Macarons

I’ve tried macarons everywhere I can get my hands on them in Portland, there are some good but majority aren’t… EARLIER MACARON POST .

While abroad I’ve made it a point to find Laduree and Pierre Herme– I’ve had Laduree on the Champs-Elysees, Switzerland, London etc. I know that there are a lot more to try but these were at the top of my list for best, both had the right consistency, amazing flavor combinations and presentation. There was also that time, a crazy 24 hours in which I made 3 batches of macarons by hand (see here!), in which I ended up with a hundred coconut and peanut butter macarons :*) I feel like now I really understand the intricasies of such a small and complicated pastry.

When purchasing macarons I always look at how they are stored and displayed. Refrigeration increases their lifetime to about 3-5 days but obviously by the 5th day it won’t be as great as the fresher one. I’ve seen that Costco is selling them now and assume that whatever is preserving these will make it quite unlike a real macaron in texture (I would love to know if anyone has tried these, comment below!)

Here in Hanoi there are some local French bakeries and a few offer some pretty looking macarons. Sadly these turned out to be the worst I’ve ever had, from a place called Salsa (go figure) based on their oddly small size and outside texture as crunchy as a cookie. The inside texture was so hard that it took me a few tries to get my teeth through the middle. The more commonly buttercream middle was closer to the likes of cement, haha. I should’ve taken pictures but it was so crumbly I would have lost the thing before finding my camera. I also could discern no recognizable flavor of any kind. It was red? If I have to guess that is a really bad sign. Discouraged by that incident I decided to stop searching for those here.

Anyways, Kenny surprised me with lunch and DESSERT from Dean & Deluca. I was really excited because these looked amazing! Vibrant colors (one was glittering for goodness sakes) consistent size and fresh appearance. I was starving but I actually waited till after lunch to dig in. (Lunch was wagyu beef lasagna and a passionfruit drink)

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The first one I tried was this tye-dye green and red one which I guessed correctly after a bite: pistachio and raspberry! I appreciate that they put two traditional flavors together in a really nice way, the real tartness and crunch of raspberry with the more mild nutty pistachio.

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Next I tried the most dazzling one — This one was tougher for me to describe because it was pear and chili! I didn’t notice any heat from it but I will admit that it takes a lot to for me to judge something as spicy.

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This one looked odd to me by its color and my visual guess was maybe caramel or another pistachio. One small bite and wow… BANANA crunch! The filling was thick with real banana and taste that packed a punch. It was truly enjoyable to have such a legit banana flavor in a macaron no less, I didn’t even think that was possible.

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This one is, as you probably guessed – strawberry but technically Strawberry Jam if you could see the inside and taste the real fruit in this! Somehow the macaron still retained its perfectly light and soft outer shell with a seedy sweet red filling. No sogginess or staleness at all. So impressed! I think I let out an exclamation as I ate this because it was so surprising. It wasn’t a demure and coy flavor, but just as the banana one had that wow factor.

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So, what am I saying now? These are a bang for your buck and quite possibly a lot more accessible than Laduree. Give them a try I think they are quite well done, American take on French macarons.

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First Michelin ★ Experience [HK]

Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong

It was our last day in Hong Kong and we hadn’t gotten enough of their amazing dim sum. We figured we’d have just enough time to walk there, get in, eat, walk back and make it to the airport in time to catch our flight to Vietnam. By the time we walked there, it was about 10 minutes to opening time and there was already quite a line. Typical.

They passed out some menus so we could mark off what we wanted.

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It was no problem, as soon as the garage gates started rolling up the people ran in and filled up the empty seats. We grabbed a tiny table without thinking, thankfully securing our place. I noticed tea cups and bowls preset on the table and everyone was using their hot tea to clean these with their napkins. I did the same, except knocking over my cup and spilling tons of hot tea all over the table and myself!

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We handed them our menu only to have them return and hand us a green menu, saying the blue one was outdated or something. Lol. So once again we mark off what we want. Not too much later the food quickly starts pouring out of the kitchen. We ordered the Baked bun with BBQ pork, pan fried coconut custard cake, steamed pork dumplings with shrimp, vermicelli roll stuffed with pork, and steamed rice with beef and pan fried egg!

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This last dish was the coolest thing I ate. I can’t figure it out and I do not know how they did it. It wasn’t simple cuts of meat, rather ground or pounded meat that was slightly breaded with a heavenly soft texture and really good sauce over the whole thing.

The baked bun with BBQ pork was unlike any I’d had before. The outside bun was almost like a candy shell, sugared on top with savory pork. It was a nice change from all the BBQ steam buns I’ve had in my life. Pan fried coconut custard cake came out in the middle of our dining, but I didn’t mind the sweet break. It was super moist and smelled wonderful — of course I love anything coconut… The vermicelli roll stuffed with pork is something I’ve enjoyed in America but done a little differently. The vermicelli here is super gelatinous! I love that texture though and the umami of shoyu and green onion with pork… Mmmmm!

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We were about done and ready to pay so we could get off to the airport. I was going to pay with my card when I realized that they probably only accepted cash. Kenny had some cash but was just a couple dollars short… WHOOPS. He ran out to find an atm which actually turned into quite an ordeal. I stood by the register for awhile waiting… About 15 minutes until they suggested that I take a seat at a table, dining with an old lady who was eating alone. Haha. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, especially when she started cleaning her bowl with tea and knocked it over spilling it everywhere just as I did! LOL.

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I was thinking about how far Kenny might have to go to find an ATM. The area of this restaurant wasn’t exactly an urban spot, and he actually had to run over a mile back towards our place to find a place to take out some cash. I almost threw all the money I had and ditched the place in fear of not making our flight but just when I was about to get desperate I saw Kenny return 🙂

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Not bad. $14 for a legit Michelin star meal. Amazing really.

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Hanoi Restaurant Guide

This is by no means a showcase of the most authentic Hanoi dishes, just my favorite places that we go back to for good food… fresh, affordable, quality food – ESPECIALLY if you’re missing anything familiar from home!

Joma Bakery — With a few locations you shouldn’t miss it — Healthy breakfast and lunch options, a few that I’ve tried (Hummus plate, turkey sandwich, chicken pesto sandwich, Philly cheesesteak and all of these come with a side salad!) After your meal check out the desserts! They have an amazing Nanaimo bar which is a 3-layer bar with chocolate base and coconut in the middle with chocolate on top. Along with actual brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, chocolate croissants and coffee you really can’t go wrong.

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O’douceurs French Pastry and Bakery – Chocolate-y brownies, to die for truffles and yummy fruit tarts…Yes, I’ve tried them all

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Namaste Hanoi – My first meal in Hanoi, quite the experience. The owner will help to navigate the extensive menu, asking you a few questions and writing down numbers on your table corresponding to dishes that he suggests you consider. He was definitely spot on with our meal!

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The Republic – an Aussie bar with the best (really large portion) burgers in town (spendier but it is a nice enough place, the mixed drinks are okay, beer probably better lol). Also the wedge French fries are amazingggggg

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Ca Cha Va Long – hailed as the oldest restaurant in Hanoi (circa 1871), they serve one dish and it is 170k VND. It is a catfish fried at your table in tumeric with a bunch of fresh greens like dill and leak. Totally worth it.

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Sesame – Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant, not always the easiest thing to find but it does exist 🙂 Fresh and delicious food and lunch sets for only 60k VND! This place has lunch hours from around 10-2 and dinner from 5-9 or so. We tried the mushroom patties and pineapple cake — yummy!
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Salt n’ Lime – This is the place to go if you are missing Mexican food, or dare I say Chipotle? This is what fresh and natural Mexican food should be and I believe once home you would actually miss the big burritos here! I know I will–They have a range of salsas to choose from and they are all tasty — The corn salsa, verde, roja, and garlic are the ones I keep returning to. No joke I crave these burritos DAILY!

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Gelato Italia
– The ONLY gelato in town, and it is wonderful! Nice flavors, extra creamy as gelato should be and they have sorbet options as well. We tried coconut, valentine (strawberries and cream), and rum raisin. It was a real treat enjoying such a good gelato outside of Italy.

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Annam Gourmet Market – Import goodies and a bakery that serves pretty good macarons! (Also get the Salt&Pepper potato chips, so worth it) — They also have almond milk which is hard to find and other fun drinks to try. On the second floor going up the staircase they have things with reduced prices and we were able to get some good chocolate for half off!
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Tracey’s Pub – Cheap burgers (about 130k VND) and beer, they call it husband day care!
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May Taste – Lunch specials at only 60K VND that include drinks and dessert (bananas)! You can’t beat the amount (I wasn’t able to finish my meal) or quality of food for that price… they also have a delish pineapple smoothie
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Cong Caphe – For those with caffeine running through their veins try a milder version of Vietnamese coffee with their coconut slush coffee combo only 45k VND

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Japanese Sweets – A chain found in most “malls” here. They have mochi filled with ice cream and even mochi donuts (which I was told would take 20 minutes to make). I got a coconut cream mochi instead which was nice and not super sweet!

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Pepperonis – Haha. We found this spot wandering late at night. Cheap pizzas, good drinks (this one on the left was called “Tropical” turned out to be a plain yogurt with ice mix 😛 The pina colada was relish as well! If you want a little more bang for your buck head to Dominoes (way better than the Pizza Hut’s I’ve encountered in Asia) and they give you dipping sauces for your pizza without asking for it or paying extra —
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Starbucks – I’ve been surprised. Besides free wifi, they have different (better even?) food/juices/pastries than in America. In the States I would go there for an egg white breakfast sandwich or the egg white wrap. The menu never changed but here there’s been quiche, chorizo pizza, wraps and specialty drinks that are really good (and I don’t go to Starbucks often). Below is the sesame crunch frappe and a warmed blueberry muffin, mmmm

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First Night in Flores, Guatamala

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The sight right outside our house! It was a beautiful sunny day, extremely humid type heat though– Our host informed us that this is “winter” for them and this weather is “fresh”. Haha – example of such is that she is wearing jeans, and he is wearing a T-shirt! I am over here glistening head to toe. After resting up a bit from our 8 hour bus ride (from Mexico through Belize) we finally headed out around 8 pm to get something to eat. There are a lot of good reviews for the restaurants around here, and some are just around the corner from us!

After reading about places and a positive recommendation from our host we decide to try La Villa del Chef — The food that I saw on tables walking in was enough to confirm I needed to eat here. There were also two fluffy cats lounging about which was a little distraction in the heat.

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The menu wasn’t large, but it offered a few salads, pastas, burgers, and a special white fish only available on this island. We went with the Pasta Altiplano and Chef’s Chicken Burrito! My pasta had a smoked tomato sauce, which was really lovely. Nothing like a typical marinara or anything from a bottle. I could clearly taste fresh tomato, but it was seasoned lightly which went really well with the more savory and salty chicken. The burrito was also tasty, the highlight being fresh ingredients and it’s large portion size. I would definitely go back, there were some monster salads I might be brave enough to try…

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After our check was brought out, the waiter pointed to these little gals saying they were for us. From my seat I thought they were fancy toothpicks but they are called Muñecas quitapenas aka worry dolls that are used to remove worries. According to their stories, the doll is supposed to worry in your place, and thus if you lose your doll it has run away with your woes.

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Of course, it’s seeming like our mission– Try ice cream in every country and multiple times to be sure… This is Sarita which is basically the Baskin Robbins of Guatemala! We kept it simple and got a Piña Colada ice cream cone. 1. The flavor was balanced. Not super sweet or extremely pineapple-y. 2. She used some method that got ice cream all the way down into the cone. I did not get any empty cone at the bottom! So good.

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Happy Pocky Day

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee it’s 11/11 !!

I was a silly silly girl, saw my friends post on Tuesday about this (forgetting she was a day ahead as she is actually living in Japan) and announced Pocky day yesterday. Whoops, it’s happening right now!

We decided to make ramen for lunch so we stopped at a few small Asian markets to pick up some ingredients.
Bf(f) got a Melon Ramune *yum*, I couldn’t help but pick up some pocky as well– matcha green tea flavor.

1. I don’t like tea
2. I forgot that I’ve already tried this one
3. It tastes pretty gross

Overall probably my least favorite Pocky but I gained another box cover for the collection… At least the ramen turned out beautifully 😛 Recently I’ve been researching Japan, watching tons of YouTube videos of vloggers living there, trying crazy snacks and showing their day to day lives over there. I’ve noticed so many radical flavors for everything from peach potato chips to Hawaiian and Pokemon Ramune! No different for pocky, there are some things I am just going to have to be in Japan for. I hear there’s even a Pocky vending machine!! <3_<3

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Apparently Pocky was first sold in 1966! And what a great day indeed.
While I don’t eat these on a regular basis it does hold a lot of nostalgia for me,
growing up my grandparents gave me Japanese snacks all the time (Yan Yan, manju, mochi, Koalas, Sanrio gum). That and I noticed some new flavors while I was in Hawaii that still haven’t made it here in Oregon—
Demitase, adzuki bean… Mmmmmmmm!

Some other flavors I’ve heard of from Japan:

Hokkaido Melon
Cornflakes and Almond
Pineapple
Honey
Coconut Milk
Creme Brulee
Brazilian Pudding
Purple Sweet Potato *Murasaki Imo
Kiwifruit
Mango
Blueberry
Black Sesame
Kinako <------------- need to try!
Pumpkin
Lychee

There’s also a Pocky decorating kit which obviously appeals to the artist kid in me.
Can’t wait to try more once I get abroad 🙂

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Happy ポッキー Day!!!!!

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