Tag Archives: Bakery

Felix’s Caketeria ****

Cupcake Assortment

Cupcakes became sort of food craze over the past couple of years, with several “cutesy” bakeshops opening up all over the country in a very short period of time. But but very few of these bake shops have managed to survive into 2013 because their ridiculously over-priced, miniature offerings, were just trendy items and not actually quality desserts. Felix’s Caketeria on the other hand, is going strong and even expanding because they are a phenomenal bakery that has mastered the art of exquisite cakes. Fortunately, for consumers like myself, they offer their indulgent cakes in miniature sizes (dare I call them cupcakes?!) to be enjoyed on days that aren’t specialty occasions. No birthday, no problem!

Doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a cupcake on your lunch break!

Cupcake Display

My personal favorite is the Chocolate Salty Caramel, which is a chocolate cake filled with salty caramel, topped with chocolate buttercream and a caramel drizzle. 

Chocolate Salted Caramel

I also love the traditional Carrot Cake, which is made with pineapple, coconut, pecans and topped with a cream cheese icing. 

Carrot Cupcake

The only thing that you must remember is that Felix’s Caketeria uses REAL buttercream to frost their cupcakes, so the cupcake MUST be brought up to room temperature before they are enjoyed. If your impatience gets the best of you, you will be eating a rock hard cupcake and you won’t get the most of your miniature cake experience.

Ohh, and one last cupcake special that they occasionally have is the Eclair Cupcake, shown below:

Eclair Cupcake

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b-Blue Natural Bar & Deli ****

Armenia 1692
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Palermo SOHO
(+54) 4831.7024

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There are an infinite number of cute sidewalk cafes and restuarants in Buenos Aires. There are little vegetarian spots, tea houses, ice cream parlors, and even places strictly devoted to the sale of coffee and chocolates. The task of choosing just which one to spend your afternoon at can be quite overwhelming, especially in the crowded Palermo area. As I was walking to the gym the other day, I passed by at least 18 adorable cafes, each one begging me to abandon my work out plans and indulge in something delicious and homemade. I tried to fight the urge, but finally caved when I passed by bBlue Natural foods. I could see the salads being served in enormous porclain bowls and almost every table had a brightly colored fruit smoothie on it. I couldn’t resist.

I took a seat and ordered the b-Pollo Salad, which is a bed of mixed greens with shredded chicken marinated in honey, soy sauce, and dijon mustard, topped with sundried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, carmaleized onions, and croutons, and tossed with your choice of dressing (39 pesos). Personally, I like the bBlue house dressing with olive oil, vinegar, blueberries, lemon, honey, and mustard. It adds a sweet fruity flavor to the salad, which is a nice contrast with the sundried tomatoes. So far, this place serves the best salad in Buenos Aires (in my opinion, of course!). The portions are huge and they aren’t stingy with the meats or the cheeses. Also, the ingredients are incredibly fresh and absolutely everything is homemade. Ohh and finally a place that serves a non-mayonnaise dressing!! Major brownie points for that!

Since my first time at bBlue, I have become a regular and I have yet to have a bad meal. Another favorite salad of mine is the b-Deli Salad, which is a bed of baby spinach, lemon-marinated mushrooms, cubes of brie cheese, and toasted almonds, tossed with your choice of dressing (39 pesos) (I like to put the homemade pear dressing on this salad).

In addition to the salads, bBlue also makes incredible gourmet sandwiches!! They have all sorts of spreadable cheeses and aiolis, so the sandwich isn’t dry. My personal favorite so far is the Pollo Sandwich served on French bread with chicken marinated in honey and soy sauce, sliced tomatoes, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, melted gruyere cheese, with dijon and mayo (38 pesos). The sandwich is then served with side of incredible herb roasted potatoes and a ramekin of ketchup. The picture really doesn’t do it justice, but imagine a gourmet chicken cheesesteak, and that’s this sandwich.

Ohh, and I almost forgot….the POMEDLADO!!!! It’s like a lemonade, but one hundred times better becasue it is made with grapefruit juice, honey, fresh ginger, and a hint of mint (13 pesos). Seriously? It redefines refreshment.

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“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

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Green Cafe ***

Assortment of Macarons at Cafe Green

212.677.0666
377 1st Ave (between 23rd and 22nd)
New York, Ny 10010

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When you graduate high school, you move out of your house, and leave for college to start life on your own. Yes, I am aware that this is a politically incorrect over-generalization, but please do not take offense if you didn’t follow this path, because I’ve learned first hand that the chief value in going to college is that it’s the only way to learn it really doesn’t mean jack shit. Look at me for example, I went to a well-respected private university (go Canes!), and sure it was the best for years of my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am currently unemployed, with no income, in debt, living at home. Dropout Kelly on the other hand, has just been promoted to a management position at McDonalds, which provides a steady income, and she doesn’t have $160,000 of student loans to pay back. She also has a much healthier liver and knows what the heck a W2 form is. Now you’re going to make the argument that I will eventually get a better job than Kelly that provides me with a higher pay because I have a formal education. And it’s true that economists report that college education adds many thousands of dollars to a person’s lifetime income. But don’t we then spend this extra income sending our kids to college?! It is a vicious cycle really. And don’t even get me started on the girls who just go to college looking for a MRS degree…J-date is only about $30 a month and college is about $10,000. Do the math and save yourself the money.

Anyways, enough of this ridiculous tangent on education. The point is that I went to college and established my own way of living and doing things, and now I am forced to live back at home where I can no longer comfortably live in my particular manner. I cannot just roll out of bed and cook my breakfast in my underwear…shirt and pants are required. I cannot drink my orange juice straight out of the container…I need to use a small “juice” glass. I cannot leave the house without reporting where I am going and then giving an estimation of when I will be returning (and I need to call if I am later than my estimation). I cannot buy groceries and put them in the fridge with the confidence that they will be there later. In college, everyone has their own shelf in the fridge and you eat only what is on your shelf (unless you come home drunk and eat half your roommate’s box of Special K…but you admit it with shame the next morning and buy them a new box). At home, family is family, and what’s mine is yours is the name of the game. That means that the lifespan of a package of Oreos is about 36 hours.

It’s been one week and I needed some space of my own, so I headed out to New York City to meet up with a girlfriend from college that was visiting. As soon as I stepped out of Penn Station, I was overtaken by the aroma of delicious street food and from then on my mind was strictly on getting something to eat. In a hurry to meet my friend, I decided to stop at Green Café for some coffee and cookies. I got a delicious Cappuccino and the absolute best Macarons that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

There was an assortment of about 20 different flavors to choose from, all of which were displayed in a glass bakery case. I tried the Wedding Almond flavor and Casis (which is infused with currant flavoring). Personally, I preferred the sweet almond flavor over the tartness of the casis, but the textures on both were incredible. Ohh, and if you didn’t realize by now, the cookie I am referring to is a macaron, not to be confused with a coconut, chocolate-laced macaroon. I love those too, but a macaron is a cream-filled cookie sandwich, made from egg whites, almond powder, and a pinch of sugar. They usually come in very bright colors, that vary according to flavor. Some of the other varieties that I didn’t get to sample include; pistachio, caramel, crème brulee, espresso, raspberry, mango, vanilla, nutella, passion fruit, and lavender.

Assorted Macarons

Café Green has a small little seating area, and serves up healthy items for both breakfast and lunch such as omelets, paninis, and wraps. I would definitely go back for a macaron the next time that I am back in the city! I would have brought some home, but you can only imagine how quickly these things would be eaten given that Oreo’s usually only last a day and a half.

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Magnolia’s Bakery **

Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcakes

212.767.1123
1240 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

I have postponed writing this blog post for quite some time now—almost a year, in fact—because I know what I have to say about one of “America’s most loved bakeries” will probably not be received well among the general public. However, in my defense, I have given it multiple chances of redemption. I’ve gone over five different times and tried multiple menu items, but yet I always find myself disappointed. Sure the little bakery is spectacular to look at, and everything is frosted and sprinkled to perfection, but the product itself isn’t that great (in my opinion, of course…I don’t want to upset any of the devout followers of Magnolia Bakery’s sweet-tooth subculture!).

Magnolia Bakery opened its doors in 1996, and is often dubbed as the creator of the “cupcake craze” that took America by storm in the late 1990’s. Dessert suddenly evolved into a statement piece, and people were demanding bite-sized, “trendy cupcakes.” Being a foodie and a baker myself, I was super anxious to try the so called “Grand Daddy of all Cupcakes.” On my first visit, I ordered the German Chocolate Cupcake and the Red Velvet Cupcake, as well as a Double Fudge Brownie. The red velvet cupcake was dry, the German chocolate cupcake was painfully sweet, and the double fudge brownie was mildly redemptive and good in comparison to the rest. I actually threw away the two cupcakes after a couple of bites…wasn’t worth the calories!

Double Fudge Brownies

I attributed the terrible cupcakes to the time of day (it was night when I went, so maybe they weren’t freshly baked), the off-chance that there was a substitute baker, and the possibility that my taste buds were off. I didn’t want to believe that they were normally that bad, and so I went again…four more times!

I have tried several cupcakes, bars, pies, brownies, and cakes and the cake is always dry, the icing is always too sweet, and the Magic Cookie Bar is always the only thing that I enjoy from my purchase. So if you do go to Magnolia, I recommend that you order a magic cookie bar as a plan B in addition to whatever else you decide to try! The Magic Cookie Bar is divine combination of graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and condensed milk. Other than that dessert, I am very under whelmed by Magnolia Bakery and think it is overrated.

Magic Cookie Bar

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The Icebox Cafe ****

Assorted Cakes Offered by The Icebox Cafe

305.538.8448
1657 Michigan Ave
Miami Beach, Fl

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This morning I did the ridiculous—I packed a bag and headed to Medellin, Colombia with two of my girlfriends, Sam and Ariana…with absolutely no game plan. You see, a few weeks ago Sam had mentioned that her family would be taking a trip there and after I expressed enough interest, she extended the opportunity for me to join her. I’m not really sure if she expected me to actually follow through or not, but since I am always looking for an excuse to get out of the country, I booked my ticket right away. Ariana also felt the itch to get away and decided to book one too!

So there we were at the airport this afternoon, passports and plane tickets in hand, with no idea what kind of trip we were in for. Sam’s uncle, who lives in Medellin, had planned out the entire weekend and we were just along for the ride. We didn’t know how long the flight was, whether or not there was a time difference, or just where exactly we would be staying once we got there. All we knew is that we were going and that the best way to travel there was drunk!

So as we headed to the gate, we kept our eyes out for a nice little bar to get some vino. After passing several dark, crowded, and unappealing bars we came across the Icebox Cafe. It was an all glass-encased restaurant with lots of natural light and a clean modern décor. It stood out from every other place in the airport and was conveniently located directly across from our gate (in the American Airlines terminal). Tons of people were in the little café area and so we figured it must be a good bet. This was then confirmed after we saw the generous pour of Chardonnay that we were receiving. I was tipsy after just ½ a glass and sufficiently drunk upon its completion. I really wanted to order some of the food at the Icebox Cafe, which all looked incredible, featuring: warm meatloaf sandwiches, thai chicken salads, egg breakfast platters, and a wide assortment of freshly baked pastries and cakes (a refreshing change from traditional airport food—sandwiches served on cardboard-like bread and hash browns from McDonalds), but I still was debating whether or not I would come off of my carb-slow diet altogether while on vacation. Sure, I had had some mishaps in the past two weeks (aka my Vietnamese Noodle binge the other night), but for the most part I have remained pretty loyal to the diet over the course of the past 14 days. As I sipped my vino, I pondered my dietary furture. When I finished my vino, I had my answer—no way was I missing out on Colombian food for the sake of an experiment!!!

I didn’t order anything at the Icebox Café (although they do serve Oprah Windfrey’s favorite cake in America, called The Bomb, which is layers of dark chocolate cake filled with creamy cheesecake brownie and imported chocolate mousse, topped with a dark chocolate ganache). My mouth just watered typing that. I think it’s pretty clear why that is Oprah’s favorite cake. I mean, how could anyone not like that?!?! But instead I saved my appetite for the delicious arepas that awaited my arrival in Colombia, and I made sure to eat two within my first 12 hours in the country!

Slice of Bomb Cake, which is layers of dark chocolate cake filled with creamy cheesecake brownie and imported chocolate mousse, topped with a dark chocolate ganache

The Icebox Café is not only located in the American Airlines Terminal at Miami International Airport, but they also have a main restaurant on Lincoln Road in South Beach, which I plan to visit for some food and cake this upcoming weekend! Even though I have not tried any of the food, I feel completely comfortable making a recommendation for the place, based on their concept and the satisfaction of others eating around me. They also score some brownie points for the generous pour of wine, which only cost $9!! Cannot beat that!

The Icebox Cafe located in Miami International Airport (AA Terminal)

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Lovin’ Oven ***

Saag Paneer – Creamy Pureed Spinach with Cheese and Indian Spices

908.996.7714
62 Trenton Ave
Frenchtown, NJ 08825

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I don’t know how many of you got into the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” craze, but I swear for the two weeks after I read that book I really thought I was Elizabeth Gilbert. Of course I’m not a recently divorced 40-something year old writer traveling the world in hopes of finding myself, but I so readily identified with her emotions, frustrations, and passions that I felt as if her book could have been my own personal memoir. We both love to eat, travel, write, and stare at beautiful Italian men who speak the beautiful Italian language—and, I too wouldn’t think twice about packing my bags and going to an unfamiliar country such as Bali to meet with some elderly medicine man! But I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. This reality sank in abruptly after my first yoga class and was then confirmed after my attempt at guided meditation (yes, I really signed up for yoga and meditation after reading the book—a sparkler moment—just humor me).

Although I am back to my non-yoga doing life as Kendall Bajek, I was none-the-less excited to hear that Elizabeth Gilbert had opened a store near my house In Philadelphia called Two Buttons. I was less excited when I actually went and saw just how much these rare items cost, but thankfully, there was a restaurant in front of her store to help lift my spirits! The restaurant is called the Lovin’ Oven and the menu is just about as eclectic as Gilbert’s store.

They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have inspired flavors coming from all over the world. I went for lunch with my mom and ordered the Quinoa and Tempeh Burger Wrap with avocado, kales, and roasted red pepper aioli. The server told me that this was one of the best items on the menu and it was in fact delicious, but not the greatest lunch I’ve ever had. I expected cut up strips of the quinoa and tempeh burger within the wrap, and it was more ground in with the kale so its texture was indistinct. I like the uniformity that it gave every bite, but I would have preferred to distinguish the burger from the burger from the rest of the wrap. Also, the kale was very oily and rather tough in texture, which made the wrap a bit challenging and sloppy to eat (glad I wasn’t on a date!). The overall flavor was nice, with the bitterness of the kale contrasting the sweetness of the roasted red pepper aioli, and the portion was huge. But my favorite aspect of the dish was actually the small quinoa salad that was served on the side of the wrap. It had a strong balsamic flavor with red onions and halved grapes. It was light and delicious…I wish I could have ordered that only!

My mom ordered the Saag Paneer, which is creamy pureed spinach and fresh cheese with Indian spices served with warm pita over organic brown rice. We were both very unimpressed by this dish because we are familiar with the flavors of good Indian food, but the average person would probably have been pleased. I thought it was lacking in spice and heat, and so it tasted very one-dimensional after just a few bites. The pita bread on the other hand, was incredible! It crispy on the outside but soft and warm on the inside…it was a perfect pita!

On other occasions, my mom has also had the Ginger Teriyaki Tofu Bowl with sautéed fresh vegetables, organic brown rice, sliced avocado, and grilled pita. She said that this dish was so good that it will keep her going back despite our recent disappointing lunch. I want more of that pita bread, so I would probably order this the next time I go as well. I would also save room for the Almond Croissant Bread Pudding next time because it sounds outrageously delicious! In fact, all of their baked goods sound great and I might go just for dessert later this week!

I would recommend the Lovin’ Oven for dessert or breakfast, which is what majority of diners were eating while I was there…now I know why! Just make sure that you bring cash when you go, because it is cash only!

Quinoa Tempeh Burger Wrap with Avocado, Kale, and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

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