Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

A born and bred Brooklynite that loves to fatten up my loved ones more than eating. My main passions are writing, spoiling my son and doing fun things while procrastinating. You'd be surprised how creative you can get when your back's against the deadline.

The World Needs (Vegan) Crème Brûlée

A crème brûlée experience is like no other. You’re in New York. Eating at a lovely (and expensive), New American restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or an authentic (and not so expensive) French café in a converted brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The appetizers and entrées were well done or barely cooked, whatever you prefer. Your friends and/or business associates are engaged in a deep conversation about politics. You’re interested and contributing to the conversation here and there, but you can’t help but wonder, ‘What’s on that dessert menu?’

Finally, you order the crème brûlée and it comes out beautiful, shiny, and appealing. You’ve never seen anything like it, have you? With hesitation to mess up its perfect, golden brown beauty, you break its candy crust, and soft Mozart violins start to play.

Tasting the burnt sugar candy is enough to make you grin like a child. But the sweet, silky vanilla cream is simply addictive. It’s a dessert of opposites. Hard and soft. Burnt and barely cooked. Deep and mild flavor. When you’re finished you ask yourself, who originated this loveliest of lovely desserts? And how am I the last one in the world to know about it?

According to my research, crème brûlée is derived from the Spanish Catalan cream, but the French has made it their own.

And, in turn, made me a fan of their cuisine for life! Crème brûlée one of the biggest reasons why I love French food. I may not be able to remember exactly the first time I had crème brûlée, but I’m sure that it was just like the amazing experience I described above, so much so that I had to have it if it was even an option.

Now I find myself missing fine dining and making crème brûlée at home. I made two versions: traditional and vegan.

My son craves a classic NY Times version—I’ve posted it on Frealthy. It’s a traditional recipe that is pretty much the same everywhere online: eggs, heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, and burnt sugar finish. 

Most of my family loves this vegan version—also posted on Frealthy—originally by namelymarly.com, which defies the need for eggs and heavy cream. It was easy to make but took a while to finish because the “cream” must set over night in the fridge to thicken. 

The vegan crème brûlée never really sets like the traditional recipe, at least mine did not—perhaps I should’ve used more cashews or arrowroot powder to make the “cream” a thicker and richer texture. But, nonetheless, it turned out fantastic in flavor and creaminess. 

Five Reasons to Fall for Carrots, Again

Lately, I’ve been craving carrots. They’re something I generally don’t crave or even think about, unless I’m having a dire, need-to-lose-five-pounds moment. (I have a carrot and celery temporary weight loss trick that works every time.) It’s surprising to me, that in the last two years, the healthiness and taste of carrots have been up for debate. Here are six reasons why I haven’t lost faith in one of the most underrated and versatile veggies of our time. 

1. It’s pure joy to watch and engineer the transformation of carrots into cakes, soufflés, fritters, salads and any other edible. There are so many fun ways to prepare them. 

Like at Olmsted, the carrot crepe that I woofed down in about five minutes was spectacular. Filled with other veggies and tiny seafood, it was a thing to be remembered and cherished. It was honestly one of the top seven dishes at a resto that I’ve ever eaten in my life. 

Or, like this carrot soup recipe, try it with or without the topping of caramelized onions, homemade bacon bits and scallions, for a creamy and satisfying start to a special occasion meal at home. Perfect for a birthday, anniversary or girlfriends’ brunch.

2. Carrot juice still gives the body a natural and powerful energy boost and a ravishing glow. 

3. The nutritional value of carrots—vitamins A, K, and C, calcium, beta carotene and fiber—promotes overall health and fights disease.

4. As they are one-third of a major French cuisine fundamental, the mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions), carrots have been a mainstay in fine and casual dining for centuries across the globe. Why give up on them now?  

5. They taste divine when you roast them with onions, garlic, fresh herbs and the protein of your choice. The smell that emanates when carrots are roasting is the ultimate ingredient that makes a home feel like a home. 

Parisian Potato Salad

Once upon a summer, my son—who was four at the time—and I traveled to the beautiful City of Light. Paris! 

It was magical by day. Jumping up and down on the second level of the Eiffel Tower as we tried to count the moving spots that were people, 115 meters down (377 feet). The panoramic view of Paris from Sacre Coeur. Fun kiddie rides at a makeshift amusement park in front of the Louvre. Macarons. Madeleines. Chocolate. Chocolate. And more chocolate!

It was magical by night. Dinner at a family restaurant with autographed pictures of Muhammad Ali. Champagne. Night views of the lit Eiffel Tower. Sweet French accents everywhere. 

But my goal of teaching my son why France and travel in general, is amazing and important is still and always will be a work in progress. 

He did fall for the food pretty hard though. We both loved the potato salad at a chicken shop in the food court of a shopping center. I know it probably sounds like a random thing to remember. But it was cheap, delicious, fresh and satisfied my craving for pickles. It was also very different from the American southern potato salad that I’ve eaten all my life. 

This Parisian potato salad was chock full of sweet onions, Dijon and grain mustard, and herbs and vinegar. I noticed that it was egg- and mayonnaise-less. But after two bites, I forgot about the missing eggs and mayo. I didn’t even miss the tangy and sweet—and ridiculously high in sodium—relish that I craved on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. 

I usually make potato salad the way my mom makes it, but I wanted to share this healthy French potato salad recipe because it’s a great tasting, low-calorie option. 

Try it as a satisfying and flavorful side dish for various summertime meals. BBQ. Fried chicken. Or, maybe just by itself with some grilled veggies.

Click here for my recipe for Parisian potato salad. Hope you enjoy it!

What We’ve Been Doing for the Last Five Months, Plus My Homage to Café Lafayette: Shrimp Fritters

For nearly five months of lock down, my family and I have enjoyed getting fat from eating too much soul food—not my mom because she eats like a bird and not my son because he loses weight as he gains it. He’s in the Ninja phase.

Also, on our list of quarantine activities are:

  • cleaning
  • fighting like Ninjas
  • completing online learning tasks (now the endless summer packet)
  • working from home
  • reading and watching the news
  • becoming addicted to the news
  • getting sick of the news
  • avoiding the news 
  • loving the videos and pictures of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across the country

Of course, my all-time favorite activities are cooking, eating great food and hearing how wonderful my food tastes.

During the quarantine, I’ve made a bunch of new things. Among the best is a shrimp and sweet potato fritter. My love for the late, great, and quaint Café Lafayette’s shrimp fritters, inspired me to make it. 

Before the treasured Fort Greene spot, Café Lafayette, closed in 2017, my sister and I spent quite a few Sundays brunching in the living-room sized restaurant. Downing mimosas and Kir Royales. Listening to Nina Simone and other Blues notables. Regrettably sharing one chocolate lava cake, instead of ordering two. 

Café Lafayette was one of OUR places, which meant neither of us were allowed to bring anyone else there. We also agreed that the shrimp fritter—juicy morsels of shrimp laced with crispy shreds of sweet potatoes and carrots—was a remarkable, tasty and satisfying bite. 

My family loved my recreation of this shrimp fritter. Omitting the carrots, I added a bunch of other stuff to add flavor and to “French” it up a bit. It’s definitely lighter, moister and richer than I remember.

Try it and I think you’ll agree that it’s the kind of appetizer that takes the word “appetizer” to whole new level.

For the shrimp and sweet potato fritter recipe and more healthy, French cooking, check out Frealthy, a page for francophiles that love to cook.

Video by Melinda Wright.

Bitten by a New Beast: 6 Reasons You’ll Fall for Bar Bête

I love searching for French restaurants. It’s research I never tire of because I often find food that I can’t stop thinking about for days, or weeks, till I finally taste it.  

One particular evening that stretched till the next morning, because of the reason mentioned above, I found Bar Bête. This Smith Street French eatery opened late last year and quickly proved itself worthy of its bossy name.

What makes this French-foodie destination so beastly (in a good way)? Here are six reasons why you’ll be smitten with Bar Bête’s fine French cuisine at first taste.

1. A beautiful, glossy, and ebony bar. Bar Bête’s baby grand piano-type bar stands in the middle of the restaurant is a little more than perfect. I love an upscale, yet comfy bar. I would’ve actually preferred to sit there.

Instead, I had the pleasure of sitting at a table opposite the door. I didn’t get cold—thankfully, it was a nice night. 

Bar Bête’s superior execution of its menu, which consists of two short lists of shareable “snacks” and one short list of entrees, spurred reasons two through six. 

2. The Rolled Omelette with peekytoe crab and seaweed butter! Doesn’t it just sound mouthwatering?! Heavenly. Super delicate! Super moist! Ridiculously flavorful! A dish that I inhaled, or rather wanted to inhale and not share at all with anyone. Alas, I ended up sharing it but trust me if I could’ve inhaled it on sight, I definitely would have. 

It came out and it was lovely. A proud moment for us all. Me, for finally getting the chance to enjoy it IRL, after drooling over a few enticing pictures of it for weeks. The godsend chef who created this thing of a life-long dream come true. My dining partner for accompanying me to a French restaurant. Most people claim they don’t like French food but once they go to a genuine French restaurant, not just a convenient fast food chain around the city, they realize how amazing French food truly is. The Rolled Omelette is change your mind about French food good.

3. The mushroom brioche was a perfect balance of truffle and butter and flaky brioche pastry. It honestly was unlike any savory pastry I’ve tried. Packed with swirly sharp and intense flavor, I was sure that among its ingredients was gruyere, but no cheese is listed as a component on the menu. It was said that it was too salty. But I had nothing bad to say about this snack, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed and happily finished it.

4.  Imagine a French quesadilla and you’ll have a basic idea of the chickpea crepe. With gooey but mild fontina cheese married to herbs and swiss chard, I found the familiar zest of French fusion in this crepe. French and Italian cuisine is a fusion that’s so common that I hesitate to call it fusion. I’d prefer a substitution of a stinky brie—and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard—to underscore French authenticity. However, it’s a very popular item on BB’s menu.

5. The crust of the crispy fish, my entrée, was a crunchy and delicious envelope that held moist, flavorful fluke. I was grateful for this dish’s garnishments—grated lemon, creamy mashed potatoes and a small topping of greens.

6. There was no shortage of rave reviews for the smoked chicken at my table. Hence, the reason I didn’t get a chance to try it. Gone in three minutes. I thought I ate fast?! This dish replaced the aged duck dish on BB’s menu, which I really wanted for my entrée initially. Spinach and polenta and fig and onion confit, which probably created a sweet and tart coating/thin gravy of bursting flavor on the chicken. The quintessential French dish. I’ve had many dishes in my lifetime that are similar to this classically French, rustic meal that every French resto’s menu should feature. 

The Perfect Place to say, “Je T’aime …

Is here somewhere in these candlelit restos

Sweet Green Dreams

Lose yourself in the lit greenery at Endswell. Various plants outline the upscale, black and white rectangular restaurant. 

Showcasing the beauty of crowded diversity—perhaps a metaphor for Brooklyn itself—medium-, small-, and tiny plants sit atop the bar. A tree-hugging maximalist’s eye candy. Love them while sipping a well-done craft cocktail. Most of Endswell’s drink options include a veggie or fruit (or both) component. It’s hard to pick from a menu that looks good all over, but L’Orange, Rose, and Violet are on my list of must-samples. 

One artful, wild bouquet of spikey plants, with lights of all kind mixed in, doubles as a shout out to the kitchen counter it lines and an overall centerpiece to Endswell’s sexy space. Speaking of the kitchen, you’ll find classic French dishes with vegan options scattered throughout the something-for-everyone menu. Rave reviews for the Shrimp Mac n Cheese, the Raclette burger (Impossible burger available), and the seared scallops.

Endswell Bar & Bistro
endswellbk.com
929-276-3150

Experience the Experimental

When modern bistro Oxalis opened in late 2018, it quickly set the streets of Crown Heights on fire with talk of its unforgettable, Michelin-starred food and service. 

As derived from the name of a large genus of flowering plants with sour leaves, Oxalis serves tasting and a la carte menus that unexpectedly awaken your palette.  

Indulge in broccoli tempura with caramelized anchovy, soft and sensuous gnudi, melt-in your-mouth roasted duck with sweet potatoes, goat milk with honey and thyme, along with any other Oxalis menu item you think might be spectacular. It probably is.

As for the ambience, the garden room is proposal pretty with string lights and hanging plants. The plain-Jane main dining room sets the stage for the true star. Let Oxalis’s food create your mood for evergreen love.

Oxalis
oxalisnyc.com
(347) 627-829

A Lust-worthy Omelet

For the last few days, I’ve lusted after Bar Bete’s rolled omelet. Its pictures are insanely mouthwatering to me. The peeky toe crab filling looks tender, fresh and succulent. The egg looks moist, soft, and buttery instead of overcooked, dry and tasteless, as a lot of restaurants and home cooks prepare.

I tried to stop lusting after it but ended up talking a friend into joining me for a classic French dinner at this newcomer, date-worthy hot spot. Bar Bete’s interior design reminds me of a baby grand piano. A super glossy black bar, the walls and the ceiling are all black with rounded square arches, poses in the middle of the restaurant. While caramel seating paired with black and gray marble tables and creamy walls in the other “rooms” complement the sleek, art deco bar. 

Although the lighting and the view is perfect, great execution of Bar Bete’s French menu is the reason for its early success. Well, Bar Bete is actually Canadian French, which in some cases—think of the richness of Poutine—is even more sinfully decadent. Crispy duck fat potatoes, mushroom brioche, rolled omelet, crispy fluke and aged duck are some of my Bar Bete must-tries.

Bar Bete
barbete.com
(347) 844-9950

Stalwart Appeal

After five years of excellence, my L’Antagoniste—I’ve eaten there seven times easily—is still a top Bed-Stuy choice for intimate date nights or small group meetups.  

Its sweet, unoffensive brick exterior is charming. But once you enter L’Antagoniste’s provocative interior, you realize a much more interesting story is being told. The art nouveau-ish black and white photos of French artists that cover one entire wall is a political statement. Even if it’s been done before, it still feels original, passionate and fresh.

The cuisine you experience at this classic French resto expresses that same originality, passion and freshness. I’m sad that the cheese souffle is retired, but happy that some favorites are still in rotation. The Hudson Valley foie gras, the salmon a l’oseille, and the orange duck have always been great options.  

L’Antagoniste
lantagoniste.com
(917) 966-5300

Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash

Frealthy Update

Simply Stewed Chicken

Need help fighting off a cold sans antibiotics and/or too salty but still no flavor chicken soup? Or just want juicy, satisfying chicken? Try making my half French, half southern recipe for simply stewed chicken. I made it for my family last week and … rave reviews! It will make you smile at having finally conquered the craving you fail to forget: the unbeatable flavor of down home cooking.

Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

The Greatest Crepe: Five Fantastic Brooklyn Crepe Makers

Nothing like a great crepe to warm you in the Winter. It’s almost therapeutic to watch a crepe artist do their handywork. And you’ll forget all about the cold when you, before your first bite, admire the neat, tidy bits of cream and strawberries peeping out of tanned, toasty and crisp folds of a crepe. Any of these five creperies will give you an engaging and memorable dining experience.    

Eight Turn Crepe  I went to this busy location in Dekalb Market and loved it. Every time I think of my savory shrimp and avo crepe turned ‘round and ‘round eight times—hence ETC’s name—I want to go back for it, and to try more. Eight Turn Crepe’s Japanese rice crepes menu is extensive, so it took me a while to order. Once I finally ordered, service was timely and effective. Not lightning fast but certainly not slow either. 

Usually, I like to take food to go, but my son’s affection for eating food right away won on this occasion for two reasons. Crepes have a strict no-travel policy—you must eat them ASAP—that if contested, the crepes will turn soggy in half an hour or less. 

I found myself trying to relax, as much as possible, in noisy and so-not-comfy Dekalb market. But the thought of a totally not crispy crepe was almost painful.

My mouth was literally watering as I watched other patrons pick up their orders. Finally, it came to me. And it was ridiculously beautiful, crispy edged, mouthwatering and a lot tastier than I’d hoped. 

Cloud 9 Crepes  A cute and quaint spot with lust-able rice crepes that made me walk to the other side of Bed-Stuy on a sunny but cold afternoon. Buses are not convenient during the day. But I was on a mission and no amount of inconvenience could stop my crepe craving, so I made it there and back in record time: about two hours. The longest time ever. 

By the time I inhaled it, my chicken salad crepe was of course soggy but still flavorful with Dijon mustard dressing. Sogginess aside, I could tell by the thickness of the crepe that it was a bit different from what I’m used to and what I prefer in a crepe.

Cloud 9’s space is sugary sweet though. What an adorable, child-friendly space for a friends’ get-together. 

Lakou Café  Three words, curry chickpea crepe, lingered in my mind for days till I finally ordered it for lunch. Not only did this wow-worthy vegetarian crepe exceed my expectations, it also destroyed any meat protein cravings for the rest of the day. Moments like these reaffirm my belief that Brooklyn is home to some of the best dining in the world. 

Lakou’s distinctive Haitian menu is a cool mix of classic French fare with adventurous Caribbean highlights. The Jerk Jackfruit crepe is on my long list of next times from local restaurants. “Next time, I’ll try this … next time I’ll try that.” 

By the way Lakou Café is the second Haitian resto this month that has blown me away with its undeniable flavor. And more Haitian restaurants are popping up. I see a guide to Brooklyn’s best Haitian cuisine on the horizon. It’s too spectacular to be overlooked.

Madame Poupon  Picture it! Valentine’s day 2020. You and your honey meet here at this authentic and intimate French restaurant. There’s candlelight, red roses and soft French music playing in the background. You find yourself sharing first, the vegetarian crepe, then second, the Daoulas crepe—fresh strawberries, chocolate ganache, vanilla whipped cream and black pepper—by taking turns to feed each other. What a perfect night for love. 

I hope to visit Madame Poupon sooner than Valentine’s Day next year, especially since it’s very conveniently located for me. But if I don’t make it there sooner then, it will skyrocket to the top of my list. The Daoulas crepe is one of a few sweet crepes that I’d like to try. Looks like dessert is the winner at Madame Poupon.

Take a Break and I’ll Bake Café & Creperie  Southern-French is always a favorite of mine. Cajun and Louisiana Creole cooking comes to mind. But Take a Break and I’ll Bake Café is about a fusion of American southern and European (French and Italian) cuisine. 

The decadent Peaches & Cream (Peach cobbler filling), and the Campfire (rich dark chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers) crepes seem promising.  

Lead Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The Do’s and Don’ts of Devouring a Crème Brûlée Cupcake

The darnedest things happen when your kid has to use the bathroom, so you run into a favorite Cobble Hill bakery/cafe/treasure trove of pastry lobster tails, tiramisu cakes and one of the best diner style strawberry shortcakes in Brooklyn, and you see it …

Your favorite new snack. A delicious mini version of your most cherished French dessert. Something blogworthy, finally.

The crème brûlée cupcake at Mia’s bakery! Follow these do’s and don’ts of experiencing this very French and very memorable cupcake. Trust me. You really need this eating guide. 

Do order three macarons and a chocolate cupcake—or whatever y’all agree on—as an enjoyable distraction for your child, while you finally focus on this special treat for yourself. Moist and delicious, you won’t want any interruptions.

Don’t let anyone have a clue, including your kid, as to how much the crème brûlée cupcake is making your mouth water. They might ask you for a bite and you won’t want to share.

Do resist the urge to buy two or three because despite its small size, this cupcake is satisfying and simply delicious. One is a good guilt-free indulgence. Two would be over-the-top richness.

Don’t take your order to go. Instead enjoy Mia’s quaint, clean and comfortable enough for a quick dessert stop café. I’ve seen people linger as though they’ve been sitting in the same place for hours but to me it’s not that type of place.

Do marvel at Mia’s cute cupcakes to-go policy. They use Chinese takeout containers as portable cupcake holders.

Don’t be hasty when removing this adorable cupcake from its close-fitting container. You don’t want to mess up the best part of this cupcake: its créme brûlée frosting.

Do eat the fresh berries that top the cupcake immediately, and simultaneously tune out your kid who finishes his snack, notices the pleasure you’re taking in savoring your delightful indulgence and whines for a piece.

Don’t hesitate to take three medium-sized bites—or however many bites it will take to finish—of this fantastic, one-of-a-kind cupcake. My only wish is that the filling oozed down the center of the cupcake.

Do leave Mia’s feeling like you just won a prize. If only you could get paid for eating crème brûlée cupcakes…

If you like créme brûlée and you also like vanilla cupcakes, you’ll love this clever dessert fusion at Mia’s.

Frealthy Update

This onion soup wants to hug you, bathe you and tuck you in bed. Will you let it?

It’s a typical November day in NYC. The temperature is expected to drop almost 30 degrees today. To kickoff this soup season, as the New York Times referred to this time of year late last week, I just posted a mouthwatering recipe of vegetarian French onion soup on Frealthy.

Try it out and let me know what you think. What healthy substitutions or additions would you recommend?