Posts from March 2012

Union Jack, Oceanic Reef, Pig and Cow Easter Eggs, Easter 2012 Treats in the UK

Imagination is at work in sweet treat department this Easter 2012 in UK chocolate shops.

Patriotic fervor is on show with Union Jack Egg by Chococo, a "milk chocolate egg studded with dried raspberries & strawberries & hand decorated with a Union Jack flag."


From Chocolate Mice Popping Pralines to to Easter Glam Clam and Oceanic Reef Egg (below),Demarquette many options will work for all budgets and appetites.

Want to break with routine rabbits, fish fry, go for Pig and Cow Easter Egg Combo (below) by Choc on Choc. I noticed they offer free shipping on Easter orders to UK customers.

These last two have a shelf life of 1 year in case you want to see how long you can resist the temptation.

Harrods offers 7 pages of Easter Food including some of the 3 treats I mentioned above, page 7 includes foie gras.

Also worth checking, Selfridges has enough chocolate on display in It's All About the Egg collection to make you dizzy.

I would not mind taking a bite or two out of Marc de Champagne egg filled with Truffles by Charbonnel et Walker (below).


Should I turn my sights on Easter treats from Italy, Belgium or France next?

Radishes, Peas, Spring Tartines Recipe from Nature by Alain Ducasse

Tartines (slices of bread in French) can be turned into a sweet or savory meal. I, for example, like sardines sur canapes.

They are perfect solution for a quick bite.

Alain Ducasse in his new book Nature (Rizzoli, March 2012) offers a few tartines. I chose spring recipe. 

Spring Tartines

Cooking 4 minutes   Preparation 15 minutes    

Makes 4 tartines


Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil and get a bowl ready with water and 

ice cubes.

Cut the tips of 16 small green asparagus spears into 2- to 21/2-inch lengths, rinse, and immerse in the boiling water along with a good handful of peas.

Drain and immediately plunge them into the ice water to keep their color. Leave for 2 minutes, then drain with a slotted spoon and lay on a dry dish towel.

Peel and wash about 10 radishes and slice into thin rounds (about 1/8 inch) with a mandoline.

Rinse a quarter of a fennel bulb and slice into thin slivers of the same size.

Wash and dry about 20 cherry tomatoes and halve them.

Remove the stalks, wash, and dry a handful of arugula.

Toast 4 slices of whole-wheat or multigrain bread on one side only.

Spread approximately 5 ounces of cream cheese, preferably Saint-Moret, over the slices of bread.

Line the halved cherry tomatoes along the center of each slice.

Then layer the slivers of fennel, radish slices, and peas on top.

Slice the asparagus tips lengthwise and scatter them over.

Then shave 11/2 ounces of Parmesan with a vegetable peeler and add these.

Finish with the arugula leaves.

Add a generous twist of freshly ground black pepper. Keep cool (not for too long!) until it’s time to eat.

(* Recipe from 'Nature, Simple, Healthy and Good' by Alain Ducasse with Paule Neyrat-Rizzoli New York, March 2012- photography by Francoise Nicol, reproduced with permission of publisher, all rights reserved)

Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship, Library of Congress Exhibit

With balmy March we are experiencing on the East Coast, Cherry Blossom season must be ahead of schedule.

As Washington D.C is having a city wide centennial celebration of the 1912 gift of Cherry trees from city of Tokyo to the U.S capital, the Library of Congress put together an exhibit titled Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship which opened on March 20, 2012.

"In a century-old act of friendship that forever enriched the nation’s capital with sakura (cherry blossoms), the city of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C., in 1912. Springtime viewing of the blooming trees that ring the Tidal Basin quickly became a cherished tradition and a signature cultural event in the United States capital.

The Library of Congress collections illuminate the story of these landmark trees, the historical significance of cherry blossoms in Japan, and their continuing resonance in American culture and for Washingtonians in particular. The exhibition features watercolor drawings of blossom varieties among the original trees, Japanese color woodblock prints and books, and an array of photographs as well as editorial cartoons, posters, and other printed ephemera."

Letter of shipment of cherry trees

Shipping 3000 trees was surely quite a task a century ago.

The exhibit runs until September 15, 2012

You can check online gallery of items exhibited if you cannot make the trip to Washington D.C

Spring and Sakura in D.C for Tokyo Thursdays # 229


Lucky Dragon No. 5, Fishing Boat is Exhibit A at Daigo Fukuryu Maru Hall in Tokyo of 50's Nuclear Tests

(* Illustration is 'Letter from Yei Theodora Ozaki to Mrs. William Howard Taft, February 26, 1911. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (056.00.00)' from online gallery)

Is Unknown Carrier Option Best Bet for Cheaper Flights from USA to London?

Finding cheaper (not cheapest) flights is part of my concierge work.

After finding decent deals to Florida within framework i was given, I turned my attention to deals for Summer travel.

For non stop flights from New York area to London, best listed prices were with 'unknown carrier' option.

You have to be willing to roll the dice as you will find out airline you will fly on after you complete booking your trip.

One way to feel more comfortable about choosing 'unknown carrier' is to compare flight times with main carrier schedules and you should be able to guess what airline you will land.

I noticed that some of the 'super saver' fares are pretty vague as far as time of flights and whether it will be a non-stop or 1 stop flight. I would personally stay away from these 'foggy' ones.


While Bing Travel shows a graph of price trends in past 30 days and makes recommendations on whether to buy now or wait, Momondo travel search engine offers a graph of price trends for the month when you plan to travel.

The other concern myself or any other traveler might have is can I trust booking through sites like Explore Trip, Vayama, CheapOair and others. 

In an additional search on Momondo for travel from New York to Barcelona, Explore Trip offered pretty good prices on Iberia (with a caveat, 2 stops) while prices quoted for GoTravel123 were higher once I got on their site.

One has to decide when a $200 difference on a RT ticket is worth the minor inconveniences.

Next best fares on that Newark-Barcelona route (with only 1 stop) were listed on Vayama.

It takes some work to stretch your travel dollars.

(* Photo of Barafina restaurant from London Travel Guide by Momondo)

Dough Video, Windsor Crown Bread Recipe from School of Artisan Food, Sherwood Forest, UK

Sherwood Forest is known for its association with Robin Hood.

This royal forest in Nottinghamshire (UK) is also home of The School of Artisan Food, a non-profit establishment where students of all stripes can learn the art of baking, charcuterie and cheese making, to name a few.


Their head of baking, Wayne Caddy, shows us how to make a Windsor Crown in dough video above.

The latest post on their blog suggests to Always trust your nose. After all there more aromas than flavors.

Sweet Tooth Ready in 15 Minutes, Peach and Pistachio Triffle Recipe from Home at 7, Dinner at 8

You are almost done prepping dinner and realize that only thing that skipped your mind was what is for dessert.

Here's a sweet tooth dish that will be ready in 15 minutes from Home at 7, Dinner at 8 (Kyle Books, March 2012) by Sophie Wright.

Peach and Pistachio Trifle

It’s really important to keep your pantry stocked up with the basics and canned peaches, apricots, and pears are all useful essentials. When not in season, these canned fruits have a great texture, flavor, and sweetness to liven up a quick dessert.

Serves 6
Preparation 15
Cooking 0

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Scant 1 cup mascarpone cheese
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 cup powdered sugar
2 x 14-ounce cans peach halves in juice
2 tablespoons Madeira wine or sweet sherry
1/2 brioche loaf or 1 loaf Madeira cake, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup pistachio nuts in shell, shelled and skinned if possible, coarsely chopped a small handful of mint leaves
2 tablespoons runny honey

Peach and pistachio trifle (2)

1 Whip the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat the mascarpone and fold it into the cream. Add the orange zest and juice and vanilla extract or paste and sift in the powdered sugar. Stir to mix.

2 Drain the peaches and reserve the juice. Pour the juice into a bowl and add the Madeira or sweet sherry. Add 2 tablespoons of the sherry-flavored peach juice to the cream mixture and beat well.

3 Slice by slice, dip the brioche or Madeira cake into the flavored peach juice, just long enough to coat the cake but not allowing it to go soggy. Lay each slice in the bottom of a serving dish until all the gaps are filled on the bottom.

4 Lay the drained peaches on top of the cake and then generously spoon over the sweetened cream up to the rim of the dish. Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios, tear over the mint leaves, and drizzle with the runny honey. Serve immediately.

Skinned pistachios are available from most Turkish markets if you have difficulty finding them elsewhere.

(* Recipe from Home at 7, Dinner at 8 by Sophie Wright- Kyle Books, March 2012, U.S Edition- photos by Romas Foord, shared with permission of the publisher)

No Roaming Charges, CSA means Car Sharing from PhillyCarShare to Sydney's Go Get

Taking a look at Peugeot electric car, the ION, i learned that it's actually a version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

The latter is part of the fleet of City Car Share, a non-profit approach to car rental in Bay Area.

Along with similar groups like PhillyCarShare, Modo in Vancouver and GoGet in Sydney, City Car Share has taken the green bull by the horn by creating solutions not just advocating for them.

Since 2008, CarShare Vermont has been doing just that.

No roaming charges

CSA means Car Sharing for Green Day # 217

Previously: Organic Wines get the Raw Treatment in London with Raw Wine Fair, May 20-21

Just Off Route 66, Green Like Spring, Verde Maria Recipe from American Cocktail

Verdant green is one of the images that I associate with Spring.

Here's a verdant green cocktail recipe I selected from The American Cocktail "50 Recipes That Celebrate the Craft of Mixing Drinks From Coast to Coast" (Chronicle Books, Fall 2011) gathered by Karen Foley and the Imbibe Magazine team.

Verde Maria

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that anything can grow in the water-deprived desert climate of Arizona, but some plants, such as the paper-husked tomatillo, actually thrive in the heatdrenched environment. And thanks to its earthy, lemony tang, this Latin American culinary staple also harmonizes deliciously in mixed drinks, like this one from Flagstaff bartender, Katie Dembs.

The small mountain town of Flagstaff, known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, sees nearly five million visitors each year, and the Criollo Latin Kitchen, just off of the historic Route 66, is always ready for the masses with a batch of its housemade salsa verde. Playing off of those traditional saucy flavors, Dembs combines fresh tomatillos with red onion, cilantro, avocado, and añejo tequila for a savory sipper that could be considered its own gateway to the culinary crossover of the tomatillo.

Serves 1
Tools: blender
Glass: Collins
Garnish: lime wheel and cilantro sprig
2 ounces añejo tequila
2 tomatillos, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped red onion
6 fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 ripe avocado
3/4-inch ring of fresh jalapeño chile, seeded
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
2 lager ale

Verde Maria

Combine the tequila, tomatillos, onion, cilantro leaves, avocado, chile ring, and lime juice in a blender and blend on highest setting for 20 seconds, or until smooth. Pour into an ice-filled Collins glass, top with the lager, and stir gently. Garnish with the lime wheel and cilantro sprig.

Katie Dembs, Criollo Latin Kitchen, Flagstaff, Arizona

(* Recipe from The American Cocktail "50 Recipes That Celebrate the Craft of Mixing Drinks From Coast to Coast" -Chronicle Books, Fall 2011- Photo by Sheri Giblin- all rights reserved)

As High as A Pompadour, More Buzz than a Hive, The Bee Sting Cake from Pie It Forward

Leftovers including pastry dough leftovers put to use to create Pie Pops have a place in our life.

Once in a while we want something unique, striking, more ambitious.

Here's a recipe for a cake as high as a pompadour, with more buzz than a hive from Pie it Forward (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, April 1, 2012) by Gesine Bullock-Prado.

The Bee Sting:

It’s hard to not fall in love with this cake, with its jaunty striped sides and those lovely little bees nestled in the ganache. But then I find it hard to resist most things that combine almond, chocolate, and honey.

For the tulle
tuille batter (see page 226), made with 2 tablespoons/10 g dark cocoa powder for coloring 1 batch

For the joconde sponge
joconde sponge (see page 226) 1 batch

For the crust
Traditional Puff Pastry (page 25), Cocoa option 1/2 batch

For the filling
bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1 pound 455 g
heavy cream 11/2 cups 360 ml
egg yolks 6
sugar 1/4 cup 50 g
almond extract 1 tablespoon 15 ml
salt pinch
honey (preferably local) ⅓ cup 75 ml

For the ganache
bittersweet chocolate, finey chopped 8 ounces 226g
heavy cream 3/4 cup 177ml
corn syrup 1 tablespoon 15 ml
salt pinch

For the assembly
marzipan 4 ounces 115 g
bittersweet chocolate 4 ounces 115 g
blanched almond slices (not slivers) 1 cup 90 g
special equipment
silicone painting comb (see Note)

To make tuille patterns, like stripes, professional pastry chefs use expensive tools available only to the trade. But I've found that wide-toothed icing scrapers work just as well. Or go to the paint department at your hardware store: At The Home Depot I found a four-piece specialty-paintfinish tool set to make sponging effects, stripes, and faux wood grain.
The striping comb was a smaller version of the $250 pastry tool that does exactly the same thing.


For the tuille
1. Follow the procedure for making tuille paste described in step 1 on page 228. Tint the batter with cocoa powder.
2. Using an offset spatula, spread the tuille batter in a very thin, even layer across a nonstick silicone baking mat. Drag a painting comb across the parchment lengthwise. Scrape the extra batter off the comb and makeadditional stripes below the first set as needed. Freeze the tuille until it’s rock hard, at least 1 hour.

Procedure for the joconde sponge
Follow the procedure on page 229 for making joconde sponge, pouring it over the tuille decorations, and baking the sponge.

Procedure for the crust
1. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 Fahrenheit (175 C).
2. Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece into a rough rectangle approximately the size of a half sheet pan (12 by 16 inches/30.5 by 40.5 cm).
Transfer each rectangle to a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. (Keep in mind that in the next step you’ll need an extra baking sheet for every baking sheet you fill with dough now—so you’ll have to work in batches if you don’t have enough oven space or baking sheets. If you aren’t baking all the pieces at once, refrigerate the dough that’s waiting in line.)
3. Bake the dough for 10 minutes, or until the pastry starts to puff. Place a piece of parchment on top of the pastry and then carefully place an empty baking sheet on top of the parchment to gently weight down the pastry. (You don’t want to smoosh the puff, just tame it a little with an even distribution of weight.) Bake for 10 minutes more. Remove the empty baking sheet and continue baking until the pastry is baked through, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Take a cake ring, 21/2 inches (6 cm) wide by 3 inches (7.5 cm) high, and use it to cut 24 rounds from the two pieces of puff pastry. Place 8 of the rounds on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Place a cake ring,
21/2 inches (6 cm) wide by 3 inches (7.5 cm) tall, over each of the
8 rounds, so a piece of pastry is nestled at the bottom of each ring— these are the bottom layers of the “pie cakes.” Set aside. Reserve the remaining 16 rounds.

Procedure for the filling
1. Place the chocolate in a large metal bowl and place the bowl over a large pot of simmering water. Stir the chocolate until it’s completely melted, being careful not to let it scorch or burn. Set the chocolate aside to cool, but don’t let it harden.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and set it aside. In the same bowl of the stand mixer, whip the egg yolks, sugar, almond extract, and salt until light and aerated.
3. Pour the honey into a small saucepan and heat it over low heat until it starts to gently boil. With the mixer still running, carefully pour the honey down the side of the bowl into the egg-yolk mixture. Turn the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture has cooled.
4. Fold in the melted chocolate and then quickly fold in the whipped cream. Take care that each element is similar in temperature; otherwise, your chocolate can seize, and you’ll end up with little chunks of hard chocolate in your filling. (This is still tasty but not ideal.)
5. Transfer the filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a large open tip.
Pipe an even layer of filling (about 1 inch/2.5 cm thick) inside each of the 8 cake rings, right on top of the round of pastry. Place a reserved round of pastry on top of the first layer of filling in each cake ring.
Press gently. The fit is very snug and the puff is delicate, but you want the second layer of pastry to sit on top of the filling. (I sometimes trim the edges of the remaining rounds of pastry very carefully, to make inserting them into the rings easier; if you choose to do this, be careful to cut as evenly as possible.) Pipe another 1-inch (2.5-cm) layer of filling onto the second round of pastry inside each ring. Top with the last 8 rounds, pressing gently. If the last round of pastry doesn’t reach the top of the ring, divide the remaining filling evenly among the rings and, using a small offset spatula, gently scrape the top to make it even.
6. Freeze the pies until set, about 2 hours.

Procedure for the ganache
1. Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stir the cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt until the butter has completely melted and the mixture comes to a low simmer.
Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and allow to sit for a few minutes, undisturbed, to allow the chocolate to melt. Then whisk the mixture until emulsified and smooth.
2. Remove the pies from the freezer and place a heaping tablespoon of
ganache on top of each pie. Smooth with an offset spatula. Return the pies back to the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the ganache to set.

Assembling the Bees
1. Remove the pies from the cake rings by placing each pie on top of a tall container that’s slightly narrower than the pie itself (I use a spice bottle).
Gently heat the sides of the ring with a heat gun or blow dryer and carefully tug the ring down so it falls away from the pie. Continue with the remaining pies.
2. Cut the decor sides: Wrap a piece of kitchen twine around the circumference of the pie (it should be around 83/4 inches/22 cm, but it’s always safer to take your own measurement) and cut the twine to the exact circumference.
This is your joconde-side measurement.
3. Before you take the decor sides out of the sheet pan, gently dust the
joconde with confectioners’ sugar. Trim the outer edges of the cake with a thin paring knife. Place a piece of parchment over the cake; then place a sheet pan over the parchment and flip the cake over. Carefully remove the top sheet pan and then very gently remove the baking mat.
Cut 8 pieces of joconde to match the measurement you made with the twine.
4. Using a small offset spatula, smooth a very thin layer of ganache around each little pie to create an adhesive for the joconde. Gently wrap a
joconde strip around the pie, pressing gently, and wrap with a piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the joconde strip to adhere properly.
5. Pinch dime-size pieces of marzipan from the small loaf. Roll the pieces
n your hand to make an oval shape about 1/2 inch (6 mm) in length.
Continue making ovals until you have a total of 8.
6. Take the pies from the fridge and place the ovals of marzipan on top of each pie.
7. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30-second bursts until it is melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, but make sure it remains soft. Transfer it to a small piping bag fitted with a small open pastry tip. Pipe strips of chocolate along the backs of the marzipan ovals. For wings, take two slices of almond and place one on either side of each bee, using a touch of melted chocolate at the bottom as glue. At the head of the bee, pipe two little dots of chocolate for eyes.
8. Serve immediately.

(* Recipe from Pie It Forward Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented by Gesine Bullock-Prado with photograph by Tina Rupp- reproduced with permission of publisher Stewart, Tabori and Chang, all rights reserved)

Easter Wonderland with Alice Easter Shoe, Chocolate Fantasy by Oliver Kita

I am sure ladies will fall under the spell of this chocolate fantasy if they receive it as a gift for Easter.

This Alice Easter Shoe created by Oliver Kita is hand painted lavender pink "decorated with a miniature chocolate carrot we've tied bows in creamsicle orange and peony pink."


"The shoe is packaged in an eggplant colored ballotin box with purple Easter grass.  Available in limited quantities in dark Valrhona chocolate.  4 ounce weight / 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall"

$18 a piece (plus shipping)