Driver’s Seat: The DBS Superleggera Volante, the fastest convertible yet from Britain’s bespoke sportscar maker

And now, it’s time for the latest installment in an occasional series I am tentatively calling “Luxury Home in Suburban Middle America or New Car?”

Fine. The series title could use some work. But the premise is solid. Basically, we feature a new luxury or exotic vehicle that costs about as much as – you guessed it! – a luxury home somewhere in suburban America.

This month’s head-to-head pits a charming 4-bed, 3.5-bath Colonial-style stunner in Poland, Ohio listed at $329,900 against the no-less-stunning Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante convertible, which is comparably priced to move at $329,100.

The former is a spacious 4,036-square-foot in desirable Canterbury Creek. It features masters on both floors, cherry cabinets in the kitchen, maple flooring throughout and a back deck overlooking some undisturbed nature. Not. Too. Shabby.

The latter is only the fastest convertible model in the history of bespoke British sportscar maker Aston Martin. It is powered by the company’s own twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V12 engine making a bonkers 715 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to rocket this ragtop from zero to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 211 mph.

We mentioned that the home in Ohio has cherry cabinets, right? OK, just checking.

Anywho, back to the Aston. In terms of style, the company has done a masterful job of updating its class-leading exterior styling to integrate some serious aggression without sacrificing elegance. Highlights include the gaping front grille and the nifty “curlicue” air vents behind the front wheels.

The sleek roofline as seen on the hardtop Aston Martin DBS Superleggera coupe is unsullied by the transition to a cloth top – which, by the way, is available in eight different exterior color options and six options for the interior lining. Speaking of options, the custom configurations for the Superleggera Volante are practically endless – and endlessly tantalizing. Lime Essence and twill carbon fiber exterior with geode quilted Spicy Red and Cote d’Azure Blue “leather environment” atop Sandstorm cabin carpeting, you say? Done, done and … done.

Of course, the four-bedroom in Poland, Ohio has dual masters. And nearby Poland Middle School is rated a 9-out-of-10!

So maybe $329,100 is sounding a little too rich for a convertible. Fear not! Aston Martin has promised a drop-top version of its smaller Vantage model later this year – including the long-awaited return of an optional manual transmission. Convertible Vantage pricing has yet to be announced. With the coupe commanding closer to $150,000, it’s safe to say the open-top version will be well under $200,000 – significantly less than the DBS Superleggera.

Or, we could show you a lovely two-bedroom condo with wood floors and granite countertops in Poland, Ohio … ::


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Taste: Chef Vic Casanova’s recipe for English pea pesto at Balboa Bay Resort’s A&O Kitchen + Bar

Chef Vic Casanova, the new executive chef at Balboa Bay Resort, is framed and backlit by the early afternoon sun beaming from the harbor into the spacious dining room of A&O Kitchen + Bar. The cascade of adjectives applies to the new menu that Casanova has recently engineered and launched here, as well as the philosophy applied to his purview over the resort’s fine dining venue, Waterline.

“It’s where we are and where we’re trying to go … My goal was to gather up a menu that is ingredient-driven and three-dimensional. The way to do that is to use bright, vivid colors and textures…” And he goes on: “I find great ingredients and let them speak for themselves.”

If they can get a word in, that is. Nothing if not energetic, genuinely enthusiastic, articulate and loquacious, Casanova has embraced his new outpost in Newport Beach with verve.

A Bronx native trained on the line at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne and Danny Meyer‘s storied Gramercy Tavern, Casanova arrived in Southern California ten years ago, after an extended stint at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. From the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, he opened the popular nouvelle trattoria Gusto, which Esquire named as Best New Restaurant in 2012. Initially, he moved his young family to Orange County because he realized that after 10 years in L.A., he had never seen the beach. When the opportunity opened at Balboa Bay, it seemed a natural fit. He joined the resort’s team at the end of February.

His chef de cuisine Josh Shapiro joins us as we begin to assay the ultimate purpose for our visit: to eat.

A small rectangular ceramic plate arrives at the table. Atop sits grilled ciabatta layered with English pea pesto and creamy burrata crowned with furls of delicate pea tendrils and finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon. It’s played like edible art. Soon only stray bits of crumb remain.

Have we noticed an odd preponderance of toasts and toppings on our beat of late? Yes.

Yet are we instantly weakened by anything involving burrata, let alone English peas? Again, the answer is yes! Is the combination irresistibly simple and sophisticated? You be the judge.




4 cups English peas, blanched and shocked

3 cloves garlic, peeled

8 cups pea tendrils

4 tsp lemon juice

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Place peas, garlic, salt, pepper, pea tendrils, and lemon juice into a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is coarsely chopped.

While the food processor is running, slowly stream in olive oil and blend until everything is incorporated into a smooth pesto. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula and pulse once more to incorporate.


A&O KITCHEN + BAR at Balboa Bay Resort

1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach


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Editor’s Letter: A little help from our friends

I’ve never been the kind of person who looked to historical figures or famous achievers for inspiration on how to lead my best life. Maybe it’s because my life is so rich with friends who amaze and motivate me with their determination, their intelligence and their heart.

Case in point: my friend Risa Groux, a certified clinical nutritionist in Newport Beach. We first met a couple years ago when, after a heavy-duty course of antibiotics for a dental infection caused a litany of digestive problems, I dragged myself into her office. I had received a couple press releases about her practice and was intrigued.

I don’t remember exactly what I was expecting – maybe to be shamed into eating more vegetables or something. What I found, though, was this firecracker of a person who all but vibrated with a passion for healing your life through the power of wholesome food. The innovator behind a program called The Newport Beach Cleanse, Risa advocates for the therapeutic use of nutrient-dense, high-quality foods, antioxidants, herbs and supplements to achieve optimal health.

Let me just get this out of the way and say that yes, I am probably her worst, most disobedient client. (I have a weakness for linguine alle vongole and a great Pinot Grigio, among many other things.) But when I listen to her and follow her very informed advice, I feel fantastic. I’m slimmer and my aches and pains disappear. (“So is that pasta and wine really worth the extra weight and feeling bad?” asks the angel on my shoulder, whose voice, strangely enough, has Risa’s slight East Coast cadence. “Of course it is! Yes, yes!” counters the devil on my other shoulder, who sounds a lot like Peggy Lee after a Scotch-and-cigarette bender.)

But what I appreciate about Risa possibly even more than her encyclopedic knowledge of food and the human body is her living testament to the power of “following your bliss,” to borrow that old Joseph Campbell phrase.

Risa was always the kind of person who paid attention to what she ate – she was the mom who made her babies’ food from scratch, who bought organic produce before it was a thing – but she was also a woman with a high-powered career as a marketing professional for professional sports teams.

Then, she unexpectedly fell ill. The diagnosis? A thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s disease.

Unsatisfied with the limited options her doctors gave her for treatment, she furiously researched and embarked on a nutritional plan that radically improved her health. She sought the expertise of leading scientists and researchers, attended seminars, read everything she could – and in the process became convinced that her passion for nutrition could help other people. She decided to dedicate herself to a career doing just that.

It was a risk, starting a new business and leaping into a new career path. But she trusted herself, she trusted her knowledge and she was driven by the conviction that she could help others discover a new level of wellness and vigor.

At the risk of sounding like a dimestore version of Oprah, I think that’s inspiring – how Risa’s conviction doesn’t stop at personal satisfaction but uplifts others in the process.

You’ll notice a few other people like Risa highlighted in our pages this month – women such as UCI Foundation trustee Julie Hill who aims to be among the first “astrotourists” and our own Karen Kelso, who took a solo journey to find who she is now, apart from her role as mom, wife and creative director for this magazine. You might find inspiration, too.





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Use patterns and textures to change up a light-filled living space

  • Succulents grace the coffee table.

  • Creating a light-filled
    living space was key to
    interior designer Anne-
    Marie Claassen’s goals
    for her home’s “California
    cool” look.

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  • Raising the living room
    ceiling and using a
    white palette allows the
    Claassens to change
    things up with pillow
    colors and textures.

  • Plenty of storage space (and display spots for beloved toys) make the Claassen boys happy to
    have their mother’s “family friendly” design in their bedrooms.



When interior designer Anna-Marie Claassen and her attorney husband Brian bought their new home in Corona del Mar’s Cameo Highlands, the pair already had long-term goals for that one-story, three-bedroom house.

“We have a plan. It’s probably in years, but we bought this house because we love the lot,” Claassen explains as she sits in their sunny living room.

In fact, when the couple and their 7- and 9-year-old sons moved into the 2,400-square-foot house in July 2017, they immediately made some changes, like redoing the living room. “The living space had a scalloped ceiling, and it was a very ornate, dark wood – I would say traditional, maybe Italianate, with a heavy mantelpiece,” Claassen recalls. “We pushed the ceiling up a little, tiny bit. We kept the fireplace box, but modernized it.”

They also removed another fireplace in the area beyond the kitchen and painted the interiors white, creating an office for her Anthology Interiors design firm and playroom space for when the boys get home from school. “It’s a big living space,” she says, “The house is really about the brightness and the lot. There’s plenty of land for us to expand. Eventually.”

Each son has his own room, and there’s not only a swimming pool in the backyard, but space for an enclosed trampoline. The family dog is happy as well, as the big black lab/shepherd mix loves the large front yard. But he’d better not get used to that, since the Claassens are planning some major construction, designed to keep them in the home and the neighborhood they already love for years to come.

“We bought this because we love the lot. There’s a partial ocean view. There’s tons of room to expand. There’s only one story allowed in this neighborhood, but what we love about this neighborhood is people are being really innovative and going down, people are going into basements or digging in their garage. We love a one-story floor plan in general, but this gave us a lot of room to push out,” Claassen explains.

Interior designer Anna-Marie Claassen

The long-term plan includes elements that stay within the community’s HOA regulations, including a full renovation of the master bedroom/bathroom, which at the moment doesn’t include a walk-in closet. “We’re working with an architect now, but we think we will do a great big master, with a new bathroom, new closet,” she says. Then she adds, giddily: “We can turn this whole section into another bedroom. The third bedroom would stay and then turn the other bedroom into a laundry room. Then, we can push that wall way out and we can expand the house. It’s hopefully a five-year, maybe 10-year plan. We’re going to just totally reconfigure everything!”

Until that happens, however, the Claassen family will enjoy the comfortable, “California cool” interior design that reflects the taste and style she offers her Anthology clients. “That’s what I call this eclectic mix of midcentury modern and family-friendly stuff. I do a lot of family-friendly decorating; that’s kind of my top focus every time I meet with a client. We do a lot of indoor/outdoor fabrics inside, for example.”

That’s reflected in her own home, with an oversize white sectional sofa dominating the living room. “It’s covered with an indoor/outdoor, really washable fabric,” Claassen insists. “Kids and dogs — they just take over. But with a blank slate of white walls and washable white sofa, you can bring in a lot of interesting color and textures with textiles, pillows and everything. The neutral palette allows you to do that, even if you have kids and dogs who are going to make a mess all over the place.”

One thing that may change as the family reconfigures the house for the long run is the flooring, which is travertine. Claassen has a whole different look in mind, especially as her boys head into their teenage years.

“I love concrete floors,” the interior designer and mom reveals. “Personally, right now, that’s my favorite. You can throw awesome rugs on top of it, and it really goes with the modern look, and you can mix things in with it. And it lets the kids do all sorts of stuff all over the floors that you wouldn’t necessarily let them do on a marble or wooden floor. Kids can roll their bikes all over the place and things like that. It’s just generally really user-friendly.”

With the long-term plan in motion, it seems obvious the Claassen family is going to make Cameo Highlands its permanent home. After all, as Anna-Marie Claassen reveals, it really is as much about the neighborhood as it is about the house.

“We love the ocean views we have, the ocean access and we love Corona del Mar. The beaches are amazingly gorgeous; they’re rocky with tide pools and the beautiful arches and the caves. I can see staying here for a long time.”  ■

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Fashion File: The best 2018 Cruise collection looks for summer

Sailing the South Seas, yachting down the Seine or even puttering in the Pacific wharfs flowing alongside Newport’s Peninsula, Orange County attire calls for chic, coastal cool dressing. Designers from New York, Switzerland and abroad have embraced a more sophisticated take on their Resort and Cruise collections this season. Flowers abound and romantic flowing lines remain a strong emphasis. Whether your vacation plans this summer is aboard a Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Riviera, Crystal or Viking vessel, it’s apparent that cruise is a state of mind that’s taken hold of fashion’s imagination. Wanderlust channeled in clothes and accessories. Ahoy!

  • Finely embroidered details, flowing ruffled skirts, and thick leather accessories chanel the free spirted west for Dior’s Cruise collection. Price upon request. Dior, South Coast Plaza, 714.549.4700. ::

  • Yellow gold is making a big comeback in the accessories market. The Midas touch looks best in large statement pieces such as this bold cuff jewelry by designer Anne Sistron. $1,800

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  • Woven blue and white threads echo the ebb and flow of the blue ocean. Cape Code designer Elyse Maguire channels the bay and shimmering dusk in her latest line of knitted scarfs. $115.

  • Parisian salon life echoes throughout Anna Sui’s 2019 Resort collection. “As usual, we love collages of vintage florals,” says Sui. “This season we’ve planted a virtual garden full of roses, peonies, hydrangeas, zinnias, dahlias, tulips, asters, hollyhocks, English daisies, sweet William … And we’re very excited about all the delightful prints.” Price upon request.

  • Fendi updates the retro cat-eye sunglass frames. The grey frames with blue mirrored polarized lenses create a futuristic take on a classic look for summer. $480
    Sunglass Hut, South Coast Plaza, 714.979.9139. ::

  • Christian Louboutin leaves his mark on the Janitag Graffiti red sole slide, which features a playful take on a traditional Italian-made Roman-style sandal. $745. Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island, 949.755.5555

  • High-waisted pants with pleated accents are enlivened with a romantic English garden print. Paired with a sleeveless tank adorned with ruffled accents and a tight bodice, the look feels buttoned-up and yet casual. Rebecca Taylor, Fashion Island, 949.

  • Robb Report horology expert James Malcolmson partnered with South Coast Plaza to honor the Best of the Best in timepieces including this cherry blossom, diamond-encrusted stunner. Price upon request. Van Cleef & Arpels, South Coast Plaza. 714.545.9500 ::




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Restaurant 917 is a taste of the Porsche Experience

Chef Matt Lee at Restaurant 917 housed atop the Porsche Experience Center in Carson.

Sometimes in life we miss important things because we’re just going too fast. Yet, when we do slow down, unexpected delights pop up in front of our eyes.

That’s the case with the Porsche Experience Center, which you might have missed as you were speeding along the 405 freeway in Carson. But if you take the time to notice, you’ll find gems there. The first are the high-performance racetracks where you can maneuver the latest Porsche models through a series of driving modules. (Have you ever felt a sports car hit G-force mode?) The other is Restaurant 917. Located on the second floor of the center, 917 serves fine food and wine with views of the PEC track.

“It is a very unusual concept,” admits executive chef Matt Lee. “You’re overlooking a racetrack. We combine cars and food. It’s just different.”

It’s a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Details elevate the entire meal. Servers are trained to communicate with sign language. “If I need a table cleared or a water glass filled, then I make eye contact” – with someone on the team – “and I just sign for it,” says Alexandre Oliver, general manager of food and beverage operations. “I don’t have to say a word.”

The seamless service highlights the creativity spouting from Lee’s kitchen. Private parties and celebratory occasions are the events that normally bring diners to 917. But Lee and Oliver want more foodies to pull off the interstate.

“The big misperception is that we’re not open to the public. But we most definitely are,” says Lee. “People think you need to own a Porsche to come here, as if it’s an exclusive club. But, it’s not. We try to make everyone feel welcome – even if you don’t own a Porsche.”

COAST: How did you start cooking at 917?

MATT LEE: My previous employment was at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It’s run by the same food contractors (Bon Appétit Management Co.) that do the Getty’s food service. Five years ago, Porsche knew they were building the experience center out here. So the company sent me to Atlanta to bid for the account. I did tastings for the executives. We competed against other restaurant groups such as Wolfgang and Patina. It was a seven-course competition.

COAST: What is the difference between the two dining concepts, Restaurant 917 and Restaurant 356 in Atlanta?

ML: Here, we have a more California twist. We just get better ingredients here than in Atlanta. So it gives us more opportunities to change up the menu based upon what is best that day.

COAST: Speaking of ingredients, what are some of your favorites?

ML: I love seafood. Any type of seafood I can get my hands on I’d be happy to cook. The octopus is the No. 1 seller. The Spanish octopus is my favorite thing to cook with right now. It’s sous vide for eight hours. I put in olive and smoked bacon just to give a smoky flavor. Once it cools down, then we grill it. It comes with a harissa aioli; Brussels sprouts; red cabbage that’s been glazed with a little sherry vinegar and butter; pork skin chicharron for a little crunchiness; and lardo, which is a little cured fatback. Plus we put on a little herb oil and micro cilantro. Pork just goes well with everything.

COAST: Any other ingredients?

ML: Heirloom tomatoes. There are so many different varieties that you can use. So that’s fun. Each has a different flavor profile. I just put an heirloom tomato dish on the menu with smoked burrata, pickled strawberries from Harry’s Berries. We’re smoking the burrata in-house with a cherrywood.

We’re also planning to change the menu six times a year, since sometimes things are only available for a week, maybe two. So I don’t want to be stuck with too many things, I’ll come up with a menu that I can change on my whim. We just started serving a German-inspired dish, since we are Porsche. It’s a sauerbraten – short ribs, a sauer-based demi-glace sauce, herb spaetzle and braised cabbage, my version of kraut.

I brought my own pastry chef, N.D. Lee, over from the Getty. We just finished working on our new summer dessert. It’s a tableside play on s’mores. We’re going to incorporate the fire at the table. Even though it’s a hot dish, you think of summer and camping and the outdoors.

Another exciting change is that we’re also working on a secret menu.

COAST: If you won’t spill the secret, then at least tell our readers about the butter served at Restaurant 917.

ML: It started out as a joke. It’s kind of funny but on Yelp and OpenTable everyone writes something about the butter. It started out with these ice cube trays that they sell down in the store. Before we opened, we came up with Porsche butters. They still sell the trays downstairs. You can try it yourself, but it’s a lot harder to mold than people think! ■

Porsche Experience Center, 19800 S. Main St, Carson 888.204.7474 ::


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Miley Cyrus and cult favorite flick “Tombstone” inspire a killer cocktail at Pacific Hideaway


Pacific Hideaway
<em>Daisy If You Do</em> mezcal cocktail at Pacific Hideaway, Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach.

There’s nothing ordinary about the cocktails at Pacific Hideaway in the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Each playful libation created by lead bartender Casey Lyons doubles as an Instagramable moment. He conjured up the Dazed and Confused, a pineapple rum cocktail splashed with lime and ginger syrup. The whimsical garnish: a smoking sage and oregano joint is sparked up en route to the table.

His prickly pear mezcal margarita flushes with a flamboyant magenta. Lyons shakes the cocktail vigorously before pouring it into a clear skull-shaped glass. He garnishes it with agave cactus tips, arranging each one so the result resembles a ceremonial headdress. Looking like a brain surgeon about to operate, he pulls out a pair of large metal tweezers to pluck out a smattering of delicate edible flower blossoms to decorate the drink’s ornate top.

“It’s a Miley Cyrus nightmare,” he jests. Lyons, who previously cultivated the innovative bar program at Social in Costa Mesa, admits to drawing inspiration from pop culture and cinema for the beverages he serves at Pacific Hideaway. I’ll Be Your Huckleberry, a Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey cocktail sweetened with huckleberry-infused syrup, and the vibrant Daisy If You Do prickly pear margarita are nods to the cult-favorite 1993 “Tombstone” movie. Pacific Hideway’s bar was designed to exude a laid-back, surfers’ watering hole. A needed respite from the woes of our tech-obsessed world. It’s also a cool place for Lyons to play out his liquid daydreams.




2 ounces Del Maguey Vida mezcal

1 ounce John D. Velvet Falernum

1 Tablespoon prickly pear syrup

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Sparkling wine


  1. Combine all ingredients with ice into a metal shaker.
  2. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a glass and top with sparkling wine.


PACIFIC HIDEAWAY 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, 714.965.4448 ::


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A René Lalique automobile mascot built for Prince George emerges in Newport Beach

Gerard Smith is a collector extraordinaire, whose interests have led him to obtain one of the only 26 original copies of the Declaration of Independence, create an extensive coin and currency collection sought by museums, not to mention amass one of the most extensive collections of pre- and post-war automobile mascots (don’t say “hood ornament”) created by glassmaker René Lalique in his factory in Alsace, France. But what makes Smith’s collection the most rare is this running greyhound created for England’s Prince George, in honor of his visit to Paris. This one-of-a kind piece – a light under the hood projects the blue color into the clear glass – was never put into commercial production It disappeared for more than 80 years; its whereabouts unknown until it turned up at auction. “My goal is to collect every one of the 30 designs made by Lalique but in every color,” says Smith. “It’s never been done, is very expensive, but fun to do. You’ve got to collect something, after all. That’s what makes life interesting – always on the hunt for something!”

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Beauty Pie delivers directly to you

Beauty Pie cosmetics and beauty products are delivered directly to you.
Beauty Pie cosmetics and beauty products are delivered directly to you.

As for adventuring, I’d rate myself medium-high on the risk scale. I once travelled to Africa not knowing a soul, and I’ve trudged shin-deep in mud through cow-filled fields in Scotland to get to a music festival. Those were good times – the kind where youth, possibility and the absence of fear of running mascara combine to create the stuff of memories. I was bare-faced, young and free. But mostly, bare-faced.

It’s true that makeup has never really been my thing. If I’m being totally honest, I’ll share with you that my beauty routine was cemented around the time Aqua Net was the hair product du jour and wet n wild cosmetics graced drug store shelves. As an adolescent, I’d peruse the latest eyeliners (Sapphire and Ice wet n wild kohl liner, where you at?) and dab on Fantastic Plastic Pink blush à la Madonna circa 1989. I’d sing along to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and toss in a couple Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers while my mom was distracted picking a Rice-A-Roni flavor for dinner. I tell you this not for nostalgia’s sake (although that’s part of it), but to highlight that things have not changed much. I still follow the eyeliner-blush-lip gloss routine, and although now I go for more of a smudged black on my eyes, the rest, down to the Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker, has remained much the same.

This would all be fine except that it’s not fine at all, at least if you consider that a woman rapidly approaching her fourth decade is still using products made for and marketed to people half her age, optimistically speaking. Add to this two young children and a phobia of all things Sephora, and it’s no wonder I have no clue what highlighting is, let alone the desire to figure it out. But one day, I heard about a company called Beauty Pie during a podcast. It’s founded by Marcia Kilgore, she of Bliss spa renown, and is based on the idea that all women should have access to the best beauty products in the world. It’s model is subscription-based, so those who become members for $10 per month can buy everything from serums to lipstick for factory-direct pricing. That means you aren’t shelling out $150 for your nightly moisturizer to pay for its packaging, overhead and marketing; from Beauty Pie, the same thing costs a small fraction of the price, and it’s formulated with the same ingredients and in the same labs that make your department store favorites.

Beauty Pie sets
Beauty Pie sets

What’s the catch, you may be thinking? Well, it is a recurring monthly cost, and for $10 per month, you can spend up to $100 on products each month, but that $100 is based on the price the product would sell for normally. For example, if you want Beauty Pie’s Super Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream, which would cost $85 regularly, your remaining balance for that month to spend is $15. But it does mean that you get to buy the eye cream for only $7.17, which is pretty great. You can also upgrade your membership to increase your monthly shopping allowance, and any unused allowance is automatically rolled forward to the next month.

The real proof, however, is in the product itself. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t see the need to swap out my trusty Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub from Target for a $35 “transforming cleanser.” But in areas where I’m a little less confident (i.e. the rest of the beauty product world), Beauty Pie strikes a nice balance between anxiously roaming the aisles of Sephora, where overstimulation and panic-inducing words like “micellar” and “contouring” are thrown around like everyday vocabulary, and, well, wet n wild. It’s like someone went and found the best stuff, edited it down, and said, “This is what you want to help with your wrinkle situation. You’re welcome.” The choice is not overwhelming, though there is enough of it to keep even beauty aficionados interested, even if it is just for the quality and not the mind-numbing variety. The lipstick I tried, FutureLipstick in Knockout Punch, is satin-like and nicely pigmented, and didn’t require the trained hands of a makeup artist to apply. It glided on smoothly and evenly and in a nude-ish pink color that didn’t make me feel clown-like. I even branched out and tried Beauty Pie’s Pro-Strobe Luminizer in Beaming, which I dusted atop my tried-and-true rosy blush, and it did make my face seem brighter and like I’d just come from some dewy, misty place that caused my skin to glow. A win, as far as I was concerned. And for those more adept with makeup and all its magical powers, there are more advanced products like the Quick Colour Contour Supergel, which promises you can’t go wrong with its tint and easy applicator. It was simple enough to apply and, after a few YouTube videos for practice, I could begin to see the appeal.

Another area where Beauty Pie excels is in skincare. Despite my general lack of awareness of all things makeup, I have always believed that taking care of your skin is the best favor you can do for your looks, so I do somewhat keep up on skincare. Beauty Pie’s selection is curated carefully to supply the basics (cleansers, serums and  moisturizers), plus a few extras like the Plantastic™ Micropeeling Superdrops that help with acne-prone skin and Fruitzyme™ Five Minute Facial for deep-cleansing. There is a conspicuous lack of the marketing usually associated with skincare, such as pretty packaging and mentions of the exotic ingredient of the moment (nightshade and hibiscus, anyone?) but in my estimation this is a good thing for both your wallet and your skin since the components that actually do matter are in abundance. I tried the Super Healthy Skin™ Ultimate Anti-Aging Cream, which is a great all-purpose nightly moisturizer with hyaluronic acids and antioxidants to get the job done well. Compared with my usual Clarins Extra-Firming Night cream ($93), it’s also a bargain at Beauty Pie’s $11.61 price ($130 regular).

This all being said, you may be the type that can think of no better way to pass an hour or three than wandering the aisles of Sephora testing out every new product that promises everlasting beauty and sourcing from the far-reaches of the planet. And if you are, then Beauty Pie may not be titillating enough. But if you know what you like and find the company’s model intriguing (value-wise, it’s a great deal), it may save you from excessive choice-induced anxiety and the existential angst that traditional makeup shopping entails. Or maybe that’s just me.


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Crustacean Beverly Hills reopens with a big surprise

Pho soup dumplings with holy basil, kaffir lime in a royal broth.
Pho soup dumplings with holy basil, kaffir lime in a royal broth.

After waiting eight months, House of An with June Her from Jh2 Architects in Newport Beach, unveiled the opulent $10 million newly renovated Crustacean Beverly Hills on March 12. The reopening doubled as another celebration for the An family when the City of Beverly Hills honored executive chef Helene An as it officially proclaimed March 12: “Crustacean Day” in Beverly Hills.

Elizabeth An with Margot Robbie, Executive Chef Helene An, and Catherine An at the 11th annual Women in Film pre-Oscar Party at Crustacean
Elizabeth An with Margot Robbie, Executive Chef Helene An, and Catherine An at the 11th annual Women in Film pre-Oscar Party at Crustacean

However, the An’s had not planned to reopen just one restaurant in Beverly Hills. Chef Helene An – the woman who pioneered Vietnamese fusion cuisine – with the assistance of her protege, chef Tony Nguyen, decided to launch two different, yet equally exquisite dining concepts housed under one roof. Helene An would reopen Crustacean Beverly Hills on March 12 to a splashy week of star studded events including the 11th annual Women In Film pre-Oscar party hosted by Emma Stone. But, in May, Da Lat Rose at Crustacean will open its doors upstairs. Now this is the opening that the real food lovers are anticipating. Especially since the An family has kept this new concept so mysterious. The name was inspired by chef Helene An’s childhood homeland, a city in Southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands. It remains one of the most cherished places by the An family. Plus CEO Elizabeth An stepped in to oversee the project as the lead conceptual interior designer. So you know when Da Lat Rose opens, it’s going to be outstanding.

Chef Tony Nguyen and Chef Helene An
Chef Tony Nguyen and Chef Helene An

What we know so far: chef Tony Nguyen will act as the culinary helm for both restaurants. Since 2014 when he began overseeing the kitchen at AnQi at South Coast Plaza under the guise of chef Helene, the duo helped elevate the dining scene in Orange County. The restaurant’s menu introduced playful uses of local, seasonal ingredients melded with bold Asian flavors and classical culinary techniques. This trifecta combined with a sleek dining room expanded southern California diners palates and intrigued them to try more nuanced Southeast Asian flavors.

Crustacean dishes are supposed to remain playful with elevated touches. The “Surf & Turf” sashimi will pair wild salmon with slices of A-5 Wagyu garnished with crispy garlic, purple potatoes, and a tobacco chili vinaigrette; and the “Karate Salad” will consist of kohlrabi, umami-loaded black truffles, crispy Kennebec potatoes, and delicate garlic blossoms.

Entrées should fit a wide array of diners. Vegans might try the “Hearts of Palm,” a playful take on the “crab cake.” While the meat lovers most definitely won’t miss the scrumptious three ounces of A-5 Wagyu Matsusaka steak seasoned with a Himalayan salt block.

The bar program at Crustacean has been completely changed led by beverage director Peter Barriga. The bar plans to fuse Asian spices and flavors with classic cocktais. Think: Turmeric Mule with turmeric-infused gin, turmeric syrup, ginger syrup, citrus, and a splash of soda water.

For House of An regulars, the Secret Kitchen An’s garlic noodles and Dungeness crab is still on the menu. But, remember, that’s only for those in the know.

468 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills ::

The newly renovated Crustacean Beverly Hills dining room.
The newly renovated Crustacean Beverly Hills dining room.

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