Sugar Rush’ed…

Happy Friday! I write the ‘Sugar Rush’ column + other sweet stuff for Serious Eats.

We’re all exotic this week with ramen and savory ramen chocolates, milkshakes with cactus pear and figs. More figs in a mousse cake, and an utter infatuation with all things sweet at La Boîte à Biscuits. This spice+biscuit gallery did a collaboration with Poilâne, and now you can get Poilâne biscuits made using La Boîte à Biscuits spices. Amazing, amazing! Don’t miss out on their housemade biscuits either, especially the Snow Clouds.

Sugar Rush: Snow Clouds at La Boîte à Biscuits

Sweet Finds: Komforte Chockolates

Sugar Rush: September’s Flavors of the Month

Philadelphia: Cactus Pear and Fig Milkshake at Capogiro Gelato

Sugar Rush: Fig Mousse Cake at Gotham Bar and Grill

Sugar Rush: Mini Scones at Bis.Co.Latte

Where To Drink Matcha Lattes in New York

Sugar Rush: Poilâne Pas Pour Les Chiens

A Time to Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living

Welcome. I love grand hotels, don’t you? There’s something so lovely and luxurious in their escape. So fantasy-like, a dream life. Especially the ones in New York City. And the best part is, you never need to make the bed.

At the Loews Regency Hotel this afternoon, James Farmer hosted a celebration for his new book, A Time to Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living. He owns a design company in Georgia which specializes in floral, interiors, and residential landscape designs. And it all comes together in this lifestyle book.

There were chats and nibbles and drinks. Think rosemary-spiced pecans and chervil-scented salmon croquettes with herb dips. Sage cornbread served on spoons with sausage and fennel, and pork tenderloin on rosemary skewers…

…a clean salad of mustard greens, turnip green, spinach, and sunflower sprouts with fried sage. Parsley dressing to tie it all together. A mouthful indeed! All the bright green colors made me so happy. We need to get on the track of eating more salads at home…or at least branch away from our current dumpling-heavy diet. At least it’s homemade!

I might have devoured more than my share of rosemary biscuits with sweet herb butter but they were excellent, and still warm.

It felt like an afternoon tea party, especially when accompanied with chilled glasses of his famous Farmer’s Tea. Slightly less sweet than a classic Southern Sweet Tea, this one is made from a combo of Earl Grey and Lipton (!) with simple syrup, fresh lemon and mint. It proved perfectly refreshing. I was going to write down the recipe for you, but it turns out James already has the recipe on his website.

James’ book isn’t a straight up cooking, planting, or design, but a bit of all with a strong Southern twist. While I won’t be cultivating gardens anytime soon (I can’t even keep basil alive), it’s gorgeous and useful for those who want to learn. Chapters are split between cooking and entertaining, with studies in hydrangeas, perennials. There’s even a chapter called “Herban” Gardening (herb cultivation), and another on color schemes.

I wouldn’t mind living in a suite in this hotel ;) And what do you know…they even offer in-residence extended stay. Park Avenue and 61st Street, sign me up!

Fresh Tofu, Shaké Teishoku, O-Banzai: EN Japanese Brasserie

Visit EN Japanese Brasserie during the day and sun streams though the open window, coming in from Leroy Street. This modern Japanese izakaya is busy in the evenings, but most beautiful during the day. It’s only then you can appreciate the near floor to ceiling windows, the quiet of the enormous space and private dining rooms, high ceilings and always gorgeous flower displays. French Press Coffee for Pierre, please.

And I’ll go with the Wood Dragon Oolong. I can’t imagine the enormous collection of tea pots and cups they must have stored in the kitchen!

Come for lunch on the weekends, it’s when they serve Shaké Teishoku, their take on the traditional Japanese Breakfast. On the bottom corner is salt-grilled Scottish salmon, move left to the chilled housemade tofu, then oshinko (housemade Asa-Zuké pickles), obanzai, nori, mizuna and watercress salad with ponzu dressing. And finally steamed white rice and housemade miso soup at the top. Not bad for $16. A balanced meal for sure, and always the perfect remedy when I’m feeling homesick for Hawai’i.

The most famous dish here is the fresh tofu served warm with wari joyu. It’s made on the hour every hour, and always fresh. I’ve written about this tofu on multiple occasions here, here, and here. Supple and warm, it’s by far the best housemade tofu in town (with Aburiya Kinnosuke coming in second). Sometimes I like to come here in the late afternoon/early dinner for *only* warm tofu and sake. Such a luxury!

A small selection of seven different O-Banzai is also offered at $5 dish. When you don’t feel like partaking in any of the larger courses, or even the tasting menu, just order warm tofu and three o-banzai to accompany. This is Shoyu-Braised Pork Belly and Lotus Root – always needs a bowl of warm rice to feel complete :) Also look out for Nasu Agebitashi, fried eggplant in dashi with a flurry of bonito flakes, and Ingen To Mushidori Goma Ae – string beans and steamed chicken with a nutty sesame dressing. And then relax and take the time you need, because it’s never full at lunch (or bunch), and they never rush a table. A favorite neighborhood spot? Yes, without a doubt :)

EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 647-9196

NYC: Cheese Plates Around Town

Yesterday evening, I was April’s +1 to an indulgent dinner at Brasserie Beaumarchais in the Meatpacking District. I’ve been itching to check this place out – Pierre and all his European friends love to come here (they still refer to the restaurant by its’ former name, Bagatelle). Cocktails, foie gras, and perfectly seared scallops to devour. For dessert we shared sugar-dusted apple beignets with deeps bowls of crème fraiche and this cheese plate. How could you not fall for a cheese plate right? We compose our own at home, but I enjoy seeing how different restaurants choose to create and present cheese plates.

At Otto it comes with cherries, truffled-honey, soft apricots….

Bouley doesn’t serve the cheese with any accompaniments but those paper thin cheese curls literally melt in the mouth. Simple perfection.

A June visit to Tocqueville brought pecorino with rhubarb and tiny strawberries…

…and at ‘ino it comes with olives at the center of the plate. We had a beautiful cheese presentation at Corton for Pierre’s birthday last year and the sheep’s milk cheese tasting (pictured above) at Eleven Madison Park is stunning to say the least.

As far as dinner parties go, the prettiest cheese plate I’ve had was at Michael’s apartment. Honeycomb, local plums and a microgreen salad with Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese. Though slightly messy to eat, honeycomb does wonders for presentation.

At ABC Kitchen they do a combo – a local cured meats and cheese dish. Pickled carrots and honeycomb cube included. Gramercy Tavern (pictured above) keeps it simple with honey and almonds and trio of different breads. The first time I had their cheese plate was in 2008 with Don. Come to think of it, that was my very first cheese plate in NYC! Any other favorites around the city? I’m curious to try ones at The Dutch and Gotham Bar & Grill among many others. Shall report back, cholesterol be dammed.