An old Miami favorite becomes a new classic

If I had to name the one thing I miss most about living in Miami it would be pastelitos de guayaba y queso, the city’s ubiquitous Cuban pastries filled with guava and cream cheese.

Yea, that’s right. More than perpetual summer or beaches or family, I miss pastelitos. (On the off chance that my sister’s reading this: as you always so vehemently remind me, you don’t technically live in Miami. Now, ask me what I miss most about Broward County though…)

I’ve professed my love for them before but I’ll say it again: these pastries are some of the best, right up there with eclairs, cannoli, baklava and croissants. Pastelitos have the perfect combination of jammy, bright fruit flavors from guava, and sweet, creaminess from the cream cheese to go with flaky, buttery pastry dough. They’re great for breakfast or dessert or as an afternoon snack or even at 2am in the morning, slightly stale from sitting in a paper bag on the kitchen counter waiting for you all day after your flight from NY to Florida was delayed for hours.

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Guava + Cheese at The Salty Donut

I love them dearly which is why when my sister and I first walked into The Salty Donut, Miami’s first and outrageously popular artisanal donut shop in trendy Wynwood, and were initially struck with indecision and an overwhelming sense of “what do you get when you want everything,” I knew exactly what I was ordering the moment I laid eyes on it: the guava and cheese donut.

The Salty Donut uses what they call a 24 hour brioche recipe, creating a large cake donut that retains a soft, fluffy inside and a slightly crisper outside. Inside, a thick, generous filling of swirled guava and cream cheese, perfect in its evenness, oozed out with every bite. (Nothing worse than a filled donut with only a sad smidge of filling in the very middle. You have to eat around it wondering if maybe you got a dud and there’s nothing really there.)

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A lesson in how to make an absolutely delicious and perfectly filled donut.

The outside was coated with a thick cream cheese glaze and topped with crushed Maria cookies, another diet staple of anyone who grew up Hispanic in Miami, for a crumbly element to contrast the soft donut and its gooey inside. Salty’s donut is the decadent lovechild of a cake donut and a pastelito, a great way to bring an old classic up to speed on the trend of gourmet doughnuts, over the top pastries, and all things edible on Instagram. It borrowed all the right flavors and presented them as something delicious and fun and at least for me, nostalgic.

Now I have one more thing to miss when I think about Miami.

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Be here. Have cake.

I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately about living in a different city, and possibly because it was the last place I visited and because I loved it so much, my reveries have mostly been about New Orleans.

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Get you a friend who can bake

I spent a week there with friends during the holidays and a few weeks after my trip, The New York Times released its annual 52 Places To Go list, and whaddaya know? New Orleans snagged the number one spot of places to go for “escaping into the world.”

That happens to be exactly what I want to do, but since I can’t at the moment, I’m mostly just going to daydream about it. And because no daydream about New Orleans would be complete without food, that’s where my mind often wanders.

Since we’re in the time of year after Epiphany (Jan. 6) leading up to Mardi Gras (Feb. 13 this year) known as Carnival, I wanted to get my hands on some king cake, a traditional treat served all over New Orleans this time of year. When I saw that Joy the Baker, one of my favorite food bloggers who also happens to live in New Orleans, had her own recipe, I had a better idea: solicit the help of my talented baker extraordinaire friend, Stas, and make one ourselves.

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King cake in the making

She had most of the ingredients already (cause that’s just the kind of always-prepared-for-cake kind of badass she is) and I added the rest, mainly the fun accessories, Mardi Gras colored sprinkles (purple, green and yellow) and a historically accurate baby Jesus figurine.

King cakes are served in lots of other countries  (mostly the Catholic ones) and come in  different varieties but for the most part the New Orleans kind is a cinnamon roll-like doughy treat covered with frosting, and usually includes a small plastic baby hidden somewhere inside.

Stas had already made the dough when I came over, so we rolled it out and then made a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to spread over it before sprinkling it with pecans, rolling the whole thing up and shaping into a giant ring. She then sliced it and twisted each slice so it made kind of a big, wonky looking flower, which we let sit for a bit before popping in the oven. Once it had risen and turned a nice, golden brown, we took it out, covered it in cream cheese frosting, topped it with the Mardi Gras colored sprinkles and plopped a little brown baby on top. (We didn’t hide him inside because we weren’t sure if he’d melt and we weren’t trying to do baby J like that.)

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Unto them a delicious cake was baked!

It was deliciously doughy and sweet, the comforting smell of  cinnamon and nutmeg wrapping us up in a warm hug as we tore off chunks of cake and licked globs of cream cheese frosting from our fingers. Sometimes it just takes a good friend and a warm, fresh cake to put my reveries on hold and make me happy being exactly where I am.

Bagel mashups and collabos

While I could definitely go on regaling you with tales of Cambodian food from January (which now seems soooo long ago), it’s important to live in the here and now, and the current here and now is New York. And as for what I’m eating in the said here and now? Bagels, the most quintessential of New York foods, if you ask me.

Black Seed Bagels, located just a few blocks from where I work, had been on my to-do list since they opened last year, but it wasn’t until I read about their chef collaborations that I actually went to check them out.

Each week for the next month or so, Black Seed will feature a bagel special from a different well known chef, and this week’s bagel (available until Sunday the 15th) is from ramen whiz Ivan Orkin, a self-proclaimed “japanophile.”

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Ivan Orkin’s Japanese-Everything-Spice Black Seed Bagel

A play on the regular everything bagel (my usual go-to), his instead is a Japanese-Everything-Spice bagel with aonori (seaweed) cream cheese and ikura (salmon roe) egg salad, both of which are smeared on thick and generously so that every bite oozes sloppy deliciousness in every direction. Egg salad is one of my favorite things ever so a big ol’ bagel piled high with it, spoke directly to me. Smooth and creamy like the best egg salads, this one had the extra added flavor and texture surprise of fat, orange pearls of ikura or salmon roe. Their slightly briney taste were a nice complement to the seaweed flecked cream cheese and the eggy, creaminess of the egg salad.

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Every bit as delicious as it was sloppy and messy and perfect

In a perfect world, I’d love to start all of my mornings with this Japanese meets New York mash up of a messy, delicious bagel creation, but alas, that can’t be the case. Or I mean, it could be the case but then I’d probably have to fill my closet with mumus. So, for now, Ivan Orkin’s bagel will have to be it… until next week, that is, when there’s a whole new bagel and a whole new here and now to discuss.

Bargain brunching in Boston

Everything in New York, from the tiny apartment I live in, to the subway rides I take, to the groceries I occasionally try to stock my mini-fridge with, is exorbitantly expensive. But believe it or not, there’s actually something good about that, and it’s that almost everywhere I go outside of the city, everything seems outrageously cheap to me.

But I realize that it’s not that everything is super cheap, but just that everything in New York is so  ridiculously overpriced. But still, it’s nice to think I’m getting a deal. And sometimes, like during a recent brunch in Boston, things really are that cheap and I really am getting a deal.

Sweet plantain empanadas with cinammon cream cheese

Masa, a southwest style restaurant in Boston’s South End, would have been great even with New York prices, but with a Saturday brunch special for $8.95?? Including an appetizer/small plate and an entree aaaand coffee or tea? God, that just makes my mouth water.

And it wasn’t some Denny’s Grand Slam kind of deal either. No cold, rubbery eggs or greasy little sausage links. This was good food. Food that in New York would’ve cost at least double.

From the small plates/starters I went with the sweet plantain empanada with Mexican cinammon cream cheese, a delicious combination of two things I love. The doughy shell was full of sweet, caramelized plantains, just like the kind I grew up eating with almost every meal, and the sweet, soft cream cheese was the perfect touch to make a good thing better.

Santa Fe Style Eggs Benedict

The entree, a turn to savory after the dessert-like starter, was also delicious. I had a hard time choosing between all the amazing sounding menu items, but finally went with the Santa Fe style eggs Benedict, which came on top of soft, fluffy biscuits, buttery chunks of avocado, home fries and green chile hollandaise.

I love getting out of the city and eating in new places, and even more than that, I like being reminded that doing it doesn’t always have to be ridiculously expensive.