Monday, April 14, 2014

dessert/french: i strongly recommend LADUREE



LADUREE 法國百年馬卡龍
Xinyi Mitsukoshi A9
新光三越 信義A9
No. 9 Song Shou Road
北市信義區松壽路9號
(02) 2722-8918

MRT: ZhongXiao/FuXing

website: laduree.com

hours: 11AM- 9:30PM

$$$ (NT$98 for one small macaron)

Kid friendliness: kids might want a colorful confection too, but will eat it quicker than you can say NT$100

Visit reviewed: 10/21/2013 &11/13/2013


Two words- Salted caramel. If you were to get just one macaron from one of the two Laduree shops now in Taipei, go for the salted caramel. Of course, it's not as colorful as strawberry, pistachio, rose or lemon, but it's always my favorite. 


When Laduree first opened up shop in Taipei at Breeze Center, my friend messaged me while waiting in a 2 hour line asking if I wanted a box. Everyone wanted a little piece of the famous French macaron, especially to gifts. "YES! Get me salted caramel!" I messaged back. And when he messaged me again that the person in front of him had just taken the last few, I was disappointed, until he wrote back a minute later that they had located a new batch in the back and so I'd have some by the end of the day.

But nowadays, you can walk up to the shop without a wait. This is a peek at the first floor shop at Xinyi Mitsukoshi. It's kind of weird because it's located where the makeup counters usually are, but is a good spot for luring customers who shop (or Instagram) in the high end mall. Squint your eyes at the mint green counter display with macaron trees and rows of macarons to pretend that you are buying them in Paris instead of Taipei (or wander upstairs to Paul for some napoleons and crepes. Haha!)





For first time Laduree macaron buyers, when you are at the counter, you should take a look at the color coded macaron chart as well as the boxes pricing list. Macarons are NT$98 per piece, but the price goes slightly up if you choose a gift box. It's definitely not cheap for such tiny pieces of sugar, but they are air shipped all the way from France. You could get a box of 12 Krispy Kremes for the prices of 3 macarons, but it depends on what your cravings are. 


There's the typical flavors like chocolate, coffee, lemon, vanilla, pistachio, raspberry, rose, and more unusual flavors like gingerbread, marshmallow strawberry candy, orange blossom, blackcurrant violet or pink pepper. 


The most expensive box is listed at NT$6860 for a 70 piece box (around US$230)! Crazy.

When buying the macarons, they'll usually ask if you are giving it as a gift or not. If you say yes, they'll encourage you get get a gift box which can extra, depending on which box you select. You can also get the free box (especially if it's for yourself), but you need to get a box of 8 (NT$784). The complimentary green box is more thin and flimsy than the gift boxes but works perfectly fine to carry them home. It's about the same cost as the box of six in the fancy box,  but you only get six macarons instead of eight. (And pay NT$130 per macarons instead of NT$98. That's the Asian frugal part of me calculating). I've had friends who didn't know so they thought they had to get the fancy box so their macarons wouldn't get smashed on the way home, and got shorted a couple of bites.


If you're giving it as a gift, then there are lots of different beautiful boxes to choose from, and the cost will go up a bit and they charge different prices for different boxes. If you are just getting one or two to taste, then they will put it in a paper bag, so it's best to eat it right away. If you don't eat your macarons within a few days, you can put it in the fridge, or even better in the freezer to put them in "hibernation" until you are ready to eat them.



Previously, my first and only time tasting Laduree macarons was when I received them as a gift from a friend that visited Paris- in a Hello Kitty box no less! In the US, the only shops are in New York, and in Asia, there are shops in Tokyo, Nagoya, Hong Kong, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, and now Taipei and Taichung. So those of you visiting from LA might even find yourself taking some home instead of pineapple cakes.


My other favorite place in Taipei to get macarons for their flavors and adorable packaging is Patisserie La Douceur, but they stopped making a lot of my favorite flavors like wasabi and balsamic vinegar. Maybe one day I'll have a salted caramel macaron taste test from all the shops around Taipei. Haha!


Even Laduree jams, chocolates and souvenirs are available. 


These pink and silver boxes of six were gifts to me. Actually for awhile, I was getting macarons from a number of friends! Thanks to my dear friends J & C, G and Vs for the sweets. It's a splurge for the treat, but costs about the same as the other macarons in town, so it's a fair price to pay for one of the best macarons in Taipei, if not the world.  


OTHER LOCATION

at Breeze Center 微風廣場
No. 39 FuXing S. Road, Sec. 1
北市松山區復興南路一段39號1樓
(02) 8772-4409

Monday, April 07, 2014

brunch/dessert: i strongly recommend LES BEBES CAFE

  

LES BEBES CAFE  貝貝西點
No. 10, Lane 295, DunHua S. Rd, Sec. 1
台北市大安區敦化南路一段295巷10號1樓
(02) 2784-7460

MRT: ZhongXiao/DunHua

website: Les Bebes' FB page

hours:  M-F 11:30AM- 9PM; weekends 10AM- 9PM (saturday until 10PM)

$$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs available. Kids will love cupcakes and minis, and pastas and finger foods available

Visits reviewed: 5/10/2013, 9/4/2013, 1/2014 & 2/13/2014; 4/4/2014


I love Les Bebes' cupcakes. Love. So I definitely had to check it out when I heard last year that Les Bebes had opened up a new cafe/bakery in the DaAn district near DunHua/RenAi (neighboring Bianco and the also new to eastside Season). And I've gone back again and again, and finally finished up writing this post to share with you.


The bright, sunny vibe that was at the original cupcake shop is echoed and expanded at the cafe location. Even though the cupcakes are front and center of the shop, there a whole menu to be eaten at the cafe's roomy seating hidden in the back.









Don't mistake it as "just a cupcake shop" as my friend recently did and miss out on the great food.



It's been almost a year since my first visit to Les Bebes Cafe and with Les Bebes' founder Elaine at the helm, I feel like it's grown so much and the menu is constantly evolving and getting refined. There's a new brunch menu I'm especially excited about, with fried chicken and cornbread.

The lunch menu focuses on salads, sandwiches, pastas and a new brunch menu, while the dinner menu has more risottos/pasta and entrees like cajun spiced salmon or roasted spring chicken. Cupcakes anytime of the day. While the menu is on the pricier side, everything is made in house with quality over quantity with flavor profiles and combinations that you might find at fancier restaurants.

Everyone gets a complimentary mini espresso cup of the soup of the day to start and always leaves me wanting more. I think these were beet soup, pumpkin soup and pea with mint. 




I love how the salads at Les Bebes Cafe have a mix of hearty, housemade ingredients that are hard to find in Taipei, where you usually just find caesar or greens with japanese vinaigrette. 





What to order? The Provence salad (NT$410) is a MUST ORDER. With balsamic glazed roast vegetables piled atop the plate with a dash of buckwheat salsa, there's a lot of contrasting textures and flavors that not only tastes good but is good for you. The pumpkin is so sweet with a caramelized skin, there's roasted peppers, tofu, baby corn, bamboo, mushroom, zucchini, even roasted baby cabbage. I haven't found a roasted vegetable salad like this anywhere else in Taipei, so I order this every time I come. It's also vegetarian friendly and deceptively filling, even if you share it.


Be sure to try the grilled baby romaine and the meaty mushroom. SO good.




I crave this salad.  I have to order this every time, which makes it hard to try new things on the menu, but bring friends and share plates.


I also liked the Tomato Confit Salad (NT$430) with sundried tomatoes, house pickled tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomato confit as well as slices of tender roasted pork loin hidden underneath the Mizuna greens and arugula. Crispy lotus root slices instead of croutons. 



My dad's ahi tuna salad with couscous and poached egg LBB Signature Salad (NT$440) comes with a light citrus dressing.


It's funny to note the difference from the first visit in May 2013 where the egg was scrambled (photo below) instead of poached. 


The new brunch menu is definitely worth trying. I loved both the crispy Fried Chicken and Cornbread (NT$430) and the Petite French Toast (NT$400), which comes with two options.


Two pieces of fried chicken with ultra crispy skin, a few potato wedges, salad and a nice hunk of cornbread. Don't forget to spread the maple butter on top of the cornbread. Yum.



The Petite French Toast (NT$400) with bacon, banana and salted caramel drizzle is practically a dessert. The french toast is cut into sticks which makes it easy to share and dip into the airy salted caramel whipped cream. Every piece is topped with bacon and banana and perfect for those who enjoy the savory sweet combination. The other french toast option includes a side of hash brown sausage and brown butter apples.



As someone on Instagram commented, almost looks like a stack of bbq ribs! 


I also love the pastas here - they aren't too heavy and while they are on the smaller side, they are pretty filling.  Both the olive pesto seafood and the sausage carbonara are delicious. The rosemary sausage carbonara farfalle (NT$400), which has layers of flavors with the arugula, fresh parmesan cheese and sausage along with the creamy carbonara sauce. It's a kid friendly dish if you pick out the dots of red peppercorn or order it without.



The seafood olive pesto farfalle (NT$400) had a briny savoriness that was different from typical basil pesto and perfect with the clams and chopped squid. It was my first time seeing pesto made from olives and I loved it. And the fresh parmesan shavings atop- try to scoop some into every bite.


The appetizers tended to be on the smaller side for the price (NT$120-280), so I'd skip them and save room for cupcakes instead. But if you were to order them- my favorite out of the bunch was the smoked salmon & roe dip (NT$260), my least favorite the fried calamari (NT$270) because of the size for the price.


Bread and taramasalata dip (NT$260)- focaccia slices with creamy smoked salmon and roe dip


Bread and vegetable dip (NT$180) 


The house made LBB potato chips (NT$150) are addictive with the house made shallot aioli. 


Calamari (NT$270) - much smaller than expected portion for the price. 


I also was pleasantly surprised by the Cranberry Cheese Chicken sandwich (NT$400). It isn't something that I'd typically order off the menu at first glance, but I'm glad Les Bebes' owner Elaine suggested I try when I met her the second time I visited. It's like Thanksgiving in a sandwich, though it's house cured chicken rather than turkey. The creaminess of the camembert cheese married with the crunch of the apple slices and walnuts alone would be great and then you get the sweetness of the cranberry sauce and the spiciness of the arugula- it's great.



My friend's Chili Burger (NT$490), the chili unexpectedly on the side. One of the more "guy" things on the menu.


Some unique coffees to try that sound almost like cupcake flavors- like Iced Lemon Coffee, Pink Rose Salt Latte or Honey Banana Coffee. 



Always so hard to decide which flavors to get, but my favorites are the popular red velvet with cream cheese frosting and the chocolate with peanut butter frosting. There's also a a few unique flavors with matcha green tea, earl gray, carrot cake, salted caramel banana chocolate, chocolate cream pie and lemon pie.



Cupcakes come in regular and babycakes sizes and come in adorable boxes to take home once you pick them out. Otherwise you can pick some to eat with your meal or for afternoon tea. But you find yourself, like me, coming back for the food and not just the dessert. Salads and cupcakes, what's not to love. 



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