Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breakfast club at Morandi

It had been awhile since Bennie and I Breakfast Clubbed. We hopped back in action, with full appetite and a real winner in Morandi.

I hadn’t eaten there in years. And I’d never been for breakfast. But I think I could have eaten everything on the menu (except a breakfast pizza with pancetta).

Bennie is such a good partner in crime. Whenever there is a bread basket, we split it.

Morandi’s was beyond. First, you get a nice little display of the goodies when you enter the restaurant.

And the basket is the perfect size for two.

Sugary-sweet bombolini and bitter chocolate brioche…

A delightful sour cherry muffin…

… a tender cinnamon raisin pastry, and sweet but savory pistachio bread…

…and what was perhaps my favorite: the moist and eggy ricotta fritter.

Only the Italian croissant escaped our appetites.

Apparently six (half) pastries was our limit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Franglais baked goods surface in Paris

Rose, Merce, Merci… there’s a new kid in town. Another cute, clean, contemporary café that serves upscale, Anglocentric bits and bobs.

Meet Claus. He quietly opened on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau back in August.

Behold, poundcakes and carrot cake!

Scones, madeleines and muffins—er, financiers!

And cookies looking oh-so-American (and delicious).

Breads and viennoiserie come from Eric Kayser.

But the sit-down menu, including everything from scrambled eggs and muesli to tomato mozzarella salad and club sandwiches, is deliciously housemade.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Doughboy is one week old!

I’ve long been a fan of Alison Nelson’s. But my respect went up a notch when she added to her chocolate franchise a West Village bakery. And named it Doughboy.

Open since last Sunday it’s a bright and cheerful spot on Hudson with a welcome selection of the homeiest treats.

Cookies, muffins and brownies…

…cupcakes galore…

…and breads and cakes…

Torn between a pumpkin cupcake (’tis the season!) and the last slice of the peanut butter poundcake, the lovelies behind the counter didn’t deliberate for even a second. The poundcake, they directed.

I imagined the moistness of poundcake and the moistness of peanut butter would mean a doubly rich and savory cake.

But in reality, it was ethereally light. Almost angel foodcake light. With mere hints of peanut butter.

Good. But I think I’ll be going back for the pumpkin cupcake.

Monday, October 03, 2011

My all-time favorite pralinés

On my recent chocolate tour of Brussels, one divine chocolatier almost escaped me: Laurent Gerbaud.

Thank goodness a lovely woman—a stylish spirit and fellow chocoholic—I met while shopping in one of Ixelle’s boutiques tipped me off to her favorite chocolatier in the city, sending me tout de suite to see what she was clamoring about.

Laurent Gerbaud has been practicing chocolate-making since 2001 but it was only two years ago that he opened his Ravenstein boutique. Like his sensibilities, it’s quiet, clean and modern, but warm and friendly. There’s an austerity to the shop as well as his chocolates, which he makes right there.

Laurent’s strength is taking the best ingredients in the world and letting them sing. “In terms of technique, there’s no secret,” he claims. I don’t necessarily agree. I’ve eaten plenty of poor chocolates, owing to technique. But I can’t argue with his belief that quality ingredients trumps almost everything. “Sometimes I find a good product, but it’s not good enough,” Laurent says.

Indeed. Figs from Izmir, ginger from Guilin, prunes from Corsica…

Cape pears, Persian crandberries, Japanese yuzu…

All simply, elegantly displayed. Admittedly, it can seem a bit boring after the bright lights and hot pink down on the Grand Sablon. But all you have to do is sample one of his chocolates and you fall deep in love.

I became obsessed with his Gare aux Noisettes, the house praliné.

Rich, savory, nutty and gritty, these little bonbons are a blend of roasted, caramelized Piedmont hazelnuts (again, the best in the world), roasted, salted cashews and just a bit of organic sugar, enrobed in a dark (or milk) chocolate shell.

Unlike other pralines where the nuts are ground very finely and consistently, there are larger bits of nuts in Laurent’s, creating a surprising, rich and deep experience. It’s like tasting real peanut butter after a lifetime of eating Jif.

It's like heaven.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The world-renowned Ispahan croissant

Because I’d heard so much about Pierre Hermé’s celebrated Ispahan flavor but had only ever sampled it in a macaron form, never the croissant or cake, I had to cross at least one off the list when I was in Paris.

The croissant it was! And a seriously delicious croissant at that. Crisp on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside.

A fine, sweet glacage and bits of candied berries.

(Just look at those lovely layers.)

Inside, rose-flavored almond paste and raspberry-litchi gelée.

It was all over much too quickly.