The monotony of clouds and waves kept me in a daze while we crossed the Atlantic, but then, when I finally spotted Nova Scotia from high up in the skies, I was as excited as a little girl. Soon we’d land in New York JFK, to open the last two chapters of my overwhelming Eat In My Kitchen book tour. New York and Washington DC had been on my itinerary for months, but to know that I’d be there in just a few hours gave me shivers.
This trip was emotional, which I got used to after weeks of being on the road in London, Berlin, and Malta, my emotions seem to be tied to a rollercoaster. And now New York, this city filled with so many dreams and visions, vibrant, loud, and bright, it never rests. As we stumbled out of the subway, packed with all our bags and suitcases (I took a few pounds of Maltese sea salt with me), my view was drawn to the sky, along the shiny facades of the city’s famous skyscrapers. Jet lagged, happy, and with an espresso in my hands, I felt breathless as I stood on the vibrant streets of Greenwich Village.
Ten days on the East Coast allowed me to dive deep into this magical city, to meet and get to know so many people and to enjoy some of the most delicious treats. I hadn’t seen my dear friend and editor Holly La Due in more than a year, and to step into her office on Broadway for the first time, to finally meet the entire team of Prestel Publishing that worked on my book, almost made me cry. And we ate – constantly! There was so much to discover, so much to try, it felt like traveling the world through food, but in one city. My palate enjoyed the most amazing Jamaican curry, Cuban stew and pies, Korean BBQ, Indian treats, and American classics. Our breakfasts were luscious, every day: The richest Challah French toast, fluffy blueberry pancakes, huge muffins, crunchy cookies, fudgy brownies, perfect bagels, fine lobster roll, juicy burger, creamy clam chowder, and generously filled sandwiches. New York is heaven on earth if you love food. The quality is outstanding, proven by the fact that we didn’t experience a single bad meal, I can recommend almost every restaurant we went to as you can see in my list below. One of the treats that struck me on our last day was a gorgeous pink doughnut at Bryant Park Holiday Market filled with ricotta and covered in sticky beetroot glaze. This combination is so good that I decided to come up with my own recipe and share it with you. My version is a soft and spongy oven-baked yeast doughnut refined with orange zest and sprinkled with pistachios. Next time I’ll fry them in oil, which adds that extra rich flavour plus calories.
There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot, so as we ate our way through Manhattan and Brooklyn, we also got to walk on the elevated High Line, a 1.5 mile long city garden. It’s an impressive green oasis along the closed tracks of the West Side Line. I couldn’t miss Tiffany’s, the melody of the film classic in my head, I pulled my boyfriend into the sparkling shop on Fifth Avenue after we took a little break at Central Park. We managed to see a live performance and also Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency at MoMA, and a fantastic show at The Met Breuer, by James Kerry Marshall called Mastry. And visiting Kenzi Wilbur at Food52‘s holy test kitchen in Chelsea (picture below) was another highlight. It was quiet when we approached the 9/11 memorial, as I stood there for about 10 minutes, in silence, I noticed how all the sadness and anger I felt turned into peace at one point. It’s a place that reminds us that love is the only way, and not hate.
I came to New York to present the Eat In My Kitchen book, at a wonderful book launch feast at Maman NYC and at a cozy book signing event at the beautiful – and so tempting – Whisk kitchenware shop on Broadway. It’s my first book, and to have had these two unforgettable celebrations in New York makes me feel very humble. I can’t thank everybody enough who’s been involved in both of the events. Maman is a stunning space with high ceilings in TriBeCa, founded by Michelin starred French chef Armand Arnal, Elisa Marshall, and Benjamin Sormonte. They are the sweetest team and they did everything possible to turn our event into a very special night. Chef Hetty McKinnon from Arthur Street Kitchen, and author of the cookbook Neighbourhood, prepared the recipes from my book for this special event. She’s a precious gem, as a chef and as a friend. My trusted partner Meridiana Wine Estate shipped their glorious Maltese wine over the Atlantic just for our event – our American guests are already thinking about how they can get hold of this wine from Malta in the future. Marisa Dobson is the power woman who helped me so much, organizing all my events in the US, and she introduced me to Baked (see the list below). Photographer Maria Midões is the lovely woman who captured the magic of our night at Maman in her gorgeous pictures. I had a dream team in New York, accomplished by the support of my wonderful publisher Prestel and of my boyfriend. He made me enjoy every second of this trip – especially breakfast, lunch, and dinner – at least twice as much. You can’t create a book on your own, but you also can’t send it out into the world on your own. Thank you, my friends!
This trip was all about people and food. We sat at the table with so many inspiring people, publishers, bloggers, food lovers, and journalists, fans of the Eat In My Kitchen blog and book, family and friends. We ate and drank wine, we discussed, laughed, and spoke about food, art, books, and culture; and about politics – it was two weeks before the sobering elections. So this trip had to sides, we felt our excitement, the excitement of two travellers exploring a new terrain, but we could also feel that there was something in the air. The people around us, and even the two of us, were anxious and had premonitions that the future might not bring what we all hoped for, a world without a US president who disrespects people, women and men, who humiliates people because of their sex, religion, skin colour, and culture. Today we know better. I always saw the USA as a vibrant melting pot of cultures, and I admired the country for this reason. To exchange ideas and traditions is fruitful, and not frightening. We are what we are because we evolve, we learn from each other, we need each other to widen our mental horizon. History, especially the not so distant German history, has shown what happens when we build walls, mental and physical walls, when we separate ourselves from the others. I feel pain when I hear the words of the newly elected American president, his words disgust me. But I don’t want to feel scared, I want to believe that deep inside we all know what’s right and wrong. We know compassion, we know that all the hate spread throughout our human history didn’t create anything good, just more destruction. It frustrates me to see that a single small minded, greedy and bitter old man can shake so many people, all over the world. But frustration doesn’t help, that’s democracy and democracy only works when we communicate, so let’s keep the dialogue going.
Here are some of my favourite food spots:
Baked TriBeCa, American bakery (they bake Oprah Winfrey’s favourite brownies)
Maman TriBeCa, coffee, bakery, and events
Tina’s Cuban Cuisine
Luke’s Lobster East Village (the best lobster and crab roll and clam chowder)
Clinton Street Baking (New York Magazine voted: the best blueberry pancakes)
ABC Kitchen (their spinach, chèvre, and dill pizza is a revelation)
Stick With Me (Susanna Yoon’s finest confectionaries)
Black Seed Bagels (delicious tuna melt and salmon bagel!)
Pondicheri New York (acclaimed Indian restaurant)
Food market at Bryant Park, especially The Doughnut Project
Salumeria Biellese Deli (the best sandwiches lusciously filled with Italian prosciutto and cheese)
Blue Bottle Coffee
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
Jongro BBQ (Korean BBQ, be prepared for loud! music)
Russ and Daughters
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Hot Pot Under de Tree in Harlem (Jamaican Diner on Frederick Douglass Boulevard)
Williamsburg – Brooklyn:
Khao Sarn (delicious Thai soups and papaya salad)
The Rabbit Hole (cozy breakfast spot, try the challah french toast with strawberry mscarpone!)
Extra Fancy (American restaurant, seafood and burger)
Peter Luger Steakhouse (reservation needed!)
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
Ricotta Beetroot Doughnuts
Makes about 16 doughnuts plus doughnut holes
For the dough
plain flour 325g / 2 1/2 cups, plus about 2 tablespoons if the dough is too sticky
fast-acting yeast 1 1/4 teaspoons
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
orange zest 1/2 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 155ml / 2/3 cup
butter, melted and cooled, 20g / 1 1/2 tablespoons
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
organic egg 1
For the filling
fresh ricotta, whipped, 250g / 9 ounces
For the glaze / topping
icing sugar 200g / 2 cups
beetroot juice 4-5 tablespoons
unsalted pistachios, chopped, a small handful
orange zest 1 tablespoon
For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Whisk together the milk, butter, vanilla seeds, and egg – the mixture should be lukewarm – and add to the flour mixture. Knead on medium speed for a few minutes until well combined. The dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
When the dough has almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. On a lightly floured countertop, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s about 1cm / 1/2″ thick. Using a 7 1/2cm / 3″ round cookie cutter or glass, gently cut out circles and transfer them to the lined baking sheets. Using a 3 1/2cm / 1 1/2″ cookie cutter or shot glass, stamp out the smaller inner circles and arrange them around the doughnuts on the baking sheet. If you use a smaller cookie cutter for the inner circles, the hole in the middle will close while baking. Cover with cling film and let rise in a warm place for about 25-30 minutes or until puffy.
Preheat the oven to 190°C / 365°F (conventional setting).
Bake the doughnuts and the doughnut holes for about 6-8 minutes or until light golden and still soft. If you’re not sure, take out one doughnut and cut it in half to see if it’s baked through. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Cut the doughnuts in half and spread each bottom with about 1 heaping teaspoon of ricotta.
For the glaze, whisk the icing sugar and beetroot juice until smooth, the mixture should be quite thick. Using a teaspoon, sprinkle the glaze generously over each doughnut and doughnut hole. Immediately sprinkle with pistachios and a little orange zest.