Move over Betty Crocker. Barefoot Contessa has arrived in pink lady style!

I admit I am a bit of a snob when it comes to packet mix cakes, pancake shakes or any sauces for that matter that come in a jar. Hmmm…sure, they market themselves as easy, two minute, no-fuss jobs but I have always been a fan of making things from scratch. Back in high school I remember I cooked a Betty Crocker chocolate fudge brownie in the microwave and was underwhelmed by the cardboard taste and far too sweet taste.

But it was in Alfresco a couple of months ago when the tide turned and I picked up a blue striped box entitled Barefoot Contessa Coconut Cupcakes. Turning the box over I was confronted with foreign measurements of ingredients like ounces and sticks but nonetheless threw my hat in the ring again to try to make something else again from a box.

So it was last night, after having purchased my extra ingredients of cream cheese, eggs and butter that I set myself to the task. Spurred on by Go Pink for a Day (an initiative at work to raise money for a colleague who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year), the only ingredient I added to the mix not prescribed by Barefoot Contessa was some pink food colouring as my end product needed to get into the spirit of things! The whole process was extremely easy so the packet mix certainly lived up to initial expectations. The mixture came together extremely well with three steps in total and tastes along the way made not only my nose twitch with glee but also my man’s.

As I took my end product into work today; decorated with hot pink icing, shredded coconut flakes and a raspberry jube, my colleagues were amazed and oohed and aahed at all the right moments and my little “pink ladies” raised over $50. The next time I go to Alfresco, I am going to stock up on more striped boxes – it’s the outrageous brownie which is calling me next. And despite this new change in me I am afraid I will continue to be a snob, but only to the likes of Betty Crocker.

Go Alfresco

This phrase actually reminds me most of year 9 Italian class with Mrs Rihani when she asked us to think about how many Italian words were actually already immersed in the English language….

Today, however I am actually talking about Alfresco, the wonderful store on Pittwater Road, Collaroy Sydney. Alfresco is a store I regularly go to when I have a spare moment to browse, forget about time and dream about all of the beautiful things that I could buy from Alfresco to have in my home.

From the moment I park my car and go through the side entrance to wander past the fresh flowers, through their corner store where it’s ever so tempting to buy some Barefoot Contessa to stock up the pantry with and into the Emporium of all of their major goodies, time stands still for me and I love this feeling.

Alfresco is situated on the corner of Pittwater Road and Ocean Grove, Collaroy and looks like a big Hamptons-style house with a large carpark at the front – perfect for impromptu drop-ins! It rivals Peters of Kensington as a superstore of goods offering a wide range of affordable brands; both wide-spread and exclusive. Where it differs from Peters however, is that it is always visually appeasing to the eye so no matter what display they have in the front window, it always transports you immediately to the vision that they have laid out before you. Last week for example, their furniture display was a combination of old-world safari meets tropical island Bahamas; there was a unique leather bar cabinet which I imagined I could use to just whip up a mojito to sip on and home fragrances from Sicilian brand Ortiga to ferry my senses to a faraway place. As you turn and walk a few steps away the mood changes and you find yourself looking at clean, white finishes and texturised fabrics and the style instantly becomes more country home-esque.

Alfresco’s kitchen range is hard to out-do and the owner of the store obviously has a love for baking as their range of bakeware, aprons, mixers, blenders, utensils and specific icing ingredients is extensive. One’s eye can never go past the rainbow of colours that Kitchenaid make their mixers in and the other thing that happened to take my fancy last week were a cute range of aprons titled “Kiss the Cook“.

Alfresco also stocks a terrific range of books, mostly coffee-table types and a noteworthy one for me last week was a book dedicated to A life on Pittwater and its beauty (given my wedding will be located up there in 12 days). There is also a gorgeous range of silver jewelery, lovely smelling candles and staff who are helpful, knowledgeable and care to stop and have a chat. Additional stores are also located in Mona Vale and Cherrybrook, Sydney.

So whether you are buying a gift for someone or spoiling yourself with a “just because”, go to Alfresco and get whisked away and feel time slip on by.