Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Lyon: Savoury macarons from Les Halles

I’d say just about a year ago saw the heyday of the French macaron. Miniature, delicate, flexible in terms of flavours, and difficult to perfect; what’s not to like about it? However, I think that after a year of seeing these almond cookies everywhere, I’ve gotten a bit tired of them. But a few weeks ago, while in Lyon I was ambling through Les Halles, an indoor upscale food market in the city centre, when I came across a patisserie store featuring savoury macarons. I was pretty intrigued and had to try some for myself.

I remember Seve had four savoury flavours: foie gras, gorgonzola, porcini, and something else that I forget. Well, I tried the first three. The nice saleslady gave me gorgonzola as a sample, a WHOLE macaron. Wow! Never had that happen before. I was pretty surprised at the generous offer but then, upon chewing my first bite…well…not to say that it was terrible but it wasn’t exactly something that I’d fork out three euros for. I understand that as a blue cheese, gorgonzola is supposed to be strong, but it’s also known for being quite salty. And Seve geared towards bending savoury flavours and making them sweet. So that first macaron tasted like cheesecake made with strong blue cheese. I’m sure there are people who would like that but it didn’t really go down that well for me. The texture, at least, was airy and light; had it been dense, my goodness, I wonder how sky-high strong the flavour would be!

Macaron aux cepes/Porcini macaron

Despite that initial drawback I still bought two other flavours, and those worked better (in differing degrees). The porcini, hmmm…tasted like mushroom with sugar added. Sweet and earthy. The filling was pretty dense, and the macaron cookies, like those of all three savoury macs, were the normal sweet kind. I didn’t really know what to make of it.

Foie gras macaron with a copyright on it. Fancy

The last one, the foie gras macaron, worked the best out of the three. I guess maybe it’s because I’m more familiar with the idea of eating sweet jams with goose liver pate, cause that’s exactly what the macaron tasted like. Well, no jam was present but the sweetness of the filling and the cookies reminded me of it. It’d have been nice if the liver flavour had been stronger, cause it was only barely detectable beneath all that sugariness.

So, that was my experience was savoury macarons. Somewhat disappointing cause I was actually expecting something salty. Maybe I need to try making my own.

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July 22, 2011 Posted by | Bakery, Lyon, Travels | 1 Comment

Paris: 2000 feuilles from Pierre Herme

Yesterday I took a day trip to Paris and, of course, as with any trip to Paris, a visit to Pierre Herme was required.

I picked up their 2000 Feuilles to try. Basically it was a millefeuille (but mille/1000 times two) with almond cream and choc-hazelnut fillings.

2000 feuilles from Pierre Herme

I have to say, though, that as much as I tried to like it, I did not. Perhaps it was because it had already sat in its packaging at room temperature for 4 hours before I finally got to eat it, but the textures and flavours just didn’t play well together. Of course, having been out so long, the cake no longer held its shape, with the praline cream and chocolate-hazelnut filling erupting out the sides. I found the fillings, because they were at room temperature, to be overpowering. The tones of almond and chocolate were no longer gentle and caressing but loud and abrasive. Even large pieces of pastry failed to mellow small dollops of filling. Plus, even a very sharp knife failed to truncate a cross-section in the millefeuille, making it difficult to appreciate the intended textural combinations and rendering the process of devouring the cake a very messy operation.

I suppose one praise-worthy aspect of the cake was the pastry, which remained crispy and mostly unsoggy despite its four-hour journey in an air-less cardboard box. Next time, though, I’ll be sure to finish millefeuilles as soon as I purchase them.

Hopefully the macarons that I got will fare better!

July 7, 2011 Posted by | Bakery, Paris, Travels | 1 Comment

Paris Big Names

Big name products that we had during our visit to Paris!

Berthillon Ice Cream:

I loved their vanilla flavour, but I was disappointed by the three others that we tried (figs, caramel au fleur de sel, and something else that I forget). Although the flavours were intense, they were all so cloggingly sweet. And the hefty prices (9.90 euros for three tiny scoops from the cafe where we went to) didn’t help either.

Brie de Meaux from Laurent Dubois Fromagerie:

Maybe it’s just me, but do all Brie de Meaux taste stinky?

Patrick Roger‘s Caramels au Fleur de Sel:
Even though Patrick Roger is most famous for his chocolates, these salted butter caramels that I found in his shop were absolutely amazing as well. They were soft and sticky, but not exactly chewy, and you can taste all the ingredients so clearly. The butter, the sugar, the salty hints; they’re all there.

PatrickRoger1
Look at that window display!

Poilane:

The poilane loaf that I tried had a nice sourdough taste, but I found the texture of the interior too crumbly and dry. And the outside crust was too hard. Maybe I just went on the wrong day. However, their punitions (little butter cookies) are to die for indeed, and the brioche was awesomely buttery; would be great for making French toasts.

Jean-Paul Hevin‘s Turin:

This elipse-shaped cake consisted of a sugar crust at the bottom filled with meringue and some blueberry jam-like thing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. I didn’t find it mesmerizing but it was definitely good; not too sweet and the meringue was light and soft.
A separate post featuring macarons coming up!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Jean-Paul Hevin Macarons from HK

Jean-Paul Hevin Macarons from HK!
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So FINALLY I’m posting the promised JPH macaron post from eons ago. Yeah, school work and stuff have been getting in the way…(stuff aka my laziness)

Anyways. All those weeks ago when I headed down to Hong Kong, I was really really excited to finally be able to try some high class macarons. The first thing that I did as soon as I got to Harbour City was to get box of them.

Macarons!

Now, these macarons were quite pricey; if bought individually they cost something like 20 HKD each. My box of 15 costed something like 280 HKD. Ekk. They had 13 flavours, so I got one of each plus two extras. Below are pics and my thoughts on each flavour:

Vanille w/ Chocolate Ganache:

This first one that I tried was somewhat disappointing. I found it overly sweet and the vanilla flavour was quite lacking. Sob.

“Super Amer” Chocolate:

The “Super Amer” chocolate was very chocolatey but again too sweet for my tastes. Towards the end I came across one bite that had an odd sour taste…probably just an oddity.

Pistache*:

The pistachio macaron had a very nice hard outter crust that collapsed beautifully into its soft insides. The pistachio taste wasn’t very strong, but it was still a very tell-tale nuttiness present in the cookie. This one wasn’t as sweet as the previous two, thank goodness.

Frambroises:


I didn’t like the raspberry one much at all. Well, maybe it’s just a matter of personal preference but I’m not really into fruit jams in general and that jammie taste was very prominent in this macaron. Jam and chocolate…sort of weird…

Bergamot:

Since I don’t know what Bergamot tea is I wasn’t quite sure what to look for in this macaron. Like most of the others, the Bergamot macaron just tasted chocolate-like and sweet. The texture of this particular one was nicely done, though, with that cruncy outter layer and soft moist insides.

Praline Hazelnut:

The praline hazelnut had a very hazelnutty flavour, which was awesome. The texture was notable too, though that seems to be a hit or miss thing for every individual macaron. But unfortunately, I again found this overly sweet due to the prevalence of the chocolate ganache.

Fig:

Cracked crust! Unfortunately all the jolting and jostling on the train must have taken its toll. But that aside, this was a pretty decent macaron. I was able to tell that this macaron was fig-flavoured cause it had figgy bits in the ganache. But unfortunately, like many of the others it was a bit too sweet…

HOney:

The honey macaron was matched up to its name by being more honey-like than chocolatey. However, again it was TOO SWEET!

Mystery:

Next there was this mystery flavour that I simply could not pinpoint. It wasn’t too sweet and was slightly fruity…in fact, it had this very distinctive flavour that I couldn’t get my finger on…hmmmm….

Caram’in:

This particular macaron suffered from the hit-or-miss cookie situation. Sadly, it had a yellow biscuit that was overly hard, and one cannot enjoy a happy macaron experience when the biscuit is too hard. The ganache inside, however, was very good for being chocolatey but not overly sweet. Too bad for the failed biscuit…

Coffee*:

Even though I don’t usually like coffee, I actually really enjoyed the coffee macaron. It had a very distinctive coffee taste that was more creamy than bitter. In fact, it wasn’t at all bitter. Good macaron experience. So much so that I forgot to take a half-way photo =)

Passionfruit*:

The passionfruit macaron was wonderful. It had a very subtle fruitiness in its ganache that became stronger as you chomp through the macaron. It wasn’t too sweet either.

Mango-Coriander*:

Mango coriander sounds like a weird flavour. The mango taste was definitely there, but I’m not so sure about the coriander. However, this was a decent macaron. It wasn’t too sweet and acted as a nice palate-cleanser after all the chocolat based macarons.

So those were the flavours that I tasted from JPH. Though there were a few flavours that shone, I have to say that overall, it was a somewhat disappointing experience. I didn’t like the super-sweetness of most of the macarons and the chocolate ganache that was used in practically every cookie just got a bit boring by the end. I read from The Girl Who Ate Everything that Jean-Paul Hevin macarons generally have a choc base and an additional flavour subtly infused into the ganache. This makes sense since most of the macarons that I tried fit precisely under that description. However, I do wish that the additional flavour is a bit more pronounced since half the time I can’t taste anything except for the chocolate ganache. Maybe my palate just isn’t refined enough haha.

ANyways, overall, I guess I am a little bit disappointed by the macarons so I probably won’t fork over 280 HKD to get another box anytime too soon in the future.

P.S. The “*” are just little reminders to myself. Those with “*” next to them are the ones that I really enjoyed and will get again if I ever feel so inclined.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Hong Kong, Travels | 2 Comments

Another trip to Hong Kong

So this weekend my dad and I took another random trip down to Hong Kong. Yay! Well actually the reason was because my dad needed to renew his visa but me, I’ll look for any excuse to go to Hong Kong. Really I think Hong Kong is one of the greatest cities in the world and I would absolutely LOVE to live there one day. It’ll either be Hong Kong or New York.

Anyways. As we all know, any trip to Hong Kong requires splurging, and this one was no different. As soon as we got out of the train station I went over to a bakery and got an egg tart and a bbq pork triangle.

The egg tart (which was, btw, very fresh and still warm from the oven) was of the uncaramelized variety, the type that I don’t quite like as much. I find these type of egg tarts to be too monotonous in texture…the whole thing is just…soft and filmsy. Of course they taste just fine but I find that they lack textural variation.

The bbq pork triangle was also pretty decent. The filling was saucy and sweet without being overly so. However, one common trait about all char siu bakery items that really bothers me is the presence of fat chunks in the filling. The pork meat tastes great but the chunks of gooey pork fat are quite off-putting…do people actually eat them???

After that little snack we went off to go book browsing. Yep, in this side of the world Hong Kong is practically the only place where I can stock up on English books.

After book shopping we decided to have lunch at one of the innumerable Japanese restaurants that can be found in just about every crack and cranny in Hong Kong. In Tsim Sha Tsui, at least, one can locate a Japanese eatery in just about any random direction. Assailed with so many different choices we haphazardly settled on Sushi One Plus.

As soon as we entered I knew it probably wasn’t a good choice because the place simply didn’t feel authentic. But then of course I was hungry and didn’t bother searching out some other place. So an unauthentic Japanese meal it’ll have to be!

Looking to eat light so that I’ll have room for junk later on, I ordered three small dishes. First came the fatty tuna sashimi, which was expensive but wonderful. The fish was a little cold but that didn’t detract too much from its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth taste and texture. Yummm….

The uni handroll was unglamourous. I wish they added a piece of cucumber to provide some crunch and texture contrast to the roll. The uni was also a bit too small. It tasted fine and fresh and all but I know that it can be done better.

My last order was the asparagus with caviar. The asparagus was sort of weird; it seemed like it couldn’t decide whether it should be hot or cold. However, I think that those little sprigs of asparagus matched with the plumpy caviar quite well. The flavours of both were subtle and thus complemented each other. Unfortunately the strong Japanese mayo at the bottom somewhat ruined that harmony…

My dad ordered a lunch combo and I tried some of his items. Above is the tamago, which was served steaming hot, was sweet and rather dense. I didn’t really enjoy it.

The lunch combo also came with this salmon and mango sushi, which I didn’t try but it looks like it’s got too much rice and not enough filling.

After that semi-decent Japanese cuisine experience we headed over to Harbour City to accomplish my main purpose of the day: buy MACARONS from JEAN-PAUL HEVIN! I’ll blog about that in the later post but below is a photo of the awesome hallowed macarons =)

After splurging on macarons I walked around Harbour City by myself, looking for edible interests. First I stopped at the Panash Bakery at Ocean Terminal and quite impulsively got a chocolate croissant. Unfortunately it wasn’t such a good choice. The nice shiny croissant looked promising on the outside but the inside was dry, tasteless, and paper-like. Even though it was no longer warm the chocolate was in a sauce form and not a solid block like it should be. I took two bites and threw the thing away. Bleh! >

After the failed pain au chocolat I felt in the mood for something cold so I lept at the sight of a very unusual ice cream cone in 7-11: Ovaltine ice cream =O!

Definitely not a flavour that you see around often. As you can see, the top of the cone is covered with chocolate and in the first few bites the chocolate completely obscured the ovaltine. However once the chocolate covering was gone the wheaty ovaltine flavour was unmistakable. Even though I don’t like ovaltine much I quite enjoyed this cone for it was something unique. My only complaint (a defect that affects all pre-packaged cones in warm weather) is that the cone was soggy…

Oh yeah actually a funny thing happened while I was unwrapping the ice cream. Because the weather was so warm, I was in a hurry to get my camera out and take a photo and I think in my haste I accidentally threw my camera case into the trash can along with the ice cream wrapping. Wow, I must have looked really stupid doing that…Thank god it was the case and not the camera.

Anyways, later in the afternoon I walked into Starbucks and, spotting an interesting cake flavour, couldn’t resist trying it out. The Earl Grey cake was quite mousse-like with a hazelnut base and a jelly-like topping. The Earl Grey taste was definitely present at just the right amount. The cake was pretty light and so if you like Earl Grey and light cakes, you’d definitely like this.

All right, lastly and finally I had some chocolate from Leonidas. The Palet d’Or, which had 75% or something cocoa content, consisted of a mousse-like center enrobed with dark chocolate. It was very chocolatey and slightly bitter though I found the center to be a bit dry. Overall a nice piece of chocolate.

The truffle naturel wasn’t really a conventional truffle; instead of being a dense chocolatey mass it was a ganache covered with a thin layer of chocolate and cocoa powder. It wasn’t what I expected so I can’t say much about the truffle…it was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Whew! What a long post! And that, readers, is the documentation of my day of fooding in the wonderful city of Hong Kong. The end =)

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, Hong Kong, Japanese, Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Travels, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bakery Post#2: Matcha, Red Bean, Custard Pudding

Bakery Post #2: Matcha, Red Bean, Custard Pudding
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Through a friend’s suggestion I discovered a new, intriguing bakery near the train station today. Unfortunately I have AGAIN failed to record the name of the
establishment but it is located in the office building to the northwest of the GZ East Train Station. It’s in the same building where the 7-11 and Starbucks and
McDonalds are, so not too hard to find.

At first sight one can see that this place is classy; it isn’t just any old Chinese bakery. In fact, they sold a lot of Western-style goods like biscotti and
madeleines, treats that are almost impossible to find in a typical bakery in Guangzhou. AND they had artisan breads! I’ll definitely go back to try those sometime.

But anyways, today, I decided to get the most unusual-looking item that I could find: the Matcah, Red Bean, and Custard Pudding.

I have to say this roll was definitely very unusual. It consisted of a matcha-flavoured soft bread ring riddled with red bean pieces and topped with custard.
My opinions on each of these components individually aren’t very high. I found the matcha bread to be highly lacking in the green-tea flavour even though one can
smell the green-tea scent very clearly. ANd the bread base wasn’t very sweet either…it seemed like they skimped out on the sugar and made it up with the pieces of
red bean, which were unevenly dispersed throughout the dough and thus resulted in random chunks of sweetness amidst the surrounding…non-sweetness.

Now, the custard, on the other hand, was quite good. It had just the right amount of sweetness. Clearly its role is, like the red bean’s, to impart the necessary
sugar to the bread base. Unfortunately, again the amount of custard did not match with the amount of bread so there were again areas of “non-sweetness.”

Biting into all those components as a whole, there was a subtle contrast between the gooey custard (which wasn’t sticky, so it isn’t a messy eat) and the soft
bread, but I think it would have been better if the custard had been caramelized at the top. Ah, creme brulee on matcha bread! Now that sounds interesting.

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Guangzhou | | Leave a comment

Bakery Post #1: Red Bean Pastry

Bakery Post #1: Red Bean Pastry
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So because I like breads and pastries so much and I’m always looking for an excuse to visit bakeries, I have decided to start a bakery series! At least once a week I will blog about an intriguing bakery item that I find around town. I’ll try my best to post unusual items that aren’t usually found in typical Chinese bakeries in North America but actually, once you come to China that really isn’t difficult at all. Over the years I have seen many of the typical Chinese bakery items disappear from local bakeries and replaced by stranger and stranger offerings…

Anyways, so the item of this week is a red bean pastry

that I found at breadTalk.

breadTalk is a fairly new franchise here in Guangzhou and isn’t as ubiquitous as, let’s say, Maxims. Thus their breads are quite unique. Take the red bean pastry, for instance. I haven’t seen this anywhere else. Hmmm, how to describe it…

Firstly, it is very sticky. The wrinkly pastry appears to be glazed with some sort of syrupy glaze…thus it isn’t the sort of thing that you can eat neatly. Past the outer layer of sweet puff pastry is a mixture of custard and red beans. The filling wasn’t too sweet and blended into the outer layer quite well. Biting into the bun, one can taste the lightly caramelized outer pastry, which is slightly chewey, and then the lightly sweetened inner filling, which is smooth and soft. A really nice treat overall.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Guangzhou | , | 1 Comment

Little Mermaid Bakery

Little Mermaid Bakery
Address: cookedDeli at citysuper, Harbour City
Website: http://www.logon.com.hk/module4_detail.php?detail=48

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At Harbour City in Hong Kong, I came across the Little Mermaid Bakery and decided to try out some of their breads.

Little Mermaid Bakery is sort of like a fusion bakery; it carries both Asian and Western style breads. I didn’t get to try their artisan breads but they looked and felt pretty decent; they had the sort of crustiness that you don’t find in so-called “Western” breads here in Guangzhou.

Anyways, I wasn’t feeling too hungry so I only got two items: the sticky choclate doughnut and the Camembert bread.

That picture of the sticky chocolate doughnut looks a bit creepy, doesn’t it…well, it didn’t taste all that good either. It wasn’t really a doughnut; it was more like a moochi with chocolate sauce inside. The chocolate flavour wasn’t very strong at all…all I could taste was sweetness. Don’t recommend this.

But the Camembert bread, on the other hand, was actually quite decent. All right, the bread was very Asian: it was soft and slightly sweet with walnuts pieces here and there. However, they actually had quite an amount of Camembert in the center, which was quite good. It made me feel like I was getting the value for my money since Camembert isn’t the cheapest thing in these parts. Unfortunately I had to enjoy this bun cold; I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable straight out of the oven.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Hong Kong, Travels | Leave a comment