Mirabelles Cafe - Back for Seconds

Well, I ended up taking another day trip to Burlington, this time on a Saturday. Turns out I should've shown you guys footage of a Saturday the first time, it's so much more alive and bustling, with street performers, live music, food carts, and cute doggies everywhere you look. I even found a space drum performer, which just shows how cool Burlington is.

Here's the space drum performance. Space drums make really beautiful music, check out my video from this trip to hear it.

Here are the treats I picked at Mirabelles: a raspberry pistachio eclair, and strawberry napoleon, and a mini opera cake. The eclair had a little bit of raspberry custard, a whole lot of barely-pistachio flavored chantilly cream, and a single raspberry. From what I've heard, eclairs (and anything else using choux puff) should be eaten as soon as they're made, or should only be filled upon order, otherwise they get soft. This one was not filled to order, and even though it had good fillings and tasted good overall, the choux puff was pretty meh. The opera cake siting next to it was heavy on the buttercream, but for all I know, that's how it's supposed to be. If you like coffee and chocolate, you'll like opera cake a lot. The napoleon's puff pastry layers were just underbaked enough that, instead of easily flaking them apart, I spent an embarrassing amount of time hacking at them with my plastic knife and fork, to the great amusement of the lady sitting next to me. It's also possible they weren't underbaked, and instead just lost their crisp from sitting too long with the fillings already applied. You all should remember, though, that I am great at being snobby about pastry, so even if I'm pointing out all the imperfections, please realize that these were still pretty darn good desserts.

What are your experiences with eclairs, opera cake, and napoleons? Know of anywhere that makes really good ones? Have you heard space drum music before? Comment down below and let me know!

Mirabelles Cafe - Back for Seconds (Video)


Double Bakery Run in Burlington, VT

      Burlington is the only thing in Vermont big enough to be called a city, and it's actually a pretty cool one. It's cute, but not quaint in the way all Vermont towns are. Being about the same size as my hometown, but a lot more diverse and fun, I've taken enough hour-long bus rides up there to find a couple good bakeries, and a few days ago I took a birthday trip up to visit an old favorite, and a new find.

These are the two pastries I tried at the new-to-me bakery, August First. The sugar-covered one was a Cardamom Knot, which was decent but lacking flavor and kind of dry. The second one hiding in the blurry background is an Almond Croissant (shaped un-traditionally though) that tasted like it was at least a day old already (for more and much clearer shots, see my video). I know I shouldn't judge a place based only on two pastries, especially considering they had such a wide variety, but I don't think I'll be going back. All in all, better variety and flavor options than your average American-style bakery, but still in the category of a quantity-and-sweetness-over-quality-and-taste kind of place.

The second one is my old favorite, Mirabelles Cafe & Bakery, where I decided on a Coconut Lime Slice and a Pistachio Macaron. The cake was a solid 4 out of 5: the coconut cake layers were soaked in a bit of coconut syrup, with lime curd in between and whipped cream around the whole thing. It wasn't moist enough that I could eat it without an accompanying drink, but I would still recommend it. (They do have other cakes that are perfectly moist though, like my all-time favorite, the Creme Brulee Cake). The macaron was incredible. I've never had a good macaron before, and so I always assumed they'd be too sweet, but this was AWESOME. A good balance of textures, with the meringue parts being chewy inside and a little crisp outside, and the ground nuts giving it some body and density. The buttercream was made right and had good flavor, though even a pastry nerd like me can't tolerate more than a little of that stuff, since it's pretty much lightly-sweetened fluffy butter.

So if you ever want to try a bakery in Burlington, I'd say go to Mirabelles Cafe and get a macaron, and a slice of my all-time favorite, the Creme Brulee Cake.

Do you guys have any favorite bakeries or dessert shops in Vermont? Know of any place (anywhere) that makes amazing coconut lime cake or macarons? Feel free to comment and let me know!

A Double Bakery Run in Burlington, VT (Video)


Lulu Artisan Ice Cream + Rural Vermont (Video)

Lulu Artisan Ice Cream + Rural Vermont

The Vermont countryside (check out my YouTube video for MUCH better views). This is my bus ride to work!

Inside Lulu!

So far I've made a salted bourbon caramel sauce (above), to become a swirl in some ice cream later today. I also made some brownies, and ran the churning machine for an hour, cleaning it in between batches. In that time it churned out a total of two small tubs of basil ice cream, and one tub of maple bourbon.

Besides doing prep work in the kitchen, I also work at the scoop shop. Here are yesterday's flavors! Lulu uses only local ingredients whenever possible, and for everything else they use organic. As an employee I get unlimited samples (so do the customers, actually), so of course I've "quality-checked" all the flavors on the list up there ;). My favorite was Slumdog Millionaire, and I'm not sure I approve of the name, but the flavor is AWESOME. It's a creamy sweet peanut butter base, with a kick of curry spices and some heat at the end. It's addicting. 

Check out my video if you want to see more of the shop, and see some much better quality views of the picturesque Vermont countryside.

I'll keep you guys updated on any tips I learn on making ice cream at home, on infusing flavors, and of course any cool flavor combinations I get to taste.

Here's the Lulu website: luluvt.com


Pastry Shop in Monterey, California

If you've never tried a canelé before, you must. It's a really-hard-to-make french pastry that's like a magic fusion of sponge cake and creamy custard, PLUS a darkly-caramelized outer crust that is sometimes crunchy. You can tell a good pastry shop by their canelés.

This was a very well-balanced pistachio-apricot tartlet. The pistachio filling wasn't too sweet, and the crust wasn't too hard or too crumbly. Some desserts taste great for the first bite or two, but they're so sweet and/or dry that you absolutely NEED a glass of milk, or some other kind of liquid to wash it down. This tartlet though, I happily ate all by itself.

If our friend hadn't been treating us (thanks, Liz!), I would've had a much, much harder time controlling myself. I wanted to try everything.

These little guys looked especially good.

This is a kouign amann (KWEEN yah-mon), and before this day it was what one of my friends calls a "unicorn", meaning something that you've heard a lot about, but never actually seen. I had read a lot about this on baking blogs before, and boy did it live up to expectations! It's a laminated dough (meaning it has hundreds of layers of butter folded into it) but doesn't have nearly as many layers as a croissant. This makes it a little more bread-y, a little less greasy/buttery, and with the layer of crunchy caramelized sugar on top, a little more awesome. 

Want to know where the kouign amann came from? My favorite pastry blogger has a short little post on its history: http://www.joepastry.com/2010/say_what_now/.

Here we have a pistachio-raspberry-chocolate cake, and a slice of plum tart. This tart was just as balanced as the early apricot one, though with a sweeter streusel on top to balance out the tart plums. I think the chocolate cake slice was my favorite, after the kouign amann. The sponge layers were soaked in a light syrup, so it wasn't too dry, and the mousse and other fillings were just melt-y enough to dissolve in your mouth and let the flavors come through. I couldn't really taste the pistachio, but I did notice the raspberry. The only thing I would've liked to add was some kind of crunchy layer.

These pastries were from Parker-Lusseau Pastries in Monterey, California. It's a bit pricey, but worth it.

Summer Living and Introduction

Hi everyone,

Now that I'm done with school, I'm planning on spending the next five to ten years working abroad and traveling. My plan for this blog is to document and share my life abroad, my travels, and my quest for good dessert and pastry. During the next two years I’ll be living in China mostly, but hopefully with little stays in Japan and maybe India too. I just graduated and managed to get a job n Shanghai starting this fall (near where I lived during my junior year), and since my boyfriend will be in Japan, and most of my mum’s family still live in India, I’ll be visiting those places as well!

I’m going all-out, with a YouTube vlog, a Twitter account, and Facebook page, maybe a Pinterest and Instagram too. This is so I can really tap into the blogger/internet community and hopefully get in touch with other travelers, foodies, and fellow third culture kids.

My Summer

I just finished college last month, and for the summer I'm working part-time at an artisan ice creamery in Vermont. Since they do a really cool fusion of French-style ice cream and gelato, I'm super stoked to learn how they make their custard base, and how they infuse flavors. Some of their less-traditional flavors include Orange Cardamom, Curried Peanut, and Chocolate Ginger Caramel (yay for South Asian-inspired flavors!).

I'm originally from a small city on the West Coast, so right after graduation I went home for two weeks, and on my way back to Vermont, I stopped in California to see my boyfriend and a mutual friend in Monterey. I'll put up some pics for you guys later of the awesome little bakery we went to.

Future Plans

I won't actually be leaving for China until August 7th, but between now and then I'll most likely take a weekend trip to DC (visa stuff) where I'll track down at least one good dessert shop, and after that I'll have a few weeks left to tell you all about the ice cream I'm making, and visit a few Vermont bakeries as well. I'll keep you guys posted.