Monday, March 28, 2011

My top 10 all-time favorite sweets in Paris

Though, I think you’d agree, this is an unfair list. An impossible task. There is no limit to the to-die-for deliciousness on every block in Paris. To try to select only 10 is a cruel challenge. But if I had to choose… 10 sweets I wouldn’t want anyone to miss… I would start with:

• A good, ole piping-hot oozing Nutella and banana street crepe.

La Folie at La Patisserie des Reves: The heft and texture are pure magic. The doughy, whipped brioche is piped full of vanilla pastry cream that has a hint of rum raisin. Topped with praliné crumble and a touch of confectioner’s sugar. Unbelievable.

The obscenely addictive Praluline from Pralus. Buttery, chewy, crunchy, sweet but a titch savory, caramelized—what doesn’t this beauty have?

• The sweet little strawberry Coeur from Coquelicot. Relatively modest in size—just 4-5 bites—it’s also sweet and fruity and has a pitch-perfect texture that’s both spongy and moist.

• A chocolate éclair from Stohrer. The crisp pastry shell envelopes an uber generous chocolaty custard filling and is slapped with a sweet chocolate glacage. It’s a serious sugar rush in the best way.

• Angelina’s stick-to-your-ribs chocolat chaud. It’s like sipping melted truffles. In a tearoom that Coco Chanel used to frequent.

• Speaking of truffles, Jean-Paul Hevin’s truffles are le mieux. And his mendiants. And his cakes. Hevin = heaven.

• The rice pudding at Chez l’Ami Jean. I never would have thought I’d care a lick about rice pudding. Last year’s dinner at Café Constant made me reconsider. And a later dinner at Chez l’Ami Jean changed everything. Served in a massive bowl with sides of candied granola and salted caramel cream, this is an unforgettable dessert.

The Plenitude Individuel from Pierre Hermé. While his macarons are, oui, divine, this little cake is transporting. Fluffy chocolate mousse under a dark chocolate shell. Kissed by salted caramel. Adorned with tiles of more chocolate. It’s gorgeous, exquisite and delicious.

• The almond croissant from Boulangerie Julian. When Bennie and I split this, we were giggling in the middle of rue Saint-Honoré. Fresh and flaky, slightly chewy and caramelized at the edges, heavy with almond paste and lightly dusted with powdered sugar and slivered almond. I mean, how can something taste so good??

Friday, March 25, 2011

Infinite chocolate chip cookies

One of the very few good things about working way over on 11th Avenue is that it’s not so far from Ruby et Violette.

Do you know this itty-bitty cookie shop? And their marshmallow cookies?

Their butter pecan cookies?

Caramel popcorn and cassis...

...Irish, peach cobbler, French vanilla, and many, many more...

Trust me, it's not the most convenient location. But it's more than worth the haul.

457 West 50th at 10th Avenue

Monday, March 21, 2011

Big blues

Some mornings just warrant a humble little breakfast.

Cafe au lait and a blueberry muffin.

At Thé Adoré.

17 East 13th Street between Fifth and University

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Macaron Day

In honor of my 47 macaron-feat in Paris last year...

...and all the brave and hungry souls doing it in New York this year, this year...

Happpy Macaron Day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

One bite, and I was in love

Cowgirl’s Baking is only one-week-old, but it’s already one of my favorite bakeries.

With flavors like Rocky Road—chocolate chocolate-chip cake with marshmallow filling, caramel frosting and chocolate-caramel drizzles—and Tres Leches, vanilla cake soaked in vanilla bean creme anglaise with dulce de leche and vanilla frosting, well…I was pretty certain without even ordering that I was going to love this place.

I wasn’t sure what flavor to get. The Coffee & Donuts, a vanilla cupcake soaked in coffee, topped not only with coffee frosting but also a mini doughnut?

The Midnight, a chocolate chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting? Or the aptly named Heaven: vanilla on vanilla with rainbow sprinkles?

After my Nutella-banana French toast at the Brindle Room, I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be getting anything.

(At least I didn’t also have a doughnut at the Brindle Room.)

But I figured it was too auspicious that Cowgirl was just a few doors down from the scene of my gluttonous breakfast. I knew my day wouldn’t be complete without sampling something.

So I ordered the Chocolate French Toast cupcake.

Where to begin? Creamy frosting with a cinnamon-spicy kick. Uber rich chocolate cake, flecked with chocolate chips. It was moist. Delicious. Pitch-perfect.

It wasn't just a fluke, was it? Would a different flavor also send me over the moon? In a word, yeessssss.

I can’t even describe to you how delicious the Peanut Butter Bomb is.
Chocolate chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting.

Oh yeah. All of these are VEGAN. Which makes me think that maybe everyone in Manhattan should start baking vegan?

With cookies, doughnuts, tarts and other pastries on the Cowgirl menu, just blocks from home, I am in trouble. I am in heaven—but I am in trouble.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I waited all week for monkey bread

Last Saturday, I overindulged in sweets. So I told myself I’d do a sweets-free week. I wasn’t as religious as I normally am—I didn’t shy away from a couple bites of a shared dessert (dulce de leche cake—why would I shy away from that?) or mini chocolates when they presented themselves (was I really supposed to say no when faced with dishes of mini peanut butter cups?). But I knew Bennie and I had Breakfast Club, a Peels redux, at the end of the week so I was saving myself. For monkey bread.

As good as the other treats by pastry chef Shuna Lydon looked, I had my heart set on the monkey bread.

Cinnamon brioche with mascarpone frosting. Sort of a no-brainer.

It was a dense slab of cake. Perfected by the mascarpone frosting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A trio of treats to try

I have my eating cut out for me this weekend. First on the agenda is Cowgirl's Baking.

With cupcake flavors like Elvis (chocolate cake with chocolate chips, banana filling and peanut butter frosting), French Toast (cinnamon vanilla cake with butter maple frosting) and Coffee & Donuts (vanilla cake soaked in coffee with coffee frosting and a mini doughnut on top), how could I not?

Tribeca has a whole bunch of bakeries I'm dying to try, including the newish Josephine, opened by two Frenchies (mom and daughter), featuring macarons, tarts and viennoiseries.

And I'm even keen to try Magnolia again.

The pistachio Priscilla cupcake sounds—and looks—pretty over the top.

Photo credits: Cowgirls,; Josephine, Tribeca Citizen; Magnolia, Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A taste of Paris in Soho

Where do these lovelies come from?

Pierre Hermé?


Some other gem of a Parisian patisserie?

Mais non, they’re straight from New York—Soho to be precise. They’re Kee Ling Tong’s creations.

Now, she rotates through 22 options including jasmine green tea, blood orange, blueberry and white truffle oil.

Kee added macarons to her stellar chocolate repertoire in early ’08, starting with five flavors: passionfruit (her favorite), key lime, raspberry (“I like fruit flavors”), black sesame and mocha.

She admits that it took months of trial and error to perfect her recipe but macaron fans should be thankful she did. A good macaron in Manhattan is hard to find.

(And if you're determined to give macarons a whirl yourself, don't miss the lovely little book by Annie Rigg.)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Not quite the bee’s knees to me

I read about the honey cakes at Bee Dessert and was overly excited to try them. I mean, an “all-natural chocolate covered honey cake” extolled by Rachel Ray and the Times? Let’s get to it.

The packaging was adorable enough.

But I was expecting something more like Baklava than a Ring Ding.

Something more oozey and syrupy and multilayered than compact and cakey. Surprisingly, it was more like a spice cake enveloped in rich dark chocolate. No goo, no oozing, no sticky-sweetness. No wow.

Like spice cake enrobed in dark chocolate, it’s not that it was bad. It just wasn’t worthy of the buzzzzz I'd heard.