Pastel Nibbles

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Scribbles from a while ago

*

I was in a kind of anti-macaron phase for a while when the pastries suddenly started popping up at every street corner in every spare bakery fridge space in Hong Kong. I got tired of its sweetness, its sickly sweetness.

Then this morning, my eyes picked out the word ‘macaron’ in mid post-breakfast stroll along west 23rd street, and given the scarcity of macaron availability in Manhattan (thank lord) (as in, relative to other sweet stars like cupcakes and donuts), I decided to pick out several.

Orange chocolate. Blueberry Vanilla. Lavender.

—-

I was lifted back to the queue in Laduree, three years ago. The peek into the empty, dark, glowing Laduree Bar and its art noveau stools as the queue turns, the salespersons bustling around like Christmas elves behind the pastry bar and the rhythmic dance of gloved hands and colorful sweets and pastel green boxes on the counter. Then there was me, frenetically pointing at whatever that looks edible (everything), ordering in broken Fren-glish and nervously trying to look as untouristy as possible (like every other tourist in that queue).

But I came out on Champ-Elysee, alive, with my box of macarons.

Pierre Hermé, once dubbed by French Vogue as ‘The Picasso Of Pastry’, emphasizes that one should “[use] sugar like salt, in other words, as a seasoning to heighten other shades of flavor.”

The morning light from outside the window makes me squint a little. I closed one eye to scrutinize the cross section of the remaining half – the crumbly, cream-colored porous layers, and blueberry icing in between – threatening to melt while I waited for the sweetness from the last bite to die down.

Maybe, something glorious does happen with every pastel bite.

You only ever see me handle my phone like this when my fingers are sticky with sticky ganache...

*

La Maison du Macaron, 132 W 23rd St (between Avenue Of The Americas & 7th Ave) New York, NY 10011

Decor: 3.5/5
Service: 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Price: 2.5 USD per macaron

Quote Source: Pierre Hermé website

*

There are just some songs I can never get tired of…

Advertisements

That Potato Did Not Warn Me

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pretty harmless looking huh?

I tried to put off writing about the Paul Liebrandt meal for a while because sometimes, it just feels decent to leave some experiences as… well, just experiences — instead of turning them into some flat, lifeless narration from my biased point of view as I am about to do right now.

Here is the thing about ‘molecular gastronomy’. What am I supposed to feel about it? These days, I look at restaurant and food review websites and would always feel an unstoppable force in the form of a grimace sprout itself over my face whenever I see the face. It’s so embarrassingly pretentious. Critics are sick of the phrase. Even the chefs that are supposedly practicing such ‘style’ of cooking deny association with it, or expand it into a longer string of milder words to the likes of ‘bringing a personal and experimental touch to tradition [insert nationality] cuisine’, while sneakily spherificating peach juice and turning soybeans into edible paper with some Dürer illustration in fruit ink printed all over them.

Yet… I love it. I love it in all its pretentiousness and triumphs and failures. I didn’t like the beef tartare, there’s something awkward between the meat and the blini. I loved the foie gras spheres, they were powerfully graceful. I remember every single ingredient and every conversation that punctuated them because this is one of those few meals with the rents when we would inevitably focus 70% of our conversation on the food we’re eating and the rest on memories associated with them. It was – how would you put it – fun , from beginning to end. Strangely enough, the most memorable moment came at the start of the meal as I put the innocent looking amuse-bouche into my mouth. It looked like a tatter-tot in the shape of a perfect sphere, and I was brutally ambushed as it exploded into a sweet rush of liquid potato in my mouth. It came as such as surprise it left me sitting there, dazed, with a silly look of wonderment on my face, like a child who just discovered that babies don’t come out of cracked eggs.

You only discover babies don’t come out of cracked eggs so many times in your life… and then it’s up to potatoes like this to keep the fun coming.

Foie gras with beet borscht gelée, mustard apple and black olive

Wagyu Flairton beef and a demo on how to paint with vegetables.

Beef tartare on blini with a fleck of edible gold

Brioche with passion fruit, coffee and banana. That square of Stilton on the plank of banana? Good one.

'Smoked Caramel'... popcorn, brown butter crumble, pomegranate. Big. Bang.

*

Corton, 239 W Broadway, New York 10013, (Btwn Walker & White St)

Decor: 3.5/5
Service: 4/5
Taste: 4.5/5
Price/head: 120 USD (dinner)

A documentary following ten years of chef Paul Liebrandt‘s life in the kitchen, A Matter Of Taste, is premiering on HBO today!

Shoot!

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oops, that might be me on the right

By the way, about the header image… It was a photoshoot with Nadine for Emese, sweet ladette from Sweden who takes amazing pictures and who I met several months ago at Carrie and Jason’s studio.

We were apparently, savage animals fighting over food, caught on camera at a nachos joint near Times Square.

If you ask the other two, they would easily tell you that I didn’t really need to pretend.

It’s My Alter Bagel Talking

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sesame Bagel with Shrimp Salad at Ess-a-Bagel

I got up at 4.43am, and suddenly felt this madness growing in my head, absolutely madness to the point where it’s like that ancient beast from Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland just dug its way out of the bottom of my cerebral and spat out two miles of decibel in a roar.

I just really, really, really need an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox.

And after fifteen minutes of feverish research on the world wide web, I discovered I couldn’t get one without either spending HKD50 and 15 minutes by taxi (or depending on what type of transportation, HK 10 and 45 minutes by minibus then MTR, or HKD2 and 45 minutes by tram, or HKD0 and 2 hours, by foot) to get to the nearest bagel shop, which opens at 8am, three flipping hours from now.

By the time I’ve decided on what shoes to wear for today, what type of transport to take and actually found my way there to make a decision on whether to put onions in my bagel, I would have become a rotting manifestation of a rail-thin hunched-back woman who could hardly raise her wrinkled index finger at the menu and curse with a croak the shop’s opening hours along with the lack of cream cheese they put on and basically all other similar forms of injustice in the world.

In short, I miss New York Delis. Open 24/7, always a heartbeat away from home.

*

Ess-a-bagel, 359 1st Ave (between 20th St & 21st St) New York, NY 10010

Decor: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Taste: 5/5
Price/bagel: From 1.05 USD Dried Sliced Bagel to 15 USD Lake Sturgeon Bagel
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: The shrimp salad bagel…. the shrimps that almost felt alive and the sinful ooze of mayonnaise to the side of the bagel as you try the limits of your jaw with a ginormous bite.

Some Gardeners Are Just Better At It

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chocolate Blackout Cake Doughnut

One of those things that make my parents mad when traveling with me – instead of helping with luggage or at least going into the lobby upon arriving at the Hotel Chelsea, I would get off the cab, abandon all my possessions and walk dream like into Doughnut Plant next door and if you say, throw a luggage or a macbook or the whole cab at me, I swear they would bounce off my invisible wall of sweet-tooth-hunt-protection.

And it was just great – the frail chocolate wall fighting a heroic fight against the fate of inevitable doom before letting your teeth sink into the moist interior, the melted, luxurious core and letting out a final war cry of crumbly cocoa solids with an echo that lasts till your mom asks you to stop smiling at a doughnut like that.

It felt like I was defeating a chocolate doughnut equivalent of ancient Troy with every bite I took.

Sweet pillows on the wall

*

Doughnut Plant, 220 W 23rd St (between 7th Ave & 8th Ave), Manhattan, NY 10011

My other favorite doughnut spot, with their Chocolate Coconut Doughnut as destroying-troy-able as described above:
Babycakes, 248 Broome St (between Ludlow St & Orchard St), Manhattan, NY 10002

Hey Mozzy

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m trying to remember my mozzarella encounters. The pleasant ones.

It definitely wasn’t the time I gasped upon seeing mozzarella-tomato cups at the school cafeteria on 13th street, bought one, and almost spat out the first chunk that was smartass enough to have bribed its way into my mouth.

The first time – the actual first time that the cheese stroke a chord with me, must have been the time we somehow made our way back to Ekin’s apartment at 5 in the morning in Milan. I remember seeing all the cheese and breaksticks we bought from a grocery store earlier in the day on the table – we dove right into it. The mozzarella was just plain, supermarket stuff – I dunked a chunk into pesto and sloppily balanced it on top of a piece of bread-cracker thingy before sending down my throat.

It was so good.

Recently, I came across it at Mercer Kitchen again. It was your usual white lump on a bed of basil, arugula leaves and sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with two slices of thin wheat toasts on the side.

Allelujah.

Maybe it was because I was hungry (and I promise, I won’t use this as a reason for the ‘YESSS’es from my tastebuds anymore). Maybe it was because I had a glass or two of red before that, and I just walked 20 blocks from Chelsea Market. Maybe it was because the underground space of MK was designed to be so dark that people couldn’t see the half bottle of olive oil bathing the cheese. I could really, barely see what I was eating. But the semi-liquidy core of the mozarella (cool and lithe like a smiling spring child in a white dress as it rolled across my tongue), the semi-solid exterior wall, the leaves, the tomatoes – you know that movie scene when the heavens open, white light starts pouring down and angels start blaring their trumpets?

It was like that.

The salad was simple, so simple. Goes to show how great ingredients, really really great ingredients, go a long way.

The beef was good too. But that is another story. Some other day, maybe.

*

Mercer Kitchen, 99 Prince St (between Mercer St & Greene St) New York, NY 10012

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the *NYC category at THE OTHER TALKING RAT.