Friday, May 28, 2010

One can never have too many cupcakes

If you build it, cupcakes will come: here I was, innocently blogging my way along, and before I know it, a cupcake baker reads this blog and wants to bake me cupcakes. Is this the good life, or what?

The baker is Ashley, the North Carolinian behind, an online bakery. After some serious negotiations, I decided that my cupcake of choice would be her red velvet - a varietal from the U.S. South, it features chocolatey flavor and bright red cake. As Ashley strives to use organic ingredients wherever possible, her red coloring is not as vibrant as the deep, dark red I have come to expect in America - but the flavor certainly wasn't compromised.

She only bakes by the dozen, so I ended up with six featuring cream-cheese frosting and six with vanilla cream frosting. The vanilla went much better with the red velvet, but the cream-cheese was both creamy and light, and I imagine quite tasty with other cake flavors that can match its slight tartness.

For a bit of diversity, I also got to sample a couple of other flavors in mini-cupcake mode: the chocolate cake was divine, two thumbs up there. We also tried her strawberry polenta, with real strawberries baked in, balancing well with the grainy, corny polenta. A combination I couldn't have imagined before, but I certainly recommend.

You'll find her list of standard flavors on the website, with seasonal options, too. She can also accommodate special requests, and bakes non-cupcake delicacies as well. While she hopes to open a cafe eventually, she's currently baking to order, so advance notice and larger orders are necessary. A dozen will run you 25 EUR (to pick up) or 30 EUR with delivery. Perhaps not so practical to satisfy any old craving, but a great bonus for a special occasion.

Online only (for now) at
Orders must be placed at least 48 hours in advance

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Thai-Viet quickie

My husband introduced me to Saigon Bangkok. It’s around the corner from his office and seemed like a logical place to go before a dance performance at the Cirque Royal. His only warning was that his lunch experiences there did not feature quick service. And my pre-theater dinners are notorious for anxiety and clock-checking every 3 minutes.

So our first question when we sat down was: “we have to leave in 1 hour. Do we have time for a starter and a main course?” Answer: yes. When I then ordered the fried vegetarian rolls, I was helpfully informed by the waitress that the (cold) spring rolls would come out faster, since we were in a rush. Advice most appreciated for its relevance, and accuracy.

On to mains. Diversity in vegetarian fare is not Saigon Bangkok’s strong suit. We both took the tofu with curry – red for me, and the spicier green for Gidon. There’s also a non-spicy option of vegetables and tofu, and basically that’s it for their vegetarian mains. That said, both curries were delicious. The green packed a respectable punch, and even the red was spicy enough.

In, out, fed and happy: 55 minutes. Score!

Saigon Bangkok
Rue de la Pacification 36
1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode
Tel. 02 280 0475
Open lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat (closed for Sat lunch and all day Sunday)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Aperitifs, Antipasti and Books, oh my!

If you are a stagiaire, are friends with a stagiaire, or have ever spoken to a stagiaire, you have probably heard of Piola Libri. It's a bookshop by day, hopping wine bar for stagiaires (and others) by night.

Not being a stagiaire myself, my radar did identify a few fellow non-stagiaires present at Piola Libri, so all should feel welcome here. In fact, I might even say all should feel obligated to try it out - it's tasty food and easy-drinking wine at a great price.

First, the wines. Five reds, four whites, a rose and two sparkling varieties were on offer during my visit; each glass will run you four or five euros. The wines I tried - a sweet sparkling muscat and a semi-dry white - were not the most complicated flavors, but they were pleasant, and in this busy setting, I was hardly looking for something overly sophisticated.

Here's the bonus: their antipasti bar (free with your wine) features an amazing selection of fantastic vegetarian munchies. Sun-dried tomatoes, olives, potatoes roasted with rosemary, pickled onions, breadsticks, beans, hot peppers and more. It's basically all-you-can-eat - or at least all-you-can-fit-on-a-small-plate (but they don't give you a hard time if you go back for seconds).

Two glasses of wine and two plates of antipasti and I have to admit I didn't even need dinner - my four food groups might not have been accounted for, but for one night, I can let that go. And I can only imagine that the bookstore (filled with Italian books) is worth a visit before 6pm, too. Either way, the books make for a cozy atmosphere, which, by the time we left was standing-room only.

Piola Libri
66-68 rue Franklin
1000 Brussels
Tel. 02 736 9391
Open Monday-Friday for lunch; aperitifs and antipasti from 18h
Get there early.