Macarrons in New York!

Cross posted on Pinay Francophile 

 I was walking down 74th Street towards Lexington to get my ride back to the office.  I took my time since I had already taken the morning off and it was just after 11AM.  I figured I had enough time to grab lunch, bring it to work, and then settle down.

This part of the Upper East side is pretty posh.  It was a mildly cold day, the sun was out — a perfect day to take a stroll.  If only my right arm wasn’t bothering me — I would’ve brought my camera and snapped away again.  So I entered one fancy deli which showed their own cheese selection on one side, gourmet goodies like jams and exotic sardines and capers, fancy salads and a variety of lasagnas and quiches.  There was a chiller full of ready made sandwiches that showed turkey with brie, egg salad with dijon mustard — I just couldn’t make up my mind.  I walked out past the line for the cashier and stepped back onto 74th.  Turning right on Lexington, I scoured the horizon for a deli and found several choices, but before I could make up my mind, I saw the bus stop.  I decided to make my way there while mulling about the choices and I saw a comely window with Patisserie painted on it.  It was a bistro type facade with French doors (what else?!) — and I thought I’d be adventurous and walk in.

I was greeted by coffee tables full of people having a late breakfast, and to the left was a dessert display that was just candy for the eyes!  There was a variety of sandwiches, too, and I settled for a Croque Monsieur with Bechamel sauce — the French version of your ham and cheese sandwich with a twist — and I picked out two pastries to go with it.  I picked out a coffee eclair and a second pastry I failed to get the complete name of, but which I attempted to pronounce in French, and with success at that according to the manager behind the counter.

As the gentleman was trying to put together my order, I casually asked him if they made macarrons and lo and behold, he signalled to the other side of the dining room where they were, next to the gourmet chocolate chiller.  Macarrons in New York courtesy of Chef Francois Payard.  I asked to have 6 pieces placed in my bag, and as I walked over to choose the flavors, a tray full of the goodies was there for the taking to taste!  I sampled the coffee and passion fruit, (yes, I was greedy!  LOL).  Payard is a distinguished name in its field here in New York, and they definitely measured up to my beloved Laduree.  I remember way back in March of last year when I first wrote about the macarons of Laduree, a fellow pinoy from LA wrote me about his favorite patisseries here in New York and how he had such a sweet tooth — and that Payard was a favorite stop of his, but alas, no macarons..!  I immediately e-mailed Manny this morning (even before I could draft a blog post) to let him know that Payard now had macarons.

The texture and flavor was fantastic — your teeth literally sunk into the cream filling between the soft cookies, and I couldn’t wait to tell Alan I discovered macarrons in New York.. I left the patisserie telling the lady who put my macarrons in a small box that I’m very happy to have made this discovery — like a young girl walking into American Girl Place, for sure!  And the best thing about it was that it was cheaper than Ladurees — Euro to dollar that is.. with Payard’s selling at $1.60 (but soon to go up to $1.70 in a few days, I heard) — compared to Laduree’s which costs over One Euro each, and I know the last time we bought it came to something like over $2.00 a piece.  (Bizu’s comes to just over a $1.00 but that’s Manila..)

We are already planning to have dinner at Payard’s and in their mediterranean restaurant in midtown called IN TENT where the Executie Pastry chef is Fellow Pinoy Eric Estrella.  Meanwhile, I’m planning another stopover there when I pick up my visa in two weeks time.  

Recommendations from a frequent visitor to Paris

Originally posted on Pinay Francophile

Darryl is a fellow Filipino who was born and raised here, and who somehow found his way here, a long ways back when I started blogging in 2004.  Up until then, I had an online journal on my personal website which has since lain dormant for even longer periods of time now, no thanks to my newfound predilection to blog on a regular basis.  Back to Daryl, though, he and his wife and daughter take an annual trip to Paris and Italy, and I asked him for recommendations given my forthcoming trip back to France this end-November.  This is what he had to say:

“…my favorite neighborhood in Paris is Le Marais. This neighborhood is an odd mixture of the Gay Community and the Old Jewish Neighborhood. Perfect spot for walking a morning or afternoon when Alan is in a meeting. Just take the Number 1 Metro Line and get off at Hotel De Ville. Then walk up a couple of blocks away from the Seine. This neighborhood is filled with little streets and boutique stores. Make sure you make it the area called Place Des Vosges the main square of this neighborhood. We use to go here and take our daughter Helene to the playground in the middle of the square. There are cafes, pastry shops, stationery stores for your scrapbooks, just great little stores. I love getting lost here so many things to discover. Don’t go there on a Sunday its the only place in Paris where the stores are open so its packed. Shops are closed Monday morning as well. Let’s see in the Jewish Neighborhood there is a restaurant called L’as du Falafel; its famous for falafels, shish kabobs, just great Meditarranean food and its not too pricey. Also, visit Musee Carnavalet in the area. Small free museum about the history of Paris and the great thing is that its free on certain days. You may have already been to Le Marais but if you haven’t its worth a visit. Also, the department store next the metro station called BHV is great a lot cheaper than Galeries Lafayette and Printemp. Its where the normal Parisians shop nothing fancy think JC Penney. Great for little T-shirts for Angel with French writing on them. Have fun. Take Care, Darryl..”

As you can see from the presence of the links that I had actually done a preliminary research on Darryl’s recommendation to go visit Le Marais.  Judging from the photographs alone, it is indeed a place which looks very interesting and worth spending a day at.  I think this takes care of my Tuesday alone in Paris — after the day trip to Chartres.

It’s also good to know that there actually places that are open on a Sunday!  Thanks for the info, Darryl!

""Love the home you're with" — Donna Sapolin, HOME Magazine Editor-in-chief

With my new magazine subscriptions coming in (thanks to my untouched mileage on Continental Airlines), I have a wide choice of leisure reading these days.  I was trying to put away some of my clutter in the dining room when I chanced upon the first issue of HOME which arrived last week.  Unless a particular article on the cover catches my eye, I usually read a magazine from from to back, so my first logical stop was the Editorial which caught my attention because of the title.

My favorite part of Sapolin’s editorial says “.. turn your residence into a comforting and healing sanctuary — that is, a destination you’d like to stay in for a while.”

We’ve had our co-op for four years now.  We moved in on Halloween of 2002, so the poor trick or treaters buzzing the doorbell had nothing to look forward to as we were busy carting stuff up from our car to this new place we now call home.  Our very own — just two years into our marraige, and to me the purchase was pivotal because it was an agreement between Alan and I that we would not start trying to get pregnant until we had our place.  Finally!

We initially said we’d stay five years — now we are thinking of holding on to our place just a little longer.  It’s a nice place to raise a toddler in because there is a courtyard where the neighbor’s children sometimes play.  There is a sense of closeness between the occupants of the 12 units in our u-shaped courtyard, though some of us own and some of us rent.  It’s a sense of community that is not quite the same as calling over the fence to say hello to your next door neighbor.

We haven’t really done much to renovate the place — although it had always been Alan’s and my plan to give the place our personal touch.  We haven’t gone further than repainting the bathroom a fuschia pink color — making it MY kind of bathroom — and repainting the dining room a cool sage green which distinguishes itself amidst the all-white walls of the common areas.  We are finally working on putting up our pictures and art.  Hopefully by Christmas, we would have the wall shelf in the dining room to hold some of those frames.  In the spring we might repaint the living room, and by summer next year, the frames we had hoped to put on the stairwell will be up. 

While we’re pretty crowded right now with Alan’s Mom and my Mom all here with us, we all know that it’s a temporary arrangement.  When I was pregnant with Angel, I had planned to paint the Peanuts gang onto his room’s wall, and I had it all figured out, from creating the templates and actually getting the right color down to the right Pantone shade.  But it’s not his room — so instead, the stepson’s posters are up on the wall.. and my Mom has an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on her side of the room. 

Improvement plans were put on hold largely because of Angel, but now that he can actually understand admonitions to do or not to do something, we’re more confident about moving forward with making this place breathe more character — our personal touch in this place we call home.



A windy, windy Saturday

I woke up to the sound of the wind howling outside my window.  It was so dark though I knew it was already late in the morning.  The sun finally came around noon, but the win barely abated.  It rained, it stopped, and then we finally got the chance to do some errands late afternoon.

We were supposed to attend a halloween party cum housewarming of a friend in Westchester but I decided to forego it at the last minute because I didn’t want to burden Mom with staying up late tonight again to watch Angel.  At the same time, I didn’t want Alan and his friends hurrying to leave the party when they could stay as long as they want if I wasn’t there to bug Alan to go home.  Three friends from Queens were supposed to ride with us, and I’d have been the party pooper.  So I stayed home, took care of Angel, and I’ve been working on Neris’ scrapbook again.  I’m almost done, really.  I am just trying to create the pages with the postcards.  I have only more or less 16 pages left to print and I’m done.  She’s back by next Sunday and I cannot wait to give it to her.  My first completed scrapbook.. wow!

The wind is still howling and it’s past midnight already.  I’m sweating the fat off some short ribs I’m going to put in the slow cooker in around an hour and a half and it should be good for lunch tomorrow.  If the weather holds, we have another windy and wet day tomorrow.  We’ll probably just stay in. 



Friday date with Summer and Dinner at EARTH NYC

I didn’t know where we were going, only that we were going out.  I told my mom on my way out that we weren’t eating dinner at home, and she smiled and said “again?” with a teasing smile.  The last time was Friday last week.  Alan and I took our couple friend, Jeff and Jackie to A.O.C. or AOC L’aile ou la Cuisse . (For the original post on our new favorite French bristro, click here.)

First, we went to find my favorite hair designer, “Summer” (formerly of Dramatics NYC near Union Square”) who’s now with Lifestyle Salon NYC located at 822 Broadway (cross street is 12st Street).  Summer is great with haircuts and coloring, and she sculpts my very short hair so elegantly I hate it that I don’t always have the time to seek her out when I need my hair trimmed.  (I usually end up settling for something less somewhere more convenient.)  She’s there on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and an appointment is a must, so do call them at 212.228.5577.  It took us forever and a day to find her after she left Dramatics NYC — but now that I have her back on my radar, I’ve already set my next appointment, just right before we go to Paris.

Dinner was at a new place Alan wanted to try out called Earth NYC located on Tenth Avenue between 17th and 18th Street.  If you’re one for ultra spicy Thai, Indonesian or Indian cuisine, then this place is worth the effort to find.  The interiors greet you with a definitely Asian flavor but with a pronounced modern twist.  Alan found his favorite lychee martini on the cocktail menu and quickly ordered one and it got his seal of approval — so much so he had two.

When we go and try a restaurant that deals with some regional cuisine, we try to order one dish we are familiar with and use that as a yardstick for how close they are to the tastes that we are used to.  He skipped his appetizer but I tried their Tom Yum Goong which was a major palate wake upper because it was spicy beyond ultra spicy.  Fortunately, our busboy, Santiago was quick on the draw with the water to wash down the lingering spiciness.  I’ve always known Tom Yum Goong since I first tasted it at Sukothai Restaurant when they first opened in Makati Avenue back in the day.

For our entrees, our waiter Slawek was very helpful. I had the Bo Luc Lac from Vietnam which is supposed to be “Shaking” beef in Garlic Sauce.  It’s pretty much your usual sauteed beef but with the onions tasting just a tad bit different due to a spice I can’t put my finger on.  It was not particularly sharp in flavor, but tasty enough not to be considered bland.  Alan chose the Drunken Shrimp from Singapore which was red-wine infused shrimp sauteed in garlic.  Yum..  The portions were single plate meals served with rice.  Dessert was the Lemon Charlotte which is described in their menu as swirls of delicate raspberry roulade pastry with a lemon mousse in the middle.  The balance between tangy and sweet was just right so it was a perfect way to cleanse the palate.

Price point is around $50 per person, cocktails are reasonably priced.

Being a friend 10,000 miles away

When I was in high school (in my freshman year, I believe), I wrote a term paper on friendship.  I read this book that made a case study of the dynamics of Friendship which was pretty profound reading for me at that time.  I don’t even remember the title of the book, but I still remember some of the examples that were enumerated by the author to illustrate the different types of friendship.  Even at such a young age, friendship was already such a fascination and a dire need for me.

I have a lot of “one-of” friends who have a special kind of closeness with me, but very few of whom I can put in a locked room together with any of my other friends.  Let’s just say they each have their own unique traits and the only common denominator among them is me.

I miss them.. I miss those friendships.  It’s still there but the distance has made the relationships evolve or fade or change in a way beyond description.

Some things have not changed — like the warm and fuzzy feeling that envelopes you when you think about these friends who have been a part of your life for the longest time.  Yet if there is one thing I’ve realized, the length of time I’ve had one as a friend doesn’t always mean that that person is my closest or truest friend.  The truest and closest is not always your best friend, best being the true sense as an adjective and not a noun.  Sometimes, the less than perfect slightly crazy friend turns out to be that best friend.  The one who, through time, comes back time and again to see you baring your soul and still loves you anyway.  No matter how hurtful your words may be, she hugs you at the end of the day and tomorrow, your friendship remains unchanged.

There are those new people who walk into your life casually and make their home in your heart as if they had been a kindred spirit from a previous life you only vaguely know of at the back of your mind.  Sometimes, even people you have yet to meet  but whose voice you have heard in writing or on the phone or in the chat leave such a profound mark you cannot help but count them among your friends.  Just like this unofficial blog group we’ve formed — where we visit one another’s blog and interact as if we were friends who meet for coffee or chat on the phone regularly.  Or those who just read and react to the things I write here, as if I were consulting or talking to a friend..

So I read my bestfriend’s words as she types crying about the burden she carries.  I wish I could be there to do more than listen.  I have tried to do my part on this side of the world, researching on the reason for her burden — but it’s not quite the same.  I cannot sit with her in Cafe Adriatico to thresh out the problem or just while away the afternoon passing time to take her mind off her worries, even if only momentarily.

Another bestfriend has moved to California, so much closer to where I am now — embarking on a new chapter in his new family’s life.  I wish I were closer to him, but 3,000 miles is definitely closer than 10,000.  We spoke two weeks ago and did a major catch up — it was as if we just spoke the week before, as if there wasn’t a bigger chasm between us when he was in Manila and I moved here.

I guess that is what distinguishes true friendships — through the heartaches and the disappointments is an unbreakable thread of hope that keeps you together in spirit even when you are literally a world apart.  And in the interim between the long lulls in that friendship, the silence does not cause the love to fade, but rather it holds yesterday and today together in a warm embrace.

Isang tulog na lang

Remember how, when you were younger, you would ask your Mama or Papa how many nights were left to some exciting event like Christmas you had left?  I’m the queen of shallow thrills, so I must say I’m excited about the fact that I have just one more night to go and it’s the weekend again.

The little tyke is snoring away beside me.  He and I got to share some quality time playing in the living room and rolling all over the carpet while his Dad and Lola (my mother-in-law) were with the stepson doing one-on-ones with his teachers.  Grades came out — and there’s nothing to discuss so I will skip that part of the evening.

Alan says he’s taking me out to dinner again tomorrow.  Last Friday, we took our friends Jeff and Jackie to A.O.C. in the West Village again, and it was a pleasure as always.  Tomorrow, he says, is a surprise.

I don’t have to worry about the Lolas because my biyenan bought a ton of Filipino food and goodies from one of the local Filipino restaurants here in Queens, and my Mom cooked some adobo that has yet to be touched because there was just so much take out food!  So we’re good.

Then I have just one night to look forward to another weekend with my two boys.  We haven’t really made any plans.  Maybe we’ll finally catch a movie.. I have yet to shop for my halloween treats.  We actually have a party this Saturday evening, and we’re supposed to pick out costumes.. although Alan and his officemates who will be going with us prefer to go there not dressed in costumes, the hostess of the party told us we’re not being let in unless we are properly attired.  Dilemma..


When arrogance gets the better of you

I try to live a low-key existence in the office.  Although I can try and make myself noticed, I choose to keep life simple by retreating into my tiny corner, playing second fiddle to the assitant of my boss’s boss.  I used to be where she was with the former boss, but I’m happy where I’m at, being with the boss I serve now.

I can do so much more, I know.  I can tinker with his numerous presentations and give it more pizzaz, but he has a whole department doing that for him.  If he sees I can do things better, I will be doing the job that others should be doing for him instead.   From time to time, I put in my two cents’ worth editing some of the correspondence his people are to release in his name — only because I want him to be at his best, more so when something goes out under his signature.  Like today. 

A major crisis arose over the weekend when part of our connectivity was compromised.  As a result, clients were affected, leading to many complaints that have escalated through the week-long interruption of service.  One of the technical persons took a stab at the explanation and apology.  It was way too technical and too long, so I suppose he asked his Communications person to give him a draft.  As I have full access to his e-mail, I chanced upon that draft as I was about to leave the office. 

Even if English is their native tongue, many Americans have a problem writing coherently in their own language.  It sounded grammatically passable, but a comma was missing where it should be, and the sentences could have been written better.  So I took a stab at it, re-wrote the note, and typed it as a reply to the original e-mail, addressed to my boss.  I did not hit the “send” button, but instead, I printed the whole thing with a note prefacing the suggested text.  I told my boss that while I know I may be overstepping my bounds in doing what I did, I just thought that the note could be written better, softened to make the customer more open to accepting the apology, and that he was free to take the suggestion or not.  I wrote a PS, though, that if he decided to use my text, I would appreciate it if he didn’t tell them I was the one who tweaked the text and not him.

I have noticed that not everyone has the same attitude as I have when it comes to finding out that other people can actually do things better than you, or that this person knows more than you do.  It’s the same reason I don’t dispense unsolicited advice, even legal advice, unless it is sought.  But when I am asked, unless you catch me at the wrong time, I am usually generous in sharing what I know and what I have. 

Perhaps it’s this feeling of willingness to share and to learn from others that gets me so irritated when arrogance takes others over when they realize I actually have a brain between my ears.  I have long ago realized that while you can find friends among your colleagues, that is more the exception than the rule.  We coexist as workers — that we become friends is almost surely but an accident, and a pleasant one at that –  but I know that coexistence and office camaraderie are not to be confused with genuine friendship.

So I do the usual banter, I will ask about your weekend and your family and share news about mine.. but the really personal stuff, I keep to myself.  That way, I take things in stride when I suddenly hear the assistant of the boss’s boss snapping at me.  And then the next minute she’s talking to me as if we were close relatives.  But please don’t ask my opinion about a question you already have made your mind up about, and get all prissy about my answer.  Arrogance closes our minds and hearts to the possibilities out there.  It gives us tunnel vision which prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

Maybe the boss will like what I wrote.  Maybe he won’t.  If he does, I just don’t want to risk the ire of the experts.  After all, I’m just an EA in this world.