We just had dinner at the Empire Steakhouse on 54th and Broadway, right on the border of the wasteland known as Times Square. Vin just felt like going to a steakhouse, and even though I couldn’t eat much today, I happily accompanied as his date.  Since we knew that he’d have to finish most of my meal, we went straight for the basics as part of his “control” for ratings: entrees, one side, and dessert (no martini though).  He got the ribeye (apparently it was delicious =/ *sniff* I had half a bite of it) and creamed spinach (also good), I got the cold seafood platter (the lump crabmeat was very good!) and for dessert, creme brulee.

Quite possibly the most perfect creme brulee

Quite possibly the most perfect creme brulee – Photo by Vin!

Now, the attentive and knowledgeable waiter Tim recommended it and said it was the best dessert on the menu.  He ain’t kidding.  It was light and perfectly creamy, topped with the perfect amount of sliced strawberries so you could have a bit of tart to break up the sugar on sugar action of the dessert.  I only intended on having one spoonful of it, lest my insides fall apart due to the dairy, but I totally risked it and had another half spoonful it was so damned good.  Not too sweet, just the right amount of burnt sugar, and the not-just-for-show strawberries.  Creme brulee is Vin’s fave dessert, and I’ve made it a few times just for him.  But it was totally OK Vin said this to the waiter in my presence, “This is one of the best creme brulees in the city!”  I completely agree.

OPP

Flight

Vin and I were invited to another press dinner at the lovely Flight in UES.  It’s an inviting and modern gastropub that just opened this past October specializing in small plates and FLIGHTS of food and drink.  Chef Golam created an elevated bar menu sprinkled with Asian flavors, which includes flights of sliders, proteins, charcuterie, cheeses and mini-assortments of boozes.  Brilliant idea.  And the beverage list was quite extensive with a big selection of craft beers, the usual liquors displayed on the bar, and a thoughtfully selected wine list that included my favorite yet hard to find white: Viognier.  I liked this place already!

Flight tasting menu

Flight tasting menu

The restaurant was beautifully decorated for the holidays with a classy white Christmas tree offsetting the muted grey and wood environment, and we were served a nice tasting menu that was quite fitting for the winter season.  The starter was a comforting butternut and apple soup, then delicious coconut curry mussels, followed by a meatball covered with crispy shallots (love!) and what I am accustomed to calling “chili duck sauce” commonly used for dipping crunchy spring rolls, then a hearty lump crab cake with legit lumps of crab, a creamy and dreamy mushroom risotto with white truffle oil (truffle used properly is never passe), chicken curry with rice, ending with a memorable lobster ravioli with housemade pasta topped with butterflied shrimp and butternut squash sauce.  Wooo this meal was good!

Now to the important part: all you need to know is that all the desserts are winners.  We tried this brown bread vanilla ice cream with a light phyllo dough stick.  The ice cream was cinnamon-y and and was French toast in creamy cold dairy form.  Delicious.  The phyllo stick provided a great crunch to the otherwise uniform texture.  This was Vin’s fave dessert.

Flight - brown bread ice cream

Flight – brown bread ice cream

MY favorite was the tiramisu.  I think Flight has made one of my favorite variations of tiramisu, and I am extremely critical of tiramisu because it’s my ultimate preferred dessert of all desserts.  The consistency was perfect: light, not soggy or grainy on the bottom as some tiramisus that I’ve tried, not overly liquored up, the chocolate was a nice touch, and the artfully placed phyllo piece again was a genius move to add crunch to the masterpiece.

Flight - tiramisu

Flight – tiramisu

We didn’t get to try the apple tart, but it looked fantastic.  The people that tried it at our table seemed to really enjoy it, and just based on appearance, I’m sure I’d like it, too!  I liked how it wasn’t a normal perfectly shaped compact tart but a freeform piece that showcased the apples.  It was topped with vanilla ice cream and that trademark sweet phyllo dough.  I liked Chef Golam’s signature on all the desserts.  Overall, we highly recommend this place if you find yourself all the way on the UES for lunch, brunch, happy hour (!) or dinner.  Just make sure you save room for dessert!

www.flightnewyorkcity.com

Flight - apple tart; photo by vintodphotography.com

Flight – apple tart; photo by vintodphotography.com

OPP

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. =)

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First baking projects post move!

My precious...

My precious…

Let’s just be quick about it, shall we?  I had to bake for 2 special little boys: one hasn’t even been born yet, and the other is one of my super cute, super crazy godsons.

Underwater cake collage

Underwater cake collage… complete with a lurking shark!

The theme for the baby shower cake was the ocean, so I played around with some ideas to use on a small cutting cake for the parents-to-be.  The first order of business was to ice the little cake in blue frosting.  I was going to cover it in fondant, but liked the effect of the bubbles in the frosting, so I just cleaned and sharpened the edges for my canvas.  Light brown sugar was pressed along the bottom of half of the cake; for some reason I didn’t want all of it covered in sugar and liked the half-and-half effect.  I had used star cutters to make fondant starfish before and they worked wonderfully, so I knew I wanted starfish.  Then I found leaf cutters meant for roses, but used the shapes haphazardly to create these great seaweed/algae pieces.  I bought a whale cookie cutter from my new favorite store, Sur La Table but it ended up being rather disproportional to the algae and starfish.  I mixed a small piece of grey fondant and shaped a shark fin on top, and carefully placed little schools of fish sprinkles around the cake.  I don’t even think it’s ecologically correct… I mean, do starfish hang around the bottom of the ocean and cling to seaweed like that?  Who knows.  It looked cute and was a nice and quick little project.

Ta daaa!  A crappy 360 video clip of the cake

The order included cupcakes, so I swirled the same blue frosting over vanilla cupcakes (side note: I LOVE my new oven.  It’s huge and bakes everything so evenly AND I don’t have to guess the timing and temperature anymore!  #inheaven) and used extra pieces of seaweed and starfish as cupcake toppers.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the cupcakes BEFORE bringing them in =(

handmade fondant starfish

handmade fondant starfish. eww, what dry hands have I.

seaweed cupcake

seaweed cupcake

 

For my oldest godson’s 3-year birthday party, I whipped up a little bowling pin cake.  This little boy is one of the cutest little human beings on the planet, and he’s also one of the craziest.  haha  Since he’s my godson, of COURSE he gets special treatment and I just had to make a little SOMETHING for his party.  He’s currently obsessed with bowling and planets, so bowling pins and a ball that had Jupiter-like swirls it was.  And when I say whipped up, I mean, I hand shaped and cut 10 bowling pins with stripes and a bowling ball during the time it took for Vin to go on his morning run.  I iced that baby in minutes and added extra fondant stars, and voila… a little cake with knocked over pins.

Left: Look at that perfectly straight and clean edge. I'm GOOD.  Right: Fondant bowling pins for Timmy!!!

Left: Look at that perfectly straight and clean edge. I’m GOOD. Right: Fondant bowling pins for Timmy!!!

As soon as he saw it, he wanted to stand them up but didn’t quite get why I said no and that they’d be all sticky.  Later on, he was throwing a tantrum about having to take his shoes off and started yelling and crying, so I picked him up and took him to look at his cake.  Within in the span of 2 minutes, this little guy ate about 6 of the bowling pins.   Such an insane but adorable little kid.  <3

The birthday boy and his cake

The birthday boy and his cake

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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