Crazy over Madeleines

Goodies at Madeleines (my fave is on the rightmost side of the plate).

Crepe au chocolat chaud et chantilly. Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. Chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with organic brown rice (or Battambang rice). Yoghurt stawberry ice cream (low fat). How’s that for lunch?

Well, if you are salivating now, head off to…Madeleines! However, we Manilans will have to suffer in our cravings (for now?) because Madeleines’ first-ever branch is about 2,000 kms from Manila. (Wink!) Yes, my dearies, Madeleines is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the place that healed my soul when I was suffering from lunacy brought about by a tear-jerking break-up.

This is no time for melodramatics so let me introduce you to Madeleines and its beautiful, wacky, sexy, sweet and strong-willed owner and executive chef and pastry connoisseur, Karen Le Calvez.

Madeleines is located in a quiet neighborhood near Sihanouk Boulevard (where Lucky Market is – for expats who are very familiar with this Phnom Penh landmark). (Update: Madeleines has moved since this post so the new address is below this post.) Madeleines is a dream-come-true for my close friend, Karen. She’s always wanted to have her own café-restaurant-bakery and Phnom Penh just turned out to be the perfect place to have her wishes fulfilled.

I’ve known Karen since the start of her family’s stay in Manila last 2000 (or maybe even earlier). They stayed in the Philippines for several years and then had to relocate to Phnom Penh after staying back in Europe for a while. When I went to Cambodia last June 2007, it was time to reconnect with her again. I realized that I missed this woman’s presence in my life because of her funny and intelligent take on almost anything about life. She is also too ‘human’, too ‘real’, and that means, you can be very comfortable with her, warts and all. Being both expats in Phnom Penh (her country of origin is France and I am a true-blooded Pinay), we shared our dreams, expectations, and struggles that usually come with being ‘strangers in a foreign land.’ It just felt like we were just taking off from the time we last talked while she was still in Manila.

Anyway, I also must thank her (and her whole family too!) for allowing me to stay in their beautiful house with their two crazy and sweet dogs, Luna and Sabbay (ok, the ‘sweet’ goes to Luna and the ‘crazy’ goes to Sabbay) :) while they vacationed in France and Finland for almost a month. That really gave me the much needed solace and quiet moments while I was starting a fresh chapter in my life.  It also made me an expert nanny for dogs! (I have old posts about my sojourn in Cambodia so you can view them, too).

Just about the time that I was already leaving Phnom Penh (with my newfound love and now hubby!) last December 2008, she opened Madeleines! I was too happy for her but admittedly, a little bit sad for me because then I realized that I will miss her goodies so much! Darn, why didn’t she open earlier?! ;D

Anyway, Karen gifted me and JR with a quiet and sweet farewell lunch party at Madeleines last December 24 (and another one on the Saturday before that where Karen also opened up bottles of exquisite French wine – or so my poor memory can serve me right now!) In that lunch party, Karen made me a special organic salad with mixed greens (among them, watercrest), and shrimps. Yummy yummy yummy, to think it was very healthy! I was so thrilled when she served it that I had to take a photo of it before I gobbled it up. See this photo on the right.

Organic mixed green salad with shrimps especially made for me! (Grab it at Madeleines!)

I asked her how would she name it and she said I can coin up a name for it. I need more time for that so for now, let’s simply call it, Organic mixed green salad with shrimps. During the dinner farewell, we had her fabulous pastries (see the photo again below). Arrgh, it’s even harder to write about these goodies because now I am really salivating! Of course, my favorite is Madeleines because it is not too sweet, just the right amount of sugar and so it makes you feel so satisfied without ever feeling that you ate too much sweets for the day. Whenever I would order a box from Karen and brings it home, I had to strictly forge an agreement with then housemate, JR, to eat it only when I am around (!) because he also loves it like crazy. (Actually, I got to ‘steal’ a couple of so pieces on one of those days he was not looking!) :)

Yesterday, Karen sent me an email and updated me about her new ‘concoctions’ and darn it, I was ready to buy plane tickets for Phnom Penh if only I had the budget for it! Among her latest menu items are the oatmeal banana organic palm sugar cookies, yoghurt green mango ginger ice cream (she said here, “No cream and home made yoghurt, low fat…good for us!” Tasty! My kids don’t want to eat other ice cream since I started that!”)

The new salad offerings include Nicoise salad, Greek feta mint salad, tomatoes, olive and basil salad, potato no-mayonnaise with grain mustard dressing salad, tzatziki and organic green salad with paratha bread, and fresh mint tabouleh salad.

She also added 2 hot dishes: porkchop with fresh rosemary, and sauted baby potatoes or Battambang rice and organic salad; and the one I mentioned above – chicken breast with cepes mushrooms sauted in fresh organic Italian parsley and garlic with Battambang rice.

And there are crepes, too! They are all served with organic side salads. They are: crepe with ham and emmenthal cheese with egg; crepe with eggplant, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; and crepe with chicken, bell pepper, tomato, onion, garlic and basil. For the sweet crepes, try Karen’s crepe avec pommes caramelisees a la cannelle et chantilly, toutes les patisseries, and yup, not to be outdone, she also has white chocolate cupcake.

For sandwiches, you can have her feta mint eggplant baguette sandwich, and parma ham with rocket salad and tomatoes.

Do you still have the space for the desserts?! Don’t quit yet, you will love her fondant au chocolat with strawberry yoghurt ice cream! She also bakes homemade cookies, oatmeal, dark chocolate chips, raisins, butterscotch and birthday cakes full of candies that you (and your kids!) would also go crazy about.

After a good and quiet meal (ok, it depends on whom you are with!), you can easily just relax there, perhaps read a good book and listen to your Ipod music. The place is so cozy and relaxing that you’d feel you are just home where everything feels so sweet and familiar. However, on a busy day, you might feel guilty to overstay when others are waiting to be seated so just come by another day and who knows, the place may just open another branch soon! Perhaps in Manila too?!

It’s so cozy, you’d have to force yourself to leave or end up staying there the whole day!

Hurry up for reservations and be crazy over Madeleines, too! Bon appétit ! Amusez-vous bien alors ! (With the help of Francis who said my first attempt for this sentence is meant for older and more formal audience. Hehe!)

UPDATE: Sorry, as of mid-2012, Madeleines has closed down because Karen and her family already moved to Bangkok.

[This is not a paid blog.]

Farewell lunch party at Madeleines (the beautiful owner-chef, Karen, is on the left, seated. Others in photo: Hubby JR, Idon, Ate Cel & Hanne)

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Leonids meteors and much more

I woke up at almost 2:00 pm today and I have a good excuse for that. Leonids meteors.

From 2:00 to 4:00 am, hubby and I were lying down on borrowed carton and rubber mats (thanks to students and fellow astronomy fans out there), at the viewdeck of the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman Campus.  It became quite cold at around 3:00 am and that’s when we realized how stupid we were not to bring anything like mats and blankets! :) (Next time, we know better!)

Anyway, the long wait was definitely worth it. We started seeing meteors every 15 or 30 minutes or so. If my count is right, I have seen about 11 of them. Not bad for a 2-hour stay. The girl beside me who started their watch at about 9:00 pm said she was already on her 25th meteor by the time we were leaving. So using simple calculation, she have seen an average of 3 to 4 hours meteor an hour. Not bad too! (I must also thank her and her other friends who kindly shared their mats with me and hubby – who are total strangers in the dark!)

My favorite meteor happened sometime around 3:30 am – it left a bluish streak of light and the ‘train’ it created was thicker than the others I have seen this morning. It appeared below the Orion star constellation (at least from my vantage point of view). I shouted and clapped my hands along with the others who would also normally applause and cheer everytime a meteor arrives. Wow, if we had seen only one meteor that night, then it would already be worth the long and chilly wait.

Photo credits: Jim & Carol Harlan from Space(dot)Com

The other meteors were equally magical, leaving reddish, yellowish and mostly whitish glow along the dark skies. One even had an almost greenish tinge! According to the NASA website, “The color of many Leonids is caused by light emitted from metal atoms from the meteoroid (blue, green, and yellow) and light emitted by atoms and molecules of the air (red). The metal atoms emit light much like in our sodium discharge lamps: sodium (Na) atoms give an orange-yellow light, iron (Fe) atoms a yellow light, magnesium (Mg) a blue green light, ionized Calcium (Ca+) atoms may add a violet hue, while molecules of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and oxygen atoms (o) give a red light. The meteor color depends on whether the metal atom emissions or the air plasma emissions dominate.”

Leonids meteors showers (taken in US skies)

Photo credits: Anthony Galvin from Space(dot)com

The news articles about the meteors showers predicted that there would be about 100 meteors appearing every hour but unfortunately, I think the visible ones numbered about five per hour only. I guess one reason is that the others were not visible to the naked eye anymore because of the clouds and yes, the level of pollution in Manila. I always think that ‘stars shine more brightly’ in the provinces because the air there is cleaner and therefore the skies are clearer. It makes sense because according to scientists, those ‘hazy’ skies are mostly caused by air pollution. One probable factor why we also didn’t see more meteors was the cumulative effect of city lights – I am very sure that we’d see more of the meteors had we been watching from, say, a secluded beach resort or a mountaintop. I hope we city dwellers will do something more concrete to combat air pollution, or we are doomed to a future with no more nights of stargazing and meteors-watching.

It was my first time to do stargazing again after a long while. This time, I have a husband beside me (who must have been thinking how the hell he ended up with a wife who would drag him into the dead of the night just so they can watch falling stars…hehehe). [Yes, hubby, expect more of nights and morning like that!]

I posted this in my Facebook today, “Looking at the expanse of the night skies with stars scattered all over like burning jewels, it made me think again about how mysterious, beautiful, perfect and energizing the universe is. Everything is just so perfect, the planets don’t colide, the earth just circles the sun in harmony with all the other planets, and we live, we breathe, we laugh…Ahhh, this is so full of mystery, so full of magic…”

God must really really love us all very much.

For more details about Leonid meteors and other astronomical facts, you may visithttp://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/meteor.html

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This is not a paid blog.

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