The Missing Chocolate Madeleine

As much as living in New York gives you a default propensity to dismiss anything that’s chainy and not made by artisanal neighbors that live in the land of Williamsburg, Starbucks has been, and continues to be, my standby for an espresso charge and breakfast nibble.

Aside from my Turkey Bacon with Egg Whites on an English Muffin, I have always had an infatuation with their madeleines. Who knew that such a substandard way to consume a madeleine—packaged in a 3-Pack as if it were a pack of Oreos, manage to pack the freshness and butteriness of three Parisian boulangeries?

In more recent years the selection extended beyond vanilla to chocolate. These were so buttery—an aerated canvas made of chocolate that wasn’t overpowering and so delicious. But then something happened. They disappeared. At first I deemed it a shortage of my neighborhood Starbucks and then I confronted their extinction and realized they were being discontinued.

I need these guys to come back, taking dips into my cappuccinos, championing Monday morning blues and walks of shame alike.

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Pumpkin Bread

When you’re not really a baker and decide to make Pumpkin Bread for the first time in your life, you’re setting yourself up for quite a task. But when you’re living in New York and not sure of what you have or you don’t in a kitchen, things can get even more adventurous. Unaware of my roommate’s possession of an electric mixer, I sought out a hand mixed Pumpkin Bread recipe from the perilous ghettoes of cyberspace—a terribly designed and laid out hoopla of everything pumpkin. This recipe makes 2 loaves! Note that I substituted the eggs for egg beaters, raisins with dates and the vegetable oil with olive oil.

You’ll need:

16 oz. can of pumpkin
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups of sugar
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Mix flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar
3. Add eggs, water, oil and pumpkin
4. Stir until blended. Add raisins and nuts, mix again.
5. Pour into 2 lightly greased and floured 9″ x 5″ loaf pans

Bake for approximately 1 hour. The test for doneness is the toothpick test, where you poke the bread and if it comes out clean, then it must be done. It actually took my loaves about an hour and 20 minutes to bake. However, I think that will vary from oven to oven. The results were fabulous, my bread had that gorgeous, spicy orange that is so reminiscent of the fall. The olive oil was a luxurious substitution that allowed for a buttery uniformity and a chiffon-like flavor that highlighted the flavors of the pumpkin and spice. I left one loaf at home and brought the other to the office and it just kept tasting better the longer it sat.

Cassellula

Dim lighting, expansive windows and an impressive selection of vino and cheese; make a visit to Casellula quite the Hell’s Kitchen experience. If enjoy wine and cheese but aren’t a connoisseur by any means, Allen Stafford, a member of wait staff and quite the gourmand, brings a friendly and extremely gratifying spirit to the table.

Regardless of where you are on the foodie spectrum, Cassellula’s globe trotting cheese and wine assemblage is a must for those who appreciate a serious wine and cheese pairing. For something a little more substantial, the menu extends to include sandwiches, artisanal mac and cheese, and some other interesting choices like smoked goose breast and rabbit.

Highly recommended for a post office unwind or a little nibble before a show, the cheese special selections of the day often change to offer variety and something for everyone. This is also a perfect date spot. However, the long wait could nullify that, as reservations are not taken.

Cassellula
401 West 52nd (between 9th & 10th Ave)
New York, NY 10019

Rula Jebreal

Rula Jebreal

Gracing this edition’s Vogue, Rula Jebreal is bound to cause ripples beyond her quasi-homeland of Italy where she marked her spot as a talk show force to be reckoned with. Born in Haifa, Jebreal is a dark Palestinian beauty who has come a long way from her younger, broken years; an orphan growing up in Jerusalem amidst the culminations of personal and political plight.

Released this fall is Jebreal’s screen adaptation of Miral. Based on the novel also by Jebreal, Miral chronicles a broken childhood, occupied Palestine and commemorates Hind Al Husseini, who miraculously formed Dar El-Tifil, the celebrated children’s shelter which formed in 1948 to rescue 55 orphaned survivors from the Deir Yassin massacre.

The novel will be released in the United States next month as 2010 comes to an end. Frieda Pinto plays the role of Miral which is directed by American artist and film maker, Julian Schnabel. The film is slated to premiere in the U.S in March of 2011.

Jebreal is photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

The Zara Mirage

Shopper Straps Zara

If you’ve read Christine Muhle’s article in The New York Times last week, “Chasing a Fast-Fashion Knockoff” you’ll know exactly what Zara has a habit of doing. Thriving on its high-style affordable merchandise flying off its shelves either by virtue of the fashionably savvy, or simply, the dictated 15 seconds of fame that its inventory adheres to, every style maven seems to have had their share of Zara battle scars.

This syndrome was realized during my first winter spent in New York City back in 2008 when I had spotted the perfect winter boot. I recall distinctly what had happened. I spotted the pair a week before a city-wide Zara sale had been slated. Encouraged to purchase the boots at that point, I endured quite the quest. Hunting and scavenging four different Zaras before finally finding the last pair in New York and probably the world, resulted in a mixed feeling of triumph and well, exhaustion.

Recently, I discovered a bag exhibited on Zara’s website. Seeming like it were the perfect marriage of form and function, I devoted a significant amount of time and effort over the past weekend to find the item. Since online shopping is yet to be made available to the U.S., I paid three different Zaras a visit, in hopes to be able to inspect this bag and decide it if it physically warranted my apparent piqued interest. It was no where to be found, and the hunt continues…

Mémé Mediterranean

A recent addition to the notable eateries and bars on Hudon is Mémé. Crafting tapas and dishes with a North African point of view; sambusaks, merguez and tagines can be enjoyed in an ambient eatery that’s clearly Middle Eastern, sans the kitsch of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Unexpectedly, the Gnocci with Ricotta and Truffle Oil is phenomenal. Jane on West Houston, you better watch out! There’s a new gnocci in the city and it’s pretty darn good.

Mémé Mediterranean
581 Hudson St (between 11th St & Bank St)
New York, NY 10014