NYC: Raclette Party!

The snow is finally starting to melt to dirty slush here in the city. Cab rides take (and thus cost!) twice as long…driving with extra caution. But I’ve been having hot cider for breakfast every morning and hot chocolate in the evenings, so all is well.

Ben and Sanu invited Monsieur P and I for a Raclette dinner the other evening. They were all familiar with Raclette, having grown up with various versions of this dish, but this was the first time for me. David Lebovitz recently wrote a great on Raclette here.

What exactly is Raclette?
Well it starts off with a lot of cheese. We had just over three pounds between five people. Using Raclette cheese is most common, but you can also use any other good melting cheese. Ben cut the cheese into rectangles to make the Raclette-making process easier at the dinner table.

Then we arranged the other Raclette components in separate dishes. We used:
– Boiled Potatoes
– Baguettes
– Mushrooms
– Bell Peppers
– Onions
– Tomatoes
– Bacon
– Shrimp
– Cornichons
– Pineapple!

Yes, pineapple! Pretty cool right? I was initially turned off by the idea of melted cheese and pineapple in the same mouthful, but it turned out to be unexpectedly good. Ben also made his super secret parsley butter (pictured above)…I believe I single handedly wiped out that butter bowl.

Next you turn on the Raclette Machine and everyone has a big glass of wine…Raclette on the way! I’ve spotted Raclette Machines at Whole Foods and Murray’s Cheese, though you can easily find them online. The machine is essentially an electric table top grill with two levels. The top is for grilling (we cooked the bacon and shrimp here), and the bottom level contains individual sized pans called coupelles which are used for melting the cheese. The machine Ben owned has six little coupelles.

There’s a million ways to make Raclette, and we spent much of dinner debating the “correct way.” Do you cooking everything (vegetables, meats) on the grill first and then put the melted cheese on top? Or do you pile the raw vegetables on the coupelles first, then top with cheese and melt it together? But we did agree that the best part was sliding the melted cheese over slices of boiled potatoes and baguettes slathered in parsley butter. A sharp bite of cornichon and then dig in. No shots of the melted cheese – no time, didn’t want the cheese to cool down!

Things got pretty messy after my fifth or sixth serving and I managed to burn my finger (a common theme this month) by lifting the pan by the metal part. A small price to pay for a very enjoyable winter meal. You can have Raclette in any weather, but it’s particularly suitable for snowy cold evenings with good friends. I imagine it just wouldn’t be the same in sunny Honolulu ;)

Sugar Rush’ed…

…for the past week at Serious Eats New York. Hope everyone is bundled up warm today! ^_^

Top 10 Desserts of 2010

Sugar Rush: Blue Marble’s Root Beer Ice Cream

Lunch for One: Chinatown Brasserie’s Delivery Lunch Special

Top 5 Breakfast Sweets of 2010

Sugar Rush: Honey Bears at The Good Batch

Lunch for One: Café Kristall, The Lighter Side

Sugar Rush: Pear Cider and Rosemary-Chocolate Marshmallows at Three Tarts

Sugar Rush: Hazelnut Whisky Cookies by Whimsy & Spice

Hawai’i: Time for Goûter!

Pâté So at JJ Bistro & French Pastry

I snack more in Hawai’i than I do in NYC. It might be because my parents tend to keep copious, Costco-sized amounts of food in the kitchen and I’ve set up my makeshift office at the breakfast table. Or the fact that mom uses my visits home as an reason to purchase more snacks, “oh Kathy, I stopped by xxx bakery this morning, thought you might like xxx and xxx. AND I bought a few extra xxx because I know you can’t get that in NYC, right?

But I’m not complaining, oh no :) A few extra holiday pounds doesn’t hurt. Awhile ago, Monsieur P introduced me to the notion of goûter, the traditional afternoon snack in France. And since then I’ve used every afternoon as an excuse for my between lunch and dinner indulgences. In Hawai’i I have goûter at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm! After all, we’re on vacation.

Here’s what I’ve been munching on…
JJ’s French Bistro and Pastry in Kaimuki is most popular for their Chocolate Pyramid, which they have in every size ranging from giant birthday cake single biters for $.95. But the main reason mom stops by JJ’s so often is for the Pâté So ($2.50 each). It’s pretty difficult to find Pâté So in Hawai’i (a few places I know in Chinatown make them to order), but JJ’s makes the best, and also most reliable ones. This was a popular snack in Vietnam where my parents grew up, and they’ll never turn down an offer of Pâté So. The puff pastry is stuffed with a mix of ground pork, fish sauce, onions, and black pepper. My aunt likes to use a mix of chicken and pork, with wood ear mushrooms. Sometimes she adds vermicelli noodles as well. So many options!

These Ham Rolls used to be $1.10 each when I worked at Saint Germain in high school. It was my first “real job,” and my manager hated me for reasons still unknown. But that was ok because I befriended the baker and he packed me a freezer bag full of Ham Rolls at the end of each work shift. The Ham Rolls are now $1.90 each, and I’m still in love with them. Soft sweet white bread, rolled with plenty of mayonnaise and a twirl of ham. They used to top the roll with cilantro, but did away with that two years ago…now I bring my own cilantro to add!

Dad’s friend has a farm on the other side of the island and one of his employees makes these incredible sweets of Steamed Coconut Sticky Rice and Apple-Bananas. Take a look at the inside…
…^_^. They brought over a dozen to our house the other night and we devoured them in two days. The Apple-Banana is cut in long thin slices and tucked in the middle of the coconut milk-soaked rice.

Inside Palama Market (near the Korean plate lunches) is a bakery counter that carries just a few items including this barely sweet Black Sesame Mochi Bread. It’s sold by the 3-pack for $4. Super chewy, soft and pockmarked with plenty toasted black sesame seeds. When someone call out “mochi bread time,” at home, it’s dad’s cue put on the tea, and then we all gather round the kitchen counter for goûter!

I have yet to make it to V Lounge, but am already a fan of their pizza based off leftovers mom and dad brought home yesterday. Still have to go there to try the Margarita. Check out their menu here, the pies have a beautiful char, unlike any other pizza I’ve had in Hawai’i. V Lounge is just as pricey as Motorino and Keste in NYC. Crazy, right? Above is the Prima Pizza ($16), topped with, “Pancetta Di San Daniele, locally grown sweet onions, Hamakua Ali’i oyster mushrooms, thyme, parsley, fresh homemade mozzarella, local egg, and truffle oil.” Now that is truly drool worthy. I think we’re actually going there for dinner tonight…

Hope everyone is enjoying the week!

P.S. Buddy says ‘hello’!
Poor fellow caught a cold last week…achooo! He’s getting so old – 13 years now. Right leg still busted, but he’s in good spirits. Merry Christmas!

JJ’s French Bistro and Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 739-0993

Saint Germain
Multiple Locations

Palama Market
1670 Makaloa Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 447-7705

V Lounge
1344 Kona Street
Honolulu HI, 96814
(808) 953-0007

Sugar Rush’ed…

Classic Stroopwafel by The Good Batch [spiced waffle cookie, caramel filling]

…for the week at Serious Eats New York. Plus Holiday Round-Ups, and ‘Lunch for One’ at Al Di La and Cha-An Tea House. Happy almost-Christmas!

Top 10 Hot Chocolates in New York

Lunch for One: Braised Chicken and Polenta at Al Di La

Sugar Rush: Yam Custard at Pure Thai Shophouse

Sugar Rush’s Top 10 Sweet Treats of 2010

Sugar Rush: Spéculoos from Dandoy Biscuits

Lunch for One: Porridge Set at Cha An

Top 5 Restaurant Sweets of 2010

Sugar Rush: Palet Breton at Financier

Top 5 Sweet Drinks of 2010

Sugar Rush: Farmer Ground’s Buckwheat Pancake Mix

Sugar Rush: Tipu’s Chai

Interview with Barney’s

I recently did an interview with Kate Sung of Barney’s, and it was just posted it on B-Sides, the Barney’s blog. The theme for their 2010 holiday display windows is “Have a Foodie Holiday,” so you can understand how this is appropriate ;)

Check out the interview here, or just scroll down. Hope everyone is having a great week! Went to Pioneer Saloon with Farida and Lisa for lunch today, then to Coffee or Tea? for afternoon snack (papaya milk!). My parents had a party at home this evening…catering from Pho 777 and Fook Yuen, cleaning up the kitchen now. Munching on the leftovers. What I’d give to extend this Hawai’i vacation…though am superduper excited to spend both Christmas and New Years in NYC for the first time.