Magnolia Bakery, New York, NY

Magnolia Bakery New York . Chicago . Los Angeles . Dubai

Rockette Cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery

On visits to The Big Apple, I often feel in need of an afternoon treat to pick me up. So, I head for Magnolia Bakery. Founded in 1996 in Greenwich Village, this bakery (now with multiple stores) showcases American baked goods, hand crafted and made fresh daily. There are luscious pies and cakes, sheets of cookies and bars, and much more to satisfy sweet cravings. I can’t resist their cupcakes! You can choose from a wide variety, including caramel, devil’s food, lemon, banana, vanilla, and chocolate to list just a few. Continue reading

The Dutch, New York, NY

The Dutch 131 Sullivan Street (at Prince Street), New York, New York 10012 212-677-6299

I became a fan of Andrew Carmellini’s cooking when he was at A Voce near New York’s Madison Park. Last year when he opened Locanda Verde downtown, I made a reservation a month in advance, and it was worth it. The Italian offerings were creative, perfectly cooked, and served by a helpful staff. So, when I read that this talented chef was opening a new American place called The Dutch in Soho, I couldn’t wait to try it. I met Natanya, my young friend and talented cook, for lunch there recently, and over a two-hour meal we sampled dishes until we could eat no more.

It’s hard to describe the food at The Dutch except to say that it is inventive, yet surprisingly simple, with an emphasis on quality ingredients. There’s plenty of fresh fish (with a first-rate oyster selection), choice meats, and no end of local produce. A welcoming treat arrived the minute we set down: a small warm loaf of peppery corn bread and sweet butter set on a wooden board. Most of it disappeared before we had even glanced at the menu. Continue reading

Pinkberry Yogurt, Boston, MA

Pinkberry Yogurt, The Shops at the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199, 617-236-2294

Recently while walking through Boston’s Prudential Center in the heart of the city, I noticed a yogurt stand with a good number of people waiting to buy some. I figured a long line meant good yoghurt, so I joined the queue. Then I saw the name, Pinkberry, emblazoned in big modern lights. Somewhere in the recesses of my over-crowded brain, this name registered. Then I recalled that this was a California chain getting a lot of buzz for its creamy original yogurt with a slightly tangy/ sweet taste. Continue reading

Fishs Eddy, New York, NY

Fishs Eddy 889 Broadway at 19th Street, New York, New York 10003, 877-347-4733

I rarely go downtown in Manhattan without making a stop at Fishs Eddy. This funky store near Gramercy Park sells dishes, flatware, mugs, platters, glasses, and a host of other items, all displayed from floor to ceiling in a relatively small space. This unique emporium, started 25 years ago and named after a small town in New York State, offers an array of tempting merchandise at affordable prices. Some wares are seconds or discontinued, others are custom, but all are distinctive, fun, and playful.

I love their cake stands, their colorful dishes, their polka dot glasses, and their serving platters. Even my husband, a “non-shopper,” finds things of interest. Stemless wine glasses were his latest purchase. As an amateur prop stylist (that’s the person who selects the dishes and other props for food shots), I almost always leave Fishs Eddy with a treasure or two for future photos.

Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit 14, Antibes, France

Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit 14, rue Saint-Esprit, or 7 promenade Amiral de Grasse (two entrances), Antibes 06600, France, 33-4-93-34-50-12

An extraordinary dessert at Le Figuier

While my family was in Provence this summer, Kathie Alex, our friend and a fellow cooking teacher, suggested that we book lunch at Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit, a fairly new restaurant in the picturesque coastal town of Antibes. The chef, Christian Morisset, she explained, was exceptionally talented, and was a genius at using the freshest ingredients in the market. We called for a reservation on the spot. The “figuier” refers to a large fig tree that stands tall in the center of the restaurant’s enclosed terrace, while “Saint-Esprit” Continue reading

Jacques Genin, Paris, France

Jacques Genin 133, rue de Turenne, Paris 3, 01-45-77-29-01

Parisians love chocolate, a passion that is reflected by the hundreds of chocolate shops the city boasts. In the neighborhood where my husband and I stay, you can barely walk a couple of blocks without finding a store displaying “les chocolats.” As a bona fide chocoholic, I’ve done my share of sampling in some superb chocolate houses, but recently my friend, Joan, who lives in France’s capital most of the year, introduced me to Jacques Genin, a fairly new chocolate shop in the Marais. Continue reading

Hungry Ghost Bread, Northampton, MA

Hungry Ghost Bread 62 State Street, Northampton, MA

Although there are many bakeries that offer fine breads in Western Massachusetts where I live, one in particular stands out for its excellent artisanal loaves. Hungry Ghost Bread is not a fancy place. It is housed in a small brick bungalow set atop a hill with vines covering most of the façade including a sign with the shop’s name. Inside much of the space is given over to a large, dome-shaped oven with the remaining area modestly set up for sales. But, what comes out of that oven is outstanding. The organic breads, shaped by hand and baked in small batches in a wood-fired brick oven, have beautiful crusts and textures. Continue reading

The Plaza Food Hall, New York, NY

The Plaza Food Hall 1 West 59th Street, Concourse A (lower level), New York, New York 10019

Recently during a short visit to New York, I went to the Plaza Food Hall, located on the lower level of the Plaza Hotel for lunch. I had read about its opening in June of last year, and wanted to check it out. I confess that I arrived thinking it might just be another food court, but my solo meal there far surpassed my expectations. I only ordered two things, but both were delicious. A watercress salad with an assortment of shaved, pickled radishes, served mounded atop a grilled goat cheese panini was beautifully balanced in flavors. A mere hint of lemon jam spread beneath the sandwich, lent just the right sweet and tart notes to this dish. A whoopee pie cupcake, a rich, tender chocolate little cake, topped with thin layers of cream and chocolate, and then coated in a dark chocolate glaze, was perfection as well. Continue reading

Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA

Hungry Mother 233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 617-499-0090

Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Pea Shoots at Hungry Mother

Hungry Mother in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a restaurant I could return to week after week, for I know that I would never tire of the food. How to describe the cuisine and the rich menu? It has strong Southern country roots with sophisticated and original touches. Full disclosure: I was born and bred in Memphis, so soul food is in my DNA! Hungry Mother (the name of a state park in southern Virginia, the home state of talented chef, Barry Maiden) offers some of the most creative, enticing fare on either side of the Mason Dixon line. Continue reading

Hermès, Paris, France

Hermès on Paris’s Left Bank 17, rue de Sèvres, Paris 6 01-42-22-80-83

Although I own only two Hermès items–scarves that were gifts from students—I couldn’t wait to visit the new Hermès shop on the Left Bank in Paris. The just-opened (November 2010) flagship emporium, in the 6th arrondissement on the rue de Sèvres, boasts stunning interior architecture. This three-level boutique has tall (more than 25 feet) sculptural, latticed wood cages that enclose home furnishings. A stairway with massive curved wooden sides is a sculptural marvel. Almost half of the store is dedicated to home items, including arts for the table. There’s a bookstore, with art and design tomes, as well as a flower shop, Baptiste, right at the entrance, that displays some of Paris’s most beautiful blooms. I was only looking, but enjoyed every minute of my stroll through this special addition to Paris’s shopping scene.