Sweet Satisfaction: By Farrah Praisal

Love at First Bite

About six years ago when I began my obvious quest to gain as much weight as fast as humanly possible, I heard a rumor of a well hidden but worth seeking bake shop tucked away in a small soi in fair Chiang Mai. After searching for years throughout Hong Kong and the surrounding countries I was admittedly skeptical that a place in our little village would meet the high standards that my finicky sweet tooth has managed to develop after years of eating sweets in San Francisco and New York’s finest kitchens and bake shops. Well dear readers, much to my surprise my taste buds have been sated at Love at First Bite.
What a place, what a wonderfully charming, modest place. The setting is quaint and if it looks as if you are sneaking in and grabbing a bite at someone’s home, that’s because you are. The hosts, Jerry and Mattie Watana have turned their garden into a delightful sanctuary to savor not only a wide variety of taste tempting treats but also a handful of delicious savory items for those who seek a little substance before the sugar.
Since its opening, this bakery has garnered loads of recognition for its high-quality artisan products. With the addition of savories, it has come into its own as a destination for such comfort foods as macaroni and cheese, quiche Lorraine, chicken pot pie and beef stew. The husband-and-wife team of Jerry and Mattie also make incredible ice creams, cakes, cookies and tarts. Having lived in the Unites States for over 25 years the pair possess first hand knowledge of just what their menu items should taste like. For many years in Asia I have seen dozens of “bakeries’ who produce visually stunning creations that taste very much what I imagine cardboard layered with sawdust would taste like. At Love at First Bite this is definitely not the case. Leave it to this lovely pair to mix the language of love and food, and get it right.
Upon entering the property you will find a well manicured garden to your left with gorgeous plants and flowers and a number of tables for outdoor dining. There are also two separate dining rooms to the right for guests who prefer air conditioned dining. In the first and original dining room tall, glass-doored refrigerators hold shelves jammed with a huge selection of cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, trifles and a wide assortment of other sweet treats. Glazed fruit tarts glisten in the window cases, practically screaming for you to take one home, or have a little sliver with your afternoon coffee. A personal favorite is the chocolate town cake. Every slice is sweet and moist and sure to cause a fork fight at your table. Special treats like grasshopper mint pie and macadamia tart are sure to please the connoisseur of desserts.
The look and presentation of a cake can be as important as the taste. Fresh ingredients, time, and care all go in to the making of a true masterpiece of culinary art. At Love at First Bite they seem well aware of this and it is always clear that the ingredients are the best available with the freshest of fruits and finest of chocolates.
The restaurant/bakery also makes custom cakes for special events like birthdays and weddings.
The cakes and pies are not the only items where details and ingredients are key. The quiche is hands down the best I have tasted in Chiang Mai. The crust on the chicken pot pie is perfection and the cheeses in the macaroni and cheese are a wonderful combination. The beef stew is tender chunks with potatoes, carrots and hearty gravy. It’s a real treat to sit in the garden and enjoy a savory with a cup of fresh coffee or one of the many choices of beverages on offer and finish it off with a delicious cake or pie.
The pastries in the display case beckon as you leave; it’s hard to resist buying a cookie, an individual trifle or a slice of pumpkin pie to enjoy when you arrive home.
While the setting is in itself quite peaceful and serene, cars are allowed in even though there is plenty of street parking to be had. This can be annoying and detract from an otherwise lovely experience.
Love at First Bite is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30am to 6:00pm and closed on Mondays. To find it, go to the old church near the Narrawat Bridge on the Old Chiang Mai - Lamphun road and turn down the small soi 1 to the right of the church. There is a small sign at the corner. Tel. 053 242 731


Paper Wrapped Chicken

This is a well known Chinese appetizer, and one you may have seen at a Chinese banquet. It is not difficult to prepare, and I do recommend skinless fillets of chicken breast.

Cooking Method
Cut the chicken meat into 3 cm wide and 5 cm long cross wise slices, put in a bowl and marinate with sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, rice wine (or sherry), ginger root and black pepper for 30 minutes. This is best done in the refrigerator.
Using one sheet of rice paper, brush it with the chicken marinade, then place some chicken strips inside and fold up like a small envelope or parcel, wetting the ends so they stick down. Do this for around 15 parcels.
Heat oil in wok and drop the packages into the oil, around five at a time, and deep-fry for about 2 minutes, remove from the oil, drain and then set on serving dish.

Ingredients     Serves       4-5
Chicken breast meat             600 gm
Squares of rice paper (12 x 12 cm) 15
Light soy sauce                  3 tbspns
Oyster sauce                         1 tspn
Sesame oil                          2 tspns
Rice wine (or sherry)             2 tspns
Ginger root (grated)                2 tspns
Sugar                                    1 tspn
Black pepper                        tspn
Oil for deep frying                 6 cups