There’s no shortage of cute little restaurants in Alphabet City, but if you’re looking for a relaxed and romantic Moroccan restaurant, Chouchou fits the bill with its “cozy” seating and rustic decor and old-country archways. AND it’s extra sweet since the name is a term of affection in French. If that and the extremely extensive wine list doesn’t win you points with your date, you may be sh*t out of luck. We had a press dinner at Chouchou with a group of other food bloggers and basically got to try most of the savory options on the short menu. Honestly, I think it’s a smart idea: the chef knows what she wants to make and focuses on it. Also, it’s a super small space and we were impressed that all this food could come out of this kitchen!

We kicked off our meal with seasonal starters that are included with the entree. Today it included spiced deviled eggs (what a great creamy bite), shakshuka with eggplant and

baba ghanoush

(personally I don’t like eggplant, but the flavor and texture weren’t overpowering), hummus with green pesto (SO smooth and tasty), harissa spiced almonds (LOVED this snack), and a rich harissa sauce in tiny pots you could add to anything and everything (I love anything in cute, tiny containers and this was excellent with a light, warm spice flavor). And the pita bread was toasty, fresh out of the oven and so light and soft. You can easily fill up on the mezzes, but save room for your couscous or tagine!

There are 4 options for tagines (lamb, chicken, lobster, or vegetarian) and 4 options for couscous entrees (lamb chops, kefta, chicken, or merguez sausage). OR… there’s also a lovely sampler option called Couscous Royal which lets you try one lamb chop, a chicken leg, a piece of kefta, and one merguez link. I ordered that and was quite pleased. The lamb chop and merguez were my favorite

of these.

All the couscous dishes come with a large serving of beautifully plated couscous and a bowl of stew with potatoes, peppers, lamb and beef in case your meat comes out a tad dry. Most of the dishes are a show in itself with the proteins brought out in colorful tagines. Due to NYC heath codes, the proteins aren’t really cooked in tagines; they’re plated in beautiful tagines upon serving. And when the cover is lifted… get ready for the “oohs” and “ahhs”

and the enticing smells!

I was also able to try the chicken tagine, served with plump green olives and a citrusy, salty lemon sauce

. We were impressed with the presentation of half a chicken, unfortunately the breast part was a bit dry. Nothing mixing the couscous and stew broth couldn’t fix though!

I really liked the lamb tagine with the tender, braised meat. It was cooked with prunes and apricot, creating a thick sweet sauce pairing and making the protein pieces super soft and flavorful.

We got the chance to meet Chef Meryem Mitra, one of the sweetest and talented people cooking. She was so humble about her craft, I appreciated her work even more. Chef Mitra talked about how the desserts were made in house and the cookies changed based on her tastes and experiments each day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take advantage of all the interesting sounding dessert plates and was only able to try a small piece of an orange cookie covered in powdered sugar. That tiny piece was good, I would have loved to highlight the desserts since (hello!) they’re my specialty. There were three different desserts brought out of three different kinds of cookies, but two of the desserts were snatched up and eaten before I could try, and the third plate had three different kinds of powdered cookies (pistachio, orange and regular) so I only got to try a bit of the orange cookie. Wish I could tell you more about the desserts since they sounded so authentic and creative!

I’d like to come back and try the lobster tagine, check out the different starters for the day, and taste more of the desserts!

Chouchou
215 E. 4th St.
New York, NY 10009

www.chouchounyc.com

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

First thing’s first…  I WANTED to work on making gum paste flowers last weekend, but I spent a week reeling with excitement after seeing my steak cake featured on Yummly.  You probably already know about it b/c I spammed the crap out of everyone I knew to look @ the April Fool’s Yummly article showcasing cakes that looked like savory food  =)  I wouldn’t have known about it if my site didn’t send me emails to notify me regarding pingbacks and comments.  I received an email just as I was packing up my stuff @ work on Thursday, March 29 to go meet Vin for dinner, and it said that some site had linked my steak post.  I clicked the link and it took a couple minutes to register that I was looking @ a hugely popular food site and that third one down, right under Duff Goldman’s/Ace of Cake’s bag o’ bagels cake, was MY steak cake.  Initial reaction: “Wait. *gasp* Is that–holy f*cking sh*t my cake! That’s my cake! Oh my God! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” =D

Here's a screenshot for those of you who are too lazy to click the link... or if you've seen it I'm going to make you look @ it again anyway <3

The weekend came and I was still on a super giddy high about the cake feature. I had a couple baking orders for old coworker friends: one was for chocolate cupcakes with swirled pink and blue frosting for a relative’s birthday party (I threw in some hand piped rose minis for the hell of it); the other was for a red velvet cake with cream cheese for another friend’s birthday (actually on April Fool’s Day!) and I was just really happy to be able to see them in person and share the fun news.  And I was honored some of my F&F gave me props on their Facebook pages and told their F&F about it.  I was even kind of offered an assistant pastry chef position!  Unfortunately, the pay doesn’t come close to my day job, so sadly, I had to pass on that.  I was just thrilled and humbled to have this kind of recognition =)

Pink and blue swirl for V's grandmother's birthday and a frosting rose for good measure. I asked L if he happened to take any pics of the red velvet and cream cheese cake and he said he and his staff "dove right in" as soon as they smelled the frosting. hahaha

 

This past weekend, Vin and I celebrated Easter with his family.  It was a madhouse with the food and the babies all over the place and the weather was so nice… tons o’ fun in the sun on Sunday.  I spent the last few weeks trying to decide WTF to make for dessert and nothing really special came to mind.  My cousin T suggested I make a Peep cake but I wasn’t feeling the idea (or “fillin’ it” as they say on ABDC).  The day before Easter rolled around and I was like, “I GUESS I’ll make macarons…?”  Vin and I were out most of the day on Saturday on a photo excursion, and by the time we got home, we were pooped.  I took a nap and didn’t start measuring the almond flour and weighing egg whites until… ohhhh… I don’t know… 130 am Saturday night/Sunday morning.

A nest of Easter rabbit macarons

I saw some holiday dessert ideas and wanted to try making the macs in the shape of bunny rabbits.  It got really annoying trying to pipe the ears because the more I handled the egg-almond-sugar mixture, the more “liquid” it became.  My first attempts @ bunnies came out so much better than the blobular final attempts.  After I while, I just gave up on piping bunny shapes and just made circles.

I put lighter colored tiny blobs on some of the circles so they’d look like fluffy rabbit tails.  HOWEVER, they seemed to resemble other things, mostly b/c I wasn’t thinking @ 2 am and should have used food coloring to dye the mix another color.  Seriously, I looked @ the tray after I took them out of the oven and there were rows of what looked like boobs and just thought, “… oh sh*t.”  I was too tired to make more tails in another color so I just kept them anyway.  And I’d like to keep my site relatively PG soooo… please keep your comments to yourselves about the baked bunny backsides.  =D

A close up of the cute faces and the... uh, tails.

Anyway, I was getting fed up with having to individually place all the sprinkles on the rabbit faces with tweezers and they’d either fall off or sink into the cookie, so I ended up with only a handful of rabbits.  Vin asked if they were Asian Easter bunnies b/c he thought the top whiskers were eyes.  haha   (I JUST remembered I have eyeball sprinkles I could have used; they would look more freakish than cute though b/c the eyeballs are pretty big…)  I used double chocolate frosting as the filling and sandwiched the salvageable bunny faces with the nipple-like tails and put them into the fridge so I wouldn’t have to look @ them.

For some reason, I wasn’t sure if this batch of macarons came out right and I was concerned they were overbaked (they ended up being perfectly fine; I just worry too much), so I decided to bring back up desserts if the macs were a complete flop.  Remember the extra chocolate mini cupcakes I put in the freezer from the 1920s charity event that I said I’d save for a rainy day?  I felt like it was practically pouring in my kitchen last night.  I took out the rest of the mini chocolate cupcakes and the mini red velvet cupcakes left over from last week’s baking order and used the rest of the pink, blue, and cream cheese frosting to put different designs and swirls on each cupcake.

Blue vanilla-rum blossoms on mini chocolate cupcakes

I did a basic swirl of blue for a bunch of them and thought it looked kinda “blah” and plain for Easter, so I mixed a little green frosting (blue –> green = easy!) and piped some leaves and tweezered on some edible beads to make them look more like springtime flowers.  I piped pink frosting on the rest of the chocolate minis and started to place white sugar beds on them, but then I got sick of tweezing them on one by one so I left the rest.  And the red velvet minis? I piped the cream cheese frosting on @ factory machine speed just so I could be done with all this and catch some Z’s.  haha

Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese and chocolate mini cupcakes with pink vanilla-rum frosting

Since special occasions call for special displays, I took brought my prized cake stands to Easter dinner (my precious–es…).  One of my cousins gave me this beautiful light blue plate that had little birds on it and it was absolutely perfect for spring.  I showcased the macaron bunnies and round cookies atop a cushion of festive yellow “grass”.  The pink-chocolate mini cupcakes and the red velvet ones were stacked on my glass tiers, and the flower-like blue minis were placed on the white ceramic stand Vin’s mom gave me.  After spending so much time on these, dessert was the last thing I wanted to look @, but I’m glad Vin’s fam liked them.  The plate of macs I brought was practically empty by the end of dinner.  I had some extra macaron cookies (I was extra critical and called them “rejects”) and decided to whip up some peanut butter frosting and use some leftover chocolate icing.  The result? Reese’s macs.  They were oh-so-tasty and I had quite a few leftover (I can only forcefeed Vin so much dessert) so I brought them in for my new work buddies.  It was a win-win situation for all; I got my fridge space back and people are now obligated to be nice to me when I audit them b/c I gave them delicious baked goods.  (Juuuuust kidding!)  =D

Platters of all my Easter goodies!

But yeah, next Easter I think I should just make a basic Peep cake so I can actually get some sleep before the fun festivities. =)

 

**Vin took all the really nice pics… thanks baby!  <3

My beginnings are so humble (and cheap) that I’ve been getting by transporting my baked goods in Tupperware, old (but clean!) plastic takeout containers, heavy duty cake carriers (and being paranoid about having people break or lose them and the awkwardness that comes along with “Hey, umm… I need that carrier back, so… either eat your damn cupcakes right now so I’ll take it with me or please lug it back to me when you’re done”), and the best one so far: shoe boxes… which I completely cover with wax paper before a dab of icing or the smallest crumb even touches the box. (The shoe box used for today’s cupcakes was appropriately hot pink, black and white… to match my business card! How convenient!)

But I’m running low on takeout containers since I keep giving them away with the cakes, and I can only buy so many shoes. (I don’t think I can really use that excuse on my husband. “But baby, I needed to buy these boots because the box is the PERFECT size for my upcoming cake order!”) I realize I had to let go of the ghetto fabulousness at some point and get some legit bakery boxes, so after weeks of price shopping and meticulous, borderline-OCD measuring of all my mini cupcake/regular cupcake/mini cake/regular cake pans, I finally ordered some cupcake clamshell containers and cake boxes. And some hot pink, black and white ribbon. And some heavy duty bags in which to carry the cakes. And cupcake boxes that hold TWO cupcakes instead of half a dozen. And a couple other neat cake packaging things I couldn’t resist but hope to use in the foreseeable future. Yes, I searched for the best prices and set my budget and I’m hoping the reason I can’t sleep isn’t because I have anxiety due to buyer’s remorse. All I have to say is: let’s hope I actually get steady orders to make use all of this stuff and thank goodness for pantry storage space!