While we were in DC celebrating my Dad’s, Joseph’s and my birthdays, my mom wanted to cook a meal together (well, my dad’s very helpful participation was on the cleaning up side of things). Joseph found a striped bass recipe on epicurious.com that looked pretty good. My mom had some beautiful halibut already, so we trooped off to the new Whole Foods in their neighborhood for the rest of the ingredients. And what a Whole Foods it was! For the most part, it was just a nice grocery store and not really that different from the one we go to in Cambridge. But in the center of the store lays a total trap for suckers like me: salt, honey, and olive oil bars. I got small samples of a merlot salt and another, very fine, powdery salt (I forgot the name!) that we got to use as a finishing salt for the halibut, but totally forgot all about. Oops. Anyway, the bags were so small that when they tried to weigh them at the checkout, the weight didn’t register so we got them for free. Score!
I really wish we had a salt bar at our Whole Foods because I keep looking at this $20 bottle of Himalayan pink salt that comes with its own little salt grater and oh, I want it so much. Like I said, I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing and I would be much better off with a little .5 oz bag of it than a whole jar just because I want the salt grater! Why would I need a salt grinder? For the Himalayan pink salt! When would I use it? I don’t know! Continue reading
Ok, I’ve been terrible about posting. It’s been such a busy summer with nearly every weekend out of town and I admit, I’ve totally slacked off on the blogging. The good thing about all the traveling (besides seeing friends and family!) was getting to try more macarons! If you’ve been following pixelated crumb at all, you know that I’ve been searching (here and here) for the best stateside macaron.
While we were in DC a week and a half ago to celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to Praline in Bethesda, MD. The chef who instructed my pastry class at L’Academie de Cuisine about 4 years ago told us that Praline had the only decent brioche in the DC area, so it seemed like a good bet that they would have good macarons. Continue reading
Remember my search for a macaron that rivaled the one I got in France? Well, I hadn’t given up the search, but until this past weekend, the only other macarons I had tried were the ones from the River St. Whole Foods in Cambridge. They were good, fine, whatever, but not worthy of their own post. Luckily my sister-in-law, Jordan, tipped me off that Joyce Bakeshop in Brooklyn has amazing French macarons. Now, a tiny disclaimer here that Jordan and her husband Mark are actually good friends of Joyce and her husband. That said, this place is awesome, all family connections aside. In addition to the great vibe and friendly, helpful staff (definite bonuses, but let’s not kid ourselves about the most important component of a bakeshop!), the goods here are are more than good. The shop has shelf after shelf of delectable treats of all kinds (chocolate cakes, fruit tarts, and puff pastry, oh my!) that I just can’t decide between.
I could go on and on, but it would make me too hungry and not to mention depressed because I live 4 hours away. But we were in New York this weekend visiting Mark and Jordan (and little almost 2-year-old Amelia!) and for a wedding luncheon and frankly, there was no way I was leaving the state without going to Joyce’s and getting a macaron. We went Saturday night but alas, it was too late in the day and they were out of macarons. So we tried again the next afternoon on our way out of town. Success! The second that I saw that they had macarons I ran and told the guy at the counter that I needed one of every flavor. I was in such a rush that I forgot to ask what flavors they were, so it’s kind of a guess… but I think we got coffee, vanilla, and salted caramel.
Yum, yum, yum. These are definitely the best stateside macarons we’ve had! They had the perfect balance of a delicate crunch of the outer meringue and ooey gooey middle. The vanilla was quite tasty, but not my favorite of the three (but vanilla rarely – ok, never – is). The coffee flavor was very subtle and super delicious. The caramel macaron was also quite good, but what I really loved was the salt. I wonder what kind of salt it was? The big flaky grains had a really sharp flavor and I wish I had some in my cupboard. I don’t know, maybe it was kosher salt after all and the yummy macaron just heightened the flavor experience. All in all, I strongly suggest you begin planning your next trip to Brooklyn right now and make sure you get to Joyce’s early enough to get yourself a macaron (or 10).
Walking through the streets of Paris is so like a kid in a candy store. I was drooling outside of every shop we walked past. I was especially excited by this beautiful window display with all these beautiful, colorful little confections. I only vaguely knew that they were called macarons and I was confused because they are so different from the Italian macaroons. In my pastry course at L’ Academie de Cuisine four years ago, we made a pastry identical to what you see below (ok, not as pretty and we only made one flavor), but they were smaller and our instructor called them japonaise so I was feeling pretty confused. After some time searching, I learned from M. Brown on www.cheftalk.com that japonaise (which is not even in wikipedia! gasp!) are meringue layers made with ground toasted almonds, which are apparently great with ganache and butter cream. That’s exactly what we made: two layers of almond meringue with a slathering of chocolate ganache in between. They were delicious. But then again, anything with ganache is delicious. So I’m still confused about the name thing and I don’t even know exactly how to say macaron. But it appears that a macaron and a japonaise are the same thing. And they are certainly very, very different from the Italian macaroons which are made from coconut.
The problem was that I was apparently not familiar enough with macarons to put them at the top of my list for the food we were going to eat in our 4 hours in Paris. We ate plenty of other great things, but not a single macaron. It wasn’t until our layover during our return flight from Budapest to Boston that we got one. We had a long layover and we were pacing the Charles de Gaulle looking for a good French lunch, trying to decide if we wanted to spend $25 a person for a good but not great 3 course lunch, or an overpriced sandwich. I decided that all I really cared about was that I had to get a macaron. We went to the Paul Bakery stand and each got a sandwich, Joseph ordered a chocolate bread type thing and I ordered a magnificent giant macaron. Once we got on the plane though, we kept getting food and weren’t that hungry and the macaron sat in my bag.
Once we got to Boston and had dinner, I was so exhausted that I didn’t have any interest in eating the macaron (blasphemy, I know!) so it wasn’t until the next night that we pulled it out. I forgot to mention that Joseph had shared his chocolaty bread thing with me on the plane and so I sadly now had to share the macaron with him. I ate half and then had to hand the rest of to him which required herculean strength. I think it’s one of the best sweets I’ve ever eaten. It was so light and airy but with just a hint of crunch and the inside – oh the inside!!! It reminded me of eating brownie batter when I was a kid. It was absolutely amazing and seriously, I think it was probably one of the top 10 desserts that I’ve ever had (and I have had a LOT of desserts).
This new found love meant that we had to find it in Boston. On Saturday we used the macaron search as an excuse to go to Formagio Kitchen in Cambridge to get their delicious barbecue and sample their cheeses. They did indeed have macarons as friends at Chow Hound had said, but they were small and $2.50 a pop. We bought one of each flavor (Chocolate, Pistachio, and Raspberry) and cut them in half (damn grad school budget!) and shared them. They were tasty and certainly satisfied my sweet tooth, but they paled in comparison to the one we got in France (albeit the airport). The search must go on!! Luckily, according to Salon.com and the Wall Street Journal, macarons are the new cupcake. Bring it on!
And of course I’ll also try making them if the humidity ever recedes.
A no/low carb diet sounds about as appealing to me as giving up air. When I was a kid, I once asked for another piece of bread with dinner and my mom gave me a choice: another piece of bread OR dessert. I LOVE dessert. From the very bottom of my heart, I love baked goods, I love ice cream, I love brown sugar right out of the bag. Don’t even start me on chocolate. And yet, I chose the bread that night.
When Joseph and I began our plans for our trip to Eastern Europe for Peter and Agne’s wedding in Lithuania, we we were faced with a choice of a reasonable layover or an 11 hour layover in Paris. We chose the 11 hour layover, despite the fact that we knew we would be exhausted after the overnight flight (I hardly slept at all!), but how can you give up a chance to see Paris? Our time was limited and I told Joseph that all I really cared about for our quick stint in Paris was eating some cheese, bread, a chocolate croissant, and having some good wine. Oh, and it would be pretty cool if we saw the Eiffel Tower.
When we got off the train from the airport, we snapped a couple of shots of the Notre Dame, and then bagan the search for a bakery. We stumbled across La Boulangerie de Papa where I got a pain au chocolat. It was not even in the same realm with the croissants that I had had before. It left my hands slippery with butter. The chocolate was made my heart skip a beat. And the flakiness! It was heaven.
I wanted to order at least one of everything in the bakery, but my husband insisted we move on. Sigh. Not without at least a shot of the beautiful baguettes.
How can anyone willingly give up bread??