Amy Tara Koch Tests a Chocolate Pop Up Shop in Paris

My Pierre Hermé Experience

 

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In Paris, chocolate is treated as high art. There are shops helmed by French gastro superstars like Patrick Roger, Jean Paul Hevin and Patrice Chapon that feel more like an Hermes boutique than a sweets outpost. The cacao is the highest quality. And the nuanced, layered flavors are next level. Don’t even get me started on the visuals. The painstaking attention to every detail from the actual look of the chocolate to the packaging and elegance of the shops is what elevates Parisian chocolate from the rest of the world.

Chocolate

Now, Pierre Hermé made his name in pastry. As the in house pastry chef at Le Royal Monceau Hotel, he decided to flex his culinary muscle and design a chocolate experience to replace the traditional afternoon tea. The result is a delicious-and cerebral- chocolate experience.

Read my story about Pierre Hermé’s Pop Up Chocolate Salon in Food & Wine here!

Amy Tara Koch Parisian Chocolate

Atk Chocolate Tasting

 

 

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Spring Break in Chicago

Fox 32 Chicago

The end of March is a magical time for kids. The snow is melting and that wonderful week known as Spring Break arrives. While some families get out of dodge, many opt to stay local and have a Staycation. I stopped by Good Day Chicago this morning to chat with Jon Kelley about hotels with family fabulous Spring Break programs right here Sweet Home Chicago.

Here are my best bets:

Amy Tara Koch talking Spring Break "Staycation" on Fox Chicago

VIDEO

FOX 32 News Chicago

THE JAMES
Lil’ James Family Adventurer Package
WELCOME GIFT: Amenity from Seedling like “Design Your Own Yoyo,” “Colour the Earth,” “Illuminate The Night,” “Pocket Box of Party Tricks,” and “Box Kite.”
ACTIVITIES: FREE tickets to the Chicago Children’s Museum and access to the family amenity program.
• DVDS
• Books
• Classic board games
• Nintendo Wiis
• Milk & cookies turndown
• Paul Frank bikes and helmets
• Cribs car seats
• Kid-friendly bath tubs for small travelers up to 24 months
TURNDOWN TREAT: Milk & Cookies
KID MENU: Thin “Burker” and Kobe Corn Dog at David Burke Prime House

LOEWS
The Chicago Children’s Museum Package
Available through December 31, 2015
ACTIVITIES: Four tickets (two adults and two children) to Chicago Children’s Museum with a special amenity, in-room movie, and a scavenger hunt activity book.
FOOD: In-room amenity like milk and cookies for kids, adult milkshakes for grown-ups.
AMENITIES:
• Toys
• Books
• iPads
• Games
• Music download card for teens

HOTEL PALOMAR
Little Buddha Package
Available Friday – Sunday, March 20 through April 5
WELCOME GIFT: Bottled water and snacks + Kid yoga mat
ACTIVITIES:
• Kids yoga classes (ages 4-10)
• Indoor pool
• Guppy Love Program allows kids to have gold fish in room during stay

RITZ CARLTON: Spring Break Experience
From March 27 to April 12, families can enjoy additional activities, on a complimentary basis.
WELCOME GIFT: Greeted with a red wagon of toys. Children can pick a toy.
ACTIVITIES:
• Games on new half basketball court
• Video games
• Toys and treats
• Pizza + cookie-making classes
• Magic shows
• Kids fitness classes
• Pillow case decorating

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A London Girls’ Getaway

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I really miss spending time alone with my girlfriends. But, between work and family commitments, there is scant time for that leisurely hang out of yore. I had fantasized about an actual girls getaway with my best friend from college. It was challenging to organize. But, after a few years of planning, we made it happen this past January.

Here, in Travel + Leisure, I report on all that we stuffed into 96 hours in London.

 Girls' Getaway

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Charlotte Tilbury Chic

Test Driving the Brit Celeb Makeup Artist’s Line at Selfridges

I had a mission in London. The beauty industry had been buzzing about celeb makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury’s new line. The mascara was said to be next level. The concealer able to camouflage a decadent night of partying. And, the Wonder Glow Primer able to deliver a lit-from-within effect that filled in wrinkles creating an anti-aging optical illusion. With a cadre of celeb clients that range from Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and the new Mrs. Clooney, I was intrigued. Especially because this makeup is tough to find stateside.

I hightailed it over to Selfridges and challenged the talented Oliver Simpson to transform my fatigued complexion into something resembling Sienna Miller. The counter was MOBBED. We found a stool and got to work. Charlotte’s Magic Cream infused my jet-lagged visage with verve,  brightening the complexion and adding a dewy glow. Next, the Wonder Glow Primer evened out my skin tone. The foundation added another level of luminosity. I have a zillion blushes at home. But, I found the Cheek to Chic Swish & Pop Blusher alluring. The effect was sun kissed and natural. Finally, what girl can resist a lip gloss at the end of the day? We finished the look with a moisturizing swipe of Sweet Stiletto Lip Lustre.

I may not be Sienna Miller, but, damn, I felt good!

 

Charlotte Tilbury's Light Wonder Foundation + Wonder Glow Primer

Light Wonder Foundation: $45, Nordstrom + Wonder Glow Primer: $55, Nordstrom

Here’s what I bought:

Charlotte's Magic Cream

Magic Cream Moisturizer, $100, Nordstrom + ‘Cheek to Chic’ Swish & Pop Blush: $40, Nordstrom

 

Luscious Lips

‘Lip Lustre’ Lip Lacquer: $22, Nordstrom + ‘The Retoucher’ Conceal & Treat Stick: $35, Nordstrom

 

Makeup artist Oliver Simpson & Amy Tara Koch at the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Selfridges

Makeup artist Oliver Simpson & Amy Tara Koch at the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Selfridges

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Scent Décor: It’s a Thing

Scent plays a huge role in style. A woman’s fragrance is an extension of her look. Upscale hotels (like the Plaza Athenee in Paris) often boast a signature parfum that symbolizes the property’s luxury status. Even retailers (think Abercrombie and Fitch) use aroma to define their brand. This concept carries over to décor. A home is yet another style platform to personalize with scent.

My Chicago apartment embodies my eclectic style; a mix of contemporary and mid-century modern furniture punctuated with offbeat knickknacks culled from travels around the globe. Art is everywhere: photography, sculpture, graffiti paintings and zany African head dresses as wall hangings. And, drapery is treated as jewelry, each room’s piece de resistance. There is a lot going on but, somehow it all flows perfectly. Smell plays a role in my home. There is always a hint of French lavender (I tuck sachets everywhere) and fresh flowers to counteract the frigidity of winter. To channel my Miami upbringing, I saute orange and lemon peels for a whiff of tropical citrus.

Downy Unstopables in my house

When Unstopables reached out and asked me to test drive their new scent décor, I signed on. My favorite? The in-wash scent booster. With two active daughters, the laundry baskets are always overflowing. This product (just add it to the wash at the beginning of the cycle) adds a subtle, pleasant fragrance to clothing. Though it won’t reduce the amount of laundry, it makes the experience more pleasurable!

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