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Spiegel

Spiegel chocolate mousse

Spiegel – chocolate mousse

One of the latest and greatest press dinners we had the pleasure of participating in was at this fantastic little place in the East Village that just opened a few months ago. This caught my eye because the pastry chef, Dario Tapia, was from the prestigious Maison Kayser. Any self-respecting baker would associate that with drool-worthy bread and delicious desserts. I knew this place had to be good!!!

Dinner was very tasty and VERY fresh. Most of the dishes had lots of veggies and healthy carbs (kale! beets! couscous!) that were loaded with flavor. The highlight of the meal was the veal schnitzel, which was super tender on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside, and it was served with this fresh salsa and nicely spiced rice. Seriously, “fresh” was the word of the evening. Even listening to Shmulik Avital talk about his restaurant, you could tell that he wanted to serve fresh, flavorful food. “Raw” and “green” and “organic” were expected buzzwords for NYC restaurants; this guy took it up a notch and made everything seem hearty and delicious. I admit, I would take french fries over a kale salad any day, but the salad at Spiegel… I’d eat that sh*t and half of the veggie sides willingly they were so good. =)

Now to the best part of the dinner. The desserts were a complete surprise as they were not included on the menu so I eagerly awaited the presentation.

The first treat was a simple but airy chocolate mousse with whipped cream and a cherry on top for good measure. I LOVED it, and not just because I love chocolate. It was suuuuuuuper light and fluffy and not too sweet. Chef’s got the magic touch with this no frills dessert. It’s perfect. Don’t f*cking change it. (scroll up for a shot of the sweetness)

Spiegel - flan

Spiegel – flan

Next up was a slice of flan with a bit of chocolate drizzle. It was a liiiittle bit on the thick/firm side but still very creamy and tasty. I’m used to a less dense, silky smooth flan with browned, watery caramel. If this was presented as a variation on flan, it would be a winner. But that’s my opinion and I’m slightly biased because flan was my absolute favorite dessert growing up.

The next dessert was a homey apple tart with strawberry garnish. It didn’t come with the expected piecey, clumpy crumble you see on coffee cakes, so I liked this unique topping a lot. The crust was solid and the baked apple inside was good and tangy, again not too sweet and exactly my cup of tea. The only minor teeny tiny suggestion I have is to serve this with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of vanilla. It would bring the crunch and tang all together in that one perfect bite.

Spiegel - apple tart

Spiegel – apple tart

And I know this isn’t exactly dessert, but as Johnny Prime always rates his gin martini with his steak, I feel like it’s a given to try the restaurant caffeine offerings with the sweets. We got a very good and super strong espresso made from beans from a specialized roaster in Santa Cruz, CA personally selected by the owner. (Unfortunately my shot of the espresso got erased, but here’s a lovely pic of the fancy cappuccino which I’m sure is as equally or more delicious.)

Spiegel - cappuccino

Spiegel – cappuccino

Here’s one last tidbit about dessert that should give you a better idea about Spiegel: Shmulik loves Hemingway and has traveled all around South America. He said that if could put a “shot of rum with coffee and a cigarette” on the menu, he would. It would be AWESOME if that was actually on the dessert menu since it totally makes sense in this restaurant. If you’re looking for a welcoming neighborhood place to hang out and people watch with the intention of eating healthy AND still have good tasting food without feeling guilty getting some sweets? Spiegel is just right, Goldilocks.

It’s that time of year again, you guys; Memorial Day, the start of summer, Vin’s birthday, a.k.a. the making of the most awesome cake of the year!!! Vin really is the best. He’s worked so hard to get in shape and become healthy, his food critique brand is really taking off, he’s always always thinking of me, and even after five years of marriage we’re still goofy and mushy and hold hands wherever we go. (And that’s NOT just because I’m clumsy and will probably trip on myself if I’m wearing heels.) I really love being with this guy, and one of the few things better than hanging out with my husband is enjoying delicious tasty food with Vin. InstaGr1st

Seriously, this is all cake and sweetness (except for the bowl and chopsticks)

As you may know, he is Mr. Johnny Prime, steak connoisseur. However, his reviews have expanded to include all really good food and great restaurants in general. Given that this past winter was so brutal and long, we were on a ramen and noodle soup kick, and nothing can warm your cold bones better than some delicious hearty soup! Of course this gave me the idea MONTHS ago to make Vin a ramen cake for this year’s birthday, but according to him, he TOLD me he wanted a ramen cake. Details, details. Haha So I started planning out his ramen cake… Read More

“Did you think I’d forgotten you?”– Frank Underwood. Man, I love that show.

One single square strawberry muffin with butter.

I hadn’t baked anything in 2 months and things had just gone to shit. Busy @ work, busy with other stuff, turning into a blob… I was so stressed and had sunken to new lows, eating chocolate (namely KitKats), cookies, Starbucks pastries and fries to quell the panic and busyness, and I even succumbed to eating… dun dun DUNNNNN Entenmann’s raspberry Danish. I sh*t you not. The 50% off price tag at the supermarket pushed me over the edge. The nutritional value alone made me feel like I’m a guilty shameful druggie with a deep dark food binge secret. This was extra bad b/c Vin has been eating super healthy for the past 2 months!

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The holidays and my birthday kind of just mesh into this blob of a season that is both fun and stressful.  I’ve given up baking something for myself for my birthday (it’s quite silly b/c I probably wouldn’t eat any of it), but sometimes I just feel like I HAVE to bake something.

That something ended up being cream puffs.  And for two weekends in a row I churned out loads of cream puffs.  They’re so simple and yet so pleasing and they became my go-to item for January celebrations.  I think I kept making them mostly b/c I liked hearing ppl say, “Ooooh, these are so good!” and I liked replying, “Oh, these things?  They were SUPER easy to make.  I just whipped them up really quick,” and then getting that “….” look in response.  I guess it was like the equivalent of when chicks are like, “OMG you look fabulous? What’s your secret?” and the woman in question answers with, “Oh, nothing really.  I don’t work out and I just eat what I want,” and your expression just says “Bitch!”  hahaha  Hey man, it was for my birthday.  I’M bringing in homemade pastries for MY birthday.  I had an excuse to be a bit of a d*ck.  =)

Chocolate and vanilla filled cream puffs

Chocolate and vanilla filled cream puffs

Anyway, the first cream puffisode (I just invented that word!) was for my family’s after-Christmas Christmas party.  We never celebrate holidays on the actual day b/c my mom’s fam is so huge and it solves the problem of who’s family we’re seeing for which holiday (seriously, our in-laws don’t know how good they have it =) and per usual, I didn’t have a lot of time to bake, so I decided to whip up cream puffs.

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Right after I won a prestigious NY news behemoth’s holiday party (and still wondering if it’s a conflict of interest since I work @ ANOTHER famous and notable NY-based news media organization), I had to bake for my company’s finance department holiday party.  Since I was really busy trying to wrap up year-end testing, I just planned on whipping up simple bite-sized eggnog cupcakes the night before the event and figured it would be quick and easy and get me off the hook for dessert. (I had threatened to go buy Chips Ahoy! cookies since I heard, “Oh, you should bring in a big [holiday themed item] made of cake for the Finance party!” 2345 times and I could refrain from blinking/staring/pointing @ the occupational hazard of dark bags under my eyes only so many times.)

Tasty, festive, sweet balls

Tasty, festive, sweet balls

HOWEVER… my friend A in the newsroom (a super talented pastry chef whose baked good photos should be in “Food & Wine”) told me about the annual dessert contest that happened to ALSO be the same day as the finance holiday party (it’s open to everyone at the company but the participants tend to be from News/Marketing/Sales).  At first I was like, “Whhhaaaaaaaa???!!!  Why didn’t you tell me sooner?  It’s less than 2 days before the contest! OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME AAGGGGHHHH!!!” But after a brainstorming session with my esteemed baking buddy, I narrowed it down to a few ideas and thought maybe… just maybe, I can pull something off…

Quick shot of the winning display

Quick shot of the winning display

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Psych out.  This post is not all about sweet, sugary, calorie-laden cake balls.

Psych out. This post is not all about sweet, sugary, calorie-laden cake balls.

Oh God.  I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but the following post documents my attempt at baking low cholesterol, high protein, non-dairy and *gasp* gluten free/low carb cupcakes.  Even the thought goes entirely against my principles. (Disclosure: Due to my own health issues, I am technically not supposed to eat a lot of the sweet goodies that come out of my kitchen, but I make them anyway using flour, sugar, fat, eggs and milk, just the way my grandma bakes as a proper old school baker should.)  The only reason I’m not vomiting in my mouth as I type this is because… apparently I’m a sorceress and I did not just spend the day creating a cardboard-styrofoam hybrid in my oven. My experiment actually tasted… good.

Healthy cupcakes masquerading as normal, fatty cupcakes

Healthy cupcakes masquerading as normal, fatty cupcakes. I tricked you!

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A delicate display of frosted chocolate rosettes

A delicate display of frosted chocolate rosettes

I take back all the times I thought I was busy.  I’ve been in beast mode working late every day for the past couple months and bringing home work on weekends.  A lot of people have been asking to place orders, and I feel so bummed out I have to decline due to the fact that I f*cking need sleep.  Any baking I do has to be carefully planned in advance and done given 3 hours of shut-eye.  My little baby cousin’s birthday was coming up, and since I didn’t get to see this little sweetie and her crazy awesome bro last month at our family get-together, I was determined to bake something for the party.

Left: The birthday girl is enjoying her cupcake cone treat; Right: Her superhero big brother gets his own "birthday" cupcake

Left: The birthday girl is enjoying her cupcake cone treat; Right: Her superhero big brother gets his own “birthday” cupcake (Photos by Paul Do)

A couple weeks before X’s birthday, I got one of the best emails from a then-potential customer.  She said, “Hello, First, I find your website fantastic – you’re witty, direct, and balls out. Of course, your work is amazing…” It was like, YES, this lady totally gets it!!! She was planning a party for her parents’ 50th anniversary (kudos to them!) and wanted classy cupcakes for the celebration to be delivered the day after my cousin’s birthday.  The order was basic enough, so I decided, “F  it.  I’m going to make TONS of cupcakes for BOTH events.  I can totally do this!”  I guess I was too excited to factor in sleep for that weekend, per usual. Read More

A small, summery cutting cake for the bride and groom.

A small, summery cutting cake for the bride and groom.

Summer means wedding season, and I absolutely love baking and decorating for special occasions like these.  A family friend asked if I could bake for her son’s wedding brunch, and I couldn’t refuse, especially since it was such a simple request: 36 packaged cupcakes as wedding favors and a small cutting cake for the bride and groom.  At first, she wanted simple vanilla cupcakes with sage green swirls and nice wrappers, but after seeing this, she asked if I could make grass and flowers on each of the cupcakes.

Pretty white picket fences for the pretty little garden cupcakes

Pretty white picket fences for the pretty little garden cupcakes

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You know that annoying trait some couples have where they are like, “Ohhhhh my GAWD! We are so perfect for each other because I started saying, ‘I haven’t eaten all day and good thing it’s dinnertime because I’m—‘  and you just KNEW I was going to say ‘starving’ and finished my sentence so you’re totally my soulmate! Yay!” and you just want to simultaneously roll your eyes and punch them at the same time?  (OK, not necessarily both of them, but it’s usually the chick that says it.) That cutesy sh*t irritates me to no avail.  (Side note: Hyperbole and a Half is back so I feel more at ease being evil and sarcastic.)

Birthday typewriter cake

Birthday typewriter cake

YET, it relates to this cake post because this is all about Vin’s birthday.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, he and I take that sentence finishing crap to the next level because I like, OMG, can totally read his mind, too!  I can tell the exact moment when he wants to spit out gum, the exact words he’s going to say about shows watching TV (think Gob and Tony Wonder from the new “Arrested Development” season where they’re like “…same”), and the best example: when we were getting frustrated designing wedding invites during lunch hour @ our respective jobs, and I got fed up and drew a picture of discharging male genitalia in Microsoft Paint and scribbled “Come to our wedding.   Vin & K” and emailed the “invite.jpg” file to Vin, only to get an email reply 2 seconds later that said “OMG I was seriously drawing wedding invite mock ups with penises and pubic hair before hahahaha!!!”  At first, it was kind of creepy and I’m pretty sure I weirded Vin out (“How did you know that???” was said a lot), and it probably freaked him out more when I deadpanned, “I read your mind.”  Now it’s just normal  <3

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