Cafe Sabarsky

2011/08/02 § 4 Comments

My other favorite cafe in New York City.

Viennese.  Old world and elegant.

Cozy booths by the large windows.  Dappled sunlight streaming in.  White marble-topped tables and black bentwood chairs.  White-apronned waiters in black ties.  Buffet table laden with cakes and pastries.  Lacy paper doilies.  Fireplace.  Grand crystal chandelier.

Klimt Tortehazelnut cake layered with bittersweet chocolate

Oh beautiful Vienna, you are on my mind.



A Rainy Day, a Park, a Friend, a Cafe…

2011/04/20 § 12 Comments

A simply perfect day…

Walking under April showers.  A friend.  A cafe.   Looking out onto a beautiful garden.  Warm bread, Cotiche Fritte, Barbabietole Fritte, Panino de Porchetta, Affogato.   Talking about life and loves. And memories.  Stepping out into fresh air.  Breathing in the scent of rain, of grass, of leaves.  The eyes filled with myriad colors.  Flowers soft and weepy.  Some bright and eager.  The world is new.  Always.  After the rain….

A Blessed Easter to all


A Room With A View

2011/03/10 § 6 Comments

In late January, a visiting friend and I had brunch at the Breslin Dining Room of the Ace Hotel and loved the food.  We were also taken by the hotel lobby that looked like a big living room and a library (that turned into a happening spot at night) so we went to the front desk and asked to look at the rooms.  We loved all the rooms and their view.  None  looked alike and each had so much character (hip, vintage, mid-century modern, grunge, guitars, Smeg refrigerators, tartan bed covers).  We thought it would be fun to stay there for a weekend.  We ended up doing so many weeks after originally planned.  Here are some of the beautiful views from the rooms.  Some looked out to lovely water tanks and others to a building that reminded me so much of Paris.  Ours had a wonderful view of the Empire State, which was gorgeous at night but I couldn’t get a good night shot of it.  We had such a wonderful time spending hours at the lobby lounge listening to music, chatting and watching the scene on a Saturday night.  Many drinks, stories and songs after, we retired to our comfy room and feasted on the famous Breslin Burger before calling it a night.  Ah, another weekend filled with fun, food and friendship.  And a spectacular view.  Indeed (as prominently displayed by the hotel doorway) – life delights in life.


Walking on the Bridge and Dining Under it…

2011/01/24 § 8 Comments

I love the Brooklyn Bridge.  Whether seeing it from afar – inside a train or a car traversing the East River,  or walking across it.  Most especially this.  The thick, wide planks remind me of things beloved.  Of provinces and olden times.  Where and when bridges were made of wood.  It’s awe-inspiring to look up and out of  the steel cable latticework onto a view of the New York skyline.  From the Brooklyn side, we see midtown Manhattan to our right, with the Empire State rising prominently, and to our left is the Financial District, crowded and perched on the edge of the city.

It’s a joy to watch the people crossing and walking or running alongside you.  Some strolling slowly, taking in the sights.  Many taking photos.  And striking all sorts of poses.  A lot crossing the bridge purposefully as if it were part of their daily route to and fro work and home.  Some jogging and biking.  And then there are the lovers.  And brides and grooms and wedding parties.

After taking in our fill of beauty and wonder, we retraced our steps and went back down Brooklyn side.  We crossed Cadman Plaza towards the Promenade for more of the breathtaking views.  We then walked towards the River Cafe and enjoyed its tiny garden.  We sat under the bare trees and talked.  Buried our boots in snow and listened to the sound of the partly frozen miniature waterfall.  All the while gazing at the twinkling lights on the other side of the river.

At some point, curiosity got the better of us and C and I decided to take a peek inside the restaurant.  Greeted by masses and masses of beautiful flowers and warmth at the reception area…we found it very hard to walk out in the cold, hungry as were from the walk.

Madness overtook us. We decided to walk into the formal dining room instead, enjoy the unparalleled view some more, this time underneath the bridge, comfortably ensconced in our banquet seats…and enjoy.  Enjoy the fabled city and its fabled food.

We started with Taylor Bay Scallops Ceviche chilled on the half shell with sea beans, tomato and coriander…

Then we had two roasted tails of Wild Rock Lobster from South Africa with mango, fennel, lemon and olive oil…

Followed by Branzino Fillet – Mediterranean sea bass, chorizo sausage and shrimp ‘stuffing’, smoked tiny vine tomatoes, petite zucchini, charred lemon confit….

Sauteed Hudson Valley Foie Gras with roasted apple, brioche French toast, Zeiglers’ Orchard cider reduction, candied pistachio….

New York Cut Sirloin – dry aged, charcoal grilled, red wine mushroom marmalade, russet and sweet potato gratin with blue cheese fondue…

Caramelized Apple-Almond Tart – thinly sliced apples over a layer of frangipani and puff pastry, Vanilla ice cream, green apple sorbet…

And finally ending the meal with Chocolate Marquise Brooklyn Bridge – handmade chocolate with a terrine of toasted hazelnut and Tahitian vanilla ice cream.  Aptly ending the day as it started – with the Bridge.

The converted barge restaurant was firmly anchored… but we walked out giddy and swaying from the glorious food, the glorious wine and the glorious, glorious view.


Wintry Weather Drinks

2010/12/21 § 2 Comments

I look forward to cold weather just so I could make mulled wine.

I discovered this winter pleasure at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden several years back.  Since then, I make sure to buy a  cup everytime I see these Christmas stalls.  A friend made some at home one time so I discovered how easy it was to make and have also been making it since [mulling spices, sugar, apple juice or cider, red wine (but I’ve used white wine and champagne as well), cinnamon sticks, orange zest].

I can’t begin to describe how much I love mulled wine.  It fills the house with that wonderful scent of  Christmas.  And it makes you feel warm all over….without getting too tipsy or drunk.

Because we had so many house parties last year, with as many bottles of wine that we couldn’t really finish – I ended up making pots and pots of mulled wine which seriously made for a festive winter season.  Even when all we did was stay at home and watch TV or read books.  The aroma permeating the house makes all the difference.  It is everything warm and good and merry. It was with a tinge of regret when spring came and I had to pack up my tins of mulling spices and cinnamon sticks.

I could hardly wait for the cold weather to set in this year so I could start making more of this favorite drink.  Alas, when I went to order the mulling spices – they have been discontinued!  How could Williams Sonoma do this to me?  I will now have to look for a substitute.  Please let me know if you find any good ones.

While I was lamenting the absence of mulling spices, a friend suggested that I should go and have hot chocolate at La Maison du Chocolat instead.

I don’t normally like hot chocolate.  It’s usually too sugary or sweet or tepid for me.  But it was recommended with so much vigor that I decided to try it immediately.  I trekked to the Rockefeller shop and saw a sign saying that the chocolate salon was closed, the small sitting area for sipping chocolate drinks I presumed.  So I whiled away my time looking at all the beautiful chocolate creations and was thinking of buying a bouche de noel for Christmas eve when a kind gentleman asked me if I needed help.  I said “no thanks, what I really wanted was hot chocolate” (thinking that they weren’t serving any).  Before I could say anything else, he asked me if I wanted sweet, mild or bittersweet.  I chose bittersweet et voila – a cup of chocolat chaud was in front of me.  In a papercup.  I would have really wanted to sip my chocolate chaud in a proper cup and while sitting down…but I instead got a takeaway.

Nevertheless, any disappointment was instantly erased as soon as I sipped. It was liquid happiness.  Just perfect.  Rich.  Thick. Slightly bitter.  No hint of sugar and just the right amount of sweet.

I also found this cake which interested me no end as it reminded me of the Mont Blancs in Angelina’s (which accompanied our chocolat chaud a l’ancienne, of course).  Maybe I can get it for New Year.  Those chestnut pipings look like noodles which signify long life.  Hmmm…..

Finally, there’s hot coffee.

It was a really cold day last week when I thought it would be  good to test a hype. I asked a friend of mine to walk with me to Stumptown for a cup of coffee.  As previously mentioned, not a big coffee fan although I always have coffee with dessert and sometimes for breakfast.  I don’t normally get one…just to get one.  Or just because one has to have one while walking.  Or to wake up.  Or for whatever reason people have coffee.  I, however, really wanted to go and try the much-vaunted Stumptown coffee.

So off we go to the Ace Hotel.  Was duly charmed by the fashionable baristas.  And captivated by the capuccino we ordered.  It was good.  REALLY GOOD.  I might actually go back.  For no reason than to have coffee.  Well, to keep my hands warm at least….

Hoping you have warm days with your winter drink of choice!


…i like them naked {especially on my birthday}…

2010/11/27 § 2 Comments

The title is in reference, of course, to how one likes his oysters.  Does one like them naked, straight out of a half-shell?  With a dash of wine vinegar-and-shallot mignonette ?  With grated horseradish and cocktail sauce?  With a drop of lemon and tabasco?  Or with something else?

I grew up in a seaside town bound by other small towns with oyster beds. We used to drive to the nearby towns and stop by one of the many  oyster shacks lining the streets.  We get the oysters shucked right there and measured by the glassful or take home entire sacks of the rocky seashells.  The shucked oysters were usually eaten with grated green mangoes and rock salt or with local vinegar and chopped shallots.  When we bring home the sacks, my cousins and I try to outdo one another in finding oysters from the many secret pockets of the rather unsightly rock shells.  These we slurp with its brine straight out of the shell.

As I begin to travel out of my small town and into the big world, I discovered many different kinds of oysters and many different ways of consuming them.  In the city, I had fresh oysters with dollops of cocktail sauce and other condiments. They just didn’t have as much flavor as I’m used to in the province.  Having been weaned on fresh and straight-out-of-the-bed oysters, I found myself more partial to baked concoctions ala rockefeller ou avec du fromage et l’ail at city restaurants.

And because I practically grew up at my best friend’s house, with her parents repeatedly saying that “the best oysters are in Paris and the best mussels are in Brussels,”  my best friend [D] and I, understandably, had an even deeper fascination for oysters. {The mussel story will be in another post}.   And for Paris.  Not having the means then to go there, we made do with eating Hongkong (where D once lived) out of oysters whenever I came to visit.  At that time, our favorite were  these giant, cupped, creamy, rich Pacific ones that we zeroed in and spent our carefully saved money on.  Even when one piece of those oysters used to cost the equivalent of  several days’ lunch… we kept eating…unmindful of the subsequent weeks of diet  (or starvation) those extravagant splurges enforced.

After several years, I finally reached Paris and vowed not to leave without having tasted a plateful of its famed oysters.  And my…I never realized there were so many to choose from!   Which ones were I supposed to try?!  There were fines, speciales, fines de claire, speciales de claire, belon, and some numbered as N0, N1, N2, N3, N4, N5.   Ooh la la.  Well, I tried each of them at some point and of course loved the sweet, salty and delicate speciales de claire and the incomparable Belon.  Ah…the Belon.  Magnificent.  Firm.  Strong.    I couldn’t get enough.

I found myself alone, in Paris, on my birthday, one year.  What better way to treat myself on a cold night than with a plateful of  fines de claire and belons? Needless to say, all these were slurped off their shell in their naked glory.  Savoured, slowly.  Not even solitude could take away the resulting pleasure.  Or rather, I should say that the oysters were fitting company for  an auspicious day.  Ah…but even ordinary days, in far-flung places as Luxembourg and Biarritz, where I’ve been caught alone for a day or two, were made extraordinary by  plates of  fines de claires and belons ringed with seaweeds and lying on a bed of crushed ice.  I would sit happily in a restaurant by the old town square or in an alley leading to the sea and enjoy these pleasurable companions.

In Chicago, I discovered  kumamotos.  It  was another birthday, with friends this time, at MK.  Perhaps I veer towards oysters on special days because it never fails to give me a taste of my childhood, my sea, my town, my family and my dining adventures with D.  All beautiful thoughts.  Apt for a beautiful day.   The kumamotos were tiny, sweet, refined and the brine just a touch salty. Another one of those that didn’t need to be dressed to taste amazing.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had kumamotos as good as those at MK again.  And my fresh oyster adventures here in the US have not quite been as satisfying as those in Europe.   However, some oyster preparations I’ve had here were utterly divine.  Take for example the “oysters and pearls” at Per Se.  These were Island Creek oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar lying on a bed of pearl tapioca sabayon.  I would certainly trade my oysters au naturel for this suave, stylish and stunningly luxe dish.  Sometimes.   So with the different oyster preparations at Sushi of Gari’s omakase.  The contrasting texture and flavours are  simply exquisite.  So yes.   Sometimes.   I like them polished.  Elegant.  And dressed to kill.

However, raw and rugged oysters in its salty brine is its own heaven.   That breed dreams and cravings and memories.  And since another birthday is coming up….oysters are on my mind.  Naked….if possible.

The {Real} Christmas Wishlist….

2010/11/17 § 2 Comments

Here is the continuation of my Wishlist…

Shiseido Luminizer –  Shiseido has, for over 20 years, remedied and covered up innumerable sins committed against my skin.  Lack of sleep, too much sun, too little water, too many radicals, not enough exercise and unbelievable amount of stress – have all taken a toll on what was once young and radiant skin.  That I could still go out looking such sometimes is a testament to the gentle but effective power of Shiseido skincare and make-up.  After discovering the Luminizer, I don’t think I can live without it ever again.  I doubt I’ll get enough of this truly magical product….if a hundred  friends decided to gift me this, I have no intention of giving even one away.

Soy Candles (Altru Harmony and Kobo Red Grass) –  I love candles.  And candlelight.  For some reason, I get headaches with naked flourescent light.  I also don’t like overhead lights so I put my lamps on the floor and use lots of candles at night.  I think it’s a throwback to growing up in the province.  After dinner, not much activity is done except for a walk to the plaza (supposedly to exercise away what we ate).  Then we sit outside, talking, and staring at the stars, the night perfumed with jasmine.  I seldom see stars in the city.  That’s because there is so much artificial light.  It is a truly enchanting thing when the sky is filled with diamonds.  I still have my starry nights in the province.  In the city, I like to escape from the harsh life and the harsh lights by sitting in stillness and dining with candles and watching the flickering fire, reminding me of the brilliant stars against the dark sky.  And because living in buildings also cuts me off from air perfumed by rosal and sampaguita and grass and monsoon rains….I can only recreate this with scented candles.  Scented soy candles.   My two absolute favorites are  Harmony by Altru and Red Grass by Kobo.  Harmony is an earthy citrus inspired by Japanese tanenashi persimmon while Red Grass is inspired by fresh cut grass, rhubarb and vetiver.  City life is made much better with these lights and  scents that remind me of the stars and the earth  and the air of the province that I miss so much.

McKenzie & Childs Enamelware –   I clearly remember the ubiquitous white enamelware with the blue border.    It was the dinnerware of choice for trips to the beach, the farm and the fishpond.  It was low-maintenance and sturdy.  I didn’t like it so much then because it rusts so I thought it was unclean and ugly.  As a child, I must have also found the blue-bordered white ware utterly boring.  But we all grow up.  With the advent of plastic plates and spoons and forks – I started realizing that enamelware wasn’t so bad after all.   Even if it was the equivalent of disposable dinnerware at that time – it, at least, has heft and weight.  I can’t take plastics (I would rather wash dishes than serve food in plastic ones at home).  Those blue and white enamelware I dismissed are now vintage collectors item and new ones have sprouted that I so dearly covet.  The handpainted ones from McKenzie & Childs leave me drooling and wishing to be gifted with an entire line.  I so love  Courtly Check as it makes me think of Alice in Wonderland.  All black and white checks, red, gold and wonderfully exaggerated.  Why, I would believe in more than six impossible things before breakfast when dining on these plates and saucers!

A Trip to the Spa – need I say more about this?

The list goes on and on, of course.  But I’ll stop here.

Nevertheless, any and all gifts that come my way are most certainly welcome!

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