Tag Archives: lawrence restaurant

Oh hey, Brooklyn…

Oh, my. Figuring out where to begin is like staring at this wide expanse of ocean — infinite, overwhelming, and totally abstract. Let’s just start with the facts and dive right in. I haven’t written here in over two months. Fact. After almost three gorgeous years, I left Montreal. Fact! Now I live in Brooklyn. Crazy fact.

In July, I departed my beloved Lawrence, home to the finest food and folks in all of Montreal, for Williamsburg’s Marlow + Sons and Diner…. yeah. Kind of a big deal if you are into food. For me, it’s totally amazing and inspiring. My learning curve has been a little extreme.

Let me just get right into it. My move to Brooklyn was completely unplanned. My Montreal buddies were shocked but not surprised. You know when something feels really right? This was like that.

Lawrence closes for two weeks every summer, so I took the opportunity to accept a pastry stagiere at Marlow + Sons. It was so mindblowing, inspiring, and cool, but I never thought for a second that it would lead to anything else besides a great week or two away from Montreal.

But they were looking for a pastry cook, and even though I initially felt so reticent, the refrain from my friends went thusly: “This is a no brainer. Take it. Do it. Go!” 24 agonizing hours later, I accepted the job. The next day, I put in my notice at Lawrence. And two weeks after that, I moved to Brooklyn and began my new job. It happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to consider if it was the right decision for me or not. My head spins just thinking about how quickly I pulled it all together.

I swore I’d never move to New York, but now that I’m here it feels so simple. It was somehow harder in Montreal, the ache of displacement lingered for months.  This transition feels less tricky and also like the most meaningful gesture of independence. I’m here, it was my choice, I’m pursuing my love of pastry, and it all feels really right.

So anyway, if you had asked me ten years ago where I thought I would be as a late 20-whatever, I would not have said Brooklyn. I definitely would not have guessed working in restaurants. Nothing about where I have ended up today has been predictable or easy, but my last two months in New York has been an inspiring part of my journey.

I can’t promise that I’ll write more, but I really think that I will. Being in New York has filled me with an entirely new kind of enthusiasm for writing. Working at Marlow + Sons is the coolest thing I’ve done all year and I’m filled with gratitude and righteousness for my new surroundings. I love it here.

Weirdly, I haven’t pulled out my camera once since I moved here! I did, however, finally buy an iPhone, my first ever. Here’s a little peek at what my summer has been like. (I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram now!!?) As for what it is like living in Brooklyn?! That’s for future posts. I’ll be around. I have so much to say. XOXOX

QUEENLY BIRTHDAY

If you have a fear of sugar — the kind that’s heaped into quantities that makes your hands tremble and eyes twitch — then this cake is probably not for you. But for us, the sugar-high-riding gang at Lawrence (gummi worms at 5pm is a daily kitchen snack), well, we pine for the Queen Elizabeth cake, which is sweetened with not just regular granulated sugar, but also brown sugar, dried coconut, and dates.

The Queenie, as we affectionately called it, lived on the menu much longer than most of our desserts because it was so popular with clients. (It was also topped with a scoop of homemade Makers Mark-infused ice cream, so that probably didn’t hurt, either). And in the kitchen, we never got tired of the coconut-topped cake either, and we regularly ended shifts with a shared slice or two.

The Queen derives most of its sweetness from dates, which are soaked in hot water until a thick, mashable paste forms.  The rest of the cake is a breeze to assemble — cream some butter and sugar, add a few eggs and vanilla, then alternate sifted flour with the warm date mixture. I love making this cake in a single bowl, creaming butter and sugar by hand, with a good wooden spoon. No mixer required. The batter puffs and swells into a lovely tan-colored cake, which is then topped with cooked mixture of (more) butter, heavy cream, unsweetened shredded coconut, and brown sugar. Then, finally, the cake is broiled until the topping caramelizes into a crunchy, amber crust.

So when Jessica’s birthday rolled around, I surprised her with a Queenie encore, this time gussied up, American-style, into a three-layer birthday cake smothered with vanilla buttercream frosting. (I was in such a rush that the cake didn’t completely cool before I frosted it, which is why you can see that top layer sliding around in the final photo!) I can make this cake in my sleep — I realized I still had the recipe memorized — but it was an entirely new challenge to bake this cake during service with her only a few meters away from me. Jess could totally spy the action from her garde manger station (as in, she saw the cake layers cooling on our speed rack and overheard us whispering about it, oops), but I think she was surprised anyway.

Note — Warm out of the oven, this cake is cozy and comforting, but it’s even better the next day. The flavors are richer, the topping even crunchier, the innards moist and sticky. I’d bring it to a picnic for a sweet finish to a long afternoon.

ROAST AND PUDS

Thanksgiving Meal #2. Sunday roast staff meal at Lawrence — standing rib roast, crispy brussels sprouts, stewed cabbage, and mini yorkshire puddings (I use Hugh’s recipe!). Considering how chaotic brunch service gets, I’m pretty proud at how well we pulled this one together.

GOLD MEDAL PLATES

A few weeks ago, the team at Lawrence competed in the annual Gold Medal Plates competition, a charity event featuring Canadian chefs cooking their signature dishes for hundreds of people. Marc was invited to participate in the Quebec event, and we all helped him out. I felt like I finally had a taste of what it would be like hustling on one of those insane Top Chef challenges — complete with copious amounts of running back and forth between our display table and the onsite kitchens — and we took home a bronze medal! The dish? The ultimate marriage of sweet and salty: crispy pork cheek and mustard sauce atop a mini apple tart tatin. I’ve never made more puff pastry in my life.

MEMORIES OF PALMIERS

In the course of preparing endless amounts of sweet things for the restaurant, I end up with lots of odds and ends — bits of dough, packets of pastry, things we can’t serve to customers. I still am racking my brains over how to use a small lump of marzipan I made almost two months ago! I try never to waste anything, but it can be challenging to find new and interesting ways to use it all. (Right now, I love baking up the scone scraps into mini scone-nubbins for the staff).

We recently made a couple kilos worth of puff pastry for a major charity event (more on that soon!), and had so much puff leftover. I couldn’t bare to throw it away, so it became these tiny, crisp, light-as-air palmiers, some of which we gobbled up at work, and some of which I brought home with me to enjoy with hot coffee.

Palmiers have a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, my parents and I would head down to La Jolla Shores every Sunday morning to hang out on the beach for a few hours. We read the newspaper, walked in the sand, and collected seashells. It was the one time of the week that I was allowed to eat junk food (powdered sugar mini-donuts and orange juice), while my parents opted for more sophisticated choices like croissants and bagels. My mom, however, always went for the gigantic palmier — her favorite cookie. It appealed to me both in its sheer size (they’re called elephant ears, after all), and its impressively high sugar level.

It was really fun to recreate this special pastry at work, and insanely easy, too (if you don’t count the days that go into preparing a bar of puff). You could easily recreate this at home with store-bought frozen puff — just make sure that the list of ingredients only lists butter as the fat used. I roll out the puff very thinly, scatter with sugar, and curl both sides like a book. Cut thinly, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with more sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the sugar caramelizes and gets sticky. Sprinkle with even more sugar and eat hot. One of the best treats I’ve had in ages — buttery, flaky, and sweet.

MORE VICTORY BREAD

You can’t quite tell in this photo, but buried under that mountain of delicious mashed avocado is another loaf of victory bread. Right now, this black bread is my favorite thing at Lawrence — it’s compact, hearty, and intensely savory, thanks to traces of espresso grounds, molasses, butter, chopped shallots, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, bran flakes, and rye flour. (If you’d like to make something similar, this recipe looks lovely). When our black bread comes out of the oven, the smell is really unbelievable. All this black bread really needs is a thick smear of salted butter, but in the morning I’ve been eating it with chopped avocado, lemon juice, and lots of black pepper.

Also, I know I’m so behind on the NYFW chatter, but I finally looked at Rachel Comey’s spring collection and I just can’t. It’s all so beautiful, especially those crop tops and that high necked chartreuse dress. I’ll just imagine that I’m wearing those breezy white numbers while lounging in Greece with Adam — lucky dude gets to go there in a few weeks!

LIFE STUFF

Things have seemed a little quiet around here, haven’t they? The truth is, I’ve never been busier in my life.

Somewhere around the end of July, Marc Cohen of Lawrence — one of my very favorite restaurants in the city — approached me with the opportunity of a lifetime. Was I interested in being his new assistant pastry chef, he asked. My first thought was: I’m no pastry chef. I never went to pastry school, and I’m definitely self-taught. I’m more of a writer, an observer, a consumer. And I felt so safe and cozy being part of the Depanneur Le Pick Up family, making brownies and cupcakes and granola bars. This was something else altogether, something strange and scary.

There was so much doubt and nervousness, but also excitement. (Let’s just say there were a lot of pep talks delivered from loved ones.) But I wanted the job. Badly. Even if I meant that I would fail. So I did my trial shift, finished my training, and now I’m officially Lawrence’s assistant pastry chef. Things are different but the same — I’m working in a kitchen with people I really respect, learning about an art that I’m totally in love with, at a pace and in an environment that’s challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, gorgeous, and surreal. (I mean, just take a peep at this beautiful menu!)

I was worried that my crazy new schedule (50 hours a week! What was I thinking!) would affect the amount of time that I would get to hang with Adam. But then I woke up one morning, tired and overwhelmed and missing him, and found a little present on my doorstep. Half of a perfect watermelon, a market gift from him to me. I need these sweet reminders from the people who believe in me, and share my excitement.

I’ll keep writing here, but I was thinking that the content will shift. I want to write more about this new restaurant life, my new pastry skills, my new insane schedule. Life is so weird. Here I am, a California girl making pastry in Montreal. I never, ever would have imagined this would be my life. But I am so grateful.