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Eat This: Bread from Bien Cuit

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY

Bien Cuit, a bakery that opened its doors this summer in Boerum/Cobble Hill, is everything a good bakery should be. Pre-opening buzz was intense; baker/owner Zachary Golper had worked everywhere from Philadelphia to Provence, cultivating his bread-making expertise. The shops sells a variety of breads and pastries, as well as premium coffee.

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY

On a recent visit, I stood in front of the pastry case for a good ten minutes before deciding I needed something hearty and savory for breakfast. I was soon face-to-face with a beautiful lamb bacon frittata perched on a gorgeous brioche roll slathered with tarragon mayonnaise. It was all I could do not to wolf it down, as I tried to savor the bits of bacon and fluffy brioche.

The chocolate chip shortbread is the diamond-shaped cookie at the top. Photo courtesy of Bien Cuit's website.

The chocolate chip shortbread is the diamond-shaped cookie at the top center. Photo courtesy of Bien Cuit’s website.

Next time, I heeded the siren call of the $1 chocolate chip shortbread cookie. Honestly, at such a small price tag I wasn’t expecting much, but my god, this is no ordinary shortbread and graciously underpriced. Crispy, buttery, chocolaty, what more could you ask for?

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY

I also brought home a half-loaf of the miche, Bien Cuit’s spin on sourdough. Again, this is no ordinary sourdough, using a combination of rye and wheat flour and left to ferment for a record-breaking 68-hours. My husband and I agreed this was the best bread we had ever tasted and the giant half-disc barely made it through the night.

Just reading their menu makes me drool; I can’t wait to go back for another sampling.

Bien Cuit, Brooklyn, NY

December 4, 2012 at 11:42 am 1 comment

Eat This: The Perfect Croissant?

Having never been to France, I realize I may not be qualified to give my opinion on this, but I think I’m qualified to judge what tastes good. I’ve always loved croissants, even bad ones. Really, anything with butter makes me happy. But a good croissant is truly something to behold: flaky, buttery, airy yet substantial. YUM. When I was in Vietnam in February I took advantage of their past French colonialism in the form of food and had several delicious croissants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The croissant from Fresh Garden Bakery in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Back in New York, some of my favorites include the pretzel croissants at City Bakery and Bouchon Bakery’s buttery treats. But my absolute favorite has got to be from Ceci-Cela, in Soho. Aside from the fact the shop is so adorable, the croissants are buttery perfection.

Ceci-Cela’s croissant.

Ceci-Cela’s storefront on Spring Street.

The charming interior of Ceci-Cela.

 

Fresh Garden Bakery: 47 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam

Ceci-Cela: 55 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012

August 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Eat This (Abroad): Breakfast in Israel

This will be my first report of many on breakfast and brunches abroad. I’m off on a 6-month journey that has already taken me to Israel, Turkey, and now India, and will take me in the future to various countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Naturally I will be eating lots of breakfasts in lots of places, and I will write about them here! Hope you like it!

A typical, simple Israeli breakfast usually consists of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, one or two kinds of cheese (often one a salty feta-like cheese), hummus, pita, and hard boiled eggs. Our first grand breakfast was at a guesthouse in northern Israel where we had a traditional Druze (Syrian-Israeli) breakfast, which was an amazing spread. You can read more about it here.

Shakshuka is often served in a cast iron pan.

Shakshuka also usually comes with some kind of pita or bread. This one came with a delicious, fluffy focacia topped with za'atar, Israel's unofficial national spice.

Another classic Israeli breakfast is a baked egg dish with tomatoes, onions, and sometimes peppers, called shakshuka. I had a delicious one at Cafe Yankale in Herzilya. In Brooklyn, you can get this yummy dish at Miriam in Park Slope.

You can have Mocha from an easy-to-drink carton...

...or the traditional, and cheaper, bag. Just bite off the corner and sip!

If you don’t want a whole meal, you can stop into any convenience store and get Israel’s version of iced coffee to go: mocha. Yotvata (a dairy kibbutz near Eilat) makes my favorite one, and you can get it in two forms: a carton or a bag. It’s a sweet mix of coffee and chocolate milk, which is made extra delicious by the absolutely amazing milk produced in Israel. If you love fresh dairy, this is your country.

Pomegranate juicer in the old city of Jerusalem

Another option for a liquid breakfast in Israel is to stop by one of the many juice stands in the country. When I was there pomegranates were in season so their juice was prominently available. Yum!

If you’re in Jerusalem and looking for a more international breakfast/brunch, Kadosh (on Shlomzion Hamalka Road) is an excellent choice. It’s got a chic, but cozy decor and the food (not just breakfast) is delicious.

Kadosh's interior is cozy and hip at the same time.

You can see part of the breakfast menu at Kadosh here. So many decisions!

I went with the Crunchy Smoked Salmon, which was truly divine. It is a nicely-baked croissant loaded with two poached eggs, smoked salmon, and their spin on a hollandaise sauce, which involves poppy seeds and anise. It came with a nice salad and my choice of drink, so I went with freshly squeezed carrot-orange juice.

Isn't she a beauty?

Here's her insides: perfectly poached eggs and loads of smoked salmon with an excellent hollandaise.

Is there anything better than fresh-squeezed juice in the morning?

After all this I was pretty full, but when I saw a halva-chocolate babka on their menu, I couldn’t resist. A few days earlier I would have had no inkling as to how yummy this cake is, but I had eaten it at a fantastic bakery/cafe called Nadav Kinuchim (Nadav Desserts) in Ramat Yishai. That halva chocolate babka was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and their other cake and bread displays were mouth-wateringly good. I pretty much can’t wait to go back there next time I’m in Israel and anywhere near it (it’s about 1/2 hour from Haifa). Here’s a bit more information. But alas, I did not have my camera with me then. But I did at Kadosh, and while their version wasn’t quite as good, it was still delicious. Many people don’t like halva, but I have grown to love it these last few years; the trick is it has to be good halva and in America that can be hard to find. But the halva in this combination isn’t so pronounced, it merely lends a sticky, crunchy texture to the chocolaty babka.

Isn't babka the best?

 

Nextup: breakfasts in Turkey!

October 31, 2011 at 8:36 am 5 comments

Eat This: Brunch at the Dutch

Readers of this blog should be pretty familiar with my love for Locanda Verde’s brunch. So when head chef Andrew Carmellini opened a new restaurant called the Dutch in Soho, I knew I had to have their brunch. And I was not disappointed.  The vibe is low-key and friendly, but with impeccable service, just like at Locanda Verde. And the food and drinks are also top-notch.

Wonderful cocktails at Andrew Carmellini’s new place, the Dutch.

My companion and I had to wait for a table (but not too long) so we sat at the bar and got a Bloody Mary ($12) and an Aperol Fizz ($13). The Bloody Mary was one of the best I’ve had; perfectly spicy but still easy to take down. And it came with a nice toothpick of pickled vegetables, including an amazing pickled okra. The Aperol Fizz was a blend of Breuckelen gin, aperol, lillet, passionfruit, tangerine, and cremant, a great variation on the typical mimosa.

Perfect fluffy cornmeal pancakes.

Once seated, we managed to resist the pastry board, something I’m not so good at while at Locanda Verde. We did get an order of the Cornmeal Pancakes ($17) though, which were amazing. Definitely contenders for best pancakes in New York City! The cornmeal didn’t keep them from being fluffy, but added a nice texture to make them unique. And they came with a delicious local blueberry compote and a nice ball of salty butter.

The softest eggs you’ll ever have, in a good way.

We also got the Soft Scrambled Eggs ($21), which come with smoked sable, trout roe, and a toasted half-bagel. It was topped with a thick dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh scallions. The scrambled eggs at Locanda Verde are some of my favorite, but these were out of this world. When they say soft, they mean soft–as in almost liquid, with a grits-like consistency. Divine. The smoked sable was fabulous and the trout roe were large and fresh. My only complaint–I wish they gave us a whole bagel instead of just a half.

If you like oysters, they have a huge raw bar. They also have a burger and sandwiches, as well as fried chicken available during brunch (that all looked delicious), if that’s more your style. Are the prices a little bit absurd? Of course. But when our bill came they charged us about $4 less for each food item, I have no idea why. So I was perfectly happy with the value, as it was definitely one of the best brunches I’ve ever had.

October 2, 2011 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

Eat My Craft: Breakfasty Crafts that Butter Our Biscuits

We love crafts at TNJ, so we thought we’d start a new feature that combines our love of breakfast with our craft obsession, and voila! Eat My Craft is born! Each month we’ll feature some of our favorite breakfast-themed crafts from the web. Feel free to send in links or photos of any awesome crafts you find or make yourself!

This month’s theme is knitted and crocheted items. It’s amazing what you can do with some yarn and needles!

1. Joy Filled Donut Rattles for Babies

It’s never too early to get Baby on the doughnut love train! These adorable hand-crocheted rattles will surely have Junior drooling and smiling at the same time. You can buy these on Etsy from huckleberryfaye right here. And if you’re lusting after some real doughnuts, our favorite shop is Doughnut Plant in NYC, with locations on the Lower East Side and Chelsea. Try the Tres Leche, Blackout, Banana Pecan, or the new Matcha Green Tea. You won’t regret it.

2. French Toast Amigurumi

Although amigurumi (Japanese knitted or crocheted toys) are essentially useless, they are also incredibly adorable. Like this little French toast guy! You may not realize it, but you NEED him. You can find it NadiasPlace on Etsy, along with lots of other cute amigurumi, breakfast foods and otherwise. To find out about our favorite edible French toasts, click here.

3. Custom Made Bacon & Eggs Breakfast Bikini

So you want to wear your breakfast? How about this amazing crocheted bikini in the form of eggs on your breasts and bacon over your crotch? Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? If you’ve got the eggs to wear this, you can get it byZIEHL on Etsy here.

4. Breakfast-Themed Scarves

Not quite ready for the bikini? How about one of these awesome scarves instead? Show your love for bacon and eggs (and a pancake purse!), toast and butter, or pancakes with syrup!

5. Breakfast Time PDF Pattern

Perhaps you want to try your hand at crocheting some breakfast foods yourself? This adorable crochet pattern lets you make a bowl of cereal, milk, a banana, and of course a spoon. Test your skills and remember not to eat your work! You can get this pattern from KTBdesigns on Etsy.

6. Crocheted Breakfast Headbands

Yes, these are slightly ridiculous. But aren’t they also super cute? Maybe you can force one on  to your young child…perfect Halloween costume! Find them and other charming crocheted snacks at youcute on Etsy.

September 1, 2011 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

Eat This (Before They Close!): Brunch at M. Wells

M. Wells is a restaurant in Long Island City, Queens cooking Quebecoise-style food and run by a Montreal husband-and-wife team that opened in an old diner last August to rave reviews. After a year they have announced they will be closing the diner to reopen in a new location and format. We’d been dying to get there since last year and we finally squeezed in a visit last weekend. Such was our devotion that we waited an hour and a half in the pouring rain to get seated in the tiny diner, but with good friends in tow we were perfectly happy, especially after we grabbed some coffee, iced-tea, and biscuits from the counter inside.

Tray of bisciuts at the counter

Oh, and by the way, that biscuit may have been the best I’ve had–especially since it was not even served warm and it was still amazing! It was fluffy and dense at the same time, with no need for extra butter, or anything really–I ate it bare and loved it.

Patrons at the counter of M.Wells

Old seltzer bottles and other diner-y things at M.Wells

After we finally got seated in a small booth we took in the kitschy surroundings and examined the menu, quickly affirming that there was a lot of meat, mostly pork. Since JudyJams and I both don’t partake in the pig variety, and JJ is basically vegetarian, our options were somewhat limited. I guess those Canadians like their pork! But, we pulled through and everything we had was delicious.

Pass the pepper!

Naturally, we started with a round of Bloody Marys. These were good, but not great. I added pepper to mine, which helped, but it was my least favorite thing we had at the restaurant.

The Seafood Cobbler had spots of pink from the inclusion of beets

As a lover of lox, I was super excited to order the Gravlax Pie, having heard many great things about it, but unfortunately they were sold out (it was pretty late in the day by the time we sat down), so I substituted with the Seafood Cobbler, which was being made with Pollack that day. When I was told it came with beets I was somewhat skeptical, but it turned out to be a great combination. The fish and beets were accompanied by potatoes as well, all mixed together in a delicious cream sauce, and topped with two biscuit halves covered in yummy melted cheddar cheese. (Yes, that means I ate another biscuit…!) I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it because it was a bit heavy, but it was so tasty I couldn’t put my fork down.

Super-thick gazpacho

Spanish Tortilla, M. Wells-style

JudyJams ordered the Gazpacho, which was thickened with bread and had a lovely herb oil on top. It was quite flavorful, but we had clearly ordered too much because it went unfinished. It certainly was not the light, summery gazpacho you might be craving on a hot summer day. She also had the Tortilla, which is nothing like the potato and egg ones they serve in Spain, although it had the same basic ingredients. For starters, it was served hot and fresh from a skillet, and was round in shape (instead of a slice). It was more like a yummy, eggy latka than a Spanish tortilla and it was quite delectable. It’s served with thick slices of country bread from Balthazar.

Beef Tartare with poached egg and salad

Our friend Tobey ordered the Beef Tartare, which was divine. The meat was incredibly fresh and tender and almost tasted like tuna it was so creamy. It was decadent and delicious, served with a perfectly poached egg on top and salad on the side. Nothing like some good runny yolk on some amazing raw beef!

One hell of a sandwich!

French-Canadian Fries

Lindserella went with the Sausage and Egg sandwich, which was on a homemade English muffin (a recipe for our own version of this feat to come soon!) with homemade mayo, Vermont cheddar, and pickled jalapenos. She said it was delish, of course, and left not a crumb. We also got French fries for the table, which were perfectly fried and lip-smacking good.

Maple Pie, no whipped or iced cream necessary

Even though we were stuffed, our waitress convinced us to get a slice of the Maple Pie and we were not sorry. The crust was crumbly and browned and super-yummy, while the filling was a nice fluffy version of a pecan pie filling, but with intense maple flavor. Pure maple syrup was drizzled on top to complete the effect and it worked–we polished it off in no time.

Being that it’s August 22, I suggest you get your butt over to Queens asap to go to M.Wells–you only have until the end of the month! While I’m sure the husband-and-wife owners/chefs’ next venture will be amazing, it’s definitely going to be a new concept, so don’t delay!

M. Wells, Long Island City, Queens

August 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Ra Ra Riot at Prospect Park Bandshell

Ra Ra Riot at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park

JudyJams and I were recently treated to VIP entrance to Celebrate Brooklyn (thanks Loukin Company!) where we got to be front and center for Ra Ra Riot on August 5. It started off in an awesome way when the stage darkened and the band came on to the deafening sounds of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” They then launched into a great set full of songs from albums  The Rhumb Line and The Orchard.
You could tell the band was having so much fun, with lead singer Wes Miles commenting numerous times how excited they were to be playing here, at their biggest headlining show, especially because he lived down the street. He also mentioned this was probably the longest set they’d ever played, and his enthusiasm continued right to the end when he jumped off stage and ran through the audience, slapping hands with anyone who offered theirs. His enthusiasm was definitely contagious, as the rest of the band and the crowd were just as exuberant as he was. Their encore included a pretty fabulous version of Steve Winwood’s “Valerie,” the only cover song of the night. They are a great live band, and here’s hoping their next album is as great as The Rhumb Line.


August 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm Leave a comment

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