Category Archives: dessert

copa vida in pasadena

I spent part of last Monday at this charming cafe, Copa Vida in Old Town Pasadena. I originally stumbled upon it about a year ago when they had just opened, looking to get some change for the meter, and enjoyed pistachio kumquat croissant. It was so great to see the cafe thriving having just celebrated their one year anniversary and being embraced by locals and visitors alike. With almost 400 yelp reviews (average 4 stars), this cafe is here to stay (yay!).

I definitely need to revisit for brunch (read their croque madame sandwich and kale salad are popular). I was impressed to learn that they bake/make their breads, pastries, and desserts in-house.

What I noticed about this place on both my visits is the airy and spacious feeling. Great place to catch up with a friend or to inspire creativity (I noticed one guest painting watercolors).

CV window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

espresso

CV mod inter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister ordered the shakerato, an iced espresso drink sweetened with raw sugar and mixed with milk. I had a cappuccino which was incredibly smooth, no sugar needed.

CV capp

 

 

 

 

 

 

dessert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: my sister knows one of the staff members (Hi Sam!) and he was so gracious to treat us to a dessert on-the-house. It was a light ‘tres chocolate’ mousse that had a couple layers of crackly bits. Couldn’t put my finger on it, whether it was spun sugar or some other confection. Whatever it was, I had to refrain from licking the bowl clean. Would be perfect with a cup of tea.

This inviting space has plenty of seating with the back room serving as an informal study area during my recent visit but I’ve read that it’s used for hosting special events as well.

crowded

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The coffee shop was also featured on a blog, Steamed Not Fried so check out their review. They also feature upcoming classes and events like live music on the weekends on their instagram, @copa_vida and facebook page, so check them out.

Copa Vida | 70 S Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105

white sangria

Hope you had a lovely weekend spent with your families celebrating Mother’s Day. Like many people (including my parents’ pastor who mentioned it in his sermon) was touched by NBA superstar, Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech. I admit I got choked up hearing him thank his mom. What a great reminder to vocalize our appreciation for our loved ones, moms who are unsung heroes.

I had planned on making lasagna for my mom and pairing it with a nice red wine but because of the warm weather (it’s going to be 100 later this week, here in Los Angeles), white sangria would be the refreshing choice. Scored this $4.99 white wine fruity blend from Trader Joe’s (Pancake Cellars Big Day White 2012) which is a decent wine for this price and great in sangria since it has green apple notes (photo credit). If you’re in the mood for a red sangria, here’s an easy recipe I featured last year. I also recommend this strawberry agua fresca that would go well with a spicy Asian or Mexican dish.

good white ed

 

sangria rr recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


white sangria
(adapted from foodnetwork.com)
serves 6
1 green apple, sliced in wedges
1 lemon, half moon slices
1 lime, half moon slices
1 cup, strawberries, quartered
3 TB sugar
1 bottle (750ml) of dry white wine (chardonnay and riesling are great too)
1 pint of raspberries
2 cups (approx) of soda water

Pour a half bottle of wine in a pitcher and add 3 TB of sugar. Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fruit except the raspberries and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with ice cubes, raspberries, and a splash of soda water.

Included in the dinner spread was lasagna and strawberry-basil shortcakes (ready for a magazine photo op) made by my sister (click here for the recipe). Not pictured: galbi and kale, brussel sprout, cranberry salad). I’ll share the bolognese sauce recipe once the weather cools down.

M day collage

 

eatalian cafe in gardena

We had a family dinner at Eatalian Cafe in Gardena last weekend. It’s funny because my mom first read about them in the Korean newspaper (her holy grail). It was a sign when I saw that same restaurant review proudly hanging on wall next to the cash register.

I would rate the food as the one of the top 3 Italian food experiences ever. The dishes were made with a light touch (not overly salty) and allowed the ingredients to shine. My favorites were the gnocchi in ragu sauce and linguine vongole (despite my mild shellfish allergy). Also, I highly recommend the pistachio and cappuccino gelato. OMG! Airy and dead-on flavors. Even though we were full, we really enjoyed our dessert.

menu

The only downside was the ambiance; it feels you’re having dinner in an airport terminal. This warehouse converted into a restaurant means sound bounces everywhere and it seems chaotic inside (well, at least on a Saturday night) but bright enough for decent pictures :).

Because it’s so big inside, they can accommodate larger groups (8 to 12). However, they don’t take reservations on the weekends so expect a wait. We came around 6:20pm and waited for about 30 minutes to get seated.

eatalian collage

From l to r, top to bottom: anchovy pizza, linguine vongole, linguine pesto, gnocchi ragu.

gelato

strawberry and pistachio gelato (always room for dessert)

airport terminalOverall, I would recommend this restaurant because of the high quality of the food. Although I haven’t been to Italy (yet), I can tell it’s very authentic. Not Italian American but authentic as in briny-anchovies-in-your pizza kinda way (owner is from Italy). It’s also an affordable option. Dinner for 5 including dessert and a few beers was about $100 (with tip). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this place for a romantic date (not the setting for it) but a great place to come with your foodie friends. Maybe on a weeknight it’ll be less chaotic. If you’re curious, check out their review in the LA Times and what 900+ yelpers have to say.

matcha mochi muffins

I am my parents’ daughter. The more I interact with them, the more I see their personality traits and quirks reflected in me. I’ve been obsessed with making this matcha mochi muffin recipe. I’ve made it 4 different times and they have been my go-to taste testers. My mom will take a bite and then analyze the texture, flavor and comment on how this batch is different from the prior one. While this is going on, my dad will gleefully pop 2 or 3 in his mouth. I’m the same way. I can’t wait to get my hands on a warm one right out of the oven but I’m also my harshest critic. They taste good, but look beat up and burnt. They’re not chewy enough, too soft… etc. All this to say, I got it right the fourth time! Try this easy recipe (just follow my recipe and it should turn out just right).

This is an aside but I think it’s really sweet that my dad picks lemons for my mom when he’s playing a round of golf. When I asked him if it’s ok (by management), he said, there’s so many they won’t notice :).

matcha powder

matcha 2My (1st) and 3rd attemps both looked like this. Dark and beat up looking since I had to force them out of the pan. Btw, this is what happens when your ingredients are cold, straight out of the fridge. Unevenly baked.done!4th attempt, just right 🙂

mochi

matcha mochi muffins (adapted from tinyurbankitchen)
makes 40 (mini muffins)
1 lb rice flour (I use Koda Farms brand w/blue star)
2 TB + 1 tsp matcha powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil + ¼ cup veggie oil (or spray) to grease tins
2 cups milk (I use whole milk; as close to room temp)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs (at room temp or close to that)

1. Preheat oven to 340F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk rice flour and matcha powder together. Add remaining ingredients until incorporated.
2. Generously grease 2 cupcake/muffin pans with more oil than you think you need. Why? Rice flour and sugar get very sticky. The batter should sit in a pool of oil. I know, it sounds gross but it’s ok. Fill each hole half way and bake for 30-35 minutes. Switch your pans about halfway through baking time.
3. About 30 minutes in, check to see if they’re done by sticking a toothpick inside. Should come out clean (or w/a little crumbs, not big ones). It’s ok if it looks a bit under done in the centers. The outer edges should be nicely browned (and crispy).
4. Once they’re done, use a plastic knife or fork to run along the perimeter of each muffin to loosen it (plastic so you don’t scratch your pans). Do it immediately after you’ve pulled it from the oven. Otherwise, it’s very sticky and difficult to fish out. Trust me on this. The first time around, mine had wholes on the bottom.

Notes: You can find matcha powder and rice flour at Asian supermarkets. I found mine at HMart. I like this Korean brand of matcha powder (about $7). It’s more affordable than the Japanese brands and has good flavor.

korean matcha powder

I tried baking these in cupcake liners but you won’t get the browned edges that give its crispy bite. Thanks also to all my friends who’ve been my recipe testers. I appreciate that you appreciate good eats.

boston: part 1 (good eats)

I was in Boston for about a week earlier this month for a work conference and came the weekend prior to explore/play. My friends (and talented colleagues) and I hung out and had some amazing food. I have so many pictures to share that I’ll devote another post to the sights of Boston. It was actually my second time here but first time really experiencing it on foot. Here are some food highlights:

Our first night in Boston, we took a short bus ride to this Asian fusion restaurant, Myers+Chang. I’m a bit weary when I hear fusion but it was a much needed pick-me-up after a 5+ hour plane ride. Our favorites were the papaya salad, Indonesian fried rice (below, top right, bottom left), and their dan dan cold noodles in a peanut sauce. Despite being a busy Friday night for the restaurant, we had ice waters (noticeably sweating from the humidity we’re not accustomed to) and seated at the window within 10 minutes.

The highlight was meeting Chef Joanne Chang as she came by and asked us how the food was!!! She even liked MY Instagram pic! I’ve been a big fan ever since she beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s  Throwdown with her signature sticky buns (keep reading).

We went to Cafe Luna for Saturday brunch in Cambridge (top left, bottom right). I ordered their lemon ricotta stuffed mascarpone pancakes with lemon curd. Probably one of the best brunch dishes I’ve ever had. These were so light and fluffy, perfect for the hot day with my iced chai latte. Julie had the lobster eggs benedict (bottom right). Doesn’t it look savory and decadent? She was saying how fresh the lobster was in her dish. We were very impressed by this small sidewalk cafe (which was packed on a Saturday morning, as good ones should be). The owner was so friendly and kind to us as we learned he’s originally from OC.

brunch and meyers

Day 2 continued: Flour Bakery in Cambridge. A few blocks from Cafe Luna is one of 3 Flour Bakery locations. The first one opened in 2000 and has become an integral part of the city. Chef Joanne Chang has not only the bakeries, her restaurant, and also 2 cookbooks to her empire :). Despite our stuffed bellies, we HAD to sample their desserts. They’re famous for their sticky sticky buns (below). OMG! Very gooey and a generous amount of pecans. I also had a chunky lola cookie (choco chip oatmeal cookie w/coconut and pecans), which was even better! I found the cookie recipe online and baked them last weekend (foolproof!).

I bought home some goodies from this bakery including coffee beans and their signature granola, both taste so good I wish I bought more. My parents really liked their coffee beans for a smooth taste (says a hint of chocolate, but I can’t tell). What’s interesting about Chef Joanne’s background is she graduated from Harvard w/a dual Bachelors in economics and mathematics to work as a management consultant only to realize her true passion was becoming pastry chef. If you’ve ever baked, you understand the art and science of baking. How cool is that?

flour bakery

We also explored the South Boston as our conference was a short walking distance to this up-and-coming area (NPR just did a story on this area). We found this gem of a restaurant, Sportello, one of Chef Barbara Lynch’s restaurants (she has 8 or 9 eateries and mentored the last Top Chef winner). The concept of the eatery is casual Italian diner with countertops covering most the restaurant and an open kitchen + bakery. It’s so cute and inviting. Most notable was their handmade gnocchi and tagliatelle with bolognese sauce. The simplest dishes are the hardest to pull off and they make it look effortless. Shout out to our server Ethan who was amazing.

sportello

I love exploring new cities because you stumble upon places that locals frequent like Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, a few doors down from Sportello. A simple cafe with high quality coffee. Their iced coffee hit the spot on those hot summer days. We also made room for cannolis at Mike’s Pastry in the North End after a full meal. $3.50 for a pistachio cannoli in a small, always crowded Italian pastry shop (cash only).

mike's pastry

Hope this gives you a little taste (no pun intended) of good eats in Boston. Stay tuned for Boston part 2 later this week. Too much good content to cram into one post.

almond butter cookies

I’m proud to say that I’m recovering from the flu (horrible this year). Btw, if you’re reading this and haven’t gotten the flu or flu shot this year, count your blessings, and GET THE FLU SHOT! Do yourself a favor, it’s only a matter of time when the virus comes for you. Don’t be foolish like me and put it off. I say this because even on flu day 13 (I feel 95% better), my sore throat is almost gone, I’m not coughing anymore (thank God), the runny nose has gone away, but my nose–I still can’t smell anything!!! I didn’t realize how important scent is to enjoying food when it’s taken away. I can still taste my food but a muted version of it. Currently, when I breathe in, it smells like a freshly painted walls on day 10 (again, a muted version).

I’m hoping that a in few more days, I’ll be back to my full olfactory senses. Once that happens, I can’t WAIT to bake these almond butter cookies. They are a more subtle version of peanut butter cookies. Think of a more sophisticated version that doesn’t hit you over the head with it’s rich nutty flavor but a more subtle one. You’ll just have to try it. Some reviewers on allrecipes.com complained that the cookie was a bit bland, but I appreciated the softer nutty flavor. Try it and let me know what you think!

almond cookie better!

Almond Butter Cookies (adapted from allrecipes.com)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup of whole wheat flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temp
¾ cup almond butter, creamy
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 egg
36 raw whole almonds (recommend TJ’s or Fresh and Easy for good value and quality)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Either put cooking spray onto 2 baking sheets or lay down parchment paper (my preference for easy cleanup). Mix all the dry ingredients into one mixing bowl. Mix the sugars, butter, and almond butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and egg until creamy. Gradually stir in the dry mixture until well incorporated.
I recommend molding the cookie dough into 2 logs and refrigerating it for at least 1 hour so the dry and wet ingredients and develop some flavor, or you can bake it immediately.
When you’re ready to bake them, form a chunk of dough into a 1 inch ball and gently press down with your 3 middle fingers to make form 90 degree hash tag look. Place an almond on top of each cookie and gently press so it becomes one with the cookie. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for about 5 minutes before eating.

Note: You can find almond butter at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or a specialty food market like Sprouts/Henry’s. Mine was about 8 bucks at Sprouts (on sale mind you). But once you have it, you can make almond butter and honey sandwiches and such. Happy baking!

barney almond butter

cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting

Hope you had a great weekend. I spent most of Saturday cooking and baking which was a lot of fun. The baking part was making chocolate cupcakes (cake mix) with strawberry cream cheese frosting as our church college group was celebrating birthdays for this month. I thought I’d get fancy and learn how to pipe a pretty design.

It’s funny because I didn’t expect such excitement over these cupcakes! Everyone seemed to enjoy them and was worth the extra effort. Like my mom says, we eat with our eyes first ;).

cluster

strawberry cream cheese frosting (from weekofmenus blog)
(enough to frost 24 cupcakes)

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
5-6 cups powdered sugar
1.2 oz of freeze dried strawberries, pulverized (use a food processor; find them at Trader Joe’s and Target)
5-7 fresh strawberries, washed, dried, quartered (stems on, do this after cupcakes are frosted).

In a large mixing bowl, cream your butter until it’s smooth. Add the cream cheese and cream them together until smooth. Add the powdered strawberries (should look like Hawaiian punch mix). Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Add 2 more cups of powdered sugar and taste. Should be smooth and creamy.

Notes:
a. I mixed this all by hand rather than using kitchen gadgets. I think if you use a stand mixer or hand mixer, it may come out smoother and creamier than mine. I didn’t want to bother with washing another thing.
b. Don’t pulverize the dried strawberries until you’re about ready to use them. Joanne, the blogger who created this recipe said it’ll soak up any moisture in the room (fyi). Same goes for fresh strawberries.

Piping rosettes

rose

To pipe this design, you’ll need a 1M tip from Wilton (available at Target and Michael’s) and a piping bag. I also watched YouTube to figure out the technique (here’s a quick video tutorial). It’s not complicated, just may take a few tries. Then, you can take these to a party and wow people with your fancy-looking cupcakes (although it’s not that complicated, but that’s our little secret, right?).

ariel shot