Back from Asia – and a Book Event!

January 21st, 2009 · 17 Comments · Field Guide to Cookies, Travel

Daiwahotelview

Hi all! I've just returned from a wonderful, entirely too-short trip to Hong Kong to visit my family and Japan for a little adventuring. I wish I could have stayed for much longer: I always feel like just as I've settled comfortably back into a routine with my sisters and parents, I have to leave them again. Not to mention that departing from two cities known globally as food meccas always makes my stomach shed a tear. I already am rifling hourly through memories of my culinary experiences: charcoal cookies with black sesame cream, pale green wasabi ice cream, maguro freshly cut from the fish moments before, Peking duck at a Michelin two-star, eggettes eaten steaming hot in the street, and macarons everywhere – in Hong Kong!

It appears the macaron craze is not confined to Paris or the blogging world. Hong Kong has definitely embraced the French delicacy, and macarons of all hues and flavors are showing in little boutique bakeries that look like they could belong on a chic Parisian boulevard. Check out these utterly adorable cow macarons made for the coming Chinese New Year (Year of the Ox, natch!)

Cowmacarons

I'm eager to share some more about my trip, but it's taking me a while to sort through my filled-full camera memory cards. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy a few shots I took while I was traveling through Wakayama, Osaka, and Kobe in Japan:

Flowersnow
It actually snowed! Just a gentle fairy-dusting of white, but magical nonetheless.

Lobstersashimi
Lobster two ways: first sashimi, then cooked into an uber-tasty broth.

Paperwishes
Omikuji, Japanese fortune telling strips, at a shrine.

Warmmochi

Fresh hot red bean manju – perfect on a frosty afternoon.

So many more pictures – I'm looking forward to sharing more soon! However, right now I'm eager to also share with you an event I'm doing for my book, Field Guide to Cookies. (It's also the reason I couldn't stay longer in Asia!)

I'll be speaking about Field Guide to Cookies (and serving some cookies) at Omnivore Books in San Francisco this Saturday, January 24, from 3 to 4 PM. If you haven't been to Omnivore and you're in any way a foodie, you must! A store dedicated only to books on food, you'll find all manner of cookbooks and food literature, many of them old and hard-to-find. Celia Sack, the owner, has long specialized in antiquarian books, especially cookbooks. Now her rare, precious finds can be browsed by any curious food lover. I'm honored that Omnivore Books is carrying my book and I'm pleased to be speaking there this Saturday! If you're in town, please do stop by!

Omnivore Books
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131

Link to the event on their page

 

See you there – and Happy Chinese New Year!

Read more →

Tags:

Weekend in Carmel

August 14th, 2008 · 34 Comments · Fruit, Recipes, Sweet Spots, Travel

Peachclafouti

This post took me quite a while to put together, mainly because I was sifting through vacation photos, and we all know how long that can take. A couple weeks ago, I went down to Monterey for the weekend, and I wanted to share my adventures there. The problem was, choosing from all the photos I took became a week-long endeavor!

Anyway, I love the California coast because it's so easy to drive even an hour and be somewhere completely different – totally new scenery, climate – even the air smells different. We decided that a little escape from the urban claustrophobia of San Francisco (also: San Francisco gets downright cold in summer!) for some more wide-open spaces and sunnier skies down south. So on an overcast Friday morning, we hopped in the car and made the hour-and-half drive down to the Monterey Peninsula.

Redhouse 

Our first stop once we arrived, in true foodie style, was for lunch! We went the to Red House Cafe, a little restaurant in Pacific Grove that embodies down-homeyness to a T.

Potatoleeksoup

Potato leek soup. Warm and cozy, perfect eaten on the porch of the cafe after a long drive down from San Francisco.

Redhouseclafouti 

For dessert, we could choose from a vast array of pies, puddings, cakes, and cookies. I went for the special of the day, a peach and blueberry clafouti. More on this later.

Heavensign 

Seen in Pacific Grove: quirky and lovely, just like the town.

Asilomar

We took a stroll along Asilomar Beach, which is at the edge of Pacific Grove. This is typical scenery at Monterey and Carmel: overcast, chilly, the sky a pale blank and the sea a sullen grey, the rocks artistically rugged and foreboding. Whether in good or bad weather, the California coast has never been soft or gentle, but a challenging, rough-hewn feast for the eyes.

 Asilomarhall

If you are in Asilomar, do stop by the Asilomar Conference Grounds, a sprawling retreat designed by storied architect Julia Morgan. The numerous buildings and halls scattered in carefully planned nonchalance among the pines and sand dunes are done in the classic Arts and Crafts style – gorgeously erected and detailed, sometimes eccentrically so, as you can see below:

Piratesden

Coveview

We stayed at the Tickle Pink Inn, which is nestled in the Carmel Highlands and enjoys a view of the ocean and coves. I took this the next morning, before the fog had burned off: the mist-softened landscape and hypnotic crashing of the waves gave the scene an unworldly serenity. I'm sure all the inns and hotels in this area all boast of fabulous views, so really, all I recommend is that if you haven't visited Monterey or Carmel or Big Sur, do so because it's such an all-encompassing sensory experience. Although I did enjoy the Tickle Pink Inn very much – and who can resist the name?

Gullfriend 

Here's a friendly gull who liked to perch on our balcony railing. He would drop by to visit several times during our stay.

Passionfish

Passionfish is a restaurant passionately dedicated to serving sustainable seafood, and in Monterey, one of the epicenters of the sustainable seafood movement, there seemed no better place to dine our first night. The dining room is unprentiously elegant, the service intelligent and friendly. My hand-lined mahi in a black pepper-rum sauce was richly piquant, and dessert was equally satisfying: a white peach cobbler.

Carmelbeach

We went up to Carmel the next morning. Looks just like Hawaii, doesn't it? Except for that massive fog bank hanging off the coast. This shot isn't particularly well framed, but I like it because I notice you can see little stories going on with the people: You can see a couple strolling down the beach, a little girl running back to her mother with her father trailing behind, and off in the corner, a woman playing with her dogs. Isn't it cute?

Carmeldogs

Carmel Beach has some Hawaii-worthy white sands, and is also dog-friendly: here are a couple of canine buddies having some fun in the surf.

Boissiere

After the beach, we made a beeline for Patisserie Boissiere in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a classic French bistro that also offers up fabulous pastries, Paris style. Their strawberry triangle is a flaky delight of puff pastry, pastry cream, and fresh fruit, and their banana chocolate cream tart was a sophisticated take on banana cream pie. This place is also perfect for picking up a lunch to enjoy al fresco down the the coast.

Bigsurcoast

We continued our drive down the coast towards Big Sur. When the sun is out, the waters turn the most gorgeous shades of turquoise, cerulean, and jade.

Bigsurcows

These have to be some of the luckiest cows ever: grazing with a view.

Mcwayfalls2

We made it as far down the coast as McWay Falls, one of the most famed sights in Big Sur. This 80-ft high ribbon of water is actually a tidefall, as it empties directly into the ocean. This is about as close as you can get to this transcendentally beautiful cove; public access is prohibited, ensuring that this view will remain untrammeled by the touch of humans.

Postranchbar

This is the view of the Pacific from the Post Ranch Inn, a ridiculously sybaritic hotel perched on the edge of the Big Sur cliffs. Sadly, we did not get to stay here, but we did venture onto the property to see what the fuss was all about. And I have to admit that in a weekend full of gorgeous views, these were far and away some of the most stunning.

Postranchview

Standing tiptoe on the edge of the continent, I am reminded of the poem Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath:

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills' northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

Carmelsunset

Magic hour.

Sunsetcove

This view (as well as the one above) were from our room balcony. I love how you can see the lights going on in some of the homes; it looks so lush and dreamlike, like cottages in a Hansel and Gretel forest.

Sunsetgull

Here's our gull friend again, admiring the sunset as well. Imagine! He gets to see this view every day, for free!

Santacruzboardwalk

On our way back north the next day, we stopped by Santa Cruz, a true bohemian laid-back surfer town, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in all its glorious childish cheesiness. The west coast has never had as many of these amusement-parks-by-the-sea as the east, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the few remaining ones today. The Boardwalk is celebrating its centennial, and the city has clearly done a very thorough job of polishing up the place, which may be why it looked so much shinier and spiffier than in my childhood memories.

Santacruzrides

Summer vacation was clearly in full swing when we arrived: families waited in line for the big old wooden rollercoaster or the log water ride; teenagers in swimsuits ran down to the golden beach or headed for the arcades, the smells of cotton candy, hot dogs, and grilled corn wafted our way, and our ears were filled with the cacaphony of happy people out enjoying themselves.

Santacruzpirate

Notice a pirate theme in our vacation? This was one of those pendulum-style rides where you're slowly swung back and forth and finally in a full circle. I didn't go on this ride, since it makes me rather queasy.

Although you can probably guess which ride I did go on:

Carousel

It's amazing to me that in the space of a weekend you can experience so many different places, all within a few hours of each other. I don't know if this qualifies as a "stay-cation", as the buzzwords seems to be, but if it is, it doesn't seem to terrible to stay at home!

One of my favorite desserts from the weekend was the peach blueberry clafouti from Red House Cafe, and once I got home I couldn't wait to replicate it. I think I got carried away and put too much fruit in there, but with peaches at their bursting-sweet ripeness I couldn't help myself. Combined with the tartness of the blueness and the creamy, vanilla bean-flecked custard, this makes for one sweet summer memory.

Peachclafouti2

Peach Blueberry Clafouti

makes one 9-in clafouti or (2) 5-in clafoutis

2 ripe peaches

3/4 cup blueberries

2+6 tablespoons sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-in baking dish or pie plate, or individual dishes, and place on a baking sheet.

Wash and peel the peaches, and cut into small wedges. Combine the peaches and blueberries and 2 tablespoons sugar in a bowl and let macerate for about 15 minutes.

Whisk the remaining sugar and eggs together in a mixing bowl.

Add in the milk and whisk until combined.

Sift the flour over the mixture and whisk until combined.

Whisk in the vanilla bean paste.

Spread th e fruit over the bottom of the dish. A single layer is fine; don't put too much fruit in or you'll overwhelm the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, just covering the fruit.

Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes (if you are making individual dishes, be sure to check halfway through to see if they are baking faster) until the batter looks puffed and golden and is set in the center.

Let clafouti cool for about 10 minutes out of the oven before serving. You can also serve at room temperature – it will keep for about 12 hours.

 

Read more →

Tags:

The Sweet Side of New York

April 11th, 2008 · 24 Comments · Sweet Spots, Travel

Nybuildings

I’ve been trying to pull together a report on New York City all week, and finally came to the conclusion that I’d have to split in two -there’s just too much to talk about!

Here, then, the first part: a report of all the sweet spots I visited during my time in the city. I mentioned in an earlier post that this trip pushed my sugar-ingesting capabilities to the limit – it’s hard to rein in indulgence in a place where temptations are not only omnipresent but of the quality and caliber that earns them the label, "Only in New York." When there are so many wonderful places to try and desserts to taste, made by some of the most talented people in the industry, restraint and prudence and skinny jeans all get pushed to the side.

I made it through four consecutive nights of multi-course dessert tastings, experiencing the dazzling spectrum of pastry in New York, from classic French to globally inspired to avant-garde. I also visited enough bakeries, chocolate shops, and candy stores during the day to fill one of my suitcases for the trip home. Although I came perilously close to sugar shock, my only real regret is that I couldn’t stay longer to try all the other places I missed out on!

Flowers

As a note, for all the restaurants below, I did not have a full dinner at any other them, choosing to focus my attention (and appetite) on the desserts. I also, unfortunately, don’t have many pictures of the desserts I tasted either, out of consideration of the low light conditions of most of the places. I do hope my descriptions will help you envision the creations I tasted – or entice you to try them yourself!
 

Chanterelle_2

Chanterelle

Dining at Chanterelle is like having dinner with an old friend – one with impeccable taste and style. Chanterelle is a New York fixture, and its history shows; from the moment you step in the door you are treated with an effortless grace and surety that comes from long experience. The dining room is classy and refined – warm-lit walls, high ceilings, sweeping flower arrangements – but the atmosphere is  intimate and cozy, never snooty. Chanterelle is, of course, home of Kate Zuckerman’s desserts and I was thrilled to finally get a chance to taste what her desserts were like made out of her pastry kitchen.

Favorites: I was thrilled to find so many of Kate’s creations from The Sweet Life on the menu. Her Madagascar Vanilla and Brown Butter Cake, which has been embraced by many a blogger, is a slice of warm buttery bliss, with a tantalizing crisp exterior giving way to a soft, velvety vanilla center – divine, especially with the crème fraîche ice cream. The Goat Cheesecake in Hazelnut Brittle also made an appearance  – about as far from the traditional New York cheesecake as you can get, her refined rendition is almost soufflé-light, the slight tang of goat cheese set off by the sweetly crunchy hazelnuts and a piquant marmaladed kumquat sorbet. My other favorite was a coconut-cardamom rice pudding packaged in a crispy wrapper like a bonbon, drizzled with rose syrup, with a scoop of pistachio ice cream nestled nearby. This gorgeous interplay of colors, tastes, and textures made me wish Kate had included the entire dessert in her cookbook – she does give the recipe for the rice pudding, and it’s certainly moved up several notches on my to-make list.

2 Harrison Street
(between Hudson Street and Staple Street)
(212) 966-6960

www.chanterellenyc.com

Pong_2
photo from www.p-ong.com

p*ong

Chanterelle may be classic New York dining at its most elegant and gracious, but p*ong is as modern and eclectic as its name, a funky, downtempo lounge of a place, with sleek white banquettes and a sweeping, angled bar – the preferred place to sit so you can watch the servers make your cocktails or plate your dessert.

Service was efficient, but the highlight, needless to say, was Chef Ong himself, who would materialize in the dining room like a mercurial firefly to exchange a friendly word or two with guests before vanishing again. We discovered that he had just opened his new bakery next door that morning – poor guy! But despite the stresses of opening day, he kindly took the time to show the bakery space to us and told us to come back the next day when they would be restocked. I must disclose here that I adore Pichet. He recounted how they opened the bakery at 11 in the morning, worried that no one would come. No one come to Pichet Ong’s bakery? Hmm, right. In reality, they sold out by 1 in the afternoon. More on batch later. But Pichet is charmingly modest and slyly funny. Be warned, he has a habit of stopping by and checking on the progress of your dessert decimation. "Why didn’t you finish the cake? Is it bad?" "No, of course not, it’s delicious!" we’d demur. "Oh, well, you should really finish it. It’s a special cake!" I don’t think he’s praising his own desserts so much as he’s espousing the old Chinese virtue of cleaning your plate, which all my relatives always had me do. Of course, none of my relatives ever told me that I had to finish my dessert – so advantage to Pichet, I’d say!

Favorites: One of my favorite desserts from my trip came from p*ong: a warm date and ginger cake in a pool of rum toffee sauce, sprinkled with walnuts. It’s like a cross between sticky toffee pudding and the best gingerbread I’ve ever had, the very definition of soul-satisfying. I liked it so much that I had to make it when I returned home. Other desserts that tickled the tastebuds included a chevre cheesecake and walnut croquette, a bit richer and earthier than Chanterelle’s, and a grilled pear "steak" with hazelnut and caramel – again, desserts hitting that elusive combination of unexpected and intriguing and utterly satiating.

150 W 10th Street
(between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place)
(212) 929-0898

www.p-ong.com

Wd50_4  
photo fr om www.wd-50.com

wd-50

It seemed fitting that I’d visited the MOMA earlier in the day before I went to wd-50. An afternoon of high-concept art followed by an evening of high concept food. Be prepared to go with an open mind and you’ll be rewarded with some amazing, thought-provoking plates. wd-50 is surprisingly low-key and mellow for being a high temple of molecular gastronomy; my friend and I were seated at a row of two-tops placed so closely together that by the end of the evening we felt more like we were sitting at a communal table. It was amusing to see the diners seated next to us darting sideways glances as a new feat of whimsy was placed before us, just as we could not resist doing the same to them. Eager to experience as many of Alex Stupak’s creations as we could, we chose the five-course dessert tasting, but be warned: each person at the table has to order the tasting, so it’s a whole lot of sweets. Make sure you leave enough room!

Favorites: Needless to say, these were some of the most exactingly plated dishes I saw on my whole trip. Every dessert was a Japanese rock garden, little hills and dunes of cake and cream in a sea of sinuous curves and undulating swirls, amidst carefully calibrated scatterings of crunchy flourishes. The desserts that not only struck me with their art-museum aesthetic but also their successful exploration of the unusual and offbeat included a delectably soft cornbread pudding in a lemongrass sauce with prunes; it was homey and exotic at once and most importantly, delicious. Another winner was a gianduja dome with ice milk ice cream, fennel, and little chocolate truffles that oozed warm hazelnut filing when you cut into them. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with chocolate and hazelnut, but the flavors were used in such untraditional ways that it made the dessert interesting and new, a pleasure to explore. The little chocolate covered chicory ice cream petit fours were scrumptious as well.

50 Clinton Street
(between Rivington Street and Stanton Street)
(212) 477-2900

Other sweet spots

Having only five days in New York City and one stomach, I could only visit a fraction of all the bakeries, pâtisseries, dessert bars, chocolate shops, and other sweet spots the city had to offer. New York demands your return, anyway, with its kaleidoscopic, ever-changing aspect – even if I’d visited 50 dessert places I’m sure another 50 will have opened by the end of this year. Here, some of the places I did get to try:

Amai Tea House
Tiny, but warm and serene.  I love that all the display cases look like they came from an old Chinese apothecary, a perfect setting for all the Asian-inspired desserts. Although their green tea cookies are their signature item, I really like their white tea and strawberry cookies, which have a touch of ginger and peppercorn, and the red vanilla cookies, which are laced with rooibos tea.

171 3rd Avenue
(between 16th Street ad 17th Street)
(212) 863-9630

www.amainyc.com

Batch

batch

This place was literally a day old when I walked in, but it already looks like it has its own quirky personality. I recognized many of Pichet Ong’s creations from his The Sweet Spot cookbook – the Dragon Devil’s Food Cupcakes were there, as well as the coconut-lemon cupcakes and chocolate tarts. There are also puddings, cookies, brownies, and other delights by the batch. There’s Pichet serving the customers; I also got to meet one of the bakers there – hi, Betty!

150b W 10th St
(212) 929-0250

Ceci-Cela

In the excitement of visiting new dessert places, I didn’t have much time to spend revisiting ones I’d been to before, but I knew I really wanted to go back here. So narrow that customers are basically sandwiched between the wall and the display case, nevertheless I love this place because of the tiny dining room in the back, a brick-walled oasis plastered with vintage posters, resembling a cross between speakeasy and secret clubhouse, where you can tuck into your tart and coffee far away from the city bustle.

55 Spring Street
(between Cleveland Place and Lafayette Street)
(212) 274-9179

Financier

A perfectly apropos name, as all three branches of this pâtisserie are located in the Financial District. With its celery-green and cream-yellow decor and rattan chairs, you can almost think you are eating your pain au chocolate in Paris – until you see the skyscrapers outside the window.

35 Cedar Street
(between Pearl Street and William Street)
(212) 952-3838

 

Kee’s Chocolates

Barely more than a storefront on a SoHo street, Kee’s Chocolates is nevertheless a window into chocolate heaven. Kee Ling Tong’s creations are masterpieces of flavor and texture, chocolate brought to a spellbinding zenith. I’ve never had any chocolates where the shell almost dissolves in your mouth to the filling inside – dreamy. Flavors I loved include passionfruit, lavender, and hazelnut praline.

80 Thompson Street
(between Broome Street and Spring Street)
(212) 334-3284

www.keeschocolates.com

Kyotofu

There are plenty of Asian-inspired desserts on menus nowadays, but Kyotofu the balance tips the other way, with Asian desserts just tempered with a French/Western edge. Their signature item is their homemade sweet tofu, which is light, silken, and refreshing, especially with a black sugar syrup poured over the top. Other sweets I liked included the chocolate matcha cupcake, sake cheesecake, and coconut-yuzu macaron. Different, and definitely worth a visit.

705 9th Ave
(between 48th Street and 49th Street)
(212) 974-6012

Payard

You can’t get closer to a Parisian grand café in New York than François Payard’s pâtisserie and bistro. Go to admire the gorgeous Belle Époque decor, all high ceilings, coffee-colored wood, and blown-glass fixtures. Stay as you try to choose from dual counters filled with cakes, tarts, macarons, chocolates, and cookies of every sort. Or perhaps the ice-cream cart is calling your name?

1032 Lexington Avenure
(between 73rd Street and 74th Street)
(212) 717-5252

www.Payard.com

 Well, that’s about it! I wanted to include a recipe for the Pichet Ong’s date cake that I loved, but this post is already running long so it’s going to show up in part 2! Stay tuned and have a good weekend!


Datepuddingcake3

Tagged with: + + + + + + + + + +

Bite This!

Read more →

Tags:

Happy New Year – A Very Sweet Trip to Hong Kong

January 4th, 2008 · 22 Comments · Sweet Spots, Travel

Macau_2

Happy (belated) New Year – I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to 2008 (well, as much as I can – it’s raining cats and dogs in San Francisco today). Returning from sunny, tropical Hong Kong was quite a shock to the system!

This shock was due in no small part to the indulgences I partook in while on holiday: sleeping in, a parade of family activities (I saw some cousins I haven’t seen in almost 10 years – my gosh we’re all grown up!), shopping that easily tripled the contents of my suitcases (not that I’m a shopaholic – well, maybe a little – but it’s hard not to be when it seems like 50% of Hong Kong is retail space), and of course the eating (that would be the other 50%).

I get asked often, "How do not gain weight when you go to Hong Kong and eat so much?" Well, I actually think the answer lies in the preponderance of stores and restaurants in the city. You basically follow this routine:

1. Go to mall/downtown/outside your hotel/anywhere and start shopping. Keep shopping until you realized you’ve probably walked several miles and are exhausted.

2. Go to nearby restaurant/cafe/street stall and eat.

3. Go back to shopping.

4. Repeat cycle.

Essentially you will spend so much time walking around and shopping that you will burn up all those delicious calories you’ve ingested. A beautifully efficient system, really.

Skyline_3

In all honesty, there are many other wonderful things to do in Hong Kong besides shopping and eating – the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are but a handful of steps from my parents’ flat in the Mid-Levels, giving us the unusual opportunity to be both close to the hyper-urban downtown Central district as well as a zoo. A little more strolling takes you to beautiful Hong Kong Park, which contains an amazing aviary and conservatory, as well as gorgeously landscaped grounds. As a bonus, it’s a popular spot for newlyweds to get pictures taken, as the marriage registry is just outside the park: go on the weekend and you’re likely to see a dozen beaming couples posing by the flowers or waterfalls.

Mandarin

You can also visit Macau, which is but a 45 minute hydrofoil ride away from Hong Kong. A former Portuguese colony, it maintains an old European charm in many parts of the islands that makes it an ideal getaway from the bustle of Hong Kong. However, it’s no secret that the gaming industry in Macau is rising faster than a soufflé in an oven – and it’s not likely to deflate anytime either. A walk down the Cotai Strip shows construction as far as the eye can see – construction of a Strip that will rival the one in Las Vegas (Macau’s gaming revenue has already surpassed that of Sin City). My suggestion? Explore old Macau during the day  – the colonial architecture and narrow cobblestone streets will transport you to Europe – then visit the gaming tables at night for glittery hedonism at its most exciting.

All right, on to the part I’m sure you’re most excited to read about – sweets in Hong Kong. What I love most about pastry in Hong Kong is the variety and innovation. You can buy a bag of eggettes (a kind of waffle) from a streetside vendor for a dollar or have high tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong. You can sample perfect French pastries or have classic Chinese dessert soups, perhaps on the same street. I also think that Hong Kong, like all major cosmopolitan cities, has a sort of ADD – the citizens are always on the lookout for the new and exciting, so stores constantly have to come up with new items to retain customers’ interest. See some of the items I saw in the bakeries there:

Maxim

Holiday cakes from Maxim’s, a popular bakery chain. The snowman was lovely – vanilla sponge cake on crispy feuilletine over a chocolate cake base. Surprisingly sophisticated and well done for a chain shop.

Cocoteddy

The variety of breads in even the humblest of bakeries is staggering. See the "Coco Teddy" bear shaped bun filled with chocolate. Coco Teddy, you were delicious – I love you!

I will also note that Beard Papa’s and Krispy Kreme are part of the culinary landscape now as well – and even these chain shops were offering special holiday items like black sesame cream puffs and tree-shaped donuts – I really wish they would do things like that here in the U.S.!

My list of great places to get a sweet bite in Hong Kong:

Honeymoon

Hui Lau San

I’ve rhapsodized about this place before; the red-and-gold festooned shops are ubiquitous, which makes them the stop of choice when your feet are tired and you’re thirsty. They are sort of like Starbucks, only everything is made from fruit so it’s much healthier (and tastier, in my opinion). You can get anything from a bowl of fruit mixed with sago to aloe jelly with coconut juice. I always get something from the Mango Mania section, because Hong Kong residents can’t seem to get enough of mango and neither can I. The mango jelly in mango and coconut juice is a favorite. The Hui Lau San I seem to frequent the most is the one in Causeway Bay, just across from Sogo and a block away from the Times Square mall – the height of convenience.

Honeymoon Dessert

Another popular series of dessert shops, this one centered around traditional Chinese desserts like walnut and black sesame soups, almond tea with tapioca, or thin crepes filled with red bean or mango. They also have items with durian, that olfactory menace of a fruit – try it but be prepared for your table companions to make a hasty departure! Honeymoon Dessert shops are scattered around Hong Kong; there’s one in the ifc mall in Central and at the apm mall in Kwun Tong.

Petits

Dessert at Elements

I made a visit to Elements, the highly touted new mall in Tsim Sha Tsui (I am always amazed that they are always building new malls – the Hong Kong appetite for shopping is truly insatiable). It is elegant, modern, and occupied by every high end luxury brand you can imagine, from Armani to Versace. If your pocketbook is feeling a little light after your stops at Cartier, Fendi, and Valentino, you can get a little pick me up at PETiTs by Deschamps, offering the most couture of cupcakes, or at La Création De Gute, a swank little patisserie.

Dessert Buffet at the Tiffin, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Remember my dreamy experience there? Desserts with a French pedigree and an Asian flair – chestnut seemed to be the theme ingredient (I loved a chestnut and chocolate mousse) but there were many other delights to sample, from fruit tarts to cream cakes, homemade ice creams and sorbets, Belgian waffles made to order, chocolate fondue with skewers of marshmallows and fruit lined up like ornaments, sweet soups and fresh fruit. You can nibble on your plate of sweets while gazing out the floor to ceiling windows at the panorama that is the Hong Kong skyline – a true feast for all the senses.

Bambu

Bambu

I’ll also mention a few favorite experiences in Macao: The Bambu at the Venetian offers an excellent Asian-themed buffet with an impressive selection of desserts, including homemade ice cream.

Almond

Pasteleria Koi Kei

Go to the old districts in Macau and you’ll likely find shop selling Macau sweet specialties like peanut candy, seaweed wrapped wafers, and almond cookies. You can see the baker above making them; many pastry shops have demonstrations like this outside the shop and give samples away liberally, encouraging lookers to stay and buy. Koi Kei has some of the tastiest almond cookies, especially hot and freshly made.

That just about scratches the surface of what’s available in Hong Kong. I look forward to my next visit…and discovering what has changed in my absence. Meanwhile, I’m excited to back home in my kitchen baking again!

Macau2

Tagged with: + + +

Bite This!

Read more →

Tags:

Back from Vacation: Not-So-Good News and Good News

July 10th, 2007 · 10 Comments · Photography, Travel

Dushanbeteahouse_6

Interior of Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder, Colorado

picture source   

Hello!

I’m back from Colorado, which was beautiful in a dry, stark, majestic mountains in the clouds sort of way, and Kansas, which was beautiful in a humid, lushly green, sipping lemonade by the lake as the sun sets sort of way. It’s good to get away from home once in a while and see what else is out there.

The above picture is of the Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, Colorado, a gorgeous traditional Tajik teahouse, or choihona, given to Boulder by its sister of Dushanbe in Tajikstan. All of the parts of the teahouse, from the elaborately carved ceiling panels to the statues in the interior fountain, were made in Tajikstan and shipped over. It’s a stunning, one-of-a-kind place to have a cup of afternoon tea and imagine yourself in ancient Persia – the tea list is excellent, as well as the rest of the menu.

My return from the midwest was supposed to be good news for my sadly non-updated blog, but unfortunately, bad news awaited me: I came home to discover that my computer had decided to break down in my absence (perhaps reprimanding me for my lack of care? I dote lovingly over my kitchen equipment but rather much less so on my poor computer – I guess it got tired of the lack of attention) It is in the process of getting fixed, so some of the posts I had been planning to do on my return may not make it up until next week.

Img_1380a_2

In the meantime, I’ll share some good news that brightened my return: I found out that Schmap Travel Guides has included some of my food photos in the new edition of their Paris guide. For those of you who haven’t discovered their website, Schmap’s digital guides make trip planning an interactive, surprisingly fun experience. Each city guide is linked with a Google map that shows all of the city’s attractions, restaurants, hotels, and other items of interest so you can easily see where everything is located.

If you look to the right sidebar of this page, you’ll see a Schmap of Paris – you can move around, zoom in, and investigate the listings on the map. If something interests you, say the ice cream shop Berthillon, you can either click on "Photos" to see some images of the store or click "more…" to go the Schmap description of the place. Pretty ingenious, no?

It was a pleasant surprise when Schmap contacted me and asked if some of my photos of Paris could be used for their entries. I am sure it will come as no shock to any of you that all my photos are of food! If you are curious, here are the photos they selected:

Dalloyau – their service is impeccable, their opera cake to die for. Even though I only bought one slice of cake, they wrapped it up carefully and thanked me as politely as the customers buying boxes of macarons and petit fours.

Fauchon – the displays at their store on Place de la Madeleine are always nose-to-the-window fabulous.

Pierre Herme – of course a must visit for every lover of pastry in Paris!

Pierre Herme again – Schmap has currently misattributed this photo to another Paris icon, fashion house Hermès. Honestly, I think I’d rather be spending my money on some of Pierre’s macarons than one of those scarves…

Chez Michel – one of my favorite little bistros in Paris, just blocks away from the Gare du Nord. I had some divine foie gras there, as well as a lovely Paris-Brest.

The photos are all from my trip to Paris a couple of years ago…I was so thrilled to be there and wanted to document every pastry that I saw. The photos were also  how I met the wonderful Carol, who confessed to finding my pictures on Flickr and loving them – now I’m the one who goes to her site and envies her trips to France and the beautiful watercolors she produces! What a lot of magic Paris can produce!

And finally, I learned that the photo I submitted to the June 2007 edition of DMBLGIT won in a couple of categories: tying for second in Edibility and placing third overall!  Many thanks to Bea for hosting – if you go to her post you will see she made cute little bar graphs showing the performance of the top ten in each category – I’m pleased to note I actually did show up in all of the categories. I need to thank Helene for providing the inspiration for the St. Honoré cakes, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the photo to submit!

Back to the kitchen for me…hopefully by next week I’ll be able to share my creations again with you all!

Tagged with: + +

Bite This!

Read more →

Tags:

Back from Vacation

January 22nd, 2007 · 7 Comments · Travel

Maui

Hello all,

Just got back from a wonderful trip to Maui and the stuff paradise is made of – golden sugar-soft sands, sun-warmed waters of that perfect crystalline blue you only find in the tropics, sublimely silly palm trees waving in the wind, the fiery sun diving into the ocean every evening to the sound of conch shells being blown.

On a whale-watching trip we found ourselves almost surrounded by humpback whales, many of them mothers with newborn calves, and were delighted by the antics of a pod of spinner dolphins that followed our boat, frolicking in its wake.

We went hiking into the valleys and forests on the island, and found ourselves befriended on one trek to a waterfall by a local dog who decided to act as our guide, following us and making sure we didn’t lose the trail. Thank you, Hoku! Your owner is lucky to have such a great dog!

Food was a big standout. I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time. Here are some of our favorite places:

Pita Paradise

1913 South Kihei Road

Kihei, HI

The owner catches his own fish daily and creates delicious specials, but their gyro with Australian lamb and feta cheese has earned a special place in my heart. Perfect fare after a morning at the beach.

Sansei Seafood and Sushi Bar

1881 South Kihei Road

Kihei, HI

Wonderfully fresh sushi and delicious Pacific Rim cuisine as well. They also offer an amazing 50% discount on virtually their entire menu on Sundays and Mondays before 6 PM; we got there at 4:45 since the restaurant opened at 5 and the line was already into the parking lot. But the hamachi nigiri and the miso butterfish were worth the wait.

Paia Fish Market

110 Hana Highway

Hana, HI

This really is a market: You can take home fresh fish, or they’ll prepare in a variety of dishes for you to enjoy there. It seems like such luxury to be able to choose from the catch of the day and have it grilled, sauteed, or turned into tacos, pasta, or sashimi, but it’s all very relaxed, unpretentious, and inexpensive here.

Mala, An Ocean Tavern

1307 Front St.

Lahaina, HI

A very chic little place just past Lahaina, with a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean so you can peruse their organic-focused, tapas-style menu with the salt wind in your hair. Their ahi tartare was wonderful, as was a "Mexican flatbread" which was a crisp tortilla piled pizza-style with three kinds of fish, lightly spiced with curry.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention much about desserts anywhere…honestly, in the warm balmy weather and after many fresh seafood dishes, I didn’t feel much like the gooey, chocolately desserts offered at most places. I did have some delicious shave ice, as well as some green tea ice cream at Sansei. So I definitely was ready to back into dessert mode when I returned home.

I was crushed to find that I’d missed the deadline for this month’s SHF, but I’m still hankering to honor David’s theme of chocolate. There will a chocolate-oriented post later this week – I’ll have to get my tropical groove on afterwards!

Read more →

Tags: