Feb 27, 2014

{Product Review} Toiletry Bag with Travel Accessories by ToiletTree Products

I have a confession to make. I am so used to packing that I have, for several years now, stopped unpacking. That means that my toiletry bag is always at the ready, which also means that my toiletry bags suffer from a high degree of wear and tear.

Because of the sad state of my last toiletry bag, I was very excited at the prospect of getting a new toiletry bag to try out. That is why I was so excited when I was recently sent a Toiletry Bag from ToiletTree Products.

The Toiletry Bag is designed to organize all of your toiletries while you are on the road and if you are like me, while you are at home!

The bag has a large double zipper compartment as well as a separate zippered compartment on the bottom. 

The nylon fabric interior is designed to be fully water resistant. 

The bottom compartment has a zippered mesh pocket as well as secure storage for the travel accessories that are included with the Toiletry Bag. 

The bag includes three TSA-approved travel bottles (labeled shampoo, conditioner and body wash), a toothbrush case and a collapsible cup and pill holder. That cup! I love it. 

I have to admit that when I first took a look at the bag, I was surprised by how big it seemed. I thought for sure that it was going to be too large to fit my needs. Those who have traveled with me before know that I suffer from luggage separation anxiety, which causes me to be a carry-on luggage only traveler. On further inspection, I realized that it was actually not much larger than my current toiletry bag. I also tried to fit it into my overnight bag and, surprise, surprise, it fit!

I filled the bag with my usual toiletries and there was plenty of room for more items.

Because of my luggage separation anxiety, I probably won't be able to use the secure elastic spots because of the TSA rules on having liquids in a quart size bag, but the bottom compartment is the perfect place to put my ziplock bag. 

The toiletry bag is also made of a heavy duty material and doesn't look like it would get banged up easily. I also loved the two handles on either side of the bag, which makes it easy to grab and go. Can't wait to see where my Toiletry Bag and I go next!

The Toiletry Bag is available on Amazon.com for the very reasonable price of $24.95.

To learn more about ToiletTree Products, find them on
Twitter: @ToiletTreeProd
Facebook: ToiletTreeProducts
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Disclosure: I received this Toiletry Bag with Travel Accessories from ToiletTree Products for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

Feb 25, 2014

minibar by José Andrés (Washington, DC)

About one week before Valentine's Day, Raisin Bread sent me a cute Evite. We would be meeting up at Metro Center on Wednesday, February 12th for an outing of some type. Besides that and needing to dress nicely, I didn't have any other information, but I was super excited and curious. My husband is too sweet with his surprises!

We rendezvoused at the designated time and started walking until we reached a nondescript door with this sign next to it. Upon seeing the sign, my reaction was, "HONEY!!" 

As we entered the front door, our hostess came out from another door and greeted us by name, took our coats and then ushered us into a lounge area, where we waited for our 6:00 pm seating.

Now, let me back-up a little and tell you about minibar if you don't already know. minibar by José Andrés is one of Washington, DC's most intimate, avant garde and exclusive restaurants. The restaurant has four seatings per night, accommodating six people per seating. To call it a meal is an understatement. Instead, a once in a lifetime culinary experience is a more appropriate description. The difficulty in getting reservations plus the cost are two reasons why a visit to minibar, for us at least, will likely happen just once. The restaurant is tasting menu only and currently runs at $250 per person. Wine and nonalcoholic pairings are also available. Raisin Bread reserved nonalcoholic pairings for the both of us, which are an additional $55 per person.

As we sat down, I was feeling impressed by my husband's thoughtfulness (this has been on my bucket list for years) as well as his ability to secure this difficult reservation. I also felt very lucky that we were going to enjoy what was surely to be a memorable night. 

While we waited, we were presented with a bound hardcover book, inside of which was an amuse bouche of pressed flowers.      

By the way, owning to the surprise, I did not think to bring my real camera, so the night's meal was captured on my less than stellar camera phone. 

Pressed Flowers
Flower petals set in a potato starch paper

Eventually, we were ushered in to the dining room, where we all received a welcome cocktail. Raisin Bread is no longer drinking, so he received a booze-free variation of the cocktail. 

Pisco Sour and Moroccan Mint Tea with Passion Fruit

Our culinary journey began with a selection of snacks. 

Root Vegetable Chips
The imaginative cooking of minibar makes its appearance right at the beginning with thin root vegetable chips in the form of maple leaves and flowers. 

Pizza Margarita
Chef Spero told us that this pizza was their ode to the infamous DC Jumbo Slice. The texture is nothing like a typical pizza, but the flavors were all there. I also loved that it came on a miniature paper plate, keeping to the pizza joint theme. Details and thoughtfulness like this is what makes minibar stand out.

Parmesan Canelé
Each item we received looked so beautiful and yet, I often had no idea of what to expect in terms of taste. The canelé was sweet but had a kick of cheesiness.

minibar is set up with two bars facing each other with seats for six diners. In the middle is the large open kitchen. I was amazed by how many people it took to put together our meal. 

Cucumber Sour with Floral Cloud
The first beverage from our beverage pairing arrived in a huge glass and was finished before us. The drink also consisted of chamomile, hibiscus and orange blossom water. Each of the beverages was carefully conceived. As each beverage arrived, the server described the drink and told us how many courses the drink would be paired with. 

Almond Tart with Blue Cheese
Cucumber Sour with Floral Cloud
One of the best parts of our experience was being able to see the chefs assemble and plate many of the dishes in front of us. We were also able to ask questions, which is definitely not something you get to do every day. Once this dish was finished, we were instructed to quickly take the whole piece and consume it in one bite. I wish I had more time to admire the construction, especially the almond shell, but it seemed that time was of the essence. 

Golden Delicious Gastric
I honestly don't recall what was in this drink, but according to our menu, it had red wine and apple. We sipped on this over the next three dishes. 

Rubber Ducky
Golden Delicious Gastric
These meringue duckies were too cute but I ate one anyway. Chef Spero suggested we start by chomping off the head, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. We duckies were filled with foie gras ice cream and duck.

Beef Tendon Churro
Golden Delicious Gastric
One's mind does not automatically associate beef with churros, but the combination was to die for. The lightness of the fried churro and the richness of the beef tendon went together just perfectly.

Waldorf Salad
Golden Delicious Gastric
This was described as our "salad course." Again, the fun and imagination of the minibar team shine through on this course. The Waldorf salad is something that everyone is familiar with but it is being presented to us in an entirely different form. The meringue buns gave us the apple component. Inside, we found walnut, celery and lettuce components, lightly dressed.

Ayran is a typical yogurt drink found throughout the Middle East region. Here it was prepared with yogurt, salt and white pepper.

Late-Night Chicken Shawarma
This was my favorite dish of the night. The play on shawarma was very familiar and bursting with flavor. The lettuce was wrapped in the potato starch paper that we saw earlier in our meal and added that extra note of greasiness that late night snacks need. The yogurt was the star of the dish though. 

Thai Basil "Iced Tea"
Orange juice, ginger, lime and Thai basil. I was really pleased with the beverage pairing. I found each drink to be well-thought out and creative. Of course, they paired well with their dishes, but the thing I enjoyed most was that they were each light and refreshing instead of overbearing.

Vietnamese Pig Ear
Thai Basil Iced Tea
When I saw them plating this dish, I was so excited about the pipette. This dish was composed of a pig ear chicarrone cracker topped with curried pork, pickled vegetables and herbs, served with a pipette of chili oil. This was another favorite of the night for me.

More evidence of thoughtful service. The previous dish was so messy that our hands were covered in sauce and pork juices. Before our next course, we were given compressed towels that expanded with the addition of orange blossom water. 

Calpico Horchata
Two things I grew up with that I would never think to combine, but the tastes are actually quite similar. 


Ibérico Sea Urchin
Calpico Horchata
Another beautifully presented dish. Uni pieces floated on a broth of Ibérico ham gel. Raisin Bread didn't particular enjoy this dish due to the brininess of the uni.  

Coconut Shabu Shabu
Calpico Horchata
For the first time in my life, I utilized a pair of tweezers to consume food. We were instructed to pick up the dumplings with the tweezers and dip them in the sauce for no more than a few seconds. After finishing the dumplings, we could then pick up the bowl to drink the broth. This take on shabu shabu was my least favorite dish of the meal. I tend to dislike coconut and found the dumplings to be quite strong with coconut flavor. The broth, however, was excellent. It was complex and rich. 

Truffle Parmesan
Parmesan water and truffle honey. The description had me a bit nervous because drinking cheese does not sound appealing to me for some reason, but it wound up going perfectly with the dish it was paired with.

Beech Mushroom Papillot with Truffle
Truffle Parmesan
The assembly of this dish was quite involved. The mushrooms were cooked in plastic bags. The bags were placed in a bowl in front of us and were snipped open. As soon as the bag opened, the aroma of the cooked mushrooms hit me in the face and I wanted to eat those mushrooms immediately. If that wasn't enough, truffles were shaved onto the mushrooms. As you can see, at this point in the meal, we are getting to the heartier courses.  

Kimchi Lemonade
House-made white kimchi and lemon with watermelon radish garnish

Fabes con Almejas
Kimchi Lemonade
minibar's rendition of the traditional Spanish beans and clams. Only the beans and clams are sphereified.   

Chef Johnny Spero with the squeeze bottle

Pomegranate Ale
Pomegranate, Mexican Coke and angostrua bitters. This one was not as interesting as the previous beverages but still very tasty.

Espardenyes with Bone Marrow
Pomegranate Ale
When the chefs said this dish was sea cucumber and bone marrow, I could barely contain my disappointment. I am usually not a fan of either ingredient, but I loved this dish. All of the preparations of sea cucumber I have ever had had a horribly snotty consistency. Not this dish, the sea cucumber was firm and had almost the texture of pieces of lobster meat.

Roast Squab with Oyster and Seaweed
Pomegranate Ale
We rounded out the savory portion of our meal with a roasted squab breast covered in a heap of seaweed with oyster cream. There was also a deep rich sauce. I am guessing pomegranate to match our drink. The bird was cooked to the perfect rareness.

Grapefruit and honey. This light refreshing drink was a great way to begin our dessert course. The honey really stood out but was not overly sweet.

Bonne Bouche Cheese Puff
We were instructed to stuff the whole cheese puff in our mouth in one go to avoid exploding cheesiness.

Frozen Flower Bed
This dessert was like nothing I have ever had. It was sweet and chilly.

After Eight
Throughout the night, the minibar team had tweezer parties, squeeze bottle parties, now it was time for a torch party.

The After Eight is a play on the chocolate after dinner mint and that is exactly what it tasted like!

After we were finished with the After Eight, we were moved over to the adjacent barmini to finish off our night. For us, this part of the night was not as memorable or as flawless as it was inside minibar. In particular, I found the dessert items to be pretty uninteresting.

Chai Soda
Chai tea and fever tree soda water

Raspberry Bon Bon and Boozy Bear
We were presented with a selection of petit fours. The boozy bear was a Mezcal-soaked gummy bear.

Thai Pocky Stick
Spicy/curry version of the Pocky Stick

Lemon-Mallow and Doughnuts
Lemon marshmallow and Krispy Kreme ice cream flavored doughnut.

Along with our desserts, we had a choice of coffee or tea. One of our table mates was celebrating his birthday, so we got a bonus treat. 

Pina Colada Cotton Candy Birthday Cake
This cake was made on the spot, using a cotton candy machine on the table, and I couldn't believe that you could cut them into slices! So cool. This was honestly my favorite item we had at barmini.

barmini is whimsically decorated with mix and match furniture, including this cactus couch. 

Here's the bill! And what a doozy of a bill it was!

As we left, we were presented with individualized menus. As you can see, it wasn't 100 percent accurate and got wet from the snow as we were leaving. 

Overall, I really enjoyed our evening at minibar. We spent at least three hours there. For me, it was such an interesting meal that made the extravagance worth it. 

855 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004