samedi 17 janvier 2009

Breakfast places in NYC

We went to New York City! Did I mention that? We did! Like actual grown up adult people, some friends and I planned and executed a stay in Manhattan over Christmas and New Year. And, true to form, I meticulously researched every damn restaurant I might have been interested in on the entire island of manhattan. Let me tell you, we went to some super wonderful places. Let me tell you about the notable breakfasts first.

This photo gives you some idea of the damage of which we are capable. Abraco is a tiny little coffee bar on the lower east side and we descended mightily upon it, ordering mostly mochas and pain perdu (delicious cold french toast with honey and ricotta in the middle...god it was amazing). The coffee was so good that even I, she who refuses to try to "get into" coffee, enjoyed it very much. What you can see there is the remains of Aditi's olive oil cake. I helped her finish it. I am such a good friend.

We also went to Balthazar's, which was the most european place I found in NYC. For that reason it didn't hold quite as much appeal to me, but my eggs florentine with artichokes and spinach was really excellent. I was a little annoyed that it didn't come with bread, but a side of toast was very inexpensive (how very refreshingly non-european!). Other dishes did not come so bereft of carbohydrates and I think everyone enjoyed this breakfast.

As for bagels, we tried both Barney Greengrass and H&H. Barney Greengrass was much more about the authentic NYC diner atmosphere than the food, which was fine, but by contrast, the bagels at H&H are super fabulous. I had blueberry, and another day I had "everything" (sesame seeds , poppy seeds, onion...other stuff) and I tried pumpernickel too. I'm not 100% sure pumpernickel is supposed to be made into bagels but it's yummy anyway. Go for the everything if you aren't sure what to get. It's awesome.

We also trekked over to City Bakery one morning. I had a honey raisin scone because it had just come out of the oven. God damn, it was outstanding. We tried the hot chocolate here, which was highly reccomended by the NYT. Though the texture was nice, the flavour was pretty one-note and disappointed me after my dedicated weeks of european hot chocolate drinking.

One final note: we tried to go to the Clinton Street Baking Company for breakfast. We tried TWICE. But those people need a basic lesson in economics, and soon. If you're telling people who showed up five minutes after you open that there's an hour wait for a table, either your restaurant is too small or you are not charging enough.

vendredi 16 janvier 2009

Hot Clear Vegetarian Borscht

I know! I know I have a soup problem, okay! I admit that I did make borscht. An entire pot full of delicious borscht. Wilfully, with full knowledge of the consequences and, as Lord Melchett so damningly said, with beastliness of forethought.


I used this recipe for clear, vegetarian borscht. I made a few modifications: I didn't have beet greens, which didn't seem to matter. I also didn't add sugar (I can almost never bring myself to add sugar to savoury dishes.) This soup is simple but beware underseasoning - beets love salt and pepper and they need a lot of both to shine in this soup.

I was nervous about it, but it turned out just like the version made by our polish family friends for christmas eve! Which is the ultimate benchmark, let me tell you. The polish christmas eve is traditionally vegetarian (though I'm even MORE vegetarian because apparently the polish consider fish a vegetable.) This borscht, to me, should always be served very hot with some kind of dumpling or pasta in it. I love uzka, the polish pig-ear-shaped mushroom dumplings, and so I had mine with some fresh mushroom ravioli from the market at Dupleix.

I served mine with some of the cut up beets still in it, to make it a more substantial meal and to get some of the nutrition and fibre left in the beets. I did not put any sour cream in it. It doesn't need it! Stop complicating your simple and delicious borscht with your sour cream ways. That's not how we roll on polish christmas eve, and that, as you know now, is the ultimate benchmark.

jeudi 15 janvier 2009

Marry Me, Michele Chaudun

Paris is making me reckless. The other day I jaywalked in front of a police car. Then I went home and ate like seven of Michel Chaudun's amazing chocolates. I'm not sure which was more reckless - after all, jaywalking is like the french national sport (along with striking and cutting in front of others at the bakery). And these chocolates were outstandingly delicious.

Of the few I tried my favourite was that praline rocher. I am never eating a ferrero rocher again. Just the memory of eating them fills my heart with pain when this little praline rocher has been in existence all the time. I also really, really loved the caramel and the caramel mousse chocolates. Oh and the honey ganache thing was amazing. And the pave, which is a little square of truffle filling, is heavenly. I also appreciated how moist and dense the chocolate with the pistachio almond centre was, since they tend to be too dry. Although one of the reasons I wanted to go to Chaudun was to try the peanut chocolate, I have to say the peanut filling underwhelmed me - it was too light. I wanted a really dense nutty paste, but this had some kind of buttery substance mixed with it.

Still, in general the offerings were outstandingly delicious. Expensive, sure, but oh so extremely worth it.

mercredi 14 janvier 2009

Mildred's, Ping Pong and Food for Thought in London

has great vegetarian food, which I discovered while staying with some family friends in England. I went to several restaurants I'd highly recommend. The first is Mildred's, which is a stripped-down and modern vegetarian restaurant. I'm not normally one for anything very trendy (just ask my friends in the Neville Longbottom Fanclub on Facebook) but when I went to their site I saw they served gyoza. I love gyoza with an almost indecent passion. But as it's usually made with pork, I give it a miss. The vegetarian gyoza at Mildred's was fabulous and well worth the slightly inflated prices that you expect of trendy restaurants.

Equally trendy was Ping Pong, a dim sum place whose catchphrase is "Little Steamed Parcels of Deliciousness". And indeed, they are. I went here with my grandmother on our last night in London, and we had all manner of little dishes - bamboo shoot salad, whole baby bok choi in garlic sauce, vegetable puffs, tofu dumplings, and sticky rice packets. For dessert we had sweet beetroot puffs and they were outstandingly fabulous. The decor here is so cool - we sat downstairs which is definitely where it's at. My grandma kept making hilarious comments about how other women were dressed. It was a lot of fun (but not for the other women in the room).

But my favourite place to eat in London is Food for Thought, a tiny, fairly ramshackled place so crowded that a friend and I opted to have our food to go. I got a container with a lot of different salads, and a bowl of sweet potato and eggplant laska. We ended up eating them sitting on the pavement in the middle of a roundabout (don't even start with me) and it was the best lunch ever. The laksa had huge chunks of tofu and eggplant in the smooth sweet potato broth, and the salads were equally delicious. This is definitely top of the list for when I get back to London.

mardi 13 janvier 2009

Learning to like Eclaires (what a hardship)

I didn't like eclaires until I had one from Fauchon. Now I spend much of my time thinking up ways to justify purchasing more eclaires. But only from Fauchon. The few eclaires I have had before have had cream in them, which is disgusting and wrong. This chocolate eclaire is like chocolate mousse wrapped in a thin layer of choux pastry with a layer of chocolate and crunchy chocolate rocks on top. It is awe inspiring.

I also tried their chausson aux pommes, a golden flaky pastry with a thick apple puree inside. This was the best apple based pastry I have had in a long time, and the pastry itself was magnificent. I don't know what the bakers at Fauchon are doing to get their pastry so delicious and buttery that it almost has caramel notes to it. Indeed, I don't care how they are doing it. I am 100% on board with it.

I took my eclaire and chausson aux pommes and ate them in the Jardin des Tuileries. Paris at the moment is a strangely lovely sodden grey during the day, which becomes horrible at night. I don't mind it, except on the nights I have to drag myself out of my apartment for taekwondo class, and then I dream fondly of Melbourne.

Attempts at Zucchini Fritters

Since last sunday I have had zucchini fritters on my mind and I couldn't stop thinking about them. I even bought corn starch so I could make them (buying an ingredient for one recipe is positively decadent on a student budget - then again a lot of asian sauces use it too so I rationalised that it was acceptable). In my quest for fritters, I have attempted twice now to make the Chez Panisse zucchini fritters. The first time I adapted them by adding mint and feta and omitting the lemon zest and chives. They were good; very moist and fresh and fragrant, but a little too soft. The grated zucchini just gives off way too much moisture even after you salt and squeeze it.

So the second time I made it as the recipe says, but added some flour until the batter was a little firmer. It improved it a bit, but the softness remained. The fritters are actually very tasty. The issue is not so much with the recipe, but with the craving I had and the idea I got fixed on - I definitely want a chewier, almost tougher fritter. I don't think a fritter based on grated zucchini is going to do the trick.

The only other thing I can think to do is sauté chunks of zucchini first and put them with a doughier batter. But I don’t want to stray into texas fair food unintentionally (straying there intentionally is a whole different story). I guess the file on this has to stay open for now.