Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants
Better Late Than Never, Hong Kong: travel TV show with William Shatner, Henry Winkler! Sydney Opera House.
Thank you for your fantastic response to the Hong Kong episode of Better Late Than Never, the new NBC show travel TV show!
It was a dream come true to hang with The Fonz, Henry Winkler (of Happy Days fame)…
… and William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek. That is indeed me, dancing with Shatner in the streets of Mongkok, for this travel TV shoot! (Thanks to Thomas for this epic shot — full photo credits below.)
I’m very happy that “Better Late Than Never” has been raising lots of laughs and positive reactions! I couldn’t believe it when the producers contacted me to be part of the series. I was flown to Hong Kong and got to take part in this second episode.
This hilarious travel-reality show stars Terry Bradshaw (quarterback and broadcaster), William Shatner (Star Trek’s Capt. Kirk), Henry Winkler (The Fonz on Happy Days) and George Foreman (boxer and grill-master). Along with comedian Jeff Dye, these funny guys travel around Asia in search of adventures and Zen, with lots of mishaps along the way.
Their journey throughout Asia includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Seoul, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I was thrilled to have them be in Hong Kong with me — my friends and family even got to join the big dance scene in Mongkok.
(My dress is Spider by Natalie Lam. I’m currently selling a lot of my personal wardrobe; let me know if you’re interested in any of my fashion/accessories! Take a look at my store listings here, and email me to let me know what you’d like.)
The weather was a little iffy that day, but the rain and clouds cleared in time for the big dance number. Believe it or not, we took over one of the busiest streets of Hong Kong!
The Fab Four arrived on the scene — Henry Winkler turned his camera on us for this shot. Terry Bradshaw whipped out a microphone and burst into song!
Then it was time to dance, dance, dance. I was impressed by their ability to pull off a choreographed number!
So much fun, to dance in the streets with Captain Kirk and Fonzie!
(All of the amazing photos above are by Thomas Sandfield of Sandfield Productions. Thank you for capturing this epic day.)
I was glad to have my local friends with me, to take part in the scene.
Chaos, color, song… that’s the spirit of Hong Kong! Can you see me dancing with William Shatner in the middle?
(Above two photos by K. Lau of Bright Production.)
I also filmed a scene on the minibus, where I talked about Hong Kong’s travel attractions and general awesomeness. (Love the V-fingers photobomb behind me.)
What a joy to joke and riff with Henry Winkler and George Foreman, for this TV scene. They’re truly kind and humble, and up for anything!
Here are more black and white images from Thomas Sandfield of Sandfield Productions. It was a genius idea to pair “culture and Zen” William Shatner with “let’s roughhouse and sing” Terry Bradshaw on a travel show!
We were dancing along to the Otis Day and the Knights song “Shout (You Make me Wanna).”
Above shots by Arthur Rash. Thanks to everyone who supported the TV shoot, and for watching NBC’s Better Late Than Never!
On that note… I never got around to posting about my travels in Sydney, Australia. But better late than never, right?
If you have me on your Snapchat (@lacarmina), then you’ll have glimpsed me taking selfies under Harbour Bridge, earlier this year. (Since many of you asked, I’m wearing Karen Walker sunglasses.)
I’m wearing a Black Milk top and skirt: this Great Wave maxi-skirt is one of my favorites (see me wearing it at New Zealand’s Hobbit Town). Blackmilk’s designs are fantastic for travel because they’re lightweight and don’t crease, and easy to pack in luggage. (And stylish, of course). My fuzzy purse is from Mercibeaucoup in Shinjuku.
I had never been to Australia, and had very little time to explore. However, it was worth the trip to go down under and at least see Sydney. I’ll have to come back soon to see the Gold Coast, Melbourne and more.
As a first-timer, I had to visit the Sydney Opera House. I took the subway to Circular Quay, and walked over.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is also located here. Many travellers do the “bridge climb” where they walk on top of the structure for panoramic views. I’m not afraid of heights, but you aren’t allowed to take your own photos, and must wear a not-so-stylish jumpsuit… I’d prefer to pose below, wearing Black Milk!
Even from “down under” the bridge, you can’t beat these views of the harbor.
(My sunglasses are Karen Walker, similar to these round ones by her. More of her styles below.)
I don’t usually like to do “tourist” activities in cities, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Sydney Opera House tour. This guided tour lets you go inside the concert halls and see Jorn Utzon’s masterful architecture up close.
I learned, for example, that the “white” sails of the roof are actually made over a million chevron tiles, in two shades of cream. Our guide spoke about the politics involved in the construction process, and how the Danish architect eventually left the project. (He’s never even been inside the completed structure, which opened in 1973.)
I had the opportunity to see Jørn Utzon’s room, defined by concrete structural beams and a 14 meter long tapestry of his own design. On the opposite end, giant windows overlook the harbour waters.
Our guide spoke about how Utzon solved design problems in innovative ways, such as by peeling an orange to see how the curved sails could fit together.
As you can tell, I learned so much from the multimedia Opera House tour. Anyone who is interested in modern architecture should check it out.
I selected the Tour and Tasting Plate, which ends with an al fresco meal underneath the sails.
At Opera Kitchen, I got to try a three-tiered lunch set with a range of finger foods: sushi, mini burgers, dumplings, salad and more.
The perfect lunch for sharing with a friend, especially when paired with Australian pinot noir. I got to enjoy the sunshine, and bask in this uninterrupted view of the Harbour Bridge and waters.
From Circular Quay, it’s a short walk to the Royal Botanic Garden. This large park is filled with different themed gardens, and has a pond and Asian pavilion.
It would be tragic if went to Sydney and skipped out on Bondi beach. I rode the subway to Bondi Junction, and then hopped on the bus that runs frequently to the beach. When you see this curving cove of sand, you’ve arrived.
This 1 km long beach is classic Sydney. I watched surfers ride the waves, and walked barefoot on Bondi’s warm and soft sand.
Time to chow down. I’ve heard that Sydney is famous for its breakfasts, and found this to be true. This salmon eggs Benedict, with an almond milk flat white, was as good as it looked on my Instagram.
I loved the breakfast at Ceru Restaurant so much that I came back for dinner. (I went to the Potts Point location, but the restaurant is currently moving to a new spot.)
I was accompanied by my friend Leanne, writer at Trashtastika. We were charmed by the Middle Eastern ceramics near the windows.
British chef Tom Kime launched Ceru as a celebration of Levantine cuisine. He incorporates flavors and recipes from the Eastern Mediterranean, infusing them with a modern interpretation.
We started by sharing a spread of mezzes and salads. Beetroot and chickpea purees, with cucumber sticks and pita — everything is organic, and the menu is vegan and gluten free friendly.
Fresh pomegranate, mint, and pistachio add dimension to this lamb dish. These Levant spices pair marvellously with Ceru’s craft cocktails and cold-pressed juices.
I’m still thinking about Ceru’s honeycomb baklava ice cream… with flavors of burnt caramel and roasted nut. Possibly the tastiest and most creative dessert I’ve had all year.
PS – you can find out more about Better Late Than Never on their website, including viewing times and clips.
I leave you with a few more scenes from this huge network shoot. There were so many moving parts, but the team pulled it off.
“We-eee-eeel…. / You know you make me wanna (Shout!) / Kick my heels up and (Shout!) / Throw my hands up and (Shout!)”
Have a happy weekend!
I’m very excited to share my latest travel video with you — about the vibrant culture of Brussels, Belgium!
In my view, Brussels is one of the best places in Europe to be a young creative. The city’s relatively low rents and large number of galleries have shaped a vibrant community for artists.
My team and I captured Belgian food, fashion, and festivals in this new travel show episode, published on Business Insider. Please take a few moments to watch it here and above. Did my “chocolate dress dance’ make you smile?
(Produced by Borderless Media, and all these photos are by them too).
Let’s take a deeper look at the travel attractions we featured in our episode, including two top restaurants, and museums dedicated to Rene Magritte (Surrealist master) and comic books.
(Above, I’m relaxing at Charles Home apartments. Loved staying in this hip abode, right in the historic district.)
Perhaps Belgium is most famous for its “chocolat.” To my delight, I got to learn how to make these delicacies by hand.
My film team and I went to visit one of the best chocolatiers in the city – Laurent Gerbaud — for a sweet cooking lesson. (Address: 2 D rue Ravenstein, Brussels 1000, Belgium)
I was thrilled to be the apprentice of this local master. He surprised me by asking: “Would you like to put on a chocolate dress?” Oui, naturellement!
Laurent had made this design for the Salon de Chocolat, which had a runway show with models in edible haute couture. This corset and bell skirt are made of brown fabric — and entirely covered in chocolate creations.
In our Brussels travel video, you can see me sashaying down the streets, and letting passersby eat chocolates from my skirt. Each of these edible disks is attached with string.
Back inside, it was time to learn how to make Belgian chocolates. Laurent a true artisan who creates everything by hand. He taught me the process from start to finish (with many tastings along the way).
First, I ran a chocolate mold under a stream of liquid chocolate. Then, I had to quickly press toppings into my squares before they set. As you can see, I had many high quality ingredients to choose from: pistachios, berries, ginger and more.
Laurent Gerbaud’s chocolates are melt in your mouth magnificent. This is as fresh and gourmet as it gets — and we got to take home several bags of our own creations.
His chocolaterie is open to anyone who would like a chocolate making and tasting experience. I hope you seek him out.
Now that our chocolate cravings were satisfied, it was time to step into the Rene Magritte Museum. I knew I was in for a surreal experience: this is the world’s largest collection of the Belgian artist’s works.
The Magritte Museum is dedicated to the work of the Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte. (Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium). It’s located next to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, as well as other sights in the City Center, so you can easily spend a day wandering around this area.
Hats off to René Magritte, whose surrealist visions were ahead of his time. I’m sure you have seen his famous works featuring pipes, clouds, bowler hats, apples and other “regular” objects — but in dreamy and bizarre contexts.
In addition to his Surrealist masterworks, there are rare collections of his early Impressionist paintings, photography, and experimental films. The museum displays about 200 original Magritte works from the early to mid 20th century.
I admire his thought-provoking surrealism. This seeming simple painting (of two coffins, bent and seated as if they were having a conversation) is imbued with wit and meaning.
I also enjoyed seeing Magritte’s lesser-known works in different styles, such as this pig in a suit.
“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” is one of his most recognised images. If you’re intrigued by this artist and Surrealism, I encourage you to check out this book about Rene Magritte.
Design is everywhere in Brussels. We loved the old world architecture of the city center.
(My leggings are Black Milk.)
And how cool is the modern interior decor of Charles Home apartments, where we stayed during our Brussels trip.
The location couldn’t be beat — the apartment was right by Central Station. Our Montagne two-bedroom had a huge kitchen and dining area, where we could make coffee and share late-night feasts of waffles and French fries.
Everything was provided in the apartment, including free Wifi, high end TV and speakers, and all amenities. Each room was done in tasteful, contemporary design: wood floors, a cozy fireplace, geometric lights.
Audrey Hepburn smiled at us near the entrance, and Bridget Bardot lounged over my bed.
I encourage you to stay at an apartment rental instead of a hotel, for a more local and spacious experience. If you’re coming to Brussels, check out the fabulous Charles Home apartments.
As you can tell, there’s so much art to see in Brussels. I posed with the Smurfs at the Belgian Comics Art Museum, which is housed in an Art Nouveau building. The exhibits celebrate both international and local comic book characters, such as Tintin..
Maori culture tour of New Zealand with Contiki! Rotorua hot springs, haka dance, Atticus Finch restaurant.
Kia ora! When I embarked on my Contiki tour of New Zealand, I was especially excited to see the native Maori culture. Their Sun and Steam journey covers the entire North Island, with an emphasis on cultural experiences.
On this stop of the tour, I’ll take you around the town of Rotorua, a historical home for the indigenous people of Aotearoa.
I even got to see a Haka war dance, where the Maori men stomped their feet and made intimidating faces, with tongues thrust out!
From the glowworm caves of Waitomo, the Contiki bus took less than two hours to reach Rotorua. This charming little city is located on the shores of Lake Rotorua, home to black swans (yes, these creatures really exist).
The Maori settled here centuries ago, due to the unique geothermal landscape. Rotorua’s hot, bubbling springs provided natural heat. The thermal mud pools were also an easy way to cook food (in the hangi style) — and today, they lend themselves to natural spa treatments.
The lake itself is not sulphuric. Rotorua has charming parks and gardens, and it’s a pleasure to stroll around the pier.
I couldn’t take my eyes off these black swans with red beaks. They were hunted to extinction in New Zealand, but later reintroduced from Australia.
My Contiki bus drove to the Te Puia cultural centre, in the Whakarewarewa valley, for a group activity. This is the home of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, and a famous erupting geyser.
Contiki tours have a number of included activities, which let you bond with others on the bus. (They also offer plentiful “me-time” on the itinerary, so you can explore whatever you want, at your own pace.)
We split into teams for an “Amazing Race” around Te Puia. We had to complete funny tasks and piece together clues, before time ran out.
The Amazing Race took us to a hut, where local artisans showed us how to do Maori weaving and wood carving. At the Kiwi house, we saw the cute little flightless birds who are the national symbol of New Zealanders.
At the center of the park is Pohutu Geyser, which means “Big Splash.” This is the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley for a reason: the geyser spurts up to twenty times per day, and can reach 30 meters in height.
The bubbling mud flats created an otherworldly landscape.
Some of the friends on my Contiki tour took part in Ogo, which you might know as “Zorb.” Essentially, you climb into a giant plastic ball with water in it, and roll down the hill! Zorbing isn’t for me, but I enjoyed watching others take part in this amusing activity.
Back at Sudima Hotel, the group congregated for a special dinner: a hangi feast. All of the food was cooked underground, using the natural geothermal steam. My favorite items from the buffet were the kumara (a type of sweet potato only found here), fish, and a gooey bread pudding type of dessert.
Then, a group of Māori dancers took the stage to perform the Haka, or ancestral war cry. They stamped their feet, bulged out their eyes, and extended their tongues while making big, frightening expressions. The haka serves to intimidate opponents, but also to make the performer feel powerful, and commemorate special occasions. The dancers later invited the men in the audience to try out the movements for themselves!
Some of the performances were women-only. In this “poi dance,” the ladies swung around a ball on a string, creating patterns and rhythms in the air. I tried to do this on stage, and ended up hitting myself in the face…
Everyone took part in the Ti Rakau or Tititorea, also known as the Māori Stick Game. This involves the rhythmic throwing and catching of sticks, from one person to another.
I had another delightful meal at Zippy Cafe in Rotorua. Still dreaming of their New Zealand flat white (microfoam steamed milk over espresso) and Moroccan salad.
Zippy is a cute mascot from a local kid’s show. At the back of the cafe, he stands in a Super Mario themed mural.
New Zealand wines are much-coveted these days. I suggest trying local varietals while you’re here, since many are not expoted out. I quite liked The Ned Pinot Gris, which has a rose-like tint.
Rotorua has an “Eat Street” district, filled with international restaurants. This area uses a geothermal heating underlay to keep the outdoor patios warm all year round.
On the way over, we passed a food trucks fair. Rotorua truly is a foodie city.
One of the highest-rated restaurants in town is Atticus Finch. (Address: 1106 Tutanekai St, Eat Streat, Rotorua)
Local sisters Cherry and Kay strove to make Atticus Finch a lively dining experience for groups of friends, with an open kitchen and huge heated patio. The bird cage, filled with candles, hints at the literary inspiration.
Atticus Finch’s cocktails are standouts, made from fresh fruits and herbs. The dinner menu is designed for sharing; everything is made from scratch, with carefully selected ingredients.
Quite a few items are vegetarian and gluten free. I loved the handmade gnocchi, seasoned with date puree, spinach and almonds.
One of the walls displays a quote by Atticus Finch, from the book. He’s known for his words of wisdom and tolerance, such as: “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
All of the dishes were clean, yet tasty — often with an Asian fusion influence. I recommend the unique haloumi cheese salad with broccoli, rocket, sunflower seeds and cranberries. You can’t leave without ordering the Chargrilled Kumara (local sweet potato), seasoned with smoked cashew orange chili.
As for dessert, the photos speak for themselves. Lemon and almond cake, with red wine poached pears, mint and citrus accents. The perfect way to end my time in Rotorua.
And this photo sums up the fun I had on my Contiki tour of New Zealand! It was fantastic to meet 18-35 year olds from all walks of life, and living in different countries.
We gathered for a Contiki tour group photo, at this viewpoint near Auckland.
(Photos by Salima Remtulla and La Carmina)
I confess that at first, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a group bus tour. Contiki, however, is not your typical travel company.
The tours are tailored to millennials, and give plenty of free time. I wouldn’t have been able to see so much of New Zealand’s North Island in a week, if it weren’t for them.
If you’re planning on traveling somewhere, especially alone, I encourage you to check out Contiki. They have tours for all types of interests and budgets, in destinations worldwide.
PS: if you’d like more New Zealand travel tips, check out all my NZ posts here.
PPS: I’m currently in six countries all around Europe — check my social media @lacarmina (linked on the right sidebar) to see the latest updates!
Los Angeles Vampire Ball at Bar Sinister! Custom Fangs by Father Sebastiaan, Vampire Wine tasting lounge.
Vampires, everywhere! On my last trip to Los Angeles, I partook in a number of blood-thirsty activities that paid tribute to Nosferatu.
In Part 1, you saw me rolling around with Trevor on Bela Lugosi’s gravestone. Now, I’ll take you to a Vampire wine bar and Bar Sinister’s Endless Night ball. I’ll also show you how I got custom-made vampire fangs, which look like the real deal!
I was excited to meet Father Sebastiaan, master Fangsmith, during his stop in LA. He’s world-renown for his ability to craft vampire fangs, which fit right over your canines and look indistinguishable from the rest of your teeth.
I felt like the journalist from Interview with a Vampire, meeting Lestat. After all, Father Sebastiaan is the founding father of the Sanguinarium, the largest vampire community in the world.
He travels the world, crafting fangs for fellow creatures of the night. While in Los Angeles, he set up shop in this spooky Beverly Hills abode.
The space felt like a coven gathering. I admired this vampire couture, made by hand with decadent materials.
Kent Kaliber introduced me to Father Sebastiaan, who created my very first set of fangs! The process took about 40 minutes, with theatrical rituals in between.
The professional fang master comes from a long line of dentists. He measured and fit the pointy Lilith prosthetics over my canines, then shaped them to fit perfectly over my teeth. No need for glue or any adhesives. Once they’re in, these fangs stay snug, and feel like they’re part of you.
Father Sebastiaan walked me through several initiation rites, including flipping through this book and choosing a vampiric name. He gave me a special ankh necklace to wear, and a case to store my new fangs. (You can wear them for most of the day, and only need to remove them when you eat and sleep.)
Now, I was ready to party at the Endless Night vampire salon, at Bar Sinister. This legendary club remains one of the best Gothic venues in LA, and has parties every weekend. (Address: 1652 N Cherokee Ave, Hollywood, CA)
I co-hosted the event with Kent Kaliber; we went on stage to introduce the performers. There was a dark roster of entertainers that night…
… including belly dancers, go-go girls and DJs. Father Sebastiaan also set up a booth for fang-making.
Bar Sinister has multiple rooms to explore. Vendors set up booths for bondage wear, headdresses and other alt fashion.
As dawn crept closer, the dance floor got wild. These two took “the monster mash” to a whole new level!
Fear the creeping dead! Everyone dressed up for the Endless Night vampire theme, but this latex mask took the cake.
(Not pictured: the S&M fetish stations upstairs, where you could whip or be whipped, on a cross and other equipment.)
A devilish thank you to host Kent, and owner Kelly, for welcoming me back to Bar Sinister. They throw a fabulous Gothic club every weekend, with birthday specials, so check out Bar Sinister’s Faceebook for upcoming events.
After all that decadence, Trevor and I needed to replenish our veins with blood. Believe it or not, there’s an LA bar that serves this exact purpose: the Vampire Lounge & Tasting Room. (Address: 9865 S Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 9021)
The moment you walk in, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into Dracula’s lair. There is an upper floor, giant mirrors and chandeliers — a setting made for the King and Queen of the Damned.
Opened in 2011, the Vampire Lounge and Tasting Room is the first of its kind. Vampire aficionados can come here to sample “bites” of food and sample wines, while watching Nosferatu on the screen.
All of the wines come from Vampire Vineyards, a California-based winery. You simply must try their flights of wines (several reds and whites), each with enticing names like Dracula and True Blood.
I was delighted by Vampire’s rich, full bodied victuals. What a pleasure to sip bloody wines in this elegant space, accomanpanied by quality cheese and charchuterie.
Don’t leave without a bar of Vampire Dark Chocolate. Trevor and I couldn’t resist eating the entire package.
The bar also sells bottles of Vampire Wine; my favorite is the True Blood Cabernet Sauvignon. What a marvellous occasion for sipping “the blood of the vine”!
I’ll end with some more alternative adventures in Los Angeles. I went to downtown LA one evening with Lauren. In recent years, this area is becoming known for its bar scene.
We hung out at The Lash, an alt venue that usually has no cover charge. This is my type of venue: “ginger bear” craft cocktails, an indie crowd, and live DJs that spin dark electro and Italo Disco.
Finally, Trevor and stopped by Melrose Avenue for a shopping session. We ducked into a classic store, Maya Hollywood (7360 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA).
The colorful walls are packed with tribal masks from all over the world. I browsed Tibetan jewelry, Mayan earrings and other spiritual accessories.
We paid a visit to Necromance (7222 Melrose Ave): a spooky store filled with oddities from the natural world. You’ll find strange shells, preserved insects, and taxidermy such as a giant stuffed white peacock.
It’s always a wild time, being in Los Angeles! Here are more of my Goth / alternative LA travel tips, including club nights and shops, from my trips over the years.
Did this post inspire you to plan a Dracula-themed day in Los Angeles? (More of this photoshoot in my story about Bela Lugosi’s cemetery).
PS – I’m off to six countries this summer, announcement coming soon! Be sure to get your orders in from my Goth fashion sale, before I head off. All the listings are here; let me know what you’d like and shoot me an email, before everything is gone!