiches along with Asian and Western cuisine make Numero Uno a perfect place to stop for an afternoon snack or a late-night treat.
Chef Fred Bisaillon, the Executive Chef at the White Elephant’sBrant Point Grill, has created a delicious and satisfying dessert. Using a decadent combination of rich dark chocolate and sweet fruit, the restaurant’s Cranberry, Pecan, and Orange Chocolate Clusters are easy to make and the perfect solution for a sweet tooth.
1 lb dark chocolate
1-1/2 cups pecan pieces
1 cup dried cranberries
Zest of 2 oranges
Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl using 25-50% power, stirring every 25 seconds until melted but not burned. Remove from microwave and stir in cranberries and nuts, then orange zest. Using two spoons, drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking dish one at a time. Allow to rest in refrigerator until solid, about 15 minutes. Pull out pan and release clusters from it with thin knife or spatula.
On the Seven Seas
At least once on every sailing, Crystal Cruises hosts a special Chocolate Tea Time held in the charming sunlit Palm Court on both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Guests can enjoy delicious savories and sweets accompanied with Might Leaf teas, the world’s finest whole tea leaf served in special silk pouches. Some of the chocolate temptations offered include Ganache cake, rings, and tartelettes; chocolate crème brûlée; chocolate éclairs; chocolate fudge cake; chocolate whiskey tart; chocolate pyramids and chocolate roulade. Yummm!
Spontaneous travels are my favorite, so when I had the last minute opportunity to jet off to Morocco and the southern coast of Spain for a week of relaxing with friends I couldn’t resist. (Isn’t that what tax refunds are for anyways?)
Four flights and 24 hours of traveling, I arrived in Malaga, Spain, with the adrenaline and excitement of the trip erasing any jet lag. The next six days were filled with sunning on the golden beaches in Costa del Sol, swimming in the (freezing) Mediterranean, sipping Sangria and San Miguel on cobblestone streets, and touring the most charming historic towns… all while picking up a few Spanish phrases along the way,à la “Soy de la Gran Manzana” (I’m from the Big Apple!)
After a whirlwind, amazing trip, below are some highlights and recommendations for travelers venturing to the Andalusia region of Spain.
The hidden town is worth the 45 minute, incredibly winding and slightly nauseating drive up the mountainous terrain. We immediately headed to the outdoor café, Buenos Aires, (don’t be confused by the name) and indulged in ice cold gelato, energizing cappuccinos, and the most delicious churros, served with a side of melted chocolate for dipping. (Five girls have quite possibly never been so excited.) After frolicking around in the ‘Corrida Goyseca’, the oldest bullring in Spain, we took in the most breathtaking views of El Tajo Canyon (a memory that I hope created a wrinkle in my brain).
Insider’s Tip: There are many clearly marked paths that take you eye level with Puente Romano, the famous bridge that spans the canyon in Ronda. Venture down the one less traveled (identified by the the broken gate… don’t worry, it’s safe!) at sunset with a bottle of wine for the most private, jaw -dropping view of the historic landmark.
If you can handle the one-hour ferry through the choppy Mediterranean, then be sure to make a detour to Tangier. We booked with Siad Tours – which I couldn’t recommend more highly for those traveling to the northern tip of Africa. During our private excursion we rode camels along the beach, rocked the Kasbah and shopped at local spice markets. An incredibly eye opening experience when walking through parts of town where running water and electricity are considered a luxury.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t spend the 200 euros on the Moroccan mirrors you’ll find in all the shops. Instead, buy authentic painted tiles in the market and create your own piece of artwork at a sliver of the cost.
The area is well-known for The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace that look out onto the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. The fine details and architecture of the palace are remarkable, especially as the property dates back to the 11th century. The grounds are complete with endless flourishing gardens filled with sprinkling fountains, blooming roses, perfectly shaped shrubbery, and secret passageways. Be sure to buy your tickets at least a week in advance because they often sell out.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re feet aren’t blistery tired after touring The Alhambra (ours were, but we endured the pain!), hop on the local bus (only 1.30 euros) and head into town. While walking around, you’ll pass calligraphers who set up shop on the street and will elegantly scrawl your name in Arabic for one euro.
I love trying new foods, cooking them up myself, trolling specialty food shops for new ingredients, and trying out as many restaurants as I can. As the go-to for restaurant recommendations for the office, my friends, and my family, I’ve amassed a guarded list of my favorite places to go in the city. Although my cooking and eating pursuits aren’t terribly private (you can see almost everything I cook, eat, and drink on my blog, Sybil’s Spoon, or my twitter feed, @sybilbunn ) I take pride in my little collection. Only because I love our AMPR blog readers, I’ve been convinced to share my secrets. Happy restaurant hopping!
La Sirène – I’m hesitant to give out the name of favorite restaurant – this is the most romantic, delicious, hole-in-the-wall. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere in SoHo and serves up the best mussels I’ve ever tasted (the moules vignerones). Everything I’ve tried on the menu, I’ve loved, and each entrée is served with a side of roasted and pureed vegetables. Be sure to save room for dessert – the profiteroles are heavenly.
Taureau – This narrow fondue restaurant in the East Village is by the same chef who started La Sirène. The prix fixe gives you lots of food – both cheese and meat fondue with a little green salad, followed by yummy chocolate fondue for dessert.
Kuma Inn – This “Asian Tapas” place fills up super quickly, so be sure to reserve well ahead of time. There’s a small corkage fee per bottle, but it’s a great place to go with friends for a night out. Be sure to order the Chinese sausage and the wasabi shumai. And afterward, head next door to Los Feliz.
Morakote Siam – This is pretty bare bones, but great for a casual dinner. It’s right by my apartment, so I’ll often grab a bottle of wine and go with a friend. Our bill is rarely over $20 total. Be sure to try the Thai Chili Beef and the veggie spring rolls.
La Ramblas – Sentiment may be why I think this place is romantic (I went on my first date with my boyfriend here) but the dim lighting and emphasis on sharing back up my opinion. The small, high tables get filled with various tapas plates like grilled octopus or truffled mushroom salad with avocados. And the sangria is sweet, delicious, and disappears quickly.
The Place – I stumbled across The Place during a snowstorm and went in for a drink. The bar was dimly lit with candles and it was extremely cozy. I went back for dinner and it was equally romantic, even in warmer weather – although I think it shines most in winter.
Recette – This restaurant is super hot right now, so be sure to make a reservation and don’t expect to be seated right away (comfortable shoes may be in order). After a rough start waiting to be seated, it turned out to be wonderful. We sat at a little table next to the big, tiled windows looking out onto West 12th street. The food was incredible, and I recommend the carpaccio wrapped buratta with tomato jelly – creamy, savory, and tart.
Lupa – Mario Batali doesn’t ever seem to put a foot wrong, and he certainly hasn’t this time either with this, his less-expensive version of Babbo. I actually find the food here better than Babbo, and the atmosphere certainly wins out. Ask to be seated in the back room in the corner booth. It’s much more cozy and romantic sitting next to your date in a corner booth than sitting across from one another. Order the buccatini all’amatriciana.
Ghandi Café – This narrow, little Indian place is right around the corner from my apartment. They serve up the tastiest curries and hands down the best naan I’ve ever eaten. For two people, I suggest ordering the dinner for one and an additional curry. (The dinner for one comes with this amazing crispy vegetable fritter, naan, papadam, and a curry – along with three chutneys.) That way you get to taste a few things, and there’s usually enough left over for lunch. My favorite curry so far is the dansahk, slightly spicy with spinach and lentils.
Grand Sichuan Eastern – There are several outposts of this chain, but the one on 55th and 2nd is the best. Along with the American-style Chinese food staples, they have a Sichuan menu with spicy, fresh options. If you live nearby, order delivery because the place isn’t terribly charming. If not, stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. The Spicy Chicken with Chinese Broccoli is delicious, and if you like heat, also try the Spicy Wontons in Red Oil.
Tomoe – This unassuming little sushi place looks pretty run-of-the-mill, but the line outside the door proves it isn’t. The décor doesn’t wow, but the sushi does. It’s incredibly fresh and noticeably better than other sushi. I don’t know how they do it, but the fish is just better. Go for rolls instead of à la carte or you’ll be in for a hefty bill.
John’s – This place is conveniently located about 30 seconds from my apartment, but even if it’s a hike, it’s worth a trip. They don’t serve slices, only whole pizza’s, but it’s not hard to gobble one down even with just two people. It’s New York pizza at its best. The secret to avoiding the long lines is calling ahead for pick up, as long as you have a place to eat it!
Moustache – John’s has the best NY pizza, but Moustache has the best Turkish pizza. This cute little place has brass tables and a casual vibe, and along with the usual suspects (hummus, babaganoush, etc), they have Turkish pitzas with thin crusts and lots of flavor.
Best Bar Food
Blind Tiger – This craft beer bar has a surprisingly good menu. It’s a fun and unexpected place to grab lunch on the weekend. Along with your Allagash White or Rogue Brutal Bitter, nosh on amazingly flavorful and juicy bahn mi minis, chili, or savory BLTs.
Rye House – The bar snacks here have a southern bent with things like fried pickles (frickles!) and boiled peanuts. A great place to grab drinks with a boy, especially one who enjoys bourbon.
La Palapa West – The salsa they give you to start is so good you can eat it with a spoon – and embarrassingly enough, I’ve been known to scoop a few bites before the chips arrive. The tacos are great too, especially the chipotle chicken.
Bistro Truck – Just down the street from AMPR, I love running here for a quick lunch like salad niçoise loaded with potatoes, tuna, tomatoes, and other goodies or chicken cigars - crispy, tasty, and cheap. Also, the Portobello burger is tangy and delicious with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic.
Fish – If you like oysters, this is the place to go. For $8 you get 6 Blue Point oysters (or clams) and your choice of house red or white wine or PBR on tap. If you sit at the bar, you can also snack on the big marble bowls of peanuts.
Milos – This can be a little pricey, but the fish is amazing and fresh and it’s just like a restaurant in Greece – you get to choose your own fish. I definitely recommend getting a whole fish because it’s fun to pick it out, and they’re flakey and served simply with lemon and olive oil. Really authentic and light.
Sweet Revenge – You may know this place from its appearance on Chase commercials. It’s a great place for an afternoon snack or after dinner dessert. The cupcakes come in several varieties with two daily specials. Plus, they do wine and beer pairings, so you may be recommended a sparkling framboise to drink with your red velvet cupcake. If you like salty and sweet, try the fleur de sel cupcake – it’s amazing.
Baked by Melissa – These tiny little cupcakes are perfect for a snack with fun flavors like oreo and cookie dough and they won’t leave you feeling guilty. I can’t claim credit for discovering this – thank you Sarah Winters for getting these for the office!
Best Pork Buns
Fatty Crab – While the pork buns at Momofuku are savory and delicious, Fatty Crab’s win in my book. With the same basic set up – a fluffy, sweet steamed bun, a fatty, caramelized slice of pork belly, Hoisin sauce – Fatty Crab goes the extra mile with its spicy cilantro salad to stuff into the bun and its bulls eye of Sriracha in the bowl of Hoisin dipping sauce. Be careful – once you stop eating you really start to feel the burn. The slices of hardboiled egg on the plate help a little.
My first visit to Nantucket was in April of 2010. It was after a long, cold New York City winter. I was pumped as soon as I landed as there was no snow on the ground and lots of green grass! Another huge plus – NO ANGRY HONKING!
It was just after a lazy winter where I did little to no exercise, however under the suggestion of Tania Jones of the White Elephant Hotel Residences, I agreed to test out my wobbly legs by going for a four mile bike ride around Nantucket.
My colleague Sarah Winters and I took off from our accommodations in the adorable Cottages & Lofts at the Boat Basin, located right on the wharves of Nantucket Harbor. We were given a map of the island with a personalized four-mile biking path marked out for us by the lovely staff at The Cottages. We took off in a flurry, screaming things like “Biking is fun!” and cycling off toward Sankaty Lighthouse on the lovely, leveled, and paved biking paths. (Fun fact: Nantucket recently received 6.4 miles of newly paved bike and road paths as part of Obama’s stimulus plan).
The views from our ride were stunning; large fields of untouched land and huge stretches of blue ocean and white sandy beaches from cliffs near the lighthouse. Toward the end of our journey, there was even a long stretch of field that resembles an African countryside (it’s known as Nantucket’s Sergengeti).
While the scenery was beautiful and the path extremely easy to navigate, I was having a bit of trouble kicking things into gear. Sarah was nearly a mile ahead of me! I waved her to down and motioned for her to stop, believing that maybe something was wrong with my bike that was causing me to go much slower than she was. We switched bikes, but the problem remained the same. There was no one to blame, not the bikes, not the paths, only my unfit body!
However, after stopping for some lovely water in Sconset, I was able to rev up and get some energy to finish our loop. When I think of my trip to Nantucket, the best memory I have is that bike ride. Biking is by far the best way to get around the island. At around just $30 a day for a bike rental (and complimentary at many Nantucket Island Resorts properties!), it’s also a great option to save money from paying for car rentals, expensive car ferry tickets, and parking.
My one piece of advice? When biking, stay away from the cobblestones on Main Street – it can be quite a painful experience!
Finally, I managed to capture a lovely video of a small leg of our biking trip which I am sharing with you now, below. Enjoy!
Hello and welcome to our very first “AMPR’s FYI”. Here at AMPR we get a real insider’s view of some of the most incredible people, places and things and we just can’t keep it bottled up inside anymore – we have to share what we know! Each week an AMPR staffer will post a personal account of a unique adventure, little-known fact or must-try experience that you would perhaps otherwise never have discovered.
To get the ball rolling, my name is Sarah Winters and I am a fairly recent addition to the AMPR team. I love to travel and I love anything to do with skincare and make-up (and sparkley things.) This week, I have decided to give you the 411 on a little gem of a product: ESPA’s Soothing Cleansing Bar. Yes, soap!
Once I had decided that I simply must dish the dish on this heavenly hunk of dirt remover, I realized that I would need to set some relatable parameters for my review. Here are the criteria for my sudsy evaluation: Scent, Handiness, Lather, Scour Power and Lastability.
At core of ESPA’s modus operandi is to provide quality natural products that serve a multi-purpose, and with the Soothing Cleansing Bar they do not disappoint.
Scent: The Soothing Cleansing Bar contains aromatherapy-active essential oils, namely, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Lavendar and Patchouli. Let me tell you, it smells fantastic – an androgynous just-home-from-the-spa kind of smell that appeals to both men and women. The combo of steam from the shower and the essential oils makes for a refreshingly fragranced and very relaxing rinse – this soap definitely lives up to its name.
Handiness: I know this is a subject to which people will have given little thought but it is of no less importance. While I like to think that I have a proportionate body, my hands do tend toward the smaller side and sometimes soaps can be a little unwieldy, especially when fresh out of the carton. What I love about the ESPA Cleansing Bar is that they have disposed with the usual rectangular or oval shape and have chosen to go with something that is halfway between a cube and a rectangle. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand but is still a satisfying chunk of clean-maker, whether you have big hands or small.
Lather: I have strong feelings about the lather of soaps. Some seem to repel water and won’t even dispense with a single sud, yet others seem to coat you with a layer of impenetrable goo – leaving one fearing that one might break one’s hip if one puts one’s foot down after washing it. The Cleansing Bar scores another point in this department. Made with Palm Oil, Coconut Oil and a selection of other naturally occurring moisturizers, it soaps up nicely and leaves your skin feeling fresh and smooth and clean – not dried out or super slippery.
Scour Power: While gentle and suitable for all skin types, ESPA’s soap really does the dirty on dirt. On the streets and subways of New York in the summertime it’s hard to completely avoid the city grime, so I put the Cleansing Bar to the test on my walk-everywhere feet. Sure enough, those little hooves were clean as a whistle after the lightest of scrubs.
Lastability: If there’s one thing I hate, it’s soaps that start off looking like they’ll get the job done – think Hulk Hogan, but soap – but after a few days they’ve wasted away to a miserable-looking Woody Allen of a thing. This little bundle of soothing cleanliness gives you the best of both worlds: an appropriate level of lather without dissolving into mush on the soap-holder.
In sum, ESPA’s Soothing Cleansing Bar has proven to be one of the best beauty/bathing discoveries I’ve made. I’m hooked and it has my man’s stamp of approval too, no easy feat! If you want to try it, too, let us know and we’ll send you one for your own personal road-test; the only condition is that you report back using the criteria above.