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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
My only two regrets of my visit at Olmsted’s Japanese-French spinoff Maison-Yaki is passing on the chawanmushi and resisting the urge to order two of everything.
I kept staring at the menu and contemplating if we should order the chawanmushi even after we—my son and I—ordered the bulk of our meal:
• tempura frog legs—the melt-in-your-mouth miracle. The frog legs are delicate, buttery, savory and unforgettable. Served piping hot with a tasty green dipping sauce. This dish is a reason of its own to visit this yaki-topia. Any picky eater will love frog legs the way mine does.
• king trumpet mushrooms—Pick this plate to indulge in pleasantly chewy and satisfying mushrooms served with a diced sweet peppers and tomatoes sauce. Not sure if these mushrooms are the ones grown in house but they probably are!
• lobster & sauce americaine—Divine. A lobster patty that’s been fried and skewered then drenched in a savory sauce. We ate this all too fast.
• chicken breast and sauce allemande—Very good! Cooked perfectly and retained a good amount of moisture.
• duck a l’orange—I loved this fatty piece of caramelized duck but the sauce was the brilliance of this particular plate. A mini egg yolk posed in the middle of an orange sauce waiting to be mixed. The end result was a luscious, creamy crave-worthy dressing.
• lamb leg & herbes de provence—Gamey, medium on the inside and roasted/grilled on the outside lamb with a light herby sauce. We loved it.
The plates came out fast and not in any order. Maison Yaki doesn’t course, so you get what you get when you get it. I loved this philosophy. It was so refreshing, like every plate that came out was a burst of surprises. Lots of flavor, lots of juicy meats and lots of French sauces that hit the spot. We surprisingly felt full. Each skewer is only two bites but the flavor was amazing. Next time we’ll need 2 (or 3) orders of frog legs.
After all of that goodness, I was still thinking about ordering the chawanmushi until my son insisted on ordering dessert. After weighing our options, we decided that we’d get the Japanese cheesecake this visit—my son promised the wait staff, the manager and the other patrons that we’d be back next week. He gets carried away about great food like his mom.
The cheesecake was a cloud. We found ourselves floating on air while eating it, it’s so light and fluffy. The best I’ve tasted, hands down. And it’s served with plums that thankfully, tasted like tart, saucy cherries. A flawless end to a flawless meal.
My favorite thing about French cuisine is its ability to pair with any other cuisine, to become an important part of it and, in turn, to make the other cuisine an important part of French cuisine, too. Why can’t relationships between people be that easy?
Or, maybe people fusion is that simple? If French cuisine were a person, I suppose it would have acquired many lovers that it never could say goodbye to, almost like a person that would prefer a relationship with two or more people at the same time, than one or none.
The following list spotlights Cajun, Mexican-French, and Senegalese eateries that produce beautiful, delicious and, in some cases, downright genius results of culinary multi-cultural relationships. Tchoup Shop’s shrimp and grits, Jolie Cantina’s duck confit quesadilla, and Cafe Rue Dix’s Yassa Guinar are tasty proof that polyamorous cooking is all love.
Darling NOLA Feasts: Cajun and Creole Cuisine
The Big Easy is a top-five spot on my travel bucket list. Its native cooking styles are two good reasons. Cajun and Creole are, in my opinion, vintage varieties of French-fusion cuisine due to their mixed cultural origins, heavy French influences and unique inclusions of the French palette.
Until I win my beads on Bourbon Street, or taste the original French-fusion cooking in the French Quarter, I’ll make do with exciting eats at Tchoup Shop (Tchoup is pronounced chop) and Lowerline while I dream of hurricanes, beignets and meeting the cast of “Southern Charm: New Orleans.”
My mouth is watering, as I create a healthy list of Tchoup Shop must-tries: the crispy chicken biscuit sandwich, shrimp and grits, veggie hoppin’ john, cheesy crawfish bread, and famous duck and okra gumbo. I know that’s several mouthfuls to order, but I’m sure I’ll go back again and again to this popular Bushwick bar with Cajun aka Louisiana “country” cuisine to find favorites while checking off my must-try list.
Tchoup Shop, 50 Wycoff Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237, (929) 234-3500
Lowerline receives high praise for bringing casual Creole soul to Prospect Heights. Specializing in fresh oysters, this quaint and casual Louisiana-street namesake delivers a short but sweet menu for seafood-ies like moi. The oyster po-boy, fresh oysters and the crawfish étouffée all tempt my low-country roots. Can’t wait to try ‘em!
When the Millionaire Margarita recipe—tequila, lime juice, orange juice, simple syrup and Cointreau—was revealed to me, I should’ve realized then that the Mexican-French combo was undeniably great. But I recently had a lightbulb moment when I googled French fusion in NY and found that Mexican-French cuisine was and still is a hit. After finding quite a few spots that serve Mexican croques, I’m a staunch believer in the perfect Latino/Catalan bite.
It’s French! It’s Mexican! It’s more than just a “pretty bar” on Smith Street. In fact, pretty isn’t the word I’d call Jolie Cantina’s bar area, which is also home to a bicycle that delightfully hangs from the ceiling. How Avant-Garde! But the lobster chilaquiles, duck enchiladas and croque señorita—substitutes ham in the croque madam with chorizo—are all pretty creative dishes. Jolie Cantina’s shrimp fajitas are tasty but not a sizzling hot example of Mexican-French fusion, rather a more traditional version of the dish.
Jolie Cantina, 241 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, (718) 488-0777, https://www.joliecantina.com
If the Santos Anne’s dinner menu doesn’t sufficiently rep its fusion theme, check out its cocktail list. Smokey, refreshing, floral and spicy, the drinks at Santos Anne are unapologetically multiculti, if not crave-worthy. I’d start with a Fleur Spritz, a floral accompaniment perfect for a light appetizer. A Gentleman’s Sidekick, a strong and sweet drink similar to a boulevardier, would be a delightful end of the night treat.
Santos Anne, 366 Union Ave, Brooklyn NY 11211, (718) 486-6979, http://www.santosannebk.com
Of Our Canoe: Senegalese Cuisine
I’m a little jealous that Brooklyn has a much smaller Senegalese population than Harlem. It’s evident in the scarce number of West African restaurants that are thriving in Brooklyn, compared to that, which is at least twice as much, that are thriving Uptown. Nonetheless I’m happy that we do have a bit of Senegalese culture in the warm and sensual Cafe Rue Dix and colorful Bed-Stuy favorite Joloff, among other smaller spots.
Cafe Rue Dix
When I brought my son to Crown Heights Cafe Rue Dix for an impromptu date night, he of course did all the things a five-year-old boy would do in his unique position of power: woofed down his grilled salmon entree, served with unbelievable black olive mashed potatoes and Shirley Temple with extra cherries; danced to the very energizing Electronica drum music; successfully pulled me away from my Yassa Guinar—lemony chicken and onion confit over couscous or rice—to dance with him; and wooed the beautiful 20-somethings who were dining at a nearby table. When I return to the lovely Cafe Rue Dix, I want to sample the duck confit and the grilled lamb chops (and a side of the phenomenal black olive mashed potatoes!), sans my little Romeo. I’ll miss him but I can drink as many El diablos as I want—probably not more than two because thankfully, they’re strong.
Cafe Rue Dix, 1451 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY 11216, https://www.caferuedix.com
Shame on me for not eating at this long-standing, family-friendly establishment, but my sister swears by Joloff’s fare, especially Senegal’s national dish Thiebou Djeun—a fish dish served with vegetables and Jollof rice. The food looks so comforting, just like homemade. Popular fusion options abound: Yassa Yapp, grilled lemony lamb chops, Yassa Sipaakh, grilled shrimp in lemon and onion sauce, and Curry Tofu.
Joloff Restaurant, 1168 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY 11216, Joloff’s Yelp page