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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Not much home-baking on this end recently, except to reheat (cinnamon raisin bread) or repeat staple recipes (olive oil granola) already bloggered on and rah-rahed about here. I am super dooper fatigued currently, as I spend my days helping open a restaurant. So why don’t I distract you now from my dearth of original material with photos of delicious items consumed at The Smile on Bond Street?

When it's too cold outside, have some woolen macarons (from Wool and the Gang)

I thought I’d feel warm and fuzzy inside if I ate those above, but I thought better: Let’s try some chocolate and brie on baguette for a French-y afternoon snack.

Oozy, gooey, and chewy

I know what you’re thinking: Eww. Yes, granted, this sandwich will not work for those who like to barricade their peas from their carrots on dinner plates, let alone their Laughing Cow from Nutella, but it works. The cheese lends the chocolate spread extra creamyness, and the omnipotent taste-booster, salt, gives it extra flavor. The brie acts like an enabler, but all for a beneficial effect, not like your college drinking buddy.

Three ingredients, so simple (cut, place on bread; slather on bread; heat), so come on out of your cave for a half hour. It’ll tide you over ’til the next equinox.

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Orange you glad

At the end of the Times dining review of a Korean bbq spot called Madangsui today, Mr. Sifton writes, “Dessert’s an orange cut into eighths. It tastes of magic and happiness.” The curious thing is, I’ve never had an orange at the end of a meal at any establishment in K-town that didn’t taste of magic and happiness. So consistent is the quality of oranges served at K-town restaurants—which is to say, sweet, juicy, and sunny—that I’ve often wondered what fantasy orange farm supplies all of them (from Florida or California? My bet’s on California), like an inverse of the joke that all the Indian places on 6th Street share one long kitchen.

In the summer, in lieu of oranges, the restaurants serve thin watermelon slices, but those do not consistently taste of magic and happiness, however refreshing.

Let’s resolve to look into this orange conundrum further, shall we?

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Summer's best

Berry delicious

I’m trying to enjoy as much as the city has to offer me at night before I officially sign my soul away to the restaurant, so one humid night this week, the bf and I walked to Tartine in the West Village for dinner al fresco. One block away at Magnolia Bakery, throngs of people were gathered inside going coo-coo for media-hyped cupcakes with cloying icing—it looked like a wedding dress sample sale in there. It smelled really good from across the street, but we ignored the waft of enticing vanilla cake batter, turned the corner, and in the end were rewarded with a dessert case full of treats like the berry tart above.

Don’t get me wrong. Surely, cupcakes have their place: they’re cute, they feel special, and when made well, they quell the sweet tooth properly. But there are so many better, even more special treats to be had. No cupcake will do the job of a mixed berry tart right now and pay homage to the season, and no cupcake will taste as refreshing, creamy and buttery. See, that’s the difference between pastry and baking. Pastry takes mastery of a skills-set, an eye for detail, artistry. (The pastry chef Francois Payard said it best in an article I once read in Edible Manhattan about his eponymous Payard Patisserie: “I am not a fucking bakery.”) Cupcakes? Unless you’re making awesome accompanying buttercreams or doing crazy decorations, meh. Please, I will not comment on icing shots.

Of course, there’s something to be said about simple pleasures and good marketing. I’m not a hater, I just love pastries more.

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It’s as though someone read my mind re: lack of health insurance: http://www.nychighroadrestaurants.com/

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The process of searching for a job in this economic climate (I’m sorry, I won’t ever use that phrase again), especially in a restaurant kitchen, has been an interesting exercise in maintaining a suitable level of dignity. This word resonated with me quite deeply when Obama repeated it many times during the past election, and I’d walk away from the tube or the radio with a spring in my step thinking that I’d get mine back one day, too, because as someone who was searching for a job that paid the same amount as her college internship ten years ago at her university’s alumni magazine, sans health and dental—oh how I miss having dental!—I felt quite the opposite of having any dignity. Or rather, indignant.

When I scan job listings in the kitchen now (although truth be told, I am also looking for a desk job that involves writing/editing), I look for whether or not the place offers health insurance, at the least (what’s vision? 401k?). And I’ll tell you, when you find it, it feels like you’ve won a minor lottery, despite of the fact that you have yet to apply. Plus more often than not, the resto/bakery/etc. won’t extend it right off the bat—you’d have to work through 90 days, or even six months to show that you’re really committed.

People accept lack of health insurance as the norm. Even big marquee restaurants with celeb chefs may not offer it, and it’s just understood that you suck it up until you move on to a better restaurant group or get super-promoted, but who knows how long that will take, if at all? It’s ceased to anger me, but it’s still perplexing. Why, in a kitchen, in a place with the most concentrated numbers of things with sharp edges moving at fast speed (knives, graters, Robot Coupes, even electric citrus juicers), coupled with things that hold fire and heat (stovetops, ovens, vats of frying oil), along with people whose one primary goal is to create with urgency while avoiding wet spots on the floor, would you leave things to chance?

I’d like to think that if you supported your workers from the bottom, that they would end up learning and developing their talents with you and remain loyal, and everybody would benefit. But that’s just my humble opinion from the other side of dignified.

Ah, bugger. I had intended on making this entry funny, complete with excerpts of actual job listings. It’s just as well—that wouldn’t go over so well with potential employers.

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A “German Day” pub crawl took place Saturday. It was arranged by a friend who clearly didn’t foresee that we would suffer a great collective katzenjammer(n., hangover) after. Sunday was interesting for everyone.

Cheers

The itinerary began with Zum Schneider in Alphabet City at 1:30, to be followed by Loreley in Soho/LES area at 3:00, then Lederhosen in the West Village at who-knows-what-time. I brought my camera to the chagrin of our now-remorseful pub crawlers, but I’ll just highlight the yummy pastry-related goods many may not remember sampling.

Apfelkuchle, or apple fritters made in beer batter

Apfelkuchle, or apple fritters made with beer batter

Vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar—delicious. My only complaint: not enough apfels!

Loreley pretzels with mustard

Loreley pretzels with mustard

I go weak-kneed for these pretzels. They always arrive piping hot out of the oven, served with hearty mustard. They’re doughy and soft on the inside, taut and salty on the outside. If all the pretzel carts in NYC had these, midtown would actually be exciting.

I’ve had the apple strudel at Loreley, too, and they do it right. Apples are sweet enough, flaky strudel layers, and plenty of vanilla sauce pooling the goods. Sorry, no photo.

Er, that’s about all the legal photos I can post here. There’s talk of more “(Insert a country here) Day,” (France, Japan, maybe Liechtenstein?) but I think we need a Buddhist day first: How about some meditation and fasting and yoga to undo this one, friends?

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Perfect bites everywhere

wd-50's ginger ice cream dessert

I’ve never seen “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” but I sometimes hear people talk of The Perfect Bite: take a little of this, a little of that, and you’re suddenly throwing a party in your mouth. This dessert plate above, which I had the happiness of experiencing yesterday at a lunch for Panasonic Inverter Microwaves at wd-50 (don’t ask me how I ended up there), had all the components for a proper fete in your bouche. The menu description said “ginger ice cream, beet, spiced walnut, molasses” but it was bewildering, or enthralling, rather, to try to figure out what flavor was where. There were two thin sheets of beet cross-sections, folded in like flowers. The poof of foam turned out to house the molasses. I don’t even know where the spiced walnut was (methinks it was the smear on the plate, and in a small cake rectangle), and the ice cream was encased in what I think is a pulled sugar tube but I have NO idea—it was way too delicate and crispy.  There were two eensy dots of what I think was creme fraiche, but the tang was multiplied tenfold. Mmm! There were perfect bites, everywhere, all over—the crunch of the tube shell with the ice cream; the fluffy cake and the foam, which I didn’t mind as much as I thought I would; the cake and the ice cream; and so on. I’ll be thinking about this dessert for awhile.

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