Bright Night: Cafe du Soleil


What a well written review!!!

Originally posted on Sansoucie:

Crème brûlée with a hint of lavender, cornmeal-crusted calamari, moules frites with garlic aplenty- what says sun like the fruits of the sea and cream spiced with flowers? Cafe du Soleil is very much about maintaining an air of fresh air and sunlight. I know this because I tested it out on an overcast, bone-cold Manhattan night, and it worked like a charm. Call it a warm retreat. It smells like  your best friend’s kitchen…if your friend lived in Provence and cooked like Soleil’s chef du cuisine. While this is possible, flying overseas for a taste of the French Mediterranean is not an option for most New Yorkers. Fortunately, this sunny little spot on the Upper West Side most certainly is more than a possibility: it needs to be on your To Eat list.

The streets leading upwards to Morningside Heights are not terribly welcoming. Cafe du Soleil succeeds in…

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Banana Walnut French Toast

Banana Walnut French Toast at Cafe du Soleil - Photo by Philippe Touitou

Here’s a good breakfast or brunch recipe for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. At Cafe du Soleil we serve this on our fall and winter brunch menu so watch for it in the next few months.

This dish is based on the classic dessert Bananas “Foster” – the only difference being that I omit the vanilla ice cream that’s usually served with it. If you’re feeling decadent, however, go ahead and use it, or pipe on some whipped cream!

Either way you’ll find it to be an easy and delicious way to impress your family or brunch guests.


Ingredients to serve 4

  • 4 slices of brioche or challah bread (about 2″ thick, cut in 1/2 diagonally)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bananas and Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (preferably dark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur (optional)
  • 2 just ripe bananas, sliced into 1-2″ slices
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, shelled
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • optional garnishes – powdered sugar, berries, fresh mint sprigs


Preheat oven to 200F.

Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, orange liqueur, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl until combined. Pour into a baking dish and soak bread slices for about 2 minutes per side. It’s helpful to press lightly on the bread to help it absorb the egg mixture. If you feel like the bread is getting too soggy remove it from bowl sooner.

Heat a non stick griddle or 10″ saute pan or heavy skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Spray with cooking spray to coat lightly. Add bread slices and brown gently about 5 minutes per side, plus a few minutes standing on end to brown the edges. Place on a cookie sheet and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

Wipe skillet clean, then add butter to melt over low heat. Add brown sugar and nutmeg and stir until sugar dissolves. Add banana liqueur (if using) and bring sauce to simmer. Add bananas and walnuts and cook for about 2 minutes, carefully spooning sauce over bananas as they are cooking. Remove bananas from pan to a bowl. Bring sauce to a simmer and carefully add the rum. If the sauce is very hot, the alcohol will flame on its own. Allow flame to subside, then add orange zest and remove from heat (keep warm if not using immediately).

To assemble:

Place 2 pieces French Toast on each plate, divide bananas evenly over bread and spoon sauce over it all. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and garnish with berries and mint.

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Filed under Breakfast and Brunch Dishes, French Toast, Holiday Dishes, Uncategorized

Profiteroles aux Deux Chocolats – Profiteroles with White and Dark Chocolate Sauces

Profiteroles at Cafe du Soleil - Photo by Philippe Touitou

Profiteroles are one of the most popular desserts at Cafe du Soleil, especially during the hot summer months. They have the elements of any great ice cream dish – ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The French add a nice crisp “pate a choux” (which literally translates to “cabbage pastry” , based on the shape of the cooked product). It’s an easy dough to make at home once you get the hang of it. There really are few pitfalls so please try it with confidence. Even though the recipe may look complicated – it’s not. At Cafe du Soleil we serve them with two sauces – white and dark chocolate, but you can just as easily serve it with one.

After seeing the beautiful photo above done by Philippe Touitou I dare you not to try this recipe!!

Profiteroles aux Deux Chocolats

Serves 6 – Pastry recipe makes about 12 large “Choux Puffs” so you will have an extra 6 for another round of profiteroles, or fill with whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar for cream puffs! They freeze well but you should “recrisp” them in oven after defrosting.


1/2 cup water

2 ozs butter, unsalted

pinch salt

1/2 cup (about 2 1/2 ozs) all purpose flour

2 large eggs


6 large scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream

2 cups whipped cream

strawberries, powdered sugar, and mint for garnish

Chocolate Sauces:


4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate,  finely chopped (better quality chocolate = better sauce)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup light corn syrup


4 ounces white chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream


Choux pastry:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set up a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it.

Enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Continue to stir for about 2-3 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and there will be the nutty aroma of cooked flour.

Transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix for a minute to release some of the heat from the dough. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one; scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 12 disks about 2 1/2 inches across and about 1/2 inch thick on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them, as they will expand when baked. You may need an additional baking sheet in order not to crowd them too much.

Bake the puffs for 10 minutes, turn the sheet around, turn the oven down to 350°F, and bake 15 minutes more. Remove one puff and break it open: It should be hollow inside and not gooey or eggy; if it is still moist, return it to the oven and check in 5 minutes. Cool the puffs completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container until serving time.

Chocolate Sauces:

Technique is the same for both sauces (minus the corn syrup in the white chocolate sauce) –

Place the chocolate in a metal bowl.

Combine the cream and corn syrup in a small  saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour the liquid over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted. Whisk to combine. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then pour into a bowl or other container.

To serve:
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Warm the chocolate sauces in a double boiler or a microwave. Split each profiterole in half,  and warm on a baking sheet in the oven until crisp.

Place bottom half of each puff on serving plate. Place a large scoop of ice cream in the bottom half of each profiterole and top with the lid. Spoon the sauces over and decorate each plate with a generous amount of whipped cream, a few strawberries, powdered sugar, and mint.

Now tell me what could be bad about that?!!!

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Filed under Baked Goods, Dessert, Doughs, French Regional Specialties, Pastry Basics, Sauces, Summer Desserts

Frisee Salad with Smoked Bacon and Shirred Egg

Frisee Salad with Smoked Bacon Lardons

Today’s post is to satisfy a request for the recipe for my ” Salade de Frisee aux Lardons” from a customer of Cafe du Soleil.

This is a classic Bistro dish and it really exemplifies the simplicity of great bistro food – good ingredients, strong flavors, and fairly unfussy preparation (even for the home cook). I like to think of this dish as all the flavors of a great breakfast in salad form – kind of the best of both worlds.

As with some of my other posts – this one isn’t so much in standard recipe format – it’s more of  a description of how to prepare the dish.
The hardest part of this dish is probably finding good frisee lettuce. In Manhattan most of the gourmet markets carry it – and I’m figuring most Whole Foods markets carry it too. In any event – the photo above shows the type of lettuce you are looking for. Light green to yellowish color leaves and heads that are not too large.
For the bacon – the classic French recipes call for thick “lardons” of smoked slab bacon. The lardons give you something to sink your teeth into rather than thin, crunchy bacon bits. This bacon may be a little hard to find also – fancy butcher shops will probably have it, or you can use a thick cut bacon (sometimes called “Sunday bacon”). But it’s your call how you like your bacon.
To prepare:
Wash and spin dry frisee lettuce. refrigerate until ready to use. Prepare Dijon Vinaigrette (see my blog post of September, 2009).
For the bacon – if using slab bacon cut into roughly 1/4″ x 3/4″ pieces. Blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, then saute with a knob of butter over medium heat until nicely browned but not too dry (omit the blanching step if you are using regular sliced bacon). Drain on paper towel.
For the shirred egg – using the same water that you blanched the bacon in – add a dash of white vinegar, bring to a simmer, then crack the eggs one at a time into the water (I usually serve one egg per salad). Poach for about 30 seconds to a minute until the whites just hold their shape, then remove with a slotted spoon and chill in a bowl of cold water. You can cook the eggs longer if you like them more well done, but the idea is to have the yolk run into the salad and mix with the vinaigrette so you have that extra richness and foil to the sharp vinaigrette.
Croutons are a nice addition to this salad. I make mine out of day-old sourdough baguette, cut into cubes, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toasted on a baking sheet until golden brown.
Once you have all these components ready – toss frisee with vinaigrette, and add croutons and lardons (a pinch of finely chopped shallots adds a lovely dimension to this salad as well).
If serving on individual plates, divide salad onto plates, then top each with a shirred egg. Another optional touch is to circle the plates with a ring of bright green chive oil (recipe in my blog post of June 18, 2008).
If serving in a salad bowl…….well, I’m sure you can figure that out.


Filed under French Regional Specialties, Salads, Winter Dishes

NYC Chocolate Show 2009

matthew Choc Show Demo 3

Matthew Tivy Presenting Cocoa Vin Recipe at Chocolate Show

Matthew Chocolate Show Demo 2

I was honored to be asked to present my recipe for Valrhona Cocoa Vin at the 2009 NYC Chocolate Show on October 31st.

It was a crazy weekend in NYC with the convergence of Halloween and the NYC Marathon (I’ll do a separate post for that when I get my photos).

cocoa vin at choc show

Mini Valrhona Cocoa Vin

You can find the recipe for the Valrhona Cocoa Vin in my post of January, 2009

For more info on the International Chocolate Shows:

Here are some other photos from the show:

choc show

Tempting Chocolate Display

jacques torres

Renowned Pastry Chef Jacques Torres

choc show clown


Filed under Baked Goods, Dessert, Uncategorized

Endive Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts

Endive Roquefort Salad - Photo by Philippe Touitou

Endive Roquefort Salad - Photo by Philippe Touitou


Here’s an easy and appealing  salad for the cooler weather. This is a salad that works well with many different combinations of ingredients. You can substitute Chevre if you prefer, or a different kind of cheese. You could also add some dried cranberries or some apples (or both) to give some extra color and flavor. And you could use a different kind of nut (I like pecans or pistachios).

Unlike many salads this one goes well with a glass of red or white wine due to the roquefort cheese.

I’m not bothering to give you a traditional recipe here since this is a pretty simple dish. I’ll give you an easy Dijon Vinaigrette recipe (following a traditional 3 parts oil: 1 part vinegar ratio). I’ll throw in a couple pointers on putting the salad together, then you’re on your own so have fun making some interesting combinations!!

Dijon Vinaigrette:

Makes 2 1/4 cups


4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar (preferably imported)

1/4 cup Sherry Vinegar

1 cup Vegetable Oil (replace 1/4 cup veg. oil with walnut oil if desired)

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Water as needed to thin


Method – In a blender combine mustard and vinegars. Drizzle in oils until blended. Season with salt and pepper, add water to thin if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.


For assembling the salad:

Cut your endive into julienne strips or crosswise as desired. Toss with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Add vinaigrette (not too much) and cheese. Toss well and garnish with walnuts.

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Filed under French Regional Specialties, Ratio Recipes, Salads, Thanksgiving Recipes, Winter Dishes

5 Steps to a “Perfect” Roast Chicken

"Perfect" Roast Chicken at Cafe du Soleil, photo by Philippe Touitou

"Perfect" Roast Chicken at Cafe du Soleil, photo by Philippe Touitou

You may have heard some Chefs say that in order to judge a prospective cook’s abilities they ask them to prepare a simple roast chicken. While I have never seen this done in an actual professional kitchen, there is something to be said for stripping away the bells and whistles that some chef’s rely on. Respect for proper techniques and the sophistication of knowing that great products should not be overwhelmed would certainly be qualities I would appreciate in any cook.

I rarely use the word perfect for anything. Occasionaly, though, I like to step out on a limb for a particular subject, and proclaim that I know what perfection is and that I know how to achieve it. In the case of roast chicken, I first encountered perfection when I began working with David Leiderman to reopen Chez Louis Bistro in midtown Manhattan. David’s roast chicken epiphany came when he first visited L’Ami Louis in Paris. There, they roast the finest Bresse chickens to juicy crispiness in a high-heat wood-burning oven. They serve them with a garlic potato cake, and when you hear David describe it you want to hop the next flight to Paris to indulge.

David developed some steps to reproduce the L’Ami Louis roast chicken back here in the US which I will share with you here. Taken separately they are quite common culinary techniques. Combined together they produce a “perfect” roast chicken!!!!

Perfect Roast Chicken:

Note: Since Bresse chickens are hard to find in the US (and extremely expensive if you do find them), I use Murray’s brand Free Range Chickens. I prefer the 3 1/2 # size.

1) BRINE – Brine chickens for about one hour in a solution of 1 cup Kosher salt per gallon of water. Remove and pat dry.

2) MARINATE – Prepare a marinade of chopped fresh tarragon, thyme, and rosemary, chopped garlic, and enough vegetable oil just to make a spreadable mixture. Spread marinade on inside and outside of chicken and marinate for a few hours or preferably overnight.

3) SMOKE – This step is optional and is an attempt to recreate the slight wood flavor that a wood-burning oven would impart to a roast chicken. Cover the bottom of a heavy roasting pan with wood chips (apple is best), and place on top of a medium flame  until the chips begin to smoke (you need a well ventilated kitchen, or you can bring it outside after removing from the heat). Turn off burner, place a wire rack over chips, and place chicken on rack. Cover with an inverted roasting pan of the same size, or with aluminum foil. Let smoke for about 10 minutes. You can do this step and then refrigerate chicken again until ready to use.

4) SEAR – Pat chicken skin until dry. Heat a heavy roasting pan on a high flame until very hot. Add a few drops vegetable oil, then sear chicken on all sides until nicely browned. Alternately if you have a gas or charcoal grill at hand you can sear the chicken on that until lightly charred.

 5) ROAST – This should be done on the highest setting of your oven. For most ovens this is 550F. Yes, the chicken will splatter the oven a bit, but this is the way to get a nice crisp skin. The chicken does not need additional seasoning before roasting. Place chicken in your roasting pan, and set on medium shelf of oven. You may need to cover the tips of the legs with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Roast the chicken for about 30 minutes. Test doneness by inserting a metal thermometer into the spot where the leg joins the body. When the thermometer reads 150F remove chicken from oven and “carryover” cooking should bring it to 160F. You should let the chicken “rest” for 10 – 30 minutes before carving. Don’t cover chicken with foil at any point in the roasting or “resting” periods.

 Carve, and enjoy!!!

At Cafe du Soleil we serve the roast chicken with roasted garlic rosemary potatoes, whole roasted garlic, and romesco sauce.


Filed under French Regional Specialties, Poultry, Ratio Recipes