Pokéball Doughnut – Gotta Eat ‘Em All !

Have you been roaming the streets of Washington searching for Pikachu? I returned from Paris to find that Pokémon Go had taken the United States by storm (and of course promptly downloaded the app as well). Over the past week, small business owners and restaurants around the city have been trying to cash in on the popular augmented reality game, advertising their status as Poké Stops, enticing shoppers and dinners by setting up lures  and, of course, coming up with pokemon inspired drinks and food. Duffy’s Irish Pub near U Street has been particularly keen on all fronts offering Pokémangorita, lures, free wifi and phone chargers.

Duffy's Irish Pub

Meanwhile, ever one to give into fads, I made my way to Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken over the weekend to catch one of their pokéball doughnut, a vanilla based cake with a raspberry red and vanilla white glaze. It’ll be available for $2.65 in their stores (downtown DC and Falls Church) throughout the month on weekends, and, bonus, I even caught a Bulbasaur on the way there!! 

pokeball donut from Astro Doughnut in Washington DC

Now I enjoyed this donut, but you know what else is delicious and looks like a pokéball? That’s right, a macaron! I mean, you could make all sorts of pokemons too…  just saying… hint hint all you macarons shops in town 😉 

A Taste of Spring: Cherry Blossoms Everything

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Cherry blossoms season is almost done here in Washington. The actual blossoms faded away late last week. Who can blame them? It’s been barely 40 degrees for the past two days… and don’t get me started on the wind! But officially, the festival ends on April 17 so there’s still more than an entire week to celebrate our city in boom and enjoy festival events, like the fireworks on the 9th, the Sakura Matsuri street festival and the official parade on the 16th, or all the different themed eats, which let’s be honest are my favourites anyway! 

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the official “cherry picks” gimmick co-sponsored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington that sees restaurants as unrelated to Japan as Boqueria, Carmine’s or Lincoln come up with dubiously cherry-inspired menu items during the festival. But I’m a big fan of sweets of all kinds, most particularly when they don’t involve chocolate and I do love all of the cherry-flavoured pastries that have popped up all over town. Here are some of my favourites so far:
 

MILK BAR’S CHERRY ROSE COOKIE

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Normally I find Milk Bar’s treats just a tad/a lot too sweet for me but the combo of freeze-dried cherries, milk crumbs and rose water essence with a final layer of dusted cherries on top really worked for me. 
 

OLIVIA MACARON’S CHERRY BLOSSOM FLAVOUR

All my favourite macaron flavours have always been on the floral side: fleur d’oranger, rose, jasmin, muguet… so it was bound to be love at second sight with this one — second because I had already fallen with it when it was first introduced last year.
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RARESWEET’S CHERRY BLOSSOMS COOKIE

So pretty it’s almost a pity to eat it. Keyword: almost!
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ASTRO DOUGHNUT’S CHERRY DONUT

I can’t think of a better to spend $3.25 than this donut! Inside the vanilla dough rests a soft cherry filling, and all this deliciousness is topped by a decadent vanilla bean cream cheese glaze adorned with a sweet cherry blossom design. I’ll be very sad to see this one go.
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CHAPLIN’S CHERRY BLOSSOM BOMB

Normally I’m not a huge fan of the boozy cherry blossom specials (the exception this year being BLT Steaks Japanese whiskey flight… everything else is just too cherry-y and sweet) but I am a HUGE fan of sake bombs. Don’t judge. I have been since I did my first one at a trendy London Japanese restaurant/bar back in 2002. I like Irish car bombs too. Had my first one of those at Lindy’s Red Lion, because GWU! So I actually appreciate Chaplin’s $5 bomb featuring a pint of Kirin Ichiban beer and a shot of bright pink Sakura Emaki Rose Sake. Bottoms up on that one!
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Have you enjoyed any good seasonal eats (or drinks) during the cherry blossom festival this year? Let me know in the comments! I still have a few days to try and check them out!

April’s Fool: A fishy Fête in France…

poisson d'avril, april's fool in franceThe origins of April Fools are widely debated but the most commonly accepted explanation credits France for starting the holiday. That’s right. It all always come back to the French somehow 😉

According to this theory, April’s Fool goes back to 1564 when King Charles XIV changed the calendar around, moving the start of the year from late March to early January. Not everyone was quick to catch onto the change and some people kept celebrating New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st. And these people had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs and so victims of the pranks were called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools. Why fish… well, that we don’t know but it stuck for some reason.

1er avril, poisson d'avril
 So April Fool’s Day in France is still a fishy fête called Poisson d’Avril. One of the most common prank is little kids trying to pin paper fish they’ve either drawn themselves or coloured onto the back of their unsuspecting classmates or parents… But the best part of April’s Fools for most French people is that all the patisseries and bakeries create fish shaped chocolates for the occasion. It may always come back to the french, but for the French, it always comes back to pastries. And that’s not April’s Fools… 

Poisson d'avril... au chocolat au lait!

[This post was initially published on this blog on April 1st, 2010. No joke!]

The White House in Gingerbread

One of my favourite “political” memoir, Sucré d’Etat*, wasn’t written by a politician at all, but by a pastry chef. And not just any pastry chef: the longest serving executive pastry chef to ever work in the White House kitchen. And a Frenchie of course 😉 Chef Roland Mesnier made delicious desserts for 5 different presidents starting with Jimmy Carter in 1979 and wrapping up with George W. Bush in 2004.

White House pastry chefs are responsible for the planning, managing and preparing of all desserts and pastries served at the White House, including for State Dinners and for the private entertaining by the First Family. Among the many confections that the White House pastry chef is responsible for is the yearly gingerbread house that is one of the highlights of the holiday displays at 1600 Pennsylvania.

White House Gingerbread

Friday (December 19), he’ll be on hand to talk about his latest book, The White House in Gingerbread, a memoir and cookbook that tells among other things the story behind each of the holiday gingerbread houses he created for display in the White House State Dining Room. And what better place to do that than in front of his latest creation, a STUNNING replica of the White House (the largest one ever created) currently displayed at the Historic Decatur House across from the White House. He’ll be joined by the co-author of The White House in Gingerbread, Chef Mark Ramsdell of Praline Bakery and Bistro in Bethesda from 3-5PM (reservations required here, $25 without the book, $55 with a copy of the book) to sign copies of the book and demonstrate how to build a gingerbread house. The Gingerbread White House is on display until December 22, from 10AM-3PM, Monday-Saturday and is is complimented by a White House holiday inspired décor designed by HGTV design star Genevieve Gorder, host of the annual HGTV White House Christmas Tour. Go check it out!! 

 

A Rainbow of Colourful Treats from Olivia Macarons

Olivia Macaron

Ever since it opened back in 2013, Olivia Macaron has been my go-to spot to grab my favourite French treats! I love the way these turned out as a rainbow of delightful pastries, with, from top to bottom, red velvet, rose (always my fave!), lemon-basil, almond (close runner up!) and honey-lavender. Not pictured are some of their current seasonal offerings: passion fruit (a local take on Pierre Herme’s famous mogador combo that pairs the tart fruit with milk chocolate – I’m allergic to cocoa, so I’ve never been a fan) and black sesame.

What’s your ultimate favourite macaron flavour? Please share in the comments and have a wonderful #MacaronMonday!  

Postcard from Wisconsin: Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Did your alma mater produce its own amazing ice cream on campus? I’m gonna guess no, unless you went to UConn, Penn State or the University of Wisconsin at Madison. One of my best friends, Cecile of The Worldly Bite, comes from a long line of Badgers, so ahead of my recent trip to Wisconsin, she gave me the scoop on everything I couldn’t miss while visiting her campus, starting with getting a scoop of delicious ice cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Storebien sur.

Getting some Ice Cream at Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Wisconsin is known as America’s dairyland so it’s not that surprising that UW-Madison would offer the best Dairy Science major in the country, host the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), and operate its own dairy plant on campus using milk from its very own dairy herd. Named after Stephen Moulton Babcock, a pivotal UW-Madison researcher in the department of Agricultural Chemistry, the store helps to support the UW Food Science Department. While students, alumni and visitors like my parents and I flock to the store for its ice cream, you can also purchase cheese and milk there, as well as fair trade coffee roasted in Madison at Ancora Coffee Roasters.

Badgers Milk from Babcock Hall Dairy StoreGouda from Babcock Hall Dairy Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also tour the dairy plant and observe the way the products are made. 

Tour the dairy plant at Babcock Dairy Hall

 

In the shadow of Babcock Hall dairy Store, the university also operates its own buther shopBucky’s Butchery, as part of its Meat Science program in the Department of Animal Sciences. Sorry, dairy cows… I hear it sells amazing bacon though we didn’t visit since my dad doesn’t eat meat. Babcock Hall Dairy Store is located at 1605 Linden Drive in Madison and is open from 7:30am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday and from 11am to 4pm on Saturdays. While you’re on campus, don’t miss a walk through the lakeshore nature preserve at Picnic Point then reward yourself with a pitcher of Spotted Cow at Memorial Union Terrace, overlooking Lake Mendota. Altogether, you’ll kinda wish you attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and not just for the ice cream! 

Happy St. Honoré to all the bakers & pastry chefs

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of assigning saints as special guardians and protectors of different trades and professions, and bakers and pastry chefs are no exception! Saint Honoré, the former Bishop of Amiens in the North of France, is revered by bakers as their patron saint, in part due to a church that was built in his honor in 1202 that became the site of the bakers’ guilt. Technically, the patron saint of pastry chefs is St. Michel. But the line between boulangers (bakers) and pâtissiers (pastry chefs) is often blurred in France, with most boulangeries selling pastries in addition to bread. 

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho – picture Laetitia-Laure Brock

The St. Honoré also happens to be a delicious dessert made of cream puffs, puff pastry, pastry cream and caramelized sugar. It’s not named after the saint, but after the Parisian street where the bakery that invented it was located. So not only do all boulangers and pâtissiers have a holiday to celebrate, they also have the perfect treat to celebrate it with!

Check out this great story in NPR to learn more about the holiday and its signature pastry, the St. Honoré pastry.

 

A Recap of Art & Soul’s Second Biscuit Bash

Biscuit Bash, a biscuit-themed friendly cook-off benefiting D.C. Central Kitchen and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, returned to Art and Soul‘s patio last night. For its second year, the fundraiser sold out quickly (obviously, word got out that this is a can’t-miss delicious event for an awesome cause!) prompting the organizers to close off the restaurant for the evening to allow more people to attend. Chef Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia, whose biscuit took the top prize last year, returned to defend its title. Otherwise all the restaurants and chefs biscuit bashing yesterday were new to the friendly competition. This year, Vidalia’s biscuit was slightly less messy, though is was still drenched in tasty sauce. I loved its local Chesapeake-theme. Jumbo lump crab, old bay gravy, Virginia ham, wild ramps and scrambled eggs are just a great combination with buttermilk biscuits!

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Vidalia’s Chesapeake Biscuit came in second at Art & Soul’s second Biscuit Bash

So who won last night, other than my stomach? That would be Chef Andrew Evans of BBQ Joint DC (check out their new stall at Union Market!) who wowed everyone with his buttermilk biscuit with smoked pork belly “pretending to be ribs.” Pork belly, BBQ and biscuits are also a great combination! 

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The winning biscuit! You can’t go wrong pairing biscuits with bbq pork belly if you ask me.

Other notable biscuits included Jason Gehring’s scalion biscuit with Korean fried chicken (I love me some Korean fried chicken so thanks Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.!), Art & Soul’s Fried Chicken biscuit (fried chicken and biscuits … also a winning combo in my books belly) and Doron Petersan of Fare Well (coming soon to H street NE) and Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats‘ sweet vegan biscuit. I actually ended up giving my vote chip to Doron’s biscuit! It’s not easy being the only sweet entry in a crowded field of bacon, ham, bbq and fried chicken! And it’s not easy being a vegan biscuit either on top of that! I loved her polenta biscuit with macerated organic strawberries, fresh basil, vanilla bean & whipped coconut cream and gave her extra point for providing a cocktail pairing too, the Cattywampus made with rum, brandy, banana lemon, nutmeg & coconut. I can’t wait for her new cafe to open on H Street! And I can’t wait for biscuit bash to come back next year! 

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Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit's students were there to help (and serve lamb!!)

Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit’s students were there to help

 

Saint Paddy’s Day Treats at The Sweet Lobby & Olivia Macaron

Two of the best macarons shops in Washington have cooked up special Saint Patrick’s Day treats! Obviously both are going green, though Olivia Macaron’s Irish Cream macaron has a hint of gold dusting too!

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What would your ultimate Saint Patrick’s Day macaron flavour be? I love Bailey’s so I think that’s be a great flavour… but I also think an Irish Whiskey Caramel macaron would be pretty awesome!

Images courtesy of Olivia Macarons’ instagram and The Sweet Lobby’s Instagram

Ici Urban Bistro Joins Thousands of Restaurants Across the World to Celebrate Goût de France

Gout de France

This Thursday, March 19, some 1,300 chefs will cook up special dinners at restaurants and embassies in 150 countries across all five continents for a worldwide celebration of French cuisine and gastronomy. Under the patronage of France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius and famed Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, “Goût de France / Good France” was inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners), in which one menu was served to as many guests as possible worldwide in one day.  This time, however, the chefs have some creative freedom to come up with their own menus, though they must adhere to a strict traditional degustation format and serve, in this order, a French apéritif, a cold starter, a hot starter, a fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, a French cheese (or cheeseboard), a chocolate dessert, French wine and digestif. The menus will also be priced at the restaurant’s discretion, but participating establishments are encouraged to donate 5% of proceeds to local organizations.

In the District, there’s only one restaurant participating: the Sofitel Hotel’s own Ici Urban Bistro. Executive Chef Franck Loquet has crafted a wonderful menu for the occasion.

Gout de France menu at Ici Urban Bistro

The special March 19th dinner will be presided by Olivier Serot-Almeras, French General Consul, and is priced at $150 (you can purchase tickets here). 5% of the proceeds from this dinner will be donated to the local NGO Petits Frères des Pauvres (American Fund of the Little Brothers of the Poor.)

Last Friday, I got to taste some of the dishes that will be served (as well the delightful champagne) and diners are in for a treat! Check out the mouth-watering pictures below. You can also check out Gout de France’s website to view a complete listing of all the restaurants participating throughout the world. Since there are diners in 150 restaurants, there’s bound to be one near you! In New York? Ladurée is one of the restaurants participating (check out the menu here)!! Just saying…

Fine Woodland Mushroom Tart at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de FranceBranzino Tartare at Ici Urban Bistro for Gout de France
Atlantic Salmon Mit Cuit

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin

Cremeux aux Trois Chocolats for Ici Urban Bistro's Gout de France diner