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A Week in Mallorca

21 Aug

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Following a whirlwind two months in New York City, I headed to the Spanish island of Mallorca for a week-long family getaway. We stayed in Deía, a quaint village located about 30 minutes from the capital of Palma. After being immersed in the constant hubbub of Manhattan, it felt surreal to stroll through quiet cobblestone streets, breathing in the crisp mountain air and admiring beautiful details we so often overlook during our daily lives. I had nothing on my agenda other than hiking, swimming, and reading the chapter books I had neglected all summer.

Despite its small size, Mallorca is a pretty miraculous place from an agricultural perspective. The island produces almost all of its food stuffs locally, fruits and vegetables flourishing in the mild Mediterranean climate. While farm-to-table eating has recently become popular in the United States, it is not a trend in Mallorca, but a way of life. Every day, I drank pulpy orange juice from nearby groves, enjoyed freshly-caught fish dressed with lemon juice and Mallorcan olive oil, and snacked on succulent figs and roasted Marcona almonds picked from trees on our hotel’s property. Not only was the vacation incredibly relaxing, but I left the island inspired by its elegantly simple cuisine. The olive oil, sea salt, and orange marmalade I brought home are all I need to create delicious meals centered around summer’s bountiful produce. I hope you all enjoy a few snapshots from my trip!

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Freshly squeezed orange juice and zingy orange marmalade.

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We hiked three hours from Deía to the nearby town of Sóller.

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Beach at the Port of Sóller.

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48 Hours in San Francisco

12 Apr

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Traveling to San Francisco feels like revisiting a childhood home. I see my favorite nooks in the house and relive wonderful memories, but I also observe details that I  overlooked before. My parents brought me to San Francisco five years ago, and from the moment I set foot on Market Street, I felt the city’s dynamic and creative energy. I immediately fell in love with the charming architecture, eclectic shops and art galleries, and the incredible culinary scene.

This past weekend, my family and I returned to our usual spots while also exploring unfamiliar areas such as Pacific Heights and North Beach. All of our meals were outstanding; I have shared a glimpse into my foodie adventures here.

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We began Friday morning with breakfast at The Mill, a bustling cafe and bakery located in a quaint neighborhood. The Mill has gained national recognition for its “hipster toast,” thick slices of freshly-baked bread, toasted until golden and crusty, then slathered with a variety of house-made spreads. Every component of this toast is outstanding, elevating a staple item into something note-worthy. I particularly enjoyed the country bread topped with butter, honey, flecks of rosemary, and a sprinkling of sea salt. With high ceilings and airy table seating, The Mill provides a comfortable environment to work or to just chat with friends.

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For lunch, we headed to The Slanted Door, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant located inside the Ferry Building. Eating here has become a treasured family tradition that I look forward to every year.

I appreciate The Slanted Door’s modern approach to classic Vietnamese cuisine, crafting fresh, boldly-flavored dishes. Think raw California yellowtail garnished with crispy shallots, thai basil, and tangy lime juice. The caramelized claypot catfish, silky fish filets surrounded by sweet sliced onions, ginger, and cilantro, all encased in a luxurious sauce, may be one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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As much as we adore The Slanted Door, we have never eaten dessert there. The Ferry Building hosts an array of artisanal vendors, including small-batch chocolate makers, ice cream shops using local dairy, and a pristine French bakery named Miette.

Even if you do not have a sweet tooth, the bakery’s impeccable display of packaged candies, cookies, and confections will grab your attention. While you cannot go wrong with any of these products, I highly recommend sampling the acclaimed French macarons. Miette uses all-natural ingredients and refined flavors for its macarons; simple vanilla will always be my favorite.

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Spring blooms and San Francisco’s distinctive townhouses.

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Clockwise from left: chocolate kouign amann, blueberry-banana scone, raspberry-almond croissant, and original kouign amann.

On Saturday morning, we treated ourselves to coffee and pastries at the beautiful B. Patisserie in Pacific Heights. Belinda Leong, pastry chef and owner, contributed a kouign amann recipe to the April issue of Bon Appétit. After reading the story, I had to taste the flaky, buttery pastries in person. The rose-shaped creation contains more than one hundred layers of caramelized dough and a gooey, custard-like center. Other notable items include the raspberry-almond croissant and passion fruit brioche. I have always admired traditional French baking, but Leong’s innovative, expertly-executed take on the classics makes B. Patisserie a true standout.

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Vibrant spring flowers at Bi-Rite Market.

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After such an indulgent breakfast, we craved a light lunch. Greens Restaurant, a San Francisco institution, serves healthful vegetarian cuisine. While many meatless restaurants can be trendy and unsatisfying, Greens offers wholesome, approachable food. I loved my warm spinach and artichoke salad, topped with parmesan shavings, toasted pine nuts, and a perfectly poached egg. My sister’s cauliflower and feta cheese omelette was fluffy and moist, complemented by crispy roasted potatoes. Greens is an ideal venue for a laid-back meal with family.


Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo

31 May
Top: The Paris-NY is Dominique’s twist on a Paris-Brest, a traditional French pastry made with choux dough and filled with pastry cream. This variation pays tribute to an American candy bar with its peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate flavors. Below: Cloud-like lemon madeleine cookies that are baked-to-order.

Has a bakery ever blown you away? Have you ever tasted a dessert so masterfully executed, so perfectly delicious, that you intensely admire its creator? In my book, only an handful of pastry shops have achieved this level of excellence. Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City was one of these rare experiences. 

I first heard about Dominique Ansel through a fabulous show on Cooking Channel called Unique Sweets. Unique Sweets profiles notable sweet spots throughout the country, featuring mouth-watering video footage and interviews with innovative pastry chefs. When my family and I traveled to NYC over spring break, visiting this bakery was at the top of my to-do list. 

We ordered a variety of items to sample, including pistachio, hazelnut, and chocolate macarons, chocolate chunk and chocolate-pecan cookies, a Paris-NY, 10 mini madeleines, and a cannelé. You cannot go wrong with any of these options, but my personal favorites were the Paris-NY, the chocolate chunk cookie, and the mini madeleines. 

The fact that each batch of madeleines bakes within minutes of arriving to your table shows incredible attention-to-detail and thoughtfulness. These petite French cakes, though seemingly simple, can be made several different ways with subtle textural and flavor nuances. Dominique’s are light as air, practically melting on your tongue. The chef’s chocolate chunk cookie, another ubiquitous classic, is crunchy on the outside and soft and melty on the inside, with notes of caramel from the brown sugar. 

ABC News – Cronut from ABC News Now on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago, Dominique made waves with his newest invention, a croissant-doughnut hybrid called the cronut. Layers of flaky croissant dough are deep fried, filled with Tahitian vanilla cream, rolled in rose sugar, and finished with a pale pink rose glaze. Dominique tried 10 different recipes before he found the one, and now people line up at 5 a.m. to get their hands on this unique pastry. 

Ansel inspires me with his ability to transform familiar baked goods into amazing works of art. His creativeness with flavor combinations and presentation are unmatched. Though Dominique has received much recognition for his work and is a James Beard Award Finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, he continues to push the boundaries. When I visited, I was surprised to see him working humbly behind the counter with the other employees. This dedication and passion for his craft makes Dominique Ansel a stand-out in the pastry world.  

Dominique Ansel Bakery 
189 Spring Street
New York, New York 
(212) 219 2773
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. 

Visiting Balthazar Bakery in Englewood, NJ

31 Mar

Some people get excited about shopping for vintage records and antique furniture at flea markets. Others love waking up at 6 a.m. for an early morning spin class. What gets me giddy is walking into a great bakery on a cool spring morning, inhaling the smell of freshly baked bread, and going home with a bag of pastries that are still barely warm from the oven.

I traveled to New York City last week to spend time with family, visit museums, and eat at amazing restaurants. Balthazar is one of my favorite bakeries in New York, offering carefully crafted, high-quality baked goods with a rustic Parisian influence. Balthazar’s little store in SoHo is always packed with people looking for a good cup of coffee and a quick pastry. While there is something undoubtedly charming about waiting in line at a cramped French bakery in one of NYC’s hippest neighborhoods, I visited Balthazar’s factory in Englewood, New Jersey (just half an hour outside Manhattan) to escape the hustle-bustle for a bit and observe bakers at work. 

From top: Charlotte aux Fruits with raspberry mouse and homemade ladyfingers, 
Chocolate-Almond Torte, and Lemon-Ricotta Torte. 
The Chocolate-Almond Torte was subtly sweet with a tender, nutty crumb. 

Balthazar is a wonderland for all things sweet. You walk in and you are immediately taken aback by the pastry case packed with beautiful products. Rustic loaves of handmade bread line the back wall, some speckled with oats, seeds, and nuts, some dusted with flour or cornmeal, each a distinct shape. Workers scurry about in the massive kitchen; it is fascinating to see them so engulfed in their different tasks, be it shaping dough or glazing danishes.

My family and I ordered more pastries than we could possibly consume in a single sitting. We laid everything out on our dining room table and sampled small pieces of almost every treat. Good dessert makes people smile, temporarily satisfying their sweet tooth. But only excellent dessert halts conversation as people savor and analyze each bite. That is exactly what happened to me. With every item I tried, I declared it my favorite and urged everyone at the table to experience it with me.

From top: Seasonal Vegetable Quiche and Mango-Passionfruit Tart. 

It is virtually impossible to go wrong with anything on Balthazar’s menu, but I have a few favorites that you must try. The Rhubarb and Sour Plum Crisp is filled with sweet, seasonal rhubarb preserves and plums and sprinkled with buttery crumble topping. The Chocolate-Almond Torte is light with a tender, nutty crumb. The Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookie is crisp on the outside and slightly soft on the inside. I have tried chocolate chip cookies from around the world in pursuit of “the one,” and Balthazar’s version ranks in the top of my list. You can always judge a bakery’s character from its take on this classic baked good. 

Balthazar Bakery 
214 South Dean St. 
Englewood, NJ 07631
(201) 503 9717
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Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. 

Linzer Blitz Torte and a Bookstore for Foodies

24 Nov

Every home baker knows the agony of choosing the right recipe. You scour your cookbook collection, search the archives of your favorite blogs, and ponder back and forth until you’re thoroughly exhausted. I often wish for one trustworthy source where I can find simple, sophisticated desserts for every occasion. I found just the thing I was looking for last weekend at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. 

Hundreds of books about food and drink line the shelves of Omnivore Books in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood. I could spend an entire day in there, drooling over photos, fantasizing about restaurants and bakeries I want to visit, mentally marking all the recipes I want to make. There are vintage cookbooks with torn spines and retro covers, cookbooks in foreign languages, and cookbooks signed by chefs and bloggers. 

I went to Omnivore without a particular book in mind, but knew I wanted to purchase one as a souvenir. I asked an employee for a recommendation and she suggested Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich. Medrich, author of the highly acclaimed Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, filled this book with quick, effortlessly elegant recipes. After flipping through the first few pages, I knew this was the perfect book for me: a girl who loves to bake refined desserts but doesn’t have time to spend hours poring over the kitchen counter. 

Every item in this book appealed to me, but I chose two cold-weather options to bring to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration. One of them was this Linzer Blitz Torte made with a buttery, almond crust, layered with raspberry preserves, and spiced with fragrant ground cloves and cinnamon. This torte was easy to put together, delicious, and beautiful- one of the best baked goods I have ever made. You could replace the raspberry preserves with apricot, lemon, or fig jam; the dough would complement whichever fruit you prefer. I received rave reviews from everyone who tried it, and am thrilled that my pursuit for a go-to recipe source is over. If you are a Northern California native or in SF for a few days, definitely stop by at Omnivore Books. It is a quaint, charming shop chock full of wonderful foodie finds. 

Recipe courtesy of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

3/4 cup whole raw almonds or hazelnuts, or a combination 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground cloves 
11 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened 
1 large egg yolk 
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon 
Grated zest of 1/2 orange 
1/4 tsp pure almond extract 
2/3 cup raspberry or blackberry preserves 

1. Combine the almonds, flour, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in the food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Add the butter, egg yolk, grated lemon and orange zests, and almond extract and process until the dough comes together. Scrape the butter from the bottom of the processor to help distribute evenly. 
2. Measure 1/4 cup of the dough and shape it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Grease the sides of a 9 x 2″ cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Press the remaining dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 
3. To bake the torte, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the preserves evenly over the dough, leaving a scant 1/2-inch border all around. Using the largest holes of a grater, grate the chilled reserved dough over the jam (or cut the dough into matchsticks and scatter them over the jam). 
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Tent the torte loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, until it is a deep golden brown. 
5. Cool the torte in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides to release the torte. Let it cool completely. Invert the torte onto a plate and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, if desired. 

Omnivore Books On Food 
3885 Cesar Chavez St. 
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 282 4712 
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Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m.