Pâté Banh Mi Crostini

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Tucked into a tiny space on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan is An Choi. Vibrant and inspired by Saigon back-alley hole in the wall eateries they serve up hot bowls of pho and fresh banh mi sandwiches. Orchard Street is like a mini foodie heaven. With one foot in Chinatown and the other stepping ever so slightly into SoHo, it’s eight blocks of inspired cafes and food concepts enough to make me want to set up camp and eat my way down the street.

Whenever I am visiting the city, it’s off the Amtrak and onto my first meal, typically with an overwhelming list of 200 places that I want to somehow try in three days. The last time I was in the city it was one of those chilly Spring days where you can feel winter lingering in the biting wind and all I could think of was a hot bowl of pho to warm me up. I headed straight to An Choi.

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One seat at the counter please.

One crispy chicken confit banh mi and the pho bo please.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI loved An Choi not only for the wonderful food, but because it’s cozy with that dim lighting you only seem to find in magical little places in New York. You can curl up into your own anonymous space and enjoy your meal, no one is looking. That is exactly what I love about New York City, there is so much to see, do and eat, you don’t even need anyone. Just you and the city is more than enough.

Let’s fast forward…back in Dubai and I am trying to recreate this experience in my own kitchen. I thought of doing a different twist on the traditional banh mi that would be perfect for stylish entertaining. Call me the crostini queen but I can’t get enough of them when throwing a party. I decided to do a open face banh mi crostini with chicken liver pâté. I love the idea of having appetizer sized banh mi’s that are elegant enough for a formal cocktail party. I made the pâté the day before and let it set in the fridge over night, I spared you the ugly process of making the pâté, there was no way I could beautify that process!  The combination of the creamy pâté alongside the tangy radish pickles and fresh garnishes is really a wonderful blend of flavors, and a refreshing change from the usual crostini I tend to make.IMG_3086Recipe

Chicken Liver Pâté

300 grams cleaned chicken livers

1 cup milk

8 tbs butter

4 shallots chopped

3 cloves of garlic chopped

1 tbs fresh oregano coarsely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tbs black peppercorns

dash of red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

2-3 sprigs of fresh sage

Soak the chicken livers in milk and after two hours drain thoroughly. Heat a saute pan over medium low heat with 2 tbs of butter, add the shallots & garlic and cook for about 5-7 minutes until translucent and soft. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat the same saute pan over medium high heat and add in the chicken livers, oregano, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cook for about 5 minutes (the livers will remain soft with a bit of sear on the exterior). After 5 minutes add the red wine vinegar and cook for one minute longer. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Place the livers into a food processor along with the shallots & garlic, pulse to combine. Add two tbs of butter into the mixture and pulse till fully combined and a pâté consistency is reached, taste for seasoning. Transfer the pâté into a terrine or jar. Melt the remaining two tbs of butter in a pan and pour over the top of the pâté, drop the sage sprigs into the melted butter. Let set in the fridge for at least two hours.

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Quick Pickled Radish

8 radishes

1/2 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

1/4 cup water

Thinly slice the radishes using a mandolin or knife. Add to a jar along with the vinegar, salt, sugar and water. Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour.

To Assemble the Crostini

1 french baguette

Garnishes: julienned carrots & cucumber, sprigs of fresh cilantro, alfalfa sprouts, sliced thin red chili pepper, sriracha sauce

Slice the baguette into crostinis and brush with olive oil, Toast in the oven at 375F/190C for 5-7 minutes until golden and crisp.

Spread pâté onto each crostini and garnish with radish pickle, julienned carrots & cucumber, sprouts, red chili and a dash of Sriracha

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Salt & Water

I was thrilled when the Sheraton Grand Dubai contacted me to do a collaboration with Noni’s Place. As you all know I love the whole process behind table styling and entertaining so I was over the moon when I able to share that love with a wonderful group of guests. The Sheraton Grand is home to the restaurant Feast and its executive chef Malcolm Webster, who takes the typically boring hotel dining experience to a completely different level. It’s really refreshing to see a hotel dining restaurant trying to change things up and experiment in order to stay fresh and competitive. Feast recently launched their Simply Seafood Night and I was asked to come on board to create a special dinner in celebration of this.

From the get go I started brainstorming the feelings and emotions related to eating seafood. Since I grew up in Rhode Island (also known as the ocean state) I was on familiar and exciting territory and have many memories of seafood nights by the sea, eating crispy deep fried oysters and fresh Atlantic lobster. I themed the dinner “Salt & Water,” evoking the briny saltiness of the sea and wanted to bring this feeling into all elements of the evening from the food to the ambience.

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Invite designed by Iskander Ahmed of Buzzy Bee Communications

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I had a creative idea exchange session with Chef Malcolm where we discussed what dishes he could concoct up resulting in a 17-course menu! We honed in on the ideas of elevated New England comfort food and redefining the classics from the typical oyster po-boy sandwich reinterpreted on a steamed bao with miso mayonnaise to a classic Atlantic seafood pasta transformed into a fresh crab tagliolini with dehydrated caviar for that salty touch. We feasted on warm anchovy foccaccia with an array of different butters: bone marrow, anchovy, and lemon herb. Chef Malcolm further elevated the traditional “surf & turf” with a bone marrow, green olive, and pine nut crusted smoked sea trout served alongside 13 hour braised beef cheek with bone marrow (melt in your mouth). The table was adorned with empty oysters shells with four different types of sea salt to accent the dishes. We brought in more salt elements with a palette cleanster of salt baked beetroot puree & goat milk granita and an incredibly indulgent chocolate banana sphere with popcorn ice cream and salted caramel for dessert. It was truly a feast! (see below for the full menu).

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For the ambience and styling I wanted to keep things rustic with a slight touch of formal elegance. Some dishes were served family style in beautiful copper pots and wooden slabs, while others were individual in Emile Henry casseroles or mini staub cast irons, just lovely. For the table styling I brought in the nautical theme using raw rope knotted into a runner with a complete mish mash of florals in different size vessels across the table. I wanted to keep the flowers simple and used white roses, baby’s breath and blue hydrangea in sand filled jars and plain vases, all short and minimal. I brought in my whimsical touch by placing empty oyster shells, sea themed books such as “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Moby Dick,” and different quotes such as “the world is your oyster” on brown craft paper. I also used the oyster shells for the place settings and hand wrote each guests name into a shell. I wanted the lighting to be dim and cozy, so I used fairy lights that were hung against the industrial wall creating a warm vibe. Lastly the music was a carefully curated playlist made by me playing the best of the best from Bobby Darin to Frank Sinatra to Billie Holiday.

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The honored guests of the evening were a mix of press and bloggers with one thing in common, a love of good food. It was a wonderful evening of chatter, warm smiles and full bellies.

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*Photos provided by Dev Shahani & The Sheraton Grand Hotel

Full Menu:

Ceviche of Sea Scallop with Blood Orange, Smoked Salmon & Coriander

Tartare of Yellow Fin Tuna with Goats Cheese

 Salmon Sashimi, Soy, Ruby Grapefruit, Peppers, Pink Peppercorns & Mache Salad

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Lobster Bisque with Smoked Lobster Medallions, Brioche & Dill

Crisp Oyster Po Boy with Asian-slaw & Miso Mayonnaise

Oysters in a half shell with Pomegranate Mignonette

Salad of Watermelon, Feta Cheese & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds with a Mint Dressing

Lightly Smoked Sea Trout, Bone Marrow, Green Olive & Pine nut Crust with Duck Fat Potatoes

Tagliolini with Fresh White Crab Meat & Lingotto Dehydrated Caviar

Beef Cheek Slowly Braised for 13 Hours with a Bone Marrow, Cucumber, Shallot & Watercress Salsa

Potato Tatin

Confit Carrots & Fennel scented with Star Anise & Cardamom & topped with Garlic Crumbs

Steamed Seasonal Vegetables Dressed in Confit Lemon & Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Salt Baked Beetroot Puree, Goats Milk Granita, Honey & Lemon

Death by Chocolate Sphere, Banana, Popcorn Ice-cream, Manjari Cremeux, Chocolate Crunch, Warm Salted Caramel Sauce

Doughnuts Filled Vanilla Bean Custard Raspberry Dipping Sauce

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Cheese Course

To read more check out:

Memoirs of a Taste Bud

Coffee Cakes and Running

Dubai Eye

Dubai Coffee Roundup

I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t know if it’s the actual lattes as much as the mere simplicity of passing a morning or afternoon sitting in a cafe that fills me up with utter joy. I must have my quiet me-time at a cafe at least twice a week, sitting by the window with a book or my laptop and a nice cuppa is my idea of heaven. It’s during these moments I often find myself most inspired and the ideas flowing. I usually have a notebook at my side in the case of sudden inspiration.

If you follow me on instagram you would probably have seen the constant photos of my usual latte, sometimes with my hand grazing around the cup and an array of rings and bracelets. Now I’m a strict latte drinker, sometimes I mix it up with a cappuccino or an iced latte, but I rarely venture beyond that. I’ve never been one for a straight espresso nor black coffee, I like my milk and I always order the same thing. Single shot latte sometimes with low-fat milk, but mostly with whole milk because why not? I like my foam textured and smooth as it should be, if it’s too airy & bubbly that means the barista hasn’t heated the milk to the correct temperature (a pet peeve of mine). I’m so glad to see the sudden surge in coffeeshops in Dubai and I do hope for more. I remember the days where the only place to go to for coffee was Starbucks. I often get asked where to find the best coffee in Dubai so I decided to do a post dedicated to my favorite spots to grab a latte.

Spill the Bean – Sunset Mall

Located in the sleepy Sunset Mall, Spill the Bean is one of my most frequented cafes. I go here mostly for its consistency, 9/10 my latte is spot on and always gorgeously adorned with latte art by one of their talented baristas. They have a food menu, but I always come for the coffee. Lattes are smooth and easy to drink. I do enjoy their healthy desserts and sometimes will order the “no refined sugar” chocolate peanut butter pie, one of my faves. I usually pop in for a latte and zone out to the awesome tunes that are usually on play.

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Brew Cafe – Jumeriah Beach Road

This little spot is slowly becoming my favorite. It’s tiny with just a few seats, exactly how I like it. The barista is so friendly and never hesitates to start up a conversation, something I really love. They bring in all varieties of beans from popular cafes around the world including Stumptown, The Workshop and Blue Bottle (they had my heart at Blue Bottle).

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Cafe Rider – Al Quoz

This motorcycle workshop/coffeeshop is truly a hidden gem. The head barista Dima is a pure genius when it comes to brewing coffee and he was the first one who truly showed me how much skill and time is involved within the coffee process. He has a true passion for it and it shows in every cup. The lattes are perfect and so naturally smooth that not even a granule of sugar is needed.

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Roseleaf Cafe – Dubai Garden Center

From the mix n’ match china to the sunroom seating Roseleaf Cafe is a tiny bit of heaven. I love coming here in the late afternoon after the morning rush has died down. I usually grab a seat in the corner with a latte in their perfect dainty little blue cups with a chocolatey melty brownie. I love bringing friends here to catch up and if we get hungry I always order the chicken coronation wrap. The indoor/outdoor feel is pure bliss when you just want to unwind.

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Tom & Serg – Al Quoz

If you are at all interested in the Dubai food scene, Tom & Serg is always top of mind. The restaurant has been wildly popular for its creative food, laid back vibe, industrial interiors and authentic Aussie style coffee. I usually end up here when I am looking to eat a meal with my coffee. The lattes are quite consistent, smooth and easy to drink. I’ve recently become obsessed with their chai, it’s spicy, sweet and just makes me wanna curl up by the non-existent fireplace. I’m looking forward to the opening of their new venture The Sum of Us and have already tried their coffee bar in the pre opening phase.

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RAW Coffee Company – Al Quoz

RAW coffee company aka the mothership. Every coffee enthusiast in Dubai knows about RAW, they have a cult following, me included. Quite a few cafes serve their wonderful beans, but if you head to their roastery in Al Quoz you are guaranteed a perfect cup of coffee each time. I go here when I just need that fix, there’s no food being served but the hustle and bustle of baristas in training is enough to keep you occupied.

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Dubai Mall:

I often find myself shopping in Dubai Mall when the caffeine craving hits. Surrounded by endless chains there are two options in the shopping megaplex:

Jam Bar – Adorable doughnut bar serving RAW coffee, you can’t go wrong.

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Fortnum & Mason – A decent cup and that adorable mini ice cream cone on the side gets me every time.

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Honorable Mentions:

Yamanote Atelier – Al Wasl Road

Adorable patisserie serving the cutest Japanese inspired desserts. I am obsessed with their cinnamon rolls and creme puffs and the coffee can be quite decent depending on the barista. They use the cutest dishware as well.

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Comptoir 102 – Jumeirah Beach Road

Probably my favorite cafe in Dubai, I love sitting outside in the courtyard with a healthy lunch and their chai latte. I know that isn’t coffee, but its made with housemade almond milk and a mix of spices. Perfection.

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Friends Avenue – Jumeriah Lake Towers

I’ve only been here once, but this wonderfully designed cafe is the recent craze all over Instagram. I went on the day they opened and my latte was good, not exceptional. I definitely want to go back and give it another shot, especially since they brew RAW coffee.

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What’s Next?

Mokha 1450 – Al Wasl Road

I’ve been stalking Mokha 1450 on instagram for awhile and they are set to open next week. It looks like they have a wonderful bunch of baristas on hand and call themselves coffee connoisseurs, looking forward to it.

Boon Coffee – Jumeriah Lake Tower

Boon Coffee is another local roaster that I haven’t had the pleasure to try yet. Bestro in Galleries Lafayette serves up their coffee and I usually have their espresso shot added to my cacao nut mylk. It’s utterly delicious and you must try it if you have any sort of weakness for cacao, bananas and almond milk!

Housemade Syrups

Many of the coffeeshops I frequent at home in the US serve up wonderfully flavored lattes with house made syrups. I’m talking real vanilla beans and from scratch caramel sauce, none of that bottled junk that’s full of artificial syrups and nasties. Dubai cafes listen up! I’ve made my own vanilla bean syrup at home and actually brought it with me to Spill the Bean where they graciously added it to my latte. Hmmm perhaps a business opportunity :)

 

 

Food Styling Session

2015 has been a highly experimental year for me as I find myself getting my feet wet in many different areas of food. I’ve started making short food related videos for Instagram, my brother-in-law is wildly talented and has been the filmmaking brains behind it all, I owe him big time. He’s asked for a Goyard man bag and I promise to make that happen eventually! Please do check them out here. I’ve also been quite busy with the noni’s place workshops which have been an interesting teaching and learning experience for me, it’s been so lovely meeting with blog readers and showing them some of my favorite ways to cook and entertain.

I recently did a food styling session with hugely talented photographer Amelia Johnson to see if it was an area I might like to explore further. I’ve never done any food styling commercially so this session was a completely new experience. I do dabble with food and set-up presentation for my blog, social media and magazine articles, but I never actually realized how in-depth, time consuming and scientific the field of food styling can be. Food is very sensitive to light, temperature and air and sometimes a single shot can take hours.

We chose a mezze theme which is so appropriate for the food culture here in Dubai, I handled the food and Amelia was behind the lens. I did find myself naturally able to work with the food and create a set-up that was visually appealing. I also enjoyed working with the props much more and I think that stems for my love for designing table settings. Overall the session was really an interesting challenge and I just wanted to share our three best photos from the session.

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Nectarine & Goat Cheese Tart

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I have one tip for cooking for last minute guests: throw whatever you can on a sheet of puff pastry, your chances of failing are very low because you can basically put anything on puff pastry and it would taste fabulous. I always keep sheets ready in the freezer for whenever I need to pull something together on a whim. It’s a pantry staple, just like cheese. I always advise to keep three type of cheese in the fridge: parmigiano reggiano for pastas, something soft such as feta or goats cheese for salads and something melty like mozzarella or cheddar. It’s so important to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you aren’t fretting to the grocery store if you have last minute company over.

This nectarine and goat cheese tart is perfect for one of those occasions, I love the combination of sweet and savory especially with cheese pairings. The tart juicy flesh of the nectarine wonderfully compliments the creaminess of the smooth goat cheese. Tarts such as these are so incredibly easy, feel free to switch up the ingredients to what you may have laying around the kitchen.

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Recipe

one sheet of thawed puff pastry

4 ounce package of soft goat cheese (chèvre works wonderfully)

2 eggs

1 tbs chopped fresh thyme

1 shallot finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

2 ripe nectarines sliced

egg wash

drizzle of olive oil

fresh basil leaves for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 400F/200 C. In a bowl mix together the goat cheese, eggs, thyme, shallot, salt & pepper till combined. Unfold the thawed puff pastry sheet onto a lined baking tray, push down to flatten slightly. Using a fork prick holes across the pastry. Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly on the pastry leaving a one inch border at all four sides. Carefully lay the nectarine slices on top in an overlapping pattern. Brush the borders with the egg wash and drizzle the olive oil on top of the tart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Garnish with freshly torn basil leaves.

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