Tokyo Takeover: I <3 Coutume

But, guys, like, I really <3 Coutume's Tokyo location.

I was already in love with Coutume with my first sip of coffee but then they brought the food. Our first morning there I had a salad piled high with avocado, feta and grapefruit. It came with a side quiche which I think is the opposite of what I thought I was getting. Shouldn't quiche come with a side of salad? The crust on the mushroom quiche was perfectly buttery and flakey and the egg custard silky smooth. Lara's croque monsieur oozing bechamel and stuffed with tender asparagus was fantastically rich and delicious. Half way through my quite large salad, the server came over with another dish. He put down a small glass and says "with set". I didn't remember there being anything other than quiche, salad and coffee with my set, but who am I to complain? The small glass contained a vanilla custard, crumb and rhubarb compote. Living in Seoul, this was the first time I had had rhubarb in nearly two years. It was used perfectly as the tart contrast to the rich custard.

Since it was near our airbnb, we ended up going to Coutume almost every day we were in Tokyo. One morning we ate breakfast across the street at Clinton St Baking Co but after finding the coffee lacking, picked up lattes to go. One morning we just had delightfully flakey pain au chocolat and chausson aux pommes. Our last full day I couldn't resist the croque monsieur Lara had had the first day and she had a big salad with slices of avocado and ham. I picked up a piece of rosemary lemon olive oil cake to eat for breakfast the next day before our early departure. I might have a serious Coutume addiction. Good thing there isn't one in Seoul?

(j/k please come to Seoul, Coutume and let me give you all my money thx)

Coutume is located at 〒107-0062, 5丁目-8-10 南青山, 港区 東京都 107-0062, Japan and is open 7:30-9:30 seven days a week. Breakfast sets cost between US$10-$16 and pour overs and espresso beverages cost between US$3-$5.

You can find more of my favorite places to get caffeinated in Tokyo here.

Looking for more mouthwatering food pics? Check out my new food only insta @runawaybunnyeats

Glamorous Penguin

Glamorous Penguin Hannam-dong Seoul

I've provided a picture of the outside of the building just so you can be sure I am not at all making up or mistranslating this amazing name.

Glamorous Penguin is one of those places I walked by a million times, marking the absurdity of it's name and thinking to myself "I should really go there just to see how strange it really is" but I just kept prioritizing places that seemed, well, less crazy until one day one of my friends asked if I had tried it remarking that she really liked the cakes and wanted to know what I would think of them. I kept that knowledge in the back of my mind for a few more weeks until one day after physical therapy, hot, tired, sweaty and not quiiite ready to climb back up the hill to my house, I passed by and decided that what I really needed was a cake break.

And then I did that twice more.

The first cake I tried was the Lemon Meringue. Thin layers of vanilla sponge alternating with a perfectly tart and creamy lemon curd. I am a lemon curd fanatic, so this cake could've easily been a huge disappointment but it definitely was not. I am very picky about meringue and found it slightly too dry for my taste but not so dry that I didn't eat it. Of the cakes I've had so far, this is definitely my favorite.

The Apple Maple Cake wasn't super maple-y but the cake had nice big apple chunks. Part of me is fully willing to say that the apparent trend of not leveling cakes really bothers me just because I'm a formally trained snob but now that I've actually tried some of the cakes towards which I was feeling disdain, I realize that it bothers me because it throws off the proportions of cake to frosting. Because this cake was little dry and wasn't frosted on the sides, I think I would've enjoyed it more if the top layer were thinner giving a higher frosting to cake ratio.

Similar to the Apple Maple Cake, I found the Carrot Cake well spiced but a bit on the dry side. The thicker layer of frosting in the middle did help some but I'd still rather have either a moister cake or a leveled cake with slightly more frosting. I do like that even though some of the cakes are not leveled, it clearly doesn't have anything to do with laziness or lack of caring since the presentation for each cake is unique and well done.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the coffee here. It's all espresso beverages, nothing crazy or super fancy but the iced lattes I've gotten have been consistently good with a smooth espresso taste and milk that actually feels and tastes full fat. Even in America, it can be a rarity to find bakeries where coffee isn't an after thought.

Like, Parc, Glamorous Penguin is located near Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art so if you're not looking for a full meal before or after a day of museum-ing, it's good place to stop for a rest and snack.

The address is 743-41 Hannam-dong. From Exit 1 of Hangangjin Station walk towards Itaewon Station, turn right on the side street between the Audi showroom and Trevia. Walk up the short street to the street that runs perpendicular and Glamorous Penguin will be on the street that runs diagonal and to the left.

You can also check out their Facebook page and adorable Instagram.

PLANT Itaewon

PLANT vegan cafe Itaewon

Plant is a small vegan cafe and bakery with a menu that changes weekly. I'm obviously not vegan but I am lactose intolerant, really into vegetables and from the Bay Area. I've been meaning to go to Plant since we moved to Korea but it's only since the weather started warming up that I've really gotten into exploring Itaewon's back alleys and actually figured out the location of the cafe.

This past week I decided to stop by after physical therapy (read: I was starving) and ordered an iced chai, kale and mushroom salad and a big slice of pumpkin cake. I didn't really think about it at the time, but this was the first chai I've had since moving to Korea and I'm not sure I've seen it on the menu anywhere else. It was a teensy bit on the sweet side for me, but I happily drank it down and definitely see myself stopping by to get it again in the future.

Kale is a very exciting thing for me. We talk about missing kale all the time in my house. I miss kale chips. I miss kale salad. I miss kale pesto. We very occasionally get kale in our CSA but it's not the cavolo nero of my dreams. Obviously, I had to order the kale and mushroom salad. Sadly, it was more mixed green with some kale than the mountain of kale I was imagining but it was still a delicious and filling salad. The dressing was agave mustard and I'm just not really into the flavor agave gives things, especially when it's not cooked but the dressing complimented the other flavors of the salad well enough for me to enjoy it (but I'd probably have enjoyed it more with another dressing). If I get something from the savory side on my next visit to Plant, I'll probably try something new but that doesn't mean I wouldn't eat this salad again if it made another appearance on the menu.

vegan pumpkin cake from Plant Itaewon

I think the baked goods is where Plant really shines. Everything is vegan and some items are gluten free. I love that there's a wide variety of flavors and that the presentation is simple and beautiful instead of twee. I went with the pumpkin gingersnap cake which was delightfully moist and had a surprise crunchy cookie layer in the middle. The cake was wonderfully spiced and not too sweet. It was actually much more to my taste than the cupcakes at Sugar Daddy and I'm excited to go back and try more things.

I also got some dog treats for Ada. She was initially excited but didn't end up finishing one of them. I think huskies are pretty into animal protein.

Plant is located at 63-15 Itaewon-dong.

Ben's Cookies

itaewon Ben's Cookies

In case you somehow don't know this, I'm a bit of a fanatic when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. I'm extremely particular and I rarely buy them since the ritual of making them is (more than) half the comfort for me but also, I am a human being and when I pass a window that offers warm gooey chocolate chip cookies I want one. I've passed Ben's Cookies a number of times and been pretty skeptical because they looked like they were made with too much baking powder for my preference. I personally use an all baking soda recipe but have professionally also used a combo powder/soda recipe that I've found acceptable. Too much powder definitely ruins the cookie for me. But after pilates the other day I gave in because what's the point of exercise if not to immediately indulge in warm cookies afterwards?*

I got a regular bittersweet chocolate chunk cookie and an orange and milk chocolate cookie. I appreciated that the cookies were warm and freshly baked and that the chocolate seemed to be of good quality and was still melty. The cookies were both soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, another quality I can't fault. They were really cake-y though, which I'm not into. I would definitely guess that I was correct in my initial assumption of too much baking powder for my preference. The cookie itself was also lacking in flavor. I wanted it to have more vanilla, brown sugar and salt. I really can't overstate the importance of salt in a good chocolate chip cookie. I'm not talking anything fancy (though a sprinkling of Maldon never hurt anyone) but salt in your dough makes the chocolate taste more chocolatey, it's so important.

Upon doing a quick search for Ben's Cookies to remind myself where else in Seoul I had seen one, I discovered that they're not a small Korean chain but actually a much larger chain UK based chain. According to their FAQ, all the dough is made outside of Oxford and then transported to stores to be baked off which explains why even though the dough was clearly freshly baked the cookies didn't quite have the freshly made taste I wanted.

If you're not too particular about your cookies, Ben's Cookies is probably fine but if you want some real fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, drop me a line, I'm always looking for an excuse to put my KitchenAid to work.

Ben's Cookies is located on Itaewon-ro

*I guess for keeping my hands from randomly going numb and undoing the the ruin years of staring down at a work bench has done to my back OR SOMETHING. I'm still going with pastry eating as my real reason.

Doughnut Plant NYC

But in Seoul. I know, you're like "Hey Alana, didn't you get married, quit your job, go on a long honeymoon and then move to another country? Don't you have some FEELINGS to talk about?". Look, I do. I've got a lot swirling around in this head of mine. One of the things I've got swirling around is how much joy I've been getting out of reviewing silly things like Soft Serve ice cream on Instagram. I've thought about starting a different Instagram just for microreviews or another blog for full on reviews and recipes or both but I'm just not ready for that level of commitment yet. For now, we're going to keep everything messy and mixed and I'm just going to test these food blogging waters. And if you really don't care about doughnuts, I wrote a new About Me.

There are three main doughnut camps in New York: Dough (too inconsistent), Peter Pan (too sweet) and Doughnut Plant. I am one hundred percent Team Doughnut Plant. When I would catsit for my Uncle in Chelsea, my biggest struggle was not going to Doughnut Plant every. single. day. Their doughnuts are fried consistently, the seasonal flavor changes are great and I'm a sucker for the "Dough Seeds" which is the Doughnut Plant version of cream or jelly filled. I'm normally a plain glazed or doughnut hole kind of gal, but the first time I had the crème brûlée doughnut I finally understood what a filled doughnut was meant to be. So when I saw there was a Doughnut Plant down the hill from us in Itaewon, my heart filled with joy.

I finally went this past Tuesday and it was, I guess unsurprisingly, a little disappointing. The shop is much smaller than the New York locations (especially the one in Chelsea) and the selection of flavors was pretty limited. They did have the classic crème brûlée dough seed but no seasonal ones. I like to keep it simple so I stuck with my boo, crème brûlée and added a honey vanilla. The crème brûlée seemed flatter than I remembered and the cream filling to dough ratio was a little high. In New York, the doughnut is usually filled with a thick, classic, vanilla bean pastry cream but the cream here was really loose and sweet and the brûléed top just didn't quite balance it out. The honey vanilla was pretty small and the texture was more dense like an old fashioned doughnut than the yeasty fluffiness I was expecting. The honey flavor was not strong, which isn't surprising since honey is pretty expensive here. These were fine doughnuts for the KRW 1,900 ($1.90) each I spent on them but they didn't meet my stupid high expectations. I'm sure I'll still be back because even ok doughnuts are better than no doughnuts at all.

I scoured my photos for the New York version of these doughnuts; I'm sorry to say I could only find one from when we all thought heavy Instagram filters and frames were the bees knees, but I'll give it to you anyways. I mean, just look at how fluffy these bad boys are!

I feel like I should come up with a ridiculous rating system.

Doughnut Plant NYC, Seoul gets three out of five carrots(?).