Sunday, July 31, 2011

Banana Crunch Muffins

clockwise from top left: diced walnuts, sweetened
 shredded coconut, diced bananas, and maple granola

garnish each muffin with either coconut, banana chips,
walnuts, or granola


You might think I'm crazy for cranking the oven during hot and humid LA days like today. But nothing can get between me and some homemade sugary goodness. I tested out these Banana Crunch Muffins, courtesy of Ina Garten, and they turned out amazing. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

My personal notes:
*Feel free to use less sugar than what the recipe calls for. The sweetened coconut and mashed/diced bananas naturally sweeten the batter. And if you ask me, 2 cups is a lot of sugar. A lot. Even for me.
*Don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from trying this recipe out. This recipe is super easy. I mistakenly combined all the ingredients in one giant bowl (instead of combining the wet ingredients separately). The muffins still turned out perfect. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday European Brunch at Europane

Europane is my FAVORITE café in Pasadena. It's simply the best. You already know how I feel about their macarons, so we won't get into that (see photo of drool-worthy macarons below). My mom had never been, so my sister and I introduced her to this heaven on earth for her birthday brunch. Lunch with the most important women in my life followed by retail therapy in Old Town Pas - what better way to spend the afternoon?

sister's open face egg salad sandwich, Europane's
 claim to fame
mom's eggs benedict with smoked salmon 

my delish seared chicken sandy with feta and mixed greens
left: arnold palmer according to Euro Pane: very tart, sour,
and sweet concoction of berry iced tea and lemonade
right: my usual iced vanilla latte

MACARONS!!!!! (the generous cashier threw in a
few extra for the birthday girl)

345 E. Colorado 
Pasadena, CA 91101

Friday, July 29, 2011

I ♥ DTLA: Perch

Last night, my girlfriends and I checked out opening night of downtown LA's new rooftop restaurant, Perch. Inspired by Parisian architecture and design, Perch is smart, sophisticated, and a refreshing departure from the elitist clubs and bars that cater to more snobby folk (though snobby folk were definitely not lacking here). Literally perched in front of Pershing Square, the indoor dining room feels like an antique library (where you're actually allowed to eat and talk). My suggestion, however, is to grab a seat and a drink outdoors and enjoy the breathtaking DTLA skyline while the house singer belts out Bossa Nova and Charles Aznavour.

outdoor rooftop dining area


beignets with wild strawberry jam and espresso
whipped cream

apple tart napoleon: heirloom apples with caramel and
cinnamon crisp and vanilla phylo

chocolate pot de creme: Valrhona chocolate custard and
 tart cherry caramel, garnished with lemon sugar crisp

view of Pershing Square from outdoor dining area
Christina and I
My beautiful friends, Maria,
Naira, and Andrea
448 S. Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kaldi Coffee and Tea

cute chalkboard quotes line the walls

I switched up my usual morning routine of grabbing coffee at Starbucks and tried out a place I pass by everyday on my commute to school - Kaldi Coffee and Tea in the heart of Atwater Village. Located in a row of hipster boutiques on Glendale Blvd., Kaldi roasts its own coffee and serves up some serious caffeine. Prices are significantly more expensive than Starbucks or the Bean, but the outdoor seating and laid-back atmosphere makes the trip here worthwhile. Think Swork but not as noisy and crowded. And if you're wondering about the name, Kaldi was the Ethiopian goat herder who discovered the coffee plant (or so says Wikipedia)! 

Kaldi Coffee and Tea
3147 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Café Beaujolais

Parisian artwork adorns the walls

started out with garlic-y escargot

beef bourguignon

chicken with morel sauce over bed of potatoes au gratin 

their humorous closing time

I've (technically) never been to France, but Café Beaujolais represents how I always imagined a French bistro: Edith Piaf singing in the background, very dim candle lighting, attractive waiters, and simple but good food. The mood at Beaujolais is significantly more romantic and slow than, say, Figaro Bistrot, but it's definitely something to experience, especially with a significant other. Otherwise, Beaujolais is perfect for a girls dinner out: the too-attractive-for-their-own-good, imported French waiters will woo you with their French and treat you like royalty (read: uncontrollably flirt and take photos with you). 

Café Beaujolais
1712 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Hat

Last night, my friend and I went on a quest to find the Grilled Cheese Truck in Pasadena. We failed miserably. I'm not sure how we missed a bright orange truck, but after circling CalTech twice, we gave up and decided to try The Hat (no pun intended). Although I'm more of a Philippe's french dip kinda gal, I had to taste The Hat's famous pastrami, which, judging from the countless framed newspaper clippings, rivals Langer's Deli. The pastrami was great. A quintessential man's sandwich. A manwich. This rings true especially since we were outnumbered by crowds of trucker-esque men. And we got our grilled cheese, too!

the famous pastrami
an all-american classic

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smart Coffee

Spotted an Intelligentsia truck during my morning commute

I love coffee. Lattes. Mochas. Coffee flavored ice cream. Chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joe's. You name it. I love it. It's an unhealthy habit, but it always makes me feel better. Intelligentsia has easily become my favorite coffee company. They take their coffee seriously. Talk to any barista and they'll give you the rundown of the history of the cup you're drinking. The Pasadena and Silverlake locations are both great, but the best part is you don't have to go to an Intelligentsia to try their coffee. Try an online search and you'll be pleased to know Intelligentsia has made its way to the obscurest of places. Sip and Enjoy. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Euro-trip Anniversary

Exactly one year ago, my college roommate and I embarked on the post college graduation Euro trip of a lifetime. We celebrated Spain's World Cup win in Barcelona, rode the gondolas in Venice, visited a concentration camp in Munich, and toured the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and castles in Prague. We also got lost in bad neighborhoods without a map, almost missed our flight to Venice, became victim to pick pockets in Spain, and got caught in the middle of two rainstorms in summer clothes. BUT, we had some amazing food...

waffle with seasonal fruit
Brugge, Belgium

ham and cheese crepe with syrup
Cafe Hans en Grietje
Spiegelgracht 27
1017 JP Amsterdam, Netherlands

Radler beers
Hofbräuhaus am Platzl
Platzl 9, Munich 80331
El Chiringuito Moncho's
Rondo Litoral 36,  Barcelona 08003

homemade apple streudel and hot cocoa
Tyrol, Kirchdorf, Austria 

gelato in Venice

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sunny Nectarine Golden Cake

I'm not a fan of fruity cakes. I prefer chocolatey, custardy, fattening pastries (like choco dipped eclairs). But this juicy Nectarine Golden Cake is an exception. It's super easy to make and hard to screw up (considering it still tasted good without vanilla and almond extract or nutmeg). My sister and I used ripe nectarines and had a slice each with homemade cappuccinos. Bon appetit!

butter the pan generously. paula deen style.

shmear the batter with a spatula.
batter will appear to be little, but it will rise during baking. 

couldn't help but eat a few slices. stay away from overly ripe nectarines.
mushy nectarines means mushy cake.

probably should have attempted a design.

voila! see how the batter puffed up over the slices?


Friday, July 22, 2011

I ♥ DTLA: 523 W. 6th St.

This building is so cool, it has its own name. The Pacific Center building in downtown is my home away from home this summer (I'm clerking at a law firm in the building). It's wedged between Olive and Grand, faces Pershing Square, and stands out as a preserved work of artistic history among simplistic new era high rises (like the Ritz and Gas Co. buildings). A true gem. If the lobby looks familiar, it's probably because "The Informant" was filmed there. My co-worker even managed to snag a photo with Matt Damon in costume during filming!

ornate ceiling

view of the main lobby from second floor grand staircase
(the office is right behind me)

ceiling above main entrance hallway

main lobby

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Maca-ron, Macaroon. Tomato Toe-mah-toe.

Call it a macaroon and the French will roll their eyes at you. Let's clear up the confusion. A macaroon is a ball of shredded coconut and condensed milk dipped in chocolate. A macaron is made of a flavored filling sandwiched between two pieces of chewy, sometimes flaky, meringue disks. They come in a variety of flavors and they're perfect as a dessert or snack. 

Euro Pane in Pasadena
Top: Passion Fruit, Hazelnut, Tangerine, Sea Salt Caramel
Bottom: Sea Salt Caramel, Raspberry, Hazelnut, Lime

So where to find the best macarons in LA? Here's the rundown. 

1) Euro Pane
'Lette in Pasadena
Left to Right: Earl Grey, Orange, Coffee, Passion fruit,
Salted Caramel, Lyche
Euro Pane Bakery in Pasadena has the chewiest and largest macarons. Try the sea salt caramel, which, shocker, is actually topped with sea salt (ahem 'Lette). Pair it with an iced vanilla latte and you'll be on cloud 9. While you're at Euro Pane, try their Croque Monsieur and Open Face Egg Salad Sandwich. The Egg Sandwich was featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Channel, and I hear it's life changing.

2) Bottega Louie
Bottega Louie in downtown LA is great. I tried my first macaron at Louie and it was love at first bite. I'm clerking at a law office that's only three blocks from Louie, so naturally, I've developed an unhealthy habit of walking to Louie after work for a late afternoon treat. Plus, I love their glossy white floors and gold decor. Try the earl grey and sea salt caramel.

3) 'Lette
Formerly Paulette, 'Lette's macarons are reputed as the best in LA. However, I like my macarons nice and chewy. 'Lette's macarons are crispy and flaky. Not my cup of tea.  Also, the coffee flavor tastes like ground espresso beans. Too strong, even for a coffee addict like myself.  'Lette managed to screw up both the macaron texture AND my favorite flavor. No bueno.

4) Lemonade
Contrary to what the labels say, these are not macarons. The are more like cakey whoopie pies with a whipped cream filling. And they're HUGE. Very shareable.

Ina's Blueberry Muffins (Jeffrey's Gonna Love Them)

 For those who know me, I'm a sugar fiend. I take 7 packets of sugar in my coffee, and I'm probably headed toward a not-so-healthy future of dangerously high glucose levels and, God forbid, diabetes. But I just can't help myself. A couple weeks ago, my sister and I made blueberry muffins courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa, and they turned out moist, tender, fluffy and yummy. Due to popular demand, I went for round 2 of blueberry overload last night, and with my mom's suggestion of amping up the blueberry volume, the second batch was especially juicy. They were a hit even with the saltiest eaters. No wonder Jeffrey loves them.



Here's the recipe.
Ina Garten's Blueberry Muffins

And here are my personal suggestions.
*You can substitute pure vanilla extract with a dash of white vanilla powder.
*2 half pints equals 2 cups, but feel free to use more blueberries. However, too many blueberries will result in a mushy muffin that doesn't hold up.
*When creaming the butter and sugar, cream it for the whole five minutes. Trust me. 
*You must use paper muffin cups. Butter alone will not do. My sister and I learned this the hard way. 


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