Episode 5: One Minute Gourmet: Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro

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My husband discovered this quaint little French patisserie in Santa Barbara a few years ago.  The place is so charming, I imagine this is how Jane’s The Bakery from the movie, It’s Complicated, would be like if it really existed in the lovely seaside town.

Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro, a small shop tucked away in the corner of a shopping center, is not as flashy or as big as the fictional bakery in the movie, but I would imagine the feeling you get would be similar, with the aromas of buttery croissants and dark roasted coffee beans welcoming patrons walking into the door.  It’s absolutely heavenly.

So, ever since the discovery, we’ve been driving to Santa Barbara, just to get our eager hands on the mouthwatering Almond Croissant (and macarons … and apple tarts … and financiers … and …).  Those trips were made willingly, of course, but we wished that there was a way to get a hold of the goodies without the 100-plus mile drive up the 101 freeway.

Well, well, what do we know.  There was Renaud’s inside the Gelson’s supermarket in La Canada, which is a mere 20-mile drive from our place, THIS ENTIRE TIME!  eek

Sure, a part of me was extremely ecstatic at the idea that those amazing sweets are available just around the corner for us now, but I also did have a momentary “W … T … F” moment, like “Ummm … I would like to get reimbursed for the money I spent on gas all these time, thank you very much.”

635 Foothill Blvd, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

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Episode 1: One Minute Gourmet: Huckleberry Cafe

I have decided to combine my two obsessions – making short videos and dining out – and create a video series called “One Minute Gourmet.”

Each video will feature my dining experience, with footage of the restaurant interior, what I ordered, etc., in 60 seconds or less. It won’t be anything fancy but I hope you enjoy it!

Episode 1 features Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica. I wrote about the cafe back in 2011 and I still adore this place, four years later.  My favorite dish here is Lentil Ragu.  It’s pretty amazing, especially topped with its homemade hot sauce.

Without further ado, here’s the video!

Rustic Apple Galette in the Summertime!

While the East Coast is experiencing the record-breaking heat, we, here on the West Coast, are enjoying a calm and uncharacteristically pleasant summer this year. With an exception of a few weeks back when we reached the three-digit high (luckily I was out of town), it’s been incredibly wonderful so far at about high 70s to low 80s. I certainly hope this doesn’t mean that we’re going to have a heat wave in the middle of November! Can you imagine eating a Thanksgiving dinner in a 100-degree weather? Yikes!

I wanted to take advantage of this calming weather and bake something special, that would make my entire apartment smell warm and irresistibly delicious. I had a few Fuji apples left that I had to eat before they’d go bad, so I decided to make a Rustic Apple Galette. I had wanted to make a pie dough from scratch for a while after learning that I didn’t need a food processor to make it so I decided to take my newly acquired flaky dough recipe from Chez Pim for a test drive! She explained in the video that making the dough by hand is like playing with play-doh and I agree! It is gooey, playful, and so much fun! And let me tell you, this was the flakiest pie dough I’ve ever made or tasted!

Flaky Pastry Dough
Adapted from Chez Pim

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz or 1 cup) cold salted butter. If not using salted, add a pinch to the flour.
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water

Make the dough per Pim’s instruction. Check out this video on her Website for the step-by-step “how to.” I didn’t use her recipe for Frangipane but instead, I added some Fuji Apple slices to make this dessert super rustic. I divided the dough into quarters and used one portion to make an individual-sized Galette after it chilled in a refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

Apple Filling
(For one, individual-sized Galette)

1/2 medium size Fuji apple, sliced
3 tablespoon Agave Nectar
3 teaspoons cinnamon powder

Slice the apple into thin slices and mix with Agave Nectar and cinnamon powder. Once the dough is rolled out, line the slices in the middle of the dough. Crimp the side, brush the leftover Agave around the dough, and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, or until the dough becomes golden. Enjoy the dessert, as well as the wonderful aroma that fills the house!

Trick or Treat? Sprinkles Cupcakes

The recent food trend that settles well with my stomach is frozen yogurt. I’m a self-proclaimed fro-yo addict so the fact that shops are popping up right and left is nothing short of pure delight (competition only helps consumers!). My date night with my boyfriend is not complete until we take a trip to a nearby frozen yogurt shop that we feel, believe it or not, may offer better yogurt than Pinkberry (if that were possible). I somehow always find ways to squeeze in a spoonful (or a bowlful) of ice-y swirl even on a full stomach.

Well, another trend I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is over cupcakes (even a magazine like InStyle dedicated a section on celebrities and their favorite shops). This, unlike the frozen yogurt fascination that is completely justifiable in my book, is still a bizarre concept for me. Although I like eating cupcakes, it’s difficult for me to tell the difference between the gourmet kind and the one you pick up at a local bake sale. Afterall, isn’t a cupcake just a miniature sponge cake smothered in sugary frosting? Really, how do you make a cupcake outrageously better than a bakery next door, and moreover, how can each cost as much as a meal?

a-strawberrySo I turned to the trendy and popular Sprinkles Cupcakes for answers. But after sampling a few of its offerings, I became further confused.

Let me preface this by stating the obvious: the cupcakes from Sprinkles are good. The place have great selections, from the basic vanilla and chocolate, to more exotic flavors like Chai Latte and Red Velvet, and the entire experience of visiting the most talked-out place is truly titillating. But if I ignore all the fluff and focused solely on the product, I’m afraid I’m not able to justify the whopping $3.25 each cupcake costs.

I know that cupcakes have great possibilities. Just take a look at this amazing blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit which features colorful and unorthodox recipes like Green Tea, Lavender and Honey Cupcake Bombe (ooooh). Or a mouth-watering recipe like Pomatcha Cupcakes found on Raspberry Eggplant (aaaaah).  Now, for a bite of something like that, I’ll be happy to dish out my hard earned money. But nothing at Sprinkles stood out as extraordinary, and they were just … well, good, at best.

I’m not dismissing Sprinkles altogether though. I will probably pick some up for special occasions as the decoration/packaging alone makes it a lovely gift. I hope someone will bring me some soon so I can enjoy the sweet cake without burning a hole on my wallet.

I went to the Sprinkles in Newport Beach (in the same shopping center as Tommy Bahama) but there’s a more popular one in Beverly Hills.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: 944 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★☆☆

I met this sweet pup, Hug, dressed up as a lion for Halloween while waiting in line at Sprinkles. He was so charming that I could not resist taking a picture!  Happy Halloween, everyone!

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