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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Macaron ice cream sandwiches at La Boqueria

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There is no visit to Barcelona without a stop at La Boqueria, the vast and crowded market situated along the ever-popular pedestrian street, La Rambla. Before the first visit, it was among the first sights recommended. Just looking around the place is amazing, seeing the variety of food – baked goods, fresh seafood, colorful fruit, etc. – and, of course, sampling.

After the Camp Nou, it might be my favorite place in town; it’s definitely my Dad’s favorite, when in town, he makes sure to stop by at least once a day.

On the last trip (coincidentally, the photos from that vacation are currently popping up on Facebook’s “On this day”), spotted a booth that was not there on the previous visit (which was a few years prior) selling macaron ice cream sandwiches.

Of course, I was stopping for one.

First enjoyed macaron ice cream sandwiches at François Payard Bakery, their location along W. Houston Street in New York City was only a couple blocks from the old office and walked over with a friend to try out their goods (have since found out they closed all of their locations earlier this year). Split a chocolate and strawberry sandwiches (if I remember correctly) and they were both amazing.

The next opportunity came in Seoul, encountered street vendor with a variety of flavors in Myeongdong – another lovely experience.

The selection at La Boqueria, like the market itself, was wide. They were also really colorful, like the many fruit stands throughout the place selling fresh juice. Decided on speculoos. Not entire sure why they went with blue for the macaron – delicious nonetheless. The macaron left a bit of a stickiness on the fingers, not sure if it was a matter of humidity or if it was the market air, but it was still a worthwhile purchase and would definitely go back to sample another flavor.

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Written by Paulo Loreto

May 19, 2018 at 8:28 AM

Dining at Lasarte

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Before the most recent trip to Barcelona, I spent a lot of time researching various restaurants to dine at for a good friend’s birthday. In a city known for its food, narrowing down the choices was not an easy task. Obviously, the first place to look was anywhere with the name Adrià, either Ferran of elBulli fame or his brother, Albert, who runs the much-raved about Tickets, along with Enigma.

Making reservations turned out to be somewhat vague, with no clear confirmation a table would be available once in Barcelona. In the end, decided it was important we had a confirmed table to make sure it was an amazing birthday celebration. Running through various travel guides and, especially, the Michelin guide, found out about Lasarte, a three-Michelin star establishment located just off the Passeig de Gràcia.

The reservation process was straightforward and when inquiring about their menu, with regard to dietary restrictions, their response time was remarkable (they are very accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions). The reservation process alone was just about enough to confirm the birthday would be celebrated at Lasarte.

The day arrived and we took a walk down the Passeig de Gràcia, even stopping for tapas on the way.

Upon entering the establishment, it was amazingly clean and modern. We were seated right away and noticed a few of the other tables with elegantly-presented dishes and just as elegantly-dressed patrons. It was already exhilarating walking into such an establishment, it got even more exciting once the menus arrived.

The evening began with an array of ornate appetizers, each served in a unique way, with a variety of textures to start the evening. The first course began with an oyster dish served with an iced watercress slush, parsnip, and sea mist. For molecular gastronomy fans, seeing anything with foam arrive to the table automatically get the senses going.

Probably the most beautiful of the 11 courses was the red curry dish. Described as scarlet shrimp royal with red curry, raw artichokes, celery, and apple, the dish offered a variety of colors and textures. It’s the typical go-to photo when telling people about the dinner.

Scarlet shrimp royal with red curry, raw artichokes, celery, and apple.

If I were to name the most memorable dish, there is no doubt it was the charcoal grilled pigeon with citrus, capers, black olive, and smoked sauce with galangal. The idea of eating pigeon was a rather foreign concept, which made it the most striking option when first perusing the evening’s menu. There was a red meat quality to the flavor and texture and, overall, it tasted good – it was mostly about getting over the idea of a pigeon being on the plate.

Charcoal grilled pigeon with citrus, capers, black olive, and smoked sauce with galangal.

Dessert was amazing – and gorgeous. Almond and salt praline, apricot, and rum ice cream. It’s cliché to say “it was too beautiful to eat,” but this, in fact, was; and it was all worth it once getting that first bite.

Almond and salt praline, apricot, and rum ice cream.

There’s a reason places like Lasarte are acclaimed. The aesthetic really makes a difference in the overall experience. A quiet and relaxed room with perfect lighting made the dinner all the more appealing. Very attentive staff – who even walk you to the bathroom – add an appreciation for the care the restaurant puts into service.

Then, there’s the food. 11 courses, each with its own unique taste and beauty, it truly presents the soul of the restaurant itself.

All of it comprises the “dining experience,” and this was one of the most memorable ones.

PB&J cupcakes in Brooklyn

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If there is anything that immediately draws my attention it’s a pastry shop. Whether it’s some high-end place selling french macarons and ornately-decorated cakes or a little bakeshop with a variety of cookies and cupcakes in their display case, it is always a gorgeous sight.

Wandering Bay Ridge on the last visit to New York City, happened across the Little Cupcake Bakeshop. It is lovely little shop with a variety of goodies in their display case.

Apparently, they also have three locations across New York City – two in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.

When a place offers such a wide variety of goods, it’s always difficult to choose. However, on this visit, it wasn’t so hard a decision. There was the fact that I was staying with friends in the neighborhood, so a follow-up visit was more than likely; then spotted their peanut butter and jelly cupcake – there’s no denying anything PB&J.

The cute little cupcake, topped with peanut butter cream and drizzled with jelly, was just beautiful; even typing about, the PB&J smell that wafted from the cupcake are coming to mind.

In all honesty, as mentioned before, anything PB&J is a must – but a cupcake might be one of the best variations.

Written by Paulo Loreto

April 6, 2018 at 8:11 PM

Sticky buns at a farmer’s market

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While vacationing in New York City and staying with good friends in Brooklyn, ventured out one weekend with plans to stop by a local farmer’s market set up in the parking lot of a nearby pharmacy/convenience store. That morning there was a vendor selling strawberries – a lot of strawberries. Picked some up, which were eventually enjoyed as part of a parfait.

Slowly wandered the small area and spotted a vendor with heaps of baked goods. When it comes to bread and baked goods, it is always difficult to choose. On every visit to a personal favorite bakery, Paris Baguette, it always takes a few rounds looking through the self-serve display case before deciding on the one or two (or three) items to purchase.

Amid the array of bread and rolls, there was also a display of sticky buns – there was no way I could leave without picking one up. They looked so beautiful. At just the sight of it, could already taste its sweetness; plus, it was topped with nuts, so there was also an anticipation for contrasting textures whenever that first bite would take place.

After the market, continued with the rest of the day and was left to enjoy the pastry at a later time. I have a feeling it would have been amazing on the spot, without a day’s wear on it, but it was still delicious. The bread was a bit dense, but that was likely intensified from sitting in a bag for most of the day – it was still good.

In Bacolod City, it’s hard to find good bread and pastries. Most of it is pre-packaged and those marketed as “fresh” are, often times, missing key ingredients, leaving their products excessively crumby, to the point where it virtually disintegrates after the first bite; or they’re really dry, dense, and bland.

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 23, 2018 at 8:18 PM

Spotting doughnuts in Koreatown

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On the most recent visit to New York City, was working remotely for the newspaper, which meant the work day started at 3:00 a.m. and ran until around 12 noon. Throwing in some time at the local gym, getting to take in as much as possible in the afternoon was a priority in order to truly appreciate the time back on the old stomping grounds.

More often than not, on any given day in Manhattan, it will likely be spent wandering up and down the strip of 32nd street referred to as Koreatown. Especially with a Koryo Books location to pick up the latest K-pop album, along with a Nature Republic store, it has become more than an eating destination.

Was walking eastward when a big sign that read “ginseng” caught my eye; incidentally, was in the market for ginseng products and had to check it out.

The place was called Besfren, with a cute logo with rabbits on it, which apparently is based on a fairy tale about a pair of rabbits that lived on the moon and made rice cakes. Stepping inside, noticed one side had a wall lined with ginseng products and the other side was a full-fledged café.

Before browsing the ginseng, and eventually picking up a small pack of sachets, was in awe of the pastry display. So many options, each with a very unique look to them. However, there was nothing more eye-catching than the green tea doughnut. After going for the brightly-colored pastry, also ordered a ginseng ginger latte, which offered a punch of ginger flavor with every sip, hopped on the subway with excitement, anticipating the joy of indulging in the doughnut.

Seeing it both in the display case and on the table ready to consume, this “doughnut” was more like a mini-cake – huge for a doughnut. Took the first bite and the green tea flavor was potent and, given how dense the doughnut was, it was not dry. Plus, the crème in the middle offered a nice complement to the pastry itself.

The next time in Koreatown, will definitely need to stop in again (wonder if the stamp card I picked up will still be valid).

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 10, 2018 at 1:37 AM

Stopping for sikhye at Gwangjang Market

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On the last visit to Seoul, as usual, arrived early in the morning and got to the hotel way too early for check-in. As is the tradition, the concierge offers to hold the bags for free and left to spend the first morning in Seoul a mere couple hours after getting off the plane. Stopped by Namdaemun Market first, which has become a regular haunt since the preferred accommodations are always in Myeongdong, located just next door.

Afterwards, headed straight to Gwangjang Market and walked up and down the numerous rows of freshly-cooked food with friendly ladies hard at work behind their griddles. Was still a big groggy from the flight and could not entirely take everything in in that moment, a very unfortunate dilemma in such a magical place like Gwangjang Market.

However, on the way out, stopped by a stand after spotting one of those machines filled with the ever-recognizable sweet rice punch called sikhye (식혜) and had to stop for a cup. It was ₩1,000 (less than $1) and offered a flavor unique to both Korea and to the market culture itself. It’s sweet and refreshing, and even has rice kernels floating around it.

It became a memento of the first wandering adventure on the second visit to Seoul.

On the next visit (because pretty sure there will be a third), will make sure it a longer stay and will involve many more market tours (and that’s on top of the daily visit to Namdaemun).

Written by Paulo Loreto

January 19, 2018 at 5:44 PM

Pastries in Gangnam

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With an ever-shifting work schedule at the newspaper, it has been a while since last getting to update. Ever since the last post of enjoying lasagna in Genoa, Italy, have also re-visited New York City, returned to Seoul, and made the first venture to Busan. With 2018 underway, am looking to ensure this blog is regularly updated (guess it’s a resolution for the New Year).

On the second trip to Seoul, made the first visit to the ever-touted neighborhood of Gangnam and it is definitely a far-cry from the regular haunts of Myeongdong and Itaewon. However, like Myeongdong, it is a shopping haven, with lots of stores to walk in and out of. Also wandered through various back alleys and found lots of small restaurants and cafes all over the place.

Also stopped into a massive Daiso store… shortly before happening upon another one a block over.

Eventually, took a pit stop at Gontran Cherrier, an international bakery chain named for its founder, a French baker and pastry chef.

Clearly, a green tea latte is likely not the typical French café item, but with the likely Asian twist given to the products offered at the Seoul location, it was one of many “fusion” items available. A delicious and creamy offering that helped cool down from the long day of walking – especially after climbing a few hills.

Then, there was the croissant – and their version was filled to the brim with cream. The taste is worth getting croissant flakes and powdered sugar all over the place. The idea of just opening it and seeing all the cream inside is enough to bring on hunger pangs.

However, the only downside was, when walking out of the café, it’s only a few steps until you’re right in front of a gym; at the time, fit and toned clients were standing outside taking a rest (some on a smoke break). While it may have put the deliciousness of the croissant in perspective, it was still very much worth it.

Written by Paulo Loreto

January 5, 2018 at 5:02 PM