food photography

The Exquisite Experience of Ladurée SOHO by Amanda Liew

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  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.

 

[Stop #1: Baltimore, Maryland] Raspberry Buttermilk Scones & Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies by Amanda Liew

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The next month of my life is going to be filled with more travel, food, friends, and family than I can possibly imagine. While it will be impossible to blog while I'm abroad, I'll do my best to keep things in order. After having finally moved out of my house in Philadelphia, I zoomed off on a train for Stop #1 to visit my other best friend, Madeline, in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Madeline has an amazing history with baking and food photography. She was one of the Photography Editors for Penn Appetit which is the first university food magazine in the entire country. Last summer we lived together in New York where she held the coolest internship with a food photographer, and I'm so excited that we're both returning there full-time in July! Despite my pleas to make macarons (it's too humid apparently - pshh), we chose the next best thing and baked BOTH Raspberry Buttermilk Scones AND Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies. Food heaven right here. I was also so excited to finally add a post to my "Food" section since I only have is How to Cook a Traditional English Roast from my time abroad. We used recipes from queen bee, Martha Stewart, and I've included them at the bottom of this post!

The scones were amazingly fluffy, and the egg glaze on top perfected it. They weren't too sweet and the fresh raspberries added a perfect kick.

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The Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies, on the other hand, were decadent to the max. The brown sugar, butter, molasses, white chocolate chips, oh lordd they're delicious.

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Next up? Annapolis for Natalie & Huey's wedding! Couldn't be more excited!

Martha Stewart's Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones (substituted with raspberries)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour, (not self-rising)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) blueberries
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Stir in blueberries.
  3. Whisk together buttermilk, 1 egg, and the vanilla. Drizzle over flour mixture, and stir lightly with a fork until dough comes together but a small amount of flour remains in bowl.
  4. Turn out dough onto a work surface, and gently knead dough once or twice just to incorporate flour. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool.

[Link here]

Martha Stewart's Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies

Yield: Makes about 48 dozen 2-inch squares

Ingredients

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape.

[Link here]