Bread dough, fresh from Paris bakeries

I have been in France six years now and I feel that I’m now getting to grips with the country. I have figured out the school system, the tax system and the obsession with dossiers. So now, I am always thrilled when I discover something new! This weekend, it was the fact that you can walk into almost any French bakery (and there are many) and ask for baguette dough, already bashed around and risen to perfection. It costs the same as a loaf of bread and the possibilities are endless.

I made a couple of trays full of fresh pizza and some foccacia with the leftovers as we had friends over for dinner. I think it would be lovely to pick up the dough one night and then bake some little rolls for breakfast. Someone told me that you can even buy brioche dough, which you can then roll out, fill and experiment with. Voila, you learn something new every day!

I am wondering, can you  do the same in other countries?

- Emilie

Delicious Cake Toppers by Goodie Girl

Shira is a mom who owns and operates a small cafe in my neighborhood.  Not only does she make delicious and healthy things like quinoa chocolate chip cookies, lentil and feta salads and hearty organic ten vegetable soups…but she also has a dark side.  Shira is a self proclaimed candy-addict and master chocolatier (and it’s true – I have seen her sneak a twizzler or two when her kids weren’t looking!).  Recently she rolled out these solid chocolate birthday candles that I thought were fabulous.  Such a simple idea to jazz up a plain frosted cake or a cupcake and she can customize the candle to whatever shape you need.  We all love to lick the frosting off our birthday cakes right?…so how much does it rock that we can now eat the candle!  New Yorkers should check out her website Goodie Girl for cute and easy ideas to jazz up a party.

Why pancakes?

As my eldest goes to a German kindergarten, he and his friends will be celebrating Karnival today — going to kindergarten dressed up in their favourite fancy-dress (I think we can expect a fair few pirates, policeman and princesses!).

I love how our family combines the traditions from both our cultures — I think it is providing us with a very rich life and so I cannot let the day slip without what Shrove Tuesday always meant for me growing up …. pancakes!

Quite a few of my German friends, who will join us for pancakes, had never heard of our tradition before so I thought I better check out why it is we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?  Although our traditions seem quite different they stem from the same idea.  During Lent you would abstain from parties and celebrations and certain foods.  From what I can work out, in continental Europe the week before lent starts is all about extravagant celebration (hence the dressing up) knowing that there will be no more celebrations for 40 days.  Whilst here in the UK we focus on eating up all the foods in the house that will not be allowed during lent, typically fats, dairy and eggs — hence pancakes were made as they used up these ingredients. (more…)

Fresh cakes delivered to your door

Oh how I love macaroons, especially chocolate ones! They’re one of my many favourite things about visiting Paris. So imagine my delight when I learned about La Dinette — a cake delivery company in London set up by a French pastry artist. La Dinette delivers fresh cakes, macaroons, tarts, and cupcakes straight to your door — perfect for birthday parties, brunch with friends, or just to satisfy your sweet tooth. I have personally tested the macaroons and cupcakes… and they’re delicious!  Visit La Dinette for products and prices.

-Courtney

Jamie at Winter Wonderland

As children are starting to break up from nurseries, kindergartens and schools for the Christmas holidays, a typical London holiday attraction to visit is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. We went last weekend and whilst crazy busy I was really impressed with the fairground — lots of really beautiful old-fashioned fairground rides, mixed up with more crazy modern ones.  Also there is Zippo’s circus and an ice-rink and of course a German Christmas Market to browse around.

Jamie Oliver even has a presence there (for those of you who don’t know Jamie — he is the UK’s culinary cheeky chappy).  He has taken over the band stand to offer some proper outdoor winter cuisine — Jamie’s Fabulous Feasts offers hot pork rolls, polenta chips and much much more, all of which looked delicious.

But the best bit of Jamie’s presence was the ‘decorate your own gingerbread man’ bit, set up for children.  For £5 my son and I gave it a go.  We got a naked man and tree and an egg box filled with various decorations — dolly mixture sweets, white and milk chocolate buttons, cranberries, apricots, dessicated coconut  and an icing tube (to act as glue).  We had a lot of fun jazzing our biscuits up and I have to admit, when we finally felt we had admired them enough, they tasted pretty good too.

Winter Wonderland is open in London’s Hyde Park until the 4th January.

Igloo Zoo


No matter the weather, every Friday after school my children and I head down to Igloo Zoo for a fix of creamy frozen yogurt. YUM-OH! We patiently wait behind the hoards of teenage schoolkids who are equally excited. It is pure decadence and relatively sinless (I figure) given that it is made with real yogurt (live cultures) is 99.5% fat-free, high in antioxidants and low in sugar. There are 4 flavors on offer — original, green tea, cocoa and pomegranate. As an incentive (not that we need one) they offer an array of amazing accoutrements like organic kaffir, lime biscotti, white chocolate, pomegranate seeds, passion fruit puree, halva (a middle eastern treat made from sesame seed), choc-covered goji berries, lychee and a host of other treats. Admittedly, I usually eschew the more exotic toppings in favor of good old triple choc crunch, passion fruit puree and coconut…beyond divine!

If you are visiting Melbourne, the Gold Coast or Sydney check out locations here ! If you live elsewhere in the world and you are hankering for your own sampling of Igloo Zoo  — I apologize profusely for the tease!

- Sara

Picard


The French are known for their elaborate cuisine, but there is a secret hidden in many French freezers and its name is Picard. When I first moved to France I could not figure out what went on in the Picard shops — they are huge expanses, kept all white, with freezer upon freezer standing beside each other… and, as I found out, full of frozen food. Even then I wasn’t convinced — years of terrible frozen pizzas and microwave dinners had turned me off frozen food. Turns out the French are addicted to their local Picard, and with reason — Picard food is (mostly) fantastic. (more…)

The Food Stork

Do you remember the days when grocery shopping was fun — when you could take your time walking down the aisles, choosing the ripest avocado and planning your meals ahead of time? Remember when cooking dinners was a relaxing, peaceful time? I don’t know about you, but with three kids running around the kitchen pulling on my legs and tugging on my patience, I can barely scramble eggs without having a mental breakdown. Enter the Food Stork — the maternity chef.

The Food Stork is a UK company which delivers fresh and delicious made-from-scratch food directly to the home. The service was originally designed for new mums to help maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet after childbirth… but it’s been 10 months since my baby was born and I still think the Food Stork is quite handy (obviously not for every meal, but it is nice to have some options in the freezer). (more…)

Melrose & Morgan

melrose and morganTwo years ago our Christmas got canceled on Christmas Eve — well the trip we had planned to Switzerland did anyway.  It was our first Christmas with a child and you know how important they are!  We were devastated.  I think the only thing that saved us was Melrose & Morgan, our local deli in Primrose Hill (where we lived at the time).  We turned up at 12pm to a packed store of everyone collecting their orders and they thankfully managed to make us up one of their ‘Christmas’s in a box’.  It honestly saved the day.

But Melrose & Morgan is not just for Christmas, their fantastic home-cooked meals are perfect to take home, heat up and make you look like a domestic goddess.  Sadly my better-half isn’t easily fooled – Melrose & Morgan’s food is just that bit too delicious for him to believe it was made by me whilst I had 2 children hanging off my arms. (more…)

KeepCup and save the environment

keepcupThe only thing marring the great pleasure I get from my take-away morning coffee is guilt… and I don’t mean the guilt I feel when I add my two teaspoons of sugar!  Rather the guilt I feel when I toss away my disposable, un-recyclable paper coffee cup. Australians use approximately 500 million disposable cups a year and discard 1.36 million disposable cups a day into landfill! Staggering isn’t it? Indeed, our love of take-away coffee is costing our environment dearly. Now, imagine this on a global scale!

With guilt in my heart and these figures in mind, today I purchased a KeepCup. (more…)

Chelsea Market

chelseamkt_1I really try to avoid taking my twins out to eat.   It is nothing short of torture for me.  Seriously….it’s like the minute they see that dilapidated cup of crayons and sad coloring placemat coming at them they start to make a scene.  Chelsea Market, on the other hand, is now a destination of mine to eat with the girls on sunny days with the stroller in tow.   I can only describe it as an underground culinary fantasy land and one where I am at complete ease dining with two three-year-olds.   There’s a huge selection of delicious gourmet places to eat – all in a cool and low key setting.  Kids can choose from homeade soup, sandwhiches and pasta and then watch fresh bread being baked, visit a fish market and toss coins into an indoor waterfall.   Even better are the places to grab dessert – Eleni’s cookies, Sarabeths and Fat Witch Brownies.  On the weekends they oftentimes have musical performances for kids so check the schedule and make a morning of it.  And while the weather is still nice grab a coffee and check out the new and ultra-swank Highline where you can sit and watch a parade of New York’s hipsters saunter by.

-Dina

Shhh, one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets

little cupcakesThis weekend, I plan to treat my kids to a mini cupcake at Little Cupcake in Delgraves Street, Melbourne — a delightful strip in the city renowned for its gorgeous hotchpotch of eclectic shops and cafes. Little Cupcake is a quaint haven for sweet tooths, dedicated entirely to cupcakes! Think mini cupcakes smothered in heavenly buttercream in a size perfect for cramming the whole thing in your mouth. As I devour my cupcake, I will float back on a nostalgic cloud to my childhood and regale my children with tales of the ‘good old days’ when the delicious aromas of Grandma’s warm gooey homemade cakes beckoned us on our weekly visits. They will probably completely ignore me, cupcake heaven beckons afterall. Oh, who can blame them?

Little Cupcakes is in fact so ‘mini’ that queues regularly spill out the door and way down the road. Timeless classics are on offer including vanilla, lemon, mint and strawberry as well as other inviting concoctions – ‘creamy coconut’, ‘Belgian button chocolate’ and the dreamy ‘Red Velvet’- my absolute favourite. Cupcakes are available in 2 sizes ‘small’ and ‘extra extra tiny’ and served on a wooden tray. Offered with an array of coffees and teas, served in pretty teapots. Who can resist? Anyone care to join me for some afternoon tea?

-Sara

It’s clean-up time, everybody!

liquiteriaFirst it was low-carb, then it was no-carb and now it’s all about doing a “cleanse”. We all know of someone who has done it, wants to do it or plans to do it. A juice fast can do the body good every once in a while – even if it is just for a few hours (which is about all I can manage to do). It is especially great for kicking off a new eating routine (i.e.: breaking the coffee/sugar habit) and for those of us whose meals consist mainly of discarded nuggets and pre-chewed food that your kids have flung on the floor. The juices at liquiteria are the best in the city – fresh, delicious and extremely well priced, and if you swing by to talk to one of the owners they will customize your very own cleanse. I highly recommend ‘The Grasshopper’, ‘Beets Me’ and ‘The Killer’.

-Dina

BabyCakes

babycakes copyI was asked to bring a treat for a birthday party at the girls’ pre-school last year, but with all the food allergies out there these days filling that request can be downright terrifying. Ok…so let’s see….that leaves me with what options?….rice cakes? …a fistful of raisins? What “treat” on earth is going to be wheat, nut, egg and dairy free?

I then remembered BabyCakes – an adorable little shop on the Lower East Side which is, incidentally, New York’s first and finest dairy, egg and gluten free bakery! They make picture perfect cupcakes, cookies, brownies and even pie – all of which can be scarfed down guilt free. But how do they taste you ask? Delicious! And what’s better, I feel like I am beating the system somehow when my kids eat them.

-Dina

Marché des Enfants Rouge

1Courtney and her family were over in Paris visiting from London and we wandered around the North Marais, doing a bit of shopping, people watching and coffee drinking. It really reminded me about how much I love this little area. I want to write a thousand and one posts on all the lovely little places you can find around here…

I cannot believe I have not written a post about the Marché des Enfants Rouge yet. It is one of the oldest markets of Paris, founded in 1647 and has been converted into a fabulous market/food hall.

Food from all over the world is available… from Morocco, the Caribbean and Japan and it all gets consumed on big communal tables outside the food stalls. There is also a great organic fruit and vegetable stall and a beautiful flower stall. (more…)

Feel the cakelove

cakelove Have you noticed how cupcakes are the trendy dessert of the moment? Bakeries are popping up all over the US and abroad, it seems.  I first heard about DC-based Cakelove from a cooking show on tv, and was intrigued by the lawyer-turned-chef Warren Brown– someone who was truly following their bliss to open a bakery.  I finally succumbed to the cupcake craze yesterday when I passed by one of Cakelove’s bakeries – I got one for my daughter and her friend, a lovely vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting.  I have to say that it was quite possibly the best cupcake I’ve had. (I had to have a bite in the name of research!)  The frosting was real, made with chunks of real strawberries, and not sickly sweet like some frostings.  Cakelove now has 7 locations in the DC area, and also does big cakes and other sweet treats.  I am looking forward to my daughter’s next playdate to try out another flavor!

-Rebecca

Du Pain et Des Idées

pain1.jpgI stumbled across the Michelin’s top ten bakeries in Paris report recently and was almost disappointed to see my favourite bakery in Paris listed as the first of the top ten. I thought it was my little secret that no one knew about! Though Du Pain et Des Idées is a tiny, unassuming bakery, the bread and patisseries are out of this world. I found it purely by chance: I was working in a studio on the same street and was looking for the local bakery to take home a baguette one evening… and I was in for a surprise. The baguette had a wonderfully crisp, but not hard, crust and the inside was so delicate!

Christophe Vasseur, the owner of Du Pain et Des Idées started off as a fashion house sales executive when he had a change of heart at the age of 30 (as you do) and decided to become one of the top bakers in the capital. He has more than  succeeded. Voted best baker of Paris by Gault and Millau (a famous food magazine) last year, this year he was voted one of  the 10 ten bakers in Paris by the Michelin guide.

If you are ever in the area I personally recommend the baguette, the orange blossom brioche called a ‘mouna’, or the apple turnover with a whole baked half-apple in it.

I can only repeat — out of this world!

- Emilie

Pink Flamingo

pink.jpgMy favourite pizza place in Paris goes by the original name of Pink Flamingo. The first outpost was out by the Canal St Martin, but a new venue has just opened, in the middle of the Marais. Why do I like it so much? The pizzas are great — the Pink Flamingo crew has decided not to recreate Italian classics badly, but to successfully take pizza to a new level. Our two favourites are the ‘Basquiat’ which is covered in blue cheese and figs and the ‘Aphrodite’, a houmous and aubergine pizza. (At the moment there is even a Hawaian inspired ‘Obama’ pizza…)

Not only are the pizzas great but there is something else that makes the “Pink Flamingo” our family’s favourite: Their Pink-Nik service! You order the pizzas in the restaurant. You are then given a helium-filled pink balloon and tell them in which park in the area you are going to be. Fifteen minutes later a pizza delivery guy will come and find you. The area has lots of little parks with playgrounds so your kids can have lots of fun while you kick back and relax. Granted, it is a bit cold for this at the moment, but spring is just around the corner…. The restaurants are really cute too, in a retro-kitsch kind of way!

- Emilie

Leon Cookbook

21ozoqo5qll_sl160_.jpgI have a new addiction and it is the food from my new favourite Cookbook: Leon.

Lets wind back a few years when we were all living in London. I was working in Soho and deploring the fact that it was almost impossible to get good take-away food. Try as I might, I never managed to get up in time to prepare sandwiches to take in with me. So my options were greasy spoons and sandwich chains that put so much mayonnaise into their sandwiches that it was had to figure out what else was in the sandwich.

Then, one fine day, Leon opened: fresh salads, soups, wraps… all I ever could have dreamed of was suddenly available just around the corner from me! I never went anywhere else…

Finally my favourite take-away has published a cookbook and I am loving making my own take-away food (The family is loving it too, by the way)!

- Emilie

Cupcakes conquer Paris

cupcake.jpgIn France we are so proud of our pâtisseries that I never thought this day would arrive….  the first cupcake bakery in Paris has opened its doors! Luckily for me it is right beside my daughter’s favourite playground on Rue de La Forge Royale in the 11th arrondissement.

Cupcakes and Co. is the brain child of two sisters Maddie and Rebecca, a trained patisserie chef. They spent years baking cupcakes for their family and friends and decided to turn their hobby into a business.

And the time was right. Cupcakes and Co opened in September and they have been overwhelmed by the response. Last week they were able to showcase their cupcakes at Colette, and in January they will be at Gallerie Lafayette, and the list goes on and on.  It seems that the whole of Paris has been secretly yearning for cupcakes….

What I love about this place is that they stock classic cupcakes like carrot, chocolate and vanilla, but they also continuously come up with new ideas like a moelleux au chocolat cupcake or a violette flavoured cupcake. You never know what flavour you are going to find when you go to the shop, but you know you will never be disappointed….
Last but not least, the cupcakes are made out of organic ingredients, without any additives or colorants. There you go: the perfect excuse to indulge yourself…

- Emilie

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