Monday, August 26, 2013

Macaron Madness

I feel like I have only recently come to understand the glory of Maracon (one N only because they are french and the french are weird). They are crispy little puffs of tasty delight and while I am a new comer to the fan club, I feel as if I have had a sorted past with them. Flash back to me walking around Paris in 2010 and seeing all of these multicolored petite cookies in every bakery window and seeing on the sign "Macaron." I remember think " Gross those shredded coconut things my mom always served on Passover...", however the shape, and color, should have tipped me off that these cookies were nothing like the ones of my childhood.

The USA has recently become obsessed with these sweet little french cookies that can come in color or flavor. The essential parts of a Macaron are the "feet" and the glossy clean little dome of the top of the cookie. Now that may sound simple enough but it is actually rather hard to get that clean top and the essential feet.  So after many trials and errors Evan and I discovered a couple of online resources that really helped with the process.

Also some pictures associate with our first attempts!
It is important to also note that the types/quality of your ingredients are extremely important. Evan and I have tried many different forms of Almond Flour and have found that it is worth it to pay out the bigger bucks for the finer flour rather than getting the stuff that still has the shells on it. Another important tip is to age the egg whites. Meeting separate the whites like 2 days earlier.

More on this later as we experiment with other flavors and technique. As of right now we are just attempting to get the cookie consistency right.
Cinnamon Macaron

My friendly neighborhood taste testers!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Holy Grail of Grocery Stores

In Denver, we are blessed with some seriously good ethnic restaurants, to name a few Vietnam Grill, Star Kitchen, Axum, and last but not least La Taquiera Mexicana. I reason that because of all these amazing restaurants there are also some amazing grocery stores. I imagine that they require plenty of produce and supplies that fulfills the restaurant needs. So, Evan and I have dedicated some time to discovering The Holy Grail of Ethnic Grocery Stores, if you will.  Of course there is HMart in east Denver, and Pacific Ocean Market on south Federal. Which supply the best of Asian foods you can find. Everything from Dragon Plums (pluots) to made in front of you fish shaped, chocolate-filled waffles, piping hot and gooey. 

Most of the time I get the majority of my produce there, depending on the quality. Like any grocery store you have to scrutinize the produce and ensure that you are getting the best quality that you can, but especially at the HMart and Pacific Ocean Market. I find that sometimes the produce is great and other times produce is not so great. But what is always great are the prices.  At one point Evan and I had attempted to figure out how much cheaper our groceries were when we went to the Asian markets before we went to our regular grocery stores such as Sprouts or Safeway. What we discovered was for about the same amount of money, say $70, we can buy almost two thirds as many groceries at the Asian grocery stores as we can at our regular grocery stores.

Having fully mastered the sometimes strange and often delicious world of the Asian grocery store, Evan and I went in search of new wonders and discovered Arash International Market.  After a quick google search, this store garnered the most positive responses and as it just so happens is directly across from HMart. The reports stated that there was fresh feta and fresh olives, Huzzah Treasures found! Ultimately Evan and I were in search of cheap fresh olives so we could marinate our own as I am deeply fond of olives and can consume whole can fulls at one sitting, thus the necessity of cheap.

This store did not disappoint. They had three different types of fresh feta, each delectable. Not to mention at least 10 different types of olives, pungent and flavorful.  Naturally I got all three different types of feta and have continued to enjoy them through the week. For me, the biggest difference between fresh feta and regular store bough feta, is not only the flavor, but also the consistency. The flavors are sweeter, grassier, and saltier than regular feta. The consistency is more firm, and often creamier. All three, Bulgarian (sheeps and goats milk), French (sheeps and goats milk), and Greek (goats milk) had distinct flavors, and distinct consistency.

Naturally we also bought several different types of olives and have been munching on them all week...yet to actually marinate any but I am sure that will be the next step with the next visit. The store also hosted a number of interesting new delicacies, such as some sort of dessert with whole pistachios encased in white nougat, or a type of cheese known as "kefir cheese", which reminds me of formage blanche. A french breakfast food somewhere in between cheese and greek yogurt. The staff was simply wonderful and welcoming and there were some interesting and fresh produce. I will definitely be going back to this store to sample more of the surprising new food opportunities. The Holy Grail of Grocery Stores...probably not, but the quest continues...stay tuned.

Up Next...Macaron Mayhem!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Le Grand Date Night

Often in my life, I will wake up one morning and realize that I haven't actually spent any quality time with my love Evan in well over a week. Either because of work, exhaustion (which is often the case when he gets home from work), or spending it with friends. Even though I live with Evan and see him every morning and every evening, I find myself missing him everyday and looking forward to him coming home each night. But then we lay on the bed, reading or watching TV and barely interacting at all. To combat this horrible stasis we have instituted date night once at week. At least that is what we try for.  Now seeing as we are both foodie (he is an actual chef), we are always looking for the next best place to get either some strange ethnic food that lights up our palettes, or something that is old but really really well done.  One place that we have found since we moved to Denver almost a year ago, by the good graces of LivingSocial, is Le Grand Bistro. Le Grand calls themselves "French Comfort Food" which is not entirely accurate as most of their dishes would hardly be called peasant food which is what I would traditionally call "French Comfort Food."  What comes to mind for me when I think of comfort food for the French is Bouillabaisse, Escargot, or the oh so famous Ratatouille.  I speak merely as I find and probably only based in opinion, though I would like to myself as Gastronome.

Regardless of the titles, I always find Le Grand to have vivacious food. Perfectly balanced with deep rich flavors, and not drowning in cream. At least it does not appear that way to the causal guest. I love French food but most often when leaving a French restaurant I find myself bloated and regretting the calories already. Food, especially French food, should not leave you regretting what you just put in your mouth.  Well cooked food, even if it is swimming in butter, should be balanced and not leave the diner feeling like they over consumed.  Granted some of this is based upon the ability of the diner to portion sizes that reasonable. But this is also the role of the restaurant. Unfortunately in the US of A, we assume that more is better, bigger is better. But I can guarantee you that given the choice to eat once perfectly crafted truffle over a whole Hersheys bar, most people would pick the truffle.  It seems so backward therefore that we insist on large quantities of mush over a simple, wonderfully seasoned, fresh, small portion of heaven. I have sold you haven't I?

Anyhow, among the perfectly balanced food at Le Grand is the balanced portions sizes that leave me comfortably full, and teetering on the edge of a need for dessert.  Usually I opt out because I am attempting to lose weight but some day soon I will take the plunge. The best part is that Le Grand regularly roles out new items on their menus so there is also something interesting new to try. Recommendation? Try the Rabbit with the Papperadelle!