Sunday, February 28, 2010

Financier's Fancy Macarons

After my last trip to Madeleine Patisserie, I had to continue my macaron hunt. That chewy, buttery bite - how to recreate the experience?

Well, Wall Street's Financier Patisserie, with its smart green-and-white striped logo, seemed worth a look. Inside, my eye was lured in by displays showcasing all manner of French cakes, pastries and paninis. But my resolve was firm. As much as the robust brewed illy coffee teased my nostrils, I was going for the macaron!

But which one?

It was a toss-up between classic Chocolate and Caramel Banana ($2.25 each). I went for the latter, just because the name seemed more creative. Financier's macarons are not as small as Madeleine's, with a decidedly more hefty circumference. Not as buttery-rich, either. Sweet, healthy-tasting bananas infused every inch. Soft and not as chewy or dense as Madeleine's. Ironically, that's what I enjoyed about Madeleine macarons: the borderline cakey denseness. So these weren't my ideal texture, but the flavor was inviting.

A thin sliver of caramel in the middle. Chocolate powder on the exterior completed the look. Caramel Banana was a tad crusty/crumbly on the outside and a bit too sweet for my palate. At times, the banana seemed overwhelming. Overall, this macaron was fluffy, light and sweet. I'd try the Chocolate next time and run another comparison.

I eavesdropped on the coffee line and heard requests for these drinks: Chai Latte ("three shots"). Red Eye. Cafe au Lait.

Rating: I'd have to do a more thorough test-run of Financier's other offerings before giving out a rating. Peep their mouthwatering breakfast and lunch options.

Financier Patisserie
62 Stone St
New York, NY 10004

Chinese Takeaway

Unlike Chinese take-out, Chinese takeaway implies that I get dibs on the remains of Grandma's cooking, which I will whisk away with, thereby assuring next day's gastronomic merriment (AKA "glorious leftovers").*

That would be our Chinese New Year's dinner at Grandma's: a combination of home-cooked and store-bought. You guess which is which. (It's not that hard.)

*I'm pretty sure this sentence was not grammatically correct in one shape or form.

Pokka Milk Coffee: 89 cents. Procured from St. Mark's Sunrise Mart.

Monday, February 22, 2010

i Love iHop

So does Joe.

A grown man's gotta eat. And my enthusiastic buddy is no exception. Featured: sausage, scrambled eggs, home fries, pancakes on the side.

And Jon.

My brother loves his silver dollar pancakes. They're just his size! (Though he's growing leaps and bounds these days, giving the Tooth Fairy a run for her money.)

Cup o' Joe.

Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm a coffee addict. I prefer dark, bitter roasts with a splash of milk and a sliver of sugar. Thank you very much.

International Passport with Dutch strawberry-filled crepes.

Crepes with whipped cream AND sausage AND bacon AND sunny-side up eggs. My dad is a beast - I mean that with all due respect. But he actually didn't finish the whole thing.

Ham & Egg Melt.

This one is mine. Nothing screams comfort food like a ham, egg and cheese sandwich. It's got "greasy spoon" written all over it. Piping hot chunky fries and a pickle on the side. I totally downed the whole thing. I think this is why I enjoy Monte Cristos as well. Several elements must be in order: meat, melted cheese (I prefer cheddar or provolone with my sandwiches) and a hearty bread with crunch.

Year of the Tiger

...And more pics.


Shark fin soup.

Sweet milk-filled crisps.

Bok choy and mushrooms.

Lee Kum Kee.

A Moveable Feast: Year of the Tiger

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Tiger. Yes, I know these greetings are a tad belated. Needless to say, life has been hitting me with some fastballs lately and sometimes I feel like rink-side roller derby is an adequate metaphor for my life...leaving me less time to devote to this food blog than I would like.

When verbiage just won't cut it, I give you pictures:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

V is for Velvet: Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe

Red Velvet Cupcake.

Just in time for Valentine's Day - some rich red velvet cupcakes to spark a smile on your sweetie's face. I took a cue from Paula Deen.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe Courtesy Paula Deen, 2007

Cook Time: 20 min
Prep: 20 min
Total: 40 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 24 frosted cupcakes

* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
* 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
* 2 large eggs, room temperature
* 2 tablespoons red food coloring
* 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
* 1 pound cream cheese, softened
* 2 sticks butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
* Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish [Optional]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry. [Note: I just used whatever I had on hand - sprinkles]

Cook's Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

All Frosted Up.

With Sprinkles.

I modified the ingredients a bit after perusing the reader's comments, which proved to be a good move. Namely, I reduced the amount of vegetable oil from 1.5 cup to 1 cup and increased the buttermilk from 1 c. to 1.5 c. The original amount made the cupcakes much too oily, and grease leaked through the cupcake tins. I would use more cocoa powder in the future since I really like chocolate...and for more of a Sugar Sweet Sunshine taste rather than something out of Betty Crocker's book.

Oh, and go for regular cream cheese - none of that low-fat nonsense! The frosting will wow you. Even thought it was my first time making red velvet cupcakes, I was quite pleased with the results. [Note to self: use electric mixer next time. My arm ached from the manual mixer, but it sure made the frosting one smooth operator.]

First Bite.

My family was the first to test these babies out, and by the way they were gulfing them down, I take that as a good sign. All in all, a good first effort!

DBGB Kitchen & Bar: Beyond the Burger

Aperitif Selection.

This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Mission: Restaurant Week lunch. Where to go? Only one place on my mind: DBGB.

Classic pub fare has heart and soul - and DBGB Kitchen & Bar is no exception. Providing a high-quality dining menu with stylish drinks and an upscale environment, it's where food and drink go hand-in-hand. THe gourmet dishes are complex and refined; it's definitely a cut above your average 'ole pub. Because of the "gastronomic" prices, DBGB attracts me of an affluent clientele.

DBGB is the brainchild of Chef Daniel Boulud and was created to be a chill, downtown dining destination melding the British tavern with the French brasserie experience. Gastropub touches are evident throughout the restaurant: brass shelves displaying kitchen goods and utensils stand side-by-sidde with plush black seats and old-fashioned coat rack hooks...all in muted shades of black, bronze and grey. DBGB also takes a cue from the Bowery's industrial background. The ambience screams understated chic.

Walls are covered with culinary quotes (including Hemingway) set against full-length mirrors, meant to draw the focus inward, where guests swirl glasses of red wine and break bread. Couples lean in for private conversation.

My two dining companions and I arrived early and were seated right away at a cushy booth. Our smiling, grovelly-voiced waiter tried to interest us in some drinks and to encourage us to try the daily special.

To start things off, C had a Cosmo (how very Samantha), I had a Pimms No 1 and J went with the Aztec Uplifter - tequila on the rocks with cucumber and what tasted like a splash of red hot chili pepper. Since it was a little early in the day, I had my Pimms with a little ginger ale but found the taste much too watered-down. And what happened to the lemon, apple, cucumber and mint that usually goes with it (AKA the 'fun stuff')?? Not to be found. Pimms fail.

Our waiter must have nailed his delivery because both C and J were so entranced by the description of the veal that they had to order it. It came, in all its tender glory, infused with a thick tomato-red pepper paste and some leafy greens to off-set the meat.

Winter Squash Soup.

However, I came here exclusively to try the restaurant week prix fixe menu. First up: Winter Squash Soup - amber lager emulsion, crispy sage. I admit I was initially intrigued by the addition of the amber lager emulsion. I wasn't quite sure how this was going to turn out, but beer does pair well with unexpected ingredients. The creamy, buttery rich texture of the soup really strengthened the squash, giving off a warming autumnal flair. Sage leaves brought out the earthy "popcorn" tones in the soup.

The Yankee Burger.

Entree: The Yankee Burger - 6 oz. beef patty with iceberg lettuce, tomato and Vidalia onion on a sesame bun, fries (pommes frites) and an Essex St. Pickle smartly tacked on top with a red toothpick. I think I'm slowly building a fondness for deep-greased foods (oh my). These fries were hot, fresh and crunchy. In a word: phenomenal. Ketchup not necessary - eat them straight up salted! Plus, the heart bucket they came in earns points on the cuteness scale.

As for the burger, I'm so glad I had mine with cheese (for an extra $2). It made the meat's juiciness that much more nom-worthy. Word on the street says the burgers here are among the city's finest, and while I''d probably think twice about ordering such an expensive burger in the future, I must say DBGB does a good job with satisfying a craving. The patty was the perfect size, too.

DBGB offers more than 14 varieties of house-made sausages, along with seasonal Lyonnais-inspired cooking. Pair your giant burger with one of the 22 craft beers on tap or a complementary table wine. Dessert yields feel-good classics: ice cream sundaes, sweet crepes and souffles with rich garnishes.

Gateau Russe A La Banane.

For my happy ending, I had the Gateau Russe A La Banane - hazelnut biscuit and passion fruit coulis. To be honest, I'm not sure what a coulis is, or even how to pronounce it, but all words were unnecessary after taking one bite. Moist banana bread paired with a nutty, almond-like hazelnut biscuit and passion fruit sauce generously dotted around the plate.

Omelette Norwegian.

C and J shared the Omelette Norwegian ($18) - baked Alaska for two containing layerse of vanilla and pistachio ice cream, raspberry sorbet, and fresh meringue flambeed with chartreuse. A member of the waitstaff brandished the chartreuse (distilled French liqueur) liberally on the dessert and set it off with a lighter.

Final Verdict: With drinks and the additional cheese charge, the $24.07 prixe fixe easily turned into $34...but all in all, not too much damage for an opulent meal. I'm tempted to come back to try the bar bites (banger, sausage, cheese, beer). Yes. Must...have...fix.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Burgers are hefty and cocktails will do, but it's the dessert that you'll be yearning for.

DBGB Kitchen & Bar
299 Bowery St
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Edible Art

Photo montage taken Feb. 3. MoMA. New York, NY.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Sweet Madeleine


A trip to Madeleine Patisserie means sweet business. Macarons galore! But which ones to try? Clueless, my friends and I asked the counterperson for her picks - she recommended the "unique, different" flavors that Madeleine's is known for: Rose, Caramel Fleur de Sel, Passion Fruit. We each picked one, and I must say that my Passion Fruit burst with the fruit, coupled with the decadent, buttery filling. Perfect chew to it - slightly crunchy on the outside with a jam-like texture inside.


Not much talking while we scarfed these babies down. At $2.50 each, these macarons aren't exactly a frugal foodie's find, but they're memorable. And that's what matters.

Rating: 4 stars. Only because I have nothing to compare them too. I don't indulge in macarons often, though I'd be up for them again. I've got my eye on the Chocolate and to join?

Madeleine Patisserie
132 W. 32nd St
New York, NY 10011

Funny Bunny

Photo Montage taken Feb. 2. New York, NY. Downtown/Chelsea area.

Ihawan: Filipino Feast or Grease Fest?


This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

My mind is having trouble focusing these days. Maybe it's our media-saturated, technologically-driven age. Maybe it's the weather. Or maybe it's because I can't quite decipher Ihawan.

No, he's not my boyfriend. Ihawan is a Filipino restaurant in Woodside, Queens, serving up home-cooked Filipino favorites, like Lechon Kawali (deep fried crispy pork with liver sauce on the side), Beef Kalderata (stewed beef) and Sizzling Sisig (pork ears and mouth marinated with lemon and hot pepper).

Generally, I'm not a big fan of fried foods. Deep-fried grease and oily batter just don't inspire lip-smacking in me, but I'm always open to trying new things.

Some of my Filipino culinary favorites are things my friends' parents would make - like chicken adobo and lumpia (egg roll). This time around, I was craving the Kare-Kare, or stewed oxtail in peanut butter sauce with mixed vegetables ($8). I got a whole plateful of oxtail, though the ratio of meat to fat was considerably less than I would have liked. Sure, I love fatty bits of pork in ramen - it's what makes the broth that much more appetizing. But when it comes to my oxtail, I gotta have some meat on those bones! I liked the thick nuttiness of the sauce but it seemed like some herbs or spices were missing. I couldn't detect a kick in my mouth, and the string beans were rather bland and lifeless. (No, I have not burnt all my taste buds.)


My friend D went for the pink - literally. He chose the Binagoongan, or pork sauteed in shrimp paste ($7). His immediate reaction: "I remember the pinkish color* threw me off. But then I remembered it was shrimp sauce so that was OK. But the taste was definitely too strong after a few bites. It did not taste like it was healthy for me."

My take: Strong is right - this dish looked the color of Pepto Bismol, luckily tasted better than that, though I wouldn't make this for myself. It came with a fishy (anchovy?) paste on the side. Combining the two made for a very salty, very fishy concoction. Fish paste tastes better on plain rice.

Inihaw Na Longanisa.

R was in the mood for something more substantial - Inahaw Na Longanisa, or grilled pork sausage with eggs ($8). Definitely approved of the sausage, which was just crispy enough on the edges. Warm, meaty, substantial. What better way to top it off than with an egg or two! (She usually prefers them over-easy.)

Filipino Desserts.

After a full meal, we still had room for desserts! D went for the Saging Con Hielo, or sweetened banana with milk and crushed ice ($4). Each bite was filled with soft, crushed banana. My Halo-Halo ($4.50) didn't disappoint either. On the top: crushed ice, milk and cream flan. Bottom: mixed tropical fruits (jackfruit, purple yam, coconut) and red and white beans. Cold, refreshing and hearty - just light enough not to feel weighed down after all that we consumed.


The flan took its pretty time in transit. I watched the waiter scribble it down on his pad, but there was a mix-up in the kitchen and it didn't appear with the other desserts. After 10 or 15 minutes of extra waiting, we flagged down the waiter and corrected the mistake. I was a bite taken aback by the brusque, detached service. The flan itself was swamped in caramel, lending a sticky, overly sweet taste.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that Filipino cooking cannot be rushed. It takes awhile for the flavors to simmer and the meat to become so soft you can pull it apart with one touch. However, our dishes got cold pretty fast. I'm not sure whether this was due to the cooking methods or the restaurant's poor heating. At least the prices were cheap.

Consensus: Solid, but not terribly exciting...much like a blind date that you want to say went well but can't quite convince yourself is worth another shot. Dessert was the BFF that bails you out with one quick phone call. The sweet, substantial and texturally rich halo-halo saved the day - or rather, my impression of this restaurant that was quickly faltering as the night progressed. Ihawan wasn't bad, but it didn't blow me away.

*Side Note: None of the Binagoongan recipes I looked up online remotely resembled the one we ate at Ihawan. What IS that pink paste made of, anyhow? O.o

Rating: 3.5 stars. Halo-halo is my hero.

40-06 70th St
Woodside, NY 11377