Monday, March 30, 2009

Delicious bamboo

With so many fanatical French pastry chefs in this city, it’s hard to imagine letting a foreigner catch your heart. It’s even harder to imagine the French doing so. But Japanese-born Sadaharu Aoki infiltrated the scene over 10 years ago and has quite the devout following.

I first read about him in Bon Appetit a couple years ago and put his Saint-Germaine boutique on my list of must-visits. Once inside the compact, chic patisserie, it was easy to understand the locals’ acceptance. Aoki’s cakes and pastries are exquisite and dainty to the eyes, but bold and clever on the palate.

With a pain au chocolat or patte d’our I will shamelessly stroll and eat at the same time. Cakes such as these deserve more respect. From this case of dozens of beckoning treats I chose the bamboo cake, an Aoki signature, and ordered “sur place.”

I claimed one of the two tables, enjoying stellar presentation and flatware to match—not unlike going to Lady M on the Upper East Side.

With Asian flavors, namely, the green tea whipped into the cake’s ganache, there is no danger of sweet overload. The five layers are instead light and fluffy, sophisticated and savory and a perfect melding of French fanciness and Japanese austerity.

35, Rue de Vaugirad

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ananas secs

Look! I found a place to get my dried pineapple.

The thing is, I’m going to be tempted by chocolate bars and bonbons, caramels, fruit cakes and other French treats that I don’t even know about yet.

Like these little petal-shaped things. I don’t know what they are but I have a feeling they’re really good.

These are all different flavored caramels. Can you imagine?

This is A la Mere de la Famille, a wonderful lost-in-time candy and chocolate shop that's been open in the 9th arrondisement since 1761. I was struck by the Easter basket window displays as I was walking by and stopped to admire. Wouldn’t you know, I found myself going in.

I think the key is to go with a list or a craving—otherwise there’s just too much to sample, and too much damage that can be done. My strategy will be to return every time I’m craving dried pineapple and try one new treat.

35 Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Le (divine) Plenitude Individuel

Just a little taste of dome-shaped, chocolate mousse-filled, caramel and fleur de sel-accented, fluffy, rich cake from Pierre Hermé until I’m settled and can share more about the everyday delights of Paris.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

A plus tard, New York

New York, it’s been sweet. You will always own my heart. But Paris has my soul, and I’m going over to live there for awhile.

I’m going to miss my very best favorites—Batch, Bespoke, Kee’s, Momofuku—and I will be late to some new discoveries. But I will be back, with skat, and hungry to explore.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Muffins from the baking company

Of course the real draw of Clinton Street Baking Company is the pancakes. But then again, the word "baking" is in the name; there are some damn good bakers at this restaurant.

Shrugging off the Kitchen Confidential quote that muffins are for people without the nads to order cake for breakfast, I got the banana chocolate chunk muffin (the blueberry crumble looked heavenly—it reminded me of Momofuku's blueberry cream cookie—but I've been on a banana kick lately).

The name fulfills on its promise: these are not chips, but chunks of rich chocolate. There are also big hunks of banana. It's uber moist, banana-y and chocolaty, and the top is caked with crumbly bits of butter and sugar, plus other big chunks of chocolate.

I better be careful or I'm going to get my very own set of muffin tops.

4 Clinton Street south of Houston

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5 nostalgic sugar rushes

I was so excited when I read that The Redhead, a restaurant that came highly recommended from Cheryl, had salted caramel Ho Hos for dessert. But of course when I went and scoped out the menu, they were gone. In my subsequent need for some nostalgic sugar, I share with you five other childhood snacks that can hit the sweet spot:

Murray’s Ring Ding
“Moist devil’s food cake stuffed with cream and tucked inside a dark chocolate shell.” Take that, Drake’s!

Bouchon’s Nutter Butter
About five times the size of the original cookie, Bouchon’s interpretation sandwiches whipped, airy peanut butter cream inside two oat-filled peanut butter cookies. It’s a real nutter.

Milk & Cookie’s Oreo
But the way this West Village bakery describes it—a vanilla creamed filled chocolate wafer cookie—there’s nothing Nabisco about it.

Trois Pommes’ Hostess Cupcake

Park Slope’s Trois Pommes doesn’t just make a “Hostess CupCake,” it makes the “Mostest Cupcake”: a dense chocolate cupcake with an espresso cream center.

Sarah Magid’s Twinkies

Er, “Goldies.” Pastry chef Sarah Magid changed the name of her organic gold-dusted, dark chocolate ganache-covered, chocolate sponge cake treats that are filled with either organic vanilla or espresso whipped buttercream. Wha???

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The mixing bowl: Rachel Zoe Insler

The first time I bit into a Bespoke truffle, I was instantly smitten. But the first time I met Rachel Zoe Insler, I was wowed. She's got the smarts and talent of a chocolatier trained in London, but the cool down-to-earth vibe of someone who's passionate about the city and can cop to loving Tasti-D-Lite.

Growing up, my favorite sweet was:
Honestly, I think I've always been a salty girl, but a quick call to my mother indicates that I had a serious thing for Baskin Robbins' bubble gum ice cream, which I received whenever she and I went to the laundromat together.

My favorite sweet now is:
A mini coffee eclair purchased from a Parisian patisserie. It's one of the few sweet things I actually crave.

My personal Bespoke favorite:
The Southampton tea truffle. I give the credit to the tea, which is so wonderfully aromatic. The good folks at Amai introduced me to it, and I've been using it ever since!

What I love about the East Village is:

How dynamic my neighborhood is...which is 100% due to the people who live here and have set up small businesses here. Since I both live and work here, there are full weeks where I don't leave the East Village but want for literally nothing in terms of fun, food, drinks, entertainment or people-watching. Plus, it's close to Brooklyn, where so many of my friends have migrated!

Truffles or pralines:

Truffles to make....pralines to eat!

White, milk or dark:

Caramel, ganache or cream:
Caramel....salted, if possible. Plus, sugar is so fascinating to the latent scientist in me.

The perfect pairing:
A night off with my fiancé and a bottle of red wine.

I'd love to create a flavor for:

My mom. She doesn't really like chocolate, but I think if I make something with enough nuts and salt, I'll win her over!

Kitchen essentials:
Spatula, ladle, palette knife and scraper. Induction burner and chocolate melter are non-essential but SO helpful!

Style essentials:

I usually work in yoga pants and clogs, so I'm not all that stylish, but I have been loving my lavender bandanna from Montana Knox, my new neighbor on Extra Place. It's nice to cover my hair in style when I'm in the kitchen.

Chocolatiers I admire:

My mentor, Keith Hurdman, and Kee Ling Tong, who is my one-woman-chocolate-shop-pioneer inspiration.

I'm most inspired when:
I'm spending time with my amazing friends and family.

How much is too much?
When the mail carrier you've never met tells you look's too much.

Favorite movie snack:
Popcorn with copious amounts of salt and a "small" diet Coke that is about 36 oz.

Guilty pleasure:

Tasti-D-Lite and Diet Coke. I try to eat only real food....but Tasti-D and DC are so fake and yet SO GOOD.

Other favorites:

Music: Jack Johnson on a day off...nothing says "relaxation" like that; Gnocchi, eaten preferably in Italy; New York, Paris and Montalcino; the movies, Clueless & Clue.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Morning at Momofuku

The thing with Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery is to go in the morning. That's when things are warm and fresh out of the oven and the crowds are nil.

Bennie and I met there for breakfast, looking forward to the banana and blueberry cream cookies, respectively. Sadly they weren't there. But we didn't starve.

Ben got the pork and egg bun.

I got a loaf of banana green curry bread.
It was super moist and banana-y on the inside, a nice crunch of crust on the outside. Washed down with melted marshmallow cereal milk soft serve.

Even though I consumed my day's calories before getting to work, I took some cookies to go.

207 Second Avenue, entrance on 13th Street

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Special little cupcakes

I love Butter Lane's uber fresh, top-quality cupcakes. I love Kumquat's mini cupcakes and inventive flavors like chocolate pistachio and coffee caramel bourbon. And, I am just always a sucker for Pichet's cream-filled cupcakes from Batch.

But cupcakes from ChikaLicious Dessert Club are a special breed of their own. Much ado has been made of the s'mores flavor and, with its marshmallow frosting and cinnamon-y cake, it is a fun treat. But the caramel is the one you want to get after. The burnt caramel flavor is super intense and hits the spot.

Other winners are the banana cupcake, with its tender cake and sweet but tangy frosting and the triple chocolate. With a chocolate ganache center, you can never go wrong.

204 East 10th Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Impossibly delicious french toast

I would do a Smackdown between Extra Virgin's caramelized bananas french toast and JoeDoe's bananas foster french toast, but it would be a draw. JoeDoe serves up a heaping plate of tender carbs drowning in syrup and whipped cream.

But Extra Virgin stacks four slices of thick bread with crisp, caramelized crusts, topped with whipped mascarpone. It's impossible to decide which is better.