Falling for Breakfast

Kick up your French toast game with Pain Perdu with warm fall flavors and wine-roasted plums

As the temperature drops and Autumn starts to show us her colors, we start thinking more and more about comfort foods and seasonal fruits. Whether getting that last goodness from peaches and plums, or fully transitioning to figs and cranberries, it’s time to get creative and warm up to those delicious comfort foods. And, if most of the family is now at home, you might have a few extra minutes to make something extra special (and filling, so no one’s eating all day!).

With all of that in mind, I started thinking about pairing warm, seasonal flavors with something that doesn’t take a lot of work. I wanted to make something that was easy and yummy for a weekday breakfast, but also impressive enough to serve for a holiday brunch. How about some kicked up French toast?

I love French toast! It’s quick, filling, sweet (or savory if you’re adventurous) and flexible! It’s one of those dishes that you can make however you like. I had a batch of plums and a fresh loaf of brioche to use up and it’s no mystery that brioche takes French toast to the next level, so here’s a full-blown Pain Perdu: brioche soaked in an egg custard infused with warm spices and topped with roasted plums. Oh, and wine. We did say brunch, didn’t we? You can be the judge if you want to serve it to your kids (but I won’t judge if you want to give them the frozen waffles and have more Pain Perdu for yourself!).

For the Pain Perdu, I soaked brioche in a custard of eggs and cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Any type of thick, sturdy bread will do, so if you have leftover challah or French bread, you can use that (although, the concept of “leftover” bread is a bit foreign to me). Then I roasted some plums with honey and spices to complement the custard, and a deep and flavorful Pinot Noir. I used Whisper Wines Row Eleven Vinas 3 Pinot Noir, which has a beautiful garnet color and flavors of berries and vanilla. What you get is a fantastic combination of thick French toast with the classic flavors of fall paired with some sweetness from the roasted plums and a wine syrup reduction. And then, yeah, dusted with a little powdered sugar just because it’s pretty.

This is a delicious and easy recipe with accessible ingredients. The only real effort comes in the coordination. It takes a little more time to soak, grill and bake the Pain Perdu as it does to roast the fruit. There’s no disaster if you finish one element before the other, but here’s my order of my work if it helps. Definitely do what works for you.

  1. Prepare the fruit through the step of mixing the plums with the liquid.
  2. Mix up the custard and get the bread soaking.
  3. Put the plums in the oven to roast.
  4. While the fruit is roasting, grill the soaked bread.
  5. Remove the plums to a bowl, pour off the liquid to reduce, lower the oven to 350F and bake the pain perdu to cook through.
  6. Then put it all together!

Pain Perdu with Wine-Roasted Plums

Serves 3-6 people, depending on appetite and size of slices

Pain Perdu:
6 slices thick-cut Brioche (or other sturdy bread)
6 Eggs
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (or seeds from half pod)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Pinch Nutmeg
Zest of 1/2 an Orange

Wine-Roasted Plums:
6 Plums, split and cut into wedges
2 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (or seeds from half pod)
1/2 cup Pinot Noir
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Zest Strips from 1/2 an Orange
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Roast the Plums:
Heat the oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the plums and butter.
Add the wedges of plums and stir gently to coat with the liquid mixture.
Pour all of it, including the liquid, onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Dot with the butter and roast 10-14 minutes until fruit is tender and liquid has thickened. If the fruit is done before the liquid is thickened to your liking, remove the pan from the oven (don’t wash it yet!), use a slotted spoon to move the fruit to a bowl, and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Boil the liquid on medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced to your desired consistency, 2-3 minutes.

Make the Pain Perdu:
While the fruit is roasting, prepare the Pain Perdu.
In a 9×13 high-rimmed baking dish, whisk together all the ingredients except for the brioche.
Place the six slices of brioche in the custard mixture and soak for 5 minutes. Flip and soak for another 5 minutes.
Using a non-stick pan or griddle on medium-high heat, cook the Pain Perdu until golden on both sides. Repeat as necessary.
After the plums are done (or in a separate oven if you have it), reduce the oven to 350F. Place the golden Pain Perdu on a baking sheet (if you have already removed the plums from the oven and removed the fruit and syrup, you can use the same roasting pan) and bake 7-10 minutes until the pain perdu custard is cooked through. It should be firm but not dry and stiff and, when pressed lightly, you should not see any of the custard oozing out.

To serve:
Place 1-2 slides of pain perdu on each dish. Top with the roasted fruit and drizzle with the plum-wine syrup. Dust with powdered sugar for a pretty effect. Kids may like the pain perdu with more butter, maple syrup and/or powdered sugar.

If, by chance, you have leftover roasted plums and syrup, spoon either or both over vanilla ice cream, topped with a little whipped cream (not that I did that of course – lol).

Lemons: My Main Squeeze

Pucker up and make this great Lemon Paste, then use it in all your favorite lemon-based baked goods!

If you bake a lot, you know lemons are required in so many things. If you’re like me, you use them all the time: lemon pound cake, cupcakes with lemon buttercream, a smooth lemon curd or blueberry-lemon anything. And there are great uses in savory cooking too: in a vinaigrette, on your favorite fish, stirred into ricotta or combined with mayo for a bright aioli. Google “recipes with lemon paste,” and you’ll find a few good ones.

I almost always have fresh lemon juice and zest in my fridge and freezer. Have too many lemons? It’s definitely less expensive to buy a bag versus one or two lemons, so process them to use later! There’s nothing like fresh lemon juice (ew, some of that bottled stuff should be used for cleaning and nothing else). And I seem to put citrus zest in everything, including some sugar cookies I made the other day.

I also try to use natural stuff over processed extracts and flavorings that may have extra preservatives or creative ingredients. Knowing that lemon is probably my most-used flavoring (beyond vanilla and chocolate, of course), I thought I’d try my hand at making lemon paste. Yes, you can buy it, but if you’re trying to save money and you have time to teeter around the kitchen, give it a try.

Plus, my husband’s co-worker gave him a massive bag of lemons from his tree. They were big, but not particularly juicy, so somewhat good candidates for my lemon experiment since making paste is mainly dependent on peel.

The method is easy, but it took a few hours depending on how quickly you work. Also, the recipe is somewhat flexible; meaning, if you have large lemons, use 12. If you have smaller ones, use 15. If you like things sweeter, add a little more sugar. 150 g of sugar kept the paste somewhat tart and a smidge bitter, and the bitterness lessened as it cooled. What I came out with was a good balance of tartness with little bitter aftertaste, which seems like it would be perfect for adding to baked goods that contain sugar or vinaigrettes that have herbs and salt.


12-15 Lemons, lightly washed, organic if possible
150 g Granulated Sugar


  1. Juice 5 of the lemons, yielding around 1/2 cup of juice. If needed, juice additional lemons, but don’t take from the remaining lemons. Remove seeds, but keep the pulp with the juice if you can. Zest the lemons for another use (to avoid waste). Set aside the juice.
  2. Peel the remaining lemons with as little pith as possible since that’s the bit that makes it bitter, and put the peels in a large pot. Set up a large bowl with ice water.
  3. Blanch the peels (boil for 30 seconds, then submerge in ice bath, which helps maintain color and stops the cooking). Do this three times with fresh water each time. When blanched three times, discard the water and put the peels back in the pot, but don’t turn on the stove yet.
  4. With the now-naked lemons, remove as much pith as you can. I found that removing the nubs at either end (there’s got to be a proper word for that) will grab a lot of the pith. Slice the lemons, doesn’t matter how thick, remove any seeds and throw the slices in the pot with the peels.
  5. Add the reserved lemon juice. Add the sugar.
  6. Boil it all for about 30 minutes or until it reduces by about one-third. The juice and the sugar create a syrup, and the peels will be very soft, but still intact. This is a good time to stir around for any remaining seeds.
  7. Process the whole concoction in a food processor or blender. Be careful: when processing hot items; there will be a lot of steam and expansion. I used a food processor and removed the feeding tube to let the steam escape, and my food processor bowl accommodated the whole thing just fine. If using a blender, be sure to hold a kitchen towel over the top, and you might need to process in batches. If that’s the case, combine the batches in a bowl for cohesiveness.
  8. Then pour into storage containers and refrigerate. I used small glass jars with gasket lids, and one Mason jar with a dual lid. I did not boil them like you might do with jam because I do expect to use it fairly quickly; plus, I’ll parse out to other baker friends.

What have I learned? This is a great recipe if you have tons of lemons and time and want to make a pure paste that is only lemons and sugar. But if you think this is a sour idea, go ahead and buy this Lemon Paste from Nielsen-Massey, which is really quite nice.

If you make it, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think and what you make with the paste. And definitely tag me on Instagram @AmuseBouchePastry (but only if it’s good, of course)!  

You Have Sourdough Starter – Now What?

IMG_0155I beg your forgiveness. It’s been four months since my last blog post. Mix getting laid off with a few family emergencies, then throw in the stupid virus…and here we are. But, sourdough was enough to bring me out of my funk. Seriously – sourdough! Somewhat makes sense: it’s sour, it’s bread (I’m Armenian. We’re bread people!), it takes patience and some attention, but then you get this great thing!

But, I have no patience. There. I said it. So why would I do this? When there’s a flour shortage. Don’t even get me started on yeast. Those who know me know that I’m a pastry girl — I’ll whip you a tarte au citron no problem. But, bread? Not my thing. Too much science, not enough patience.

I figure, what the hell. I’ve done croissants, baguettes and brioche.  Everyone’s talking about sourdough and maybe I feel left out. People say, “it takes patience, you have to keep a starter fed,” blah blah blah. Having a starter is like having a plant – if you’ve been in my house, you’ll notice I don’t have any. I. Just. Kill. Them. That “feeding” thing. “All you have to do is keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week,” my friend says. Yeah, let’s see. She gave me some of hers to get, er, started.

I named him Ralph. Fast forward three weeks, and Ralph is miraculously still alive. I’ve fed him, sure, but have otherwise ignored him (plants!). Now he’s getting too big for me not to make bread – I’ve got Ralph Jr., Ralph III, etc. Out of the fridge, onto the counter overnight, and boy did that starter grow! Yay! Ralph not dead!

But…I didn’t get to him fast enough, and what was once big and fluffy is now deflated. (I IMG_0183know what your dirty minds are thinking, but let’s try to stay focused.) So, I’m trying the light bulb thing: put Ralph in the oven with the oven light on to create a warm and cozy place…like a New Englander coming out of hibernation. It’s been a couple of hours, and it seems like we’re in business. Ralph has increased in size and has some good bubblage on top. Time to bake while the bakin’s good.

I figured the only way to learn is trial and error. Plus, I have some salted butter standing by to slather on that warm bread right out of the oven (which is actually a no-no — who woulda thunk??). I read through a couple of sourdough-for-dummy-style articles online; however, as I have a tendency to overthink things, I’m just gonna wing it. That said, I did uncover some basics:

  • Put your starter in a container with plenty of space to grow, and mark the container either with a piece of tape or a rubber band (this way, you’ll be able to see if it rises). If you don’t intend to bake right away, store your starter in the fridge and “feed” it once a week. After all, it’s a living thing. To do this, first discard half of it (smart people will use this “discard” for pancakes or waffles). Weigh the remaining starter and add equal parts flour and water (meaning, if your starter is 50g, mix in 50g of flour and 50g of water). Mix to incorporate. Back in fridge.
  • If you DO intend to use the starter immediately (which, btw, does NOT mean you’ll be wuffin’ sourdough by dinnertime), feed it at the same time each day until you’re ready to finish the process. Keep it on the counter.
  • Beware the hooch! If you see a brown liquid on the top of your starter, pour it off along with any of the starter that looks icky. Hooch doesn’t mean your starter is dead; it just means you need to feed it. However, if it smells like dirty gym socks, you may need to start over. You be the judge.
  • Sourdough starter will rise and fall. That’s what it does. But, when it’s gassy and bubbly (it will be obvious), it’s READY. Those bubbles mean your yeast is working and will yield great flavor and texture (to hold all that butter).

With a sourdough starter ready to go, then all it takes is mixing up bread flour or a hearty combo of bread or all-purpose flour and/or other flours such as oat, spelt, whole wheat, rye, etc., along with water, maybe some olive oil and salt. It then needs an inordinate amount of time (think overnight) to rise before you shape it.

Do yourself a favor and find a couple videos on how to shape a sourdough boule. It doesn’t take a long time, but it is a technique. Once you shape it, you put it in a cast iron pot (or on a sheet pan) to rest and rise again, but only for a couple of hours. Then…bake! I’ll tell you this: if you don’t let it cool completely (here’s where the patience comes in), it will be somewhat gummy inside. So just wait. Plan that sandwich, soften that butter, make some strawberry jam.

If you liked what you produced, then maybe take the next steps. Learn more about things like baker’s percentage, hydration level, autolyze and fermentation (which you likely did but didn’t know), as well as delicious things to do with starter “discard” (English muffins, waffles, scallion pancakes, fry bread, oh my!). Check out this great video for beginners by some guy named Mike.

Here are a couple of beginner starter and sourdough recipes to try:

They key thing is don’t be afraid to just do it. You’ll likely turn out something that is delicious even if it’s ugly, or a beautiful loaf that may be bland. In any case, practice will definitely be a delicious experiment! Now, where’s that buttah?



Gifts for the Baker in Your Life

headshotIf you know a baker, you probably know that they (er, we) can be difficult to shop for (oy, Mrs. McDonnell, my eighth grade English teacher, just rolled over).

You know, it’s lovely to receive a gift, and I’m always thankful that someone is thoughtful enough to spend time and money on me. I love the gesture — really, I do — and I never want to appear ungrateful. However, at my age, there’s just not much I want. I’d rather go to a movie with a friend, have coffee with my cousins or sit by the fire with my husband. Those are the priceless things in my life. (Oof, I really should lay off the wine when writing…) The point is that I wouldn’t want anyone (including my parents, husband or friends) to spend money on anything that’s going to sit in a closet, be donated or be re-gifted (oh, don’t @ me; we all do it).heavenly-chocolate

Don’t get me wrong; there’s definitely stuff that bakers can use at any point in their careers: spatulas, wooden spoons, offsets, silicone mats and parchment paper (can’t ever have enough of that). If they’re just starting out, you have tons of options! For me, though, I feel like I have every conceivable gadget and tool with little room for more.

Chef Jason Licker

So, what’s on my Christmas list? I love a unique ingredient that will give a healthier spin on something or spark some creativity. Or, maybe a cookbook that will teach me something new. My mom always scoffs at the idea of getting me a book; but, short of a trip to Europe, I’m happy with a new cookbook from reputable, professional sources. I typically read them through, tagging every page with the priority items I want to make.

Here are a few suggestions:


  • The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg, which I wish I had prior to culinary school. This one’s great for someone looking to develop their skills.
  • French Patisserie: Master Recipes and Techniques by FerrandiSchool of Culinary Arts. This is a beautiful book focused on iconic French pastry (don’t expect cupcakes in this one).
  • Chefs Zebrowski (R) & MIgnano (L)

    The Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book (Volume II is on pre-sale now, but Volume I definitely earned a spot in my workspace) by Chefs Michael Zebrowski and Michael Mignano. This is a book written by chefs for chefs. You don’t have to be advanced to use it, but you should have some solid technical knowledge.

  • Lickerland by Chef Jason Licker. Gorgeous photography, human stories and Asian-inspired classic pastry.
  •  Bachour the Baker by Antonio Bachour. Frankly, there’s a lot to learn from Bachour. This is my inspirational one.
  • Pastry Love by Joanne Chang of the chain of Flour Bakery & Cafés in Boston. It’s a great collection of recipes made for her cafes — cakes, sticky buns, whoopie pies — and she’s just a marvelous human being.


banana macs

I recently discovered a brand called nubeleaf in Ventura, California. Among their extensive portfolio of ingredients once considered “alternative” such as Organic Spirulina, Pea Protein and Hemp Protein powders, nubeleaf has products that totally spoke to me: Organic Banana Powder for my Banana Cream Pie Macarons (left; recipe coming in a couple weeks), Organic Beet Powder that can add a brilliant natural color to something yummy, and myriad fruit powders that I’ll probably try in the spring when everything’s fruity.IMG_8156-2

Since it’s the holidays, I went for nubeleaf’s Organic Cacao Powder because…um…chocolate! To be honest, they sent me some to try. Plus, I had a cake to make for a friend, so I figured why not. At first, I was a little skeptical because it was lighter in color than my go-to, more-expensive cacao powder. Would it be as rich and chocolatey and, ultimately, would it perform?

To put it to the test, I grabbed my Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book, Volume I and honed in on the Devil’s Food Cake I mean, what’s more chocolately than that? The cacao powder whisked up beautifully with rich color, smooth texture and divine aroma. Once baked, I trimmed each layer (mainly so my husband and I could taste the cake), brushed them with a coffee syrup, added an Irish cream Swiss meringue buttercream and topped it with a chocolate-covered espresso beans. SHWING! My friend loved it and told me I need to sell this one in my (eventual) pastry shop.

You’ve got to be willing to try something new to discover something great!

I hope you got some delicious ideas for the baker in your life. Remember, it’s only good for you that you enable them to bake more! (wink)

I’d love to hear your comments and other great gift suggestions! In the meantime, you can see more of me and my pastry on Instagram @AmuseBouchePastry. I’d love the follows!




I Heart NY!

IMG_3921Now, I’ve had some less-than-desirable assignments, but this was not one of them. I was heading to New York for the Valrhona C3 in Brooklyn to watch some of the world’s top pastry chefs compete in chocolate and plated desserts. The dozen or so competitors comprised mid-career chefs at the top of their game. They were focused, skilled and practiced down to the minute, adeptly moving from required element to required element.

Enter the master judges – Chefs Antonio Bachour and Karim Bourgi among them. I’ve been following them for years, so it

was cool to meet them in person and watch as they tasted each dish. I examined their faces, their expressions of surprise, delight, dismay, disappointment, and I reveled in IMG_3988them devouring a whole dish even when there were maybe 10 more in each round.

The winner, Yusuke Aoki, Executive Pastry Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Resort in Bali, was inspirational. His plated dessert with fig and chocolate was as beautiful as it must have been tasty… Okay, so there’s that.

After the C3, I met two amazing pastry chefs in the City – Michael Zebrowski, IMG_4039Pastry Chef and Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, and Michael Mignano, then Executive Pastry Chef at The Pierre Hotel and now Chef/Owner of the brand new Farine Baking Company in Jackson Heights. Beyond their “day jobs,” these two penned “The Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book,” which is a not-so-little, best-selling compendium written by chefs, for chefs. I was thrilled to add a signed copy to my shelves – not to collect dust, but as a practical, to-the-point workbook. The weirdo editor in me was thrilled it was on matte paper – ever make a note on coated or glossy paper, only for you to accidentally run your hand over it? Ack.

After touring the kitchen – which, if you know me, I’m a total dork about – we sat down. IMG_4010And ate. I was coerced into ordering the “best burger in the city,” which was amazing and enormous, potentially worthy of the accolade. We talked as Zebrowski regularly nicked my fries, which I took as a chef’s version of blood brothers (er, what’s the PC-version of that? I dunno.). Whatev – instant friends.

But then dessert. Sweet Holy Moses! Mignano brought out pretty much every dessert on Perrine’s menu, including the Mignano Bar: his trademarked, drool-worthy  deliciousness of cashew and macadamia salted caramel, caramelized puffed rice, single-origin dark chocolate ganache, all covered in dark chocolate and garnished with Hawaiian sea salt…and house-made candy corn…and caramel movie-theater buttered popcorn gelato (top left, below). And, yes, the recipe is in the book, and I’m sure you’ll be able to get it at Farine when it opens. You’ll want one. Get in line behind Jimmy Fallon, who reportedly ordered a bunch of these.

As I rolled out of our meeting, I went back to my hotel to meet up with a friend who came from L.A., along with some cousins from Boston – hopefully you have these types of friends/family who are totally down for an afternoon in NYC and a pastry crawl. Here’s our path through some of the best shops in the city:

IMG_3862Supermoon Bakehouse – the trendy, opal-esque shop attracts people for the Insta-worthy snaps alone, never mind the embellished croissants, but they were just ok. I know, I know, blasphemy, but I judge every shop by the quality of their plain croissant, which wasn’t exceptionallyIMG_3870 buttery. But, the other flavors were fun, even though cloyingly sweet. The shop is clean, unclear and has poor seating; but, whatever, go spend $6 on a croissant worthy of social media.

Stick with Me Sweets – Chef Suzanna Yoon has a lovely, NYC-sized (i.e., tiny) shop filled with gem-like bonbons and IMG_9358adorable packaging that just invites you to invest. Yes, they’re pricey, but totally worth the splurge. Good chocolate and good bon bons are good for a reason. The clerk wasn’t too hospitable or knowledgeable beyond what we could read in the display, but ignore her and pick up a six-pack of your favorites. You know, for your BAE.

Mah-Ze-Dar – A hip little shop with computer-campers occupying the very few tables in the place. Since we got there after noon, they had few pastries available except for this reputed “old-fashioned donut,” but I found it to be a donut in search of a coffee dunk. Oh, and bring plastic because they don’t take cash. Um, what? However,Umber Ahmad was just nominated as a 2019 James Beard Semi-Finalist for Outstanding Baker, so it may be worth another try. In the morning. With cash.IMG_3891 (1)

Patisserie Chanson – Ever see “Big Night”? Ignore the block-sized Eataly across the street, and step into this great spot from Chef Rory MacDonald. It’s a bright, shiny space filled with happy people and plenty of pastries to go or enjoy in. I got the buttery, sweet Kouign Aman (one of my faves) and, on the way out, had a starig problem with the Dark Chocolate Ficelle Baguette – I mean, don’t we need that for something? A snack later? Oh, and don’t forget to ask about the late-late-night dessert tasting.

My cousins abandoned my friend and I at this point as we continued on. We’re serious crawlers, lumbering around NYC at this point. Our next stop was a schlep from Chanson, but we felt it was necessary. We felt wrong.IMG_3909

Epicerie Boulud was over-crowded, under-appealing and disorganized. With no sign of a line (not in the good way) and what seemed like more fast-lunch options than I thought Boulud was known for, we passed up the pre-packaged madeleines and walked out. I think this might be worth another try because of the Chef’s rep; but, by now, we were tired and cranky and not willing to figure it out.

Almondine – We got back to DUMBO around 2pm where we found Almondine to be out of pretty much everything. I can appreciate this as an indication that we missed something tasty. This shop is on a totally cute street, right across from…

IMG_3915Jacques Torres – As it was the end of October and a “little chilly” (not exactly how my friend would describe it; dressed like she were in the Arctic, she would say, “fucking freezing”), Torres’s special hot chocolate with chili pepper was tempting and exactly the type of thing my friend would love (and need). Perusing the rows of Halloween-themed chocolate bon bons, we opted instead for Torres’s famous chocolate chip cookie (you know, for later). I know, some of you are saying, why not have both, but seriously consider everything we ate to this point…and we weren’t about to skip dinner! (Insert pig emoji here.) The IMG_3916cookie was delicious and nutty, I’d imagine made with ground almonds. The massive amount of bonbons went virtually unnoticed among the hordes of people slugging down the hot chocolate and cookies.

We walked approximately 20 minutes from there to finally sit, rest, warm up and eat a solid meal at Queen, a IMG_3924family-run Italian joint since 1958. I assume it was the owner who greeted us in old-world-style class, clad fully in a thre-piece suit. We settled in for an authentic Italian meal – how could you have anything else in Brooklyn? I could have sat there for hours chatting with the servers and fellow diners…except I was about to fall asleep in my parm.

A warm Uber back to the hotel in Brooklyn, and we said our good nights and cozied up in our closet-sized rooms. Ha, I’m SO oblivious to New York life, but I’m willing to go back and get used to it!

Places to try next time:

Sweet! A Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tour

IMG_3484For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d track down some of the country’s best chocolates and pastries. I know, I know, somebody’s got to do it, so I took one for the team and hit up four LA-based shops first (mainly because my shipments from others across the US haven’t arrived yet – what can I say, I ordered late…not like you’ve never done that). Unlike some boyfriends, these choices did not disappoint. Some were sweet, some were creamy, and all elicited satisfaction. Hmmm.

IMG_4799Valerie Confections

This is a quaint little shop in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. Let’s just say I’m glad Valerie Confections opening an outlet in Woodland Hills because the parking on this busy corner isn’t the best…and this is a place IMG_3492where you’d love to hang out, have a coffee and chat with your bestie. I picked up the “Pink Box: a box of 20 – 5 each of the Caramel Hearts, Blushing Berry Truffles, Arrow Truffles and Broken Hearts. The ivory-colored box with a dainty pink ribbon is a lovely look. You know, for us dainty types.

Dominique Ansel

IMG_4831Ah, Dominique Ansel in Los Angeles is in a beautiful setting in The Grove – you can maybe imagine yourself in a park in Paris (maybe, if not for the traffic to get there). No, I didn’t get the Cronut of the month, but I did get a few different cutie-swootsie pastries from their Pink Pastry Case: a Mocha Chili Éclair, a Pink Himalayan Salt Caramel Éclair, a Cupid Religeuse and a pink Paris-Brest. However, I should also have indulged in the beautifulIMG_4804a Strawberry Elder-flower Cake for 2, with lemon financier cake, strawberry gelée, and creamy elderflower ganache. But no, I was sensible. Ugh, where did sensible ever get me?


IMG_4828Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of the original shop on the Champs Elysees in Paris – it’s trendy, crowded, and staffed with obnoxious people flinging your order at you after you have to yell it to them over the sneeze guard. Think: Elaine in the soup episode of Seinfeld. But the quaint shop in Los Angeles is welcoming and nestled two doors down from Dominique Ansel, which puts it right along the IMG_3474alovely fountain and park-like setting in The Grove. The staff were lovely, and I picked up the most beautiful box of rose-flavored macarons. Apparently, the concept behind the box is a traditional French game called “Daisy Petals” where each player picks a “petal” to reveal the feelings of their partner. Wanna play?

& Sons

Now, Kriss Harvey called himself the “Chocolatier of Beverly Hills” and, let me tell you, it IMG_4839may just be true. Located right off Rodeo Drive, this chocolatier recently opened his flagship boutique after his tenure at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s a beautiful shop – be sure to look up to see the mural of a cacao tree on the ceiling, painted by a local artist. Likewise, Chef Harvey’s IMG_4836boxes are designed by local artists as well, but he’s purely responsible for the delectable gems inside. Yes, spend the money if you – or your loved one – appreciates good chocolate.

What’s your favorite chocolate? And don’t you even say “See’s.” Worse, don’t even go with “Er, chocolate’s not really my thing.” Oy.

IMG_3459For more pictures, go to @AmuseBoucheMB on Instagram!


A Taste of Paris

IMG_5531.JPGHeading to Paris? Grab a cup of coffee, go sit outside, and give this a read for some of the tastiest spots to visit in the City of Lights. Just imagine yourself sitting in a café watching people go by. Yes, people actually do this, and so did I while living in Paris for a year. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I frequently get asked for where to go and what to eat. Living in the center of the city, I was spoiled by the view from my balcony, and I was conveniently within walking distance to the Tour Eiffel, the banks of the Seine and of course, the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which, don’t’cha know, is guarded by a little-sister replica of the Statue of IMG_5530Liberty.

My year was spent on learning French pastry and visiting cook shops, including one famously frequented by Julia Child (who also went to Le Cordon Bleu, but I’m sure you knew that). Beyond the tourist spots – Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Musee du Louvre – I amassed a list of favorite places to visit, especially for that perfect croissant or authentic French rolling pin.

First, the Patisseries:

Cyril Lignac – My First Love. Be sure to get the Equinox Cake (photo) or the Kouign
Amann. Trust me.
img_5085.jpgLenotre – a classy shop with sweet and savory choices, but my favorite was their
Du Pain et Des Idees – the Pistachio Chocolate Snail is seriously ah-mazing! And the ladies who run the place are charming and speak some English.
Dalloyau – a lovely shop to sit down and enjoy afternoon tea with your bestie.
Des Gateau et du Pain – a great selection of pastries and breads.
Pierre Herme – if you’re Napoleon fan – the pastry, not the short guy – the deux mille feuille is for you!
Laduree – I’m not a fan, but it seems to be a tourist spot; there’s one on the Champs Elysees, but I wouldn’t make the trip just for that. There’s also one in Los Angeles now.

Basically, try croissants and Kouign Amanns everywhere you go! Long live the Kouign!

My Favorite Food and Shopping

For a great afternoon, head to Rue Montorgueil and Rue Montmartre for shops, restos and patisseries. You can easily loll away a few hours wandering these beautiful cobblestone streets. Go hungry, because some of the best of the best is in this area. There IMG_7550are beautiful fruits at the stands along these streets, especially in the spring. You can literally eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert with some shopping and more coffee in between. Must eats include Fou du Patisserie, which is known for its collection of pastry from France’s best patissiers; and L’Eclair de Genie, Christophe Adam’s beautiful shop (he has other locations too). Stohrer is also there, but, despite it being the oldest patisserie in Paris, I found it somewhat meh. Also, if I were to have my own patisserie, I’d want it to look like Café Pouchkine (photo), which is what you may imagine a French patisserie to look like. If you walk as far as Boneshaker Donuts (pretty much the only good donuts in Paris, but they can run you €5 for one), tell them I said hello!

If you’re in the market for cookware (who isn’t? or is it just me?), while you’re in the IMG_7349Montorgueil area, make the pilgrimage to E. Dehellerin (affectionately known as “E.D.”), where Julia Child (and I) shopped while living in Paris. Be sure to look up since many things hang from the ceiling. This really is the best (and cheapest) cookery store in Paris; nothing has prices – you have to look at the label for the item number, then look it up in binders at the end of the aisle. There are a couple other cookery shops – Bovida and A. Simon – but if you only have enough time and suitcase space for one, go to E.D. If you have extra suitcase space, let me know!

For cooking supplies and decorating tools, stop at Deco Relief – there’s one on Rue Montorgueil and another directly behind it on Rue Montmartre. There’s also G. Detou, a IMG_6716very tiny and often disorganized shop for chocolate, nuts, vanilla powder, Tonka, mustards, and other Frenchy ingredients. Chocolate prices are similar at Deco Relief and G. Detou, so if you can’t make it to one or the other, no worries (but get me some).

If you’re a cookbook lover, absolutely be sure to visit Librairie Gourmande for cookbooks. Most are in French, but there are some English-lang on the second floor. I love this store, and they are very nice (and speak English)! Feel free to pick up a gift for your favorite blogger!

Be sure to venture to the Montmartre to experience Popelini, a cream puff of a shop named for the chef who invested choux pastry. You’ll need the energy to make it up the steps to Sacre Couer anyway, and you’ll want to if only for the beautiful view looking over Montmatre. Moulin Rouge ($$$ for a show) and “related” non-kid-appropriate shops are all within the same area.

I can’t leave out a couple of the great food halls in Paris. Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman in the 9th. It’s like Rodeo Drive all in one building, filled with high-end men’s and women’s clothing and houseware brands. More importantly, there’s one entire building dedicated to food and eating. If you enter at street level, you’ll be treated to many of the great patisseries in one place, including Yann Couvreur, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé and L’éclair de Genie. Walk around the floor, and you’ll come across this amazing spice shop, which you’ll smell before you even see (I forget the name, but you’ll know it when you smell it). Imagine pyramids of spices, teas, salts, peppers and compounds. There are also a couple of places to sit and have a nice lunch before heading downstairs, but they’re somewhat pricey. Just head to the bottom floor for local and imported (i.e., American) groceries, pastas, chocolates, etc. Skip the Lucky Charms (especially since they’re close to €15), and head straight for the Christine Ferber jam and chocolate. Just leave me here and save yourself.

IMG_5535Similar to Galleries Lafayette is Bon Marche’s Le Grande Epicerie on Rue de Sevres in the 7th, easily accessible by the Metro. Bon Marche itself is similar to Lafayette – lots of exquisite shopping, so if you need the latest Prada bag or Hermes scarf, head there. You’ll find me in Le Grande Epicerie, again, a whole building unto itself with French and imported foods. Head to the boulangerie for some great breads. Just a few feet to the left of that is the service food area, with cases of lunch choices you can enjoy at nearby tables. There’s also a department for foie gras (ick), prosciutto and cheese. Lots of cheese. Watch out for the souvenir section, though – there’s a lot to choose from, but choose wisely because items are quite pricey. But, look for Paris-themed tins of cookies, unique chocolates and Kuzmi Tea.

On a beautiful day, be sure to take a walk through Le Marais, a really nice artistic hipster area. There are some blogs online that suggest walking routes and shops to visit, but you’ll definitely want to pick up the special falafel at L’As du Fallafel (Lenny Kravitz’s choice proudly declared on its wall). Enormous portions and long lines at lunch, but it’s worth it and the lines go quickly.

My Picks for Museums and GardensIMG_4263

Certainly if you have time and can still fit through the door after eating so much, make time to visit the Musée D’Orsay, a less-crowded and more lovely experience than the Louvre (admit it, you’re only going to see Mona, Venus, and Winged Victory anyway). Another museum I’d absolutely recommend is the Musée Rodin, a small, but charming, museum that will take just an hour or so depending on how long you stay in the sculpture garden.Also, if you’re going to the Tour Eiffel, you can get tickets online and avoid the epic security and ticket lines. If you’re there in summer, enjoy a spin on the nearby carousel (one of many peppering the city), and then stroll along the souvenir vendors on Quai CroissantsBranly/Quai de Grenelle. Continue to walk along the river toward the Statue of Liberty for about 1 kilometer, and you’ll come upon Le Cordon Bleu, which you can stop in for the BEST croissant in Paris, a 3-hour focused workshop or simply the café and gift shop. Be sure to say hello for me! If you’re lucky enough to get beautiful weather, absolutely visit the Jardin du Luxembourg and stroll among the Queens. It’s a beautiful park with children floating toy boats on a fountain IMG_8895pound and chairs all around for relaxing, which is really a French art. Talk to people, make friends, watch the kids’ faces light up with glee.

For More Information:

You can Google any of these for more info. Everything is accessible by Metro and/or bus. You can buy individual bus tickets on the bus itself or get a packet of 10 at the machine near the ticket window in Metro stations for a worthy savings. If you’re going all over the city, be sure to get the kind that allows you to transfer and use the bus or Metro. Also, there’s an app called “RATP,” which is Paris’s transportation system that will map you to any Metro/bus/train in Paris – amazingly helpful!

If you visit Paris, let me know if you visited any of these and how you liked them (or not). I’d love to hear from you!

Also read:
Things I Didn’t Know About France
Croissants in Paris, the Viennoiserie Promised Land

Want to see some French Pastry? Follow me on Instagram @AmuseBoucheMB!

South in the Mouth: The Real Southwest

This is the last in my “South in the Mouth” series. I hope you’ve followed our adventures of two food-obsessed girls driving from Florida to California! If not, why not go back and see where we’ve been?

Stop 4: Santa Fe, NM & Arizona via Route 66

IMG_1108Coming from Texas and the congeniality we experienced at Monroe’s Peach Ranch, we ambled along the Plain. Flat. Long. Road. To get to Santa Fe. Santa Fe was an intended stop, and my friend was really excited about it. She loves southwestern art – the whole terra-cotta-Georgia-O’Keefe thing. I was hoping there was a little more than that, because those who know me know I’m not a southwestern type of gal! Frankly, I think all of O’Keefe’s paintings look like lady bits.

Anywho…we get to Santa Fe and pulled into the Sage Inn & Suites. Judging by the lobby, it had potential to be cute, and its location next to a walk-up Starbucks didn’t hurt, but let’s just say I was glad there were two State Patrol officers staying in the room next door. Thankfully, I talked my friend down to a one-night stay (to afford us two in New Orleans!).

At least the hotel had a handy shuttle to the downtown square, which is where most everything in Santa Fe is – restaurants, museums, galleries, shops. It’s a nice day’s worth of sightseeing and, because of our short time in town, we did the easy-to-find stuff.IMG_1098

While in the square, we found a popular Southwestern restaurant tucked away in a quaint little courtyard. While we waited for a table, we had a few minutes to browse the neighboring gallery of Indian art and jewelry, none of which I could afford.

We were hungry, so we ordered a pork and cheese tamale to share, along with chips with an avocado cream dip and house salsa, and IMG_1102house-made soups (it was February and somewhat chilly). The soups were warm and satisfying, but my friend makes better tamales, so we weren’t as impressed as I think we were supposed to be. We decided to ask the concierge for a good, authentic place to go for dinner, and we looked forward to that.

In the meantime, we meandered around Santa Fe to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (pictured above), a beautiful church in the middle of town that was established in 1610. It still offers mass and tours of the basilica. Did you know a cathedral gets “elevated” to the moniker of “basilica”? I didn’t.

We stopped in the Georgia O’Keefe museum gift shop (which was all about I could handle), and then a brief stop in the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Similar to the New Orleans School of Cooking, they only teach their local cuisine – chiles, salsas, rellenos, etc. – so if you’re into that, go for it. But the two snooty women in the gift shop are far IMG_1106eclipsed by the nice staff in New Orleans, and we bought nothing. We moved on to a cute (and welcoming) wine-tasting room called Noisy Water. Two very nice staff helped us to picking wines to taste, all from their own cellars, including their very unique red or green chile wines. Be adventurous and give them a try! This was a really pleasant space, the people were nice, and the wine was good. If you’re in Santa Fe, do make a point to stop here.

So that dinner? We drove five minutes down the road to Tomasita’s, which we were hoping would be good. We figured it was recommended by the hotel (hmmm) and, judging by the crowd and hour wait, we figured it would be fantastic. Are you familiar with the chains El Torito or Margaritas? Yeah, that. It was cheap, which would explain why so many families with screaming children were there. Let’s just say we should’ve researched our options.

By now, I’m ready to go home. It’s been a long week of driving, walking and eating – some good, some bad. Yes, it’s been fun, but we’re 6 days in and I’m just about cooked. We got a solid night’s sleep, and off to Arizona.

IMG_1146We didn’t drive the whole Route 66, but we stopped in Winslow, Arizona – you know: “Standin on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” – a cute little town of approximately 10,000 people. You go to do one thing: stand on the corner with the statues of “a relaxed dude” and Eagles’ singer-songwriter Glenn Frey. There are great stories behind the corner park and, if you’re driving by, be a dork and do the whole picture thing. And stop in the gift shops for some Route 66 paraphernalia.

Also, while you’re in this little bitty town, IMG_1142which was once the largest town in Northern Arizona, be sure to stop by their monument to 9/11. It’s quite respectable, complete with a piece of the Twin Towers.

Hallelujah, we’re off to Williams, our last stop! My friend was all hopped up for Williams. She had visited this one-street town 10 years prior as a gateway to her Grand Canyon adventure. (And, no, we weren’t doing that this time.) IMG_1179Ours was merely a sleep-stop before heading home; but, if you had to pick a good place to stop, this was it. (Tip: don’t buy gas at the station right near this sign! It’s half as much on the main street.) It was late afternoon by the time we got there, so we checked into the Lodge Motel, a very cute, very clean inn on the main (only) drag. We dumped our stuff, and walked up and down the street, which was peppered with little shops with Grand Canyon touristy stuff and restaurants.

Having had enough of southwestern food, we opted for Station 66 Italian Bistro: good wood-fired pizza, good salad, lousy service. And we

were the only two in the place! After dinner, we strolled down to Oh, Sweetie’s ice cream shop for a scoop of Philadelphia-style ice cream (ice cream made without eggs) and had a yummy scoop of Cookies ‘n Cream. We strolled by the sunset light back to our hotel and thought, “hmm, this is a cute town. I need to go to the Grand IMG_1192Canyon someday.” As we drove back to Los Angeles, we said we hoped Williams doesn’t get gentrified to the point it loses its charm. Sure enough, it was featured in the LA Times Travel section the week after we got home. Sigh.

Places to try next time:
Ohori’s Coffee Roasters (Santa Fe)
Joseph’s Culinary Pub (Santa Fe)
Shake Foundation Hamburger & Shake Stand (Santa Fe)
Rod’s Steakhouse (Williams)




South in the Mouth: Northwest Texas

Follow my “South in the Mouth” series as I share the adventures of two food-obsessed girls driving from Florida to California.

Stop 4: Northwest Texas

So, Waco isn’t really a destination, per se, but if you’re going to pass through, you may as well stop for a few good finds. We were driving from Austin (OMG, the BBQ!) to Santa Fe, which is pretty aggressive, so we decided that it would be smart to stop halfway. Unfortunately, the halfway mark was Amarillo and, other than a questionably clean bed for the night, we weren’t planning to stick around.IMG_1081

But, on our way to Amarillo, my Austin cousins advised us to stop in West, Texas, not far from Austin on our way north. This little Czech town right off Interstate 35 is filled with bakeries and what looked like some cute establishments, but we opted for a quick buzz into The Little Czech Bakery for a couple IMG_1082
Kolaches – sweet or savory rolls filled with anything from jalapeno and cheese, to blueberry and cream cheese, fruit and more.

It was early morning and we hadn’t thought to stop back at Rudy’s for breakfast tacos (dammit! That’s a IMG_1086
sure miss!), and we passed the last opportunity for Buc-ee’s (another fail!), not that it would’ve usurped a stop at Kolache Central. I got a ham and cheese kolache for breakfast (seemed suitable) and a blueberry cream cheese one for breakfast #2 (shut up, that’s a thing!). The ham and cheese one was on the salty side, and a road trip isn’t the best time to guzzle a bottle of water, so I gave it a grade of “eh.” The blueberry one, on the other hand, was delish, a perfect mid-morning snack.

But our real destination on this leg was Magnolia, the home store and bakery (bakery!) IMG_1074helmed by Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame. These people have a cult following (no pun intended, considering this is Waco…and if you’re old enough to understand the reference), including my friend, who has seen every episode of the show. I’ve seen a couple, and they seem like good people, but aren’t without controversy (who is?). Regardless, they really have put Waco back on the map in a nice way.

Magnolia is easy to find and has plenty of parking. It’s in a cute “downtown” square – look for the twin silos – and has plenty of parking in a designated lot next to the shop. We first took a spin through the store, which I can only describe as a more rustic and spaced-out Crate & Barrel: very charming, very clean, very expensive (more than Crate & Barrel, which has some great deals!). My friend got a tea towel and a mug for $42. I got nothing. I was in it for the bakery.

IMG_1065Silos Baking Co. is on the same property, but in its own shop separated only by a common charming courtyard with plenty of seating. The bakery has a peculiar concept, though. You walk in and are given a quasi order sheet, but you can’t see anything until you’re up to the registers and, even then, the bakery case is beyond that. If you’re like me, you need to see things, so you just excuse your way to the front, then you go back to the back, get your order slip and then get in line. Not very efficient if you ask me.

We opted for a broad selection: a cupcake; two cheese, bacon and chive biscuits; and a IMG_1066cute sugar cookie. Don’t judge – we still had a lot of driving to do and we ate everything over the course of the day. Everything was moderately priced: $3.50 for most of the cupcakes, and even a gluten-free one for $3.00. With flavors like Strawberries and Cream and Lemon Lavender, along with the classic vanilla, chocolate and red velvet, you’re bound to find one you like. The cakes were moist and the buttercreams were light and IMG_1075afluffy like you’d expect. My friend enjoyed a classic cupcake – vanilla cake with chocolate icing – and was very pleased. Strangely enough, I wasn’t in the mood for a cupcake, so I opted for a large Classic Sugar Cookie IMG_1095($2.50), which was buttery and crumbly, but nothing special. Our biscuits, however, were divine: moist and flavorful and substantial enough for lunch on the road. If you had one with a salad, it would be a perfect lunch (they don’t have salads, but I was just saying).

We gathered our brown bags from the bakery and walked the two minutes down the block to the Findery, a similar concept store run by two charming ladies. Very homey, moderately priced and some cute finds. Honestly, we didn’t have much more room left in the car (or my tiny apartment kitchen) or I would’ve purchased a couple of kitchen things. But do give this shop a spin; you won’t regret it, even if you just come away with a pleasant experience and some great decorating ideas.

We wanted to get to Amarillo by sunset, so we got back on Highway 287. Let me tell you this – there’s nothing on this road, not a rest stop, not a gas station. Nothing. A couple IMG_1092hours in, we saw an oasis in the desolate, flat landscape (seriously, have you ever driven through Texas?): Monroe’s Peach Ranch in Hedley, Texas, about 70 miles east of Amarillo. There’s a fruit stand on both sides of the highway, and it’s run by, wait for it, the Monroe Family. The parents run the stand on the south side; son Troy runs the north.

As it was February, it wasn’t exactly peach season, which was a bummer because who wouldn’t love farm-fresh peaches? Peach cobbler, peach coulis, grilled peaches? Oooh, yes! But, Monroe’s also farms apples, plums, watermelon and cantaloupe, IMG_1091as well as tomatoes in the summer, and pecans and peanuts in the winter. Troy couldn’t have been more welcoming and charming, and he graciously answered questions about the farm (we’re city girls, after all) and what’s in season. We got a bag of couple varieties of apples to last the rest of our trip, and two bags of IMG_1627roasted-in-shell peanuts. I also picked up a bottle of Monroe’s Sweet Bourbon Glaze, which Troy creates with a partner. I can’t wait to try it on grilled pork chops.

Monroe’s was one of the highlights of the whole trip, not just for the food, but for the experience. If you’re a food lover, love your food. This is America’s heartland, and it’s our responsibility to support local farmers. I can’t even imagine how hard farmers work and how under-appreciated they are. After all, out of sight, out of mind, right? No, that shouldn’t be the case If you have a local farm, co-op or farmers’ market, give it a try. I have a few near my home that I’m heading to next week, and there are farmers’ markets in my county every day of the week. Know your farmers, your food, where it comes from and how it’s treated. Honestly, it may not be the cheapest, but it will be the freshest. Talk to the farmers, ask what pesticides they use, where their farms are and what their specialties are. Then shop and enjoy (and bring your own bags!).

Moral of today’s story? There are a lot of worthy stops along a road trip. They may be small, they may be out of the way, but make it a point to explore and judge for yourself. In any case, it will be an experience.

Next stop: Santa Fe, New Mexico and Williams, Arizona. OMG, the charm alone is worth the trip. So glad I’m heading to Santa Fe for a conference in 2019!

South in the Mouth: Austin

Follow my “South in the Mouth” series as I share the adventures of two food-obsessed girls driving from Florida to California.

IMG_1030Stop 3: Austin, Texas

Visiting Austin was more to feed the soul than the body. My cousin – who is like a brother to me – moved there with his wife (like a sister too!) forever ago. Since then, they’ve had two amazing kids, and I’ve never visited. Since I was driving cross country, there couldn’t be a better time to drop in.

Coming off our eating frenzy in New Orleans (beignets, anyone?), we were feeling lazy enough for the long drive across Texas. Armed with our hotel breakfast banana and wannabe-croissant, we headed over the New Orleans bridge and readied ourselves for the 500-mile drive.

A couple hours in, we decided a mercy meal was in order, and stopped at a gas station with a Subway. I had eschewed Subway since the whole rubber-tire-chemical-in-the-bread debacle, but they had since cleaned up their act, and I was thankful to devour a turkey sammie. Sometimes you just have to compromise. Or faint. It was that serious.

Every now and then, we’d pass a truck stop called Buc-ee’s and its ubiquitous smiling beaver. Not needing to stop, we naively drove (at the speed limit, of course) past. We didn’t know what we were missing. Apparently they have a beef jerky bar that rivals no other! Damn! Oh well.

We got coffee somewhere but, other than that, we were saving ourselves for dinner: real IMG_1035Texas barbeque with my cousins. We arrived around 6:00 p.m. (dinnertime, coincidentally), and they would be home shortly after. I had a key, so we let ourselves in and set our housewarming gifts from NOLA on the table: some coffee from Café du Monde and some cookies-and-cream fudge for the kids, which made the 5-year-old particularly happy. After visiting for a bit, they took us to the perfect place: Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ (and gas station).

IMG_1036This is a no-frills place – parchment is your plate, plastic utensils and paper towels – but don’t let that fool you. Hospitality is big here in Texas. My cousin, my friend and I got in line while the rest of the family went to find a seat. You know it’s good when the place is packed. I gawked at the food being churned out at the counter, and we couldn’t imagine where to start, but my cousin had been there many times and knew exactly what to get. Then my cousin’s wife said, “when you get up there, tell them it’s your first time.”IMG_1040

Um, yeah, tantamount to wearing that big sombrero at the Mexican resto when it’s your birthday, they make a big deal out of BBQ Virgins (but at least they ask you first if they can announce it to everyone). Then they give you a taste of everything: the moist and extra-moist (who knew?) versions of the brisket, the smoked turkey, the smoked kielbasa, the creamed corn. Now I’m not a creamed corn fan, but I would’ve taken a bath in the stuff. Oh em gee!

We let my cousin order: extra-moist brisket (oh yeah!), pork ribs, a couple of sausage links, potato salad, cole slaw, beans. The guy was gonna give us a whole loaf of fresh white bread to go along with it (as is the norm), but we only needed a few slices for the kids. We grabbed a few beers and waters from the ice tub and our tray of food, but realized we forgot Rudy’s famous banana pudding (and a chocolate one too; can’t leave chocolate behind), so we went back for that.

We sat at the inside picnic tables and went to town. This is my kind of night: family, good food, laughing, eating. Really, what else is there? These kids are so amazing – one in high school and one in kindergarten – and it reminds me how much I miss them . After a quick drive around the local area, we buzzed home to relax in our jammies and gab for a while. My friend and I spent less than 12 hours in Austin, but they were good hours. Solid hours. I know Hubby and I have to come back for more quality time, quality ‘cue and good music during one of Austin’s famous festivals (aren’t the Foo Fighters coming next month?!). But, for now, we hit the hay before embarking on our trip through the rest of Texas, with a couple of interesting stops to come.