A Taste of New Orleans with the US Consulate*

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It’s not every day that an email from the US Consulate pops into your inbox. Even rarer is one inviting you to brunch. Not quite sure what to expect, I headed over to the stunning Principal Officer’s Residence in the heart of leafy Edinburgh for a taste of New Orleans in the heart of Scotland.

As part of the Taste of America initiative, top US chef, Tory McPhail had travelled to the UK to introduce us to a true taste of New Orleans. Executive Chef at the iconic Commander’s Palace, and winner of 2013 James Beard Award Best Chef South, I don’t think that we could have been in better hands for the afternoon!

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After kicking things off by getting to learn about the Consulate’s role in US-Scotland relations, as well as a taster of Southern cuisine, we were treated to some milk punch. Called an ‘eye-opener’ when you’re brunching in ‘Nola’ and made up of bourbon, half and half (single cream in the UK) a splash of milk and grating of nutmeg, it was a delicious start to the proceedings.

Soon it was time to tuck-in, so we headed through to the dining room to try some of Tory’s signature dishes. As with all great chefs, Tory is a real champion of what’s fresh, what’s local and what’s in season, so rather incredibly, The Commander’s Palace menu changes daily, with even the recipes being tweaked each time! We were treated to a seafood starter, with a trio of seafood – salmon, lobster and caviar. Served on a warm blini with a grated duck egg, it was incredible – fresh, surprisingly light, and full of flavour, it paired perfectly with our champagne!

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With a beautiful open kitchen, we were able to snoop on proceedings – wondering what was coming next. It was absolutely mesmerising to watch Tory and Executive Chef Meg Bickford at work as they whipped, plated and served up at record speed.

Our main course was the stuff of dreams – the most tender pork had been rubbed with Creole spice, which gave it the perfect amount of peppery heat, and it was served alongside toast, melted brie, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, mushrooms and an absinthe vinaigrette. Indulgent doesn’t even begin to cover this dish – the rich hollandaise was the perfect foil to the heat from the pork, and the sharpness from the vinaigrette absolutely shone. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a dish quite like it – and I’ve already attempted to replicate the pork at home. As we tucked in, we were able to discuss what life and eating is like in New Orleans with Tory and Meg, and it was so inspiring to hear about how they keep an iconic restaurant like the Commander’s Palace at the top of it’s game. Opened in 1880, it’s a landmark for the city and is regularly ranked as New Orleans top spot. It was fascinating to learn about dishes which are a real part of the Louisiana culture, like Turtle Soup and Jambalaya.

All too soon it was time for dessert, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an exciting preparation of pudding! The iconic Bananas Foster was on the menu, so the entire table headed through to the kitchen to see Meg and Tory at work!

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If you’ve never tried the dish (stop everything and try a classic recipe like this one), it’s an absolute riot. Bananas are sautéd in butter and brown sugar, and just when they reach a soft, pudding-y consistency, they’re flambéed with rum then served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can see how it all went down here.

The result is pretty much everything you want from comfort food – soft, sweet and deliciously rich – it really is the ultimate pudding!

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The afternoon finished with strong black coffees brought over from New Orleans – and they were the perfect pick-me-up after such an indulgent few hours. It was such a delight to meet Tory, Meg, Chief Officer Ellen Wong as well as everyone who attended. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that New Orleans is now topping the (rather long) list of holiday spots!

Thank you so much to the US Consulate in Edinburgh, Chief Officer Ellen Wong, Tory McPhail and Meg Bickford for having me, and educating me in all things New Orleans. You can find out more about the Commander’s Palace here

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Manuka Honey Balm*

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When it comes to summer must-haves, a great multipurpose balm is on the list – especially if you’re travelling. A couple of weeks back, I received a tube of Thursday Plantation’s Tea Tree Manuka Honey Balm, and I’ve been absolutely loving it. It’s apparently a bit of a cult product in Australia, where it’s produced, and honestly, I’m not surprised.

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Packaged in an easy to use tube, the balm has been designed to protect skin against pollution and bacteria by reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier, so if you’ve been suffering from everything from sunburn to mozzie bites, this it the product for you! It smells absolutely wonderful, thanks to the tea tree oil, and it soothes and calms skin from the moment it’s applied.

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I love how calming and soothing the balm is when applied. I used it on a breakout, which is brought down to practically overnight. It’s also perfect for soothing chapped or raw skin – so I’ve been smoothing it on my cuticles before heading to bed each night.

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Manuka Honey Balm is priced at £9.95 and is available here.

Glossier Milky Oil Cleanser

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When Glossier was first launched a few years back, I’m not going to lie – I thought it would be a whole load of hype – not that it stopped me from ordering a couple of products. Fast forward to today, and I’m an out and out Glossier Gal. I’m not going to lie – I love everything about the brand, from the chic aesthetic through to their skin-first philosophy, and I use at least three of their products daily. The newest addition to my collection is the new Milky Oil Cleanser which combines the properties of Micellar Water and Oil for the ultimate in cleansing perfection.

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It’s a bi-phase formula which needs to be shaken before using, and I simply use a few drops of the formula on my fingertips to work into eyelashes and lips to get rid of any mascara or lipstick, then follow with my regular cleanser. It can even be used with a Q Tip as a makeup eraser, to make sure your eyeliner and lipstick application is 100%.

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I love how effective yet gentle the Milky Oil is. Even when I’m wearing my most intense mascaras, which take a good few minutes of removing, just melt away when I pat some of the Milky Oil onto them. You can even apply the formula to lips and eyes direct from the bottle, thanks to the spout, which keeps the formula exactly where you want it, and I’m not left with wasted remover streaming down my face.

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Once the Milky Oil has gotten to work, I simply wipe it away with a warm, damp flannel and I’m left with skin which is both soft and completely clean. Since I like a thorough cleanse, I follow it up with my usual foaming cleanser, but if you’re in a rush, it would be absolutely fine to stop with the Milky Oil. If, like me, you can look a little pink post cleanse (thanks sensitive skin) Glossier have you covered – Milky Oil has Comfrey Root Extract and Pro-Vitamin B5 condition which soothe and smooth skin, so not only is it clean, it’s calmed too!

Glossier Milky Oil Cleanser is priced at £10 and is available here.

You can enjoy 10% off your first Glossier order by clicking here and making your choice!

D’Alchemy Essential Body Balm*

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When it comes to skincare, I like to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t have the time or the energy each morning to faff around with multiple products. After all, the less time I need to get ready, the more time I get to spend in bed – win win. When it comes to makeup, I’ve streamlined my routine into a handful of favourites which I rotate through weekly, but when it came to body products I’ve been less curated in my approach – slapping n various creams, balms and serums and hoping for the best.

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I think I may have found a go-to with the D’Alchemy Essential Body Balm. A rich and emollient cream which smoothes easily into skin, it’s an absolute showstopper of a product. Aside from the glorious texture which manages to feel nourishing without straying into the sticky or greasy territory, the scent is absolutely divine. It’s light and zesty, and it feels perfect for summer, since after using the cream in the morning, I kept smelling citrusy notes all day long. As you might expect from the brand, the balm’s ingredients are nearly entirely natural and organic, and it contains everything from Witch Hazel, Argan Oil, Lemon Verbena and Shea Butter to keep skin in top condition. Even though the brand recommends the balm for older skin types, I love it for keeping everything perfectly hydrated for summer.

D’Alchemy Essential Body Balm is priced at £58.60 and is available here.

RODIN Olio Lusso Geranium and Orange Blossom Luxury Face Oil Stick*

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Sometimes I’ll stumble across a beauty product, and wonder why on earth I hadn’t even thought of it, let alone tried it. It’s usually a simple product which ends up being all kinds of life changing. Case in point – Rodin’s Geranium and Orange Blossom Luxury Face Oil Stick.

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Available in three different scents (Jasmine & Neroli, Geranium & Orange Blossom, and Lavender) which can take you from morning until night, Rodin’s Luxury Face Oil Stick is a dry skin must-have. Perfectly packaged to tuck into your makeup bag if you’re heading off on holiday, and sizeable enough for daily use even if you’re not, I’ve been reaching for this stick after every cleanse.

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Like everything from Rodin Olio Lusso, it’s an absolute joy to use. The stick positively melts into the skin leaving it glowing, and wonderfully hydrated. Unlike when using a liquid formula, you can’t use too much, and it never gets in your eyes. Instead, you can control exactly where you want to place the oil, and it’s also easy to build it up if you want an extra hit of hydration.

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As you can imagine, the Oil Stick smells absolutely divine. Honestly, Geranium is not always my favourite floral scent – I can find it a little too overwhelming, but Rodin have got it absolutely right – perfectly balanced with Orange Blossom (possibly one of my very favourite scents) to create a spa-worthy product which feels like a treat to use. In the morning, I smooth the oil stick onto my driest areas for hydration which lasts throughout the day. I also love it tapped onto the high points of the face to act as a subtle highlight. In the evening, I stripe and smooth it on pretty much everywhere and let it sink in as I sleep. It’s also perfect for treating skin post-facial. I get a Diamondtome facial pretty much monthly and it’s the perfect product to hydrate after a good exfoliation!

RODIN Olio Lusso Geranium and Orange Blossom Luxury Face Oil Stick is priced at £55 and is available here

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