Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday in Paris, Part 2

This is the continued recap of our first Sunday in Paris, a day when most shops and restaurants are closed but some neighborhoods, like Le Marais, remain open.  Catch up on Part 1 of our day to read about the other stops we made along our foodie afternoon walk.    

Pierre Hermé Macaron Yogurt Lime Paris 2014
Pierre Hermé: Yogurt & Lime Macaron
We continued our walk around Le Marais and found ourselves at Pierre Hermé. They were celebrating Macaron Day (March 20) and customers got a free macaron with a donation of spare change. We selected 4 macarons to try out: yogurt/lime, chocolate/fig/foie gras, fresh mint/red berries, and pistachio/strawberry. I first tried Pierre Hermé macarons in Tokyo and then again when my parents brought a box back from their Paris trip. I loved how among the typical flavors (pistachio, lemon, chocolate, salted caramel, etc.) there were also very unique flavors with atypical ingredients (foie gras, yogurt, truffle, etc.) that seemed to change throughout the years. People often say there are two camps of Parisian macaron eaters: Pierre Hermé or Ladurée. I will expound further on this in a future post, but for now I'll say that of all the macarons I tried in Paris, the ones from Pierre Hermé are my favorite.

Our next stop at Rose Bakery was our original late lunch spot, but by the time we got there we were still full from our previous snacks. Rose Bakery is a British-themed cafe opened by a Franco-British couple. They're known for their quiches, salads, and baked goods, all of which are sourced from local and organic farms. We picked up an aubergine (aka eggplant) quiche and lemon polenta cake to save for dinner.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday in Paris, Part 1

Pasteis de Nata Portuguese egg tarts Comme à Lisbonne Paris
Comme à Lisbonne: Freshly baked pasteis de nata
I've been wanting to recap and share some of our Paris highlights but I've been stuck on how to best organize all the information and eats we had. Do I share our daily walking tours or compare similar food items we had throughout the trip? I may end up doing a bit of both, but for now I will share about what we did our first Sunday in Paris.

On Sunday, the majority of shops, grocery markets, and restaurants are closed in Paris. This may be unwelcome news for those visiting Paris for only a few days. Thankfully, a few neighborhoods remain open including the lively Le Marais district, which spreads across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the Right Bank of the Seine River. You'll still find some shops closed here, but the majority of them will be open catering to the crowds of locals and tourists. It was neat walking around the narrow streets, seeing locals walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers.

A quick disclaimer before we start: my main interests when I travel are eating and walking. I don't mind walking instead of taking the metro and I often walk so I can eat more. It's a happy balance.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farewell and Bonjour!

no fog great view flying out of San Francisco SFO
Flying out of SFO - a pretty cool sight when there's no fog!
Our flight to Paris was overbooked, as United Airline flights are notoriously known for.  When we checked in online, we selected that we'd be willing to volunteer our seats if necessary.  We were somewhat flexible with our schedule and open to a delay, depending on the terms and compensation.  At the airport counter when we checked our bags, we asked further about it and the staff didn't know anything but said the gate counter would probably make an announcement if seats were needed.  While waiting at the gate, we saw a list of standby passengers, but no announcements were ever made.  We figured they didn't need volunteers or there must have been people who volunteered before us so we proceeded to board the plane.

After we settled into our seats, a United representative walked down the aisle looking for two volunteers to give up their seats, offering 1 night free accommodations and a $200 travel voucher per person.  As we considered whether it was worth the trouble, one person had already volunteered.  Ten minutes later, the United rep comes around again looking for one more volunteer.  It was a hard sell for all of us eager to get to Paris.  He raised his offer to a $300 travel voucher and the promise of a better seat - still no response.  Then he offered a $400 travel voucher.  This was getting interesting!  I felt my heart rate increase as we raised our hands and asked if he would take two volunteers at that offer.  He gave us an unsure look, asked through his radio, and signaled that he'd get back to us.  A few minutes later he came up our aisle and asked if we had checked in baggage (we did) and told us he needed someone without checked bags.  Oh well, I guess we were back on track to go to Paris that day, which is not such a bad thing either.  It was quite a rush those few minutes as we considered something spontaneous and plan-altering!

Anyway, our flight ended up being delayed 2.5 hours with all the passengers sitting on the plane, waiting for a crew member issue.  During those hours I wish we had taken the first offer to give up our seats.  But it wasn't all too miserable.  After the first 1.5 hours, the crew gave us emergency snacks (Biscoff cookies).  When we finally made it off the ground they offered free beer and wine with our in-flight meal.  Even more, they sent an email for passengers to claim extra bonus miles or a $100 e-certificate as a customer appreciation.  Plus, it's hard to be upset when you're on your way to Paris, late or not.

Plane view french countryside france
Hello France! You're so green!
A few lessons learned that day:

  1. If you know your flight is overbooked and you want a chance to volunteer your seat, don't check in luggage.
  2. Flying out of SFO in the daytime when there's no fog is not only rare, but also a beautiful sight.
Have you ever volunteered your seat on an overbooked flight?  What kind of compensation did you get?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poke bar @ Bay Area Costco

Poke bar bay area california costco
Poke spotted at Costco in California!!
Imagine my surprise as I walked into a Bay Area Costco this week and saw a poke bar!  Usually found only in Hawaii, they carried all the same varieties of wasabi, shoyu, and spicy ahi poke - albeit at slightly higher prices.  The Costco employee didn't know if it would be a permanent counter but said it was there for at least this week.  Maybe they are doing a test run to see if it's popular enough to keep around.  I had to try it, even if just for the novelty of seeing the poke bar in California.  I got the Wasabi Poke at $17.99/lb and it was good but could have had a stronger wasabi flavor.  There was a 1/2 lb minimum purchase so I ended up eating all of it for lunch since I had other errands afterwards.  Given the warm weather lately it wouldn't have made it home anyway, right? ;)

As an avid Costco lover, one of the highlights of my trip to Hawaii a few years ago was visiting Costco.  We love visiting Costco when we travel, even within California, just to see the different, local products they may carry.  We've found beer from local breweries, new snacks, and even different food court items.  In Hawaii, one locally made product we tried was a tray of fresh mochi with different flavors ranging from green tea to blueberry to peanut better and jelly.  The mochi was so soft and pillowy!

costco hawaii honolulu poke mochi
Costco Hawaii, 2010: Poke bar and fresh mochi
The other notable Costco item was the poke bar - different varieties of freshly made poke sold by weight. Poke is a raw seafood salad typically made with tuna sashimi marinated with things like soy sauce, sesame seeds, furikake, and wasabi.  It's a common appetizer found throughout Hawaii and something I wouldn't mind eating as a main meal mixed with some salad greens.

Has anyone else seen poke at their local Costco lately?
UPDATE:  Flown in from Oahu weekly. Available Tuesday-Sunday.
UPDATE 2: See more Costco locations where Hawaiian poke has been spotted!

Spotted at:
Costco Almaden
5301 Almaden Expy
San Jose, CA 95118

Reportedly at the following Bay Area locations as well:

Costco Redwood City
2300 Middlefield Rd
Redwood City, CA 94063

Costco Downtown San Francisco
450 10th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Costco Concord
2400 Monument Blvd
Concord, CA 94520

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Dried Cherries

breakfast pancakes with cottage cheese and dried cherries
Fluffy and moist cottage cheese pancakes
I was looking for a new recipe to add to the rotation of single-serving, freezable breakfast items I stock away for our weekdays.  I had been craving pancakes for a while so it seemed like a good time to try this recipe.  I added in dried cherries and it gave a pleasant tart contrast to the rest of the pancake.  Two conclusions:
  • Pancakes take way too long to cook.  Especially when you can only fit one pancake at a time on your single nonstick pan.  I must've been standing there for 45 minutes cooking these.  By the time I was done, I had already eaten 4 of them while cooking and just proceeded to cleaning up.
  • I would make this again.  The cottage cheese adds a somewhat creamy component and the beaten egg whites add fluffiness when the pancakes are fresh out of the pan.  They deflate a bit if you let them cool, but they're still tasty.  I love that the cottage cheese is a good source of protein so hopefully 3-4 of these will keep us full enough through the morning.  I've frozen and re-toasted these in the toaster oven and they still taste good.  For those that dislike cottage cheese, it's noteworthy that the typical texture of cottage cheese is unnoticeable in pancake form.
Cottage Cheese Pancakes  
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk (I used 1% milk and it seemed to work fine)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cups chopped dried cherries, optional (or other dried fruit or nuts)
2 large egg whites

  1. Lightly butter, oil, or spray a nonstick skillet and preheat it over medium heat. If you are using an electric griddle, preheat it to 350F. Preheat the oven to 200F if you do not plan to serve the pancakes hot off the griddle.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cottage cheese, butter, egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. Try not to over-stir the batter. Stir in the dried fruit or nuts.
  4. Beat the two egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter. The batter will be thick and bubbly.
  5. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake, nudging the batter into a circle. These are thick and might take a little longer to cook than most other pancakes.  Cook until the top of each pancake is starting to dry around the edges and a few bubbles form.  Then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Keep in the 200F oven while you finish making the rest, but these pancakes are best served immediately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

World Peace Cookies

double chocolate shortbread sable cookies
World Peace Cookies
My favorite chocolate chip cookie comes from Dorie Greenspan, who originally got the recipe from Pierre Hermé.  Supposedly the cookie's name arose from Dorie's neighbor who commented that a daily dose of these cookies would be enough to ensure world peace.  The name stuck since then and I can attest that these cookies have brought much joy (and peace offerings) to those around me.
This cookie doesn't have the texture of your typical chewy or crunchy chocolate chip cookie.  It's actually almost like a shortbread, but kind of sandy as it crumbles and melts in your mouth with each bite.  It's important to know this as I've had a few friends wonder if they followed the recipe wrong when their cookies fell apart more than they expected.  It's also quite a buttery cookie but don't be scared off by the buttery footprints on your cookie sheet - it's totally worth it.

double chocolate chunk sable shortbread cookies
Look at all those chocolate chunks!
Reasons why I love this recipe:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York City Eats

central park nyc new york city bridge spring 2010
Central Park in NYC (Spring 2010, I forgot to take a picture this time!)
Last fall we were in New York City for my good friend's wedding. We stayed a few extra days to see some sights eat and it was certainly worthwhile. We had all the old favorites: Levain Bakery cookies, Shake Shack burgers, Sugar Sweet Sunshine banana pudding, Halal cart chicken and rice, Joe's Shanghai dumplings, Del Posto lunch, and Momofuku pork buns. We also hit up some new spots we hadn't been to before: Marea, Tabata Ramen, Yuji Ramen, Motorino Pizza, wd-50, Mamoun's Falafel, A.B. Biagi gelato, and Domnique Ansel bakery.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Olive Oil Flatbread Pizza

Flatbread pizza with brussel sprouts, prosciutto, and mozzarella
Flatbread pizza with brussels sprouts, prosciutto, and mozzarella
This pizza dinner was inspired by several factors: 1) we had just bought a bag of brussels sprouts from Costco, 2) on the same Costco trip I was craving cheese and charcuterie so we picked up mozzarella and a mix of salami, prosciutto, and coppa, and 3) we had recently returned from NYC where we ate a delicious brussels sprouts pizza at Motorino.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture from Motorino to show you for comparison (I was too engrossed in partaking in the deliciousness), but my memory tells me it must have looked pretty similar to the pizza we made.

Instead of adding sauce to the pizza, we just drizzled some olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.  I prepped the brussels sprouts the same way I do my oven roasted brussels sprouts, peeling off some individual leaves so they get nicely browned and become like veggie chips in the oven.  I actually roasted the brussels sprouts on their own first to make sure they were fully cooked and crispy.  I love flatbread and thin crust pizza for the extra crunch in the crust.  Plus, thin crust doesn't fill me up as quickly so I can eat more pieces!  I've tried this flatbread recipe several times lately and it's worked out well for pizzas, as an accompaniment to dips, or a snack on its own.  Keep in mind that it will not be a chewy, doughy pizza crust but more of a thick cracker.

Olive Oil Flatbread (and Pizza)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle rack.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl or mixer bowl.  
  3. Make a well in the center, then add water and oil.  With a wooden spoon or dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients on low until a dough forms.  Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and keep the dough together.  Knead dough on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.  
  4. Divide dough into 3 pieces.  Working with one piece at a time while keeping the remaining dough covered, roll out dough on a sheet of parchment paper into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  
  5. Lightly brush top with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  If making pizza, add your pizza ingredients at this time.   
  6. Slide the parchment paper with the flatbread onto the preheated pizza stone or baking sheet.  Bake until pale golden and browned in spots and pizza cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.  While each flatbread is baking, work on rolling out the dough for your next flatbread or pizza on a new sheet of parchment paper. 
  7. Remove finished flatbread from the oven by sliding out the parchment paper and keeping the pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven for the next batch.  Let flatbread or pizza cool on a rack for a few minutes before slicing and eating.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stone Fruit Galettes

Last summer our neighbors gave us a bag of plums and peaches from their backyard.  I wish we had something to exchange with them in return, but our poor fruit trees have been barren for many years.  In the peak years, we actually had some pretty tasty asian pears and white peaches, but they were often smaller than tennis balls.  Thus, I'm thankful to share in the bounty of others who have greener thumbs.

stone fruit plum galette
Plum galette with a flaky crust
I'd always read about galettes and was drawn to their rustic nature and simplicity compared to a formal pie. I found them relatively easy to make and impressive-looking despite the imperfections.  It's probably one of the few desserts that actually embraces imperfections!  I'm usually deterred from making crusts from scratch just because working with butter can get so sticky, messy, and bothersome to clean up after.  I'm hoping that the more I try it out the less bothersome it'll become.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hello, again!

I've unintentionally taken a hiatus from this blog for nearly a year now.  A lot has happened in that past year, but in all honesty it has been pure laziness and distraction that has kept me from new posts.  Life distracts me somewhere between cooking, snapping pictures, transferring pictures to the computer, and coming up with something interesting to write.  Some highlights from the past year:
  • Job searching.  Since moving to the Bay Area a little over a year ago I have been searching for a new job.  It's been quite an emotional and mental roller coaster, often overflowing into other areas of my life.
  • Becoming a homeowner!  The process towards our new condo was horrendous but we are extremely grateful for our new place.
  • Taking far too much time to paint our dining table and chairs.
  • Discovering how much I love the Showtunes station on Pandora.
  • Taking new food adventures around the Bay Area.
  • Visiting NYC for a high school friend's wedding and food.
  • Visiting SoCal over Christmas time and eating our fill in Las Vegas, LA, OC, and SD.
  • Spending 9 glorious days in Paris!  Yes, it was all you'd expect it to be - simply amazing and full of deliciously baked breads and stinky cheeses. 
I'll elaborate on some of these highlights in future posts, but for now I leave you with some favorite memories from the past year.