Oh my god! I love the bing lady! This is good, I kid you not! At first I thought Roll & Dough would be some West Village knockoff of a Chinese bake shop, but noooo, this is better than anything I’ve eaten in Chinatown. It’s the bing!
What is q Bing? Read here. It’s magnificent, I don’t even know where to start. I had the Spicy Beef Bing (ordinarily priced at $1.95, but only $1 for NYU students and hehe, I still have my NYU ID :). I bit into it and I swear, it was better than getting a kiss from the hottest guy in the world. Not that I’ve had that opportunity yet, but you get the idea. A crusty hot shell of a dough protectively hugged a juicy mound of fiery beef dripping juices. The savory dripped soaked into the bun, and god, it was glorious. I wish had enough money to buy every single person in the world a hot bing because, then, we would all be blissfully happy for eternity.

A hot batch of veggie bings just came out as I finished the beef and man, whoever can resist purchasing one is simply not worthy…of what? I’m sorry, I have no idea. Of eating a bing I suppose. Man, these are incredible! The veggie version is stuffed with long rice, mushrooms and cabbage. Gah, they were steaming hot, the outside bun grilled crisp and laced with a never ending sprinkles of sesame seed.

Upon purchasing the veggie bing, the owner Elizabeth Ting saw my extreme excitement and enamor over her bings that she insisted I try her sticky rice rolls, “it’s on the house.” The roll was filled with a snack I grew up eating: dried shredded pork, translated into “yook sung,” – I think that’s how you spell it. It was skimpy on the filling and doesn’t come nearly close to the ones you find on the streets of Shanghai. The rolls there are filled with the most wonderful assortment of onions, pork, salted egg, sigh. I’m getting hungry again. Anyways, if you’re not heading for China anytime soon, make sure you get a bing. It’s even cheaper than the McDonalds across the street.

Roll & Dough
135 W. 3rd Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 253-2871

I went to the bakery! After breakfast in Pasadena, Julie and I went back to our lovely town of Claremont to finish studying for our business law midterm. We had dinner at the dining hall (not so good veggie fajitas, a mysterious chicken cream pasta, and lots of carrot cake) and hemmed and hawed over the lack of good food in the Inland Empire. So what do we do? Hop into Julie’s car for a 60 minute drive to Susina in Hollywood.

We just wanted dessert :)

French pressed green tea. The air was cool, it was too late for coffee. We don’t do decaf, :) a strong cup of tea was the ideal choice.

Julie’s fruit tart stands out from your usual in that there was a heavy sprinkling of pomegrate seeds on top, adding for a festive twist to the usual finish of fruits. You would have loved the custard, I promise. We could make out little dark specks of vanilla beans, the custard teasing us with it’s creamy texture. It was just right, cool and rich without being too heavy. Sigh, the power of eggs and sugar.

It was terribly difficult to make a choice among the tarts, cakes and pies, but alas, I picked the darkest, most sinful creation offered: the hazelnut ganache tart. And yes, it was everything it promised to be, a wide wedge of buttery tart crust with a filling that could be divided into three separate entities. At the bottom, a centimeter of an almost cake-like batter of milk chocolate studded with chopped hazelnuts, the middle, dark dense mousse, all at once bitter and sweet, yet creamy to the lips. To finish: a shiny glaze of chocolate ganache with just a sliver of gold leaf – enough to send to you teetering on edge. Now this is my idea of a nightcap.

I can sleep well tonight.

Susina Bakery
7122 Beverly Bouleward
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 934-7900

Just wanted to interrupt the nyc posts with a quick breakfast. Julie and I drove down to Pasadena this morning – we had a hankering for Le Pain Quotidien, a franchise that originated in Brussels and now has locations throughout New York and California. They’re best know for their tartines and french donut (which I will try one day when I’m very old and don’t care about dying on the spot from a heart attack).

To start off, a cup of French coffee, nothing out of the ordinary, though I do have a soft spot for their footed mugs. It’s the kind of mug you want to pick up and hug, it’s heavy, filled with warm liquid, so inviting. Now if only it were overflowing with a thick vat of rich dark hot chocolate…wouldn’t that be pleasure.

For Julie, the prosciutto, mozzarella, sundried tomato, & pesto tartine ($11.95). It’s slightly pricey for the portion size, but man, I never had mozzarella this fresh since my last visit to nyc. Perfectly salted prosciutto, slices of sweet tomatoes and rich, nutty pesto all over the place. The bread was a dark whole grain, dense enough to hold all the toppings and with a crisp flour dusted crust. It honestly took all my willpower to not consume both her order and mine.

I had my heart set on the ricotta with mission fig, honey & black pepper ($8.95). It promised to be a combination of all my favorite things on a hearty slice of bread. What I received instead was ricotta with dried mission fig, honey and tomatoes. No black pepper and no fresh figs. I was slightly disappointed, though nonetheless what they did send out was still good. They really piled on the ricotta, there must have been an inch or so of the snow white cheese, soft with a mildly sweet flavor. It paired well with the fantastic drizzles of honey and dots of figs and tomatoes. I had a pepper grinder on the table and almost thought to grind some on myself…but we’ll just let things be. Next time. Next time though…I just might have to French donut with a cup of Belgian cocoa. :)

Le Pain Quotidien
88 W Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 396-0956

10:00 am snack.
The Jacques Torres mudslide cookie. Dark chocolate, melted and in jagged chucks hold it’s form with toasted walnuts in a decadent batter rich in eggs and sugar. It’s my idea of morning high. Every bite is at once fudgey, cookie-like and almost pudding dense. It’s the best of all worlds. Except when considering the possibility of diabetes and cavities. But when something is this decadent, surrender your will and indulge. Sound intriguing? If you’re not nearby, make it on your own. The Amateur Gourmet and Jeanne over at World on A Plate surely reaped the rewards of their hardwork.

11:00 am. Weather starts to turn bad. But when the tummy’s comes a calling, there’s no turning back. Even if you’re the one person in the city without an umbrella (don’t worry, I eventually got one in Chinatown).

11:15 am. Destination reached. It;s once again back to Joe Shanghai where I met the first xiao long bao of my life.

And that is why I come back here – for nostalgic reasons and nothing else. My first visit was in the summer of 2003 and I had City Search-ed this place to death (this was prior to Chowhound years). I got my parents all hyped up, because living in Hawaii, no restaurant back home offered xiao long baos on the menu. And let me tell you, they were so perfect the first time we had them that I remember we went back three times in two days. That’s dedication. And now when I come visit a few times each year, I realized that they in fact, do not make juiciest xiao long baos. The skin is always thicker than New Green Bo just streets away, and the soup can be unnervingly salty on certain occasions. But it is good food as long you know what to expect. I don’t come with the anticipation of a gourmet experience. I come to sit in the same seat I sat in years ago, before I knew what it was like to live in the city. And before I discovered just how exciting food could be.

12:30 pm. Bought an umbrella from the lady on the street. It broke after I opened it for the third time. I vow never to buy umbrellas off the street again.

Jacques Torres Chocolate
350 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 414-2462

Joe’s Shanghai
9 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 233-8888

On Friday afternoon I was wandering around Soho after a lunch of xiao long bao at Joe Shanghai. It was a dreary day and rain started to pour down as I turned onto Spring Street, forcing me to duck into the Balthazar bakery for shelter. Once inside, the inviting smell of pastries lured me in closer and closer to the counter (not that there’s much room to walk inside :) until I found the words, “a cannele, please,” floating out of my mouth. I tell you, it’s like I am possessed!

It looks burnt doesn’t it? But it’s not! It’s all part of the magic. I could tell you what it tastes like, but this quote I found off pastrysampler.com probably does a better job, “a magical bakery confection, a cake endowed with a rich custardy interior enclosed by a thin caramelized shell…Nearly black at first sight and bittersweet at first bite, the crunchy burnt sugar shell makes an exquisite complement to the smooth sweet filling fragrant with vanilla and rum.” The crackly shell has the sweetest taste of caramel and as I bit into it, I feared that the interior would be not at all custardy. In fact, it was almost dry! It was not until I reach the deep center of the cannele that I encountered a custard-like cake, pudding with body and crumb. A rich vanilla with a faint scent of rum flavored the cake and while it was not the most exquisite pastry I’ve had, it was a particularly delicious experience, nibbling on my cannele under the rain.

You know how some people eat when they’re depressed? Or when sad? Or hungry? I unfortunately suffer from all three, but what worse is that I have a desire to eat when I feel any emotion. I eat when I’m sad, eat even more when I’m sick, eat a whole ton when I’m tired, but most of all I eat when I am happy. I tend to eat a lot when I’m happy. So while I’m grateful that I’m happy in general, being happy tends to make me very hungry.

Which explains why I felt an urge to walk across the street to Ceci-Cela after the cannele. It was as if the cannele made me so delighted that to further and continue my happiness I had to indulge in another sort of pastry.

More precisely, the Almond Croissant. I’ve haven’t yet found a single spectacular almond croissants in both LA and SF and I’m starting to wonder if it is because I haven’t found a right one of if it is because I simply don’t like almond croissants and don’t yet know it (gasp!) Ceci-Cela’s version turned out to be another added onto my list of, good-but-not-yet-wow-almond-croissants. But it comes the closest to Clotilde’s definition of Croissant aux Amandes. A day old croissant split into two, dipped into simple syrup and filled with a sweet almond paste mixture. I found Ceci Cela’s version too sweet and the flaky layers of proper croissant sunk into a sugar syrup mass. The almond mixture was quite good though, enough buttery fluff to encompass the sweet almond blended with sugar and eggs. I’m still hunting for one perfectly filled and glazed croissant that I will fall in love with. Hopefully that day comes soon.

It was a rainy day and I don’t know if the counter girl felt sorry for my water drenched hair or the million rain soaked shopping bags, or both, but as she packed my almond croissant, she stuck in a little treat.
“You’ll like it, it’s a puff of air dusted in sugar.”
Who was I to refuse? After I finished the almond croissant, I popped the single bite bit into my mouth. And just like that, the sugar crystal adorned pate choux disappeared. Like a puff of air.

Balthazar Bakery

80 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-1785

55 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-9179