Category Archives: How to sabotage your diet

Hope you didn’t clean today…

So if you read the previous post, you remember that in Vietnamese superstition (my mom confirmed it’s not just her, it’s an entire country), it’s bad luck to throw anything away today.  Apparently, it’s also bad luck to clean anything for the same reason.  Don’t wash away that luck!  And you also have to wear brand new clothes that you’ve never worn before to start a brand new year.  I get a big old “fail” on the new clothes and the cleaning, but I remembered not to take the trash to the chute so I’m not a complete disaster yet!  And I did manage to get my son into brand new clothes – not so much because I meant to, but because at the rate he’s growing, I basically have to put him in something brand new every couple of days.  He’s 3 months old, but he wears 9 month size clothing.  He’s a beast.  Not so much fat (although he’s got those perfectly plump rolls) as he is just solid.  But, I am adhering to only doing things that you want to repeat all year on the first day of the new year!  I am managing to post something to my blog in hopes of repeating it 365, 300, 250, 200, 100, 50, at least a few times this year!

This is only 1 oz of caviar as we ate the other ounce last night with eggs en cocotte

So what was supposed to be just a nice date between my husband, myself, a bottle of champagne (only one glass each and the rest safely covered and saved for tomorrow), and some delicious caviar ended up being crashed by my non-napping son.  Luckily, he sat on my lap quietly and watched attentively as we sipped on our champagne and nibbled our caviar on crème fraîche dolloped, toasted brioche.  As his eyes longingly followed the flute and caviar movement, drool dripping down his chin, I sighed with pride.  This is definitely my son.  Although to be fair, drool is almost always dripping down his chin lately…  My mom says I was a drooler, too.  Typical.

Oh, and the verdict on the Pierre Peters champagne recommended so highly by Amanda?  Fan-freaking-tastic!  So perfectly balanced and smooth.  We actually had the Pierre Peters last night and then popped a bottle of Guy Charlemagne tonight.  Both are Blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay) and similarly priced, but the Pierre Peters was just creamy.  It definitely had hints of malic green apple tartness, which always reminds me of Charms Blow Pops, but yet it was velvety.  Tonight’s Guy Charlemagne was much more forward with its tartness.  All in all, I might actually prefer the Guy Charlemagne to cut through some of the custardy, umami pops of caviar and prepare me for my next bite.  But in general, I prefer the Pierre Peters and wish I had the type of lifestyle where I could just have a glass of it every evening… maybe in a bubble bath surrounded by candlelight… and a personal masseuse giving me reflexology…

Dark, inky greenish gray little pops of happiness

I hope your New Year’s Eve was eventful and full of bubbly and that your New Year’s Day has been all about quiet recovery and promises of gym visits that won’t happen.  This year, I’m not even going to pretend to care about exercising as I sometimes have in the past.  Really it was more like trying to convince myself to pretend to care…  Anyhoo, I have found that really relishing abandonment of my body allowed me to enjoy my caviar and champagne all the more deeply.

For the picture, I added just a bit of the caviar. I then put the camera down and slathered it with savory goodness.

So all the best to you and yours!  I wish you well in 2011!  Um, to most of you anyway…

I hope to spend the rest of 2011 eating like this...

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Champagne wishes and caviar dreams… and napping babies

You know how when your friends are pregnant, they talk about how they’re going to be that super cool mom and nothing in their life is going to change?  And then they squeeze out a kid (or in my case, have it removed via the jaws of life) and they become lame, lame, lame?  Every conversation becomes focused on how much the kid is pooping, breastfeeding, napping, and pooping again?  Your friend can’t hold a decent conversation about anything because every 2 seconds she starts baby talking to her infant.  Well, welcome to Lameville, population: ME.  I’m baby obsessed.  Every waking moment is consumed with my little milk monster, as we’ve affectionately named him.  And basically all my moments are waking… I think I’m getting about 4 hrs of sleep a day – not consecutively.

Usually on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I get together with our friends Eunice and Reg and we invade my old boss, Dave’s house.  We arrive with our own communal bottle of Don Nacho tequila and as many bottles of bubbly as possible so that we can sabre them while 3 sheets to the wind, spraying glass everywhere.  My boss has 2 young children and no matter how hard we try to keep the shattered champagne bottle glass contained, these poor little guys wake up barefoot on New Year’s day to a mine field of broken glass.  Last year we sabred in the bathroom, which seemed brilliant at the inebriated time, but really just meant a bathtub full of glass shards and one broken bathroom window.  Just for the record, that broken window was NOT my fault.

This year, we are spending New Year’s just the 3 of us.  Our little Lameville family will probably choke down some food as quickly as possible, do bath time for the baby, and all be asleep by 10PM… if we’re lucky.  BUT, I have big plans for New Year’s Day!  In Vietnamese tradition (or maybe just my mother’s personal superstition), there are some guidelines for how to conduct yourself on New Year’s Day.  First, don’t do anything that you don’t want to repeat for the rest of the year!  Only do activities that you want to do everyday for the next 365 days!  Next, don’t throw anything away – you could accidentally be throwing away good fortune!  So, this New Year’s Day, I’ve decided that as soon as we can get our little one down for a nap, my husband and I will be snacking on Osetra caviar and some really delicious bubbly.  We are doing it up in style and taking a temporary reprieve from Lameville.

I’ve already got 2 ounces of American farmed Osetra caviar, which I ordered from Rue la la at a discount… but not much of one… this will still be a DAMN expensive little snack.  Next, I needed a really delicious glass of bubbly.  I’m only allowed one glass a day, so it has to be as delicious as possible.  No Cava, no Prosecco, no skimping, especially since it’s accompanying caviar that’s worth more than my shoes.  Well, skimping a little, maybe.  I called in a favor and asked my friend, Christie’s Wine Expert Amanda Crawford, for her Top 5 Champagne picks under $50.  I met Amanda while working at Murray’s – she frequently taught our Wine and Cheese pairing courses.  When people see Amanda’s name on the Murray’s class schedule, her classes usually immediately sell out.  It’s not only because the lady has a baller palate and knows it all when it comes to wine, but it’s also because of how she conveys it to you.  Passion, people!  You sip the wine and she’s your tour guide through every taste sensation, providing energetic commentary on what you are smelling, tasting, and feeling.  You put down your glass and feel like you’ve just returned from a week long vacation in the wine’s country of origin.  Yup, she’s THAT good!

Instead of bastardizing her words, I’m going to just quote her for your reading pleasure (and yes, it’s a bit of a shortcut for me since baby is up and demanding food).  Where I could find it at Astor Wines & Spirits, I’ve provided a link:

“As for Champers, there are literally so many incredible Champagnes on the market right now that I absolutely adore with all of my heart.  Skip the Grand Marque houses and head straight for the Grower-Producers (you can see on the label by the tiny, infinitesimal RM on the front label.  This means Récoltant-Manipulant, i.e. owns land and grapes, as opposed to an NM, Négociant-Manipulant, which means they buy grapes).  Obviously, this doesn’t tell you about the quality of the juice, but it does tell you that the person who made the Champagne had more control and direction in the growing of the raw material….a good sign.

Anyhoo [Yup, Amanda uses it to so it MUST be a word! Sorry for interrupting].  The most basic level Champagne starts around $35 these days, so with $50 you’re looking at really fantastic Non-Vintage or Multi-Vintage wines for the most part.  The ones I’m digging are:

Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV $35.   All Chardonnay from Grand Cru village in Champagne, this is stelly, intense and tons of citrus and tart apple fruit.  Super high acidity. [It’s Mindy, sorry to intrude again, but “blanc de blancs” means that the champagne is 100% Chardonnay – a really excellent pairing with your creamier, custardy caviars.]

Loriot Blanc de Noirs Brut Réserve NV $40.   The main three grapes in Champers are Chardon, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and most Champs is a blend of all three.  This is super cool because its is mostly Pinot Menuier, so it is a totally different expression of the wine.  I pair this with cheese all the time in classes and it is a huge hit.

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Réserve NV $50: I just love this producer and will buy anything they make.   The guy who imports them, Tierry Thiese, calls this a cross between Champagne and Mosel as these wines have intense concentration and tons of mineral expression.  Lots of fruit and herbaceous aromas.  All Chard, too. [Yup, it’s me again.  This is the champagne that I’ll be tenderly sipping on Jan 1!]

Henri Billiot Brut Réserve NV $50: Unfiltered, no dosage, no malolactic , Pinot based Champagne that is absolutely stunning with a wide array of usual fruits on the nose.  Sure, you get cherries, but you also get plums and flowers.  Neat, powerful, concentrated, top quality stuff.

Jean-Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blancs $50: 100% Chard, this is the most floral and “pretty” Champagne I’ve ever had.  It’s rounder, not as steely as others.  Romantic.

[And Amanda added a little something special to blow the budget, but I decided to go for it and buy a bottle to keep for a special occasion!] For you, special bottle.  My favorite Champs of all time is the Vilmart Cuvée Rubis Rosé.  Its $80, but f*ing incredible.  Fermented in oak, its decadent and delicious.” [I censored a little there because I’m a mom now and the F word is off limits unless someone really deserves it in an F you sort of way, which nobody has yet… so that’s good…]

So, as I sit back and enjoy my glass of Pierre Peters and my mother-of-pearl spoonful of Osetra with my husband while frantically watching the baby monitor for signs of movement Jurassic Park/Aliens style, I hope that you will spend your New Year’s Day surrounded by garbage and clutter, eating something truly decadent.  I will try to post pics on New Year’s Day to force myself to continue blogging for the next 365.  Cheers and thanks for reading!

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Mad for Macarons

IMG_4541.JPGHave you ever been asked whether or not your a sweet or savory person?  You know, what do you prefer as a treat, a salty pretzel or a piece of chocolate?  I hate that question.  It depends.  It always depends.  I don’t like hard pretzels – they remind me of being an idiot teenager who knew squat about what “carbs” were and ate dry, brittle pretzels by the bag to lose weight.  And I like chocolate, but it has to be dark chocolate (ideally around 70%) and it can’t have the words “milk,” “white,” or “Hersey’s” anywhere near it.  Not interested.  I’ll take the pretzel if it’s that or white chocolate.  Oh, but if you dip that pretzel in some form of dark chocolate, or maybe a jar of nutella, then you have a snack that’s pretty tempting (and you also have what I religiously ate as a train snack while backpacking through Europe).

salted caramel perfection

salted caramel perfection

Today, though… This day that gave me hope… If you asked me that question today… I would say that I was a sweet person (obviously meaning that I want something sweet as that word and my demeanor have NOTHING to do with each other).  Today, I walked into work and my friend, Kim, offered me a salted caramel macaron from her friend’s soon-to-open shop, bisousciao.

raspberry lightness

raspberry lightness

Little did she know that I have a small OBSESSION with macarons and have been on a hunt to find ones as delicate and ethereal as those of Ladurée.  Bouchon, Payard, La Maison du Chocolat and even Kee’s all left something to be desired.  They were fragile, but each and every one of them was overly sweet and made me instantly thirst for bubbly water to get rid of the clawing syrupy feeling that you get at the very back and top of your mouth where that little hangy thing is.  You feel like you have to swallow a thousand times to try and get rid of it.  And I’m not sure that Bouchon’s macarons even count as macarons since they’re the size of frisbees.

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I picked up the pale, cream-colored macarons and was delighted by how light the meringue felt in contrast to the dense salted caramel pressed between each cookie.  I love when the filling contrasts in both color and flavor to the that of its meringue cookie.  My first bite gently cracked through the delicate crust of the meringue before slowly pushing through the chewiness of the softened meringue and the salted caramel.  The nutty meringue and perfectly savory caramel were not overly sweet at all, but perfectly balanced – just sweet enough to be complimented by a cup of tea, but not too sweet to beg for a strong espresso.  Kim offered me another one and before she could finish her sentence, I dove in and retrieved a vivid yellow, lemon macaron.  This would be the test.  Lemon macarons are tricky.  Too often, they taste like they’ve been bombed by lemon essence and sugar cubes, like sucking on a lemon drop.  This lemon macaron, though, was unlike any that I’d EVER tried before.  This is perhaps the BEST lemon macaron that I have ever had.  The lemon cream, made with fresh lemon juice and zest, TASTED like actual lemons, not like what lemons are “supposed” to taste like.  They had an organic, natural taste that was actually refreshing.  This macaron tasted as light and refreshing as sweet spring air.

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At the moment, bisousciao. has an online business where Tanya, the owner, will ship (deliver within NYC) these memories-in-the-making macarons to you.  I never would have ordered because I hate ordering any food in the mail that I’ve never tasted before.  You can’t return it if you hate it and I have that whole thing where once I order food, my body expects it, and I’m ruined until that food is actually infront of me, ready to be consumed.  If that happens at a table in Chinatown in the 2-3 minutes it takes before your first dish flies out of the kitchen and is dropped (sometimes literally) on your table, then can you imagine the nightmare that I would be for my husband if I had to wait 3-5 business days to receive my food-package???  I bet he’s shuddering as he reads this at the thought.

pistachio and chocolate ganache

pistachio and chocolate ganache

Yet depending on how long it takes for bisousciao. to open a storefront this Fall (hopefully!), I may have to cave in and buy these incomparable macarons to share with my macaron-obsessed friend, Angie.  In fact, these macarons are so dainty and opulent that I am tempted to throw a tea party or the like centered around these magnificent little treats.  I love to live in jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, flip-flops, and basically anything that doesn’t require dry-cleaning, ironing, or hang-drying.  These macarons, dainty and just-crisped on the outside but chewy on the inside, are so sweetly colored that I instantly feel the urge to don my frilliest dress, my most colorful and ornate pair of heels, and lounge in someone’s parlor whilst taking gentle nibbles of just-kissed-with-sweetness macarons… pinky in the air, of course.

you can't tell from the picture, but my pinky is definitely in the air here

you can't tell from the picture, but my pinky is definitely in the air here

How good are these macarons?  Well, Kim had given the rest of the macaron box to our friend, Sabena, for a party she was going to later.  When I asked Sabena if I could take a few pictures, she eventually said yes, but insisted on first counting the number of macarons in the box to make sure that I didn’t steal any in the process of picture-taking.  While I was taking the pictures, she came by to then make sure that I was not “man-handling” them and told me that she would chase me all the way to China if I tried to take one…  Yup, they’re that good.

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Sabotaging my diet, one cheese at a time…

For the last 2 weeks, I basically lived at FCI.  It’s not all bad though… wait, where was I going with this?  Just kidding…

Right now, FCI’s restaurant, L’École, is carrying 3 cheeses from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.  I tasted them while having dinner one night at the bar on the recommendation of Matt, one of my favorite bartenders and fellow blogger.  He began the “sell-spiel” about beautiful 22,000 state-of-the-art cheese cave, yadda yadda yadda, family owned, yadda yadda yadda… Uh, Matt?  You had me at “cheese.” Continue reading

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