Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FIAF’s Bastille Day Celebration and 9 Steps to Perfection!

For the third year in a row I honored French National Day by celebrating on 60th Street with FIAF and friends. It wasn’t until last week that I realized I had yet to write a true post about the festival. So this year I’m going to tell you a bit more about a great event, how I celebrate, and hopefully entice you to mark your calendar’s and plan to get to Manhattan for next year’s fête (which according to my estimations should fall exactly on July 14th!).

My friends and I start the day with breakfast and bubbly. Since the festival starts at noon it’s a good idea to have a relaxing morning complete with a filling French-inspired meal and some proper champagne. Egg and cheese crêpes are always a favorite. Though I’ve yet to make them for Bastille day oeufs en cocotte served with a crusty baguette for dipping would be another great choice. If you’re not feeling up to cooking or if you apartment is too sweltering to bear in the city summer (often me) head to any of the city’s pastry shop/cafés- one of the many Le Pain Quotidien will do or get more authentic at MacarOn Café, Dominique Ansel Bakery or La Maison du Macaron. After you’ve had your fill and are feeling a bit light and giggly from the champagne make your way to East 60th Street between Fifth and Lexington Avenues.

There are a number of things you should make sure to do during your time at the Bastille Day Fête:
First: Stop to smell the roses at Ode à la Rose.
You might pick up a small bouquet to bring home, too.
Second: Eat as many macarons as necessary.
Don’t miss MacarOn Café’s special Bastille Day macaron.
Consider picking up a box from Fiancier, Francois Payard and MadMac. You will be craving these once your wine buzz and initial sugar high die down.

Friday, July 13, 2012

MacarOn Café hits Midtown with more than Macs

IMG_5192Yesterday morning my alarm clock went off an hour earlier than normal for a very good reason. I was invited to celebrate the grand opening of MacarOn Café's new location on Third  Avenue. As you may well know by now, MacarOn Café is one of my favorite spots in the city for getting my macaron fix. I can always count on a variety of flavors, something new to try, and above all consistently perfect shells and fillings. My favorite location has been the 59th and Madison shop; it is on my way home from work, right by FIAF and has cozy seating in the back. The new shop, located at 750 Third Avenue (between 46th and 47th) may very well become my preferred location in the coming weeks thanks to an evening menu and another favorite of mine: wine. The pink-and-white shop is officially open now but the evening menu and wine will begin in the coming weeks. I can't wait to try it out and will be sure to report back when I do.
The Third Avenue location is in a great spot, right by Grand Central, and easily accessible from the north, east, south or west. Yesterday white and pink balloons encouraged  guests to come in for a free macaron and maybe a perfectly made espresso beverage or a cup of Mariage Frères tea. I was glad to start my day with a balanced cappuccino complete with decorative foam on top.

IMG_5179Fortunately I was able to spend a bit of time chatting with Cecile and Arnaud Cannone, the chef and owners of MacarOn Café. Cecile and I spoke about the process of making macarons and, as always, ways of troubleshooting problems when baking the shells. She advised me how key controlling the humidity of the oven is and suggested not baking them in the summer when it is as humid as it has been in New York. We discussed some flavors- Cecile, like me, is a chocolate lover. I mentioned to her how I like that there are always new flavors to choose from when I come by. Most recently I tried the new Earl Grey, which I had bought for my friend Kyle. I don’t normally enjoy Earl Grey teas or bergamot in general so I didn’t try it until he told me it tasted like… Trix cereal! (They really do!) I told Cecile this but she hadn’t hear of our sugared-up American Trix. I suggest trying one out when you stop in.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

When You Can’t Stand the Heat but Want to be in The Kitchen…

WatercressIf you’re anything like me when it comes to feeding yourself, you feel off balance if its been a while since you made a full blown meal, baked a batch of cookies for loved ones, or simply tried making something new. With this heat wave that’s been riding through Manhattan I’ve had a hard time mustering up energy to cook much of anything. Today I resolved to spend sometime at the counter making some recipes I’ve had on my mind for a while- neither of which required heat. I also noticed that many of my favorite cookbooks have a blurb from Ms. Alice Waters on their covers today while cooking from my library. First I made a trip to Fairway to gather supplies. I stocked up on things for making lunch during the week, lots of green things, ice cream, and a whole pound of coffee with the hope that I’ll find the nerve to let the beans cold-brew for 15 hours according to the recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit.

loaded food processor watercress butterA few weeks ago I purchased watercress for the first time with the very good intention of trying out Cheryl Sternman Rule’s recipe from Ripe for watercress butter. Time passed, the greens wilted, tired and dried and no butter was made. The super green compound didn’t leave my mind when the first bunch went in the trash, though. I decided this would be a perfect hot-weather recipe to make and have on hand. Corn keeps showing up on my dinner plate demanding something more enticing than regular butter and salt so it seemed excellent timing to try Rule’s butter.

I softened my butter, cleaned then plucked away the thick stems of the watercress, peeled and roughly chopped some garlic, delicately measured out just enough honey, zested a lemon and whizzed it all together in my dear food processor. Some salt and pepper and a little tasting and recipe number one was done. I am happy to report the butter is as good as I imagined. I had a few done as the recipe calls for—on crackers, using Carr’s water crackers. These do indeed make for elegant appetizers I will gladly serve at parties in the future. I also tried it out on some toasted mini bagels I picked up at Fairway- so very delicious. If I swap this in for my regular salty French butter in the morning, will I be starting out my day healthier? I hope so! Cheryl also recommends tossing the leftover butter with hot pasta, potatoes or on bread. I’m thinking of combining it with my other recent love—soft-centered boiled eggs. So many possibilities! Just a note: when used with something hot the butter in the spread melts and heats up the watercress and turns the mixture dark green. The recipe can be found on page 226 of Ripe.
finished watercress butter watercress butter crackers watercress butter bagel