The Exquisite Experience of Ladurée SOHO by Amanda Liew


  I always joke that I had the worst first macaron experience. I had never tasted one before, but my friend Madeline insisted that we make a trek to this special shop that was the "best in Paris." We walked into Ladurée, and I was instantly overwhelmed by the beautiful dainty pastries and decor. When I finally made it through the line and tried one for myself, I couldn't believe I had lived 20 years of my life without this amazing delicacy. How are there so many textures in one bite? How does this rose macaron taste like a rose smells?! Sadly, when I returned to the US and happily bought myself a macaron to enjoy my new favorite dessert, I was sorely disappointed. Shells were crackly, creams were wrong, sizes were all over the place! Oh, the horror! I was a macaron snob. Fortunately, moving to New York City has quickly remedied that situation for me because there are not only one, but two Ladurées here. The one in the Upper East Side is perfect for your grab-and-go for a walk in the park, whereas the SOHO location offers the perfect spot for the ultimate girl brunch.

In anticipation for her move to the West Coast, my dear friend Cameron made the effort to come into the city just to get one last hurrah before thousands of miles would separate us. I knew instantly that this called for an exquisite and grand experience of total indulgence. Surprisingly, I was able to make a 1pm reservation on Open Table just a few days in advance. To make things even better, I had accumulated enough points for a gift certificate (note: you have to get this mailed to you, you can't use the app) which meant that we would be spending it all on extra desserts, rather than comping our bill.

We were early to our reservation, but they were able to seat us right away. We inquired about the patio seating, and while that does not open until May, they graciously seated us at the table along the windows for plenty of gorgeous sunshine. The back room was truly incredible! Unfortunately my fixed lens wasn't able to take it all in, but even my iPhone 6 shot captures it quite well.

Laduree Interior

To start, we each ordered a pot of tea (for me, black tea with lavender) and they came with the sweetest little "L" napkins for the handles. 20150410_0010_AmandaLiew_Laduree

We then decided to split one sweet and one savory, ordering the original french toast and the eggs benedict. The waitress made a point of emphasizing that the benedict was done in a "french style" which we didn't fully comprehend at first, but then realized the simplicity of it once it came out. The french toast was pretty incredible - the bread was dense and the maple syrup was flavorful rather than just sweet. The eggs benedict itself was simple and very, very small, but tasty. The poached eggs were cooked just right, and I was guilty of sneaking some of the table bread to dip more in the hollandaise sauce once I finished. 20150410_0015_AmandaLiew_Laduree 20150410_0018_AmandaLiew_Laduree 20150410_0019_AmandaLiew_Laduree

When it finally came time to dessert, I was horrified to realize that my stomach was a little fuller than expected. Nevertheless, we tried our hardest to ignore the sensation and championed on as planned (I'm dedicated to a good meal in case you can't tell...) Keeping it simple, Cameron ordered two macarons: salted caramel and chocolate. For those of you unfamiliar with Ladurée's macarons, the tiny dessert somehow manages to have three layers: there is a perfect crispy shell, a chewy layer at the interior of the cookies, and then a delicate soft cream or jam filling. In other words, it's incredible.20150410_0020_AmandaLiew_Laduree

For my dessert, I opted for a favorite: Saint-Honoré Rose. The magnificent creation is a puff pastry filled with the impossible-to-exist rose petal cream and raspberry compote, topped with a rose frosting. Sitting on top of the bottom layer, is a giant stack of more rose petal cream and mini versions of the base pastry sitting on top! Insane. I had eaten this dessert once before at the Upper East Side location, and was a tad bit disappointed to find that this one wasn't quite as good. It seemed that they had refrigerated the pastry a little too long and it lost a bit of its light flakiness. Nevertheless, the cream and compote were still irresistible.20150410_0023_AmandaLiew_Laduree


Overall, it was a truly wonderful experience. I had previously read reviews that the service was terrible, but we didn't encounter that at all. To the contrary, all the tables around us seemed to receive professional and courteous service.For the full experience, I recommend trying to get seated in the back room as it is much lovelier than the others. While small portions, the entrees themselves were quite affordable. The desserts, of course, are a given. Laduree with CameronAll food shots and Cameron's portrait are taken on a Nikon D3100 50mm. All photos capturing the room are taken on an iPhone 6.


(Pinterest) Failing for 100 Posts and 100 More by Amanda Liew

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As my post count has been ticking closer and closer to 100, I've been mulling for weeks over what I wanted to feature. Did I want to highlight something aesthetically beautiful like my recent brunch at Laduree? Or perhaps showcase a men's fashion shoot in Chelsea and talk about my developments as a photographer? Nothing felt quite right until last week, though, when I experienced the most hilarious Pinterest fail of my life trying to make cute mason jar cupcakes. After seeing pictures like the below from Cookies and Cups, I thought it would be the perfect thing to send across the country to my "little sister" Kiersten for her birthday and my dear friend Maddie who is an MD Martha Stewart of sorts.


So how did they start out? Not so hot. Photo 120150412_0006_Pinterest FailFortunately, my friends Janet and Kevin were over to "help out" (ie eat the ugly ones) and let's just say they were eating a LOT. We were laughing so hard at how hideous the jars looked (chocolate frosting smudged on glass isn't that appetizing...) and also how difficult it was. We tried so many different methods - putting the cake in first then adding frosting (resulted in smudging), frosting the cake first then plopping it in (half of them flipped over), tearing up the cupcake to fill out more of the bottom (it looked stupid). All the while I'm simultaneously crying and laughing at just how epic of a fail it all was. Finally, finally I thought I had mastered the process! In my pride and glory, I even whipped out my DSLR to get a good shot, dreaming of how this would be blown up on Pinterest boards. I would write my blog post full of tips (dollop of frosting and sprinkles at the bottom, frost only the middle of the cupcake avoiding the edges, lower it in with chopsticks, repeat, and then add a solid layer of frosting at the top), and it would be a fantastic addition to my food section! 20150412_0004_Pinterest Fail

But then...I decided to test how they would fare in travel and on my way to work this happened..

Photo 3The frosting was far too slippery, the jar far too big, and the cupcakes far too skinny. I could only imagine the girls opening up their boxes and just seeing a jar full of a frosting mess and being so confused as to what I sent them. I couldn't help but laugh at my #nailedit moment and forced my coworkers to eat my ugly cupcakes just to make myself feel better (for the record, they were delicious).

So what does this all have to do with my hundredth post? Trying. And failing. You see, as far as this little blog has come in the past four years, I've hoped that at its very core is still about the journey, not the end game. From the start, I've wanted it to be about life, experiences, challenges, and above all trying new things. What started out as a travel blog, morphed into a passion for digital photography - and where that passion is focused changes each day! Sometimes those new things turn out wildly successful, and sometimes they turn out disastrously bad. But in the end, the effort was made and the idea was explored. As more people have seen my work, I've gotten more project proposals, fee inquiries, and even questions of if I would ever pursue this as a career. But I've come to realize that there's a huge amount of freedom in clinging to the "amateur photographer" title. It gives me the chance to pursue what intrigues me, try new styles without worrying about a portfolio, share my stories of what I've learned, and ultimately laugh at my own failure. I love that this website is not just a portfolio of my best work, but instead an insight into how I'm growing and challenging myself as a photographer. And so, I'll keep trying and I'll keep (Pinterest) failing. I've done so for the past 100 posts, and I'll keep doing it for 100 more!