One More NYC Post For The Year…

…and then the next two weeks will be devoted to nothing but local Hawai’i food :)

This past Tuesday evening I found myself at Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro for the “Chocolate Epiphany Dinner with Francois Payard,” a full night of food and plenty of intoxicating desserts. The event was a collaboration between American Express and Payard, a (literally) sweet bonus for their Platinum card holders. Here’s a little peek at this rather fascinating demo and dinner event.

The evening started with a wine reception featuring little bites along the lines of Foie Gras Brioche and Wild Mushroom Risotto Balls. The Bistro itself was closed for the event, making for an intimate setting as Francois Payard himself, along with Chef Philippe Bertineau, hosted us for the evening. The fun started when guests were ushered upstairs for a demo of sweets. For the next two hours I watched in eagerly as Francois whipped up tart shells filled with chocolate, caramel and hazelnut, and then a flourless chocolate cake which he effortless finished with a shiny spill of dark ganache. From there, he moved onto chocolate creations and brought a woman eager to give confections a hand up to the demo station. He poured dark chocolate onto a frozen marble slab, spread it thin with a spatula, and urged her, “pick it up, pick it up! Make something wonderful!” And so she peeled the near set chocolate from the slab and crumpled it into a haphazard flower. Francois paused, “I need volume. Give me VOLUME!” That of course, was coupled with wildly enthusiastic hand gestures as bowls of chocolate folded into lush whipped cream, and another of chocolate ganache, were passed among the audience.

An hour later we stepped back into the main dining room, with the taste of sweets in our mouths and stomachs eager for savories and the accompanying wine parings. Dinner began with a chilled Crab Salad, Bartlett Pears, and Hazelnuts upon a base of Mâche and Celery Root Rémoulade…

…and moved on to Striped Bass with Fork Crushed Sunchokes, Salsifies and Mushrooms bathing in a Crême Frâiche and Wild Mushroom Broth. Crême frâiche is one of those wonderful ingredients that never fail to work seamlessly in both desserts and savory dishes. It was a wonderful factor here, ushering creamy and luxurious elements to the earthy broth.

While I was most enamored with the desserts to come, my tablemate concluded that the Filet Mignon was his favorite dish of the evening. On the side, Swiss Chard, Cipollini Onions, Carrots and Fingerling Potatoes.

I’ll admit to being borderline full at that point, but there is always, and I emphasize ALWAYS, room for dessert. Especially when you are at Payard. I wrote once about their Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookie – which runs head on head with Jacque Torres’ Mudslide for my favorite chocolate cookie of the moment. Prior to this dinner, I visited Payard numerous times, but never made it into the actual dining room as the wonderments in the pastry case proved too tempting to neglect.

I could not help but smile as the waiter dropped by Dessert #1, the Hot & Cold Piña Colada. This was one of my favorite desserts at the SWEET festival earlier this fall where warm Piña Coladas layered with chilled coconut foam were served in shot glasses. The same dessert was encountered again at a recent City Harvest event, and I shamefully confess to downing far more than my fair share. The contrasting elements between creamy foam and a tangy pineapple based coupled with mango and passionfruit puree is certainly one to love. On the side, a single madeline, buttery and golden.

Piña Coladas were soon followed by an indulgent “Payard Candy Bar” and glasses of Port. That candy bar…goodness…it’s difficult to settle upon which element I lusted after more. The long buttery pour of caramel touched ever so lightly by salt? Or the inner workings of cream, chocolate and a crispy mille feuille base? The loveliest part was how it all gave way so easily in the warmth your mouth, giving and collapsing in this lavish buttery concoction. Hands down, the most memorable dessert of the week.

Dinner went late into the night, as we lingered upon coffee and conversation with those just as fascinated by culinary workings and food in general. But soon the night came to end, as all lovely nights must, and we parted with a plethora of gifts including chocolate truffles and copy of Francois’ latest cookbook, Chocolate Epiphany. Very appropriate.

Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10021
(212) 717-5252

Hawai’i in Less Than 24 Hours…

…till then, here’s a round up of sweets from the week. No worries, I also make sure to include savoury food into my diet from time, but you can just check my Flickr for that. For those in NYC, isn’t the rainy weather just crazy? It’s a good thing my dad gave me an extra durable umbrella last winter. And for those in Hawai’i, I’ll see you soon! :)

1. At Tabla yesterday, Jess and I were stuffed even before the dessert menu appeared at the table. But with ever curious minds and a lusty sweet tooth, declining dessert is rarely an option. We started with the Warm Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Pumpkin Seed Brittle…

2. …and because there’s no point in having one dessert when you can have two, we followed with the Kulfi Pop Trio. From left to right: Mocha, Vanilla Creamsicle, and Pistachio.

3. The night before, John and I had dinner at Insieme. The dessert menu rolled around and we had issues deciding from the four that sounded most intriguing. So instead of narrowing it down, we decided to have all four. Why not? :) Dessert #1: Confit Butternut Squash, Chocolate Hazelnut “Cremeux” and Cranberry Sorbet.

4. Dessert #2: Bomboloni with Pastry Cream and Dark Chocolate Sauce. It’s a personal goal of mine to eat every single doughnut in the city. Give me time, I’m making good progress, but there still a billion more to conquer. ^_^

5. Dessert #3: Caramelized Puff Pastry, Fresh Figs and Ricotta Cream

6. Dessert #4: Torta al Grano Saraceno: Buckwheat Cake with Huckleberry Compote and Whipped Cream

7. Sunday = lots and lots of Hot Chocolate with Robyn and Erin this past weekend. We only accomplished half the trek on Sunday (got distracted by dinner and gelato at Otto ;), but Erin did an awesome job tasting her way through the city. Drink up the results on 12 Days of Hot Chocolate at Serious Eats New York. Four days down, eight to go!

8. A Vanilla Malted Milkshake shared between Robyn, Greg, Allison and I over a wonderfully casual and relaxed dinner at Black Iron Burger Shop.

9. Jess, her friend, and I met at Bloomies post-work with the intention of shopping. Coats, gloves, hats, and the world. After a (very weak) attempt, I failed to find any clothing, but managed to distract myself with a scary portion of froyo at the 7th floor 40 Carrots counter. Chocolate, Coffee, and Plain. I usually have all four flavours, but they were out of Peanut Butter that evening. The failed shopping trip was better documented in this late night chat with Robyn.

My goodness, it’s a terrific wonder I do not have diabetes. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. It would be a sad, sad life without dessert. Ok, well that’s it for now. Off to finish work, dinner with Shann, packing, and then…HONOLULU!

Tabla

11 Madison Ave at 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0667

Insieme

777 7th Ave
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-7932

Black Iron Burger Shop

540 E 5th St
New York, NY 10009
(212) 677-6067

40 Carrots

Bloomingdale’s
1000 3rd Ave, 7th Fl
New York, NY 10022
(212) 705-2000

Good Morning Sunshine…

…look outside, the first fall of winter snow! I’d run out for a photo, but am quite cozy in my weekend jammies and don’t intend to brave the cold for another hour :)

I attempted to do holiday shopping yesterday afternoon, but (as usual) was distracted by the callings of food. I ended up meeting Lauren at Patisserie Claude which reopened yesterday under ownership of Pablo, Claude’s assistant for as long as I can recall.

You might remember my very first post on Patisserie Claude back in 2006. Claude was the first patisserie I fell in love with (and yes, I do indeed fall in love with patisseries). The croissant! The brioche! Claude never disappointed.

But earlier this fall, rumours started to fly about. Claude is moving! Back to France! Nooo, to South Africa! The patisserie! What will happen? It will close! He will sell it! Will it become another laundromat? No, it’s going to Pablo!

And then the rumours were confirmed on Chowhound. Lauren, who is lucky enough to live within steps of the Patisserie, phoned one morning, “it’s closed! Pablo said they’re under renovation.”

And so we waited. And waited. I dined on inferior croissants throughout the city, and attempted to replace my croissant cravings with that of gelato. Then one morning, when I had all but given up on croissant consumption, a text came in from Lauren, “Open!!!” Any prior plans were pushed aside, and we met up for our first Saturday morning meal at the Patisserie.

The verdict? Prices have increased, $2.25 for a chocolate croissant instead of $2.00. It’s only a $.25 difference, but noticeable enough. The croissant itself is layered haphazardly, and bites taste more doughy than flaky. More greasy than buttery. But still, they’re better than the vast majority of croissants in NYC. The sweets tucked behind glass cases – the eclairs, plum tarts, and napoleons, don’t look quite the same. They’ve lost their delicate features and fine precisions. They look bloated and childish, far from the polished creations of Claude.

But with all that said, things are better this way. What a wonderful surprise it would have been if the croissants were just as good as the original. But the fact that they are not (and hopefully could never be) allows us to remember Claude with some sort of angelic halo. Cheesy, I know, so you’ll have to forgive me.

No one could have done the job Claude did except for Claude himself. I’ll continue to patronize the Patisserie, though without the obsession of my past. Half the reason I love the bakeries I do is because of the people that run the operation. Even if they croissants were up to par with Claude’s original, much is lost in the fact that we are not blessed with the opportunity to see Claude in his element every morning.

So best of luck to Pablo and his family! How exciting it must be to take over such a venture. The Patisserie was doing brisk business yesterday, with both curious passerby’s and regulars who stopped in to wish Pablo congrats. I’m sure recipes and the atmosphere inside the Patisserie will be tweaked (however unintentionally) over time as Pablo makes his mark. It’s his bakery now, and I’m excited to see what happens.

Patisserie Claude
187 W 4th St.
NY, NY 10012
(212) 255-5911

Just Occupied…


Demel at the Plaza

Work was busier than expected for the last two weeks, which is a very, very good thing. I haven’t had much time to update here, but have been posting on Serious Eats New York, in addition to cleaning my room (closet explosion), and eating far too much cake and gelato. Guess what? I’m flying home to Hawai’i next week! A two-week, warm weather trip to be with family, friends, and my dog, Buddy. I plan to fill those sunny days with mochi, shave ice, chicken katsu, avocado milkshakes, malassadas, mushrooms, and lau lau. Maybe even have a tea party!

Till then, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. $1.25 bag of sponge cake in Chinatown – this discovery Robyn and I made at Hon Cafe on Mott Street made us absolutely giddy with delight. A closer shot by Robyn. Hopefully you’ve had this type of cake at least once in your life…if not, you’re missing out! Two hours later we found ourselves at…

Dobostorte

2…Demel inside the Plaza Hotel where cakes run $8 per slice. My Serious Eats New York post can be found here.

Sachertorte

Nothing seems like a good deal after Chinatown ;)

Vanilla Cake, Raspberry Buttercream

3. Butter Lane Cupcakes recently opened up right in my neighborhood. Click here for my Serious Eats New York post. Make sure to ask for the French Buttercream on your cupcake – absolutely lush.

4. Sunday post-Brooklyn Flea Market lunch with Robyn, Mitzy and Ferry at Famous Sichuan (I’m developing great affection for this Pell Street restaurant…it just might become my next go-to Sichuan spot). An hour after this late “lunch,” I met up with…

Cured Hamachi, Edamame, Horseradish Puree, Seaweed

5. …Don, Kathyrn, Dan, Sophia and her friend at Ssäm Bar for dinner. What can I say, good as always :) There are some people you always know you’re going to have a good time with no matter where or what you eat…

Pear Sorbet, Pumpkin Ganche, Gorgonzola Dolce

…but everything we eat never fails to be insanely delicious.

Schiacciata Uva with Concord Grapes, Honey and Vanilla Gelato

6. The week before, Don, Kathyrn, Dan and I were at Babbo. Our photos from dinner here…though Kathryn’s photos turned out much better :) The best part of the meal? Why, dessert of course! Here’s a little blurb on the Schiacciata Uva…my most favourite dessert in recent memory.

Well that’s all for now…running out for another cup of coffee…wish my office was in the East Village so I could take my coffee trips at Abraço. Alas, the fellows at the 51st Street Oren’s are awfully sweet, so I’m in no place to complain.

P.S.
Super congrats to Zach and his wife with baby Harry! :D

Hon Cafe
70 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 219-1431

Demel
Lower shopping arcade of the Plaza Hotel
768 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

Butter Lane
123 East 7th Street
New York, New York 10009
212-677-2880

Famous Sichuan
10 Pell St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 233-3888

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-3500

Babbo
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011
(212) 777-0303