Monday, August 27, 2012

How To Make Laduree Macaroons ... A La Paris

864 Madison Avenue, New York City
French patisserie Laduree makes world famous macaroons in assorted flavors.  Travelers bring boxes of the gourmet cookies back from Paris, and here in New York City where a shop opened on Madison Avenue (at 7oth Street) last year, lines form daily, stretching all the way around the block, to buy the $3 macaroons, which are flown in from Paris each morning.  So what's all the fuss about?

If you can't make it to Paris or New York for a delectable taste, you can still find out by baking a batch in your very own kitchen.  Laduree's master patissier, Philippe Andrieu, shared his coveted recipe with a British newspaper ... and surprisingly, it consists of just a few simple ingredients.  Here is the basic recipe:

Laduree's Macaroons

2 cups [480 g] confectioners sugar
1 ½  cups [280g] finely ground almonds
7 egg whites
Several drops of food coloring gel [You can use the liquid -- it's a bit weaker and runnier than the gel coloring.]
Plus ...
I always add 2 teaspoons of real vanilla.

1. Put the confectioners sugar [which the British call icing sugar] and ground almonds in a food processor and mix together into a fine powder, then sift to remove any lumps.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites, adding the food coloring.
3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, a portion at a time, thoroughly whisking until you get a smooth uniform, thickish batter.
4. Fill a container, or plastic bag possessing a nozzle with the macaroon batter.
5. Squeeze out a portion the size of an American silver dollar [about 1 inch, or 3 centimeters wide] onto a greased, or parchment lined cookie sheet.  Eyeball the amount.  They are small, rich cookies.
6. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 300 degrees F [180C].  Make sure the centers of the macaroons are done, and if necessary, bake a few minutes longer.  Watch and check.
7. Let the macaroons cool, then sandwich a pair with a filling of your choice: raspberry preserves, or Nutella, or butter cream, or whipped cream.

After you crack the basic recipe, you can make fancy flavors like the ones sold at Laduree by adding (1) pistachio paste [and green food coloring], (2) raspberry paste [red], (3) chocolate [use dark baking chocolate] or (4) salted caramel [a light brown].  The macaroons taste even better a day or so later.  Ooh, La La!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Love Letter To Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody from A Night At The Opera
I tried to think of a clever reason to feature the rock band Queen this morning, but there isn't one ... other than: I LOVE QUEEN and will never grow tired of listening to their albums.  Their songs never get old.

Nothing beats the experience of listening to LIVE music, and Queen could mesmerize an arena.  It's an understatement to say that the band could really play and sing and entertain. Several music critcs claim they were the highlight at Live Aid in 1985 (see here). And what style of rock didn't this British band write and perform?:  hard rock {Liar}, glam rock {Killer Queen}, mirror ball funk {Another One Bites the Dust}, white gospel {Somebody to Love}, rock operettas {Bohemian Rhapsody}, rockabilly {Crazy Little Thing Called Love}, Rock and Roll anthems {We Will Rock You; We Are The Champions} and sweet ballads {These Are the Days of Our Lives; Love of My Life}.  The list goes on ...

As any Queen fan knows, all four members: lead singer and pianist, Freddie Mercury, guitarist, Brian May, bassist, John Deacon and drummer, Roger Taylor wrote hit songs for the band.

Queen also made a memorable video before MTV came onto the scene.  Bohemian Rhapsody [above], a six minute music promo, was produced years before music videos aired.  It is probably my favorite video of all time, one I never get tired of watching.  And this being rock and roll, a genre where image matters ... allow me to give an opinion: The boys were at their cutest at this time, with their youthful faces framed by Raphaelian locks of hair.  Roger, especially, was a very pretty man.  Com'on, you know you're thinking it.

Time goes on, but it's nice to look back.  When I think of the music of Queen, it takes me back to FM radio and listening to them on the stereo system in my parents' living room.  The first time, I heard Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio, I looked up to see that everybody in the room was thinking the same thing: WHAT WAS THAT?  It turned out to be the start of some of the most original and powerful music in Rock and Roll history.  Clearly, their legacy will endure, but anything you try to say about Queen is an understatement.  Enjoy the music.  

P.S., We clowned around to Another One Bites The Dust, falling "dead" on couches and lazy boy chairs. Didn't everyone? Play it here.
Sheer Heart Attack years

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Ted Baker Opens A New Fifth Avenue Store

Kate and Pippa Middleton wearing Ted Baker
The gold print on a charcoal black invitation read: “Ted Baker, London ... His 5th Avenue Store is now open.” [at 48th Street.]  “Ted Baker requests your presence at his grand house on Fifth.  Enjoy ... afternoon tea ... and the chance to peruse Ted's fall collections."  Attached was a brass skull-type key with yellow ribbon to keep as a souvenir.  Clever marketing, no?

I anticipated staying home all afternoon to watch the London Olympics.  Really I did, but how many endless hours of beach volleyball can a person take?  Thanks, NBC!

So off to the store opening I went.  Upon arrival, waiters passed trays with bangers and lemon tarts.  And, I knew I was in the right place.  Tasty!

The British clothing retailer was launched in Glasgow in 1988 by managing director Ray Kelvin, before opening stores in Covent Garden and London's Soho. 

The apparel, consisting of menswear, womenswear, shoes and accessories, is tailored, elegant and has a touch of humor.  A style mix of English traditional and Modern Art Deco, the perfectly cut suits, lady-like dresses, sparkling cufflinks, plus colorful scarves and neckties are pricy, yet still affordable.  You will drop $200 - $500 for an outfit, but get interesting details and unusual finishes.

Old and new world London meets Midtown in the city that never sleeps.  Other Ted Baker stores are located in the Meatpacking district [34 Little West 12th Street] and Soho [107 Grand Street].  Now that you have the gen, there's no reason to faff around.  Check out the collection here.  Extra points if you undertand British slang.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Rover on Mars ... Meanwhile Back On Earth

Top side image by the BBC (Equipped with cameras and tentacles to scoop up dirt to be analyzed.)
Do you enjoy reading the news?  Many subjects attract my attention, some weighty and serious and others quite superficial and frivolous.  If you are either highbrow or lowbrow and have news, or an entertaining story to tell ... pleazzze come and sit by me.

Today I saw two very compelling images in the media.  The first one -- of the Curiosity Rover, which successfully landed on Mars this morning at 1:31 AM.  NASA launched it 8 months ago; it travelled 354.182 million miles (570 million km) and now its 2-year mission is to study the Red Planet for signs of microbial life.  Isn't landing a car/science lab on another planet exciting?  Watch here.
Beauty Riot
Then I spotted these shorts and learned that studs are once again fashionable.  (They went out?)  Adorable, right?  I WANT these shorts and will be out looking -- if not for this exact pair -- than for something similar!

So keeping up with current events pays dividends (you are a little smarter) ... and can cost you a few dollars.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Santa Rosa: A Plum-Basil Cocktail

Photo: Jim P.
Summer's long days and mild temperatures make it an excellent season for reading, relaxing and sipping an evening cocktail.  Today I'm featuring an icy, fruity drink, created by Jim P., who has more ripe plums than he knows what to do with.  Having an abundance of fruit is a very good thing.  It's the mother of invention.

Here is the rough and easy recipe to make one serving of Jim's refreshing, plum-basil cocktail:

1 big, or 2 small very ripe plums
1 good-sized sprig of basil in a cocktail shaker
Add 2 oz bourbon
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
A dash of bitters (Jim uses Fee's barrel-aged.)

Shake and strain over crushed ice.
Top off with seltzer.

Be sure to find yourself some comfortable seating, where you will feel a summer breeze, relax and enjoy.


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