Pomme Palais, Chef Michel Richard, Set up for the tasting and the Opera Cake & Snowman Cake
Earlier this afternoon, I was invited to Pomme Palais for a holiday cakes and pastries tasting with the humorous (and a bit of a jokester/womanizer) Chef Michel Richard.
Cocoa covered grapes tart, Raspberry chocolate eclair, Fresh fig & marzipan tart
All of the cakes and pastries were eye candy when you peer into the many display cases. Before we really got acquainted with the cakes, I had the opportunity to try the raspberry chocolate eclair that was balanced and the choux pastry still had some freshness. The most unexpected pastry was the cocoa dusted grapes tart that was refreshing, sweet yet tempered by the bitter cocoa and bounded by the buttery crust. It deceptively looked like cocoa dusted almonds or ovid shaped chocolate truffles. The fig and marzipan tart was pleasantly sweet and simply delicious.
The Charlotte ($42) made of fresh fruit, apricot, raspberries, passion yogurt mousse, and lady fingers tasted like the kind of dessert you want after a heavy dinner. It’s light, silky, and tart from the passion fruit yogurt mousse and the many raspberries in every bite.
The Michael’s Snowman cake ($20) is a hollow meringue confection that is decorated with a sugar paste scarf, rosemary “tree” and includes with raspberry sauce on the side. When you purchase it, you should fill it with ice cream but at this tasting, the kitchen filled it with luscious dark chocolate pudding. To tell you honestly, this snowman was too darn cute. My heart kind of broke when one of my neighbors was willing to take a knife and take down that adorable pastry to a tasty mess of crispy meringue and sweet chocolate mousse. Continue reading “Many Delicious Cakes & Pastries at Pomme Palais” »
When you go to Barcelona and want to be out and about on a Sunday, you should plan to do little or an activity that can take a very long time because many shops and museums don’t open on a Sunday. It’s an European thing, I guess, to pace yourself and enjoy the weekend before the grind of the work week comes. Unlike in New York City, where it’s the norm for a shop open seven days a week unless it’s a major holiday.
We were fortunate to have a sunny, balmy Sunday that my friends and I took the Metro to Port Olimpic and strolled up the beaches of Barcelona. We saw locals (adults and young children) and tourists playing volleyball, flying kites and many cyclists casually biking on the boardwalk.
The meats of the night: Roasted aioli turkey, Grilled Pat LaFrieda tomahawk ribeye steak, braised pork belly (东坡肉)
Thanksgiving in my family always mean to go big or don’t bother trying to cook. I mean, it’s the holidays so there’s no need to heed to our waistlines and calories and just enjoy the food.
My brother wanted a roasted turkey so I remembered reading from Thomas Keller’s mayonnaise turkey several years ago and thought this might be a good time to experiment this idea. I dry-brine the turkey first and made my own mayonnaise. It’s made with egg yolks, Dijon mustard, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. The bird yielded to even browning and it’s infused with a ton of flavor and still juicy.
Interior of the cafe; Savory mini bocadillos; various pastries on display
One of the mornings while we’re in Barcelona, one of my friends who were traveling with me was up at an early morning and wanted a very simple breakfast (unlike the hearty one we had at El Quim). And well, our mutual friend was still in deep sleep and refuses to get up.
We did recall while walking to the Boqueria was this small bakery on the Rambla called Pasteleria Escribà. This bakery brand (it has two locations) was established in 1906 and is still owned by the same family ever since.
During our vacation to Barcelona, we stopped by Vioko since we’ve read the shop has some seriously good gelati (plural for gelato or an Italian version of ice cream) that has more than the basic flavors. Since we were near the beaches of Barcelona and it was a very warm, mid-October afternoon (the high temperature then was near 80°F) this was a great idea.
Vioko is owned and run by pastry chef Lucila Baiardi (photographed above), an Argentine expat who studied the fine art of pastry around various kitchens in Europe and eventually settled in Barcelona to open this sleek, modern chocolate and gelati shop that is in essence, shaped like a U, to display all of her beautiful baked goods of streamlined cakes, macarons, various cookies, including the Argentinian traditional sandwich cookie, the alfajor), bonbons, and chocolate bars.
I had the rare cravings for dai bao or what’s literally translated as “big bun” (大包) from Cantonese but originated from Guangdong. These huge steamed buns that’s about the size of a medium grapefruit is densely stuffed with a mixture of pork, a hard boiled egg, Chinese sausage, and mushrooms. The bread itself is more of a sweeter, cake-y, fluffy kind of texture.
The issue is the old school Chinese bakeries in NYC’s Chinatown sadly doesn’t make it as good as it used to be and not many places make it either. Since I know how to make dumplings and steamed cha siu bao (叉燒包), it’s not too far fetched to make this from scratch.
Relative side note, my mother always like to pair her food with excellent teas and thought of pairing it with this clean, light, floral, hauntingly green nut nuanced Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from Taiwan. My aunt from Hong Kong sent us a huge care package, so to speak, and was generous to send us the rare tea leaves. Alishan is one of Taiwan’s most famous tea growing areas, producing beautiful high mountain oolongs from its misty peaks. We come to realize that it can go through multiple infusions as we kept refilling our teapot with hot water. The tea works with this dai bao to cut through the dense, meaty bun.
Mis en place
It’s not a complicated recipe. It just takes a little patience in regards to making and fermenting your yeast leavened bread. The good part about people who don’t know or want to pleat the buns – you really don’t! It’s a simple gather of the skin and pinch it together so it would hold together. Here’s the recipe… Continue reading “Pork Dai Bao (“Big Bun” 大包)” »
Tickets: Entrance; Busy rush at the door; Menu & tweezers
I admit I was one of those people who was completely taken by Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode when he and José Andrés dined at Tickets. The restaurant doesn’t look like it’s taking itself too seriously but serving seriously good food.
Since I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the gorgeous beaches of Costa Brava and dine at the famous El Bulli prior to its closing on July 30, 2011, Tickets would be the next best thing especially dining with a few friends. As most of you might know, the Adrià brothers – Ferran, who ran El Bulli and Albert who runs this restaurant and several others in town like 41° Experience, Pakta, Bodega 1900, and a few others in Barcelona – cook what some call it “molecular gastronomy” or Modernist cuisine. The focus of this kind of cooking, if done well, is to focus on making the flavors and textures much more sublime than it is normally. Sometimes certain components of the food, is not what it always seems (for a local reference point, see Atera in NYC).
In case you did not know, Tickets is one of the hottest places to eat in Barcelona. Many who have dined there will tell you to plan your reservations at least 2-3 months ahead or you will have to get there when they open at 6 and hope to score a bar seat or two.
How did Tickets fare out? We had a blast. I rarely say I had a fun meal and I can count less than a handful of times I can recall such a thing. The food was overall very good except for a few dishes we don’t get. The service was very professional, knowledgeable but casual enough that it doesn’t feel overbearing.
I should put in a disclaimer that we let our server pick our dishes since we felt he would know how to build up the meal appropriately and know what are considered the better dishes on the menu. While we didn’t love everything he picked, he did do a good job of showing what the kitchen is capable of.
Pistachio tempura & Our bottle of cava from Juve y Camps 2009
Last weekend was my birthday. I celebrated initially with a group of friends and family by sharing the Marechal Praline cake that is currently part of Financier’s holiday cakes with some celebratory booze (sweet white port and Rémy Martin XO Cognac). I chose this cake since it would appeal to a lot of my guests. It’s a moist, chocolate praline mousse and they liked the delicately crisp feuillatine texture found in the mousse. Many thanks for Financier for delivering the beautiful and delicious cake to my home!
Right after the cake, a good friend of mine and I set out to Atera in Tribeca.
Different views of the open kitchen of Atera
I’ve been curious about Atera (a recent 2* Michelin (2014) awarded restaurant) for quite sometime now and thought it’s about time I should dine there.
This restaurant has generated some fuss from diners (mostly those who have not dined there) as of recent months because of the changes of getting reservations. If you do choose to dine there, there are a choice of two or three time slots every Tuesday to Saturday and the restaurant charges ahead of time ($195 per person, plus tax ($17.31) and a 20% service charge ($39)) for 20 or so courses (or as the restaurant calls them snacks).
Yes, you will be paying a little more than $500 for two people but I think it’s worth it. It’s a very unique meal that is different from other restaurants in New York City. Chef Matthew Lightner (who is from Portland, OR) and his crew cooks a different kind of Modernist cuisine that is unlike Corton under the helm of Chef Paul Liebrandt (it closed this summer but I had an excellent dinner two years ago that is deeply set in French cuisine) or Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 (modern American but with a quirky sense of humor). Lightner’s food is sophisticated (and he forages his ingredients) and as the servers tell you toward dessert, it’s reflective of his memories while growing up as well as using techniques he learned while working at the world famous restaurant Noma (owned by chef René Redzepi in Copenhagen, Denmark).
When we arrived at Atera, we’re slightly confused by the lack of an exterior sign at 77 Worth Street to indicate we are at the right place (at the tall, narrow window next to the door is just a long listing of shops and studios who share the lot) but we entered the door and was warmly greeted by a hostess and checked us off with her iPad for our reservation and ever since, the front of the house has said “Happy birthday” to me prior to and after the meal. It’s a good thing.
This intimate dining room shares the space with the open kitchen. It seats about fourteen people around the U-shaped kitchen counter with a small communal table that could fit a party of six in the back. It’s a handsome, dark wooded dining room with delicate vines and LED lights strewn around the walls to make it feel like a forest.
Courses 1-9 (from left to right by row, or on your phone, top to bottom): Root beer macaron with caviar; Beets dipped in beeswax; Geoduck, oyster cracker; Smoked trout roe on amaranth toast; Lobster roll
What I find it unusual is the fact Atera serves a series of “snacks” as a prelude or amuse bouches to what they would consider as the actual meal.
We started with root beer macarons with caviar. These are macarons in the sense of it being a meringue sandwiching a savory crème fraîche based, root beer filling that the luxurious and briny caviar. (Don’t worry, it’s not the sweet macaron cookie.) Quickly came in slices of ruby pink beets dipped in beeswax that was earthy sweet and silky textured from the beeswax. The silky geoduck that has crisp textures from the oyster cracker, “air baguette” and ethereal smokiness from the pork fat brushed was quite phenomenal. The sandwich of trout roe in between delicately nutty amaranth toasts were umami bombs of sweet and salinity.
The lobster roll didn’t look like the typical lobster roll but it’s certainly tasted like one. The main difference was the “bread” portion of Atera’s rolls were yeast-flavored meringues. The delicate crispness and airiness of the meringues made me concentrate on the intensely sweet, creamy lobster filling while providing the texture my palate craved. Continue reading “Atera – Intimate and Interesting” »
Entrance to Pasteleria Hoffman; Large wedding cake display and jars of passion fruit jams
One of our mornings in Barcelona, we wandered around Barcelona near our apartment in the Born district, in search of breakfast and stumbled on this random (most of Barcelona felt and looked like a maze of narrow streets and alleys) bakery, Pasteleria Hofmann.
This bakery is set up to look like a quaint bakery from the 1950s, bringing some vague notion of nostalgia. Rustic wooden shelves and tables set with marble slabs and topped with decorative wedding cakes and stand mixers and toward the back are refrigerated display cases filled with cakes and pastries.
What I realized was (after the fact) this bakery is considered one of the best within the city, especially for its croissants. We had a plain croissant (1,25€) and thought it’s very buttery and fresh but not it’s not as shattering crisp like we had in Bubó. I wish I had the stomach capacity to order more various croissants (I recalled seeing one type topped with crushed dried raspberries glazed with icing) but we had a large dinner the night before. Continue reading “Pasteleria Hofmann (Barcelona, Spain)” »