A taste of St. Vincent at Ethlyn’s Caribbean Bakery

stvincentEthlyn’s Caribbean Bakery (1621 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226) is in the heart of the Flatbush neighborhood on Nostrand Ave., which is the center of NYC’s Caribbean community. What is great about Flatbush is they have food from pretty much every country in the Caribbean, and while bigger countries like Trinidad and Jamaica are handsomely represented, so are the smaller countries like St. Vincent, which only has a population of 100,000.
ethlyns One of our longstanding policies is that there is no better way to experience a country than through their bakeries, so we were excited to experience some of the more unique tastes of the Caribbean at Ethlyn’s. Ethlyn’s is nothing more than a small glass counter filled with pastries and breads, both sweet and savory. Everything was super reasonably priced, and each item was no more than $3-5.


We got a bright red selara coconut roll, and a currant roll. The selara, which is more unique to St. Vincent, was a super-sweet enriched roll, and was chocablock with coconut. The currant roll, which is found throughout the Caribbean, was a little more sedate. Both were tasty, though the selara did somehow manage to leave red crumbs all over, which we were still finding months later. On the savory side, we also got a saltcod patty which was touted as one of Ethlyn’s specialties. To be honest, we are more fans of the sweet treats, but if you wanted to have a fish patty, it is a good one. Other treats include a coconut tart, peanut cake, marble cake, loaves of bread and dinner rolls.


To wash down your treats, Ethlyn’s makes a mean sorrel drink, along with the more exotic soursop and sea-moss varieties. Ethlyn’s was a real taste of the islands, and it was a fun way to try the lesser known side of Flatbush. Plus, it is right next to a costume design shop for Carnival. What could be better?!

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Pastry Post-Doc: Frutta Martorana for All Saints Day in Sicily


Martorana in Sicily by Wim Kristel

SicilySomehow in the past week of posting downtime, it has gone from a balmy 80 degrees to a cool, blustery, fall-like 45! Moreover, that Halloween chill is in the air and we are seeing pumpkins everywhere! Accordingly, we’re going to start featuring some seasonal treats. First up are the classic Sicilian treats for All Saints’ and Souls’ Day (Nov 1 and 2), the famous fruit-shaped marzipan confections called frutta martorana. These almond-paste candies can be found year round in Sicily, but they are particularly popular this time of year, when artisans around the island take pride in making the most realistic fruit shapes possible. In Sicily, children traditionally received these marzipan fruits and other gifts on November 2nd.  Check out this video of an assortment of martorana from Toronto. If you want to make your own, the recipe is not that complicated, but the key is in the intricate design and details!


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How to brew pour-over coffee: a step-by-step guide

I just realized after all this time that though I had posted a tutorial on how to use a Bialetti stove-top espresso maker, I never did the same for pour-over coffee! This is ironic, since using a Chemex was the way I used to brew my coffee before I discovered Bialetti (actually out of lack of choice) when we were living in Portugal. The Pour-over style is cited sometimes as a fancy third-wave way to brew coffee, but it actually pretty historic – and easy! The coffeemaker I use for my pour-over coffee is a Chemex, a design classic invented in 1941 by scientist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, and its design is now in MOMA’s permanent collection. In order to brew in a Chemex, you will need filters (either paper or reusable – each has pros and cons), and some medium-ground coffee (about the consistency of kosher salt). Below you will see my Chemex setup – I have the 6-cup Chemex model, and I use a kitchen scale to measure the coffee and water.


The basic steps to making pour-over coffee are:

  1. First, wet the filter after placing in it in the Chemex, so it adheres to the sides of the coffeemaker. Then discard this water. This step is not necessary if you are using a metal filter.
  2. Boil your water – the amount will vary depending on how much coffee you want to make. You will begin pouring the water just after it has boiled (about 200 F).
  3. Add the coffee grounds to the filter. The rule of thumb we use is 2 grams of coffee per oz of water, and the Chemex guide itself recommends “1 rounded Tablespoon for 5 oz of coffee.” We use a kitchen scale to measure this out.
  4. Slowly pour a small amount of water over the ground coffee, just enough to cover it, this is to make the coffee “bloom.”
  5. Once this amount of water has siphoned through, begin pouring the rest of the hot water over the grounds slowly in a circular fashion. The key is to pour slowly, and taking care to avoid pouring the water directly on the sides of the glass.

All in all, this process should only take about 4 minutes. It may take some tweaking to get the perfect coffee to water ratio, depending on the size of the coffee grind, and how strong you like your coffee. You can look at step-by-step photos at Stumptown and Blue Bottle. There is no perfect ratio, so play around with it, and there are other types of pour-over coffee pots to explore. Pour-over coffee may seem intimidating, but it really isn’t!

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The Best Cheese Plate in Cleveland at L’Albatros

franceThe cheese plate at Cleveland’s French stalwart L’Albatros (11401 Bellflower Rd.) is the best one we have ever tried. Usually, when you order a cheese plate at a restaurant, you get a small plate of pre-selected cheeses. Maybe at better restaurants you choose from 10 or so cheeses off of a list. One of the most disappointing things about cheese plates is either that they have repetitive, common cheeses, or the servers have no idea how to direct you to the right cheese selection. However, at L’Albatros, nothing is left to chance, and the staff goes above and beyond to help you get the right selections. You can get the cheese plate for either lunch or dinner, and you can select either 3 ($11), 5($14) or 7 ($17) cheeses. There are no pre-set selections, and the cheesemonger comes over to your table with a giant tray of dozens of cheeses, and you can talk about what you want, and even have samples! Check out at the amount of cheese to choose from (plus there were even more that didn’t fit into the frame).


Here’s what we ended up with after much discussion and sampling:

  • Tomme de Savoie – France – A good start, Tomme is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a mild flavor.
  • Cantal – France – A sharp, semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that was almost Cheddar-like in taste and consistency.
  • Cabrales – Spain – M asked for the “blue-est” cheese they had, and after sampling, this was our choice. It was indeed a super sharp, crumbly sheep and cow’s milk cheese (so sharp it was almost metallic, which sounds weird, but was tasty).
  • Robiola Bosina – Italy – The first of two Robiola varieties we tried. This was a more mild, creamy goat and cow cheese.
  • Robiola Rochetta – Italy – As a contrast to the first robiola, this was a sharp, super-creamy (almost runny) blue cheese made with sheep, goat and cow’s milk.

We really enjoyed all of our our selections, and felt we got exactly what we wanted: a good mix of flavors and consistencies (granted we did take a while with the process). The plate also came with bread, honey and quince paste. We loved our cheese choices that night, but if we went back, we may end up with a totally different selection of just-as-delicious choices, depending on our mood. We cannot recommend the L’Albatros cheese plate enough!

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Pastry Post-Doc: Sugar Pie / Tarte au sucre for Canadian Thanksgiving

canadaThanksgiving is a big deal here in the US (obviously), but Canada has its own Thanksgiving, which also is held to give thanks for the harvest and other positive events of the year. Though Canadian Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday in October, is perhaps less bombastic than American Thanksgiving, there are plenty of Canadian recipes you can try (yes, poutine). On the dessert front, we have unearthed a popular Canadian dessert that is new to us, and brilliant in its simplicity: Sugar Pie / Tarte au sucre. A typical Quebecois recipe, a classic sugar pie consists of not much more than eggs, sugar and vanilla. Sugar pie variants are also found in Indiana, where it is called a “Sugar Cream Pie” (it is also related to the classic Amish Shoofly Pie). So I guess this is the perfect pie for both US and Canadian Thanksgivings. Aside from the crust, the recipe couldn’t be simpler, check out Canadian versions from Food.com and Canadian Living.

Tarte au sucre

Tarte au sucre by Mike

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Today is Swedish cinnamon bun day (Kanelbullens Dag)!

sweden_flagOctober 4 is the date of two very important food holidays: National Taco Day and National Cinnamon Bun Day. We have a lot of coverage on tacos on the blog, but we thought we would supplement our cinnamon bun coverage! The holiday, like most other food holidays, is an invented one, but since its introduction in 1999 it really has taken off in Sweden. Swedes really love cinnamon buns (Kanelbullens in Swedish)in fact, as of 2010, they ate 310 a year! The love for cinnamon buns is shared across Scandinavia (we sampled some in Denmark). Swedish cinnamon buns are indeed relatives of the Cinnabon-style American Cinnamon rolls, but are flavored with cardamon, and topped with pearl sugar instead of icing (to be honest I like the Swedish kind a lot better!). Plus, Cinnamon buns are not just for breakfast, they are perfect for an afternoon coffee break or “Fika.” Here are recipes for classic Swedish Cinnamon buns from KokblogSwedishfood, Salt & Wind, and What’s Gaby Cooking. If you want a little twist, Nami Nami has a recipe for a Finnish Cinnamon Bun variety.

kanelbullenSwedish Cinnamon Buns by Kajak

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Ottolenghi’s Rosh Hashanah menu

We absolutely love chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s Middle-Eastern influenced, veggie-centric recipes. We were lucky enough to visit a Ottolenghi outpost when we were in London, and we have loved every recipe of his that we have tried so far. We now are in the middle of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and if you are looking for a unique set of recipes for the Rosh Hashanah table, Epicurious has put together a great non-traditional menu by Ottolenghi. Dishes including Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing (a riff on the classic apple and honey cake), and eggplant with buttermilk (pictured below), check out the entire menu on Epicurious.


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The top 10 bites from Chicago Gourmet 2016

Chicago Gourmet 2016 was a great time – and a complete binge-fest! We estimate we sampled over 60 small dishes. It was hard to narrow it down, but we think we have arrived at our top 10 picks.


  • Lobster Roll from Smack Shack (326 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL) – This was the best bite of the bunch, tons of tender lobster, fresh tarragon dressing and a perfectly toasted bun!


  • Fig, blue cheese and honey vinaigrette from Nellcôte (833 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL ) This was the definition of one perfect bite. The fig and blue cheese combo seems so simple – but all the flavors blended together perfectly.


  • Tuna Crudo from Ēma [top left] (74 W Illinois St., Chicago, IL) – A complex dish that was both beautiful and delicious, dressed with tumeric jus, microgreens and sungold tomatoes.
  • Pineapple and Crab gazpacho from Hugo’s Frog Bar [bottom left] – A cold soup with super sweet snow crab – light and decadent at the same time.


  • Prosciutto Butter Toast from Monteverde (1020 W Madison St, Chicago, IL) – Another deceptively simple dish, but executed to perfection – the whipped butter and prosciutto were super rich, but cut through by the crisp radishes.


  • Pistachio chicken mole taco from Mezcalina (333 E Benton Pl #100, Chicago, IL) – this was the perfect combination of sweet and savory with the pistachio mole, topped with tender chicken and cotija cheese – a perfect tiny taco! The chapulín (grasshopper) topping was optional – but it added a nice crunch.arami
  • Nori and shrimp ebi poke from Arami (1829 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL)- Salty nori combined with tender black tiger shrimp and sweet Maui onions to make the perfect briny bite.


  • Hamburger Macaron from Cafe des Architectes (Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile, 20 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL)- This was delicious – and fun – a macaron with chocolate filling, but shaped like a hamburger, complete with sesame seeds and candies in the shape of traditional toppings like cheese and lettuce.lula
  • Taquito shrimp and black bean cones from Lula Bistro ( San Gabriel 3030, Jardines del Bosque, Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico) – The presentation of this dish was very cute, with the little crispy cones full of shrimp and black beans hanging from a tree. Fortunately, the taste was just as good.


  • Chilled Corn Cream Soup with chili oil from Dusek’s (1227 W. 18th Street
    Chicago, IL) – This soup was not much to look at, but wowed with a sweet corn flavor, punched up with a chili kick.

Which of these dishes sound best to you? If you were at Chicago Gourmet did you have a favorite?

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ETW at Chicago Gourmet 2016 Recap


One of the annual highlights of the Chicago food season is Chicago Gourmet! ETW is lucky to have gone for the last 3 years, and we always look forward to this veritable Disneyland of food. You pay a flat fee to enter and then the food and booze are free-flowing throughout the day in the enclosed event space in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The theme of this year’s Chicago Gourmet was “Food is Art,” and there were sculptures throughout, including a giant waffle, which seemed to be a fan favorite (by sculptor Christopher Newman).


Otherwise, the setup in 2016 was similar to that of years past: the wine distributors are in two rows the middle flanked by themed tasting booths, restaurants, and other exhibitors on the perimeter of the park. Each of the themed booths had two sessions, with 3 or 4 different restaurants appearing in each 2-hour block. One of the tips we learned from last year’s Chicago Gourmet was that you can’t possibly hit everything – or even most things- especially when it comes to the booze! We focused on going for international foods this year, as in years past, as well as seafood, which always seems to be a safe bet.


The main place for international flair at this year’s Chicago Gourmet was the Chicago sister cities tent, featuring Chicago restaurants with cuisine from one of Chicago’s 28 sister cities. First up (above) was Kamehachi (representing Osaka) with tuna tataki tartare on a crispy sticky rice cake; Avli Estiatorio (Athens) with pork tenderloin over apple skordalia with a walnut dressing; an Indian/Latin spiced rib from Vermilion (Delhi); and an unexpectedly sweet egg bao from Imperial Lamian (Shenyang, China). In the second round (below) we were treated to a Nori and shrimp ebi poke from Arami (Osaka); charbroiled octopus on pesto from Filini (Milan); corned beef from the Canadian-themed Northern Lights Poutine (Toronto); and a refreshing mango and shrimp salad from Cochon Volant (Paris).


One of the standalone booths with an international flavor was the Peruvian favorite Tanta, which offered burrata quinoa caprese-style salad and dulce de leche-filled alfajores. One of the other standout bites came from the American Express booth: butter and prosciutto toast topped with crispy radish from rising star Monteverde, with chef Sarah Grueneberg herself at the helm (below). We also sampled some of the Korean condiment Gochujang, and we have a hunch it will be the next Sriracha sauce. Some “big name” brands were there, too, including the Shop House Southeast Asian concept from Chipotle, Barilla, and Thermador kitchen appliances – which had a rotating dessert menu (including a giant platter of Stan’s Donuts) which turned over every hour or so!


One of the most consistent (and crowded booths) was the seafood tent, so we made a beeline for there after each turnover. Some of our favorite dishes from the first round were found at the seafood station, Hugo’s Frog Bar’s pineapple and seafood gazpacho and Ēma’s elegant tuna crudo.  In the second round we had our favorite dish of the entire event, a tiny lobster roll from Smack Shack that was absolutely full of prime lobster, in a tasty dressing with fresh tarragon, on a toasted bun (below). We could have gone back for two or three more.

cglobster Creativity was also key at some of the booths. We loved Cafe des Architectes’ “burger” macarons – which were styled to look like sliders, complete with “bread” shells, and a chocolate filling. On the unique display front, Promontory had a little brick sterno grill with octopus and veggie kebabs in the Mariano’s tent. This location provided some of our other favorite bites, Dusek’s corn cream soup with chili oil; Nellcôte’s fig and blue cheese; and broccoli with nigella seeds from Ada St. On the BBQ front, there were assorted BBQ bites at the Big Green Egg tent, or at the more secluded second tent, which used to house the Sister Cities. One of the solid bites from this area was the ever-reliable brisket from Smoque.


Overall, there were a lot of tasty desserts at Chicago Gourmet, maybe more than in previous years. Mariano’s had an entire gelato booth where you could get a scoop of their classics, like chocolate, stracciatella, pistachio, and even the more unusual Speculoos. There was also an Gelato World Tour voting tent (above) where competitors (including Gelato D’Oro, Volare, BomboBar and Coda di Volpe) vied for the top spot with their more unusual gelato flavors. Our favorites were the chocolate cardamom, “Breakfast at Nonna’s House” (red currant, fior di latte and granola) and pink peppercorn. The Macau tourism tent also has an interesting dessert offering from Fat Rice: a sweet/savory, nori rice krispie with pork floss, sesame seeds and caramel fish sauce.


The Mexico tent was unusual in that it offered bites from both Mexican restaurants in Chicago, and some that are actually located in Mexico. The first round had a savory brisket taco from El Solazo; creatively-presented taquito shrimp and black bean cones from Lula Bistro in Mexico; and splashy yellow and green tequila macarons from La Postreria in Guadalajara. Round two (below) were chicken taco with crema and and chapulines (grasshoppers) from Mezcalina, white chocolate “Angel” mole from New Rebozo and a beef, mango and cotija tostada from Bar Takito.


We are not wine experts, so frankly we feel that we are always a little behind when it comes to the wine potion of the fest. We hit up the Campari booth for a refreshing Aperol Spritz, and tried a number of wines from around the world. There were also a few unique nonalcoholic drinks including a turmeric chai from Rishi tea and the new-to-us Lemoncocco drink, based on lemon and coconut spritzers found at the Lemoncocco kiosk in Rome. We also got the requisite Stella Artois beer glasses, and attempted to savor some Glenmorangie and Glenlivet. Another drink hit was Punch House’s berry punch with basil, located in one of the main tents.


This year’s Chicago Gourmet was a real success, and left us satiated with flavors from near and far. As always, we capped off our day with one final mini-cappuccino from Illy. Chicago Gourmet also signals the unofficial end of the summer – and we think we sent it off in style. We look forward to seeing you at Chicago Gourmet next year!


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Chicago Gourmet Recap Coming Soon + Aperol Spritz

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Chicago Gourmet, an annual food and wine extravaganza that showcases some of Chicago’s best restaurants alongside international food and drink. As in years past, it was a wonderful time, and I am working on posting a comprehensive recap within the next few days. In the meantime, you can check out the ETW Instagram feed for some of my favorite Chicago Gourmet pictures.

We had so much delicious international food and drink, that is is hard to pick a single thing to use as a teaser, but we decided to go with something refreshing and Italian: The Aperol Spritz. Even though it is technically fall, it still feels pretty summery outside, so why not! The Campari Group had a booth at Chicago Gourmet, as in years past, and it always fun to try out some of the Italian cocktails there, like the classic Negroni. This year we went for the Aperol Spritz, a refreshing summer-y cocktail made from Prosecco, Aperol liquer, and soda that is one of Italy’s iconic beverages. Aperol is a liqueur made from bitter oranges, gentian and other herbs and spices, and is similar to Campari, but with a lower alcohol content.  We have only had it a few times before, but we are fans!

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Pastry Post-Doc: Moose MacGregor’s Apple Pie…in Namibia

namibiaIt’s finally fall! For us that mostly means it is pie season! Though you can find pie-type desserts in many countries, we are always surprised to find it in unusual places. For example, we recently saw apple pie being served in Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes in the Peruvian Andes. And now we think we have found it in an even more unusual location: Namibia. Moose MacGregor’s Desert Bakery is located in the tiny town of Solitaire in the middle of the Namib desert. So how did it get there? The outpost was opened 20+ years ago by Scotsman Percy Cross MacGregor, and the pie is an old family recipe for German Apfelstrudel (similar recipe here). Moose’s also offers other baked goods like cookies, brownies and muffins to hungry travelers. In Solitaire, which is on the way to Swakopmund and Sossusvlei, there is Moose’s Bakery, a gas station, and a general store, and not much else, but it is worthy stop for any traveler in the area (check out a video from 2012). Unfortunately, Moose passed away in 2014, but the bakery is still running as he left it.

Moose MacGregor's Desert Bakery in Namibia

Moose MacGregor’s Desert Bakery in Namibia photo by Simone Swarts

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The hidden spot for the best authentic Indian cuisine in NYC

India FlagWe think we have found the best Indian food in NYC – in the basement of a Hindu temple. The Ganesh Temple Canteen (45-57 Bowne St, Flushing, NY 11355)  is tucked into a quiet, residential neighborhood of Queens – you wouldn’t know the temple was there until you drive right up to it and see the ornate architecture up close. In order to reach the canteen, you descend the stairs to the basement, where you are greeted with a vast, simple cafeteria, complete with linoleum floor and buffet line. But don’t let the humble presentation fool you! At almost any part of the day, the cafeteria will be packed with worshipers and non-affiliated neighborhood folks alike. The canteen has been churning out food since 1998, and attracts crowds a all times, even at breakfast.

ganeshcanteenThe focus of the canteen is vegetarian South Indian dishes, in particular: dosas. The vast range of dosas, thin wheat crepes, come with a variety of fillings from spicy potatoes, to lentils and chilis, to paneer cheese. And you’ll be pretty pleased about the prices, too (nothing is over $7). You wait in line to place your order, and while in line you can check out at the menu on a suspended flat-screen TV and consult with the dosa experts in line. There are also a range of appetizers like iddli (steamed rice cake) and vada (savory fried dough) to go with your dosas, as well as a selection of sweets and mango lassis. There are also a few additional temptations while waiting: little boxes of sweet and savory snacks for sale to take away. Looking around the room, you will notice some hints that the restaurant is attached to a Hindu temple, including the prominent statue of Ganesha.

ganeshWe ordered a side of tamarind rice, two masala dosas and a Pondicherry dosa. After no more than 10 minutes, our food came out, fresh off the griddle. Dosas are usually pretty generous in size, and these were no exception. The dosas themselves were butter and flaky, and were completely packed with delicious vegetarian fillings. The potato filling of the masala dosas were perfectly spiced – just the right amount of heat. The Pondicherry dosa was also filled with green chilis and onions, which added an extra kick. We also appreciated the soupy veggie sambar and coconut-yogurt sauce that came alongside. We washed everything down with a mango lassi (which is a bargain at $2 – you may want a second one).masaladosaThe Ganesh Temple Canteen may be a little out of the way for most New York visitors, but it is definitely worth the trip for the great hospitality and the tasty dosas. This is some of the best Indian food we have ever had, and definitely the best we have had in NYC. Plus, you’ll get a huge amount of food for the price! If you stop by, don’t forget to indulge in a mango lassi (or two).

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Bagna Cauda at Della in Brooklyn

Italy Bagna Calda / Bagna Càuda is a homey Northern Italian dish from Piemonte made primarily with butter, oil, garlic and anchovies. It is a mainstay at our own family celebrations, but we have never seen it on a restaurant menu… until now! We were at Della (1238 Prospect Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11218) in Brooklyn with friends, when we spotted the bagna cauda on the menu, and we just had to order it. Della has a homey Italian-inflected menu of fish, hearty meat dishes, homemade pastas and some unusual appetizers (case in point).  The homemade pasta was delicious, but the bagna cauda was even better. It came served in a small bowl, with endive, radishes and chunks of bread for dipping. We had to ask for more bread to sop everything up- delicious! We encourage you to make bagna calda on your own for your next party – it couldn’t be easier. Even if you don’t normally like anchovies, you can’t help but love the salty, garlicky goodness!



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Pastry Post-Doc: Courting Cake from Northern England

englandLooking to make something sweet for your sweetheart? Why not a courting cake – a Northern English confection made with a dense sponge cake with a layer of berries and cream. Until I watched the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off  (anyone else love that show?) I had no idea what a courting cake was. Turns out making the cake is a symbolic Northern English tradition where a girl would bake a cake for her beau after they had begun “courting” to show both her affection and skill in the kitchen. Nowadays, I imagine that any partner could make the courting cake for their significant other. The courting cake also experienced a bit of a revival due to the fact that Prince William and Princess Kate received one on a visit to Lancashire! You can try your hand at courting cake with recipes from EpicuriousFood.com and Northern Soul (plus a mini version), though I imagine it is especially nice in the height of summer when strawberries are fresh.

Courting Cake from Lancashire Life

Courting Cake from Lancashire Life




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It’s Pawpaw Season!


Paw paws by WFIU Public Radio

It’s Pawpaw Season! Now, if you’ve never heard of pawpaws, you’re not alone. This forgotten fruit used to be grown throughout the American Midwest and South (Thomas Jefferson even grew them at Monticello), but have all but vanished from the public imagination. The flavor of the paw paw is tropical – and is variously described as a mix between a mango and a banana – and the texture is custard-y, like our Brazilian favorite, the sugar apple. However, the paw paw is hard to store and ship unless frozen, making it ill suited to large-scale distribution. Andrew Moore recently wrote a book on the mysterious fruit, “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit.” Turns out Ohio is right in the heart of Pawpaw country, but they are sadly nowhere to be found in the Cleveland area. However, if you are going to be near Athens, Ohio next weekend – it is the annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival! We hope to make a pilgrimage there in future years. In the meantime, you can try foraging for your own pawpaws!

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Pastry Post-Doc: Mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival

chinaIt’s almost time for the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and Vietnam (September 15 this year), which means one thing – mooncakes (yue bing)! Mooncakes are round, molded pastry cakes with dense fillings, and have been eaten in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Festival since the Ming Dynasty. Mooncakes, as befits their name, are said to represent the moon, and are traditionally imprinted with the Chinese characters for longevity or harmony. Mooncakes are made with pastry crust and are traditionally filled with red bean or lotus paste with whole egg yolks, but the fillings vary wildly, depending on location. You can buy pre-made mooncakes with countless crust and filling types at most Asian grocery stores or bakeries (and even more elaborate varieties if you are in Hong Kong), but you can also make them on your own! Andew Gooi has a lovely video of how mooncakes are made, which you can see below.

Mooncakes are traditionally shaped with wooden molds, but you can also find some plastic or silicone (round or square) online. Making mooncakes is a multi-step process and may require some special ingredients from a well-stocked Asian grocery, like golden syrup, which you can also make on your own. China Sichuan Food and House of Annie have recipes for a traditional Cantonese version with egg yolk and red bean filling. Serious Eats has a recipe without the egg yolk. If you are feeling lost, Omnivore’s Cookbook has an extremely comprehensive recipe and step-by-step guide for the mooncake newbie newbie. If you are in the mood for something avant-garde, Christine has a recipe for for the more modern green tea custard or pandan snow skin mooncakes.

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Our Favorite Cafe in Salvador, Bahia: Cafe Terrasse

brazilToday is Brazilian Independence Day, which is making us nostalgic for our time in Brazil. If there is one place we miss most from our time in Salvador, it is Café Terrasse (Ladeira da Barra, 401, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil). We can not think of a better place to enjoy a cup of coffee, in all of Brazil (or anywhere else for that matter). Check out the view below and you’ll know why we’re having saudades. Cafe Terrasse is located inside the Aliança Francesa da Bahia in the Barra neighborhood of Salvador. We did not even know it existed on our first visit to Salvador, and it definitely made our second trip infinitely better (we visited at least once a week).cafeview2

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Pachapapa: Wood-fired Peruvian Cuisine in Cusco

peruPachapapa (Plazoleta Plaza San Blas 120) in Cusco is a real retreat from the hustle and bustle of Cusco, with an attractive outdoor dining area in the quaint San Blas neighborhood, enlivened by a Peruvian harpist and a wood-burning oven in full view. Pachapapa’s name is a riff on Pachamanca, a traditional Andean meal, cooked in an underground oven. You can sit either in the outdoor courtyard at large wooden tables, warmed by heat lamps, or in one of many comfortable, indoor side rooms.


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Pastry Post-Doc: Filipino Ube Macapuno Cake

philippinesUbe is having a moment in US food culture. The sweet purple yam flavor seems to be popping up all over in the US, in cakes, ice creams and donuts, mirroring its popularity in the Philippines, where it is incorporated into any sweet treat you can imagine. Ube is truly, shockingly purple, so you definitely won’t be able to miss it. We first had ube-flavored desserts at Village Creamery in the Chicago burbs, and we were hooked. Ube is a traditional flavor in the Philippines, and one of the most popular uses for it is in Ube Macapuno cake (ube = purple yam, macapuno = preserved coconut), a light and fluffy frosted cake with tons of bright-purple goodness. It is getting easier to find ube itself in the US, and you can also find ube powder in some well-stocked Asian groceries. Macapuno, preserved coconut, may be a little harder to find, but the Phil-Am Foods site has both ube powder and macapuno for sale online. Bake Happy has a recipe utilizing Ube Powder (seen below) and Bakanista has a recipe for a cake made with fresh ube (in some places you can even enhance your recipes with McCormick Ube Essence).



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Where to get Poutine in Toronto

canadaPoutine – a delicious combo of cheese curds and gravy over french fries – has become a fast favorite in the US, but its roots are undeniably Canadian. When we were in Toronto recently, we thought it would be the perfect chance to try poutine in its homeland (though technically poutine is from Quebec, we’ll let it slide). There are a ton of poutine-specific spots in Toronto, and everyone has a favorite. However, on the recommendation of a friend, we ended up at Poutini’s House of Poutine (1112 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1H9). This is a small cash-only spot, with tables for only 8 or so people, and poutine is the only thing on the menu.
PoutinisThere are several varieties of poutine on offer – including traditional, bacon and sour cream topped, mushrooms, BBQ pulled pork, and smoked meat – each of which comes in regular (all less than $11 Canadian) and “mini” size (less than $8 Canadian). We were also pleased to see they had vegan and vegetarian varieties. Lucky for us, since the friend we visited the restaurant with is a vegetarian, and this was her first poutine!  Another nice feature is that you can get vegetarian, beef or gluten free gravy on any variety of poutine.


We sampled the classic, bacon and vegetarian varieties. The mini size wasn’t small and actually was perfect for one person to enjoy for lunch. The poutine was made to order, and each version was a great combo of freshly-cooked, twice-fried skin-on fries, piping hot gravy and squeaky cheese curds. The vegetarian gravy was tomato-based and didn’t sacrifice any of the flavor of the beef gravy. This was the best poutine we ever had! If you ever find yourself in Toronto and want some real-deal poutine, this is the place! Where is your go-to poutinerie?

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