December 18, 2015
I'm the first to admit I'm not a floral-loving girly-girl, but there's something about Liberty's prints juxtaposed with an urban staple like sneakers that appeals to my softer side. Much like my Nike x Liberty Dunk Sky Hi that I was totally obsessed with a few years back, yesterday's launch of this new Holiday Collection has me swooning.
Offered in the Classic Cortez, Air Max Thea, Rosche One, and Air Force 1 High, these are all pretty fantastic. Perhaps it's the recent resurgence this classic shoe is having or just my preference for more retro sneakers, but it's the Cortez that really caught my eye. Which one do you like?
Not surprisingly, my size looks like it was never even made, so it would be up to Santa to perform a Christmas miracle to make these happen for me. I suggest those of you with normal shoe sizes get a jump on this lovely limited edition collaboration, as I'm sure they won't be around for too long!
Top image: Liberty
Bottom imgages: 43einhalb
December 10, 2015
Ahh, Berlin. It is a glorious place. So full of creative, entrepreneurial energy, which makes it an ideal city to seek out locally-made and designed products for the gift-giving season. Some of these great items I've picked up myself, some have been past gifts and some I pine for on my own wish list, but they are indeed some of the best that Berlin has to offer. Here are my picks (plus, a little background on each):
01. Antikapratika ceramic bowls | This Italian couple and tattoo-artist team started creating art off the skin with this gorgeous line of tattoo-inspired ceramic bowls. While the blue-based tattoo designs are their focus, I must admit I love the black designs that they have produced of late. You can see more at Un Autre Voodoo in Neukölln, and they seem happy to work with customers who want more of a specific design. This one's on my list please, Santa!
02. Maisoap | I first stumbled across this soap at a Christmas shopping market last year and have since noticed it popping up at various weekend markets across the city. Kreuzberg-based, this family business has been in operation since 2006, focusing on quality fats and oils for its soap production. Scents range from subtle basics like olive oil or lavender to the more complex coconut-lemongrass, avocado-mint and the cosmic-looking Berlin Bubble. While they offer essential oils and bath bombs as well, the bars of soap are really the stars.
03. Fluenk leather bags | While I was first intrigued by designer Anna's simple, soft tote bags at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt, complete with straps long enough for my lengthy limbs and an interior closer (thank goodness!), I have since become smitten with the rest of her unique yet timeless designs. Working with cow leather that would otherwise be a waste product of the food industry, the leather is tanned in Italy and made into not only bags, but wallets and other small goods as well. Though Fluenk is relatively new, the quality and craftsmanship speaks to a lasting Berlin business.
04. Atheist shoes | Ironically, I first found out about this company from the Instagram of a US-based graphic designer. Drawn in by the cheeky atheism messages stamped on the soles (and emblazoned on tote bags), I was won over by this concept of handmade, quality shoes. Technically, they're constructed in Portugal, but designed here in Berlin. With leather that is unprocessed, vegetable-dyed and gently tumbled for softness, customers swear they're 'like walking on hugs from baby kittens'.
05. Apfelsina bags | It doesn't get more Berlin than a bag made from photographs of this city's iconic landmarks and street art. Founded over a decade ago, creator Ina Kerkhoff began with a small, colourful collection of bags, and quickly expanded to varying materials and concepts as the inspiration struck. Designed and handmade in Berlin, her Stone Bone and Tempelhofer Freiheit collections are quite literally a pictorial representation of this great city.
06. Belyzium chocolate | A fan from day one, I've been frequenting this Berlin chocolatier for some time. At first, it was for the chocolate bars, now, I'm a regular for its spicy, rich Maya hot chocolate. With the addition of ice cream, hazelnut chocolate spread and even chocolate-infused rum, it has become the ultimate chocolate destination in Berlin. The owners will happily wax poetic about their chocolate, which only makes you fall more in love with the place. Finding out they had US-based partners in the California city I called home for a good part of my twenties felt even more like I was meant to be there. I often stop in when I need a small gift for someone, but have a hard time leaving without something for myself as well!
07. Format clothing | A bit like Atheist shoes, this Berlin-based clothing company creates well-designed, quality pieces from quality materials. Made in both Berlin-Neukölln and Szczecin, Poland, the designs are described as minimalistic, but with some truly beautiful tucking and pleating used in unexpected ways. With such attention to detail and certified organic materials, these are investment pieces meant to last a lifetime. My favorite is this cozy hooded sweater that is the epitome of Berlin winter wear.
08. Kaiserhonig | Anyone who knows me, knows I adore this honey. In two variations: thick honey with various fruit or spice or herb additions, or a creamier 'milk cream' honey with flavors like whiskey creme and salted caramel, they are a delicious treat on breakfast toast. You can also pick up an assortment of three small jars - perfect for gift-giving - at its regular stand at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt. Side note: a jar of the Zimt honey is a regular on my mom's Christmas list!
09. Berliner Winter | Cloudy, organic apple juice, spices and vodka. Drink it warm to stave off that Berlin winter chill. Buy it in bulk to give as gifts or horde for your own warming purposes. 'Keeps you warm, makes you tipsy and tastes so delicious.' What could be better - or more Berlin? Talk about a perfect stocking stuffer.
10. Elicamente jewelry | Hailing from Rome, Berlin-based artist Gabriele di Stefano makes gorgeous jewelery pieces that combine ceramics with wood and brass, drawing on the connection between humans and nature. The simple stud earrings and MRMR collection of necklaces are definite stand-outs. It also looks like he's branching out into other areas, with lovely little concrete planters available for pre-order to ship in February.
*photo of Antikapratika bowls by talented Berlin food photographer Claudia Gödke
December 9, 2015
Guys. They are notoriously hard to shop for. Never as transparent as women, never gushing 'ooo, I just adore this bag,' sometimes it's hard to know what to get them. Like women, guys are just as multifaceted and unique in their wants, but you've got to start somewhere. Oftentimes, the best way to go isn't with something they necessarily need (not that socks or tools aren't great and all...). This guide touches on cocktails to gadgets to attire, all in a stylish way most men would have a hard time finding fault with. There's a super cool coffee table book, a pullover so soft it will up his huggable factor exponentially and even special batch whiskies made from beer. And don't forget the shoes!
03. Food52 Carry On Cocktail Kit (three variations) | 04. Ace & Tate Murray sunglasses | 05. ohw? Gatland shoes
06. J.Crew grizzly fleece pullover jacket | 07. Boston Harbor Distillery x Samuel Adams Spirit of Boston Whiskies
December 8, 2015
I believe everyone truly has a bit of homebody in them. Even the most energetic party girl needs downtime every now and then. For the perpetual Netflix-on-the-couch gal to those who just need to make the most of her infrequent nights in, these gift ideas can suit anyone who enjoys where they live. From indulgent coasters and gilded untensils that makes even take-out feel like a special affair, to wooly slippers that have changeable, outdoor-friendly soles, these are the makings of a happy home life. Think Danish Hygge - that untranslatable feeling of coziness complete with candles, couch cuddles and great company - because who wouldn't love that? People draping those sheepskins all over their furniture were really onto something...
December 7, 2015
If, like me, you are getting a later start on shopping for the holidays, I'm here to help. All this week, I'm rounding up gift ideas in several categories based on who you're shopping for. I like to think there's a little bit of me in each of these themes, so hopefully this informs on-the-nose gift-giving. Expect footwear recommendations across the board, because I am the shoegirl, after all.
First up, we have the Stylista. I call her this because 'Fashionistas' are too often slaves to labels and trends, whereas the Stylista believes firmly in her own sense of style and loves pieces because they are beautiful and well-made, not because someone else told her she should. She strives to own only chic, useful pieces, but enjoys the indulgence of something just plain pretty, or witty. This means good-for-you lip products in classic colors, Italian-made scarves, leather sneakers from Barcelona and diamonds in an unexpected, understated way. Essentially, things she'll treasure for more than just a season.
08. Meyba leather joggers | 09. Garance Doré's Love Style Life | 10. Day Birger et Mikkelsen Gweneth mini bag
*Photo via Vienna Wedekind
December 2, 2015
When I got the message from my friend Adam that a UK-based fresh-baked bread company was coming to Berlin and wanted to meet with the gluten-free community here to discuss its entry into the German market, I jumped at the chance. Gluten-free bread in Germany is, let's face it, sorely disappointing, especially coming from other parts of the world where a loaf can't often double as a doorstop. There are a few options at specialty groceries and through online retailers that are pretty good, but I've yet to find anything that made me proclaim "this is delicious!". Mostly, it's been just settling for what's out there, something my foodie sensibilities does begrudgingly. That is, until now.
Genuis's website got me really excited pre-meeting with the visiting group, and our dinner itself left me positively giddy. Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Genius's founder, was so full of optimism and confidence about their foray into these new markets (Genius is also available in France, Sweden and the Netherlands), it was hard not feel like we too were drinking the Kool-Aid. She described how Genius was born from her children's allergies and her desire to feed everyone the same good food, rather than needing to have safe assortment for the gluten- and dairy-intolerant among them every mealtime, and it became clear this wasn't just a sales pitch. She was in this for love of good food and keeping loved ones safe and healthy with what they ate - and she was kindly sharing what she created with all of us. As the other members of the Genius group raved about products, not even needing to be gluten-free themselves, it was obvious this was just a good product, period. "This is pretty good, for being gluten-free" is pretty much my most-hated phrase related to food. I was pretty positive this bread would meet my discerning standards.
I had hoped that Genius would bring us a sample to try, but as they started pulling out bag after bag of baked goods, showing us the assortment that was ready to go to market in its German packaging, I couldn't believe all they had to offer. There were multiple sliced loaves, big fluffy rolls that squished when poked them, even two kinds of big, moist-looking muffins. As I looked around, starting to formulate which ones I wanted to try and which ones I'd throw elbows to take home, they pulled out another bag, full of the entire range, all for me. I honestly nearly cried.
With all these fresh baked goods to eat in a limited amount of time*, I enlisted the help of my husband (who eats mostly gluten-free anyway thanks to our no-gluten-in-the-house rule) and a couple of friends - one gluten-intolerant, the other, her gluten-eating partner - to power through all these products and see how they stood up to both what we know of gluten-free baked goods here in Germany, as well as everything we wished they would be. These were our findings:
Traditionelles Dunkeles Brot (Traditional Dark Bread)
This is the loaf that launched a bread company. Founder Lucinda said this one was developed in her kitchen to feed her family and became the beginning of a long line of gluten-free breads, muffins and other goodies like crumpets and pies (sadly not available to the German market yet). This one is a good neutral bread, without being flavorless, though I found it a little dry. It had a good crunch when toasted, but does tend to be more crumbly than the other sliced breads. For sandwiches, it fell apart the quickest, but as morning toast with some Berlin cinnamon honey, it was divine. This one reminded me the most of more traditional German bread in flavor, although it was still significantly lighter in density.
Dunkeles Mehrkornbrot (Dark Multigrain Bread)
These slices had great flavor with a slight crunch from the nuts and seeds. Light like any good non-German bread, yet hearty enough to feel like you're getting some great nutrition. Toasted, it did suffer a bit from dryness, so my advice is don't toast too long. My husband and I both enjoyed this as toast and for sandwiches, and we agreed it had the best taste of any store or bakery-bought gluten-free sandwich/sliced bread we've tried in Germany yet (and we've gone through an assortment of Schär, Schnitzer and the singular GF bakery here in Berlin). This is gonna be a best-seller here in Germany, I just know it.
Weißbrot (White Bread)
This loaf was perhaps the one most like it's gluten-filled counterpart. Soft, with just the right amount of chewiness. Since there's no gluten, there's no sticking to the roof of your mouth. Like most white bread, on it's own, it a little boring, flavor-wise. Its strength lies with PB&J, grilled cheese, cinnamon toast or even made into holiday stuffing. I enjoyed this both untoasted for sandwiches and toasted for breakfast toast and for grilled cheese. It suffered from a little dryness next to the crust, but overall this bread performed like any good white bread should.
Früchtebrot (Fruitbread, like a cinnamon raisin bread)
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest raisins-in-baked-goods fan, but these slightly cinnamon-y slices with small, soft pieces of not only raisins, but sultanas and currant as well, might have won me over. I tried this both toasted with just butter and also with butter and cinnamon, and it was a perfect breakfast or snack bread. Once starting to go stale, it made an excellent French toast as well. Sweet without being overly so, the mix of fruits and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and more) makes it quite the tasty slice. Even my husband, not usually big on sweet stuff, reached for this loaf a surprising number of times. This one will be a breakfast go-to for me.
Mehrkorn Brötchen (Multigrain Rolls)
This was one of the first packages set in front of me by Genius and when I touched them, I marvelled at how the fluffy rolls gave when I pressed into them (as opposed to more traditional German Brötchen, which can often sub in for hockey pucks). While the inside was fluffy and soft, the outside was coated in just the right amount and assortment of seeds and nuts to compliment the grain-flavor on the inside. My husband and I enjoyed these first with some soup, then it was me and my gluten-intolerant guest who got the other two as burger buns. While, much like the white roll, it's not so much a bun as a roll, it did the job nicely, holding up to the messy insides of a burger without crumbling or disintegrating.
Helle Brötchen (Light Rolls)
A good, basic white roll is often hard to find, one that is flavorful can be even harder. This one was so fluffy and tasty, I swear that any gluten-eater would take it for "the real thing". It's grain kind of flavor went beyond just the yeasty white nothingness of a basic roll. The first time my husband and I split one with our soup, slightly warmed in the oven, we were bowled over. This might be the best packaged gluten-free bread product we'd ever tasted. The next round of these was enjoyed slightly toasted as burger buns, and while only slightly too thick for the task, it was a delicious use for these rather large rolls. Unfortunately, this was the first of all the products to show mold, two days after opening and three days after receiving them. Not sure if this indicative of faster-spoiling ingredients or perhaps a product that was defrosted earlier than the others, but my advice is to eat this one immediately after purchase. Trust me though, it won't be difficult.
Schokoladen Muffins (Chocolate Muffins)
Store-bought muffins - and cupcakes, which the Germans irritatingly call "Muffins" - are notoriously not great here. Much like bread, they tend to be much denser and drier than American and British counterparts. Biting into these felt almost as if I were back in the States. The chocolate flavor was rich, but not overpowering. The crumb was moist, but not soggy. I was surprised to see several kinds of fruit juice concentrates on the list of ingredients, which must account for a lot of the great moisture, without any fruit flavor coming through. The size here is also quite generous, not like the giant Costo muffins from the U.S., but perhaps nearly twice the size of the gluten-free ones I've seen on Germany grocery shelves. Being a baker myself, I don't often buy cakes or muffins, but these are definitely on my list for when I don't have time to make something myself.
Zitronenmuffins mit Mohn (Lemon Poppyseed Muffins)
The lemon flavor in these muffins is divine and the poppyseeds, which can play an overpowering role if used too abundantly, were the perfect subtle accompaniment to the bright citrus flavor. Just like the chocolate version, these were very moist with a great texture. While our friends got to taste this muffin and came away most impressed, my husband was pretty ambivalent about them. Since I make cakes and muffins often and he claimed mine were better, he didn't feel the need to indulge in these like I did (he also doesn't have my sweettooth, so take from that what you will). Though I could perhaps agree with him - I mean, when is good homemade not better than just about anything store-bought? - I still think the Genius muffins are far and away better than any muffins, or cupcakes for that matter, on Germany's shelves. If you're looking to indulge in a sweet breakfast or snack, I would highly recommend these.
Now that you're as excited as I am about this bread, you want to know where to buy it, right? Well, it is scheduled to be available on Food Oase this week, so check in and place your order before they sell out! Just want to be able to go to the store and pick one up? I feel you, but we've got to have patience, as Germany is notoriously slow to adopt new things. The more you ask your stores for more Genius Gluten Free products, the more likely they will be to add it to their offerings. The plan is to be in Berlin stores soon, so lobby hard with your local markets to help make that happen!
If you are lucky enough to live in or near Hannover, these are available at select Edeka's as of yesterday. Believe me, this bread is so good, I'm tempted to take a trip there just to pick some up... Stay tuned and be sure to follow me on Twitter as I will update whenever I get more information from the folks at Genius about where to buy its products here in Germany. Also, be sure to follow the Genius Germany page on Facebook to show your support (and to lobby for the pains au chocolat - Free From Food Awards 2015 Breakfast Winner - to come to the German market)!
*Important note: Genius is shipped to Germany frozen, then defrosted when put up for sale, which, as most GF eaters know, reduces the shelf-life by two days; refreezing after purchase in Germany is not recommended.
This post was in collaboration with Genius Gluten Free. I received free products for my review, but all opinions are entirely my own.