Azucar (Revisit)

I LOVE Azucar. They have delicious desserts for good prices, the staff is always super friendly and in addition to fancy desserts their Cuban snacks and pastries plus coffee are on point.

Divina Cake - Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

Divina Cake – Vanilla Cake, Passionfruit Curd, Raspberries and Toasted Marshmallow Topping

I used to go to OB more often but now I rarely find an excuse to go. This time we were heading to Pizza Port and so obviously had to make an obligatory stop at Azucar, even though I was too full to eat dessert. Fortunately I could take these babies to go.

Azucar Cakes

Azucar Cakes

My favorite thing at Azucar are their mini cakes. Instead of buying a huge slice of cake you can buy little mini cakes (for $4 to $6 dollars). They are all complex and lovely with a lot of them showing a Cuban influence in the use of tropical fruits or dulce de leche. Some stand outs include the Divina (pictured here) with passion fruit and marshmallow, the cheese flan with coconut, the cinco leches cake, mango cheesecake, rum coconut cake….amongst so many.

The Divina cake is one I always get. I ADORE passion fruit, and this is the perfect combination as passion fruit’s tartness takes so well with super sweet foods like marshmallow or white chocolate. The Divina is a super moist vanilla cake filled with passion fruit curd, fresh raspberries and topped with toasted marshmallow. Amazing.

Divina Cake

The other cake I got was called the Havana I think. It is also vanilla cake (you can always see the black specks of real vanilla in their cakes, always a plus in my book). But this one is filled with a thick layer of dulce de leche and topped with vanilla frosting and crystallized sugar. Sweeter than the Divina and a little sweet for my taste but my sister loves it. This is for her which is why I left the plastic layer around it (sorreez). I was afraid that if I unraveled the plastic covering all that dulce de leche would just ooze out…For a picture sans plastic see my old post on Azucar here.

Havana Cake

If you want something simpler than a cake they also have fantastic pastries; scones (including a gluten free option), flaky pastries filled with guava and cheese, brownies, bars, cookies (try the Mojito cookie or the peanut-butter-white-chocolate Tiger cookie), caramels (dark chocolate with sea salt), muffins and even coconut almond granola. They also have some Cuban inspired salty snacks like croquettes and papa rellenos. As far as real food goes they have inventive sandwiches like the Cuban in Paris (brie, ginger spread, arugula, pears), Berto (serrano ham, manchego cheese, arugula, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil) and the Havana (oven roasted turkey breast, cream cheese, guava marmalade). And lastly the many coffee options are all great.

But I would definitely order a cake.



Just sayin’.


Azucar

4820 Newport Avenue (Ocean Beach)
San Diego, CA 92107
619-523-2020

www.iloveazucar.com

New York – Cronuts & The BEST Chocolate Mousse Ever

Super belated post but thought I’d upload some of the many food pics from a trip to NY a month ago. Every time we go to NY we eat. SO. MUCH. FOOD. Something like 4 meals a day plus squeezing in snacks everywhere (paninis at Eataly, the banana bread pudding at Magnolia, the Salty Pimp cone at Big Gay Al’s…). So I guess this time was no different. Part 1:

DOMINIQUE ANSEL CRONUTS:

Perhaps I am disqualified from properly judging this particular cronut flavor because I dislike things that are overly sweet (white chocolate, fudge, caramel….) but on the other hand I love dulce de leche so this should have been amazing.

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Although I appreciated the flakes of sea salt to offset how sweet it was it was still SO SWEET. And very very buttery. A little too buttery for me. I had one bite and I think that was all I could eat. It’s not all bad news though, could definitely see this being delicious with the right flavor, maybe something more tart like raspberry? And it was perfectly executed, crisp shell on the outside, soft flaky layers inside and perfectly smooth dulce de leche cream between the layers. Lest ye abandon all hope.

Dulce de Leche Cronut

Dulce de Leche Cronut Innards

Dominique Ansel

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012

http://dominiqueansel.com/

BUVETTE:

Buvette is a lovely little (and I mean little) bistro style restaurant in the West Village. We always go for their unbelievable Croque Monsieur/Madame and for the best chocolate mousse in the world.

Buvette

Buvette

The menu is fairly small and fairly traditionalist French with croque monsieurs, charcuterie, steak tartare, duck confit rillettes, coq au vin, tartinettes, etc. Portions are somewhat small too so be advised (perhaps that’s French too?). We prefer to come here for breakfast/brunch.

This time we all shared the Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto, which seems small but with the bread it becomes a more substantial meal.

Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto

Demolished Steamed Eggs with Prosciutto

Not substantial enough because we also individually ordered the Salade de Poulet which sounds boring but is actually quite nice. It comes with shredded roasted chicken, green beans, potatoes, butter lettuce and creamy mustard dressing. Probably one of the lightest things you can get at Buvette even with that rich dressing.

Salade de Poulet

Salade de Poulet

The Croques. You truly cannot go wrong with any of them. At most places vegetarian attempts of “real food” are often dismal but here the Croque Forrestier with creamy bechamel sauce and wild mushrooms is as good as the Croque Monsier with prosciutto and the Croque Madame with prosciutto AND an egg. All have gruyere and despite their apparent diminutive size these things are super rich and they pack quite the punch.

Croque Madame

Croque Forrestier with an added Egg

Croque Madame

Croque Madame

Lastly to end you must order the Chocolate Mousse. I  solemnly swear it is the best chocolate mousse I have ever tried. Incredibly rich and chocolate-y and with a texture so dense its almost chewy.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

We sneakily tried to find out what was in it by pretending to have a range of allergy afflictions and self-imposed dietary restrictions from lactose intolerance to keeping kosher in order to find out if there were dairy, eggs, nuts or gelatin in it. Sneaky. And for the record there is no dairy in the mousse itself (not including the whipped cream on top of course) and no gelatin. Hmm.

More to come and please forgive the amount of chipped nail polish in these pictures. Probably should have gone with gel nails.

Buvette

42 Grove St
(between Bedford St & Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10014

http://ilovebuvette.com

Bouchon Chocolate Covered Eclairs with Dulce de Leche Coconut Filling

Filled Eclair

Filled Eclair

So the Bouchon cookbook is amazing. The writing is extremely detailed and if you follow it step by step you will most likely obtain perfect results. Minus a little calibrating for finicky ovens.

Eclair

Whereas I stuck to the Bouchon recipe for the eclair dough and ganache topping I wanted to make my own filling. Having some leftover dulce de leche and coconut pudding I thought that would make a great filling. This recipe is based on Manjar de Coco, a Brazilian coconut pudding that is normally topped with prunes and prune syrup. Which sounds quite dismal but is actually pretty tasty. Here’s a traditional recipe for Manjar de Coco from Chronic Cravings.

In the traditional Manjar de Coco recipe you use a can of sweetened condensed milk but I substituted a can of dulce de leche for the condensed milk.

Manjar de Coco with Dulce de Leche

INGREDIENTS:
1 can of dulce de leche
whole milk
3/4 cup of coconut milk
4 tablespoons of corn starch
1/2 cup of coconut flakes

1. Add dulce de leche, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and corn starch into a pan.
2. Take the empty can of dulce de leche and pour two cans worth of whole milk into the pan with all the other ingredients.
3. Turn on stove and cook it on medium heat continuously stirring until its thickened.
4. Chill in fridge.

Remember that the mixture will thicken as it chills so cook until its a little runnier than you want it to be.

Now the Bouchon recipe is quite long and detailed, here is a link to it:

Bouchon Eclairs

Eclairs Cooling

Eclairs Cooling

Obviously did not use a pastry piping bag as was instructed but besides that the only other modification I had to make was that my eclairs were still not airy enough after the baking process was done so I had to leave them in for 8 minutes longer. I blame this on my oven as it tends to undercook things to a certain extent…

Slicing Eclairs

Slicing Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Ganache

Ganache

Finishing up Eclairs

Finishing up Eclairs

Last step:

Eclair Innards

Eclair Innards

The last step is perhaps quite important because eclairs do not stand the test of time. Every moment they are sitting they are getting soggier so please make sure to assemble them right before you plan to eat them all!

TIPS:
– If you can’t find dulce de leche you can just make it yourself either by cooking it over a saucepan or by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk, see this link here.

Diner en Blanc SD

Having heard of the Diner en Blanc events a couple years ago I considered going to last years for the first time it was happening in SD but ehh was too lazy and ended up not committing. This year we bought tickets fairly early on and I have to say it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be back next year!

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc started in Paris 25 years ago and now its hosted in cities around the world, everywhere from Quebec to Cote d’Ivoire to Singapore. Basically the premise is that all these people dressed all in white (nicely I might add) bring their own tables, chairs, table decorations and food to a spot. Although mind you, you can also rent tables/chairs from them and purchase a multi-course meal as well if you are not inclined to make your own. After meeting up everyone gets on buses that will take you to an undisclosed location where the thousands of people that participate in these events will set up their tables, chairs and food and have a giant open-air dinner party. They have taken place in the Place Vendôme at Paris and they shut down Rodeo Drive last year for the one in Los Angeles. In SD last year it was at Harbor Island and this year it was in a lovely courtyard in Point Loma.

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

The meet up spot was at Balboa Park and when we arrived I was happy I wore a nice white dress because people go all out for this. Floor length dresses, all white suits, parasols, carnival masks, boas…you name it. Apparently there is an award for best-dressed person as well as best-decorated table. Originally I thought this was a more casual affair and so I was glad that I was informed that yes, you have to dress nicely and no, you can’t just eat on a picnic blanket.

So the only downside is having to carry all your stuff everywhere. Its not too bad but we did have some pot de creme desserts that tipped over and made a bit of a mess. As well as I had trouble carrying our table from the car to the bus but I would blame this more on a personal shortcoming of having the upper body strength of an 8 year old.

The bus took us around a bit, going on the freeway and then back off, around downtown, stopping in a random parking lot (psyche) and then finally to Point Loma. Although initially I was unimpressed by the location once we were in the courtyard and everyone was set up it looked beautiful. The courtyard around us also handily sheltered us from the wind so that both girls in skimpier dressing as well as tall flickering candles were well protected.

Napkin waving

Napkin waving

Once tables are set, dinner starts with a napkin waving thing. It was nice chatting to the tables around us and although we were definitely on the younger side of attendees it was cool to have a good mix of all ages and both couples that came alone and huge groups of people attending together.

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

We went with simple but elegant for our table and a bottle of rosé for libations. Also although organizers say you must purchase alcohol from them and not bring your own, EVERYONE brought their own and lots of it. Next year we will definitely be smuggling some more wine in with our food.

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

For our first course I made crostini with truffled ricottas and mushrooms. When you are cooking you kind of have to keep in mind that all this stuff has to be transported and also that it will most likely be served sort of closer to room temperature, unless you have a nice insulated mode of food transportation like I did not (does a Trader Joe’s bag count? I thought not).

Caeser Salad

Caeser Salad

For the second course I made a caeser salad with caeser-basil dressing. Also known as, I made a caeser dressing and added basil to it because why not.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

The entree was roast chicken with Meyer lemon + roasted potatoes. I followed Kenji’s recipe from Serious Eats for a perfect butterflied roast chicken with quick jus. This was awesome. And I roasted the chicken on top of a wire rack with the potatoes underneath so that the chicken spices/juices/fat/everything dripped on the potatoes and they were sooo flavorful. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, dropped them in a pan with cold water + rosemary, Meyer lemons and salt over medium heat until they boiled and then threw them in with the chicken in the oven. They were the best roast potatoes I have ever made. No lie. Sadly not as good served room temperature but will definitely repeat this recipe.

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

For dessert we had dulce de leche + coconut pudding with strawberries. This was also great and I want to make it again but with more coconut and a chocolate sauce.

So after dinner there is dancing and we were thinking of just leaving early because we are the lamest 23 and 25 year olds on the planet and have work really early. But the DJ who was playing mostly oldies throughout the dinner sneakily got people on the dance floor with the Cupid Shuffle and from that went to more upbeat music. By the end of the night people were dancing in the fountains, there was a guy running around with a bubble gun and when we snap chatted a picture of the event to a friend she thought we were at Sensation White (the rave).

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Being used to going to loud bars/clubs that mostly have just people your age and that play mostly EDM all night it was super fun to dance around to songs with WORDS that everyone knows the lyrics too. It was also great seeing people of all ages dance and even better to see both 20 year olds and 60 year olds dancing inside the fountain!

Fountain Dancing

Fountain Dancing

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

We stayed until the very end and of course the very last song they played was Journey. I don’t even have to tell you which one. Great experience and can’t wait to be back next year! Hopefully with leak-proof containers for the dessert and someone else to take up table-carrying duties 🙂

For more info on Diner en Blanc:
http://sandiego.dinerenblanc.info/

Azucar

So I’m pretty when people are thinking desserts in San Diego their first thought is Extraordinary Desserts. Which is completely understandable and pretty fantastic as far as desserts go, however I invite you to consider Azucar in Ocean Beach as well. Although it bills itself as a Cuban style bakery, they go beyond that and have fantastic offerings.

Azucar's Havana Cake

Azucar’s Havana Cake

Azucar

Azucar

Its definitely smaller and more casual than Extraordinary Desserts but I think a perfect afternoon would be perusing the antique stores on Newport Av. and then stopping and getting some coffee and dessert at Azucar. The cakes are mini sized and mini priced (your waistline and wallet will thank you!) but still feel very high-end and complex, with ingredients like passion fruit curd, flambeed pineapple, and champagne infused chocolate.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

You can also get yummy sandwiches (try the Cuban naturally) as well as amazing coffee. They also do more casual pastries like their flaky pastries with guava or cheese, ham croquettes, cookies, brownies, scones and cupcakes, etc. Personally I prefer their sweet to their savoury. As a disclaimer I will say that in life I also prefer sweet to savoury.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

As far as their more elaborate little cakes these are an incredibly affordable $6 bucks. One of my favorites is a white cake with passion fruit curd, raspberries, and a marshmallow toasted top. Next on my to try list is one that had rum soaked cake layered with coconut cream and flambeed pineapple. And their birthday cake is also inspired by the Momofuku birthday cake which would please anyone with a super sweet tooth. However, what I actually got this time was a white layer cake with dulce de leche filling and a vanilla frosting with sprinkles. Behold.

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Sprinkle Close Up

Sprinkle Close Up

It WAS delicious. A little too sweet with the frosting but I tend to not be a big frosting person anyways. The cake is so moist and flecked with little vanilla beans (play find the specks on the first image of this post!). It pairs incredibly well with dulce de leche because really what doesn’t pair well with dulce de leche.

The other item I tried was their mojito cookie. This was awesome. The cookie is thin but chewy and a light green inside, topped with granulated sugar. It really does taste like a mojito sans the alcohol component. But the fresh mint and lime flavor with the texture from the granulated sugar really makes this cookie. And yes I had a bite on the way home before I was able to take a picture of it. Life happens.

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie - So green!

Mojito Cookie – So green!

I’d like to also point out that the service at Azucar is great. Everyone is really friendly and they don’t mind at all when people like me stand there for 20 minutes and read all the descriptions of every cake 3 times before deciding what I want to take home. Usually when I’m picking desserts there’s 2 that stand out of maybe 10 options but here I think I could’ve been happy with almost any of the cakes. It helps that I like that they use Latin inspired ingredients like tropical fruits and dulce de leche (which I love). Until next time I’m in OB I guess…

Azucar

Azucar

Azucar

4820 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 523-2020

http://iloveazucar.com/