Monday was Memorial Day in The United States, and myself and the family spent our day with my brother and his family. My kids were dying to see their cousins, (and even more excited to take them to the pond in the park adjacent to their backyard to see if they could catch any jumpy amphibians)! As for me, I was just happy to be in the company of one of my siblings.
We did all the usual “American” stuff like have a barbecue in the backyard, and go for Opening Day to their local outdoor swimming pool so the kids could garner some relief from the swelteringly hot and sticky weather.
My brother lives in a picturesque little town outside of the bustling island of Manhattan. It is the kind of place you can escape to from the city pretty easily, and then fantasize about shirking all responsibility and never returning.
Pascal (my brother) has an insatiable sweet-tooth and was only too pleased to tell me that a Japanese sweet shop called Jiki, had opened on their little Main Street since our last visit, and it was very important that I accompany him for a sampling (“you know, for your blog”). Hmmmm…
Pascal and I don’t talk much about anything culinary, save for when I’m cooking and I need to ask if I can include a little spicy flavor to a dish (even black pepper can send him racing for a glass of water). This however was food he was very interested in, and so after the pool, it was off to the sweet shop!
He introduced me to the wonderfully friendly Minyoung, who runs Jiki with her husband. It is the same everywhere he goes: she practically bowed to the ground with gladness when he walked in. My brother has the uncanny knack of making everyone his best friend instantly. His genuine warmth and quippy personality makes anyone he meets want to be close to him. I had to smile while watching the sweet exchange between them.
The kids bee-lined it for the display case and drooled instantly. It was full of the most perfect-looking confections, in a fantastical array of colors. Every little offering was beautifully composed and thoughtful. The macarons were organized in soldier-like rows in flavors such as green tea, raspberry, chocolate, vanilla and mocha, to name but a few.
I told the kids they could pick one thing, and that proved to be a most difficult task indeed. My daughter could not decide between the opera cake, a cassis noir cake and a chocolate raspberry tartlet, while my son was torn between an orange wasabi mousse cake, a miso almond cookie and a slice of souffle cheese cake.
Before Minyoung opened Jiki, she was the pastry chef at Takahachi Bakery in Tribeca, New York City. She proudly told me that she, and she alone, is responsible for the making of every last cake in the shop. She arrives each morning at 7 am and does not close until the evening time. I followed her into the kitchen and watched her put the finishing flourish on her cassis noir cakes. Her pastries were visually very french in style and composition, but with the addition of ingredients like wasabi, miso and green tea, the cakes took on a Japanese air. That was Minyoung’s intention, and she achieved her goal as far as I was concerned.
While I was taking photographs and talking to Minyoung, Pascal was also on a mission. It seemed to me he was trying to buy the entire inventory of anything that contained sugar! If I said something looked good, he bought it, until there were at least four boxes containing a sample of practically everything in the display case sitting on the counter (this including the entire tray of custard creams).
My brother is generous to a fault, and he was in his element watching everyone light up as the boxes piled with goodies. When we got back to the house I had a bite of just about everything, and then sat in a sugar coma for about an hour: well worth it.
This little town in Northern Westchester has a gem on its main street, which I will make sure to pop into every time I visit my sugar-addicted brother.