Ladurée Soho

I have been waiting pretty impatiently for the Soho location of Ladurée to open ever since rumors came out about it last year. Almost all my friends know how Ladurée macarons are my absolute favorite! The Boyfriend and I were both super excited about not having to trek up to to the Upper East Side to their original location every time a craving hit. We’ve both been in the new location to pick up boxes of macarons before but we waited until we had a free day before heading over for lunch.

I had made reservations via OpenTable and we were seated right away in their dining area. The hostess left us with menus – both the food menu and the drinks menu. We both opted to go with hot coffee to start off with. The coffee came relatively quickly – but then we were left with our menus for the next 20 minutes or so. After a pretty long wait for our waitress to come back, we finally managed to flag her down and make our orders.

The bread they bring over to your table is super hot. They’re most likely baked to order because I had to do a bread juggle because they were so hot! They look a bit like English muffins with the nooks and crannies on the inside. They were so delicious when smeared with butter!

IMG_5451

The Boyfriend went with the Omelette Ladurée ($16.00), which features mushrooms, cheese, ham, and tomatoes inside a thin egg omelette. The omelette was pretty good – I was so amazed by how thin it was! It managed to keep all those ingredients inside without breaking at all.

IMG_5452

He also ordered a side of Ladurée French fries ($5.00), which are thick cut and lightly salted. They were so thick, they looked like Jenga blocks!

IMG_5454

I went with the Club Saumon ($19.50), which features smoked salmon, hard-broiled eggs, cucumber, lettuce and mayo on toast and served with Ladurée French fries and a mesclun salad. You get two sandwiches stacked on top of each other so it looks a bit like a circular tower. I really enjoyed this sandwich. You get the best part of each slice of bread – the middle. I love hard-broiled eggs in sandwiches and this one had an abundance of them. I’ve never had a smoked salmon club sandwich before and this was an amazing first one! Combined with the French fries and salad, I was really stuffed after I cleared my plate!

IMG_5453

The food was delicious and the coffee definitely went down smooth. I love the attention paid to the small things – like covers for the coffee carafe handles to prevent us from burning ourselves. My only complaint is the mediocre service. After we ordered our coffees, I felt like we were forgotten about. After we flagged down our waitress and made our orders, we seemed to lose her again. We asked the waiter who brought our food over for water, but he never came back. We finally managed to flag down someone to get water and ketchup so props to the waitress from the other part of the dining room who put up with us even though we weren’t her table.

My tip is to look over the menu before you come or look it over outside the storefront. Make all your orders at the beginning so you never get forgotten about!

Hi-Collar

I found Hi-Collar through the Yelp’s new restaurant listing and suggested it to the Boyfriend. Hi-Collar, located in the East Village, is pretty tiny with only a single row of bar seats. Hi-Collar refers to the fashion that was popular during the Japanese Jazz Age, which was a period of intermingling of Western and Japanese culture. This was really prominent in the decor as well as the slow jazz that was playing in the restaurant. Everything felt so elegant and laid back at the same time. During the day-time, Hi-Collar is a Western-inspired Japanese cafe that specializes in siphon coffee & a Kissaten menu. During nighttime, the restaurant turns into Hi-Collar Bar and serves sake instead.

We were presented with the menu, which is quite small. I’m perfectly fine with this because a big menu makes me very indecisive. After we ordered, we were presented with a complimentary mixed fruit soup. It was really light and sweet, which really opened up our appetites.

IMG_3984

The Boyfriend opted for their pressed English Breakfast Tea ($3.50) and I opted for their Hawaiian Maui Coffee. Hi-Collar offers three methods for coffe preparation – Drip ($3.50), Siphon ($4.50) and Aeropress ($5.50). I opted for the Drip and it was so delicious! The coffee was so fragrant and rich. It was strong without being too bitter. I thought the Hawaiian Maui coffee was very smooth – I can definitely see myself coming back for just the coffee!

IMG_3985

The Boyfriend decided on the Shokudou Lunch Set ($13.00), which features Japanese tapas dishes with rice and miso soup. The dishes, starting from left, are – miso soup, strawberries in a balsamic glaze, vinegar and ginger with seaweed, and a sour plum. The big dish was sliced beef, tofu and egg in a thin broth. The broth was extremely delicious – the sliced beef was extremely tender and the entire mixture gave a lot of flavor to the broth. The set was just enough to fill him up but not so much that he was too full.

IMG_3986

IMG_3987

I opted for the Katsu Sandwich ($8.00), which features Berkshire pork katsu with today’s salad. The salad of the day was a light egg salad, which I thought was amazing. The pork was very tender and the katsu skin had an amazing crunch. The sandwich itself is very simple but it was very flavorful at the same time.

IMG_3990

We were so comfortable and in love with the restaurant that we decided to order dessert so we could stay a bit longer. Since we weren’t really in the mood for ice cream, we opted for the Hot Cakes ($6.50), which is Japanese-style pancakes with specialty butter. We opted to add seasonal fruit into the pancakes for an extra $1.50. This was a great decision because she added bananas into the pancakes, which is one of my favorite fruits to put inside a pancake. The specialty butter was a grape-butter, which is something neither of us have ever seen before. The pancakes themselves were some of the fluffiest pancakes I have ever eaten – and I’ve had my share of pancakes. One of the best desserts I have ever had!

IMG_3991

IMG_3992

We never felt rushed to eat faster or leave. Even when our dishes were cleared, our waiter or waitress never urged us to leave. In fact, we had to flag the waiter down to get the menu for dessert. I love the laid back atmosphere of Hi-Collar and I know I will definitely be back to try out the rest of their menu.

 

Lady M Part 2

One day, before class, the Boyfriend suggested we head over to The Plaza Food Hall for a Lady M coffee break. It’s a little bit of a walk from Columbus Circle but it was a nice day so we decided on a little stroll. We arrived at almost exactly eleven o’clock so all the vendors were just opening up. Although some vendors were still in the process of setting up shop, Lady M had already sold a handful of slices of their famous Mille Cake.

I have had their Original, Green Tea and Coconut flavors before so I wanted to try something new. I opted for a slice of the Citron Mille Cake and a slice of the Banana-Chocolate. The Banana-Chocolate is exclusive to the Plaza Food Hall so I definitely wanted to give it a try.

My first bite was the Citron, which features fresh lemon custard in between thin crepes. The top of the cake is covered with powdered snow-sugar and candied lemon. This was one of the lightest pieces of cake I have ever eaten. I felt like I was eating cotton candy the entire time. There was a slight lemon flavor but not overly so. I felt like I was eating a pillowy lemon meringue cake!

IMG_3348

But the highlight of the trip was the Banana-Chocolate, which features a banana pastry cream with chocolate crepes. This one caught my eye when I read about it on a Serious Eats’ article. On our visit to the flagship store, I had asked for this one but was told it was exclusive to the Plaza Food Hall. The worker at the flagship actually told me that it was his least favorite of them all. In my opinion, the Banana-Chocolate is the best Mille flavor after the Original. There was such a strong banana flavor. It brought me back to my trips to Disney World where they sell frozen chocolate-covered bananas.

IMG_3347

The slices at the Plaza Food Hall are a tad smaller than the slices at the flagship store. Since they only get a certain amount of cakes per day, I can understand why they would want to conserve their cakes. A friend of mine went to the Plaza Food Hall in the afternoon to pick up a few slices for his sister but they were all sold out. These babies sell out insanely fast so make sure you visit early if you want to try them out!

Lady M Boutique

If I told anyone who knows me that I have a list of restaurants I want to go to, I don’t think they would be surprised. I actually have two – one for the fancy ones I’ll be able to afford after I’m not a broke college student and another for the places I can afford now. The second list is actually quite long because I spend so much time looking up food that every time I cross off one restaurant, I already have two more to replace it. The Boyfriend likes it though because every time we don’t know what to eat, we just look at the list and weigh our options.

Lady M Boutique, located in the Upper East Side, is very high up on the Try-List, as I like to call it. Everyone has been raving about their mille cakes for so long that I felt like I had to try it. I have had their Green Tea Mille Cake after dinner at Gyu Kaku before but have not tried any of their other flavors yet. After several blotched attempts to pay them a visit, the Boyfriend and I finally made our way over after work one day. We were lucky because when we arrived there was only one table open. We were seated and then offered their savory menu filled with sandwiches, salads, coffees and teas.

We decided to go with their Smoked Salmon Sandwich ($10.50), which features smoked salmon slices with a sour cream and cream cheese mixture as the spread. The sandwich was very good although a bit overpriced. I could probably get a bagel with lox at a local deli for a lot less. If you have the money to spend, go for it, but otherwise, it can be skipped.

We also ordered a Caprese Salad ($12.00), which had about 5 wedges of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It was drizzled with a nice olive oil, which was good. They cut the mozzarella slices into the same size as the tomato wedges so it fit perfectly together. I’ve definitely had better caprese elsewhere, so I’d say this can be skipped as well.

After my trip to Lady M Boutique, I’ve realized one thing – skip the savory and go straight for the sweet. After we finished our savory dishes, we ordered a piece of their Signature Mille Cake to share. Each slice will cost you around $8 but it’s definitely shareable. They don’t serve the Chocolate-Banana mille here, which was what I had wanted, but I’m definitely glad I went with the original. It was heaven! 20 layers of thin crepes with creamy custard in between each layer, it was amazing! I’m pretty sure it was the best piece of cake I’ve ever had in my life. The crepes were very soft and the custard only added to the texture. It felt like I was eating a cloud – so light and so soft!

I also ordered their Coconut Mille Cake to go so I could try it at home. It doesn’t matter if you get one slice or two slices, they package it in a nice sturdy box for you. But a quick tip, definitely only get it if you’re going to be near a fridge soon because the custard does melt after a while. Despite the slight melting, the crepe cake still tasted amazing.

I would love to make a visit to their secondary boutique in The Plaza Food Hall to try out their chocolate-banana mille. Our waiter told us that it was his least favorite, but I really want to see for myself. I don’t think anything can beat their Original Mille though. Even me, the green tea lover, would pick a slice of their classic mille cake over their green tea.

Maison Ladurée

After creeping the Yelp page for Maison Ladurée for a while, I finally got the boyfriend to go with me. We usually don’t wander to the Upper East Side much so this was a bit of a trek for us. Maison Ladurée’s marcarons are supposed to be one of the best so I knew I had to try them. And considering how I can’t fly myself to France to try them out (maybe one day), I figured their branch in the UES was just as good.

We arrived around 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon. There was a line inside the store that went around it 3x in a ‘S’ shape. The wait wasn’t long since their system consisted of two workers packaging macarons and one worker manning the cashier. There were laminated menus for us to peruse while we were on line so we would be able to make a selection once we reach the counter.

Their pricing is 6 macarons in a gift box for $20 and 8 macarons in a gift box for $25. 8 macarons in a regular pastry box is only $21 so I opted for that option since it would give me two more macarons for only $1 more. I wanted to try as many as I could! The pastry box is just as nice and held my macarons safely until I got home that night. The packaging is super cute!

The macaron selection was so hard! They had so many flavors and I only had 8 spots. I would’ve opted for a larger box but I knew I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy each and every one since I would have been way too full to finish them all after dinner that night.

The colors of the macarons are delightfully pretty. They were so pretty that I almost didn’t want to eat it! From left to right:

  1. Rose Petal
  2. Orange Blossom
  3. Pistachio
  4. Cherry Blossom
  5. Coconut
  6. Violet Blackcurrant
  7. Caramel with Salted Butter
  8. Chocolate

Since I heard such great things about it, I tried the Pistachio first. The crust was so soft! When I bit into it, there was a slight crunch but it felt very pillowy. I was in love with the filling in this macaron. And I don’t even like pistachios! It was just the right amount of sweetness without being too overbearing. Definitely one of my favorites! Out of 3 stars, I would give it 3/3!

Next is the Violet Blackcurrant. It was very good but not my favorite. There is a blackcurrant jam in the middle, which my sister loved. I prefer my macarons with a crème filling so this was midrange for me. Out of 3, I’d give it a 2.

Next up was the Rose Petal. This macaron definitely fit my requirements for my favorite macaron. It had a very light crème filling that squeezed out when you bite into it. There was a very distinct flower taste, which I’ve never had before. I really liked this macaron and along with the pistachio, it was one of my favorites. This one gets a 3/3 for sure.

I decided to go along with the flower theme and try the Cherry Blossom next. Instead of a jam or crème, this macaron had a ganache filling. This is their macaron of the season and I was expecting a lot from it. I thought it was pretty good. The ganache was really sweet – a lot sweeter than the other macarons. The macaron had the great crust and pillowy softness but the filling didn’t really win me over. This one is probably one of my satisfactory macarons at 2/3 stars.

I’m going to move onto one of my other favorites before discussing the bads. One of my favorites out of my selection was the Coconut. Despite my favoritism of crème fillings, this coconut ganache was amazing. There was a grainy texture to it and I can almost feel the super ground up coconut shreds. This one was definitely one of the tops of the bunch – 3/3 for sure.

At first I didn’t really like the chocolate because I thought the filling was a little too bitter for my liking. But upon further tasting, I realized that I did in fact like the filling. The fact that it was a little bitter offset the sweetness of the cookie. The filling was not too creamy or gooey. 2/3 stars.

One of the “just okay” macarons in the bunch was the Salted Caramel. The caramel filling was quite delicious since it was gooey without sticking to my teeth. But the salty part of it didn’t really work that well with the sweet caramel – or at least in my opinion. 1/3 stars.

And now unto my least favorite of the bunch – the Orange Blossom. I really couldn’t taste any flowery component to it and there wasn’t much orange flavor either. I didn’t really know what flavors were supposed to be present and to be honest I didn’t really taste much flavor at all. It was also the least attractive macaron out of the bunch. No stars for this macaron.

Overall Maison Ladurée impressed me. I had three really amazing macarons and two pretty good ones. These five good macarons that I had was able to overshadow the three that I didn’t really like. There is a lot of hype involved with this bakery but there are also a lot of great pastries here. If I’m ever in the area I know I will be back to pick up some pistachio, rose petal or coconut macarons. I’m interested in trying out some of their other flavors as well so hopefully I can find my way back to this place.

I really do suggest going early to avoid the lines. When we arrived we were able to fit in the shop. By the time we left, there was already a line outside the shop and down the block. Never underestimate the power of these tiny cookies!

Tea Time!

It’s time for tea! Since it’s Spring Break, a couple of friends and I decided to have girl’s day at Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter II. This chapter has two floors with the top being airier and lighter. Before we walked in, we all looked at the chalkboard with their daily scone options. They bake different scones everyday so you never know what you’re going to get!

We arrived around 12pm on a weekday so we only had to wait around 5 minutes for a table for 5 on the second floor. Once seated, our waitress quickly supplied us with their extensive tea list and their food menu. It took so long to figure out what tea we wanted to get! The cutest thing though was the mismatched teacups on the table. Everyone at our table had a different teacup!

My sister and I decided to share The Mad Hatter afternoon tea set for two ($45). It comes with two pots of tea, your choice of three scones, your choice of two sandwiches, assorted cookies and your choice of dessert. The tea sets come in a three-tier stand, which was so cute!

The first tier was the scones. We decided to go with the pumpkin, blueberry-coconut, and double chocolate chip. The scones came with a side of preserves and clotted cream, which is my favorite accompaniment with scones. I really must rave about Alice’s Tea Cup’s scones. They are big, filling, and very soft.

First up is their most famous scone – the pumpkin. This scone was differently shaped from the rest because it was more round than triangular. The scone had a pumpkin glaze, which was very sweet. The scone had such a nice pumpkin flavor! The sweet glaze made the scone so sweet that I didn’t even need any preserves or cream to go with it. Mmmmm!

Next up is the blueberry coconut, which was my favorite of the scones that we ordered. I broke off a chunk to nibble on before my sister could snap a picture but the usual shape is triangular. There were coconut shreds and blueberries all over the scone. There was also a light sugar dusting on top, which I really liked. Paired with preserves and clotted cream, this scone was divine!

And finally, we have the double chocolate chip scone. All scones were served warm so this one was delicious. The chocolate chips were dispersed very liberally and were semi-melted. I didn’t wind up finishing any of the scones because we wanted to get to the sandwiches. They were very nice and gave us boxes to wrap up our scones to go.

Tier two of the stand held the sandwiches. We decided to go with their black forest ham and smoked salmon sandwiches. There were three pieces of each sandwich, so we were able to try them both and then some. The smoked salmon sandwich was open-faced and was served with lemon-dill butter over pumpernickel bread. The salmon serving was very generous. I never felt like there was more bread than salmon. Very good!

The black forest ham was served with gruyere, mayo, and whole grain mustard on a golden raisin semolina bread. There was an abundance of cheese in this sandwich, which I loved! The crust of the bread was a bit hard to bite into but overall the sandwich was very delicious. I would’ve liked a softer bread but the raisins really brought a sweetness to the otherwise salty sandwich.

The third tier of the stand was the assorted cookies and chocolate mousse. We had to pack the cookies to go because we were so full after the first two tiers! But we had some room left for the chocolate mousse.

The chocolate mousse was very soft! We jokingly called it “the chocolate mousse of death” because it was so heavenly! There was rich chocolate flavor mixed with fluffy mousse. I’m very glad that they gave us a tiny ramekin of it because any more and we wouldn’t have been able to finish!

Now, unto the teas! Each of us got a pot of tea so I decided to go with a green tea, since I wanted something healthy. I went with their Gyokuro Green Tea, which is a tea that is picked only once a year in Japan. This tea was a more bitter than most of the green teas I’m used to but I thought it brought a nice contrast to the sweet and savory tea set. There was so much tea in the teapot that I wasn’t even able to finish by the time we finished our meal!

The sister got their Peach and Flower Tea, which was nice and refreshing. My favorite of the day had to be our friends’ Hawaiian Paradise tea, which is without caffeine. Made with apples, oranges, berries, rosehips, hibiscus and apricot fruit, it had a great tropical taste. I would definitely get this tea the next time I’m here!

Our waitress was amazing. She was friendly and answered any questions that we had. Three of my friends were sharing a Mad Hatter for two and she was completely okay with it. At the end of our meal, she even helped us to take a group picture!

We sat in the main room but behind our area was a tinier room filled with tables-for-two. The décor there was so pretty! I will definitely be back to sit in that area!

* Photo creds to my sister!