Thursday, July 31, 2008

Keys to the future

Great news: I got my MINI last night.
Not-so-great news: I'm home sick today.

After the excitement of picking up and driving home my MINI last night, I woke up this morning feeling awful with a slight sore throat. I've been working hard and have been a bit overscheduled lately so I guess that me getting rundown is no big surprise. However, I wish I could be zipping around town today with my new car, instead of taking photos of the one reminder I have of it in my house (apart from all the paperwork):

I wrote a post when I was in Buenos Aires, titled Keys to the past, and now here's the bookend. The new MINIs have that fancy stop and start push button ignition system, hence the huge electronic key. I'll definitely have to get use to that and all the other bells and whistles that come with my car. I am definitely a long way from having to manually roll up my windows and turn off my A/C for extra power.

In any event, I am starting to feel a bit better and will probably venture out to run some light errands tonight and hopefully take more pictures.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Shark is my co-pilot

Saw this at IKEA and I had to have it for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which kicks off tomorrow. Yay!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

L.A. Macaron Matchup Part 3: Cafe du Village

The macarons I bought from Cafe du Village on Larchmont are supposedly from some place called Le Dore de Stephane in France, but I have my doubts since they taste so fresh and amazing and I just can't believe that they survived the shipping. In any event, these 100% natural (note the lack of artificial colors) macarons are very different than the ones I've tried so far. First of all, they need to be refrigerated due to the mousse-like filling. Second, the natural-colored cookie part was light and airy without any hint of chewiness. Third, these are more like miniature pastry than cookie.

They come in boxes of 6 with two of each of the featured flavors for the day. Today, they were strawberry, coffee and lime. At first, I was disappointed by the flavor selection since I really wanted a chocolate one, but when I bit into the strawberry, any disappointment was replaced by delight. The filling was exactly like strawberry cheesecake mousse, and while I love chocolate, you all should probably know that my favorite single ice cream flavor is strawberry. (I actually love neapolitan, but most people consider that a cop-out.) Anyway, the strawberry is amazing, the coffee was good (though I realize now that I don't like coffee-flavored things), and the lime was refreshing and tart.

These for me stand apart from the other two in execution, taste and just overall deliciousness. I only wish that I had a choice in what I get. I don't really want to pay for flavors I don't like (especially since these were the most expensive) and I do want a chocolate one. I was going to do a ranking of all the macarons I've had so far, but I think I'm going to try Boule's before I do that.

L.A. Macaron Matchup Part 2: La Maison Du Pain

I've read that La Maison Du Pain prides itself on interpreting French baking faithfully, so I thought it would be perfect for my macaron tasting crawl. In terms of presentation, when I walked in, I didn't notice the macarons at first since they were in bowls on top of the counter all mixed together. That makes sense, since they aren't the featured offering there. (I did notice the huge pain au chocolat* in the display case, though, and proceeded to make that my lunch.) Along with the pain au chocolat, I left with chocolate, coffee, pistachio and lemon macarons. (Sorry no pictures... I eat them too fast!)

Compared to the ones at Paulette, these macarons were more subtle in flavor, but more substantial in texture. The cookie part had more of the traditional almond flavor and wasn't as doughy (I'm thinking now that Paulette's might have been slightly underbaked), and the ganache wasn't overly sweet. The chocolate flavor was solid and the lemon flavor was just right, but I really didn't like the coffee flavor because I didn't think it was sweet enough. (Then again, I put tons of sugar in my coffee.) My favorite flavor was the pistachio, which I loved for the same reason I liked the marzipan of Paulette's Sweet Wedding Almond... it just seems to fit perfectly with the idea of an 18th century tea cookie.

So far, I prefer the execution of the La Maison du Pain macarons, but I do like the creativity and presentation of the Paulette ones. I'll give a full ranking after the third stop.

*La Maison du Pain's pain au chocolat is now one of my favorites... not too crunchy, but very flaky and buttery. I ate it in my car and it didn't make too much of a mess. The only thing I wasn't completely on board with is the use of chocolate chips. I normally prefer a piece of dark Callebaut or Valhrona chocolate inside, but the chocolate chips they used were good. I'm sure that it's much easier to get a more even distribution of chocolate throughout the pastry with chocolate chips.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

L.A. Macaron Matchup Part 1: Paulette

While researching patisseries for my Paris trip, I noticed that macarons were mentioned quite often and so I decided to try some in L.A. in order to have a point of comparison when I visit Laduree, which is where they were created. Up until yesterday (Friday), I had never actually had a French macaron*, despite seeing them in Boule many times. I guess they just didn't look appealing to me, mainly because I thought they were like hard Italian cookies. Thank goodness I found out otherwise at the first place I tried: Paulette.

Paulette is probably the only place in the L.A. area that exclusively serves macarons. Located in Beverly Hills, the space is very sleek in glossy architectural white, and it's very obvious that they are trying to be the Sprinkles of macarons, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Regarding my order, since I was a newbie, I decided to get a range of flavors: Chocolate Coconut, Caribbean Chocolate, Strawberry, Sweet Wedding Almond, New Orleans Praline, and Violet Cassis. I normally don't like fruity cookies, but I thought that there was a possibility that fruit might excel in this presentation style.

I tried the Caribbean Chocolate first to be safe since I didn't want a bad flavor to prejudice me against the macaron forever. It was light in texture, slighty chewy and doughy and very rich tasting. I could have eaten ten of these. That first experience spurred me on to practically inhale three more: Chocolate Coconut, New Orleans Praline and Violet Cassis. I really liked the praline but wished the chocolate coconut was more chocolatey and I have to admit it was a bit hard for me to swallow the cassis. It was like trying to eat black currant preserves straight from the jar -- too strong and jammy a flavor for the delicate texture of the macaron. The Strawberry flavor was a much more subdued fruit flavor and I thought worked much better, though still a little too fruity for my taste. The light rose-colored Sweet Wedding Almond, to me, was the best fit. The macaron is such an elegant pastry and almost belongs to another time, and marzipan is very much an Old World flavor.

While I have nothing to compare these with yet, I'd have to say that I definitely love the whole macaron concept. We'll see how Paulette's execution holds up as I sample more versions both in L.A. and in Paris. This weekend, I'm going to try two other places: Cafe du Village, which imports theirs straight from France, and possibly La Maison Du Pain, which doesn't necessarily have them all the time, but I'll take any excuse to visit there for the first time.

*French macarons are not the coconut clusters that they share a name with. Instead, they are like super fancy cookie sandwiches, consisting of two domed meringue-like halves and a sweet ganache filling, with endless flavor possibilities.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Self Esteem

The creative process can be quite an experience for me, especially on larger projects. Many times, it consists of minutes of pure elation and hours of effortless flow alternating with days and weeks of almost crippling low self esteem and panic. Since I'm constantly juggling different projects, I'm often also dealing with overlapping cycles, which will explain why I can be happy and sad at the same time. For the days when I get a double or triple dose of the bad stuff, I found the "You're Loved Self-Esteemizer" poster from TimeOut NYC:

Though there are some NYC-centric things, it still works fairly well for those neurotic days when I find myself thinking I'm a hack. (And yes, I know this is partly meant to be a tongue-in-cheek Stuart Smalley-esque gag.) Plus, since I'm currently working on a magazine, I'm finding myself even more obsessed than usual with cool graphic publication layouts.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Awaiting Transport

I wasn't expecting to see much movement when I checked my Mini's status this evening, so I was surprised to see this:
Finding out that it's been actually built sent a little jolt of happiness and excitement through me. Not to sound too much like a PSA against teen sex, but waiting makes it that much more special.