My predictions

September 19, 2010 at 9:14 am (dessert, restaurants, washington dc)

Two and a half years ago, I posted about how they should have a pastry version of Top Chef.  The Top Chef folks have finally decided implement my idea.

I was also looking at an old post about cupcakes in DC.  Since we’re living here now, I wanted to refresh my memory about what I have already learned about the dessert scene here.  At the end of the post, I predicted that macarons would be the next “big thing.”  And I think I have been proven correct.


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More Parisian Yummies

April 28, 2009 at 8:47 am (dessert, food, moroccan, restaurants, review)

The best meal that we had in Paris was at Chez Omar, I think it’s in the 3rd Arrondissement.  I’m still not sure if you’re supposed to pronounce the ‘z’ in “Chez” cause “Omar” starts with a vowel.  Pronouncing French confuses me.  I’ve had very good tutors and I’m okay with the rules and the exceptions to the rules.  But I get frustrated when I learn that there are actually exceptions to the exceptions to the rules.  Back to Chez Omar – Moroccan.  We had an amazing chicken bastilla.  Any version of this dish (chicken, spices, flaky pastry, cinnamon and sugar) is always yummy, but the spices in this one were especially deep and rich and the pastry was especially light and crispy and fried.  I’m sorry that the photo is fuzzy.  I’m not apologizing to you, the person reading this, I’m apologizing to the delicious bastilla that doesn’t deserve to be photographed so terribly.


We also ordered an entree that came with couscous, a vegetable stew, and roasted chicken.  Then you can mix and match on your plate.  Simple, but very well done.


Back to the macarons, we got more macarons from Laduree to confirm that I like Laduree’s better.  But actually think I have to get some more from Pierre Herme as well.


So the reason why the Laduree vs. Pierre Herme debate is still unsettled for me is that part way through the comparison, I realized that I prefer macarons with creamy fillings over macarons with fruity fillings.  If I were just comparing the fillings by themselves, I would prefer fruity, but the fruity ones seem to make the cookie part too moist and soggy.  I actually got all fruity macarons from Pierre Herme, but I got a mix of fruity and creamy from Laduree, so everything is all mixed up.  Maybe I can do a better, more controlled comparison next time I’m in Paris – that depends on the scheduling of Mark’s current project.  We’ll see!  I hope he can come back to NYC soon, but I also hope that he stays in Paris!

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New York City vs. San Francisco Round 5: Egg puffs

November 29, 2008 at 6:26 pm (dessert, food, new york city, restaurants, review, san francisco)

I had a fun NYC adventure with sister Da, cousin Hehe, and He’s friend Shine.  We ate bread and spreads at Le Pain Quotidien.  Hehe’s funny – she couldn’t stop smiling while we were eating.  We also went to FAO Schwartz – ridiculously crowded on Thanksgiving weekend, but we weren’t in a hurry.  We stopped by an exhibit of can sculptures.  It’s to raise awareness and money about hunger and all the cans are donated in the end.  Here’s my favorite:


We finished the day by going to Chinatown to get dumplings – 4 or 5 for $1.  They weren’t the best dumplings ever, but for $1, how can you complain?


We also collected some rice pudding from Rice To Riches.  It’s like a gelato or yogurt place, but with rice pudding.  It’s pretty overpriced, good idea, and pretty good.  The best thing is the cute containers that they come in.


But on to the egg puffs.  We found an egg puff cart vendor in Chinatown.  $1 for a bag of puffs.  I can’t remember how much they were in SF at Genki crepes, but definitely more than that.  The egg puffs in SF had better texture, but the NYC cart puffs had better flavor – they had a bit of orange to them.  Plus, they’re $1.  From a cart on the street.  Despite the vastly superior texture of the SF puffs, I think this round still has to go to NYC.  I was smiling like Hehe by the end of the day.

NYC: 2
SF: 3

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I found the perfect cupcakes

October 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm (dessert, fruit, ice cream, new york city, restaurants, review)

Remember how I said that all the cupcake bakeries that I’ve tried don’t make ’em the way I like ’em?  Well, I’ve found a bakery that makes cupcakes pretty darn close to what I think is ideal… Dessert Club ChikaLicious.  Ignore the too-long and slightly annoying name.  They’ve got the right amount of frosting, right level of tenderness, right level of lightness, right intensity of flavor, and the right frosting texture – fluffy, but still smooth and rich.  They are slightly too sweet, but that’s really my only complaint.  And that’s a tricky one because if you decrease the sugar in cakes or frosting, it can adversely affect other things like the texture.

We tried the banana, mocha, red velvet, and the s’mores cupcakes.  The banana cupcake was outrageously yummy.  My banana-hating sister would really hate this one because the banana flavor is so intense and perfect.  I’m not a huge fan of red velvet cake, but this one was the best that I’ve ever had.  The other two, mocha and s’mores, were pretty tasty, but because they had a chocolate ganache filling, there wasn’t enough cake for me.

I heard about this place from Serious Eats: New York.  Here’s a series of photos that they took of DCC’s cupcakes.  Yummy looking, yes?

This cupcake discovery is not included in the whole NYC vs SF competition because, even though there are plenty of cupcake places in SF, I haven’t really tried very many of those.  But if it’s a NYC vs DC bout, NYC wins this round.  But so far, DC holds the gelato title.  That may change after I try some gelato around here, but the DC gelato was mind-blowingly amazing.  It’s going to be tough to surpass Dolcezza‘s gelato and their use of local/fresh/in-season ingredients.

In other news, I ate the best apple that I’ve had in a long time.  I think it was a Jonagold apple, but I’m not sure.  I grabbed a bunch of different varieties and put them into the same bag.  I wish there were a way for me to reduce the bags that I use and allow me to keep track of what type of apple is what.  I guess I could try harder with my memory…

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East Coast vs. West Coast Round 1 – Scallion pancakes

October 10, 2008 at 2:08 pm (food, new york city, restaurants, review)

I went to Evergreen Shanghai (menu), a restaurant in Murray Hill today.  It was just for a snack, so I got some xiao long bao and some scallion pancakes.  The xiao long bao were so so.  Skin was too thick, the filling had too much sesame oil, and the soup just wasn’t so great.  They were good.  But they were quite far from the best ones that I have had.

But the scallion pancakes!  I guess I’ve been on the West Coast for so long that I’ve forgotten how delicious the scallion pancakes of my childhood were.  The ones on the West Coast are more like crackers and they’re crispy.  And you don’t taste much scallion.  The ones that I had today were full of tasty (properly salted) scallions.  And so doughy!  Chewy and firm on the inside, but still tender.  And golden and crispy on the outside.  And when I bit into them, I had these flashes of the scallion pancakes of my childhood… like the critic in Ratatouille.  The scallion pancakes have said, welcome back!

EC: 1
WC: 0

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DC Gelato Discovery – Dolcezza

October 5, 2008 at 6:00 am (dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review, washington dc)

This is the best gelato that I’ve had in my life.  Dolcezza.  We went to the one in Georgetown, but apparently they have some other locations and are available at some of the local farmers’ markets.

The gelato is so smooth – it must be nano-sized particles in it.  It tastes rich, but not because it’s high in fat.  In fact, it doesn’t taste that fatty.  It’s the high intensity flavors and the smoothness, I think.  They appear to try to use local and in-season ingredients.  The fruit flavors were all bright and intense, and just like the fresh fruit, but more intense.  It was glorious gelato.

It’s quite expensive (approx $4.50 for a small cup), but I thought it was really worth it because it’s so much better than other gelato places that I’ve tried.

Mark had pineapple honey lime and mocha.  Odd combination but they were both very good.  I had white peach prosecco and concord grape.  Pow!  So flavored!  And so smooth!

Menu appears to change according to what raw ingredients are available.  They have “This week’s menu” on their website, but not all the flavors listed were available.

Here’s an image from another the Ethicurean:

And the associated article.

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Finally, a tasting event that didn’t leave me disappointed!

September 13, 2008 at 10:48 pm (dessert, food, recipes, restaurants, san francisco)

I often get lured into going to these tasting events.  Like Ghirardelli Square’s annual festival.  Or the chocolate festival.  There have been others.  I wind up thinking that I paid too much to enter and the things that I tasted weren’t worth the money.  I finally went to one that turned out to be as great as the tasting events of my imagination.

Last night, I went to an event by La Cocina, a SF organization to help low-income women start up food-related businesses.  Great goal – supporting people AND yumminess.  And they have a really cute logo – it’s a bird with a whisk in its beak.  It was a $5 donation to enter.  And we got to taste lots of yummy food.  The highlights included:

  • a really tasty tamal from El Buen Comer – the mole was really flavorful and chocolatey.  You can find them at the Noe Valley farmers market.
  • Embrace Sweets had nearly perfect brownies.  It was perfectly cakey and fudgey.  Chocolate flavor was pretty good.  Sweetness was slightly too sweet for me, but it was close.  Viva La Brownie!

  • Sabores del Sur!  They are the ones that make the delicious alfajores and they are the ones that gave me a cookie for free last week!  And they make delicious empanadas.  I had a veggie one.  The crust by itself is really flavorful – unusually so.  And the filling was pure yumminess.  They can be found at the Alemany farmers market.
  • Claire’s Squares – these are bars with a crust, caramel, and chocolate.  Quite yummy.  But they didn’t seem to want to sell any.  Christina waited for several minutes, money in hand, to buy stuff, but the woman at that table didn’t want to take her attention away from the really chatty man talking to her.  But they are still really delicious treats.

  • CMB Sweets has really yummy jams and preserves with really interesting flavors.  I got one small jar of kiwi-lime-ginger, and one small jar of pomegranate.  I love the small jars of jam… they are perfect for me!
  • They had wine and a couple of different punches.  The wine that I tried was a Malbec, which was the first one of this variety that I’ve tasted.  It went really well with the spicy foods.  One of the punches was spectacular and ingenious.  It was chai (specifically, Morning Glory Chai), vodka, simple syrup, and peppercorns.  Maybe there were other ingredients.  It was yummy.

Another thing that made this event so great was that everyone was friendly.  We were packed like sardines.  Or like the filling of an empanada or a tamal.  But everyone was smiling, joking with each other, and talking to each other to coordinate their movement.  There was one group of people who wanted to take a picture of themselves and stuck their arm out with camera in hand.  Some other person was looking at their camera LCD screen to help them to all fit in the screen.  They eventually realized that it was just easier to for the other guy to take the picture, but I like the sentiment.  All the people at the various tables were also really friendly and generous and helpful.  I don’t feel like we got scammed like with other events, so it makes me want to buy more stuff from these businesses.  And it definitely makes me want to spread the info about how delicious their stuff was.  The stuff was delicious.

On an unrelated note, I think that the thing I will miss most about San Francisco is how the city collects compost.  What will I do with all my food scraps and other compostable items?  It will kill me to have to toss them into the trash.  It already kills me when I have to do that at my parents’ house.  Maybe I can find a convenient place for me to drop compostable items off in New York City?

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Some quick reviews

August 2, 2008 at 11:37 am (books, dessert, education, food, ice cream, international, question, restaurants, review, san francisco)

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time – This guy, Greg Mortenson, is doing great things and building lots of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And doing it with sheer will and good-naturedness and open-mindedness.  I found this to be very inspiring.  It made me more confident that I am taking the best next step for my career.  The writing is a little clunky at times, but the story and lessons are still really good.  Here’s the link to Amazon.  On Amazon, they appear to have pages for this book title as well as the old rejected title… “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations… One School at a Time.”  The rejected title sounds like something Karl Rove would have chosen for the title.  It looks like the terrorism version is hardcover and the peace version is paperback.  Maybe Amazon thinks that people who buy hardcover books would prefer to see what Mortenson is doing as fighting terrorism and building nations while people who buy paperback books prefer to see this mission as promoting peace?

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey to Perfection – Sequel to The Making of a Chef.  Very interesting insights about cooking and chefhood.  The first section is about the certified master chef exam.  The second is about a chef from Cleveland, Michael Symon.  And the last section is about Thomas Keller and the French Laundry.  I’m finding the section on the French Laundry to be particularly interesting.  Hearing Thomas Keller explain his insights and thinking to the author really fits with how, not reading this philosophy beforehand, I responded to the French Laundry experience.  They really spent the time to balance the flavors and portion sizes, and they took great care and effort to get the most flavor and color out of every ingredient, and that really came through when the plates arrived at the table.  I talked about “magic” in my French Laundry reports, but it turns out that it’s not magic.  It’s chilling the vegetables before blanching and then chilling them right away.  It’s straining sauces 20 times so that they’re incredibly smooth.  It’s washing bones before roasting them for a stock.  One thing that really impressed me is that they realize that a lot of effort and sacrifice goes into the raw ingredients – both with meat and vegetables.  And fungi as well?  So because of that, they treat the ingredients with as much care and respect as possible.  And they are careful to use every last bit of every ingredient.  But then again, they do talk about how if something isn’t blanched right or isn’t chopped right, it has to be tossed.  So that’s a bit of a contradiction.  But I guess if you just always do it right the first time, then there’s no need to waste the food?

Range – This last one is a restaurant.  I was pretty impressed and if I weren’t moving to NYC soon, I’d probably go back.  There were some really good items that we ate, and there were some things that really made me say “wow.”  For example, it turns out that lime and chive are a really good combination and really made the goat cheese and sorrel stuffed ravioli with lime butter and chives appetizer really pop.  Other highlight dishes included the

  • puree of squash soup with sour cream and dill – This soup had a really nice kicky flavor.
  • roasted chicken with a broccoli rabe, toasted almond and sausage bread salad – different from Zuni’s version; equally good, but in different ways.  Zuni’s version has really tasty big pieces of bread.  And a few other ingredients, but it’s mostly bread.  Range’s had vegetables, lots of nuts, and sausage, so there was more variety for your bites.  And I liked the lemony-ness.  Chicken was impeccably done.  One thing that could have been improved was that the veggies in the salad were too salty.  But overall, I enjoyed the dish.  It also makes really yummy leftovers – I tossed my leftovers with some extra bread, tomatoes, and some of the dressing that I had made for my tomato bread salad and it was a spectacularly delicious lunch.
  • cornmeal crepes with blackberries and wildflower honey gelato – the cornmeal crepes were so delicately flavored and textured.  Really yummy.  I expected the wildflower honey gelato to be delicate as well, but it was more like “pow!”
  • bittersweet chocolate and armagnac souffle – Pretty perfectly done souffle.

I also tried one of their cocktails.  I had heard that they were supposed to be good.  And when we arrived in the restaurant, the air smelled like fresh citrus.  Figuring that the citrus smell was from all the drink preparation, I decided that since the air smelled so good, the drinks must be good too.  So I tried the sungold zinger which is 209 gin, sungold tomatoes, agave nectar, and lemon.  I love sungold tomatoes.  It turned out to be much more lemony (Meyer lemony) than sungold tomatoey.  So it was good, but it was not what I was expecting, so that was disappointing.  If you call it a sungold zinger and not a Meyer lemon zinger, I’m going to expect more sungold tomato flavor.

One last thing – I saw balut eggs being sold at the egg stand today.  If you don’t know what balut is and you want to find out, you’re going to have to do your own google or google image search.  I don’t want to put in links or images and then be responsible for grossing someone out.  But my question is if I buy balut eggs from the egg guy at the market, can I incubate it and get a duckling?

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The French Laundry Day: The Manifesto, Part IV

July 13, 2008 at 10:08 pm (bread, dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review)

Part I
Part II
Part III

I feel like now that I’ve already been so thorough and detailed, it would be really bad to stop.  Plus, there’s all this momentum!  So, I give you… what Mark and Ben ate…. more pictures, fewer words.



beet/salmon cornette

beet/salmon cornette


"PIMM'S CUP" - Cucumber Sorbet, Pimm's No. 1 Gelee, Borage Blossoms and Lemon Salt




COMPRESSED SUMMER MELONS - Nicoise Olive Crumbs, Jacobsen's Farm Arugula and Mint "Aigre-Doux"


"BOUILLON DE LEGUMES EN GELEE" - with Armando Manni "Per Mio Figlio" Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Garden Herbs and Blossoms

They got to try this special olive oil… so special that they only needed to add three drops of it.  Or so special that they could only spare three drops of it.  I forgot to ask Mark and Ben how the olive oil was.




"OMELETTE FARCIE AUX COURGETTES D'ETE" - Crispy Sea Beans, San Marzano Tomato Vinaigrette and Squash Blossom Salad

I wonder why some menu items have quotes and others don’t.


HAND-CUT SEMOLINA "ANELLINI" - Sweet Corn, Castelmagno Cheese, Lovage "Nuage" and Shaved Black Truffles

One of the best dishes of the whole evening.  If it weren’t so hard for me to chose a favorite, I’d think about which one dish was the best.  But it’s very likely that it was this dish.  It was magical.  It’s too bad that it was on the vegetable menu and not the chef’s menu.  Or it’s too bad that I didn’t get the vegetable menu.


CALIFORNIA CEPE MUSHROOMS - Ramp Top "Subric," Nantes Carrots, Pickled Ramp Bulbs and Dijon Mustard Emulsion


"BLANC BLEU DU RIZET" - Silverado Trail Strawberries, Celery Branch and Black Pepper Gastrique

These were the reddest and deepest strawberries that I’ve ever seen.  This is the blue cheese that had the blue cut off.  This cheese course was much better than the other one.

basil sorbet


Wow, what a plate!






"PARFAIT AU GINGEMBRE" - Shiso "Water," Ginger Pearls and Apricot Sherbet

The vegetable menu got a lot of extra goodies that were added at the table (olive oil drops, shaved truffles, poured Shiso “Water”).  I wonder if it’s because usually women get this menu and they think that women like the extra service touch.  ??  If so, they loose points for that.

creme brulee

creme brulee




macadamia nuts



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The French Laundry Day: The Manifesto, Part III

July 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm (bread, dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review)

Part I
Part II

Huei in The French Laundry's garden

Huei in The French Laundry's garden

Okay, now for Huei’s meal.  This is also from the Chef’s Tasting Menu, but she selected many of the alternative options.  To give you a sense of the flow of the meal, I am going to put up photos of the items that I’ve already discussed from my meal, that also were a part of Huei’s meal.



salmon cornette, but this is a photo of the beet cornette

salmon cornette, but this is a photo of the beet cornette

Maybe Mark or Huei or Christina can describe how the salmon cornette was?





fois gras

MOULARD DUCK "FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON" - Jacobsen's Farm Crab Apples, Heirloom Beets, Caraway Seed Streusel and Frisee


3 types of salt for foie gras

The foie gras was also served with brioche – that’s the pile of bread next to the salt in the top photo (sorry for the blurriness).  That was really good bread – a less rich bread would have been lost being eaten with that foie gras.  After she finished her first few slices, they were kind enough to “refresh” her bread.  And then she finished that too.  And she finished the whole meal.  My sister is amazing.

Okay, let’s talk about the salts.  The pink one is from Hawaii.  It had an immediate and sharp saltiness.  The white one is Jurassic salt from a mine in Wyoming.  This one was really salty as well – it’s had many years to become more concentrated?  The grey salt (sel gris) was my favorite.  The saltiness was much lower and you were able to taste other minerally flavors.  The Hawaiian and Jurassic salts were way too salty to really taste anything else going on. (Update: Huei says that I mixed up the Jurassic and Hawaiian salts.  I may have mixed up the names, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t mix up the flavors.)

alt fish

GULF COAST COBIA "CONFIT A LA MINUTE" - Glazed Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Red Radish and Young Ginger "Mousseline"

Here are the adorable vegetables that I was talking about in the first part of the manifesto.  The carrots (whole carrots!) are about 1.5 cm and the snow peas are 2-3 cm.  I tasted a bite – it was good, but not that interesting, once your amusement from the mini veggies wears off.  The tartare that I choose was a much better option.  Good job, Ranyee!





baby cow heart

"CONFIT DE COEUR DE VEAU" - French Laundry Garden Swiss Chard, Bing Cherries, Spring Onions and Dijon Mustard

I talked about some baby cows in my thesis seminar (to help explain enzymes).  And my sister really latched on to that.  I guess for her, that means that she wanted to eat some baby cow hearts.  She really enjoyed the dish.  I tried a bite – it was good, but maybe not worth feeling the whole ickiness that comes from realizing that you’re eating baby cow hearts.






white tea







pot, shortbread, macadamia nut

pot au creme, shortbread, chocolate-caramel macadamia nut

shortbread to go

shortbread to go

Okay, it’s time to take a stroll in the garden before we move on to the last five and a half hour meal, the Tasting of Vegetables.  (Update: Part IV is up!)

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