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Hot Cakes Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce

Seattle's popular Hot Cakes is known for their molten chocolate cakes and boozy milkshakes, but I had no idea they were offering a Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce ($12). Using a traditional caramelizing process, it results in a slightly smoky note while organic coconut and hemp milks bring out a rich, decadent texture that's unusual in a vegan product. Not too sweet nor too salty, it's a balanced sauce that didn't need any butter. The love and labor involved with this recipe is obvious. Warning: you won't be able to stop eating this right out of the jar!

They don't market it as a vegan-friendly product, but the signature organic Dark Chocolate Sauce ($10) doesn't contain dairy. The high cocoa content brings a deep chocolatey taste to satisfy any dessert lover, yet the texture is thin enough to make an effortless hot chocolate. You can also use it drizzle on ice cream, strawberries or on top of a layer cake.

It's obvious that Hot Cakes puts a huge emphasis on artisanal quality and awesome flavor. I can't wait to try their other vegan options the next time I'm in the Ballard area.

To buy their sauces:

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Kyoto Confections to Try

To say that the Japanese adore their sweets is a huge understatement, and Kyoto seems to be the champion of crafting anything with sugar. You can close your eyes and bump into a wagashi boutique, bakery, tea room, candy shop or French patisserie along any major road within this gorgeous ancient city. 

Credit: Kisshokaryo

The following brands are just a tiny sampling of what Kyoto has to offer:

A sister brand of the popular Sizuya bakery chain, Sizuya Pan only sells anpan, a small sweet bun with bean paste filling. Wrapped in hip and modern packaging, there are several unique flavors to swoon over. Oddly enough, the Cinnamon is my favorite as it contains a bite-sized dollop of mochi inside, which is then surrounded by a delicate layer of cinnamon-scented azuki paste. The thin outer bun layer is also lightly flavored, delivering a gorgeous mix of complementary textures, scent and flavor. Goma black sesame is another hit. There are two small outlets inside Kyoto Station and each anpan goes for about $1.80. Also, the regular Sizuya bakeries have a ton of amazing pastries at lower price points, but one can only eat so much!


Marukyu Koyamaen has been producing award-winning matcha from the Uji region for over 300 years. The comprehensive tea selection is absolutely amazing (great for souvenirs), but don't miss the serene tearoom and garden inside the modest Nishinotoin retail shop. Try the iced matcha tea and matcha sponge cake roll set — you won't regret it.


Honke Owariya, a 550-year-old soba noodle house, had its humble roots as a soba confectioner. You can get their crunchy soba wafers in a few flavors (matcha and black sesame are our favorites) as well as their rustic soba cakes with azuki paste.


Credit: Honke Owariya


Located in the heart of the famed Gion district, Grand Marble resembles an exclusive jewelry store. Their speciality is a rich danish bread, which sorta tastes like a cross between a croissant and brioche bread. They offer over a dozen flavors at any given time and there are a few seasonal options. We tried the Love Combo (strawberry swirl and matcha). The packaging is beyond exquisite, reminding you of a certain French luxury brand.

Credit: Grand Marble

Kisshokaryo offers housemade matcha milk jams, financiers, castella cakes, and much more. Take advantage of the upstairs tea room and order the Shiratama mochi. It's soooo good and refreshing on a hot day! The shop is tucked along a side street off the busy Higashi Oji Dori (walking distance from Yasaka Shrine) and the ladies working there are absolutely adorable.

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NARS Tribulation Blush & Velvet Shadow Sticks 

NARS is back with their Fall 2015 Color Collection! The new Tribulation Blush ($30), a shimmery pale gold with a slight hint of rose, acts more like a sculpting highlighter for the face. The color is so pigmented that I actually use it on the eyes. It's gorgeous when it's blended with darker eyeshadow.

NARS Tribulation Blush.

The Velvet Shadow Sticks ($28) are available in eight shades. I tried Glénan, an intense navy with a pearly finish, and Oaxaca, a light beige champagne. Both go very well together for a smoky eye, but I actually like to use a bit of the Tribulation Blush to bring it together. The formula can be tricky to blend out and may not be ideal for oily skin unless you use a primer. It does lock down once you're done fussing with it. I had rubbed my eye by accident and the results didn't rub off much. You can use these as an eyeliner but I'd use an eyeliner brush for precise application.

The Fall 2015 Color Collection is available at all NARS boutiques and will launch at Sephora and NARS counters on August 1. 

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Chop Shop Cafe & Bar

One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Chop Shop Cafe opened last weekend in the Chophouse Row building. The latest project from Volunteer Park Cafe's Ericka Burke, the 2,800 square-foot restaurant is a gorgeous space that accommodates both large groups and smaller parties, as well as housing a much-needed Chop Shop Juice & Provisions takeout and retail space.

The pretty and bold Melon Gazpacho ($7) with kaffir lime panna cotta is a summery starter to try while the Grilled Octopus ($22) with fingerling potato and squid ink aioli is a standout entree. For those who crave more protein the Bavette Steak ($24) is a crowd-pleaser. 

Credit: Jim Henkens

The bar program is helmed by the talented Anna Wallace (formerly of Walrus and the Carpenter) and her amazing natural carbonated sodas will also be available. 

Jim Henkens

Chop Shop is currently serving dinner but will soon open for breakfast and lunch. For more info and reservations:

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Dolce & Gabbana Cleansing Water

As more cleansing waters are being introduced to the North American skincare market, I grew more curious to try one to see if it's worth the hype. The Dolce & Gabbana Cleansing Water from their Essential skincare line removes regular makeup quite well — eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick all came off nicely. It contains their proprietray Gold Flavo-Silk Tricomplex so your skin will be well hydrated. It's perfect for summer when you don't want to add heavy creams to complete your regimen. 

The floral scent is very mild so folks sensitive to fragrances should tolerate it quite well. It's a great timesaver when I'm being lazy with cleansing but I'd also use a separate cleanser if I want squeaky clean skin. 


Available for $47 (5 fl oz/150 ml) on

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Japanese Drugstore Sunscreens

I've been resigned to using thick, greasy sunscreens whenever I get out in the sun. Not anymore. That has changed when I discovered the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 35 PA+++ sunscreen while traveling in Japan.

It's silky and extremely lightweight; I don't see or feel traces of it. Makeup goes on like a dream. The watery lotion absorbs within a minute and there's no scent. My guess is that the hyaluronic acid content makes it socomfy and moisturizing. I've been using this for both face and body for nearly 2 months and I haven't had any allergic reaction nor sunburn. The drugstore chain Matsumoto Kiyoshi sells it for about $5 (80 gr/2.8oz) but you can get the 4.9oz version for about $20 on Amazon. The smaller-sized SPF 50 PA+++ version goes for under $12.

I also really like Rohto's Skin Aqua UV Super Moisture Gel SPF 50+ PA+++. I also use it for face and body and the consistency is very similar to the Nivea Sun Protect. I tuck it into my bag for touchups, travel, etc. Interestingly enough, most of the Japanese sunscreen brands seem to change their SPF formulas each year. Currently you can get Skin Aqua on Amazon for $20-$25 (80 grams/2.8oz).

At 50 grams (1.76 oz), the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ is designed for facial use. It feels and looks a tad richer than the other two brands but it absorbs just as well. The small bottle is perfect for the makeup bag and this one goes for about $10-$11 online. 

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Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons Seattle

I love the downtown area around the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and was delighted to check out Goldfinch Tavern, Ethan Stowell's latest culinary venture inside the hotel. Named after Washington's state bird, the restaurant has an approachable menu that highlights their shellfish and raw bar menu.

Credit: Geoffrey Smith

The ultra-buttery Hamachi Crudo ($17) with Taggiasca olives and horseradish is rich and flavorful while the Geoduck Crudo ($19) is fresh and light. I heard the grilled beef options are amazing so I'll need to go back and check it out. If you go with a friend, definitely end the meal with a plate of assorted warm cookies ($11) or sugar-dusted donut holes ($13).

Goldfinch also offers a fun happy hour — $1.50 oysters from 4-6pm daily. That's reason enough to go there every single day!

Check out the rest of the menu at

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Kiehl's Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence 

Finally, we're seeing treatment essences in the American beauty realm! Kiehl's recently launched their Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence, a viable alternative to prestige Asian brands. At $45 for 6.8 ounces, this is a great value.

Iris florentina root extract and sodium hyaluronate provide deeper moisture penetration into the skin surface while lipo hydroxy acid improves the exfoliation process. In other words, the essence will let your serums and moisturizers work more efficiently. It keeps my skin hydrated for most of the day, even in 80-degree weather. I use several drops at a time and I also splash some on my face throughout the day to recover from the intense summer heat wave.

Available at

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Aftelier Bergamoss Solid Perfume

I am continually inspired by the prolific genius of Aftelier's creations. Whether it's perfume, skincare, culinary essence, or tea, I'm constantly drawn into Mandy Aftel's world of sumptuous, endless imagination.

Her latest oeuvre, the Bergamoss Solid Perfume, is a warm and joyous chypre that seamlessly melds bergamot and oakmoss with rare French flouve, wild sweet orange, coumarin and antique civet. The flouve adds a gorgeous sweet grassiness that balances it out in a newly enchanting way. Effervescent notes of peach flutter within, tantalizing the olfactory senses. 

In other words, it's quite magical yet still down to earth. It literally makes my mouth water. For even more fun you can layer it with her other perfume solids. I did it with the Jasmine Solid and the results are breathtaking.

Available for $240 (1/4 oz) at

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Camper S/S 2015 Sale

Camper is having a big summer sale on their S/S 2015 collection. I just snagged a pair of the comfy Right ballerina-style sandals. It's available in black, pastel green, light blue and red for 20%-30% off. These run a size small so be sure to size up!

Camper Right ballerina sandals in red/tan ($89).

I'm also keeping an eye on the following styles:


Beth 22106 sandal in Violet ($109).

Diana 22053 T-strap heels ($99).

For more sale items check out

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