cinnamon buns + a novel update {so close!}

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Things have been quiet around here simply for the fact that except for workouts and the sole writing date, I’ve spent the past four days holed up in my apartment working on my novel. I’d been stuck on Part III, unsure of how to find closure with my characters and this story, which ended up being exactly what I never thought it would be. Suddenly, the story came like a torrent. So much so that I stayed up until two in the morning last night, writing.

Know that I normally go to bed at 10 and wake up at 5. Let’s just say that getting up this morning was ROUGH.

But I’m close, so close I can see the end in sight, and it’s terrifying and exciting. Last year, when I left my old life behind in pursuit of something other, I took a trip to Europe to get some quiet. And the week before I was schedule to fly home, I started writing. I hadn’t written anything in four years, and it came and I didn’t question it, think about or analyze it–I just wrote in front of the ocean. In sleepy Biarritz, I started writing a story about a woman who set another woman’s hair on fire. A year later and nearly 240 pages, I’ve fallen in love with these people–some of whom I’ve known since the story collection I was writing during my Columbia days–and I’m a little sad to see this story come to a close.

Yesterday, I took a much needed break and baked up these cinnamon rolls. I love baking yeast breads because it requires you to linger, to be conscious of time, and so I scheduled writing bursts between the multiple proofs, and come nightfall I savored a bun with some coffee, typing into the night.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of The Food Network.
For the dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/4-ounce package)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

For the filling:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft, plus more for coating the pan
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze:
2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
For the dough: Combine the milk and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until it is about 100 degrees F (but no more than 110 degrees). Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast over the surface over the liquid. Sprinkle a pinch of the granulated sugar over the top and set aside without stirring, until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the butter, vanilla and egg yolk into the yeast mixture.

Whisk the flour, remaining granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick and slightly sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 6 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put the dough in the buttered bowl, turning to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, trace a circle the size of the dough on the plastic and note the time. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead briefly to release excess air; reform into a ball and return to the bowl. Lightly butter a large piece of plastic wrap and lay it on the dough. Cover the entire bowl tightly with the plastic and proof in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

To fill and form the rolls: Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Whisk the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Turn the prepared dough onto a floured work surface and press flat. Then roll into a 10- by 18-inch rectangle, with a long edge facing you. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving about an inch border on the side opposite you. Evenly scatter the cinnamon-sugar over the butter. Starting from the long side facing you, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder. Lightly brush the clean edge of the dough with water. Press the open long edge to the dough to seal the cylinder.

Slip a long taut piece of string or unflavored dental floss under the roll, about 1 1/2 inches from the end. Lift and cross the string ends over the roll, and then pull the ends tightly in opposite directions to cut a single roll. Repeat, cutting every 1 1/2 inches, to make 12 rolls. Place the rolls cut-side-down in the prepared pan, leaving 1 inch of space between them. Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until rolls double in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Bake the buns until golden brown and the tops of the buns spring back when pressed lightly, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

For the glaze: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the condensed milk, butter and lemon juice to make a smooth, slightly loose icing. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Drizzle the icing over the warm buns. Serve.

Note: These buns are best eaten on the day they’re baked, but they’ll keep, covered, for 1 day. For a make-ahead option, refrigerate or freeze the buns after forming. If refrigerated, allow the buns to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes, then let rise fully until doubled in size before baking, about 2 hours. If frozen, allow the buns to come to room temperature, about 1 hour, and let rise fully until doubled in size before baking, about 2 hours.

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chocolate cloud cookies + rolling with it

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Yesterday I decided to go for a walk because being swathed in blankets, wrapping up your face in tissue like some sarcophagus, and turning your home into a bakery because you’re exhausted and coming down with the sniffles, has an expiration date. After a fit of sneezing that had me bordering on apoplexy, my cat scurried away to the next room and peered out from behind the door. Had his mother turned into a typhoon?

The moment when you start constructing narratives your cat would employ is the moment you leave the house.

Dusk fell and the sky was milky and still, and I found myself surrounded by trees. My friend and business partner phoned, and we discussed our mutual sneezing, our frenetic schedules, and lamented that it’s been too long since we’ve seen one another. I start to tell her about this new project I’ve got going, and she laughs and says, It’s like you’re a management consultant. The line was small, insignificant, a throwaway piece of conversation, but I paused mid-step, and said, I don’t know about that. To myself I thought, I don’t know what I am.

I’ve deliberately put writing + editing of my novel on hold until I get to Fiji next month (note to self: don’t book expensive vacations while drunk and mourning the loss of your cat, because you’ll pay for it, literally, later). I’ve got projects to keep me busy. I’m baking all these sweets you see here. But what does it all mean? All signs point to…

BLANK.

Part of me wants to roll with it, play the hand out, see how the cards fall. While another part wants to make a decision. Should I formally train in pastry making? Should I commit to this partnership I’ve got with my friend to take this consultancy off the ground? Should I map out a series of books? Should I start this magazine I’ve been talking about?

Suddenly there is stasis. There is this great chasm (or perhaps one that I’ve architected) between me and the thing that I ought to be pursuing. I’m in ether, floating, indecisive, and I’ve never quite been like this. There’s always be a plan, an objective, something very clear to which I’ve to work toward. Now, there’s this. There’s the joy of baking chocolate chip cookies and finding something new in so simple a recipe. There’s the relief from being an office but not having to adopt it and a company’s culture. There’s the thrill of finally being able to write, to finally have found my voice.

As you can see, I’m meandering. My mentor once told me that people who give long responses to short questions do it because they don’t know the answer. It’s like filling your test blue books with words in hopes that the answer might emerge from the rubble. You’ll talk and write your way there.

Part of wonders if I want is right in front of me but I can’t see it yet…

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
1 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp fine sea salt
2 cups (8 ounces) toasted sliced almonds
2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 3 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Rub the superfine sugar and brown sugar together through a coarse-mesh wire sieve into a medium bowl; set aside. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar mixture, then the vanilla. Beat, occasionally scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until the mixture is pale yellow and light-textured, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the eggs.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl. With the mixer speed on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until each addition is incorporated. Add the almonds and chocolate chips and mix just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Empty the dough onto the work counter, and use your hands to thoroughly distribute the almonds and chocolate chips in the dough.

Using a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared pans. Using the heel of your palm, slightly flatten each ball of dough. Bake two of the pans with the cookies, switching the position of the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking, until the cookies are evenly golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. During the last 3 minutes, rap each pan on the rack. The cookies will deflate and their signature cracks will appear on the tops. Repeat with the third pan. Cool on the pans.

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buttermilk biscuits with parsley + sage + an ode to joanne chang

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You may have noticed that I’ve been kind of addicted to Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. I first encountered the famed owner of Flour Bakery + Café this summer when my editor sent me her sequel, Flour, Too, for review. Not only was I enamored by a woman who made a radical career change, making the radical leap from management consultant to baker, but the glee she imbues within each recipe — as if she’s rediscovering pastry and cookies and biscuits for the first time — was infectious. You wanted to say yes to Joanne, regardless of what she was hocking.

1112p95-flour-cookbook-lNever did I think that I could adore a cookbook as much as I did Flour, Too, but Flour is truly remarkable. For those of you reading this space, you know I’ve just come off the gastronomic blitzkrieg that was the Kinfolk affair, replete with failed recipes and practiced humility, so I needed to return to recipes I could trust, recipes made with a practiced hand and acute sensibility. So when I saw Flour in my local bookstore, I thumbed through the pages and then ran to the register.

It should be noted that I haven’t been this in love with a cookbook since Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking {if you don’t own this book, you should}. Not only will you find your classic cookies and crumbles and cakes, you’ll encounter some delicious delights {homemade oreos and fig newtons, milky way tarts, and chocolate filled brioche}. The instructions are clear, meticulous and exacting, and I haven’t made one dessert out of this book which wasn’t a tremendous success.

These biscuits? I plan to ambush my friend at yoga with a bag of these, since my bounty is starting to pile up. Ah, the days of office life when you can pile up goods in the kitchen and run.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
1/2 cup cold nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 cold egg
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 tbsp chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute, or until the butter is broken down and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cream, egg, and sage until well combined. With the stand mixer on low speed, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Mix for 10 to 15 seconds, or just until the dough comes together. (There will still be some loose dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.)

Unscrew the bowl from the stand mixer. Using your hands, gather the dough together and turn it over in the bowl so that it picks up the loose dry ingredients. Turn the dough a few more times, until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a 1-inch-thick round. Using a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on a baking sheet. Gently recombine the dough scraps, pat into another 1-inch-thick round, and cut out more biscuits. (Repeat if necessary; you should have 8 biscuits total. At this point, the biscuits can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week.)

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the biscuits are entirely golden brown. (If baking frozen biscuits, add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.) Remove, place the pan on a wire rack, and let cool. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and parsley. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the butter while they are still warm.

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Book interior image credit: Cooking Light.

homemade blueberry pop tarts!

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I have few memories of my time with my mother that are worthing saving. My chrysalis from child to adult practically occurred in the womb, so sometimes I struggle to remember moments when we were two giggling girls, happy. Before cocaine transformed the woman I loved into a cold, paranoid somnambulant, before we moved to the pristine postmark lawns and expensive finery that was Long Island, we lived in Brooklyn. We feasted on Gino’s pizza, greasy Chinese food {spare ribs + pork fried rice for two!}, Carvel banana boats and boxes of pop tarts. Back then, I’d never heard of the word “organic” or understood the perils of white flour and sugar. We ate what we could afford and splurged on junk food and “naughty” eats when we were flush.

Yesterday, for some reason, I remembered a time when I sold picture frames, wall hangings and knick-knacks on a sheet on Thirteenth Avenue, and I remember passersby regarding me with a kind of pity. I used to think that the end always justifies the means, so I scurried home with my dollar bills and bought Little Debbie cakes and sticker books.

motherWe loved our television loud and in color {we did have one small black and white set in the living room}, and nights I’d sometimes watch evening soaps and the game shows my mother liked to watch — all the while ripping apart the foil of a strawberry pop tart, my absolute favorite.

Time passes, and we turned off our television sets, moved to different parts to New York, separated. Within a span of fifteen years I told my mother that I couldn’t have her in my life. She was my first hurt, and loving her always seemed to ruin me. This is the very definition of survival, I thought, and I never touched the foods we shared a love for, again.

Until yesterday. Until I spent the day with one of my dearest friends and business partner, Angie, and I thought I’d make her kids a sweet treat.

While these aren’t the prettiest of tarts {I’m notoriously for failing at icing because I’ve no patience}, I assure you they are the tastiest. The bleached-white Kellogg’s version has been replaced by a buttery pastry dough, awash in egg and sugar and sprinkles.

Don’t be freaked out by making butter dough — it’s easier than you think.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
For the Pâte Brisée
Makes 8 pop-tarts
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 228 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp cold milk {I used almond milk}
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup (340 grams) blueberry jam

For the Simple Vanilla Glaze
1 cup (140 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tbsp water
Rainbow sprinkles for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS
For the pastry: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface (at Flour we call this “going down the mountain”), until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.

Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

For the pop tarts: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Press each half into a rectangle. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 14-by-11-inch rectangle. Using a paring knife, lightly score 1 rectangle into eight 3 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch rectangles (about the size of an index card).

Brush the top surface of the entire scored rectangle with the egg. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the jam in a mound in the center of each scored rectangle. Lay the second large dough rectangle directly on top of the first. Using fingertips, carefully press down all around each jam mound, so the pastry sheets adhere to each other.

Using a knife, a pizza roller (easier), or a fluted roller (easier and prettier), and following the scored lines, cut the layered dough into 8 rectangles. Place the rectangles, well spaced, on a baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tops of the pastries are evenly golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

For the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and enough of the water to make a smooth, pourable glaze. You should have about 1/2 cup. (The glaze can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

When the pastries have cooled for 30 minutes, brush the tops evenly with the glaze, then sprinkle with the rainbow sprinkles (if using). Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the glaze to set before serving.

The pastries can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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colorova, paris + the comedy that is paris transport

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Merci, said by no one, ever, at Montparnasse Station in Paris. First, you will struggle with the seemingly endless array of steps it takes you to travel from Bastille to Montparnasse (count: 2 metro lines, 10 stations, four shoves and six glares). Part of you suspects this is some form of trickery, a way of which Parisians will do anything to keep its denizens confined to city limits, whilst mocking luggage-strapped New Yorkers. At said station, countless men will jockey for position on the steps and gleefully shove you out of the way. You will have dropped your bags four times to rest before you make it to the faux escalator Parisians call effortless commuting. There is nothing effortless about navigating rail stations in Paris, only a subterranean torture chamber that makes Dante’s Inferno look like Paradise. You consider the fact that if you collapsed on the ground, at this very moment, people will probably step over your still-warm body.

You have yet to board the train at this point, or even locate the ticket booths. The comedy on the level of the absurd that you will soon endure is nothing short of priceless. Since there are no signs directing you to the TGV ticket booth (Why should there be signs? one images a Parisian official stomping his little feet. One should just know!), you make several feeble attempts to make inquiries in your abysmal French. In response, people pretend to think you’re speaking a language that could not possibly be French. There are several eye squints, frowns, and looks of feigned confusion. Side conversations ensue regarding this confusion. One guard even retorts whether you know how to speak French. Sweaty, frustrated and burdened with bags that are the weight of several small children, you say, You’re an asshole, and walk away.

The guard will follow you, apologize, and offer to help. Ten minutes later, you will locate a slew of ticket booths that are out of service. After queuing on the one line filled with people who clearly have never used a machine in their natural born life, your tickets spit out, along with an ominous message flashing in red: You must have your ticket stamped before boarding!

Stamped WHERE? Indonesia, perhaps. As of this moment, that seems logical.

After queueing on another line to make inquiries about this ominous stamp situation, and to perhaps catch an earlier train, you hear the phrase so often uttered by Parisians, It’s not possible. Another variation: It’s impossible. Yet another variation: How can this be possible?

In a waiting room where an internet connection fails every thirty minutes, a woman pushes the doors open and shouts, Does anyone, ANYONE, speak English? You feel this woman’s pain acutely, and help her the four times she asks you about printing out a ticket. Because this was you, thirty minutes ago.

The internet connection expires, along with your patience. You remind yourself that violence is not the answer. But you do wonder what would happen if you screamed, BACK THE FUCK OFF. You imagine the motley lot sniffing and striding past. A giggle lodges in their throat and emerges into a full-blown cackle.

As you board the train, you sincerely believe that the comedy that was your life the past four hours has now come to a close. Curtain calls, roses and all that jazz, but there are more stairs, more cars, more station attendants who laugh at your feeble attempts to speak French, and at one point you just collapse against the door of the train. Your bags fall to the floor.

Then a French woman bends down and picks up my bags and places them in the luggage compartment. One by one. Startled, I rush over and commence with my usual round of désolés, when she says, in English, Why didn’t you ask anyone for help? I give her the Cliff Notes version of my story, when she interrupts, Why didn’t you plainly say, my bags are heavy, I’m lost, can you help me? The train doors close and I say, I don’t know. She touches the fabric on my jacket and says, You see, the world isn’t such a bad place. Here is a stranger who helped you with your luggage, even though you never asked. I thank her, and realize she’s right. Even though I always assume people should know when to help, sometimes I just need to stop someone and speak plainly. Ask for help.

Then I fall into my seat and eat a pastry from Colorova that somehow has survived the whole of this fiasco, in-tact. Remembering an exquisite brunch and a conversation I had with my waitress, who marveled over the fact that I was going to Biarritz, she said, Biarritz’s so very different than Paris.

As I ride up to the sea in Biarritz, speaking a mixture of Spanish, English and French to a jubilant taxi driver, I realize I know exactly what she meant.

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the sweet life in paris {1}

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Today it occurred to me how much silence has the capacity to alienate. It is true that there is an invisible line — on one side there are those who speak French, and on the other side are those who don’t. After four months of studying the language, preparing myself for this trip, when I open my mouth it’s as if cotton swans out. Fumbling for words, I find myself stuttering, speaking softly and apologetic, until finally the poor waiter takes my order and scurries off. Bakeries are easier because it’s so procedural, whereas restaurants and shops offer one a more mindful exploration. One wants to linger. You might have walked in with an appetite for a particular totem or dish, and then you find yourself pontificating on the origins of a truffle, or the carvings on a piece of unfinished wood. All of this requires a rich vocabulary that I don’t have. I know it in English, sometimes I even think in Spanish (chalk it up to a bilingual childhood), but French aludes me with its irregular subjunctives and gesticulations.

Yet, I’m armed with my apps and prepared phrases and I try to keep life simple. I used to think that I wanted to live in Paris, but being in an apartment, buying groceries, navigating the subway system, has somehow taken the gloss off the city. And while I love it still, it reminds me of an aged New York with its raspy voice, mouthful of smoke and neroli perfume. But I do know this — no city rivals Paris in terms of pastry and blooms, and I’ve had my fill of them both. Traveling between the banks can be exhausting, but I used these Odyssean walks as ways to make the sweets downright necessary for fuel!

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After reading the pastry smack-down involving my beloved eclair, I decided to pay a visit to L’ Eclair de Génie, located in the Marais district of Paris. Up until the past year I’ve had nothing but contempt for the eclair, as so many bakers have destroyed the delicate flavor balance with too much sugar, goopy cream, soggy pastry, and cracked chocolate that’s somehow medicinal. One could argue that it’s easy to bake a muffin or a cookie (I could argue both sides), but French pastry is a fine art, and poor technique can make for a crap pastry. But all was changed during my last visit to Paris, and I’ve now become a devotee. So believe me when I say that the accolades for L’ Eclair de Génie are well-earned. The simple, minimalist shop showcases the eclairs like jewels, and you can have your pick of the basics: chocolate, coffee, salted butter caramel, or the exotics: framboise/rose, pistache/orange. I opted for two: the caramel and the Madagascar vanilla dotted with buttery pecans.

You should know that I devoured both, outside the store, within seconds. I didn’t even have the class to walk around the block. No, I ate both of the eclairs, standing up, in plain sight.

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After a day of walking, I needed a space to rest and enjoy a sweet treat in front of window. I found my way to Mamie Gâteaux (6ème), and slipped inside and immediately felt like I was in the home I always wanted. Rustic gastronomic accouterments, a proud display of tarts, pies and delicate cakes, and the workshop wooden tables, lent a comforting feel to the popular spot that tends to draw the brunch crowds on the weekends. But on this particular afternoon, it was quiet, and I curled up with a fig tart, fizzy lemonade and lots of coffee. And it occurred to me that I need to do this more often: sit somewhere with a book and a sweet.

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The air had cooled and the once bright sun started to slouch a bit, and wouldn’t you know that I got a call from a sweet friend who happened to be in Paris? When I called her back, I apologized for missing her call because I was picking out chocolates at Patrick Roger. Of course you were! she laughed, and we met up for an afternoon coffee/hot cocoa and I shared some of my choice chocolates with my name twin. We marveled over the buttery pralines, the dark chocolate covered ginger, and truffles that ooze oceans of flavor. While the prices are a challenge, the goods are worth it. Shopping at Patrick Roger and marveling over the artistry harkens one to think of purchasing couture.

And while most of the shop owners spoke English (after my wretched attempts at making inquiries in French), I miss the way I am at home, when I have the words to ask so many questions, the words to share how the whole of my body wakes at a bite, but I’m mostly left with syllables and gestures and my sharing this love with you.

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the choux à la crème of your dreams at odette, paris

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Remember when I said that as soon as I arrived in Paris that I dropped my bags at the hotel and ran out into the street? After attempting to shove the whole of a towering meringue tart in my mouth, I tried on virtue for size by making the trek to Odette. I rationalized that between the long walk to Notre Dame and the tiny pillow puffs of cream, I was practically burning calories just thinking about the whole plot.

Located right across the river to the south from Notre Dame (5th Arrondissement), Odette harkens back to a Paris you dreamed of in the 1920s. From the black and white tiled floor and antique silver trays and cake stands, to the perfect puffs of cream housed in glass domes to the lush upstairs salon where one could read Stein, Hemingway or Fitzgerald and have a meal for a few francs, you will fall in love with Odette’s charm. And then you will bite into a pastry.

I have a passion for shops that sell a singular item. Whether it be a donut, cookie or stacks of framed photographs, there is something enviable and confident about offering that one ware. At Odette, the pat-a-choux are absolutely worth the splurge. From sublime madagascar puffs to salted caramel to fragrant pistachio, the crisp exterior yields to the cream within, and it’s truly a thing to see, smell, taste and experience.

So I spent a few hours like that, sipping tea, listening to old music and feasting on little puffs of cream.

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love.life.eat. of the week: in which a woman shakes in her pants in anticipation of her european holiday!

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love.: As most of you know, next month I’m spending three weeks traveling through Italy and France. People who know me well know that I am a woman who likes to be prepared. To that end, I’ve spent endless hours preparing my itinerary of hidden chow spots, tucked-away streets and art that will put my heart on pause. Some of my choice favorites: Localers, a service offering cool day tours by Parisians. At present, I’m swooning over the food trips. Whilst in Paris, I will definitely pass time in these coffee shops, as recommended by Sous Style. After over a decade of traveling to Paris, photographer and writer, Janelle McCulloch, serves up a sumptuous take on her picks for art, architecture, fashion, vintage, food, and all the hidden streets that are a must-visit in her vividly photographed book, Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart. Clearly, any advice Ines de la Fressange doles out I’m certain to follow. So I snapped up her beautifully bound, Parisian Chic: A Style Guide, and it’s chockfull of etiquette, tips and Ines’ picks for the ultimate Parisian holiday. Finally, the Bloggers Guide to Paris is a must-print {while you’re at it, devour all of Pret-A-Voyager’s posts, please!} When in Rome, I plan to follow Twitter friend + travel writer, Erica Firpo’s tips to the letter.

When it comes to apps, I’ve scored David Leibovitz’s divine Paris Pastry Tour, because if David’s writing about it, it’s certain to be DELISH. And to help me with my pitiful French and non-existent Italian, I’ve already downloaded the simple Mindsnacks apps.

**If you have any links, resources of tips for me, please share them in the comments section. I’m headed to Rome, Florence, Siena, Paris, Bordeaux, Biarritz, and possibly Basque country.

Brief aside: Golden Tip Cups. Aren’t they dreamy?

life.: Just as I ceased the endless trip vacillation {Basque country, no, Switzerland!}, do I read about Ashley’s visit to Southern Spain. You will fawn over the rich history, architecture and the sloe-gin vibe. Meanwhile, Jessica’s literary riffs remind me why I’m so delighted to have returned to books, articles, criticism with such fervor. Some days it feels as if I have a tapeworm when it comes to literature, and trust me, this is a good thing.

eat.: Indulging my passion for chocolate + chocolate are these yummy Homemade Bounty Bars. While I’m noshing on this and pretending to be more virtuous I can feast on Quinoa Salad, x3, Carrot Soup + Blood Orange Oil, Sweet Potato + Rosemary Biscuits.

savoring the sweet: poilâne: rue du cherche-midi, paris

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The past few days I’ve been a bit of a lunatic, a food madwoman if you will. Before I left for Paris I printed pages of recommendations by Arrondissement. Boulangeries to visit in the morning when the city is quiet and the air is crisp. Patisseries worthy of their queue, artisanal chocolatiers spinning pools of dark chocolate into something crisp, luscious and magical, bistros where one could lounge for days — I’ve collected a dizzying list of friend-approved recommendations, and I’ve taken to Paris by foot (and metro when my legs can no longer bear it) to sample as much pastry as I can before I go into sugar shock.

Before we get romantic about pastry, let’s recount my day, shall we? Rain is pretty romantic (all trés jolie, etc) when you are safely tucked away in your hotel room — not when you’re carrying the crap umbrella you should have burned in New York while battling a rainstorm at nine in the morning. After experiencing a thorough soak, I ran to the nearest metro and took the train to the Louvre, where I remained for the next three hours. After exploring rooms of Byzantine and Renaissance paintings, and enduring the ubiquitous mayhem over the Mona Lisa and Nike Samothrace, I left as soon as the storm abated. Considering I had inhaled 1.5 chocolate almond croissant pastries for breakfast, I decided to walk the seven miles back to Bastille (with a quick pit-stop at the Eiffel Tower). On my way back, I decided to make the trek to Morange’s Le Fournil de Mouffetard — for my friend told me that she would SHOOT ME IN THE FACE (my words, she was much more diplomatic) if I didn’t procure one of the best croissants in Paris — to find the joint CLOSED. At this point it’s 3:30 and all I’ve had to eat were said croissants, 1/2 a baguette and Starbucks.

GET A WOMAN SOME PROTEIN!

Possibly I was possessed because I jumped on yet another metro and ended up in the lovely (and very chic) Rue du Cherche-Midi in the 6th arrondissement in search of Poilâne — home to the world’s finest sourdough bread, as well as fantastic butter cookies, apple croissants and turnovers. As always, David Lebovitz has the whole scoop about the shop, which was a pleasure to read and made me appreciate the artisanship behind this famed spot. I did manage to have a slice of bread (divine!), and snarfed a warm tarte aux pommes (apple tart) shamelessly in the middle of the street. Believe me when I say that I’m holding my remaining pastries for the morning. One can only try.

As said by many, Poilâne’s proprietors are warm and effusive. Not only did they encourage me to sample loads of buttery cookies (you’ll want them a little burnt on the bottom as the flavor resembles browned butter and WHO REFUSES BROWN BUTTER), they pointed me to cafes in the area where I can savor them with a cup of coffee. Little did they know that I wouldn’t make it. I was too weak. I had to eat the delicious, buttery pastries a few feet away.

We’re not going to discuss the fact that whilst strolling the streets of the 6th, I encountered Celine. WE’RE NOT GOING TO DISCUSS THIS. We’re not also going to discuss the fact that when I got back back to my hotel, I asked room service for PROTEIN. And then wondered if cheese was a protein. This is what happens when you have a day of SUGAR.

I adore, adore, adore Paris but I am longing for some hearty KALE.

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