Vin and I were invited to a press dinner at Chimichurri Grill East, an Argentinian restaurant on the east side that used to house David Burke’s Townhouse.  The space was beautiful and classy with a lovely bar by the front entrance, a grand dining room in the back with high ceilings and artsy decor, and a separate dance floor/tango bar casually known as the “pink room” for Tuesday tango nights. This Argentinian steakhouse is a fancy “mom and pop store” per executive chef Carlos, but we thought it was quite a sophisticated and upscale restaurant. The chef and his wife, Alicia, also have another location on the West Side that Alicia mostly manages. I particularly love the backstory of how the restaurants came to be: Carlos was an art director and wanted to retire, but he met Alicia at a food event in Miami and voila… they opened up Chimichurri Grill 20 years ago on the West Side in NYC and opened the East Side location just over a year ago.

Sssssweetbreads

We had a set tasting menu paired with all Argentinian wines that Alicia hand selected for the meal. The first dish was Mollejas a la Provencal, or what I happily refer to as one of the most decadent and elegant potato chip bites I’ve ever had.  Hearty pieces of grilled veal heart sweetbreads were served atop a deep fried sweet Peruvian purple potato with a house made garlic, red pepper, wine and parsley Provencal sauce. First off, I loved that the chef kicked us off with offal.  It is so Argentinian and I’m so glad that this was highlighted.  People who say they’re “foodies” who don’t like these jewels of meat just never had pieces cooked by Chef Carlos.  The sweetbreads had been boiled and grilled and seasoned so well that every bit of the offal was creamy and meaty. The Provencal sauce smelled and tasted heavenly and the purple potato chip added a great crisp element to the bite.  This was paired with a Luca Pinot Noir with hints of berries, spice, and leather which brought out a smoky fruit flavor when eaten with the sweetbreads. Talk about starting a meal with a bang.

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My turkey cake platter  *photos by http://www.vintodphoto.com

Ever since I started baking, I’ve heard: “Why don’t you make a TURKEY CAKE for Thanksgiving? Oh, you know what would be a really creative idea for Thanksgiving? OMG if you made a cake that looked like a TURKEY! You should TOTALLY make a turkey cake. Turkey cake turkey cake turkey cake!”

Well, I succumbed and made it.  Ta daaaaaa:

Top view of my turkey cake and stuffing platter

For the Thanksgivings that preceded this eventful turkey cake, I kept responding with, “Um… it’s going to take a lot of time…” And surprise.  IT DID.  Thanksgiving 2015 was on Thursday (as always, duh) November 26; per usual, I took my sweet @ss time getting started and stayed up super late to rush and finish the damn thing.  I actually made two cakes instead of just one for Thanksgiving.  Mind you, I’ve never tried making a poultry platter cake before so why the hell not make TWO cakes because I’m clearly insane.

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Vin's sneaker cake

Vin’s sneaker cake

*Because I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say “Just Do It TM” in the headline.

OK, this is a SUPER LATE post, but I figure it’s fitting since VIN IS RUNNING THE NYC MARATHON SOON!!!  This counts as carb-loading, right???  Now look at the pics….

Another year, another birthday for Vin. He started running last year for health reasons and now he’s one of those obsessed runners (meanwhile, I’m still a lazy bum that sleeps all the time as pointed out by the NYT), so the OBVIOUS cake this year was a sneaker.  To be specific, a replica of his sneaker.  The obsessed runner is very particular about his running kicks, and I wasn’t able to check out his actual shoe at home (we are physically glued to the hip when I’m not traveling and Vin is not running) so I sneakily asked Vin, “Oh heyyyy, baby… what’s the style name of your sneaker?  I think I saw it on sale and I know you wear a certain style so I wanted to make sure it was the same one…” So he told me, I looked it up, printed out enlarged pics of every angle of this shoe in black, and then hid the images under a pile of junk mail on my work bench.  (Vin NEVER looks through the stuff on my work bench; he only looks at the mounds of random shit piling up with disgust and dread and wants to throw it all out =P)

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The Malt House FiDi.9 Maiden Ln, New York, NY 10038. Website: www.themalthousefidi.com

The Malt House

The Malt House

Vin and I attended a press dinner for the Financial District outpost of the Malt House with some of our food blogger friends, and we instantly felt like we were in the modern day Manhattan version of “Cheers” at this American tavern.  This downtown location is wayyy roomier and nicer than the one in the Village; like the sophisticated older brother version compared to the fun frat brother digs.

The Malt House - main bar

The Malt House – main bar; Photo credit: The Malt House

The Malt House Fidi has the largest collection of whiskey in downtown Manhattan, as evidenced by not one, but TWO beautiful bars.  This place also has an intriguing and tasty cocktail list, an extensive beer menu, and one of the best deals for whiskey flights in town.

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I was invited to a press meal at Sel et Poivre in the UES with Vin and a few of our food reviewer friends.  This classic French bistro has been in business for YEARS, as in this institution is nearing their 30th anniversary!  The current owners are a husband and wife team who focus on several “F” things in life: family, friendliness, France, and FOOD.  As soon as you walk in, there’s a classy wood bar on the right (loved it!) to go with the wood décor throughout the restaurant and welcoming family photos on the warm colored walls.  It made the restaurant look very traditional and elegant, but oh so inviting.  The restaurant was packed with regulars in a comforting and homey environment and I was impressed with the wait staff that attended to everyone’s needs without thinking.  Many of the staff have been here for years and you can tell how in tune and attentive they are to the guests.  Can’t beat that kinda service!

I scanned the regular dinner menu and was excited to see some authentic French dishes on the menu (Calf’s liver! Veal kidneys!), but we were given a preset tasting menu with some other great offerings.

Beet and celery remoulade

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The Malt House. 206 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012. Website: www.themalthousenyc.com

MH is for MALT HOUSE!

MH is for MALT HOUSE!

Vin and I were invited to a press dinner at The Malt House in the Village.  As I walked in my first thought was, “Whoa.  A place like this wasn’t here when I was at NYU!”  I was used to, how to put this lightly, seedier and cheaper and more rambunctious venues that more often than not resulted in bad decisions, like hangovers from crap booze and stomach aches from crap food.  No, if a place like The Malt House was around when I went to NYU, I’d probably be a broke but well fed regular!

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OPP

Taureau

Taureau. 558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013  Website: www.taureaunyc.com

Tonight’s lovely press dinner is brought to you by a repeat guest: Didier Pawlicki, the energetic owner/chef of the romantic La Sirene.  Both restaurants share the same kitchen yet have completely different concepts.  Taureau is all about fondue and only about fondue and is probably the only all fondue restaurant in the city.  I had slight qualms about an all fondue restaurant ever since a sad, traumatic experience at The Melting Pot (tres gauche), but Didier worked his magic again to make this another fantastic food fest.

fondue pots down the table

Fondue pots down the table

I remember walking into La Sirene thinking, “Oh, it’s cute in here,” but with Taureau, it was intimate, dark and sexy. My initial thought was, “How does it relate to a bull?” since Taureau means “bull” in French, but the enigmatic Didier had all this thought out: the element for the astrological sign Taureau is “earth” and all the ingredients and components were from or of the land.  AND, this side of the premises had a raw feel that reminded me of a wine cellar, with slightly arched ceilings and exposed brick decor.  Had it not been for the window looking out to the street, we could have been dining underground!  Quite ingenious how this whole concept ties together, Didier.  Very smart.  He also takes pride in creating the fondue recipes and pairings himself.  You may ask yourself, “Really, how complicated could it be to just melt something?” The chef really considered the additional ingredients that would compliment the melted cheese or bring out the flavors of the sides dipped in the fondue pots for each course so that every pairing and combination would work.  He really is a creative genius.  I’m convinced this guy could mastermind a plan to take over the world and no one would realize it until it’s too late.  =)
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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.

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