Tell Me More! French Macarons Baked in NYC

Matcha green tea

Tell Me More! is a new series at Kosher Like Me. I’ll be sharing interviews and tidbits with you about Chefs, Cooks and other fascinating folks in the food world. These are people and stories I want to know more about. I think you will, too.

I completely ignored the macaron craze for a few years, even snubbing a certain French biggie when they opened a shop in my neighborhood and the throngs of meringue lovers wound around the block.

So I was caught off guard last spring when I found myself falling for these brightly colored treats. We converged on Paris with a carefully researched eating/tasting/shopping plan. Unbeknownst to me, a certain macaron-loving member of my family made it her business to craft a well researched list of the most notable macaron options in Paris.

How could I not oblige and taste along with her?

I realized I was hooked.

je t'aime

So when E suggested that I meet her at Macaron Cafe on Third Avenue between 46/47 (NYC), a few weeks ago, I took my time reminiscing as I inhaled the flowery and herbal scents and rejoiced in the neatly stacked rows of vibrant colors.

I knew that this cafe was owned by a French couple who bake their macarons here in NYCCecile and Arnaud Cannone opened their first location and dream venture four years ago, only one year after arriving in the USA.

Today, they have three locations and a thriving special order and delivery business. They continue to bake all of their own product in the second floor bakery above their original location.

I wanted to know more.

Cecile Cannone, owner and baker

I met Cecile Cannone, French pastry chef and owner of Macaron Cafe, last week over cafe au lait, many delectable bites of heavenly macarons, and her story.

Kosher Like Me:  Why are Americans so crazy about French macarons and is there a reverse trend of something traveling from the U.S.A. to Paris?

Cecile Cannone: Our cultures have been fascinated by each other for many years. We will always be linked and we love to explore trends from each other’s countries. While Americans love macarons, the French are very into American cupcakes at the moment. And I suspect that if I shared peanut butter macarons with my French friends in Paris they would love them.

peanut butter

KLM: You received accolades from the Wall Street Journal soon after you opened your first location. And a few months later, Food and Wine Magazine labeled your macarons “Champion Cookie” in 2011. Was that a surprise for you and your partner/husband Arnaud?

CC: We were so busy baking and setting up the business, that we never anticipated any attention being paid to us. As new immigrants, every contract, every bit of business we conducted in English, required more effort. So, when we arrived at our cafe, one morning, to see a line down the street waiting for us to open, we wondered what could have caused the crowd to gather. We were completely surprised and thrilled to find that the crowd had read the WSJ review and wanted to taste our macarons. New Yorkers have been very , very welcoming and kind to us.

KLM: I was surprised to see that you have a kosher certification. What prompted you to seek that?

CC: Our first location is in the garment district and many of our customers are kosher. They wanted a certified product and asked for it. It was not difficult to find kosher ingredients and to honor the requirements.

KLM: What is your most frequently requested flavor?

pistachio

CC: Pistachio, without a doubt! For pistachio lovers they get intense flavor three ways: the cookie, the filling and the bits of pistachio pressed around the edge.

KLM: What are the most unusual flavors you offer?

CC: all of the flower based flavors! In the south of France, we are accustomed to eating lavender flavored items, for example. Here, our most exotic flavors are honey lavender and rose lichee.

KLM: What makes your macarons stand out among your competitors?

CC: Well, all ingredients are American and we are very proud of that. I bake with my team in NYC. We make all of our own jams and fillings. Our fillings are abundant and the almond: sugar ratio in the cookie is equal, making the cookie very flavorful.

KLM: What is the most unusual event you ever baked for?

je t'aime (1)

CC: We baked 28,000 macarons and wrapped each one individually before sending them off to 280 Ann Taylor retail locations for Mother’s Day last spring. They handed them out to customers, who were totally delighted. Now, that was a lot of work in our small bakery!

KLM: What kinds of desserts do you bake at home?

CC: I bake simple crepes and top them with honey or sugar. For my two boys I bake lemon tarte for one and pear honey tarte for the other.

KLM: Do you order dessert when you eat out in restaurants?

CC: If there is a pastry chef, definitely! I look at the menu backwards and order my dessert before my meal, so I am not disappointed if they run out. Recently, I ordered dessert and ate it with our cocktails at the bar, before dinner.

Many thanks to Cecile for sharing a recipe from her book:  Macarons, Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe. Watch for it later this week.

Macaron Cafe has three locations in NYC. Their macarons are certified kosher (some are parve), gluten free, and free of trans fats. They are available for delivery in NYC, and may be shipped nationwide. They welcome special orders for events of all sizes.

 

 

 

Noshing Around the Lower East Side, NYC

What’s wrong with this pic? Answer in comments section!

I love a good walking tour almost as much as a hands-on cooking class. So when Jennifer Abadi sent me her Syrian cooking class schedule along with dates for Context Travel’s “Jewish Cuisine and Culture” walk on the Lower East Side, NYC, I was ready to zip on my warm boots, grab a proper winter hat and prepare for a big nosh fest.

What I found was that having an expert lead me from one culinary landmark to the next, while sharing historical and social history of the neighborhood where my grandparents lived in a tenement upon landing at Ellis Island, left even this knowledgeable New York eater to some thrilling new tidbits to chew on. Continue reading

Beyond Sushi, Rolling Outside of the Box

Beyond Sushi owner/chef Guy Vaknin

I arrived so early for lunch at Beyond Sushi, the shoebox of a vegan sushi spot just off Union Square in NYC, that it was almost a late breakfast for me. With only three tables and a rockin’ take-out business,  I wanted to be sure to nab a seat and settle in to feast on the creations that are all fair game for this kosher keeper.

Chef/Owner Guy Vaknin has let his imagination run wild here. His combos are the most unusual and perfectly paired flavors all rolled up in completely unfamiliar, purplish hued grains.

Vaknin popped up from the basement kitchen through a staircase leading to the sidewalk. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Gefilte

image courtesy of Gefilteria

Question: How do you recognize a gefilte fish swimming in the ocean?
Answer: It’s the only one with a carrot on its head.

The subject of gefilte fish, in all of its old and new permutations, brought a standing room only crowd of over 200 enthusiasts to the Center for Jewish History in NYC last week.

An enthusiastic group of curious old timers (“what’s to talk about  so much?”) and young hipsters (“SO cool”) gathered in the comfortable theatre to hear New York’s quintessential gefilte makers talk about their recipes, why gefilte fish has lasting appeal, what their patrons have to say about it, and best of all, to offer samples to the hungry crowd after the panel discussion. Continue reading

Roll Your Own

When eating sushi, NEVER pass food to someone using your chopsticks. That act parallels passing cremated bones of a deceased relative at a Japanese funeral. Instead, pass the plate, allowing the sushi to be plucked from it.

Good to know.

I learned so much in the “Roll Your Own” vegetarian sushi making class at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, that I will never again eat sushi without deep appreciation and a (hopefully) more discerning and knowledgeable palate. Continue reading

Cooking Heart Healthy Foods with Jennifer Abadi at the JCC in Manhattan

Invite me to a cooking class?  I am in!
 I love them all: demos, hands on, famous chefs, home-style cooks … I am eager to be inspired by some unfamiliar flavor or technique.
But with the steep cost of these classes,  I need to choose carefully.
For me that means honing in on classes that focus on using health conscious, vegetarian or kosher ingredients. While perusing the online schedule for the JCC in Manhattan, I ran into a class being taught by Jennifer Abadi called Delicious Heart-Healthy Foods.
When I saw the menu, I knew I needed to attend.

Cooking Glorious Tajines with Levana

Levana is almost always referred to by her first name.
Like another favorite, extroverted star, her name rhymes with Madonna. No connection.
Levana is a legend in the kosher food world. She co-owned Levana Restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for 32 years where she introduced upscale, innovative kosher dining to a public that had previously settled for mediocre kosher experiences when eating in restaurants.
Her multicultural, boldly seasoned creations exposed, educated, and elevated our expectations. After 32 years, the restaurant closed and now Levana spends most of her professional time as a cooking teacher, cookbook author and traveling the country giving cooking demosContinue reading

Mondays at Dovetail in NYC

Mondays are the perfect night to visit Dovetail in NYC.

 

Chef/Owner John Fraser has carved a meatless Monday niche for vegetarians and those who are kosher like me.

 

Options are plentiful and preparations are elegantly plated in this contemporary dining room with a casual but grown up vibe. No need to settle for just any ol’ salad or vegetable laden pasta here.

The Monday night vegetarian menu is prix fixe at $46. which includes three generous courses and dessert. There are three options in each of these categories and a list of eight desserts made by pastry chef Michal Selkowitz.

If you relish great vegetarian preparations that celebrate the bounty of each season, plan ahead in order to reserve your Monday night table. I waited two weeks for a res at a decent dinner hour.

Continue reading

Bond Street Chocolate Moses Giveaway

 

The season is shifting noticeably as the temperature cools and the  rapid sequence of fall holidays is poised to roll.  Launching Kosher Like Me as the new year approaches feels just on time!  In my last minute flurry,  I’ve reviewed vast piles of notes and photos corresponding to restaurants, events, chefs, tastings and other extraordinary food experiences that are the reason for bringing it all together in Kosher Like Me.   Here, I will share the pleasure of my discoveries and journeys as I seek creative vegetarian experiences for those who love to eat well.  Some of you may be Kosher Like Me (read ABOUT and FAQ’s) and some may be vegetarian or simply leaning in that direction. WELCOME!! Continue reading