Nov 30, 2010

Wonderful Kee's Chocolates, SoHo, New York

The best things are hidden in small packages. One of the mandatory stops in NYC is stop by Kee's Chocolates and savour those beautiful jewels. Giving up a corporate world job, Kee started a flower and chocolate shop in 2002. A great friend of mine introduced me this beautiful tiny shop and since then, I am in love.

Well, she did the right thing. Her flower shop apparently went down, but her chocolate one has going really well. The handmade chocolates are delicious, fresh, perfectly balanced. The use of great ingredients make so much difference, resulting in a beautiful flavor. 

The macaroons I tried for the first time few weeks ago and were also equally delicious. While the dough is not as homogeneous as other ones I've tried, the crispy texture and the creativity on the flavors is divine.

I love the creme brulee, coconut, raspberry, sesame... it's hard to choose! 

If you happen to be in New York, stop by her SoHo shop and try one of these delicacies!

Nov 27, 2010

The delicious flavors of New York

This year has been really special. After Europe, New York came into sight to visit wonderful friends in the city. The city that never sleeps has a very characteristic energy and aromas. In a tiny area that is Manhattan, you can indeed find everything and anything you can imagine. For just three days and with great guidance and planning from my friend Paula, I tasted so many delicious and unforgettable moments and tastes.

From a delicious milkshake from Shake Shack to taking me to the Chelsea Market, we went to the Top of the Rock, dined at Annisa, Park Avenue Autumn, Buddhakan and En Brasserie. We also had stomach for Kee's Chocolates (which will come in a separate post) and spontaneous laughs watching "A Life in the Theater" at Broadway. 

But most of all, these were days to enjoy great company and that indeed makes the moments fabulous and unforgettable. A warm hug from a great friend, playing with Milo (their cute dog), chatting about everything and whatever are what made these few days so incredible and memorable!! 

I won't make special posts dedicated to each of the restaurants & spots we visited, but definitely drop some places you should definitely visit while in NYC. 

Annisa  |  Coming from a celebrity Chef, you can already expect a lot. But Annisa went over my expectations on how creative and delicious it can be, "the best Asian in NYC". Try their black sable (it was the best fish I have ever ate in my life!!) and lemon bread pudding with poppy seed (oh my God, it was very amazing!) --- one of the best meals ever!

Park Avenue Autumn  |  The restaurant changes the decoration and menu completely every season of the year. For the autumn season, orange-y and brownish shades were chosen. It was a delicious brunch!!

Buddhakan  |   "Do you remember Carrie Bradshaw rehearsal dinner on Sex and The City 1?" is what I heard upon entering this fabulous and glamorous place, located right by the Chelsea Market. The food was comforting and great, try the lobster rice and delicious dumplings. 

En Brasserie  |  While I am biased Japanese lover food, this place had it all together in delicious flavors. Unfortunately, they didn't have the freshly made tofu that day, but the wagyu beef and small dishes were perfectly mastered, very good! 

Shake Shack  |  My friend Paula recommended and she was right! Their milkshake was incredible!!! Get it to go as we did and keep sightseeing. 

Top of the Rock  |  On the heart of Rockefeller Center, right by Saks at Fifth Avenue, this sight point has a gorgeous view, Empire State Bldg included. It has became more and more popular lately, so give enough time for the lines, specially close to the holidays. Totally worth it!

A Life in the Theater  |  This comedy will be on for a short time and it's delicious to watch it. In the beginning, I felt off track for the humor, but after few sketches, it was on, very funny!! 

Nov 24, 2010

Enssaro Ethiopian Restaurant, Lake Merritt, Oakland

Well, I recognize that I am not the most food adventurous person you will ever met. I had no idea what to expect and the only thing I had heard before was that they eat with hands, no silverware. 

To tell the truth, it was a good surprise. Guided by a good rating on Yelp (4.5 stars out of 324 reviews), we decided to give it a try. Overall, it felt to me like a similar cuisine to Indian, many vegetables, some fried pastries and a bread to follow the whole meal.

The appetizer was a very similar pastry to a samosa, vegetable-filled, crispy and seasoned lightly. The sauce was spicy and sweeter. Very good. 

It was suggested a honey wine, which for my palate was okay, a little too sweet, resembling a Canadian ice wine (a type of dessert wine). It's a Ethiopian Style Wine, it was a good experience.

As the naan is for the Indian, Injera is for the Ethiopian. Their bread is thin, looks like a spongy pancake, very light and somewhat mild flavor. The whole idea is to use the injera to serve and eat the other dishes. 

We order three dishes for three people and served family style. The presentation was a large plate with salad in the middle (by the way, very good dressing). We order the Vegetarian (Yetsome Beyaynetu), Meat Combinations (Ye Feseg Beyaynetu) and a chicken drums (Ye Doro Wot) serving. 

The food was good, full of Middle Eastern style spices and flavors. I loved a kale side and chicken breast! The service was very warm and friendly, but slow. If you plan to go, search ahead the menu and order when you arrive. It can take a long time to get your order in  (there are a lot of yelpers that comment that too). In the end, although it was worth the experience, Ethiopian cuisine is not yet on my favorite list.

More information about Enssaro:
Pictures by Rosemary Alonso

Nov 21, 2010

Recipes: Easy Apple Pie

Other than the drastic change on the weather, we can easily tell that autumn arrived with the change in the fresh produce: the berries become scarce, the apples and pears start getting more attention, as well as with the harder skin vegetables and leaves. 

I don't recall if I ever mentioned here that every other week we receive at home a box filled with fresh vegetables and fruits through Fresh Farm to You, which is a CSA (Community Supportive Agriculture), which in few words, mean that you receive produce fresh directly from the farmers. 

But all that to say that this past week we had received a large amount of apples and pears. I love them, but it's hard to eat them all before they spoil. Okay, I was just looking for an excuse to prepare my first apple pie.

With my Joy of Cooking book in hand, there I went to look for the recipe - it had to be an easy one. I adapted a little bit for my own taste:

Apple pie

two  9-inch crust pie (I skipped the dough preparation and bought it frozen at Whole Foods)
2 1/2 lb apples (about 5-6 apples)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp fresh lime juice
pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon 

1) Get the crusts out of the freezer, let it thaw slightly. Preheat the oven at 400F. 
2) In the meantime, peel, core and slice 1/4 inch thick the apples. 
3) Combine in a bowl: the 2/3 cup of sugar, flour, lime juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, salt. Let it stand for about 15 min, stirring several times.
4) Pour the filling into the bottom crust and gently level with the back of the spoon. Dot the top with the butter.
5) Using other crust with care, to cover the pie. Be careful to not break it in pieces (it happened to me...)
6) Sprinkle with 2tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Spread it evenly so it doesn't mark the spots on the crust after baking.
7) If your oven is strong, bring the temperature down to 350F before baking it. Otherwise, bake it at 425F for about 30 min. Take a look after 15 min. We should bake it until the fruit feels just tender when a knife is poked through the vents. You will probably need more 30 min. Cool completely on a rack for about 3 hours. If you wish to serve the pie warm, place it in 350F oven for about 15 minutes. 

Well, my excitement preparing this pie and following a great cooking book were worth it, the result was in the end great. The crust was slightly brown, but the filling was delicious, perfectly balanced and taste. I over baked the crust and had few lightly burned spots (there are also some dark spots from the cinnamon).

To prevent that from happening again, I already adapted the recipe above to help you from having the same mistakes! (On one of the pictures, you can see some pears, I decided not to mix them, so I didn't use them).

The hubby was very encouraging and didn't let me give up (I was all down, when saw the crust darker...) This recipe is very easy and takes about 30 minutes of preparation and the time on the oven.

Update: On Thanksgiving, I did the apple pie recipe again and brushed the top crust with egg white (I used just one). It baked perfectly and uniformly. On a different oven, I let it bake for longer. 

Yogurt Saint Benôit, SF Ferry Building & Northern California

ArtofSavouring loves the simple things mastered and made with excellence. A cup of a great yogurt is unforgettable. Saint Benôit produces small batches of Greek yogurt made with few flavors: boysenberry, plum, honey, plain, strawberry and lemon! If you prefer a sweeter flavor, this might not be the perfect one for you. However, the texture, aroma and consistency are so incredible, that you should at least give it a try.

Unfortunately, they are just offered in Northern California, since the production is still small and local. The organic high quality milk results in a gorgeous yogurt. If you come to visit the area, this is a must-try item!

They can also be found in the farmers' market in the Bay Area and in few grocery stores (like Whole Foods). You will have to leave $1.50 deposit for each container (and you will get it back when returning that either at the store or market). The container is also a cute option to be used a pencil holder, for example!

More information about Saint Benôit:

Nov 18, 2010

Mariage Frères Tea, Paris

Mariage Frères is a gourmet tea company that offers a wide selection (more than 500 types) of the best tea in the world (supplied from 35 different countries). The quality is outstanding and the flavor is divine. 

"For several generations, Mariage Frères passion for tea has been governed by an aesthetic sense of refinement and a quest for perfection.(...) Mariage Frères perpetuates the fine art of serving tea through the design and reproduction of exclusive teapots, tea services, and other utensils."

This place is perfect for an afternoon tea (like the British: 5pm tea time) or to prepare it at home. 

On a side note, I love the street signs that mark the streets in each city. It couldn't be different in Paris! Have a great weekend! 

Nov 15, 2010

Montmatre cool spots, Paris

Distant from the main touristic spots but with a countryside flair of glamour, Montmatre still has the charm and laid back breeze of Paris. The main spot is the Sacré-Coeur, the majestic Catholic church that is located there. Not only the church is beautiful, but the view of Paris from there is also breathtaking. Bars, cafés, restaurants, street vendors are also very charming and worth checking them out (yes, there are also a bunch of souvenir shops). 

A spot that I personally really enjoyed was the Biscuiterie de Montmatre. The store has lovely delicious French cookies (they are different from the American ones). You won't find chocolate chip cookies there, but instead buttery delicate cookies. It sort of reminds me of the cookies sold in American stores on those large metallic boxes, but believe me... better! They are moist, crunchy and very delicious.

More information on Biscuiterie de Montmatre:

Nov 13, 2010

Exploring Denfert-Rochereau

Each little neighborhood in Paris has its own personality and beauty. We visited and got to know well the area of Denfert-Rochereau, close by Montparnasse. 

In a nutshell, it was amazing to see how people that really live in Paris deal with their routine life. Yes, they do hang out at the cafés. Yes, they do have divine pastries. Yes, they do have African cuisine influences. 

I love the use of herbs and seasonings of the Moroccan cuisine, specially the kebabs, couscous and all the fresh salads. 

Nov 10, 2010

Le Bon Marche, Paris

You may already have noticed that I enjoy visiting a farmers' market and groceries stores. Once I heard that the best way to get to know a country is visiting those places and since then, I had adopted this strategy. 

In Paris, we visited small grocery stores, farmers' market and Le Bon Marché, considered one of the most famous Parisian department stores, they were founded in 1838.

The store offers many different products but the one I felt in love (of course!) was the grocery store section. They offer fresh produce, including unbelievable fruits and vegetables, large selection of seafood, coffee, tea and pre-prepared food. For instance, the water aisle has about 70 types of waters... amazing!

More info on Le Bon Marché:

Nov 8, 2010

Farmers Market, Rue Cler, 7th Arrondissement, Paris

Being in Paris, I wanted to experience a true French farmers market. Those with fresh beautiful vegetables and fruits, organic products (the fruits bio, in French) and homemade food. We found an amazing hidden one at Rue Cler at the 7th Arrondissement, located walking distance from the Eiffel Tower. 

While is close to a major touristic spot, it's still a hidden street where locals do their shopping on Tuesdays. There are fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts stands, with a great variety of fresh produce. With a large variety and sources, the honey shop is a must. 

I also love the cantaloupe packaging: protective, individual and has a personal flair. It even made the melons more appealing to me. :)

Nov 5, 2010

Voilà Paris!!

We finally made to Paris! For me, it's hard to think of enough time to stay and get to know all Paris has to offer, specially regarding food and culture. We loved the way the live, relate to each other and see life. The way of living is so beautiful, poetic and they do have their own pace (I didn't want to be there with all the protests and threats that have been going on lately).

I think my largest remark is the one of the largest differences between American and French culture: "the first live to work" and the latest "work to live". As a great friend living in Paris told me: a lot of Parisians live without having much nor working too hard, but they live as if they owned the world and had all the time to do it. And simple as that (of course, it's not a rule, just a bold stereotype), it helps us understand a little bit what goes on their minds and why things are the way they are. 

Paris, for me, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one of the most romantic indeed. (What do you think?) We expected people to treat tourists bad (as some people had warned me), but quite the opposite happened. They were courteous and friendly in stores and on the streets. One of them even guided us to reach the place we wanted to go and on the way chatted with us!

Nov 2, 2010

Agua Restaurant, Playa de Barceloneta, Barcelona

I don't know why but I wanted to have a paella while in Barcelona. I know the Spanish and Catalunyan cuisine are a lot more than that, but my own curiosity led me to keep trying to have THE paella. My dear "Barcelonan" friend recommended a great spot by the Barceloneta beach. She said the beach itself was not that worth it, but I had to stop by Água for a paella

We arrived there for a Sunday late brunch. The place was filled with families in large tables, which is a very dear image for me, remind me of the great Sunday family lunches we have in Brazil. Yes, I did have a seafood dish (not properly named paella for some reason) and it was very delicious and well prepared. Even though the place is located in a touristy area, the restaurant itself was not like that at all. Instead, it was mostly filled with locals. 

We also tried a carpaccio and an interesting-different version of patatas bravas, the sauce there was darker, less tomato, but equally delicious. Make sure you pair your meal with a good Spanish wine! 

More info on Água Restaurante: