The first breakfast in New York was superbâ€¦ a quick walk at 7:01 a.m. around the corner to Francois Payardâ€™s Bistro et Patisserie et voila!, freshly baked croissant, brioche and my sisterâ€™s latest discovery, mini craquelin – brioche with orange rind, almonds and a sugary crust! I love freshly baked brioche with sinful amounts of butter and lots of homemade jam and was a bit skeptical about the mini craquelin at first. But one bite and a new favorite has been discovered. A crunchy top with blanched Spanish almonds and a sugar crust preface the soft buttery brioche with chopped candied orange peel within. You could eat this plain or go truly over the top and add some really high fat butter (not the watery stuff we seem to have at home in Manila) and a homemade orange marmalade. Served with a pot of freshly brewed oolong tea and memories of flying over the Pacific in â€œslave-ship classâ€ quickly faded away.
Francois Payard was a pastry chef at both Le Bernardin (that Manhattan temple of fish and seafood) and Daniel, the highly regarded restaurant of chef Daniel Boulud. Boulud previously cooked at the much touted restaurant Le Cirque during its 1980â€™s heyday. Payard struck out on his own to open a â€œneighborhoodâ€ Upper East Side French bistro and patisserie and has done very well indeed. I have had some mediocre meals in the bistro but the croissant and brioche have been consistently goodâ€¦ Other desserts and cakes look terrific but in my opinion generally hit or miss on taste and flavor. The Patisserie seems to lack that last step that would put in the league of the best Parisian Patisseries. Payard is located along Lexington Avenue between 73rd and 74th street. They also have a website at Payard.com
My sister put out some â€œcommercialâ€ organic damson plum jam made and bottled on a farm owned by Prince Charles (yes, the Camilla one) to taste and critiqueâ€¦ Plum jam is a personal favorite of mine and damson plum jam is the King of plum jams. The smaller plums seem to have just the right mix of sourness, sweetness and pectin to make an intensely purple, delicious jam. The Charles jam was not up to snuff. It had the consistency of a commercial jam and the flavor was a bit too blah, not fresh and perky. I still prefer good homemade damson plum jam if you can get it. The color, flavor and consistency of homemade jam is just so much better than any of the many commercial jams I have tasted.