No not that Tartine. I wish.


Saturday I had an early morning appointment that finished before most places in Itaewon were even thinking about being open for brunch. Dan met me after dropping Ada off at the vet I remembered that I had seen a sign outside Tartine that advertised earlier weekend brunch times. Since they've been on my list of non Paris Baguette bakeries to try, this seemed like a great opportunity to expand our brunch options and cross a bakery off my list.

I got the German pancake which also came with hash browns, one slice of bacon and scrambled eggs. It was waaaay to much food. I should've just gotten the German pancake side, especially since the hashbrowns were barely cooked and the single piece of bacon tasted a little off. The German pancake was ok but weirdly dense instead of the souffle like texture I was expecting. Dan got a combo with bratwurst, scrambled eggs and french toast. I didn't try it but he described his bratwurst as somewhere between actual bratwurst and Korean sausage. His verdict on breakfast was "so we don't ever need to come here again" and I'm fairly certain I agree. Since they only do breakfast on the weekends and what they're really known for are their tartines, I decided to get a couple of pies to go in hopes of redeeming our extremely mediocre meal.

The fruit pies all looked a little too shellacked in glaze for my preference so I opted for the Lemon Meringue Pie and Butter Tart. Unfortunately, the meringue had slid off the pie a bit by the time we got home so this picture doesn't do justice to its original dramatic appearance. There was nothing technically wrong with these pies - the crust was buttery and flaky, the custards were smooth and the meringue beautifully browned, but they weren't for me. They are decidedly old school American diner sorts of pies. Dan's reaction to the butter tart was "it's like Werther's pie!". It was much too sweet for either of us but is probably somebody's cup of tea. The lemon meringue was better but we still both found the custard too sweet and even though it reminds me of my great grandfather, I hate this impressive looking but super dry meringue that was popular for a time. Give me a modern, silky, creamy meringue over this any day. For maybe two thirds the price I would've been happy with these pies but at almost $8.00 a piece they're not enough to my taste to be worth it.

The search for good pastry in Korea marches on.

Great Grandpa Bob's Chocolate Chip Cookies

From the (currently invisible) archives. Originally published March 22, 2013

My great-grandfather made pies. Always the same ones, sticky sweet pecan and tart lemon meringue. It has taken a long time for me to come around to nuts being ok at all, then I'd begrudgingly eat the pecans because they were surrounded by the sugar, butter, vanilla goo and flaky flaky pie crust.

The lemon meringue was always piled high with a dry, foamy meringue that would be the reason I'd avoid anything with so much as the hint of meringue for years - until I went to culinary school, in fact. I'm sure it was the style to make that sort of meringue and it definitely looked impressive but it really has nothing on a silky smooth proper french meringue. I'd scrape it off and eagerly devour the smooth lemon filling.

His garage was always filled with jars of apricot jam and jalapeno jelly, made each Summer and sealed with a thick layer of paraffin. Visits at the end of Summer always guaranteed a batch of fresh apricot ice cream and trip to Marine World Africa USA.

But my favorite, my absolute favorite thing to make with him was chocolate chip cookies. I don't know how old I was when we made our first batch together, not very. I often say I've been perfecting my chocolate chip cookies for the past twenty-four years and I don't think it's an exaggeration.

It always started the same, two stick of Imperial margarine (he was nothing if not frugal) into the microwave to soften and then into the glass bowl of the Sunbeam stand mixer. Then three-quarters of a cup of white sugar, back and forth with the back of a butter knife, one, two, three times until perfectly level. Next came my favorite, three quarter cups of tightly packed brown sugar that came out in little mounds like sand castles into the mixing bowl. I stood on the avocado green step stool required to reach the counter and eagerly watched the beaters turn the "butter" and sugar into one light and fluffy mass. Next the mixer would be turned off (not by me, because I had to promise to keep my small hands away from those quickly spinning metal finger breakers) and I'd get to crack two eggs in the bowl and carefully measure a teaspoon of vanilla before it went back on. Dries were measured the same as the sugar - leveled with exactly as much precision as you would expect a Naval chemist to require. After the dries, I'd get to open and pour in the yellow bag of Nestle semi sweet chips.

Then it was time to remove and lick the beaters.

We'd use two spoons to carefully form and space out mounds on the cookie sheets that I was under no circumstance supposed to put in the oven. While the cookies were baking the kitchen table would be covered in a double layer of newspaper for the cookies to be carefully moved onto to cool. I don't think I even knew cooling racks were a thing until I was a teenager. And when they were cool enough to touch but still warm enough to be gooey, it was time to eat them.

In high school I made so many batches of chocolate chip cookies that we'd go through a handmixer every few months. I didn't even eat that many, it was just the process, the familiarity of the ritual of measuring and mixing that would calm and de-stress me. I'd come to class with giant bags of cookies and hand them out.

They're still the thing my friends and family request the most and made up most of the care package I sent to Lara when I found out her father was dying. I have slightly different recipes depending on who is requesting them. I know how to make them thin and crispy, like my great grandfather's, for my grandma (though she really just wants the dough, sans chocolate chips, anyways), I know how to make thicker, soft ones that are somewhere near the platonic ideal and I know the recipe for my own preference, the toffee studded ones that are most requested.

And each time I make them, I think of my great grandfather's neat preciseness, his three strand comb over and Ford belt buckle, the house in Vallejo, the pink bedroom and the apricot tree in the backyard. I think he probably didn't know that he was teaching me something that would comfort me for the rest of my life, that would become my career and I wish he were still around to tell.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. This post was in response to the prompt "Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food."

Thanksgiving Basics: Pumpkin Pie (Plus a Variation)


This week I'm going to be posting a basic Thanksgiving recipe every day. Nothing too crazy, just slight updates on that recipe of Grandma's you KNOW you put somewhere. Let's start with the most sacred of the sacred Thanksgiving foods: Pumpkin Pie. This recipe will yield two pumpkin pies because we all know one isn't enough.


  • Basic 3-2-1 Pie Dough like this one  Doubled
  • 15 oz Pumpkin Puree (Honest talk: From the can is fine, just make sure it's plain pumpkin)
  • 1 cup Half and Half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon Ginger (powdered or fresh grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg (ground or grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt

Optional variation for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie:

  • 8 oz 72% Chocolate
  • 2 oz (1/2 stick) Butter

Let's Get Started

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. 
  2. Roll out your pie dough and shape into two pie pans. If you have room, put them in the freezer while you mix the filling. If you don't, the refrigerator is fine.
  3. For regular pumpkin pie, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Voila! Now you have pumpkin pie filling! Really, it's that easy. (For the chocolate variation, melt chocolate and butter together over a double boiler. Combine all the ingredients and whisk together. Now you have chocolate pumpkin pie filling!)
  4. Take your pie shells from wherever they're being chilled and divide the filling between them. Put them in your preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or just until set.
  5. Let cool at room temperature. Pumpkin pies can be made one day in advance. I keep mine out at room temperature because I don't want to risk ruining the crust with the humidity of the refrigerator.

Protip: Making a whole grip of pies for Thanksgiving? Make one large batch of pie dough. Portion out into discs for individual pies and plastic wrap really well. If you're making it over three days in advance, throw it into the freezer and move it into the fridge 24 hours before you plan on using it. If you're making the dough three days in advance or less, just store it well wrapped in the fridge.

Mini Chocolate Variation