Friday, January 3, 2014

La Mason du Macaron, Sweet Occasions Bakery, and Mille Feuille Bakery

It's been a while!  This blog is from over a year ago! This is for my daughter's first birthday, she is now two....that's how long it's been...wowza!  Can't wait to get back in the grind.
I've still been tasting but, only my husband has heard my opinions on these spots...onto sharing my views with you all again!
Happy 2014!

I am actually doing a few reviews here!  This one will be for La Mason du Macaron and Mille Feulle (in Manhattan) as I have been to both many times and used both to help cater my daughter's Frist Birthday party!  The third will be for my daughter's cake supplier, Sweet Occasions Bakery (in Queens).
You ask why I went to multiple bakeries for her party well, read to find out!

Setting the tone for the party
My daughter's first birthday was THE event of the year!  My gorgeous girl was turning one and I wanted a theme that would be fun for adults (since really only a few children would be there) but something playful as it still was a little girl's birthday!

The theme was a French / Parisian brunch.  It started as a Parisian brunch but, I found just too many cute outfits that were more French Riviera chic than Parisian so, it evolved into a French themed brunch with strong Parisian undertones.  When I do a theme, I DO a theme!

We had a champagne bar with mimosas and bellinis, everyone wore French inspired outfits, a photobooth with Parisian mustaches, a french poodle, Chanel bag, a Laduree box, pearls and of course berets!

My favorite touch was the piñata...since my daughter is a little Latina, she needs a piñata so, we did it as French as possible though, what's more French than a Chanel bag piñata?!

Keeping with the theme, on her real birthday, which was the Wednesday before her Saturday party, we took her for her first treat, to Laduree. We saw Woody Allen on our way from Laduree, heading west to the park, he waved at our little angel.  I took a picture of him from behind.  I didn't want to be a total tourist and ask for a picture so, I figured the back of him and his wife was picture enough for the scrap book! haha

My daughter had a wonderful time at Laduree and was carrying her little bag to go as if it was a purse.  I got her a box of assorted flavors in the keepsake Hello Kitty box; adorable.

Onto her party....
Brunch: We had Parisian sandwiches, Croque Monsieur, two different kinds of quiche, Chocolate Croissant, Raspberry Almond Croissant and then a handfull of sides
All of this food was from Mille-Feuille.  This bakery is new-ish to NYC.  My husband and I frequented them from a few months after they opened and fell in love with their delcious, authentic food.  They've also recently knocked off Domonique Ansel, the originator of the cronut and invented somethign they call the French Donut.  It's delicious....will blog about this later.  :)

Cake and cupcakes: Sweet Occasions Bakery in Queens.
This place specializes in one thing and one thing only, Dominican cake! You then chose one filling.

We had Dominican cake and dominican cupcakes that were white with pink fondant bows with caramel filling!

This place is kind of impossible to feel like you actually have confirmation that you have a cake.  It's super laid back, you put your deposit down then see them the day of.  They always are late with your cake so, you better have a window before the party.  With that said, NO ONE does Dominican cake or cake in general better than Sweet Occasions!

Use my tips and book ahead, it's worth it.  An additional tip is to have someone who speaks Spanish book the cake order for you and send a picture.  My husband booked, no problem.  I emailed the picture and it came out exactly as I wanted.

For those of you who have never had dominican cake, it's like no other. It's sweet in it's own right, has a taste of it's own that I'd describe between almond and vanilla. It's dense and appropriately moist. The cake is not too wet because if it was, the frosting wouldn't be the perfect compliment that it is.

What can be done with the frosting is much different than regular butter cream.  They can do a lot with the fondant on the outside of the cake however, how the frosting can be manipulated is different.  Unless you have a fondant overlay (which is kind of tasteless, in my opinion so, I never opt for it), they can do quilting, other simple patterns on the cake with the Dominican frosting.  The frosting is almost whipped confectionary sugar, that's how I'd describe it.  It's sweet but melts in your mouth.  Every person who had tried her cake or her cupcakes said it was the best cake and totally different than anything they'd ever had before.  Cake experience of a lifetime...CHECK!

Macarons - Mason du Macaron
This macaron shop is on 23rd between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  It has a tiny storefront but goes deep inside and has comfy couches for seating.
The macarons are average, pricey for a dessert $2.50 each, no discount unless you order over 150!
The macaron flavors are incredible, fresh, seasonal flavors, and they are gorgeously colored and decorated to boot.
I have never had a macaron as perfect as these. 
The outside is crisp, the inside is appropriately textured (not jelly, not gummy, not frosting!).  Macarons are not cookies, cake or cupcakes.   I really don't like when people try to make macarons interesting flavors but make them un-macaron texture like.  (read a few of my other macaron posts for offenders, I'm talking about YOU macaron cafe!).  Mason du Macaron has flavors that are unique but taste as intended.  I won't kill this one too much because I know it's been a while but, we go all the time. They have the best chocolate almond croissants, macarons.  My favorite macarons are: pink champagne, apricot champagne, kir royale, grahm cracker key lime pie and caramel! 

Why so many different places you ask, well, each bakery can't specialize in everything...going back to the motto of my blog, I like to find the best of the best!

Note: The cut out cookies are from a bakery in Buffalo, where I'm originally from that my sister in law kindly handled like the fragile items they are and brought all the way from Buffalo to make sure everything was with theme and perfection!  They had their own seat on the car ride to Manhattan!

La Mason du Macaron
Sweet Occasions Bakery

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bosie Tea Parlor

With the addition of my baby, I enjoy relaxing even more now. I figured a tea parlor would be the perfect place to try a sweet, relax and sip some tea. This brought my husband and I to Boise Tea Parlor.

Nestled in the West Village, it brought back a flood of memories, my husband and I met 6+ years ago at a seedy bar not too far away from there. Who says you can’t meet good guys at a bar? I met mine not only at a bar but, at probably the dirtiest, smelliest bar in Manhattan.

Boise Tea Parlor is quaint, walls lined with tea tins, a cozy tea bar, and a beautiful dessert display case. We were allowed to have our pick of any tables in the parlor since we were essentially the only people there who weren’t collecting a paycheck. We chose a window table, always a prime location anywhere in the village where people watching is unparalleled.

The brunch we had was savory and I was looking forward to my sweet dessert. I chose the Ispahan. This is a rose macaron, sliced in half with rose buttercream filling, Lychee fruit pieces garnished around the outside with raspberries.

The first word that comes to mind when describing this is frrrrrresh (that’s me rolling my R’s). It was incredibly delicate, delicious, and fresh. It was perfect for an early summer day.

I love making a dessert out of a macaron. The macaron offers the perfect pallet for delicate flavors. I was pleasantly surprised by my love of the rose. I do think that rose is a flavor you love or hate however, it can be done well or it can be overpowering and even a lover can turn into a hater when done poorly. I also like the pureness of the ingredients. Sometimes, almond extract, instead of real almonds is used, and other additives. I like, as my husband would say, the real deal. If it’s not real, it’s over processed, and it is evident in the taste.

Why do the French eat croissants, bread, sweet and savory and still maintain a svelte shape? Freshness and non processed foods. Here in the US we’re use to strawberries, apples, oranges, everything year round. There are such things as “seasons” and “in season” fruit. Of course we can get apples covered in wax to preserve them year round but, the season is in fall, we’re just so use to instant gratification we expect the same in our food. I’d rather wait until fall and have a fresh apple than have one in February just because I can.  I saw this mostly in the jarred baby food (which I won't give my daughter).  I saw they had "organic pears" which an expiriation date of 2014, TWO YEARS from now.  Who cares if it wasn't grown with pesticides when there are probably far worse preservatives in there to keep pears "fresh" for two years. (side note to parents: they have organic, vaccume packed items, no preservatives, great alternative to jarred food if you aren't making the baby food yourself or were looking for an alternative :)

With all that said, the dessert at Bosie Tea parlor was amazing. I would go back just for the desserts. The atmosphere, the quality and taste were divine.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Simply delicious

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Macaron cafe - again, but not pregnant this time

An open letter to Macaron cafe....Published on the fourth day of July, 2012 - there's nothing more American than a good rant!

It is true....I had the worst macarons last night from your shop. I hadn't been there in a while, last time I blogged about you, I was pregnant. I again found myself walking by so, I figured I'd stop in and grab a macaron or two for the road and eat them for dessert after dinner.

It honestly isn't even worth doing a full blog about because I have not one nice thing to say about any of the four macarons I purchased. I just skimmed over my last blog from August 2011 about your shop and I apparently greatly disliked your macarons then as well...good to know it wasn't the pregnancy hormones at the time doing the talking!

I will say this, EVERY macaron shop can produce at least an edible caramel macaron. That's typically the default, if the rest suck, at least the caramel will be decent...well, not Macaron cafe. You did the unimaginable. Your caramel macaron was horrifying. It was hard, dry, the salt pieces were too big, I felt like I was consuming 5739302 mg of sodium, the caramel center was inedible, it was hard, thick, tasteless...actually, it did taste like something bland sugar.

To finish this "letter" I thought I'd share this link on the macaron - crimes and misdemeanors. Macaron cafe, take note, you committed 90% of these infractions.

Shape up or ship out, because momma's not coming back to spend $2.50/macaron at your untasty establishment.This is Manhattan, the best of the best food is all that survives here, if you want to go somewhere where people have underdeveloped taste buds and may eat subpar food, I suggest Jersey.

Thank you.

Kind regards,

PSAfter I drafted this, I showed my husband, here is our monologue:
Hubby, "Wow, that was harsh!"
Me, "Really, you think so?! I was annoyed, I wanted a sweet treat! It was my dessert and you know I love sweet treats."
Hubby, "Oh so, is that why you were annoyed with me last night?!"
Me, "Yes! it put me in a bad mood!" haha

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Overall Macaron 411 and Review of Bisous Ciao

For those of you unaware of this growing craze, “the macaron”, I’ll give you the 411.

I think I may have mentioned it before but, the macaron is the new cupcake in NYC. There are sudden macaron experts popping up all over and selling “macarons” as if they were Laduree.

Don’t let the title “macaron” fool you. I myself, had no idea several years ago what a macaron was…I thought it was one of those coconut cookies sometimes dipped in chocolate also called a macaroon (two o’s!), not to be confused with the OG – macaron. Since I’m as American as a big gulp, I thought the North American macaroon was THE ONLY macaroon. Then, I had a friend give me real macarons, they were delicious. Then, I went to Paris and had Laduree, then, I fell into the macaron trap and started to try them at every Patisserie I went to.

This brings me to about 2 years later and blogging about more macarons.

I printed out a list of “best macarons in NYC” and slowly I’ll hit all shops on the list (even more slowly now since I’m carrying an extra 16 lbs….not in body weight/extra chub my friends, but in the form of an 8 month old ). I get around a little less frequently to places that don’t end in “R US” or “Baby”. I digress, my macaron conquest has brought me to a variety of places (and with a dotted line back to the baby…always a dotted line back to my princess), I’m in search of the perfect macaron, as one of the desserts at her first birthday party. It will be a brunch theme, very girly, very chic, but also appropriate for adults (mimosas!) and to complete a picturesque dessert table, gorgeous, delicious tasting macarons will be a must.

Definition of a macaron: A macaron (French pronunciation: [makaˈʁɔ̃])[1][2] is a sweet meringue-based confectionery made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. The macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. Its name is derived from the Italian word maccarone or maccherone.

The confectionery is characterized by its smooth, domed top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the "foot"), and flat base. It is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth.[3]

I love this definition, it truly epitomizes what a macaron should taste like and I love: it is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth….yum! Mouth watering already.

Let’s get those whistles wet and dive into my review of:
Bisous Ciao

While we were out and about in SoHo, we ventured a little East and found ourselves on Stanton and passing this macaron-ery. The first thing that caught my eye was how chic the storefront looked so, we popped in.

The macarons themselves (we sample nutella, espresso and salted caramel), we pretty delicious. They were appropriate, no air bubbles in the macaron, the filling wasn’t too sweet or too jam-like, they were smooth, hard shelled, semi gummy and tasted as they should. Nutella tasted like nutella, espresso tasted like espresso and the salted caramel was a tad more salty than sweet.

These macarons were beautiful, the place releases “seasonal” macarons but, not by flavor, it’s almost by color, as if releasing their Summer ’12 line like a retailer, which to me, I love since I work in fashion but, it doesn’t change their taste. I think this macaron shop is great if you want macaron favors or something aesthetically pleasing and are going for the WOW factor visually but not necessarily for taste.

Would I macaron here again, sure, would I go out of my way to make a stop here, no.

They’re gorgeous but, they’re not any different than any other macaron. And to be honest, I’m not sure what would be different or if different is even good in a macaron. I look for freshness in any baked good. These are of course fresh but, they also had what bothers me about Macaron café, flavors that should potentially not be macarons.

I get that guava pistachio apple tea leaf may be a super trendy flavor at the moment (I made that up), but, it doesn’t mean it should be a flavor of everything or belong in a macaron which is delicate, not meant to be savory. I know they have come out with all sorts of cupcakes by now after years of cupcake being king. There are bacon maple cupcakes, there are pistachio ham cupcakes but, a macaron can’t fall too deep into a trend, they’re meant to be fresh, a sweet snack accompanying something classy like tea. They belong at baby showers, weddings, almost so perfect they’re a decoration of their own. I hope that with all of these “fad macaron shops” opening up, (I’m dubbing that phrase as a place that opened a macaron shop because it’s the next trend, the next cupcake shop), they don’t cupcake-a-fy them and there are all sorts of crazy sized macarons (a 7” macaron anyone?! Like Crumbs cupcakes) or a BLT macaron?! I hope that most places stay classic and classy, like the macaron itself.
(I do like crazy cupcakes...I rarely get vanilla, chocolate or red velvet. I like tiramisu, blueberry, etc but a cupcake is a mini cake, it can be crazy!)

As a side note, the woman who waited on us took her job incredibly seriously, which I liked and found refreshing. You walk into any bakery sometimes and the 17 year old who’s after school job it is, throws the cupcakes in a bag and they’re all smooshed by the time you take the 2 during rush hour home. This woman took such care gently clamping the macaron with the tongs, making sure she didn’t press too hard to smoosh the macaron, placing it gently (5 minutes later) into the bag so it wouldn’t break and then arranging my 3 macarons in, what seemed to be the best color coordinated scheme within the bag, I really appreciated that! Go YOU, whoever waited on me, employee of the month!

Rating: 7 out of 10 – averagely delicious

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Maison du Chocolate….with a little City Bakery thrown in

Warning! Warning! Warning!

At a whopping $8.50 for a 4 oz cup, you can’t help but wonder, what am I getting?

At $8.50/4 oz., let’s do an experiment here; let’s translate this into prices like we would for gas since that’s something everyone gets, gas today in Manhattan (and I’m sure it’s cheaper elsewhere) is $4/gallon. This hot chocolate translates to $280/gallon…damn! Makes your gas/gallon not look so steep now right? Good thing we don't fuel our vehicles (not that I ever fuel any vehicles, I swipe my little MetroCard and take the Subway) with hot chocolate right?!

The hot chocolate is beautifully presented with fresh whipped cream on the side and lightly dusted with chocolate powder and little crisp balls but, the presentation doesn’t take away from the sticker shock. While most pure hot chocolate competitors (ie The City Bakery, Max Brenner) offer 4-5 oz for around $5, this is almost 100% more than those while still being the same size.

The choices you are offered are milk chocolate or dark. Since they were out of dark chocolate, we had to try the milk chocolate. It actually tasted dark, I couldn’t imagine how rich and bitter the dark would have been.

I like how the offer free samples when you come into Maison du Chocolate. Not Costco style where it’s a free for all; they offer you a sample, on a platter, provide you choices and then give you a decent sized (probably $5 sized) sample of their chocolates. They do not offer you samples of truffles unless you have made a large purchase, which I witnessed first hand. They keep that tray under the counter and offer only after you’ve purchased at least $50 worth of chocolates. When the tray came out and a man buying a hot chocolate asked what those are, they said it was for truffle purchases only to sample which ones you wanted. This is understandable as their truffles start at $7 (each).

The hot chocolate was very delicious. I’d definitely splurge occasionally and if I’m in the neighborhood perhaps get a cup but, to be honest, it wasn’t worth ever going out of my way for (like I do for Max Brenner hot chocolate). It was definitely better than The City Bakery but, I almost feel that The City Bakery is the low end of high end hot chocolate (if that makes any sense). By high end hot chocolate I mean pure chocolate and milk, not the powder mixes (even if it’s a chocolate or bakery places own made powder they mix with milk, like Tribeca Treats does, it’s just not the same, it still tastes like packaged hot chocolate).
The City Bakery is an NYC staple known for their hot chocolate and pretzel croissants (yum yum) but, it’s not the best hot chocolate. It’s just the first (sort of like Sprinkles cupcakes too…not the only cupcake shop in town anymore but it was the first).
Relating this to my experience in my field, which is clothing/textiles, Levi’s was always know for their jeans; Gap in fact, when they started sold Levi’s in their stores. Let’s talk about Guess?, they were THE 80’s/90’s staple to every fashionistas wardrobe for denim however, who shops at Guess exclusively for their jeans now a days? What about Jordache? I think Jordache is only sold at Walmart now when, at a time, they were THE JEAN also. This is not to say that they still aren’t great jeans, they’re just not “THE jean” anymore. Same with The City Bakery. It’s not bad hot chocolate, it’s across the street from my work, I enjoy my little shot every now and then but, it’s not the best. Old and OG (aka original aka original gangsta) is not always best, sad to say but true.

Moving on to chocolates in general since this is Maison du CHOCOLATE, I also don’t know how much I fancy chains in the chocolate business. Even if it’s high quality, and being a chain guarantees repeatability, it certainly doesn’t translate to being “couture” as they try to claim. Once a chocolate reaches an airport duty free (not that Maison du Chocolate has, I’m talking more Godiva and the likes) it really loses its appeal, quality (preservatives anyone) and just simply the specialness of it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10Delicious, rich, creamy, beautifully presented, fresh (made on spot) but, wouldn’t go out of my way to go back

Monday, March 12, 2012

Laduree NYC

Ok, so, I’m going to come out and say it. Laduree induces labor and gets people pregnant!
While in Paris, I loaded up daily on Laduree and since my first thought was, you can get everything in America…except THIS! I bought a beautiful “to go” box of macaroons for the road (plane). I ate them when I got home and savored every bite and….38.5 weeks later I had a baby!

Fast forward 38.5 weeks, Laduree is open in NYC. I take my 9 month pregnant self to stand in line (yes, there was a line and no, I wouldn’t have waited if I wasn’t craving it). I honestly thought someone would let me skip in front of them since I was pregnant but, no luck! New Yorkers will give up their seats on the subway and even at crowded 34th street, they will jump out of your way like you’re pointing a gun at them but, they apparently won’t let you skip in line at Laduree when you have a pregnant belly.

The entire time we were waiting in line, I complained how they didn’t have a bathroom (I had to pee…obviously) and how they didn’t have a café like the ones in Paris. I think I called it a “bootleg pop up shop”…hormones!

I chatted it up with a woman in front of me (tourist from SF but I would have bet money she was from Long Island with they way she dressed). I half paid attention to her because I was staring at the eyeball sized diamonds on every single finger until she mentioned her love for the cafes in Paris. I perked up and we gossiped about how we couldn’t believe you can’t sit at this NYC location and how the Ladurees in Paris are so much better. When we finally got to the front of the line to order our macaroons and such, they guaranteed they were from Paris, they do not make the macaroons here (so they are supposed to taste exactly the same and only stay fresh for 3 days max due to shipping). I ordered two macaroons and a macaroon gelato. My husband and I went to Central Park a few Avenues over and enjoyed our treats there. It was nice. They did taste, for all intents and purposes, the same, delicious as ever! I was still disappointed that they didn’t have it in café form. I was looking forward to a macaroon dessert and tea, not just standing in line and then being directed by a door man (yes, a door man, not a chic one line in Paris, a doorman like club door man) out after my purchase. It took the special-ness out of Laduree. I hope they open a sit down café in NYC soon.

With that said, I love their macaroons, as I said before, nothing compares. It’s so fresh tasting, fresh ingredients, crisp shell and gooey (but not overly) center; just perfection.

Getting back to how they impregnate and induce labor, not even 12 short hours after consuming my macaroons, I started having contractions. Coincidence? You be the judge!
Too bad the labor and delivery weren’t as easy as enjoying a Laduree macaroon! Haha

My wonderful husband surprised me on the day we found out I was pregnant (anniversary of, it was a year from the day we found out...a day we now dub National Baby P day) with a box of Laduree macaroons.
I questioned him, is he looking to have baby #2 or just knows my love for Laduree? :)

Getting to the review of the actual macaroons, they're all incredible. They have fresh ingredients, the rose tastes like fresh roses, the caramel tastes like caramel. Texture is perfection. Whatever you order tastes the purest and freshest of that ingredient. These are truly made as they were 100 years ago, no added sugar, preservatives, anything that muddies up the integrity and taste.

It's impossible to give this anything less than a 9.5 out of 10!
I do have preferences on the macaroons though. Again, although all are delicious, my pallet prefers certain flavors which are: Raspberry, Salted Caramel, Rose Petal, Coconut

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tribeca Treats

Tribeca Treats has long been on my hit list for cupcakes.

Upon walking into this chic downtown treat center, I noticed that it was set up like a boutique. You walk in, there are items for purchase (not food related such as trinkets), very clean, modern, chic, not too much clutter. The refrigerated treats are displayed beautifully in the case and well organized.

Walking up to the counter, you see a fairly small (for the size of the shop) case containing cupcakes, clear cookie jars lining the counter top and the cash register. Very streamlined.

Cupcakes are $2, which is a very fair price in the 2000's, this decade of designer desserts and they are normal sized. I was pleased, no giant cupcakes I have to cut into fours just to try to eat it.

The cupcakes in the case appear plain, regular variety cupcakes: chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, mundane. I don't mind a regular cupcake but, if it's plain, old fashioned, it better be the best. I wasn't in the mood for anything ordinary so, I asked the employee what an interesting cupcake was and she said fluffernutter. I was sold.

The cashier gave me my cupcake in a bag. I know it's a super NYC thing to do, give people everything in a bag: your coffee in the morning (because carrying a bag of hot liquid is easier than carrying a cup?), your bagel and schmeer, but, a cupcake with icing in a small bag? I carried that thing as if I were carting toxic waste, being careful not to tip the bag, jar it in any way or stumble ruining the frosting.

Cupcake Review:The base cake, which is vanilla, tastes a bit like angel food cake, it's not incredibly moist though and a little dense so, maybe over done angel food cake would be a better descriptor. The cupcake paper was a bit hard to get off, it seemed a little over baked.

The frosting itself tastes just like marshmallow, it's whipped, no sugar crystals inside of the frosting like some other sweet shop and a small dollop of creamy peanut butter on top of the frosting.

The cupcake, when tasted in totality, was delicious. I tasted each component separately, and each was good in it's own right then, since this was a normal sized cupcake (not American-sized, well maybe American sized from 1980), I was able to taste them all together as well.
I really enjoyed this cupcake.

My critiques would be the base cake being more moist, especially on the outside, it was a little crispy. It was as though it was baked at too high of a temperature because the very middle of the cupcake was the only moist portion. Alternatively, they could have injected a bit of peanut butter in the cake to also get that peanut butter taste somewhere besides the actual dollop of peanut butter on top of the frosting.

Overall, I did like this cupcake and would probably get it again.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Different - I've never had a fluffernutter cupcake before nor have I had real frosting that tasted like marshmallow. Points for creativity, unique taste and flavor.

Points off for it being a little dry and my best guess is, their other cupcakes probably aren't that great if they're dry like this and just plain chocolate or vanilla. Would like to go back and try the red velvet and other flavors such as s'mores.

PS apologies for the blurry, non-HD pics; I used my cell phone. What did you expect....I'm pregnant. Wait for my camera battery to charge while I looked at a cupcake for 10 had to be consumed immediately! :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Macaron Cafe NYC

Apologies for my hiatus on blogging...for those of you who don't know, I'm pregnant! As much of a joy as pregnancy is and I love every second of it, it has turned me into somewhat of a sweets mutant. What I use to enjoy, love and want everyday (sweets and desserts!) I have yet to have one craving for in my 7.5 months of pregnancy. Not to mention my complete aversion from food in general for 4 months due to "morning sickness"/ all day/all night/forever sickness.

As the pregnancy has progressed, I'm getting a bit of my sweet tooth back which is wonderful for me and my blog!

I do want to thank my unborn little one though for not having any intense sweet cravings everyday like I imagined I would; it has helped me not pack on the pounds. Before I got pregnant, I always imagined myself eating one of those giant sundaes meant for 7 people all by myself when I became pregnant and totally beasting out because I loved sweets and thought it would be times 10 when I was pregnant...well, along with everything else I thought about pregnancy, that was completely wrong as well.

My little taste buds and maybe my little bambina's taste buds were wanting something a tad sweet but not a cupcake (please do not even put anything with frosting in front of my face since I've become pregnant, I may vomit). So, I thought what better sweet treat than a macaron?

As I've expressed in my other posts, I'm OBSESSED with Laduree (opening in NYC soon, I kid you not, I have the article about it from Vogue (that's just how chic this place is, it's in Vogue) cut out, that's how excited I am...keep an open eye for me there all the time; I'll be the pregnant one salivating at the window). I was hoping to find my Laduree of NYC before Laduree gets here, you know, give me a lil fix before my spot is open. As you know, I've been to Bouchon but the only thing that got me there was the PB & J macaron, I needed more.

So, that brings me to my weekend adventure at Macaron Cafe around midtown east (59th and Madison location). I love the decor, it was very Parisian, the little decorations and their mascot were adorable. Ask anyone, especially my hubby, I'm a total sucker for how something is showcased and marketed. Like they say on Cupcake Wars, it's 50% taste, 50% presentation and I'm 100% on board with that!

The macarons looked beautiful, pleasantly displayed, I was eager to see how they were packaged, wrapped, showcased, and I wasn't disappointed.

I tried the two most "exotic" macarons they had left and the one (Violet Flower) they only had one left of. I would have liked to try other flavors but, they were pretty wiped out by 3pm when I got there, which also impressed me. How can they not be delicious if there's only 10 left in the whole place, 1 left of the Violet Flower, it has to be amazing right? (again, marketing, presentation, perception, aesthetics...I'm a sucker!)

The macarons I tried were the Orange and Violet Flower.

Well, although I'm a sucker for marketing, I do still have taste buds and aesthetic only gets you so far. I know I've had these macarons before and I don't remember them being horrible or really anything spectacular either but, I picked the two worst tasting macarons they had left.

If Robitussin came out with a macaron flavored cough syrup it would be exactly how my orange macaron tasted. It really had a "medicine" taste.

The consistency of the macaron was how it should have been, it was a semi hard shell, soft-ish on the inside but, oh the inside, let's talk about that. It had the worst "creme" I've ever tasted. I couldn't even finish my full macaron, and we know macarons are tiny. I did keep going back for nibbles so I could evaluate properly for the blog but, it was torture.

I was hoping for an orange cremesicle flavor and came out with an orange creme-suck-a-lot flavor.
Oh my first disappointment with a macaron in my life.

Rating: 2 out of 10

Violet Flower:
Sounds lovely right? It had a slight anise flavor which totally threw me for a loop. This one, I unfortunately told myself, "you can't leave this one also and not finish it" so, I tossed back the second half like I was desperate for it and I immediately regretted it. I had a slight lavender taste which would have been wonderful if it was more prevelent but, it was not. The best I can say to describe this was a light flavor at first and then a pungent after taste almost like eating too much licorice.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Overall rating for Macaron Cafe: 3 out of 10
Pricey ($2.25 PER macaron!)
I don't want to say they were tasteless because they sure packed a punch but, just not in a good way.
I'd go back though and try other flavors because I did love the setting so much, their website displays these perfect looking macarons and I do love macarons so, I'd like to see what else they have to offer (yep, maybe I'm more than 50% appearance!)

Keep your eye open for an update to this with better flavors!

Monday, May 23, 2011

LADUREE is coming to NYC

My favorite macaroon spot on the planet is coming to a store front near me! Laduree will open its doors in NYC this summer.

Stay tuned for a blog about their impeccable macaroons and macaroon incorporated desserts.

Food for thought...will it taste the same with our USDA certified eggs, sugar, NYC tap water?

There is something to be said for the longing to visit a city or country just to have something that is their specialty. I'm from Buffalo and do you think I would go to a bar in Miami and ask for chicken wings? NEVER! I stick to where they do it best, my hometown.

With everything becoming so global, will the OG Laduree lose its luster when I visit Paris or will the Madison Avenue version never tickle my fancy?

Nothing compares to the excitement I get from going to the original Laduree on Rue Royale, just around the corner from Chanel’s couture house and hoping to bump into Karl Lagerfeld. Can a storefront on Madison Avenue really compete with the history, atmosphere and aesthetics Laduree has had in Paris since 1862? We shall see…..

Let's just hope the fabulousness translates!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bouchon Bakery

In my attempt to find the Laduree of Manhattan, I found myself at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center.

To describe this place phonetically: ah – MAY – zing!

Although it’s like comparing apples to oranges, this is delicious just like my favorite place on Earth -Laduree in Paris. Laduree wouldn’t have a PB&J macaroon but it doesn’t make this PB&J macaroon any less delicious.

(Attached are a few pics of me at Laduree in Paris. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Laduree, they’re the O.G. of macaroons, Est 1862 and pretty much set the bar for the rest of the world for macaroons particularly. To give you an indicator, I went to 3 out of the 4 Paris, Laduree locations in the 5 days I was in Paris. I said to my husband, I’m passing on lunch and just eating at Laduree today (and 2 other days) check them out).

Although I don’t blog on anything outside of NYC currently, maybe I will…the purpose of my blog is to find the best of the best where I live and play…although Crystal can take a vacation right? So maybe my blog can too…thoughts? Crystal Blogging Abroad…I like!)

Since this blog isn’t just about cupcakes, macaroons or any one particular sweet, I sample three desserts while at Bouchon even though macaroons are their specialty, I like going outside of the box because it seems as though I’m almost always pleasantly surprised. Sampled today: Peanut Butter and Jelly macaroon (salivating just typing that), Raspberry Almond Croissant, and the Bouchon ho-ho.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Macaroon
I will say right away, this is one of the best things I’ve ever had in my life. Without sugar coating it (but, wouldn’t that have been interesting too) I couldn’t stop eating it. I typically sample/eat half and share with my husband. I’m slightly ashamed to say, I was half tempted to tell him it didn’t taste good and finish the whole thing without sharing. I was slightly nicer than that and left him with one last scrumptious bite….it was his lucky day!

The macaroon texture was perfection: crispy, flakey. The peanut butter was smooth, rich and creamy. Although in my everyday life, I prefer crunchy peanut butter, it would have been impossible to pair crunchy with the macaroon while maintaining its perfection.

There was a small bit of jelly in the very middle of the macaroon which was incredible. It was a little more solid than typical jelly resulting in absolute perfection with textures.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
I want to give it a 10 but, I just can’t!

Raspberry Almond Croissant
Although this is not a typical textured croissant, I’m not sure it could have been with all the fanciness it had going on.
Completely coated with almonds, filled with raspberry paste, a typical croissant, especially the perfect buttery, classic French style, may not have been sturdy enough for the overwhelming add-ons with this croissant.

To sum it up, crisp, flakey, moist, great flavor, interesting textures, different and delicious.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Too decedent to eat alone, but you want to!

The Bouchon Ho-Ho
And then it went downhill from there…
The reason I picked the ho-ho is because it reminded me of my grandmother. She was the tiniest, skinniest little lady but she loved her sweets. She would have a sweet after every meal. Throughout her years it varied what she’d eat to exhaustion then get sick of. The snack of choice for a while was a Little Debbie ho-ho. In honor of my gram and her love for the Little Debbie treat, I selected this ho-ho.

The outer shell of the ho-ho is pure dark chocolate and tastes fantastic.
Stick with me…it doesn’t get any better than that.
The next layer, of course, is the chocolate cake, followed by the whipped cream.
The whipped cream slightly redeems the lacking chocolate cake.

The chocolate cake is lack luster, dry, not rich in flavor. If the goal of this was to mimic the actual Little Debbie ho-ho with its packaged, dry, processed flavor…mission accomplished. 10!
However, I’m assuming that wasn’t the intention.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Ate as much as I needed to to accurately review and slid the rest to my husband who, I felt bad giving it to and warned him beforehand

Bouchon Bakery Overall Rating:
8 out of 10
The macaroon raised its score, would definitely go back for the PB&J macaroon, would like to try other macaroons but, the score was lowered due to underwhelming me with ho-ho and making me question the quality of other desserts here. Oh darn, looks like I’ll have to go back and investigate this further! :)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World (aka Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo)

Apparently, this is some sort of chain and they have locations in Lisbon, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Madrid and da-da-da-dah now… NYC!

This Spring Street location is nestled between the shopping mecca of Broadway and Little Italy in NoLita. It’s a high traffic location with its only notable downfall being next door to an amazing little crepe spot! If you want a delicious to-go treat you can order a sweet or savory crepe at the walk up window. The crepes to-go have one-uped The Best Chocolate Cake in the World immediately by offering more than one item. I digress; my review is of The Best Chocolate Cake in the World although it’s worth mentioning the less than ideal location for a one hit wonder cake spot.

Upon entering this adorable, tiny spot, I half expected more than chocolate cake but, there really wasn’t much more. They had two chocolate cakes on the counter, you could choose, for $6.50/slice, between the milk chocolate or dark chocolate variety and since I’m partial to living la vida loca with my sweets and enjoying the most decadent of desserts, I opted for the dark chocolate option with a glass of milk.

Dark Chocolate Cake review:

As soon as I saw the cross section of the cake I thought, this is interesting. It doesn’t even look like a cake; it looks more like a layered pastry. I was correct; it tasted like a pastry as opposed to a traditional cake as well.

Visually, the cake is layered – spongy section, layer of dark chocolate, very thin layers about 4 deep. The top is a thicker layer of dark chocolate.

If I had to estimate the cacao content of the dark chocolate, I’d say it’s pretty dark, right around my favorite cacao percentage which is 72.

The alternating sponge section with dark chocolate evokes an incredibly unique, melt-in your mouth (literally), experience. It took me a few bites to get use to it but, I thoroughly enjoyed the cake/pastry.

At first, my tasting companion (aka my gorgeous, dimple faced, tall drink of Colombian coffee husband) wasn’t sure he liked it. It took him longer to get accustomed to the layering technique and bite than it did for me. We split the piece of cake and we still could barely finish it between the two of us; not because of our lack of interest and the cake’s likeability but it’s incredibly rich, not suitable for any one human being anything short of a crazed chocolate lover, or I suppose an espresso addict would love this shot of intensity also. I was glad I had the mini glass of milk to wash it down. The milk available was only 2% or whole milk, typically reserved for children and senior citizens however, I couldn’t have imagine anything less being paired with this in your face chocolate challenge.

This cake is almost indescribable (but, I did a good job of describing it if I do say so myself), a must try at least once.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10

Unique and intense – two of my favorite things.

55 Spring Street

(PS – online picture is incredibly deceiving. The almost seems moist in the online picture when, realistically, if it wasn’t for the milk, there was virtually no speakable moisture or relief from the luxury).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweet Revenge

This West Village gem’s slogan is “eat, drink and be merry” and that I was.
This goes along seamlessly with my personal motto of, “life’s short, pass the cupcake!”

The basis of this cute cubby hole of an eatery is to select your cupcake and then select a beer or wine that compliments the flavor of the cupcake, presented in the way of a “pairing.”

The cupcakes are broken down into two categories, staples that they carry daily and then a variety of specialty cupcakes with 3-4 are offered daily.

The cupcakes I tried were (two specialty) Mayan Chocolate and Fresas y Nueces (in Spanish- means strawberries and walnuts in English) and staple cupcake that is available daily as long as the signature and namesake: Sweet Revenge.

Since I had quite the variety, I went with the wine that complimented the signature cupcake: Callia Malbec from Argentina. See below for samples of what my options were based on my cupcakes (fresas y nueces wasn’t on the menu, it was new, so, the closest to this in terms of pairing was the very strawberry and that’s what I have listed below).

Cupcake Breakdown:

Sweet Revenge – Peanut Butter Cake, Ganache Filling with Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting
Mayan Chocolate – Cinnamon Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Chocolate Buttercream
Very Strawberry – Mexican Vanilla Cake with walnuts and Strawberry frosting

Cupcake Review:
Cupcake name: Sweet Revenge

One word popped into my head as soon as I saw these cupcakes…FRENCH! The aesthetics of these cupcakes are very dainty, the wrapper is beautifully coiffed, absolutely delightfully presented. The “Sweet Revenge” is the perfect signature cupcake. The peanut butter cake is best described as a moist cake with a diluted peanut butter taste; it tasted like peanut butter but not as thick or creamy; it didn’t make you want to reach for your glass of cold milk, it made you want to reach for your glass of vino. Washing the cupcake down with wine felt almost sinful. Cupcakes vary widely, they range from chalky, sugar coated, baked balls of lard appealing to children to cupcakes like my Sweet Revenge, sophisticated, beautifully decorated, and paired with wine made me feel like a kid enough that I felt like I was getting away with something naughty but adult enough to appreciate the unconventional but perfect pairing of wine and cupcakes.

The frosting tasted exactly as described, thick fudgey consistency with a peanut butter flare. The frosting helped make the cupcake and almost quench my thirst in its own right.

The pairing of the wine is completely unnecessary, I believe just a way to make cupcakes seem more mature but, it is a delightful touch and a genius idea.
Rating: 8 out of 10

Mayan Chocolate
This cupcake to me fell short of anything above average. The cinnamon chocolate cake with cinnamon chocolate buttercream frosting seems appealing especially to anyone who is familiar with the way many Hispanic cultures prepare their homemade hot chocolate. Most commonly, they add a variety of spices, including cinnamon which enhances and intensifies the chocolate flavor, amazing idea and it works well (try it with your next dessert). In this case, I wasn’t a fan of the chocolate cinnamon cake, it was not moist, didn’t appeal and it wasn’t overly flavorful as I expected. The cinnamon chocolate buttercream frosting was typical buttercream, nothing spectacular about it. I would have like to see more cinnamon flavoring or something to make the senses pop. Such an intriguing name for something so plain.
Rating: 5 out of 10

Fresas y Nueces (Strawberries and walnuts)
This was my favorite cupcake that I tried from this spot. I could have had a whole on myself (even though I generously let my husband have two whole bites of this cupcake)!
The Mexican vanilla cake was moist, not soggy moist but perfectly baked moist. It has almost an almondy flavor that I was dying over. It couldn’t get enough.
The strawberry frosting was sheer genius. It was creamy but almost a combo of frosting and icing since it was stiff. Every time I’d use my fork to dig into this giant cupcake, I’d grab a moist piece of cake and a chunk of frosting and let it melt in my mouth. I joked to my husband and I was going to swish it around in my mouth, mix up the flavors and savor the taste! I didn’t taste too much walnut flavoring, just pieces of the walnut itself, which was fine by me. There was so much high intensity flavors going on, it wasn’t needed to compliment anything, near perfection the way it was.
Rating: 9 out of 10

Pairings would include:

Mayan Chocolate & Kopparberg Pear Cider, Sweden
Very Strawberry & Guinness, Ireland
Sweet Revenge & Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss, Germany

Sweet Revenge & Callia Malbec, Argentina
Mayan Chocolate & Marques de Solariego Rioja, Spain
Very Strawberry & Lunetta Prosecco , Italy

Overall for Sweet Revenge: 8 out of 10

I loved the concept and liked my cupcakes. I’d go back and I’m looking forward to trying different pairings.
Great spot to bring tourists when they visit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eileen’s Special Cheese Cake

I heard, or maybe it was my own misinterpretation (most likely) that this place was Eileen’s Famous Cheesecake; it’s not Eileen’s Special Cheesecake.

So, at the time before I realized it was “Special” not “Famous” I thought, for utilizing the word “famous” in their name there would be a line out the door or around the corner, there wasn’t, I thought then, there must be a line once we get inside, it’s a beautiful Saturday after all, there’s so many people out and about they probably want to stop for a treat, there wasn’t a line inside either. I was taken back a little bit. If it’s the best, world famous, where’s the line, this is NYC after all, anything worthy of yielding the name famous has a line right? The Statue of Liberty, the hottest clubs in Meatpacking, Magnolia always has a line, even if it’s 10 deep at all locations, hell, even the Starbucks bathroom always has a line and there are 300 of them even on this tiny island; why am I so easily able to come up to this world famous cheesecake spot and have no line?

It’s “Special” not “Famous” as I said but, does that mean I should be any less harsh on the ratings? When I thought it was “famous” I thought, damn, this is going to be the world’s best cheesecake, it’s “famous” after all….but, then when I realized it was just “special” I figured it wouldn’t be as good. Funny how just descriptor words can change how you view something.

In any case, I try to rate anything and everything based on something very subjective, just like the word “special” and that is my opinion, my own little taste buds and my pallet. I usually have partners in crime when I visit these bake shops and usually it is my husband who, in his mind is not wasteful and in my mind he eats the baked goods I don’t like! Baked goods are like marriage, you’re always there to support the other, even if it means eating the stump of a muffin, which no one really loves, or in the case of Eileen’s Special (not so special) Cheese Cake a dry piece of strawberry shortcake. Read on for my breakdown of my tasting treats.

Items tried: Strawberry short cake and Pecan Caramel Cheesecake

Strawberry short cake
Well, at least the got the short part right, it fell short in more than one way.

One word can describe this: chalky

It may have tasted good if it was fresh, not dried out, not sitting in the glass case for a week. You could tell (once I got it across the counter and in front of me eating it) that the cream was dried out. Didn’t seem that way in the case so, I’m wondering if she gave me a defunked piece? In any case, tasted like dried out white cake with a little bit of strawberry flavor, what should have been whipped frosting on top with a strawberry slice was crusted flakey imposter icing and a sorry looking strawberry half.
I wanted to actually return it deeming it not edible but, my husband didn’t want me to “make a scene.” I wouldn’t have made a scene, I promise, I would have just said it’s not edible; I would like either my money back or something scrumptious to replace the “strawberry shortcake.” The outside had some sort of coating but, I couldn’t bring myself to take a third bit (yes, I took a second just to make sure it was that bad) so, I can’t tell you what it was supposed to be.

Rating: 1.5 out of 10, think I just found the item that is worse than Cupcake café’s lard muffins aka their cupcakes

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
I liked this cheesecake and ate the entire mini cake I ordered. It tasted like a cheesecake should. My problem is I can’t describe it any further than that…wasn’t memorable, could have lived without it. The topping made the cheesecake, the right proportions of graham cracker flavor made the crust but, other than that…average.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10. Tasted like a cheesecake should so, it gets points for that, sometimes people just can’t do a cheesecake. It doesn’t rank higher though because it wasn’t beyond.

Eileen's Overall: 3 out of 10 – won’t be going back. Nothing is pulling me back except the extreme want to get my $3.50 back from the "strawbery short cake"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Butter Lane

Yum Yum Yum, eat eat eat until my top button pops. That's my exact thoughts on this East Village cupcake spot. In short, this spot epitomizes what a cupcake should taste like.

The premise is simple, pick from one of the three base cakes: banana, vanilla or chocolate.
Yes, FLAVORS not to a lovely start!
Next, choose your frosting (has varied the few times I've been in here): peanut butter, caramel, blueberry, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, french butter cream, key lime, maple, cinnamon honey, and others.

Break it down, which ones did I try:
1) Vanilla cake with Caramel frosting
2) Vanilla cake with Blueberry frosting
3) Vanilla cake with Strawberry frosting
4) The Elvis (Banana cake with Peanut butter frosting)

Not only are these cupcakes the best I've tried on my voyage to cupcake perfection thus far they're cutie cute cute. Each cupcake comes topped with a corresponding cupcake garnish that adds not only a little extra flavor enhancement but, it also helps justify the $3 price by adding that little extra something.
You can also purchase "frosting shots" if you would like to try other flavors.

Vanilla Cake with Caramel Frosting:
Topped with popcorn garnish. The base, I'll make a blanket statement about since it was the same for three of the cupcakes I sampled, the vanilla cupcake base is delicious. It is moist, has vanilla flavor but is not overpowering, and is a good flavor counterpart to the frostings I had.
For the caramel frosting, it tasted like caramel but a creamy version of a piece of caramel, it was buttery, smooth and a hint of salt. The frosting was whipped to the extreme. My only call out is that it could have been held together a little more. On a hot day, there's no way this would have lasted out the door without melting.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Vanilla Cake with Blueberry frosting:
Tasted like vanilla cake with blueberry frosting with blueberries as the garnish.
I think that baked goods can really keep it this simple and still be decedent. Do people want a sugar rush that isn't always good for you? Sure they do but, with this frosting tasting just like blueberries, it's almost as if you're cheating.
Why do we need to guess what certain flavors are? Why do we need it to be everything under the sun? Answer: we don't! Case and point the simpleness of all of the cupcakes here and the pure, delicious flavor!
Rating: 8 out of 10

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry frosting:
Strawberries as the garnish. I very rarely will ever get a strawberry dessert...reason, it tastes like canned, manufactured strawberry frosting usually or an extreme heightened strawberry flavor, nothing natural or tasty about it. Butter Lane does a 180 from that and does strawberry frosting to perfection. It was a perfect exhibit of how frosting should be done, not just any frosting but strawberry frosting - simple, tastes like strawberries, not like strawberries coated with sugar or candied; just the most juicy, ripe strawberry you've ever tasted in a whipped frosting form...perfection!
Rating: 8 out of 10, bonus for actually getting strawberry frosting right!

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter frosting:
with mini marshmallow garnish.
This cupcake is also known as the Elvis. The base "cake" is banana. I really can't call this cake. I loved it, don't get me wrong but it was a piece of banana bread under peanut butter frosting. I like banana bread, I think it's delicious, and that's how i felt about this cupcake base. It was fresh, very rich in banana flavor and super moist. The only complaint, it didn't stay together, fell apart. My advise is to keep that cupcake wrapper or napkin handy so you don't loose any big chunks of this delicious cake. The peanut butter frosting tasted exactly like peanut butter but, paired with the super moist banana base cake, it didn't taste overly rich, salty, or drying. The pairing of these two equals an intense, fulfilling, rich baked goods experience. Sweet tooth's and those who like a little dessert every now and then will be fighting over the last bite of this delicious treat.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 --- nothing is least not yet :)

Butter Lane Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10

Can't wait to go back and sample other flavors!