Petrossian New Spring Pastries

Petrossian, a restaurant and luxury food emporium known primarily for its sumptuous caviar, balik salmon, and foie gras, recently released its new spring line up of teas and pastries. When I was invited to sample the new items, I didn’t really know what to expect. What could a restaurant famous for seafood and organ meat really know about teatime sweets and savories?

They could know plenty. The items that I sampled were nothing short of exemplary – all baked on site daily, all with interesting tastes, and all perfect for a late afternoon snack.

Macaroons

The coconut macaroons are light, with a slight sticky crunch and an airy interior. The coconut flavor is intense but not overly sweet or cloying – a creamy, tropical flavor.

Chocolate and Marzipan Quail Eggs

If you think you don’t like marzipan, think again. These tiny, perfect eggs have nothing in common with the waxy fruits that decorate Christmastime cakes. This marzipan is smooth, deep, and buttery. It also incredibly sweet, which is tempered by the slight bitterness of the chocolate and the crunch of the sugar shell. This is an elegant, sophisticated sweet that would be perfect at the end of a dinner party with coffee or a digestif.

Rosemary Cookies

Though the taste of this is fantastic – buttery, rich, with just enough rosemary to be sharp but not too woodsy – the standout of this is its texture. It looks just like normal cracker, but when you bite it, the texture is flaky, like a croissant. There is a thin crust atop layers of buttery, tender dough – it’s really like a pastry within a cookie. This would be ideal served with soup, where its many layers could soak up the liquid.

Fennel and Parmesan Cookies

This is a much more traditional shortbread, in terms of its crunchy texture. Salty with parmesan, aromatic and licorice-y with fennel, and rich with butter. These are not too fennel infused, just a light sweetness that makes the savory components of the cracker more apparent. The pastry chef uses extreme restraint in his baked goods, which allow multiple flavors with no one herb or spice dominating the dish.

Lemon-Thyme Muffins

My favorite baked item of the day. A soft, squishy muffin with a delightfully crunchy top. The first taste is the bright lemon, and then the hint of earthy thyme. Finally, the interplay of sugar and salt dance on your tongue, making you wonder if this is really a savory muffin or a sweet cake. This is the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and would be fantastic with some ricotta cheese and truffle honey.

Sunchowder’s Emporia Jams

These jams are the newest addition to the Petrossian family. Alexander Petrossian himself discovered this woman at a small farmers market and fell in love with Wendy Read and her jams. The jams are all made in small batches, using no commercial pectin, corn syrup, preservatives, or colors. The method used to make the jams is an old French one that involves letting the fruits macerate overnight and then cooking the jams for a longer time than most jams. This results in a smooth texture and incredibly pure, vibrant flavor. All the jams I tried were really pretty incredible – they actually tasted like fruit, not like sugar or artificial flavors.

Raspberry Black Pepper Jam

This jam totally blew my mind. The first taste is sweet and pure, like fresh raspberries, but then the sharp taste of black pepper cuts through the thick sweetness. It builds until your lips prickle with the slightly hot sensation, playing with the sugary taste.Though this was great on a slice of brioche, I would love to see it paired with game – some venison or boar would work really well with the spicy and sweet notes.

Petrossian has some really special baked goods on offer this spring. I would highly recommend going there for high tea, or, if you are not in New York, checking out their online store for some of the smoked salmon (which I can personally vouch for as lush, buttery, and mild – less of a bagel-salmon and more of a blini-salmon). The room is beautiful, the quality is excellent, and the food itself is unexpected and delightful.

Petrossian is more than just a one trick pony.

Petrossian on Urbanspoon

*I attended a press sponsored event. I was not paid or required to to write about the product, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, unbiased.*

Fauchon – Foodie Fantasia

Paris isn’t just about eating. It’s also about shopping…
For food. 
 Fauchon is the foodie equivalent of Neiman  Marcus or Henri Bendel. High end, artisinal products that cost a fortune and are a once in awhile indulgence. 
 The macaron counter is a mile long. 
 Where else can you get chocolate pound cake topped with edible gold for breakfast? For BREAKFAST, I tell you!
 Let’s not ignore the gourmet eclairs with fillings like foie gras and the Mona Lisa etched on the top.
 Would you like some pate? Choose from goose, duck, pork, chicken, and any combination thereof.
You could, of course, prefer pork, rabbit, pheasant or any other number of types of rillettes.
When in doubt, why don’t you just get this whole foie gras with a gigantic black truffle. Just like what you find in your local supermarket, right?
And cheese and crackers just won’t cut it for parties here. 
If you decide to try a few treats…
 
 Snail Pastry
Don’t ask me what the real name of this is, just look for the brown, coiled pastry. As it breaks into croissant-like shards in your hand, notice the crunchy, sugary glaze, the warm cinnamon and the buttery layers of dough on the inside. Like a cinnamon croissant on crispy steroids. 
 Sundried Tomato, Olive and Parmesan Baguette.
Thick, crunchy crust. Slightly sweeter insides than a regular baguette, which worked well with the juicy tomatoes, salty olives and tangy Parmesan cheese. So full flavored and densely packed with the top of the line add ins. These were incredibly sweet tomatoes and plump olives. Throw some lettuce on here and it’s a full on vegetarian sandwich. 
 Pastry that Begins with a K
Get this crown-shaped dessert with a Germanic sounding name. Crunchy sugar flaked of in sheets, surrounding soft, fluffy pastry dough that was similar to challah, but with the faint alcoholic tang of rum. Nothing like a little rum for breakfast.
 Or, if you prefer, an impossibly light and flaky croissant, or a citrus-scented madeleine stuffed with sweetened condensed milk. 
 You might also prefer a chocolate croissant, with thick strips of dark, slightly bitter chocolate running through the buttery bread. 
 Green Salad with Herbs, Pine Nuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. 
Where in America can you pick up a premade salad that looks like this? Fresh greens, fragrant dill, sweet chervil, pungent chives, crunchy pine nuts and a sweet-tangy mustard vinaigrette.
 What’s more, you can even pick it up for breakfast.
 Or you could try a baguette sandwich. This one, made with cured ham, lightly salty but not at all smokey, paired with nutty Gruyere cheese and a thin schmear of sweet butter. Butter on a ham sandwich is genius. It tempers the saltiness, saves the bread from betting soggy and ads…well, it adds butteriness. 
No butter was necessary on this foie gras, arugula and raspberry jam sandwich. 
Bread, foie, vegetable, fruit. 
That’s a whole meal.
Sit at the high window-side counter and enjoy your bevvy of goodies. Fauchon is a beautiful, delicious stop on your trip – an occasional treat worth the splurge. 
Just like Paris, in general. 

Maple Walnut Muffins

I’m not a breakfast person. Never have been, vacations notwithstanding. But there are times that I can push myself to eat. Like when it is free. Or when I am in an airport. Or..when it involves the term “Maple Walnut.”  Maple and walnuts are meant to go together. Liquid and solid, sweet and savory. And when the flavor combination finds its way into muffins And…even better…it’s possible to make it with no sugar! Just maple syrup. And vanilla paste. And egg yolks. Maybe a LITTLE sugar…


INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 Tbls. pumpkin pie spice
1 package cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1)Preheat the oven to 375 F and spread the walnuts on a single layer on a foiled baking sheet. Toss the walnuts in the oven while it preheats and pull them out in about 7 minutes, when the nuts start to look oily and let off a savory, nutty scent. Be sure not to let them burn – scorched nuts are useless.
That’s what she said.

 2)Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.

 3)Add the maple syrup…

 the vanilla extract(or paste – expensive but offers SUCH deep and rounded vanilla flavor),

 the melted butter,

 the milk,

 and the egg and egg yolk.

 4)Add the walnuts and the pumpkin pie spice,

 and stir to combine

 The batter will be a little loose, but not runny.

 5)Now place your cream cheese into a different bowl…

 and whip it either with your hand mixer or your stand mixer.

 6)Add the powdered sugar to the cream cheese

 7)Grease your muffin tin and fill each tin with the muffin batter.

 Be sure to only fill it up halfway. Because next…

 8)You add a little dollop of the sweetened cream cheese.

 9)Top it off with another (thin) layer of batter

 10)And pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the middle of the muffin comes out clean, with no streaky traces of batter.

 11)Wait for the muffins to cool (just a bit), and pop them out of the tray.

 These muffins are so good. So warming, comforting and perfect for a rainy morning or an afternoon treat. Since the batter has no sugar in it, the muffin isn’t at all sugary or desserty – just gently sweet with the maple. The walnuts give off a savory, meaty flavor that contrast with the extreme fluffiness and lightness of the muffins. The cream cheese provides that fatty, decadent sweetness that is like a layer of cheesecake in the middle of this pastry. These would be perfect with some candied bacon.

And it’s a great way to get yourself to eat a healthy breakfast. No sugar…remember?

Lefkos Pirgos Cafe – Pastries, Greek Style

After a night full of garlic, wine and a pre-dessert, what could cap off a girls’ night better than a visit to a traditional mom and pop style Greek bakery?
 Besides Joh Hamm…sadly, we couldn’t get him in Astoria.
 What we could get was Greek TV, a Greek staff and a plethora of Greek pastries at Lefkos Pirgos Cafe. Be aware – you come here for the food, not the atmosphere, which is casual and relaxed with a tough of “EAT YOUR DINNER,” from the slightly haggard servers. If you take pictures, they will yell at you, and if you ask for the name of the sweet you are eating, they won’t tell you. Who cares? Grab a table and chair and relax for some of the best desserts this side of Athens.
 Be sure to get a slice of the Baklava. And by a slice, I mean the mammoth hunk they will place in front of you. Layers of flaky phyllo dough are alternately crisp and moist, sandwiching a fatty, slightly savory melange of mixed crushed nuts, spicy with cinnamon and cloves. Honey envelops the entire pastry, making it all sweet and melding with the spices. You might think that you can’t finish the whole thing, but I bet you will be able to.  It is huge and it is delicious.
 Galaktompoureko – cream filled pastry soaked in honey syrup. 
It was about this time that I stopped thinking about Jon Hamm, because nothing could be more delicious than this. Dense, creamy filling was less sweet than it was tangy and rich – like a cheesecake with a whipped consistency. The phyllo dough provided textural contrast and the sugary syrup added the necessary sweetness to the dish. This was like a very ripe brie with honey – sweet, smooth, satisfying. 
And now, my favorite…These tiny nut cookies. I wish I knew their name, but in the absence of a name, I will just call them what they are – little bombs of heaven. They are heavy, rich and incredibly sweet. Loaded with nuts and those same aromatic spices. Small but packed with flavor. 
Lefkos Pirgos Cafe will never win for decor. It will never be the most cutting edge place in town. But what it does, it does exceptionally well. Well worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.
And on a night that you can’t get Jon Hamm…it makes a darned good substitute.

Hubig’s Fried Pies

Who doesn’t love a pie? I mean, really? Flaky, buttery crust, sweet and juicy filling, as perfect for breakfast as it is for dessert…honestly. You would have to be a masochist not to enjoy pie. Of course, the only thing better than a slice of pie is a whole pie.
And these little handheld pies from Hubig’s(the company awesomely sent me some samples) REALLY fit the bill. Hubigs is a New Orleans based company that makes pies and only pies. Pineapple, lemon, chocolate cream and a plethora of other flavors.
 And, oh yeah…they are fried. 
Frying them results in an incredibly light crust, flaky and rich at the same time (more savory than sweet) encasing the most delicious flavors. Sweet and tart lemon, delightfully sugary pineapple and – my personal favorite – creamy, rich sweet potato that melded perfectly with the powdered sugar glaze on top of the pie. Hubigs is just delicious. It is like those old fashioned McDonald’s fried apple pies on Delicious Steroids. These are comforting enough to eat alone at home and unique enough to serve as dessert at a get-together. They can only be found in New Orleans, but they ship everywhere!
If that didn’t convince you…perhaps my little ditty will!

Peels – Breaking all the Brunch Rules

I broke many of the rules I tend to hold about brunch to dine at Peels (A Southern American regional cuisine based restaurant and bakery that rotates its bakery items on a daily basis) one Sunday morning. There were no reservations, it is incredibly trendy and I had to wake up before 10 am.
 The things we do for biscuits. Shockingly, there was only a 10 minute wait for this popular spot at 11 am. Okay, so far i didn’t HATE it…
 And the bright and airy space with a trendy but casual vibe made me not hate it some more…
And this pecan sticky bun made me REALLY not hate the Peels.
 Fresh brioche dough intermingled with buttery and sticky caramel, fatty toasted pecans and just the barest hint of cinnamon. This really isn’t a cinnamon roll – it is a savory, eggy bread that is soaked in an incredibly rich and sugary sauce that is closer to toffee than caramel since there is virtually no burnt edge to it. The pecans are abundant and the flavors are balanced and satisfying. Totally delicious and a must-get.
The sausage isn’t the stuff out of a Jimmy Dean package – this is housemade, free form pork sausage. Spicy with red pepper flakes, a bit sweet with brown sugar and somehow juicy and delicate yet meaty and substantial all at the same time…These were some really kick ass sausages. I mean that…that is a food critic term, right there.
The Peels Biscuit and Gravy that my dining companion ordered was another winner. Fluffy, light, floury biscuits under perfectly poached eggs and creamy sausage flecked with that amazing homemade sausage. The only thing that could improve this would be a side dish of dill cucumber salad…because that’s just what I imagine Southern people eating. They need SOME veggies if they eat sausage that is as amazing as the sausage at Peels!
Brunch ended with an extremely well made latte-the perfect combination of sweet and bitter, creamy and spartan, with just enough foam to be luxurious but not overly heavy.
I broke the rules for Peels and it broke the rules for me! No reservations, but (virtually) no wait. Trendy but not snobby. Southern food that was decadent and authentic but, dare I say…light? Yes, pork and sticky buns can be light, don’t you sass me.
The service may have been a bit slow, but it was incredibly leisurely to sit and chat over a brunch where we weren’t being driven out to get other people into the chairs. That is a MAJOR issue at hot restaurants in NYC and I am pleased to say that Peels treated us with real Southern hospitality.
And that’s why they say that rules are meant to be broken.
Peels on Urbanspoon

Mary Ellen’s Portuguese Bakery -Pork-o-Palooza!

After a somewhat mediocre meal at Sam’s, I wasn’t holding out high hopes for breakfast. Sure, there might be lobster rolls to be had in summer mornings, but what about late spring? I was pretty much counting on a Starbucks pastry. Then, somewhere, I read about this little gem. 
Mary Ellen’s Portuguese bakery is a small diner/bakery that serves diner standards as well as traditional Portuguese fare. When we walked in at 7 a.m., the place was hopping with local men and women, many of whom, we noticed, had their food brought to them without even ordering and had specific coffee cups in the mismatched plate ware. It was a total family, community affair, but we were quickly seated,  treated like we had been there all of our lives instead of being a few interlopers.
 And really…any restaurant that serves a plethora of pork in the morning is going to get patronized by me.
Before we sat down, we surveyed the bakery counter, which had all sorts of conventional and Portuguese specialty baked goods. There was a cheese and linguicia bread that looked amazing…
But we settled on this Portuguese doughnut. More a fried brioche than a sweet bread, it was covered in powder-fine crystallized sugar that made it sugary but not cloyingly so. A perfect precursor to our meal.
 
The linguicia and egg sandwich on a Portuguese roll was really perfection. The linguicia was zesty with red pepper, sweet with the pork and perfectly moist, the way good linguicia is. The thin omelette was the perfect light counterpart to the heavy sausage, and the bread was totally fantastic. Thick but not dense, soft still substantial, it totally held in all the grease (we call that flavor, here) but had such a supple crust that my teeth easily tore through it, with none of the tug and war one needs with a ciabatta or baguette.
Dontcha just love a culture who eats stewed pork at all times of the day or night? This Cacoila (slow braised Brazilian pork) was tender but not at all mushy, and served with a piquant, spicy broth that was full of vinegar and chilies. Though the sauce was sour, tangy and zesty all at once, what was amazing was how strong the pork flavor shone through here. There was none of the garlicky, onion-y flavor of the linguicia here. The vinegar and chilies just brought out the pork’s inherent moistness and sweet flavor. This was rich but not at ALL heavy, also unlike the linguicia.
It was so not heavy, I could have eaten 3 of them.
Mary Ellen’s Portuguese bakery may have been my favorite find of the trip. Kind service, unbelievably cheap prices, and some of the most delicious breakfast food that I have ever had the privilege of shoveling down my gullet. Get yourself to Mary Ellen’s if you find yourself in Falmouth.
Don’t worry…somehow Starbucks will find the business to survive.
Mary Ellen's Portuguese Bakery on Urbanspoon

A Bloody Good Time at Billy’s Bakery and Other Places

There are some bloody good food things going on right now:
1)The bloody good Frito pie at Cowgirl.
Fritos topped with hearty steak chili, cool sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and spicy jalapenos. The chips sink into a molten, salty, corny base for the hearty chili, tangy cheese, smooth sour cream and kicky pickled jalapeños.
Must I say any more?
2)The bloody good cauliflower pie at Grandaisy.
Delicate, holey, flourey base topped with hearty, toothsome cauliflower and salty, nutty Pecorino Romano cheese. The cauliflower was as hearty and creamy as a portato, but richer, and with that aromatic, cabbage-y taste that only califlower has. A total ode to cauliflower and how totally transformative it is to a simple piece of awesome bread. 
3)The bloody good Steak Sandwich at Breeze.
Juicy, tender steak on a crusty baguette with sweet carrots, spicy radish and herby, creamy cilantro mayonnaise. All for well under $10. AND there is a lightly greasy but still crispy spring roll. Any questions? Didn’t think so
4)The Bloody Good Red Velvet Cupcake from Billy’s Bakery.
I’m a sucker for red velvet cake. Good, bad or other wise, if it is chocolaty, dense and covered in rich, sweet, tangy cream cheese icing, I’m there.
And I was SO there.
And for even more bloody good eats…check out this article I did.
If you make a comment, I will send you a cookie.
Hell, even if you don’t, I will send you a cookie. 
Cause that’s the kind of bloody blogger I am.
Billy's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Francois Payard Bakery Review

Bakery opening!  Woohoo!!! Is there anything quite so thrilling as entering a bakery?  The savory scents of butter and flour in the air?  The chocolate and fruit glistening before you?  A whole place devoted to CARBS and DESSERTS???

 

 

…ANYWAY…

 

Francois Payard Bakery recently opened in Soho, and when I was walking by before lunch, I popped in.  Because what is a better appetizer than sweets?  Am I right?

 

 

 

Payard is a very well respected French pastry chef with expensive and luxurious pastry shops all over the world. It is not unusual for a creation of his to go for over $60 a pop.  Yikes! But this new incarnation is a much more casual, relaxed, and inexpensive one.  Flavor stays, expense goes.  Me likey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a small space, but well laid out, with a glass pastry case lining one wall and a few small tables facing it.

 

 

 

You can also see the bakers at work through the plate glass wall!  I love seeing bakers and chefs doing their thing-to me it is really seeing an artist at work.

 

 

 

The pastries all look gorgeous and the smell in that shop was DIVINE-it was reminiscent of a time before splenda was part of our vernacular.  Oh, sweet memories.

 

 

 

There was a huge selection of savory goods too-creamy quiches, cheese laden sandwiches, and even pissaladiere-my FAVORITE use of caramelized onions!  But I had my eye set on one thing and one thing only.

 

 

 

The coffee macaron.

 

A macaron is a cookie made out of egg white, almonds, sugar, and whatever flavoring you like-anything from plain old vanilla to passion fruit to chocolate chili!  Then you take two of those cookies and sandwich them together with a rich ganache-it can be a different flavored ganache, complimentary to the cookie flavor, or it can be the same flavor ganache.  These cookies are crispy, light, very sweet, and very rich all at the same time.  People are obsessed with them. They are the Justin Bieber of the cookie world.

 

 

 

…except actually cool and timeless. Sorry, Justin.

 

They are often small, like the size of nilla wafers.  This was closer to a whoopie pie in size.  NICE.  And the taste?

 

 

 

Oh sweet Caffeine Deities, bring me to your lair and let me live with you. This was COFFEE! Rich, deep, sweet with butter and sugar, slightly salty from the almonds, and just barely bitter from a true, well roasted coffee bean.  Seriously…these were to DIE for.  Taste wise at least.  Texturally…this was not the macaron I am used to.  Fluffy and soft versus light and crispy, this did lack the necessary crunch that makes a macaron a macaron.  But the flavor was really so delicious, I can overlook that.  The ganache was LITERALLY the stuff of dreams.  Thick and rich as nutella, powerful and flavorful as an Italian espresso…this was some seriously outstanding ganache.

 

 

 

Not a cheap place-$4 for a macaron-but what do I always say?  Ya get what ya pay for kid!  And here you pay for world class ingredients, made fresh every day, right in front of your eyes.  My only regret about this place is that I didn’t get 2 macarons.  Will I ever learn?