Lifestyle writer Darrah de jour shares her reviews of spas, restaurants and hotels from around the world.

Top 5 Spa Tools to Use at Home!

by Nina Wells


A trip to the spa can make you feel like a million bucks, but how often do you have the time to get there? Sure, we make appointments for nail maintenance, and maybe your pedi trips increase as the nice weather hits, but life is busy and little treats fall to the wayside.

Did you know that there are products on the market that can turn those occasional spa treatments into part of your weekly or even daily routine?

I’ve researched the 5 best ones out there to keep you looking your best without having to even leave the comfort of your living room. For even more fun, invite friends, open a bottle of wine, and host a girl’s spa day in! Alternatively, let the family know you’re tapping out for the next hour, find a quiet room, and put on some blissful music to set the mood.


Facial Steamer

Facial treatments at home can be just as luxurious as at the spa. There are a variety of steamers on the market today, and they do a bang up job of reducing stress, opening your pores, cleaning away debris and leaving you with a gorgeous glow. At the top of my list is the Oak Leaf Nano Facial Steamer, for a variety of reasons. First of all, I like simple, and this one is easy to set up and get going; it’s also compact so won’t take up a lot of space. The nano-ionic steam is said to be 4000 times finer than the steam created by other steamers, which means it’s very efficient at opening pores and great for those with acne or other skin blemishes. It’s little but powerful and gives you the option of 2 different settings (3 minute and 6 minute) so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule and become part of your daily beauty regiment. Follow up your steam with a cleansing, cool rinse and moisturizer for a perfect glow! Retails for $21.99.

Pedicure Spa

Probably my favorite spa treatment and the one I’m most likely to do regularly at home, a pedicure spa can take your feet from callused and tired to beach babe ready. Look for one that is sturdy in build, and then check out the features that work best for you. I love the Helen of Troy HotSpa71bsmRUhUEL._SX522_, which has a solid heating system, and jets that will massage the areas of your feet in just the right spots. It comes with a variety of different attachments depending on what you need; pumice stone, exfoliating brush, or massager. If you like to add your own salts or essential oils the HotSpa accommodates with a special little compartment for those. Finish up your soak by patting legs and feet dry, applying moisturizer and then painting your toenails with your favorite polish! Retails for $127.



facial_brushFacial/ Body Brush


If you’re looking for efficiency and luxury, you can’t go wrong with the Clarisonic Mia 1 cleansing devices.  There are a few to choose from, depending on how much you want to spend, but even the modestly priced Mia range options are a better way to deep clean while improving circulation and getting a facial massage all at the same time. You can opt for the softer or stiffer brushes depending on your ultimate goal. They’re all, of course, waterproof and do a wonderful job of lathering up your preferred soaps. For glowing skin and a “just come from the spa” feel, keep one of these close at hand to your shower! Retails for $129 and comes in pink, purple & white. There’s an engraving option too!

Hair Removal

Tired of making repeated trips to the spa for your hair removal treatments? Ever skipped a couple of sessions? Yikes! You might want to check into the Tri Hair Removal Lasers1552835-main-Lhero an at home spa treatment that means there’s less risk you’ll be competing with your hubby for “best moustache”. This dermatologist recommended laser is safe to use on legs, underarms, face, and your bikini line; the light and heat damage the hair follicle at the root without any negative impact on your skin at all. You may feel a small prickly sensation, but it’s otherwise painless to use. Never miss a session again with the Tri Hair Removal Laser at your disposal! This one’s a little pricey, coming in at $449, but at Sephora, Beauty Insiders get double points.


Gel Nail Kit

The Gelish Complete Starter Kit is your home manicure set with salon quality. It comes with everything you’ll need; cuticle oil, ph bond, an LED light and more! It even comes with 2 polish colours so you can get the gorgeous nails you’re used to without having to wait for an appointment. You’ll get nails that won’t chip or peel for up to three weeks; it’ll take 15 minutes to soak them off before you’re ready to start the process again. Retails for $109.99.


With a variety of these products at your fingertips you’ll save money, time and still pamper yourself with spa treatments at home. Enjoy!


Article by Nina Wells, a guest writer from Clearwells. Nina is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

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Smith’s Review for MR Magazine

MR Smiths New YorkMR Smiths New York 1


By: Darrah de jour

With the recent upsurge of restaurants and bars in New York with Smith in the title, arrives Smith’s, the brainchild of restaurateurs Danny Abrams (co-founder of The Red Cat, The Harrison and Mermaid Inn) and Cindy Smith (Raoul’s, Spartina).  Formerly, Trattoria Dante, what sets this cozy, renovated eatery apart from the others is its style (the dining room parallels a twenties-era saloon car) and its menu, which offers seasonal, carefully prepared American cuisine.

The bar at the back of Smith’s is tiny, yet receptive.  With crushed sky-blue velvet walls, an Oriental throw and only eight bar stools, it’s the perfect place to sip a dirty martini while waiting for the rest of your party to arrive, or on Sundays, relish in their plentiful grilled cheese variations.  Options include mozzarella spiedini with wild mushroom cream, Humboldt Fog with pears and arugula, or grilled Tallegio with apple marmalade on country bread.

The Orient Express-style dining room, with banquettes and black leather booths, pistachio-colored walls, and the quaint feel of a European bistro sits just behind the semi-open café up front.  For which Chef Pablo Romero (Bouley and Citarella alum) prepares delicate items such as artichoke pasta with black truffles, grilled lobster with butternut squash puree and Brussels sprouts with almonds.  His fondness for braising and poaching is apparent in many of his recipes, which also include an impressive variety of decorative reductions and purées.

And to drink, Smith’s wine and cocktail list offers 13 wines by the glass and six half-bottles, so capricious diners can flirt with more than one taste; proving that good things certainly do come in small packages.

9 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012
phone: 212.260.0100

M-Th, 5:30pm-11:00pm; Fri, Sat, 5:30-11:30pm; Sun, 5:30-10:00pm

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Texture Review


By: Darrah de jour

A new revelation has hit the London dining scene.  Michelin-starred restaurant alum Xavier Rousset and uber-chef Agnar Sverisson have created a space where both food and wine rule equally.

Having met while working under Raymond Blanc at La Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Icelandic partner and Chef Director Sverisson and French born Master Sommelier Rousset have merged a friendship and symbiotic pairing of Rousset’s passion for wine, specifically champagne, and Sverisson’s flexibility in the kitchen.

A constant tourist to Champagne (Rousset has visited 10 times in the last five years) he’s a veritable expert on the UK’s party wine.  This makes him sure Texture will provide satisfaction to both his patrons and his investors.  Having forged relationships with independent winemakers, they are lining up for him to taste their latest creations.  The bar, however, remains daringly un-sponsored.

With a seasonally changing menu, lunch choices consist of two courses for £18.50, such as the Mediterranean Tuna with tartare and Asian flavours or Black Leg Chicken, a breast and leg with crushed potatoes, peas and feves.  A vegetarian menu offers both appetizers and entrées.  Highlights are the Herefordshire Asparagus & Parmesan with snow, olive oil dressing and pea shoots or Barley risotto with anis, almond, and lemon zest.

Private dining available.  With white walls and ceilings with ornate moldings, splashes of colorful abstract art on the walls, beige chairs easily found in the lobby of the New Yorker hotel, Texture blends the taste, touch and sparkling feel of London, with an atmosphere of relaxation and upbeat comfort.


34 Portman Square, London W1H 7BY

Tuesday to Saturday
Lunch: 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm – 11:00pm

Tel 020 7224 0028

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Bordeaux Quay Restaurant Review

Bordeaux Quay Restaurant

By: Darrah de jour

Barny Haughton, one of the UK’s most respected organic chefs, recently converted a 1920s warehouse on the waterfront into the ambitious Bordeaux Quay.  It comprises a restaurant, bar, brasserie, delicatessen and bakery, not to mention a cookery school to the most precise environmental standards.

Nearly the first carbon-neutral restaurant in England, Bordeaux Quay uses only produce that’s been grown locally or within a 50-mile radius.   Add to that an award from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), Haughton’s use of rain water (filtered and served, free of charge) and natural light and you have one of the most exciting restaurants to grace the country in awhile.

However, all this would be futile if it weren’t for the food itself.  Given the location of this conceptually-innovative space, the perfection of their fish is vital.  In the vast restaurant upstairs, fit with abstract art and thick, tan carpeting, come smartly-clad young servers from the open plan kitchen, with starters such as: Provencal fish soup with rouille, gruyere and croutons (£7.50), and grilled Cornish squid with rocket and a fennel and lemon dressing (£8.50).  Main courses include delicious sea bream with hazelnuts, spinach and fennel (£16.50), and roast monkfish with crushed peas and mint, cherry tomatoes and pancetta (£18.00).  Other main courses include, beef sirloin with shallots and peppers, (£19.50) and duck breast with braised lentils, (£18.50).  These superb dishes are simply prepared, with precision, not fuss.

Round off your meal with one of their famed desserts.  The crème brûlée with almond and aniseed biscuit and orange is an optimum choice, as is the hazelnut meringue with strawberry ice cream, (both £6).

Telephone: 0117 943 1200.
Address: V-Shed, Canons Way, Bristol.
Open: Mon-Sat, lunch, noon-3pm, dinner, 6.30-10.30pm. (Last orders 10pm)
Closed Sun.

Bordeaux Quay Restaurant Website:

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29 Spa Review for Ray Li

Ray LiRay Li 29 Spa Atlanta

29 Spa

By: Darrah de jour

When it comes to Southern hospitality, there’s no place quite like Atlanta’s 29 Spa at the Mansion on Peachtree.  Named after the lush road in California’s wine-country, Napa Valley, and locked into Atlanta’s most luxurious locale, from the entrance to any of the 14 treatment rooms, Spa 29 owns the patent on pampering.

Owner and 5th generation Atlanta native Linda Mondavi (of wine family fame) spreads her philosophy throughout the spa that “true natural beauty is not effortless, but comes through dedication.”  While using her 29 Cosmetics line, which is anti-oxidant rich in polyphenols, protecting and repairing your skin feels nothing like a task!  Especially when, the countless ways to bliss are housed in a beauteous, 15,000 square foot spa with heated waterbeds, pillow soft linens and silk duvet covers.  No detail was spared here, particularly when individuals are so highly considered.  Customizations for guests include personal climate control, lighting selection, and iPod music choices.  Now you can blast your Enya without fear of judgment from the prosecution attorney to your left.

Treatment room tables are fully adjustable, so after you unwind, relishing in a Perfect Pairing four hand massage (one of Mondavi’s faves) rejuvenate without having to move a muscle!  Follow up with the Exfoliating Crush Manicure and Pedicure, which combines an exfoliating treatment with a creamy paraffin mask for hands and feet.

Spa packages include access to the lounge, locker rooms and fitness center, but more importantly to 29 Signature wine.  Ooh la la.

29 Spa
3376 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia, 30326
(404) 995-7529

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Review of San Francisco restaurant Heaven’s Dog for Ray Li


Heaven’s Dog pre-translation
By: Darrah de jour

With its vibrant bar scene and elegant-casual charm, San Francisco’s Heaven’s Dog restaurant lives up to its quirky name. A haven for the sophisticated diner seeking Chinese finger foods and a slamming noodle bar, Heaven’s Dog exemplifies the Bay Area’s independent appeal.

This tri-functional hotspot serves as a noodle bar, restaurant, and lounge is located in the SoMa Grand. Owner Charles Phan (Slanted Door) has bedecked this local’s favorite with brightly colored booths, a long black marble noodle bar that overlooks the well-trained chefs through lofty glass partitions, and a stylish bar made from a polished tree carving. Designed by Olle Lundberg, the space offers chic appeal for those sharing small plates and dousing themselves with delightfully well-crafted cocktails.

Prices are recession-proof, ranging from $7-$17 on small plates, such as Daikon Rice Cake with Pickled Vegetables and Shiitake or Grilled Chicken Skewers with Almond Satay Sauce. Wok favorites, such as Spicy Chicken, Fresh Bamboo and Toasted Cashew, the extensive noodle menu, which serves items like Ginger and Scallion Beef with Egg Noodle.

Many Slanted Door fans will appreciate the food here, offered at lower prices, but with the same great quality. Banquet rooms and a dessert menu are available. Now serving lunch. Walk-ins welcome.

Heaven’s Dog
1148 Mission
San Francisco, CA 94103
Between 7th and 8th Street
Phone: (415) 863-6008
Hours of Operation: Daily: 5:30pm – 10:00pm, Lunch, Monday-Friday 11am-3pm

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Review of Parisian hot spot Gaya Rive Gauche for MR


Gaya Rive Gauche pre-translation
By: Darrah de jour

Gaya Rive Gauche, world renown chef Pierre Gagnaire’s witty makeover of the already existing fish-institution, caters this time around to more casual, less expensive dining, without cowering on taste. Coined as one of Paris’s most experimental chefs, at the forefront of the fusion movement, Gagnaire uses seafood as a medium to express his creative and whimsical sensibilities.

Portions are small and artfully presented, such as a seafood gelée encircled by white beans and draped with Spanish ham, or cod “petals” served in a martini glass with soba noodles, mango, and grapefruit.
Variations on tradition include nouveau fish and chips: a fish “sandwich,” filled with a mushroom herb salad accompanied by purée of cèpes. Grilled sole and buttery scallops (served in their shells) are highly touted, as are the magnificent filets of sea bass, served straight from the skillet on a bed of mushrooms and shallot butter.

Decorated by Christian Ghion, the interior is equally eccentric and plays along well with the menu. Tables are plastic with a seaweed motif, there’s a glass bar illuminated by yellow lights, a capricious white rug with blue circles, and paper placemats.

Sit with the chic and intellectual crowd on the ground floor, with all of the character and more elbow room than the upstairs, which boasts more seating, but with long banquettes. Or, if you’re in a hurry, sit at the bar, which features compressed air stools, and order the amazing “croque-monsieur noir à l’infusion de crevettes grises” (toasted ham and cheese sandwich with infusion of shrimp, €13). All the while catching a glorious view of what goes on in the kitchen.

Address: 44 rue du Bac, St-Germain-des-Pres, Paris
Phone: 01-45-44-73-73
Keep in mind: Reservations essential.
Open: Noon-3pm Mon; Noon-3pm, 7-11pm Tue-Sat., No lunch Sat., Closed Sun.

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Review of San Francisco restaurant Anchor & Hope for Cosmopolitan Hong Kong


Anchor & Hope pre-translation
By: Darrah de jour

What do you get when you combine a turn of the century auto repair shop, a successful team of restaurant owners, cutting-edge architecture and awesome seafood?  San Francisco’s latest “seafood is king” resty, Anchor & Hope.

This East Coast-style, 80-seater with trestle ceiling and exposed brick interior, designed by its owners, Doug Washington and the Brothers Rosenthal (of Salt House and Town Hall), is a lively and vibrant fish shack that pairs urbanity with warmth.  Washington’s wife takes credit for the Darwinian mural above the 35-foot zinc bar, of voracious fish surviving by eating each other’s tails.

Chef and Boston-native, Sarah Schaffer (formerly of Frisson and trained by BRAVO channel’s Top Chef, Tom Colicchio)  puts her fanciful spin on dishes such as, scallop ceviche, monkfish and chorizo stew, Guinness-battered fish and spicy mussel stew with saffron.  “Angels on Horseback” is enough to make any homesick Long Island native feel temporarily sated.  Blue Points wrapped in bacon and embellished with shaved arugula, lemon vinaigrette, and spicy rémoulade, the mollusks are then deep-fried until they mirror angels’ wings.

Desserts include pistachio and chocolate truffle brownies and a Meyer lemon tart.  An extensive list of coastal wines and eight beers on tap are available too.
Dress upscale-casual, make sure to set a reservation, stick around and enjoy yourself.

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna St. (between 1st and 2nd Street), San Francisco
(415) 501-9100 or
Mon-Thu, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-10pm; Fri, 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-11pm; Sat, 5:30pm-11pm; Sun, 5:30pm-10pm

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The New Yorker Hotel

Darrah’s review of The New Yorker won an online award!

The New Yorker Hotel

By: Darrah de jour

One of the most coveted travel destinations is New York.  And with the myriad shops, restaurants, jazz clubs and famous hot dog stands to take pause at while fluttering amid the sights and sounds of The Big Apple, having a hotel that sets the standard for not only amenities, but killer views, is essential.  Under new management, The New Yorker has been remodeled into a luxurious overnight must.

After five years of renovations, The New Yorker Hotel has gone from 178 guestrooms, to 910.  Two Italian restaurants have been added, which include rooftop dining, as well as a catering department to serve the two stately ball rooms and 14 meeting and conference rooms.

This mid-town Manhattan hotel, which plays host to many visitors, including business, leisure and wedding parties, is a stone’s throw to Broadway theatres, Madison Square Garden, Macy’s department store, and the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It has a remarkable lobby, with cathedral ceilings and luscious chandeliers that capture the glamour of Old New York.  Staff is present to lend a hand to any accidental or intentional tourist requesting the best seats and the quickest transportation to sporting events and fabulous sightseeing locales.

And for those jonesing for variety on that oxymoronic working-vacation, resources and repose are here as well, with a fitness center and espresso bar accompanying an ever-faithful business center with Wi-Fi access.

The New Yorker Hotel
481 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Phone: (212) 971-0101

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Jean-Luc Naret, Founder of the famed Michelin Guide to Luxury Dining for Noblesse

Jean-Luc Naret, Founder of the famed Michelin Guide to Luxury Dining

By Darrah de jour with Dana Poblete

No one knows luxury better than a man who has worked in the business for 20 years.  Jean-Luc Naret – formerly of luxury hotels such as Residence on Mauritius, The Palace of the Lost City in South Africa, and Sandy Lane in Barbados – now holds the reins at Michelin Guide, the definitive guide for the most lavish hotels and restaurants in the world.  Now in its 100th year, Michelin Guide is more prolific than ever, crossing continents and reviewing the most famous restaurants in Europe, the US, and Asia.  In an exclusive interview, Jean-Luc Naret discusses the infamous guide and his ideas on what’s hot in global dining.

You worked closely with your Michelin Guide predecessor Derek Brown.  What did you learn from him?

He was great.  I learned a lot.  I was the first person ever brought in from the outside to work as the director.  It was a six month transition and training period with exams.

How do you think your style in the luxury business differs from others’?

I am always trying to keep the guide moving and evolving.  Keeping it relevant for different audiences whether they are young or old.   We have the new iPhone application – this application has been downloaded by lots of young people.  It’s a new guide for a new generation.  We are now branching out to other cities.  New territories attract new customers.  We’re in our 100th edition.  In Europe we have a strong presence, strong clientele.  When we went to New York, we sold 120,000 books in the first visit.

The new guide launched 3 years ago “Les Bonnes Petites Tables,” which is the selection of the Bib Gourmand restaurants (restaurants offering very good value for money). This guide exists in France and in the Benelux (Belgium, Luxemburg and Netherlands) and is surely to be developed in other countries.

How did your experience in luxury hospitality lead you to Michelin Guide?

I had been working in luxury for 20 years.  When [The Michelin Guide] first approached me to work for them, I asked ‘Are you sure?’  The institution was very impressive and mysterious.  We were perceived as very valuable at that time, but no interviews were granted, things were different.  It was time to expand.  It’s not by chance we’re still #1 after 100 years.

How do you select which restaurants to feature?

Inspectors are assigned to travel to specific regions, ie: Europe.  In six to seven years, we never visit the same place twice.  Inspectors visit anonymously, see new rooms, restaurants.  This is the job of the inspector on a daily basis around the world.  They visit once or twice, they dine, pay the bill, write the report and at the end of the year they decide which places will be chosen.


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