Sweet Tea by Yannick Alleno at Taipei 101

Last November, Taipei 101 became home to a new restaurant by renowned five Michelin-starred Chef Yannick Alleno. His new venture in Taipei, S.T.A.Y. (Simple Table Yannick Alleno), is the third namesake location following the opening of Beijing and Beirut in 2011.

In conjunction with S.T.A.Y., Chef Alleno designed a more casual outlet to showcase traditional Parisian style tea time, along with signature French pastries. In January 2012, Sweet Tea soft-opened on the 4th floor of Taipei 101, just steps away from S.T.A.Y.

Back in March, Chef Alleno visited Taipei to coordinate a gala dinner and celebrate the official grand opening of Sweet Tea with a presentation for local media. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Alleno at the gala dinner the night before so I was looking forward to the press event and learning more about his latest creation.

Chef Alleno has a background as a pastry chef so the creations at Sweet Tea were quite intricate and extremely elegant. The concept of Sweet Tea is very feminine on purpose and definitely caters to Taipei’s more upscale female population.

The open-air tearoom sits in the middle of the most scenic area of Taipei 101’s mall, flanked by luxury stores and one “leg” of Taipei 101 itself. The theming and attention to detail certainly blend with its location, in the more ritzy XinYi area of Taipei.

Yannick’s vision for Sweet Tea was to have pastries treated as luxury items and, therefore, presented as artful creations. They are showcased as “luxury jewels” in elegant crystal boxes, all of which seemed to be a big hit with the female members of the local press.

Elegant pastry creations available at Sweet Tea

Many pastries at Sweet Tea come in fancy jewel-like boxes

The colors at Sweet Tea also lean to the feminine side, as bright pops of blue, yellow, pink, and green, are found on everything from glasses to the boxes and bags. The feminine design is not nauseating to the point where a man would be uncomfortable enjoying tea and a decadent French pastry as well.

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101

Sweet Tea at Taipei 101

One of the benefits of attending a press event is the ability to try the food you are writing about, and, of course, there was an abundant supply of pastries for us to enjoy.  They had created tiny versions of several signature pastries, which was perfect.

While we only sampled a small portion of what is available at Sweet Tea, I am confident when I say that probably anything you order is going to be amazing. All pastries are made fresh daily and include classics like croissants, macarons, and Madeleines.

Samples set up for media presentation at Sweet Tea

Here’s a look at some of what we sampled:

Vanilla Mille-Feuille

This classic French pastry is very popular, but it’s not one that I’ve typically been drawn to. Most times, I find it too sweet and rich for my taste.

Gasp! I know….how could I not like it right?  Well, I’m the girl who scrapes off ¾ of the buttercream frosting on cakes if that tells you anything.

I was surprised to see Yannick’s take on the traditional classic pastry – rather than the expected square, his is round. The cake layer is quite crisp with sweet caramelization on the top.  The filling is one I would never scrape off of anything – a rich Tahitian vanilla – one of my absolute favorite flavors.

Mini Vanilla Mille-Feuille

Full size Vanilla Mille- Feuille

St. Honore

This is named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honore. Typically, this pastry has puffed pastry, small cream puffs, caramelized sugar, and finished with whipped cream that utilizes a special St. Honore piping tip.

Mini St. Honore pastry

Full size St. Honore pastry

Chocolate Croissant

Yannick had come by to talk to me early in the event and told me I needed to definitely try the chocolate croissant as it’s one of his personal favorites and a signature item at Sweet Tea. He calls it “Choc Alleno” and it is pretty much a chocolategasm. The croissant itself is flaky and rich, while the chocolate is decadent without being overpowering.  Not surprisingly, Yannick insists on using only the best French chocolate for this pastry.

Yannick's signature chocolate croissant

Another shot of the chocolate croissant

Macarons and Madeleines

Two other French classics were on hand for us to sample. I’ve become a bit of a macaron addict the past several years as new chocolatiers and pastry shops open in Taipei – many of them renowned artisans from Paris and Japan. Macarons are either hit or miss – they either seem to be perfect or a disaster, never really in between.  I’ve probably sampled macarons from 10 or more shops over the past six to eight months and these were definitely among my top two. The meringue on the macaron was so delicate and light, while the filling was not overpowering or sickeningly sweet ganache.

The Madeleines were divine and next to Robuchon’s, the best I’ve had.

Madeleines

Sweet Tea Macarons

Sweet Tea Macarons

Chef Demo – Sweet’dwich

During the event, Chef Alleno drew the biggest crowd when he demonstrated how to make one of his best signature items, the Sweet’dwich.  Every photographer ran up to capture this while one of the local journalists served as his assistant.  The Sweet’dwich is inspired by traditional salty sandwiches, but contains some beautiful sweet elements.  He uses brioche bread instead of a crispy puff and you can choose from three flavors: strawberry, praline chocolate, and Tropezien. Each one is quite different and Yannick uses a variety of flavors and textures to really create a unique culinary experience.

The strawberry is the most popular, which is a mix of pistachio flavor custard and fresh strawberries, topped with pistachio crackles and sugar powders.

Chef Yannick Alleno demonstrating his Sweet'dwich

Chef Alleno and Loic, the Pastry Chef at S.T.A.Y. and Sweet Tea

What the sweet'dwich looks like completed - yum!

 

Salty Sandwiches

While the main focus is on pastries, there are also a number of tea style salty sandwiches available.  Both at lunch and in the afternoon, there is a small menu of salads and sandwiches. We sampled several of the sandwiches, which were also nicely executed with soft bread and good flavor.

Salty Afternoon Tea sandwiches

About Chef Yannick Alleno

For those unfamiliar with Chef Alleno, he earned three Michelin stars for his work at Hotel Le Meurice in Paris in 2007.  He was elected “Best Chef of the Year” in 2008 byThe Chef Magazine.  In the same year, he developed his own company, “Group Yannick Alleno”, which has since been responsible for his ventures outside of Paris.  In addition, his mission is to help hoteliers and food professionals by offering his skills. He became involved in Le 1947 at “Cheval Blanc” in Courchevel, and after one season, it earned two Michelin stars.  Alleno also took over the F&B operations of “The Royal Mansour” in Marrakech with two “Grande Table” (French and Moroccan), andthe “One & Only The Palm” in Dubai.  In addition to his two S.T.A.Y. outlets in Beijing and Beirut, he also opened a Sweet Tea in Beirut as well.

L-R: Executive Chef Angelo Agliano from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Chef Yannick Alleno

Chef Yannick Alleno

Me with Benoit, my dear friend & awesome Sommelier from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Chef Angelo, Sommelier Benoit, me, and Chef Yannick

While I attended this event as a member of the press and my afternoon was comped, all opinions and views expressed are my own.


National Ice Cream Day: You Say Ice Cream, I Say Gelato

Back in 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July to be National Ice Cream Month and July 15th to be National Ice Cream Day in the United States. Most often, the holiday is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of July.

Like most kids in America, I grew up eating ice cream regularly, especially during the summer months. I can still remember lounging in the pool and waiting for the sound of our neighborhood ice cream truck making its way down the street. My best friend and I would bolt from the pool and make our way to the front yard as soon as we’d hear the music, which now, as an adult, I find extremely annoying ironically.

One thing I learned early on in my childhood was regular ice cream soon bored me. I think there’s a reason they refer to boring things as “vanilla” sometimes. I was not a vanilla ice cream kinda girl, unless it had heaps of caramel on it. I can distinctly remember driving my parents bonkers during multiple pouting fits if we went to our local Foster Freeze and they didn’t have chocolate that day.

As I got older (aka had my own money) I started buying more interesting and unique flavors of ice cream — the more stuff mixed in, the better!

And then in 2006, I visited Italy for the first time.

Gelato…The answer to all my frozen dessert dreams.

Gelato…oh how I love thee!

Sadly, it seemed to be a fleeting affair as I did not indulge in too much gelato since that trip. Perhaps, it was discovering Movenpick’s decadent ice cream and various shaved ice desserts the last few years in Asia that distracted me from my true love.

And then, the Blogville project with the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board presented itself, and I suddenly found myself back in Italy three different times for a total of 25 days between May and now. In fact, I just returned from Italy yesterday.

Gelato and I were reunited and it was love at first bite all over again — we picked up right where we left off so long ago.

Enjoying gelato with a view in the historic city center of Rimini, Italy during Blogville

Wonder what the differences are between gelato and ice cream? Despite many saying that gelato is just Italian ice cream, there are noticeable and important differences that separate gelato from the traditional ice cream many of us grew up with.

Gelato has Less Air and Lower Fat

Gelato has much less air than traditional ice cream, which can be as much as 50% air. And for those concerned about the fat content in ice cream, check out gelato! Gelato typically has 4-6% fat whereas ice cream may contain as much as 16% in some cases.

Gelato is Made Daily

Typically, gelato is made on a daily basis in gelaterias in Italy whereas ice cream is often made in large batches incorporating ingredients designed to ensure its lengthy storage in the freezer.

Gelato has a Stronger Flavor

Because of the less incorporated air, lower fat, and higher temperature, you have probably noticed you get a more pronounced flavor profile versus eating ice cream of same flavor. According to the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, this is because the higher fat content in ice cream coats the tongue, the less air in gelato provides more flavor in each spoonful, and your taste buds are not dulled from the frozen temperature of ice cream.

The stronger flavor profile, the softer and more smooth texture, and the lower fat content are just a few of the reasons I prefer authentic gelato over ice cream. I could not, and would not, eat ice cream every day, but I could, and did in a few instances, eat gelato every day in Italy. Blog posts of all the amazing gelato I consumed in Emilia Romagna still to come!

Interesting gelato creations from our favorite beach area gelateria in Rimini, Italy

I think it’s safe to say after Blogville, my love affair with gelato is likely to transition into a more long-term romance. Fortunately, there is a pretty decent gelato place next to the new apartment in the Netherlands, and I am thinking of taking my love of gelato to a new level — perhaps taking a class and learning how to make it myself!

While my stay(s) in Emilia Romagna were hosted by the tourism board, all views and opinions are my own.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong: Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Chocolate Library

One of the highlights of the new Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is definitely the Chocolate Library.  Located on the 103rd floor, boasting spectacular views of Hong Kong and down into the 102nd floor Tosca, the Chocolate Library is a chocoholics dream.  Whether you crave a delectable chocolate soufflé with iced raspberry (100 HKD) or an indulgent fondue with chocolate pasta and brioche croutons (100 HKD), they have you covered.

Not a big chocolate fan? Try one of the a la carte menu items like The Ritz-Carlton club sandwich (165 HKD), a Caesar (180 HKD) or Nicoise salad (170 HKD) and more.

Ever tried a savory chocolate dish?  If only I’d had one of these years ago for an office cooking competition that required me to create a main dish with chocolate in it!   The Chocolate Library has a couple of interesting items like duck foie gras terrine with coffee and cocoa nibs and toasted walnut raisin bread (185 HKD), or a smoked barberie duck breast with cantaloupe melon confit and chocolate balsamic dressing (185 HKD).

One note on the regular menu items — we did not find the chocolate pancake stack or the signature lobster omelet that Melanie Nayer wrote about in her Huffington Post article.  We were there for the soft grand opening and now that The Ritz-Carlton has had its official grand opening in May, the menu might be different now.  I was really looking forward to those chocolate pancakes!

We also inquired about the special chocolate humidor pictured in her article that you could have engraved and personalized, but alas, not yet available.  Not surprisingly, since it was the soft opening weekend, no one really understood what we were asking about.  Finally the manager came out and said they did not have the chocolate humidors.  He could not provide an expected date, but I have to guess with the official grand opening complete, they should be available now or relatively soon.  (We also asked Melanie when we saw her later that day, but she didn’t have any additional information either).

Since we struck out on the pancakes and humidor — it obviously meant one thing.  We were meant to come for the Chocolate Afternoon Tea rather than breakfast on Sunday!

Sunday morning, we nibbled a bit in the Club Lounge and asked about reservations for the Afternoon Tea since we now had someone joining us.  One of our favorite food bloggers from Hong Kong, 3starbackpacker, was eating at Tin Lung Heen that morning and we’d made plans the day before to meet up for an afternoon at the Chocolate Library.

Unfortunately, it turns out they were not taking reservations (even from hotel guests) as they expected it to be busy.  Brett and I decided to go early to ensure we didn’t miss out — they would not seat people for the tea until it was close to 3pm, so we sat in the lobby for about 30 minutes to ensure we snagged a table.

No problem getting a table and it was surprisingly still only about half-full when we left at 5pm.  One note though — I have since heard from several readers that it is impossible to get reservations now due to its popularity — in fact, I heard from one person they are booked out until August!  If the Chocolate Library is on your list, be sure to contact The Ritz-Carlton directly and find out what availability they have.  If they are indeed booked up that far out, you may be disappointed if you just show up with hopes of walking in.

Chocolate Library Interior

Now, for the food! 3starbackpacker decided to try their chocolate soufflé, and Brett and I ordered the Chocolate Afternoon Tea set of course.  As with any good soufflé, it takes 20 minutes so we started off with a round of drinks.

Eight words for you…

The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Signature Dark Chocolate.

Oh…my….god.  It was hot chocolate nirvana.  Incredibly rich, decadent, and worth every calorie!

Dark Hot Chocolate

While obviously not as extensive as the Chinese tea offerings in Tin Lung Heen, the Chocolate Library’s tea menu is decent.  There are several selections of black tea (Puer’h included), a classic Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea, and several green tea varieties.  All specialty teas are 70 HKD each.  English style tea fans will find traditional selections available as well.

Tea Journey on the Chocolate Library menu

3StarBackpacker’s soufflé came out perfectly done and our Chocolate Tea Set was much more than we were expecting.  It was rather huge and I recommend coming hungry, otherwise you may experience some difficulty in finishing.  A couple of the desserts on the tea set were in the Club Level Lounge as well, so I knew which one(s) to skip if I couldn’t finish.

Chocolate Souffle

Here’s a look at the tea set — there are two savory sandwiches and the rest are rich, decadent, desserts that are worth every bite!

Chocolate Tea Set Box

Setting up the Chocolate Tea Set

Would we go back again? Absolutely, but I recommend if you are staying on a floor with Club Level access and looking to maximize your dining opportunities — skip the tea set itself (since many of the desserts will likely be available in the Club Lounge) and try some of the other menu specialties you can’t get elsewhere on the property.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Chocolate Library 103rd floor
International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West
Kowloon, Hong Kong (Kowloon Station MRT)
Phone: +852 2263 2263
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong Website

 

More posts on The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong dining:

Tin Lung Heen: Cantonese Dim Sum at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Pavlova Dessert: An Iconic New Zealand Food

For those who’ve yet to experience its sugary bliss, Pavlova, or “pav” as some call it, it is a meringue-based dessert that is quite similar to a cake, but with a crispy crust and soft inside.  Pronounced slightly different from the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, the dessert is believed to have been named in her honor after she visited Australia and New Zealand on a tour in the 1920′s.

Although its origin is somewhat disputed (ok, passionately disputed) between Australia and New Zealand, most people credit New Zealand with the creation of this tasty treat.

Pavlova is an iconic New Zealand dessert

Much like frosting on a cake, most Pavlovas are covered and decorated with whipped cream.  A signature element is the fresh tropical and vibrant colored fruits that adorn the sides and top of the Pavlova — strawberries, passionfruit, and kiwi being some of the most commonly used fruits.

Whether you give New Zealand the win on its origin or not, Pavlova is still an important part of the country’s cuisine.  When visiting New Zealand, this should be on your short list of foods to try — especially if you have a sweet tooth.  Pavlova reminds me of a mixture of a meringue drop cookie and a roasted marshmallow.  The crust has the hard exterior like the meringue drop, but the inside is soft and sticky, like the marshmallow topping on Thanksgiving Day yams or sweet potatoes.

Another view of the Pavlova decorated with whipped cream, strawberries, and drizzled passionfruit syrup

New Zealand is passionate about the Pavlova and it usually makes an appearance during celebrations and special events — often in grand scale.  Since 1999, New Zealand has broken its own world record in crafting the “world’s biggest Pavlova.”    The most recent one was presented in Christchurch back in August, 2010.  Capable of feeding 10,000 people, the 50 square meter Pavlova was made with 10,000 egg whites and more than 600 kg of sugar!  The Pavlova was shaped like a rugby field to coincide with the Bledisloe Cup rugby match in Christchurch being held during the same weekend.

If you want to try your hand at making a Pavlova before visiting New Zealand, here are a couple recipes you can try at home.

Have you tried a Pavlova in New Zealand?  Please share if you have any recommendations on who makes the best Pavlova in New Zealand!

This post is part of the #Blog4NZ event taking place March 21-23. Please help this worthy cause and support tourism to New Zealand by sharing this article across your social networks.

Photo of the Week: Christmas Treats at Tokyo Disneyland Resort

Strawberry Cream Puff with Souvenir Plate from Tokyo Disneyland's Christmas Fantasy Event

Anyone who knows me well knows that aside from food, wine, and travel, my biggest passion in life is Disney! I grew up near Disneyland, have maintained an annual pass for years and my dream was eventually to visit all the Disney Parks in the world. Little did I know back then I would wind up living in Asia and visiting both Tokyo and Hong Kong multiple times a year. We just got back from a week in Japan for Brett’s birthday and I had to slip in a day at Disney too! This photo is one of the seasonal treats and souvenir plates offered at Tokyo Disneyland during the Christmas Fantasy celebration. Unlike most theme park food, Tokyo Disney has good offerings at reasonable prices (especially considering it’s Japan!) This is a strawberry cream puff with a chocolate reindeer on top that comes with the adorable (dated) souvenir plate for 600 yen.

To see all the seasonal treats offered at both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySEA, I have two posts on my Disney travel blog with lots of photos. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

2010 Christmas Treats at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisnySEA

Duffy the Disney Bear and Shellie May Christmas Treats at Tokyo DisneySEA

Photo of the Week: Pierre Herme Macarons

In honor of our upcoming trip to Japan next week, I thought I’d share a photo of the Pierre Herme macarons we bought in Tokyo.  They are nearly $5 US each, but oh so worth it!  This one was the Montebello that was a combination of raspberry and pistachio flavors.

I had never been exposed to these French masterpieces until my trips to Belgium and France where nearly every other window we passed was a bakery who specialized in these addicting treats.  We’ve tried a few in other places around the world, but the Pierre Herme ones are the best I have ever tried.  Other have been chalky tasting and the fillings have been lacking.  Looking forward to getting more of these in just a few days!

Pierre Herme Montebello Macaron

Have you tried macarons?  If so, any recommendations we should try?  Your favorite flavors?  If you have tried making them at home and have a favorite recipe you can share, please let us know!

Photo of the Week: Taiwanese Snow Ice (Xue Hua Bing)

Passion Fruit Xue Hua Bing (Taiwanese Snow Ice)

Known as “xue hua bing” in Chinese, snow ice is a popular dessert in Taiwan.  It is made with condensed milk and/or juice and shaved into the thin sheets, with various toppings added.  Popular options include the regular xue hua bing with passion fruit, chocolate, or mango, while other varieties include green tea snow ice topped with red bean, or peanut snow ice, topped with sprinkles.

Photo of the Week: Complimentary Dessert Tray at the Sofitel in Bangkok

Dessert Tray compliments of the Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok

During our recent stay at the Silom Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, the butler staff brought this complimentary tray of desserts to welcome us to the hotel.  Platinum status certainly has its privileges!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...