Photographer and Patissier’s Note

I forgot to mention in my last post (if you were wondering why I sounded all wound up) that I anticipate to plague you all with about ten entries I’ve drawn up around my trip. It was quite difficult to differentiate and categorize every dessert and sweet but I think I’ve done quite a nice job to distinguish them from one another. Sorry if I spam your Facebook or whatever you use to follow blogs- I hope you find some amusement in what amuses me- whether or not you’re disgusted by my sugar intake. If any of us look fatter/skinnier in the photos, please bear in mind I’ve been relying on my Sigma 10-20mm lens hence the distortion. Links to the following places are included at the bottom. Anyhow, I thought to launch the start of this series by taking a look at my past and present sakura matsuri picnics. O Hanami! Oh Joy!


Nenrinya: http://www.nenrinya.jp/cafe/index.html
Manneken: http://www.manneken.co.jp/index.html

White chocolate gets little attention to its darker, richer counterparts. As some purists would say, white chocolate isn’t true chocolate because it’s derived from cocoa butter than solids. Yet all the same, it’s still part of the cocoa bean.

As a kid living in Toronto, it was a treat when my cousins and I were handed $20 and allowed to walk to Maxim’s cafe after dinner for dessert. We’d always order a slice of cake each and a fancy beverage. From the cake display I would always choose a milk chocolate mousse, orange chocolate cake or the white chocolate cake because I loved how it was frosted and smothered with a blanket of white chocolate curls. I would wash it down with iced chocolate with whipped cream (oh the joys of a child’s metabolism… DANG IT).

Anyhow my Sunday afternoon (a hazy golden day) was spent listening to Stan Getz and white chocolate. This creamy subject resurfaced when a colleague of Belgian descent (who doesn’t like chocolate ironically) requested a white chocolate-base dessert about a month ago. I have no expertise in cooking with it, but after doing some research I ended up making this:

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE W. WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE


Find the recipe here

I made a six inch along with one four inch and heart shaped one to divide between other friends. I made some slight alterations to the recipe according to the reviews and recommendations which you will see in the following:

TIP FOR PURCHASING WHITE CHOCOLATE
I highly dislike the taste of cheap white chocolate which is like eating melted candle wax, so when baking, please only buy the good stuff. Make sure cocoa butter is the first ingredient listed on the bar of chocolate to ensure that you aren’t getting some vegetable oil substitute. White chocolate should not be white: it should be ivory in colour.  I used a random brand (Isis) I found from City Super. Yes, I trust it a little more because it’s chocolate from Belgium so if anyone complains about the taste, I can just blame it on the product origin. =P

TIP FOR MAKING THE CRUST:
In Hong Kong we only have digestive biscuits, but in the States I used graham crackers. To crush the biscuits, use a pestle: hold a stack of cookies firmly in the other hand and work your way from the side and inward. You can see the biscuits look as if they are fused as one. This is A LOT more effective  and thorough than using a plastic bag and banging randomly trying to crush as much as possible. I used to use the back of a Chinese soup spoon, but I’ve realized why Julia Child said a mortar and pestle is so important. Life is a lot easier with this simple instrument. Melt slightly less than a quarter cup of butter, pour it in to the base containing the crushed biscuits and press it into a flat disk to cover the entire surface area.

TIP FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE
Um I made this cake on a whim so I wasn’t really prepared with all my ingredients hence why this took me about 4-5 hours in total. I hate the smell and taste of alcohol but absolutely adore it when it comes to baking. The brandy sauce requires a lot of grated white chocolate (2 cups) so to cut cost, I halved the recipe because I know Chinese people aren’t big fans of alcohol-based desserts and sauces. I must say though, the brandy sauce MAKES this cake by enhancing the white chocolate flavor subtly with a little alcohol. I purchased that small bottle of brandy from Twinsco, a special baking supply shop in Yau Ma Tei. I reused a Japanese pudding cup to store the sauce in. Quite pretty with the touch of green!

I’m impatient so I often let my cakes cool outside after they’ve adjusted to room temperature. This one is sitting perched on my balcony railing and the empty space you see is actually the sea. That cake better not fall, it’s a long way down.

TIP: PRESENTATION COUNTS
So the cake itself isn’t the prettiest thing. I’m not a fan of dousing the whole cake with brandy sauce (I like to leave it up to each individual’s preference), and after failing at making whipped cream (accidentally heated up the cream first for a second and realized it wouldn’t whip up at all),  I went searching for other last minute alternatives. I didn’t want to put fruit on top either because the yellow of the surface would look rather odd with the ivory yellow (pure aesthetics talking). I decided to do it like I did with my previous chocolate cheesecake recipe: grate white chocolate on the top. Use the side of the knife and slowly push against the surface until it starts ‘peeling’. I also found this darling cake wrap with a lace print at my local $10 dollar shop and I like how it echoes the color of the grated chocolate on top! Doesn’t it look pretty pro as if I bought it from a bakery?

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I took it to the office and my colleagues LOVED it. I said it was a successful first try at white chocolate and one of them said it was “VERY successful” As one of them put it, the cake is “above Starbucks and below Mandarin Oriental hotel”. I guess my next goal is to beat Mandarin Oriental. Another tip, as many people have said in the reviews, double the white chocolate if you like a stronger taste otherwise it is quite subtle (I guess that’s where the brandy sauce comes into play). My critics liked it that the white chocolate took a backseat to the taste of the cream cheese so I guess it depends on your palate. Do use a bain marie for both melting the white chocolate and baking the cake. Overall, it’s a safe cake to make particularly because of the flawless surface (no cracks!!!) and the texture of the cake is neither too hard nor pudding-soft. I had to adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the cake. The miniature ones were done in about 50 minutes, the large one took about 1hr 15 minutes because of its height. =)

Rise and shine to the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. My Saturday morning and afternoon was spent rolling out batch after batch of melt-in-your-mouth decadence. A short stack of chocolate chip cookies!

I dedicate this post to a couple who really helped out a clueless freshman back in my days at Parsons. They kept me company, helped me set up Time Warner internet in my new place and took me around whenever our cousins came by to visit. To top it all off, as fine food lovers, they were the ones who introduced me to New York’s finest restaurants, cafes and chocolatiers. They gave my tongue a culinary tour through Patsy’s pizzeria to Zoe in Soho for french toast, to foie gras in the Lower East Side to Zaiya for lunch at Bryant Park for a few bucks which became a Tuesday ritual with my other friends. We discovered Balthazar’s banana tart together one afternoon wandering and ended up getting two for tea because it was just that good. I don’t think I really understood great food until they took me on it and in essence they taught me how to eat. And this couple not only shares a love of food but a love and fondness for one another. And it is to my delight that that couple, after six years of dating, is getting married this weekend (finally!) here in Hong Kong and I am to be their photographer this Sunday. Presenting the couple to be when they took me out for pizza at Isola last week!

A couple of wedding photos from today!

One particular place they introduced to me to which became a perennial favourite, was Jacques Torres. They have several stores but the one I go to is on 350 Hudson Street. It’s a bit in the middle of nowhere but I’d go there to buy chocolate souvenirs whenever I made a trip to Toronto. I’ll do a post on that in the future but all the photos of the place are on my external after my move to a Macbook Pro (thanks dion for your help!). My recommendations? CHAMPAGNE TRUFFLES. They’re about two bucks a piece but seriously one of the best truffles I’ve ever had. Jackson purchased my parents a small box and we could not stop popping them into our mouths. As my mom said, it’s hard to go back to normal chocolate after you’ve experienced New York boutique chocolate.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

I stumbled upon this recipe surfing on the internet and thought it would be a lovely surprise to give to my cousin, Michelle, as a present since she’s mentioned how much she’s missed Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies. Alas by coincidence, she too found the recipe the same week as I did so it wasn’t much of a surprise. They’re not the grandma, cutesy, Girl Scout kind. They’re unapologetically rich and sophisticated- requiring one to eat with a large napkin because with every touch, chocolate fingerprints are left everywhere. At the store they have the cookies on a hot plate so for a few dollars you can devour one perched on a stool in front of their hot chocolate bar.

What sets this cookie apart are the ingredients. This diva cookie requires 72% dark chocolate, preferably from Varlhona (that set me back about $120 HKD for the required amount) and the sinful amounts of butter that is whipped into clouds to make them irresistibly melt-in-your-mouth. The lovely addition to this recipe is a sprinkling of sea salt to the top of each cookie prior to being whisked into the oven for the salt contrasts with the sweetness of the chocolate. For my cookies I used 72% Varlhona feves (chocolate disks), organic butter from the US and sea salt from Okinawa, Japan. Classy!

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The end product is more like a chocolate swirl than it is a chocolate chip. Here are a few tips I can offer after I completed several batches:

1. Depending on your oven, I baked them for about 15 minutes rather than 20.

2. Bake less for each batch. The cookie dough balls melt and spread out as soon as they reach the oven which is why they are so round and flat

3. You don’t need to purchase chocolate chips that are round and small. Mine look like oversized cacao beans. Don’t worry, they melt and blend in with the dough once in the oven so it’s actually better when you go bigger.

4. The recipe says it makes about one and a half dozen. I got 28 cookies.

5. ALWAYS EAT THEM WARM.

6. Have a lot of napkins ready. I was constantly washing my hands every time I touched them.

7. Buy the best chocolate you can afford. It makes a difference.

8. Serve with ice cream.

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I just came back from the wedding and I got my cousin and her husband’s seal of approval! We stuck several of them in the toaster oven and they said they taste exactly like the ones from Jacques Torres and better than any other cookie sold in Hong Kong. Success!

Above, packaged cookies with handwritten note on a lace doily.

I took a ridiculous amount of pictures for this post. Not a surprise of course, to up the anti, the couple generously bought me a lens of my choice as a graduation present and ‘compensation’ and thanks to another cousin (Edwin!) who recommended me to get the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5…. which is why you now see some awesome Alice in Wonderland distortion!

** One picture ain’t showing up on my laptop right now- hopefully WordPress will fix itself. My internet keeps crashing on me -_-

Normally I wouldn’t post other people’s work because I obviously do not have the manpower to make something as splendiferous as this but…

Vogue Korea, you kill me. Whimsical sweets that encompass a modern Versailles, porcelain doll dresses and models that promise no ill when one consumes grapefruit pink macaroons. You can really have your cake and eat it too.

When I was a kid, I had this book about heaven and how wonderful heaven would be from the eyes of a kid like me. One of the pages featured cotton candy clouds which the kid was using as a bed and taking big chunks out of and eating. That was what I imagined heaven like then- a Willy Wonka paradise. I guess this is the grown-up version of that.

I am on a quest to make funny Alice in Wonderland-esque cupcakes featured below:




I was supposed to post this entry prior to my trip to Korea but alas my habit of last minute packing ate up my time, so here is the recipe I said I would post during Christmas a loooooong time ago but never got around to doing it.

Despite procrastination, this cookie recipe deserves a special shout out.

I’m not really  a cookie person. I’m not a cookie person because I’m not a snack person. Snacks, as adorably enticing they are, are impulsive hors d’oeuvres to whet the appetite but don’t satisfy. When I see a bag of mini Kit Kats on my desk, their existence aggravates me because it’s taking up potentially saved space. So I try to eat them all to get them out of my way.

I’m a cake person. I’m a cake person because dessert is a main course for me. I don’t snack because I don’t find sweets satisfying so I eat a heavy, ‘big’ dessert to feel full. That way, I know I should stop whereas if I snack, that ‘full feeling’ never comes so I’ll keep snacking. Snacks are cheap, easy thrills while a well made dessert is the consumption of miniature art and richness. I seriously think that may be the reason why I can stay relatively thin while eating dessert/baking. Baking is literally my form of exercise and a distraction from being on the computer all the time. From sourcing all my ingredients at various grocery stores to washing the dishes to grating carrots, they all require manpower.

Anyhow, because I am a cake person and not a cookie person, this recipe is the perfect synthesis between the two: a dessert snack.

For those who love carrot cake, check this recipe out. It’s exactly like carrot cake but better. How? It’s ergonomically designed to be taken on your next picnic, compact enough to be carried anywhere easily and can be shared individually. They make great presents particularly because it’s a twist on the traditional carrot cake and requires less ‘frosting’ for the health conscious while keeping the vitamin A element to it. It’s a comfort food but bite size and easily consumed. Not to mention a sandwich cookie trumps a plain biscuit in terms of decadence. It tastes like a bite-size version of all the goodness that Christmas brings thanks to the warmth of the cinnamon, nuts and brown sugar. And best of all? It’s super easy to make! Yum.

When I first found this recipe on epicurious, I made it three times during Christmas for family and friends (my aunt and cousins loved them!). I recently made them again for my colleagues when I visited Korea as a gift since I didn’t know what Hong Kong sweets to get them. Alas it was quite humid when I baked them so they were slightly damp by the time they arrived in Seoul.

You can find the recipe here

**TIP: make smaller cookie balls because when they bake, they’ll spread and rise slightly so you can get more cookies out of one recipe. You can see that in my pictures above.

**TIP 2: I followed my own recipe for the filling which is just a brick of Philly cream cheese mixed in with approximately 3/4 cup icing sugar (I never measure… just toss in whatever looks okay). I also whip a little cream (yet again this is all improv so I would guess about 1/4 cup) and fold that in at the end with a splash of vanilla essence.


Don’t forget about the packaging! I found these adorable white gingham cups with scalloped edges at my local dollar store! Well, they’re $10 stores here. =P

Cova Cafe.

An Italian cafe/patisserie located in major shopping malls here in Hong Kong with a line of cakes and confections that can be enjoyed at home or within the four walls of their cafes.
My aunt, uncle and I were a little bored during Chinese New Year since everything was closed. Since we already watched a movie (Percy and the Lightning Thief), we decided to drive out to Causeway Bay and find a place to have afternoon tea shortly after we had the traditional Chinese brunch that my grandmother prepared consisting of 11 dishes. Initially we planned to go to Hit the Road but it was closed so we ended up at Cova Cafe in Lee Gardens. My impressions of Cova Cafe varies from store to store. I find that in Hong Kong, the fancier/pricier the restaurant, the more stuck up and ill-mannered the wait staff is. Ironically you pay more to have better service but that’s not the case here. I went to Cova in TST with my dad for an afternoon snack (I had lemon chiffon cake when I just got stomach flu.. hahaha. that was not a good idea) and the wait staff was slow and unresponsive. A couple of years ago I went to the Causeway Bay one only to have some impatient waitress serve us, acting as if we couldn’t afford anything we ordered. Last year I went to the one in Pacific Place with my mom only to be ignored by staff too busy with other customers.

I’m not sure if it was because I was with my aunt and uncle or if it was because the manager was present or if it was because of Chinese New Year, but the service this time around was extremely good. The waitresses smiled, they served us when we got up and were extremely tentative. We all ended up ordering the afternoon tea buffet. I think it was approximately $200 including a buffet that consisted of a variety of miniature savouries (ham and cheese croissant, mini burgers, flat-crust pizza, cold tuna shots) and sweets (tiramisu, mixed fruits, cake, tart), an assortment of crustless sandwiches, tea and juice.

My friend recently went to the Cova tea buffet in Causeway Bay but told me she wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Strangely enough no one stopped me when I pulled out my huge SLR to photograph everything. Coincidence or not?

Above is the famed tiramisu that my mom and I make after the chef published the recipe in Ming Pao newspaper many years ago. Now they also have a ‘mango tiramisu’ but I find it a little odd when mango is mixed into a creamy/bittersweet dessert. Tiramisu with mango is not tiramisu at all.


Ambience: I was expecting to be seated in the oak panel room decorated with sprays of miniature yellow orchids from past experiences but instead we got seated in a very ‘modern’ room where the tea buffet was located. It didn’t have that Italian atmosphere that Cova so loves to boast about and felt a little corporate. The music was rather obnoxious- you would think an Italian cafe would play some classical music to fit in with the whole Cova philosophy. Well, they played American country at decibels that made me notice the music more than the food itself. Please change the soundtrack to suit your cafe identity.

Food: Traditional but not really inventive, however I would like to highlight a couple of things that is worth checking out. The scallops mixed with slices of mango and tomato featured above were so good. Definitely a keeper. Anything with a flaky pastry was surprisingly good too- buttery soft, pillowy thick with a crispy thin shell that gave way when you sank your teeth into it. The peanut feuilletine takes the cake as my favourite dessert at Cova. Because I can make the tiramisu myself, the peanut feuilletine is a rather divine confection: creamy mousse is contrasted with the crisp crunch of the peanuts rendering it into a classic hit.

Service: Stellar. When we got up to get food, the staff would serve us the cake of our choice and gave helpful suggestions and recommendations for my uncle when he asked. The manager said hello which is always nice and when my uncle purchased some sweets afterwards, the staff was welcoming and cheerful.

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There is nothing lovelier than a rainy Saturday afternoon with nothing to do than make a cup of European chocolate. Marie Belle Hot Chocolate powder from New York.


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The Chronicle of sweet ideas.


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Tea is good for the soul. Muji tea in silk pouches makes life a little easier. Purchased Rose Pu-Erh, Baked Apple and Sakura Green Tea


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Gifts that reflect an idiosyncrasy of the receiver are the most perceptive


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When encountering odd combinations of flavors, the ‘epicurious’ will always be first to try: Cream Cheese Marshmallows from Muji. They were… interesting. Not enough cream cheese. I wonder what happens if you try microwaving it. XD


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I am not a chef.

Valentine’s Day meal: tomato and mascarpone with fillet of salmon in penne.


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My grandmother is a true culinary genius. It never got passed down. Chinese New Year brunch for six at 11am! hahah


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I like Cadbury

Just not their commercials.


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This is my forte: Valentine’s Day dessert- milk chocolate fondue with Japanese strawberries, bananas, Sara Lee plain and coffee pound cake cubes. My aunt also bought Haagen Daaz ice cream chocolate fondue set which came with a variety of flavors and the heart-shaped fondue pot.


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There’s nothing better than enjoying a success after a failure. Especially when it comes with a small cup of milk while listening to French music such as Paroles, Paroles. I finally succeeded in making a flawless molten heart chocolate cake! Yay! Better to leave the frozen cake to warm to room temperature before baking! Tried and tested!


Sitting in the fridge

Snack time.

Bah humbug. I’ve been failing a lot these days.

Okay it wasn’t a failure, it was just that for one, I’m not really into pudding based desserts and second, the graham crust kind of collapsed (but that’s what happens when you make a crust out of graham in the form of a tart).

Pardon the melancholy, but at times I wonder why I bake. Do I bake because I’m lonely- to fill up times of confusion and anxiety? Baking allows me to pour all my thoughts into a singular focus and action. With the control and ability to predict the relationship between butter and sugar when whipped, can I say that I love baking because of its expected outcome?
People say it’s good to have hobbies that don’t exist/rely on people yet I wonder if my tendency to bake is a reaction to social isolation. I’m not looking for pity, I know making friends takes time so I’m saying this as matter of factual be it the one who is reading is a family member, a friend or a complete stranger.

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Anyhow, no more contemplation.

Happy birthday, Chris! It’s my brother’s birthday today. We used to call him the ‘Chocolate Monster’ for obvious reasons. I think I now surpass him in the consumption of cacao. I guess this post will go in honor of his twenty year reign of terror- I mean ‘love’- in our household.

If watched the movie, Julie and Julia (yes it’s pretty much all I talk about these days having seen it a total of five times. I feel like it’s the story of my life minus the imaginary friend, the absence of NYC, the husband and the huge fan base. I take it back, it’s nothing at all like my life), there’s one part where she tells her husband,

“Chocolate cream pie! You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.”

That it is. May I just add that you have to add corn starch into the mix to make it thick. I guess the screenwriter thought corn starch wouldn’t sound too romantic in a script so they omitted it. =P I was perusing through the Epicurious Valentine’s Day recommended recipes and came across a recipe for chocolate cream pie. A vivid image of Amy Adams spooning dollops of chocolate pudding into a crust in a glass bowl (I should have kept it in its shell), instantly flashed up and I knew this was my next recipe of the week. And the ingredients are pretty basic so all I had to get were the eggs and the milk.

Breakfast slice

Can I just say that after finding out Brit-owned Cadbury was bought by Kraft (rah rah Americans!), I’ve been on a rampage to buy the last few bars of the real English stuff before Kraft starts substituting the one and a half glasses of cream for powdered milk. Anyhow, I bought a bar of ‘Old Gold’ which is essentially 70% intense dark chocolate by Cadbury with the intentions of making the molten lava cake with it again. However I decided to use it for the cream pie and when I melted it, it melted away into a gastronomic poetry. That didn’t make sense but what I mean was that it went from bar to liquid so beautifully: there weren’t any lumps in the pot and the chocolate had a thick glossy, mirror finish.

The only part I really messed up on was that I should have just left the tart shell in the mold rather than taking it out. I decided to substitute the chocolate wafers for digestive biscuits to balance out all the chocolate filling. The shell is too fragile for it to stand alone particularly when the pudding and whipped cream go on top and start pushing the sides over.

Weighing in

The process of collapse

I was already rather annoyed that one part split as soon as I placed it on the cutting board and then it continued to crumble as I poured the filling in. I only continued to get more annoyed as I tried to take a shortcut to sprinkling the cocoa on top which as you can see, turned into a big cloud on top rather than light and powdery. Sigh. As my aunt says, it should be 50/50. She just tried and said it was really good and suggested that I make it into a cookie pudding instead or mini tarts because this one crumbles too easily with the graham crust. If anyone likes chocolate cream pies, I’ll try a different formation, but since I don’t know anyone who does I will archive this recipe for the future.

That's how the cookie crumbles -_- Not happy. Chocolate pudding/cream set aside

If you’re a fan of chocolate pudding, this is for you. I remember as a kid I used to love those chocolate pudding cups for snack. Now I prefer mousse which tends to be less thick and ‘gooey’. This was my first time tasting chocolate cream pie and I must say, the filling is absolutely divine with a rich DARK chocolate (using milk chocolate will be too sweet). However I am uncertain of how this is a ‘beautiful pie’ according to the writers of the recipe- it resembles a glob on top of a curved cookie. I’m also not a big fan of puddings (I prefer a dense wedge of cake) so after having a slice, I felt quite full.

Chocolate Cream Pie breached!

It’s an easy recipe so you have my blessing, try it, but make sure to keep the crust in its bowl/shell/mold. Here’s the link to the recipe I used: Epicurious Chocolate Cream Pie

** Edit: actually after letting it sit for a few hours in the fridge, the moisture of the pudding locks into the crust so it fuses into one dessert rendering it easier to cut and of a better presentation than when I first tried it.

Whew! I’m finally done writing this. It took me three evenings to compile, edit and write this one entry! Get ready for some image-heavy review/recipe.  And get ready as I stuff this entry with a lot of cheesy puns. I actually, sad to say, chuckle as I write them.

Comic-cute entrance on the 15th floor

I thank my Chinese-reading cousin for introducing me to this upstairs cafe called ‘Hit the Road’ located in Causeway Bay. Upstairs cafes are popular here in HK due to lack of space and astronomical rental prices of pedestrian level units. From what I gather, they predominantly target the youth who want a place to hang out, have a few drinks and snacks, play board games and chat without being hurried/driven out like a typical ‘cha chan teng’ (HK local cafes where the old women start asking you if you want the bill when you’re about 3/4 through your meal and persistently ask until you finally consent).

Kitsch cute

Hit the Road is an upstairs cafe located in Causeway Bay with the charm of a Korean drama (the happy ones that is). Painted in antique white, every edge is highlighted in black to give the interiors a cartoon, graphic effect. ‘Staircase walls’ act as dividers between the various tables. The seating is spacious with few tables and a bar area which faces the cupboards/kitchen area where the concoctions are prepared. The furniture, polka dotted couches, sailboat-print armchairs and cushiony backyard chaises are clustered around the periphery with tilted windows overlooking office buildings.

E.T. and too-cool-for-school Spongebob

The beauty (and I am speaking pure aesthetics right now) lies in the details that are seen in every nook and cranny. Tin Tin and his dog are perched along the ledge divider where a white board is suspended above that serves as a TV through the projector that broadcasts old black and white films. Along the window ledge, camel stuffed animals, Miffy potted plants and miniature whitewashed lanterns rest next to the customers (interestingly enough, the cottage-cuteness of these are juxtaposed by the pop culture toys such as Spongebob and ET) . Both magazines and books are available for perusal as you enjoy a fresh cup of joe. An austere canopy of snowflakes in the same linear aesthetic as the interiors overlook the customers and the walls are punctuated with text in a hand painted script font that read ‘Sweets’ or ‘Cakes.’

Home is where the Heart is.

If I were to comment on anything, the cottage-country kitsch of this cafe has its charm and a must for anyone who loves fairy tale Korean chick flicks movies like ‘The Naked Kitchen’ or ‘Antique Bakery’. The decor is definitely geared towards girls and reminds me of many neighbourhood cafes in Korea, but  you’ll see an equal number of guys trying to impress their girlfriends by wooing them with cute interiors and sweet treats. Not a bad idea.

my mom! This is where we sat- except it was hard to eat with that type of furniture

Perhaps I should start speaking about the food.
We booked a table for 7pm (that’s when they open for dinner). I recommend reserving as this is a new establishment and when I first tried to get in with my family, they didn’t even look at us because they were so busy. Turnover is slow due to the social nature of an upstairs cafe and the sparse seating. To make it comfortable, the tables are quite far apart thus the place is busy practically every night.

reminds me of France.

Cream soup in a cup

I can only speak for dinner: Hit the Road offers set dinners that include a soup, tea/coffee and main course. We ordered a slew of desserts after. Appetizer was a cream-based soup served in a large mug and wooden spoon to my mom’s delight because if it came in a bowl, we’d have to bend over the low tables to slurp. Now, we could simply hold it by the handle and eat away without hunching over. For savouries, my mom ordered a spicy cinnamon pork leg that came with fries and salad. The dish itself was extremely dry because they literally give you a few drumsticks. My friend had clams in pasta with tomato sauce. According to her it was really good. I had chicken with a cream sauce base pasta. Mine was quite delicious- the pasta was perfectly al dente and the chicken was thick but tender (my biggest beef with chicken is when it’s dry and thick) and the sauce to spaghetti ratio was right without making the meal too heavy.

Fresh Clams served with Spaghetti in White Wine and Cherry Tomato Sauce $98HKD

Honey Grilled Chicken served with Spaghetti in Cream of Garlic $98 HKD

Spicy Cinnamon Pork Legs served with French Fries & Salad $106 HKD

Add $9/$16 for a drink upgrade.

Add $20/$25 for a dessert.
Now the fun part. Desserts we shared: apple crumble, earl gray cheesecake and molten chocolate cake. The first was somewhat forgettable: our American palate wants a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complement the heat of the crumble. The earl grey cheesecake had the fragrance and taste of tea which I really liked although perhaps it could have been a little less dense. On to the last dish….

Apple Crumble

Earl Grey Cheesecake (polka dot chocolate sauce!)

According to Open Rice, the latter was considered by some, the most amazing chocolate lava cake they had ever tasted. Now although molten chocolate heart cakes are extremely popular in Asian fusion restaurants, I seldom order it because:

1. It’s a classic, therefore not really exciting. I like trying new desserts and new ideas. New flavors.
2. Since it is a classic, it should be made properly: the shell should be a little crunchy but when you sink your teeth into it, the exterior should quickly give away to to the warmth of the inside that overflows outwards. Like the human heart, the beauty of this cake is, in essence, its vulnerability. It should have a tough exterior, able to withstanding anything, but once acquainted, you perceive its fragility. Oh yes, dessert can be purely philosophical.  Anyhow, I’ve had my share of bad molten chocolate cakes to realize, if I am to eat dessert, I want something new that’s been badly done rather than something badly done that I have certain expectations for because I already know what it should taste like.

Melting Heart Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Bomb

And that is the reason why I never order melting heart cakes (I use the names interchangeably: molten,lava,melting,heart,cake). Back to Hit the Road, we didn’t see the cake on the menu. Apparently you have to ‘special request’ it (I guess it’s the ‘insiders’ thing. I feel like we’re part of the cake club now!). It was quite well done: rich and thick, it reminded me of my times well spent in NYC’s Max Brenner’s. Although the ‘lava’ wasn’t piping hot, the shell gave away beautifully, spewing out ribbons of dark chocolate. Drool. People hate feeling full after dessert, but I love that sinking feeling as I swallow it. It means the chocolate is rich and thick and positively worth eating.

As I leave the review to go onto the recipe, I will leave these last remaining remarks on Hit the Road:
1. Make reservations
2.If you don’t get seated on the comfy couches, be prepared to hunch over these awkward round tables like we did at the back.
3.Allot two hours for dining. We only saw about three people working there and they wait tables, cook and make the drinks. Anyhow, just enjoy the atmosphere and take it slow. The old woman downstairs won’t like it if you sit and chat with a friend rather than asking for the bill.
4. Request for the melting heart chocolate cake.

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No I’m not done yet. Are you still alive? =P

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Melting Hearts

Although it’s still two weeks away, consider this an early Valentine’s Day post. I once was looking at a fashion editorial spread with a title that caught my eye: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Though the clothes had nothing to do with the title, it was so beautifully put. If only that could be expressed through food: the bittersweetness of love, the fragility of the heart, the intensity of a relationship, the fullness of connection, the surprise of a spark, the mystery of chemistry and the richness of romance.

An army of cake cups donated graciously by my aunt!

What could be better than dark chocolate and attempting what I just ate for dessert? For a while now, I’ve actually wanted to dabble in making a molten chocolate cake. This tale is not really of success but more of experimentation. I followed this recipe by flagrante delicia called This is not a Coulant!.

Sadly no Wonka ticket.

Melting chocolate in a self-made double boiler. Make sure none of the water gets into the chocolate or else it'll seize!

For one thing, I bought the wrong butter. Note to self: NEVER EVER buy Ambassador’s butter ever again (this only really applies to me in HK). It’s crumbly to the point I can’t even whip it to break it down.
Second: I accidentally bought 52% dark chocolate rather than the required 70%. Apparently, only the finest chocolate would do. I guess any heart would require the best (sorry I’m really full of cheese, I mean, chocolate. Time for a fondue party.)
Thirdly, BUTTER your cups (and sprinkle cocoa inside instead of flour which may whiten the cooked cake) so that you won’t have grief when you try to coax the cake out of the womb. Whenever I turned mine over, the fragile tops burst and let out all the goodness that was stored up inside. I’m still unsure about whether you should bake the cake right out of the freezer OR let it sit until it becomes room temperature before putting it in the oven. That is my question out to the void, because I am concerned that the temperature shock of removing the cakes out of the oven, causes the tops to collapse and therefore, allow the insides to come out. How to solve this???

After being frozen overnight.

Why is one forming a bellybutton?

I don’t know but since I had eight cakes, I tested six thus far.
The first two went in right away from freezer to oven. One was okay (it ran a little) and the other, we had to give a blood transfusion because the top cracked. In other words, we literally spooned all the guts back into the cake. Not pro at all. It was really delicious though.
The third time I made it, there was still a chunk of butter inside. Never again will I buy Ambassadors. Presidents or pricey Horizons.
The fourth and fifth time, I left the cakes to set to room temperature before putting them in the oven. I also dropped the temperature by a half and let the oven door open so they could adjust easier to the cooler environment. They set faster but they didn’t flow as nicely as the first two tries.
The sixth one, I did another freezer to oven except tried to take it out earlier to avoid cracking. Unfortunately due to not buttering the sides of the cups, I accidentally pierced the side and tried to save it by sticking it in the oven hoping that it would just ‘heal over’. However while we were taking pictures, the melting heart cake turned to normal chocolate cake with an extremely gooey center. ARGH.

Ok, slight collapse. Apparently it's natural.

I wasn't lying when I said the bellybutton fell out and we scooped it back in somehow.

I’d also like to know how to make the insides piping hot without having it form into a solid. I guess that is where the ganache of a coulant can provide a better result as opposed to the cheater’s way of doing it with one recipe. Then again flagrante delicia could do it. DANG IT. Back to the drawing board. It looks alright here but I want it to be effortless: easy, simple therefore a classic. I will make it again with better butter, darker chocolate and greasier cups.

The first two tries.

FINALLY. It looks decent with a little powdered sugar on top and on a Vera Wang plate

She's a heartbreaker!

Guts and Glory!

None of the recipes I have seen thus far, have techniques and tips on how to REMOVE the cake without the cracking and the spewing. I would like to learn this final step. I have two more tries. What next?

Victorious Agnes

So... full...

Oh but they’re delicious. A lot of eggs, but delicious. Agnes ended up doing ten minutes of hamster running inside the apartment. Perhaps I’ll try making them again for our Valentine’s Day party. =D

Now when I think about it, the melting heart cake could be the best physical realization of love. What a deep dessert.