Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This post is coming a day late because I spent most of the day yesterday hiking around Defiance and Augusta, MO. I’m finally almost all the way better from my sports injury and as a result, I can add activities back into my weekend that I’ve missed. Hiking around the country is at the very top of my list.

There’s something so peaceful about taking a long walk through the country. I started the hike with my earphones in, but after a few minutes, I took them out. I didn’t need them to drown out city noise. I realized that I hardly ever get moments of pure silence in my day to day life. I wanted to take in all the sights and sounds.

There were times throughout the walk when I wanted to turn around. It’s been a while since I’ve walked seven miles at once so the temptation was strong. I even had a voice telling me, turn around, you’re going to hurt yourself again or aggravate your injury.

I chose to ignore the voice and take it slow instead. When I got thirsty, I stopped and took a drink. When my hiking boots annoyed me, I paused to readjust. I stopped for a minute when I heard the sound of a bubbling creek and I watched it pass from on top of a bridge. By going slower, I protected myself from getting hurt and I was able to more fully enjoy my surroundings.

I know long seven mile hikes aren’t for everyone but for me, they’re one of the best ways to relax. I felt all the stress and pressure of the past few weeks literally melt off me and focused on the present moment. It was exactly what I needed.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

I went to the Great Balloon Race in Forest Park this weekend and it was beautiful. Friday night was the balloon glow when they lit up all the hot air balloons, and then Saturday, they took off pretty much all at once. I’m glad I got to see both events. I haven’t gone since I was in undergrad and even though it was more crowded than I remembered, it was worth it.IMG_6240
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I’m loving this food graphic from The Washington Post. The newspaper’s food critic Tom Sietsema annotated a menu and then the paper published his notes as red scribblings. It’s a clever way of doing a review and more entertaining than reading a long one start to finish. Check out the full graphic in The Washington Post.

I think we could all use a good guide to French pastries. This one from Frenchly is pretty thorough. It also leads to some good pastry-oriented Instagram accounts that you might want to follow if you’re also obsessed with French pastries.

Speaking of good pastries… I had the best cinnamon roll of my life last week and it was VEGAN. I can barely believe it, but that’s the magic Reine Bayoc works at SweetArt in Shaw. I’d highly recommend stopping by for breakfast soon.IMG_6174

I wanted to stay out of the whole Cynthia Nixon bagel fiasco last week but I found myself deeply affected by it. I ended up weighing in with a couple tweets. I’m all for crazy food combinations but smoked salmon and a cinnamon raisin bagel seems like a step too far. I enjoyed this article in The Atlantic about the political repercussions of eating weird food. It put things in perspective…somewhat.

If you like Greek food, head to The Greek Kitchen. The restaurant recently reopened in Kirkood after shuttering its storefront in Ellisville, a suburb of St. Louis. The new location still has the same delicious food and a couple new items including baklava cheesecake. I’d highly recommend the spanikopita (pictured below). Read more about it in one of my recent stories for St. Louis MagazineIMG_6190

A lot of people think French cooking is difficult but it doesn’t need to be. So goes this first-person account of French cooking. The writer’s husband is French and she learned some secrets from her mother-in-law, who took a no-nonsense approach to cooking. I liked what she had to say about simplicity. I think it’s true that French people prize simplicity in most things, even though they have a reputation for being superfluous. Read more in The Washington Post.

My boy Drake is at it again. The rapper invited a bartender in D.C. to one of his shows after experiencing excellent service. Oh, to be that bartender. Get more on Drake’s invite in this Washington Post story.

Last but certainly not least, Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery got a well-deserved shout out in EaterThe ice cream shop is one of my favorites in St. Louis and it specializes in booze-infused flavors including maple bourbon pecan. Apparently Clementine’s has plans for national expansion. It’s not surprising given the quality of their product. Read more about the shop in this Eater story.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Impromptu French Toast

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My boyfriend and I were having a conversation the other day about taking things a day at a time. I had just finished “The West Wing” and (SPOILER) I was struck by the last episode of the last season of the show, when Martin Sheen’s character (a.k.a. The President) was flying home on Air Force One to start a new life in New Hampshire after his last term.

His wife asked him what he was thinking about as he stared out the window and he turned to her and said, “Tomorrow.” I repeated the line to my boyfriend and he said that I could apply it to my own life, as I’ve had some anxiety about big changes including starting a new job.

“I already have tomorrow planned,” I said to him.

“Yeah?” he replied.

“Yes,” I said. “You’re going to make me French toast for breakfast.”

I’m not sure if this was what President Bartlett had in mind when he was staring out the window of Air Force One, but for me, most plans involve food. It’s one of the first things I think about in the morning and the last things I think about at night.

Also, it sounds a little presumptuous that I’d assume my boyfriend would make me French toast, but I had a feeling that he would be generous enough to do it.

I was right. Sunday morning he made me French toast with leftover sesame bread that he bought on Friday when I said I could eat peanut butter sandwiches for the next three days. He cracked an egg, mixed it with some milk and ground cinnamon, and then put slices of sesame bread in the batter to soak. Then he fried the slices on both sides in some butter.

I came up with the idea of putting banana slices on top because I love the combination of French toast, maple syrup, and banana. If you use slightly underripe bananas, it will balance the sweetness of the dish and add more flavor. Plus, bananas pair well with cinnamon.

I’m going to include a basic recipe for the French toast below, but feel free to tweak it and make it your own. It’s a rough guide because when my boyfriend and I make French toast, it involves improvisation. I like to add a little sugar to the batter sometimes but you may want to omit that.

Whatever you do, though, don’t omit the ground cinnamon. It adds depth to the dish and flavor to the custard. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also add a pinch of ground nutmeg or cardamom.

Here’s a song to get you started on your French toast journey. It just came out this week. I love Yumi Zouma.

Impromptu French Toast

Ingredients

1/2 loaf sesame bread (or whatever you have handy)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, whisked
pinch of ground cinnamon
butter for frying
banana slices and maple syrup for serving

Directions

Take a long and shallow cake pan and whisk an egg, milk, and ground cinnamon in it. Line up the slices of bread side-by-side (not overlapping) so they absorb the custard. Turn them over carefully to make sure they’re soaked all the way through. Be careful not to break the bread.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread and fry each side until golden brown. Serve with banana slices and the best maple syrup you can find. Enjoy!

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Honey Spice Cake

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I was browsing Instagram yesterday and I stopped when I saw a picture of honey cake. “I’m making that,” I said to myself.

The recipe is from Elisabeth Prueitt, the co-owner and co-founder of Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco. I’ve you’ve never been to Tartine, I’d highly recommend changing that as soon as possible. The bakery has some of the best pastries and bread I’ve tasted anywhere including France. Prueitt and her husband, Chad Robertson, really know their stuff.

Which brings me to this honey cake. The recipe is gluten-free. Normally I shy away from those kind of recipes but after looking at the photo of the cake, I couldn’t resist. Plus, Prueitt was talking about how beautiful the crumb was in her Instagram post. A moist crumb is key to delicious cake.

This cake is so many things. It’s moist from Greek yogurt, spicy and fragrant from cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and fresh grated ginger, and tangy from 1/2 cup black tea. Yes, black tea. You can use whatever kind you want but I would recommend steeping three tea bags of English Breakfast tea in hot water and then using 1/2 cup in the recipe.

My litmus test for gluten-free baked goods is, does it taste as good as regular baked goods? This cake tastes as good, if not better, than many honey spice cakes I’ve tried. In fact, it’s better than most cakes I’ve enjoyed recently, which is saying a lot. It reminds me of fall. Also, it made the entire house smell like cinnamon and sugar. I wish I could bottle up the smell and have it all the time.

A word to the wise: The recipe calls for 1 2/3 cup of gluten-free flour, but you can do what I did and use 1 1/3 cup oat flour and 1/3 cup cornstarch. Honestly, you might have gluten-free flour lying around and not oat flour, but if you don’t, it makes more sense to get oat flour and cornstarch. Cornstarch is often used in desserts such as pies and crisps, so it’s a good thing to have on hand.

Make this cake as soon as possible. Liz Prueitt recommends serving it with salted butter and she’s so right. If you put a couple pats of butter on top of the still-warm cake, it will melt and create the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and spicy. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Here’s a song to get you started on your honey spice cake journey.

Honey Spice Cake (from Elisabeth Prueitt)

Ingredients

1 2/3 cup gluten-free flour, or 1 1/3 cup oat flour plus 1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed strong black tea
1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used 5% Fage)
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together the oat flour, cornstarch, almond flour, baking soda, salt, and ground spices in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, honey, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, tea, Greek yogurt, and ginger. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and mix quickly to combine. Make sure there are no lumps in the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and place the pan in the oven. Bake the cake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then remove it from the pan. Serve warm with salted butter. Wrap the leftovers in saran wrap to keep them longer. Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This week was a busy one. It was exciting because I accepted a new full-time job, took on some freelance assignments, and made more inroads career-wise. But because of all this, the week was also tiring. By Saturday, I was feeling worn out and a little overwhelmed by everything I have on my plate.

Then I went to yoga. Actually, I forced myself to go because what I really wanted to do was sleep in. When I got there, my teacher was talking about how there’s a new moon and how that can affect us emotionally. I’m not sure I subscribe to the theory of lunar energy affecting mood, but I definitely think that changing seasons and stress can wear on us.

It’s important to take some time and check in with yourself, especially during times of transition. It’s easy to just power through the change but if you stop and sit quietly for a while, it can be more effective. I’m glad I went to yoga yesterday. It centered me and made me realize that it’s okay to take a two hour nap or spend a few hours in bed.

There’s some good stuff in Dimanche this week. I hope that you can find some quiet time today to sit back, relax, and read this post with a good cup of coffee or tea.

Without further ado, here’s Dimanche:

I stopped by Blueprint Coffee’s new location this week and I’m in love. The shop, which has its original location in The Delmar Loop, recently opened on Watson Road. The shop is in a rehabbed garage and it’s so cute and charming. There’s lots of good light through garage door windows, long tables, and most importantly, delicious coffee. I’d recommend checking it out soon. IMG_6068IMG_6069

While you’re in the neighborhood, you should probably stop by May’s Place. I discovered the vintage store a couple weeks ago when I went to dinner in the neighborhood with my boyfriend. It’s down the street from Farmhaus and it has some of the best vintage clothes and accessories in town. The shop also has a good selection of local products including soap and tea.

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I enjoyed this article about Chef Jenn Louis’s life after restaurants. Louis, an internationally-renowned chef who’s based in Portland, OR, recently decided to leave the restaurant business after some personal and professional upheaval. I admire her grit. I also like what she has to say about cultivating mindfulness and the evolution of Portland’s restaurant scene. Read the Q&A in Plate Magazine.

Can we talk about these chocolate chip cookies? Awesome. I saw this recipe from Dorie Greenspan earlier this week and I couldn’t stop staring at the picture. I’m definitely making them soon. The recipe is originally from the pastry chef at Mokonuts, a breakfast and lunch joint in Paris. Check it out in this New York Timesstory.

Barack Obama has been pretty quiet since the 2016 election, but Friday, he broke his silence. I’m so happy he did. He addressed a crowd at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ostensibly to get students to vote but also to critique the current administration and point out threats to American democracy. I like what he had to say about demagogues. Read more about his address in this New Yorker article.

Michelin just revealed its 2019 Bib Gourmand list for D.C. and it made me *pretty* nostalgic. There are some old favorites of mine on the list including Timber Pizza, which just made the list for the first time. I want to stop by again the next time I’m in D.C. They have some of the best pizza I’ve ever tried. Read more about the Bib Gourmand list in Washingtonian.

Looking for affordable Middle Eastern food in St. Louis? You should check out my latest Cheap Eats column for St. Louis Magazine. I highlighted some of the best Middle Eastern dishes for less than $10. Come for the recs, stay for the picture of tabbouli. Check out the full list here.

Last but certainly not least, California’s surf scene isn’t as idyllic as you may think. I was surprised to read about surf “warlords,” or people who go to extreme lengths to keep outsiders off their beach. I guess it’s annoying to have tourists constantly crashing your scene, but I think the locals take it a little too far. You can learn more about the situation in this Guardian story.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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The Simplest (and Most Satisfying) Bagel Sandwich

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Saturday morning I was shopping at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market and I stopped at 222 Artisan Bakery’s stand. I try to stop by as early as I can because they often sell out of their baguettes by 10 a.m.

This time, they were already sold out of baguettes when I got there at 9. I was a little crestfallen and then, I noticed some bagels in the corner. I love bagels but I have yet to find a really good one in the Midwest. Most of them are too dry and salty and lack the soft, doughy, yeasty quality that you find in New York bagels.

Still, I decided to take a risk and buy one. They looked good and when the cashier handed the bagel to me, it was still warm. I took that as a good sign. I decided to make a bagel sandwich for lunch with it and I challenged myself to get all the ingredients at the market.

The tomatoes and cucumber were easy. I bought some good looking ones from one of my favorite farmers at the market. Then, I went on a slow search for something resembling cream cheese. I was going to settle for goat cheese when I stumbled upon Local Harvest’s stand. Local Harvest is a grocery store located not too far from the Saturday market.

The stand was selling quark, or German spreadable cheese. I bought a tub of herbed quark and brought it home. I sliced my bagel in half, toasted it, and thinly sliced some tomatoes and cucumbers. I spread a generous amount of quark on each toasted bagel and layered it with tomatoes and cucumbers, and sprinkled black ground pepper on top.

I can honestly say that this is one of the best things I’ve eaten all summer. It’s sad in a way because I’ve spent so much money on fancy dinners, but also uplifting because it made me realize the importance of simplicity. When you have good, fresh produce, you don’t need much else.

Also, bread (or in this case, bagels) makes such a big difference. I like to think of bread as the foundation of a good sandwich. If it’s bad, the whole thing falls apart, just like a house would if the foundation was crumbling.

222‘s everything bagel is soft yet substantial. It could take a run through the toaster oven and still hold up to a generous dollop of quark. I’m usually not a fan of everything bagels but this one changed my mind. It added some flavor to the sandwich without my needing to sprinkle on additional spices. It was an ideal base.

Also, let’s talk about the quark for a second: It’s made by Marcoot, one of the best local creameries. You can tell that it’s made fresh because it’s light and flavorful, not cottony and heavy like some highly processed cheeses. I got enough quark in a container for three bagel sandwiches, which was perfect for me. Too often I buy a big tub of something and then I end up forgetting about it in the fridge.

So yeah. I guess what it boils down to is, quality is important. You can pay for quality at a restaurant, or, if you’re adventurous enough, you can create it in your own kitchen. It doesn’t take much: Good vegetables and fruit, quality cheese, and handmade bagels are the keys to success.

Before I start sounding like a motivational speaker for bagel sandwiches, I’ll leave you with this song.

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

Fall is in the air. I took a lot of walks around Forest Park last week and I noticed that the leaves are already changing color. It’s kind of hard to believe that summer is coming to an end.

For the first time in a long time though, I’m happy about that. This summer was a rocky time for me and even though some really good things happened, I’m looking forward to closing that chapter and moving on to bigger and better things. I think it’s true what they say about time healing everything.

Plus, fall is my favorite season. I love the cool breeze in the air, the colors, the fact that you need to wear a couple layers but not too many. I like talking long walks under yellow, orange, and red leaves, and lingering outside on the patio a little longer at night. I can’t wait to spend more time outside the next few months enjoying nature, traveling, and seeing places that I’ve never seen before.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

The baguette is coming under fire in France. Politicians there are proposing legislation that would cut down on the amount of salt that bakers and processed food makers can put in bread. One member of the parliamentary committee looking into it called the high salt levels in baguettes a “real public health problem.” You can read more about it in this Reuters story.

Red Delicious apples are the worst. Fortunately, this fact was confirmed recently. Red Delicious apples lost the top spot in American orchards, according to a recent report from the U.S. Apple Association. I still think Granny Smith should be number one, but I’ll settle for Red Delicious being bumped from the top spot. This Slate story covers the issue nicely.

Boston restaurants are being shut out of national awards, and one food critic there has something to say about it. Devra First, a food writer for The Boston Globe, penned an article about why eateries in Boston don’t get national recognition. Even though First made a couple good points, ultimately I found her assessment to be condescending. At one point, she says that New York is a bigger city than Boston so it makes sense that they would have more restaurant variety. My response is, a city of any size can make a name for itself in the dining scene (like St. Louis, for example), and New York isn’t the center of the universe. Read First’s column here.

I had one of the best dinners I’ve enjoyed in a while at Farmhaus last night. It was my first time dining at the restaurant and I was blown away. Farmhaus emphasizes local produce and gets most of its vegetables from a garden out back. It makes a difference in the food, which is fresh, delicious, and flavorful. One of my favorite dishes was the sweet potato nachos, which had local blue cheese, pickled jalapeño, and red pepper ketchup on top. IMG_5976

I really enjoyed this story about chefs in Morocco. A café at a training center in Marrakech is helping women gain culinary skills so they can find employment. You can read more about Amal Women’s Training Center and the women who work there in this NPR story.

I finally made it to the Tuesday Tower Grove Farmers’ Market and it was even better than I expected. The market is smaller than the one on Saturday but it still has excellent vendors and lots of good produce. I got a piece of hummingbird cake from Prioritized Pastries and it was delicious. The owner told me it was her best batch yet and she wasn’t lying. Read more about the market in my recent blog post.

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HBO just released the first trailer for its adaptation of “My Brilliant Friend” and I can’t contain my excitement. The series is based on the popular novels by Elena Ferrante. I read them all in more or less one sitting last year. Check out the trailer in this Vulture story.

Last but certainly not least, I love this story about Hawaiian pizza in China. The writer grew up in the United States but whenever she went to visit her grandmother in Beijing, they would eat Hawaiian pizza from Pizza Hut. The story touches on a lot of themes including food culture and Westernization, but my favorite thing about it is the narrative about family. Also, the picture of the grandmother eating pizza with chopsticks is pretty entertaining. Read the Eater story here.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Peach Maple Cinnamon Muffins

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I had two *very* ripe peaches in my cupboard last night and a little spare time, so I decided to make these peach maple cinnamon muffins.

These muffins are pretty healthy. You might not be into them if you’re into muffins with lots of sugar, butter, and eggs, but I’d urge you to give them a chance anyway. Even though they’re not heavy on sugar and butter, they still have a lot of flavor and texture.

The secret ingredient in these muffins is Greek yogurt. For lack of a better description, it’s the glue that holds the muffins together, since you’re not using egg yolks in the recipe. It also makes the muffins very moist and tender once you cut into them.

Feel free to get creative on spices. I added cinnamon but you could also add a pinch of nutmeg and cardamom. I’m sure both those flavors would pair well with the peaches.

Another word to the wise: Make sure you cut your peaches into the smallest dice possible. There’s nothing wrong with big chunks of peaches in a muffin, but smaller pieces will ensure better baking.

I cut into one of these bad boys this morning for breakfast. I warmed it up a little in the toaster oven and then slathered Irish butter on top. I also spooned on the last of the peach blueberry jam my friend Anna gave me a month or two ago. It felt like I was toasting the end of summer, which, in a way, I probably was.

Here’s a song to get you started on your peach maple cinnamon muffin journey. I heard it yesterday when I was watching an episode of “The West Wing.” It also kind of reminds me of fall.

Peach Maple Cinnamon Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
4 Tbsp almond milk
2 cups diced peaches

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix the flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter, egg whites, and vanilla until combined. Add the Greek yogurt and mix until there are no lumps. Add the maple syrup and mix until combined.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, alternating with the almond milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Fold in the diced peaches.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until they are filled to the top. Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the tin for at least five minutes, and then remove them to cool the rest of the way on a baking rack.

These muffins will keep for a few days when stored in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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