Category Archives: classic French

‘Shroom Love

When you work in magazine publishing, there are days you love. Two-hour lunch days. Down time days right after the close. Days you want to last for weeks but only last a day or two at most. Then the worry of the status of the next round of articles kicks in. You find yourself walking or running to the nearest café or deli. Hopefully, they make decent food that you can gobble down at your desk while working. 

One of these lunch stops, the very French-American Café Clementine, that I frequented was a neighborhood favorite that often sold out of specific items. Café Clementine got so many complaints from hangry customers over the often sold out items that they put their menu online before the lunch rush. 

Hallelujah. I could check to see if my favorite lunch from them was available. Ah Mushroom soup! I was always in the mood for its creamy, comforting and mild but unique flavor. I could taste the fantastic blend of earthy mushrooms, pungent garlic and sweet onions. 

The texture and taste of this soup never disappointed. I could eat this soup at my desk—in an open office plan—and still embody happiness as if I was celebrating Christmas in the Swiss Alps with a view of tallest snowcapped mountains while I sat by a lovely fireplace. 

Upon seeing mushroom soup listed on Café Clementine’s daily online menu, I’d sprint across Broadway at 11:30ish before it sold out for the day. The usual lunch window (12pm-2pm) was too late for this soup. 

Its light gray color didn’t look very appetizing but the flavor and texture more than made up for it.

When I made it at home the first time, my son called it prison food. The texture was too thick. I used too many mushrooms and too many spices and not enough broth. 

The second time with added arrow root powder and soy creamer was a winner. It’s not an exact replica of Café Clementine’s mushroom soup but it comes very close. Try the baked mushroom topping for an umami experience.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Magical Mushroom Soup

Ingredients 
2 tbsp oil for frying
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 tsp butter
4 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp arrowroot powder 
1/4 cup water or broth
1 heaping tbsp crushed garlic
A pinch of oregano
2 cups unsweetened dairy-free creamer (optional)

Instructions
1. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Sautee onions till golden brown. Sprinkle with oregano.
2. Set aside onions and add butter and a little more oil if needed. Turn the heat up. Add mushrooms and let brown. Drain any excess water and return mushrooms to heat.
3. Add chicken broth, cooked onions and Worcestershire sauce. Let mushrooms simmer on low for 30 minutes or until tender.
4. Transfer mushroom, onion and broth mixture to a blender. Blend until mixture is pureed. 
5. Mix arrowroot powder with water or broth and add to blender. 
6. Add salt, garlic and oregano. Also add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour in a mixing bowl.
7. (Optional) Add 2 cups of cream and gently whisk. This step will make the soup a bit light and airy and ready to serve.

Crispy Mushroom Topping 

Ingredients
2 large portabella mushroom caps, cleaned with a damp cloth and sliced thin
Oil for frying
Sea salt 

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
2. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and lay mushroom slices flat. Make sure they don’t crowd each other.
3. Brush mushroom slices with oil and season with salt.
4. Bake mushrooms for 15 minutes, turn and bake for another 15 minutes. Use more oil if needed. 
5. Remove from oven and let cool and crisp up.

The Rise of Chocolate Lava

There once lived a brilliant French chef in New York City. He created what he referred to as “simple cuisine,” but what was really spectacular classical French cooking that people all over the world applauded. He won accolades from top food critics, celebrities and the Michelin Star decision makers. One of his signature creations, originally a mistake, was the most decadent, sinful chocolate dessert that I’ve ever had: chocolate lava cake. 

Usually topped with a hefty sprinkling of powdery sugar, lava cakes aka molten cakes are often baked in 6 oz ramekins. These individual cakes come out of the oven extra cute. When you dig into the center…

The puffy, souflee-ish little cloud of chocolate loses its innocence and all of its secrets come oozing out. The rich, phenomenal flavor is unique. The texture is luscious. I’ve had it from the master chef himself Jean Georges in NYC during a birthday dinner—and at other restaurants a countless number of times—and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I made the following chocolate lava cake recipe for my son and the rest of my chocoholic family. Although it was too “dark chocolate” for my LO, he ate most of it without provocation. Next time I’ll add a bit of almond milk or cream substitute to the chocolate. My sister, who’s been in love with chocolate since she was a toddler, loved it. Mom, who used to pay for and keep our fundraiser chocolate for herself, said the chocolate lava cake was a bit too rich for her but ate all of it as well.

I loved it too… the soft, spongey outer cake. The rich frosting-like center. The taste of really pure chocolate. I love the bitter undertones of real dark chocolate. Not many additives. I made it twice. The first batch was a little over and not as runny as I like them to be, but the second try was just right and all it took was to watch the baking time and take them out at 6 minutes exactly. The baking time depends on the size of the ramekins. 

Without further ado here’s an easy recipe for one of the best French desserts ever! Hope you enjoy it.

Chocolate Lava Cake Recipe 

Ingredients
½ cup butter, unsalted 
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs 
2 egg yolks 
¼ cup sugar 
1 tsp angostura bitters (optional)
1 pinch salt 
2 tbs flour

Instructions 
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter and flour ramekins.
2. Melt butter with chocolate over a double broiler or in a microwave. Whisk until smooth and lump-free.
3. Preferably with an electric mixer, blend eggs, egg yolks, sugar, angostura bitters, and salt until thick and lemon-yellow pale.
4. Add melted chocolate and butter combo to egg mixture. Pour the batter into four ramekins and bake for about eight minutes. The baking time is dependent on the oven and the size of the ramekins. Tip: If the ramekins are smaller than 6 ounces, then a shorter baking time might work better.
5. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for a minute before covering each with a dessert plate. Turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold. Top them off with powdered sugar and the most perfect chocolate cake is ready to enjoy.

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 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

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?