Tag Archives: dessert

the more they change, the more they stay the same: salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla cream

salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla scented cream

At times it feels like I just left New York; though it was three years ago (and nearly exactly to the day), The City still holds court as the single place I’ve rested my head for the most nights outside of my childhood hometown on Cape Cod. Just writing that feels odd; for as much time as I spent there, since I packed up our West Village townhouse that sweaty July back in 2011, so much has changed.

salted dark chocolate mousse chopped chocolate

There has been a marriage, a new dog, two new cats, a few far reaching vacations, three rather large geographical moves which also spurred career changes, and ultimately times of great self reflection and growth.  Given that we had a professional moving company hired to bubble wrap and duct tape every last speck of our tangible possessions and make them magically reappear (hopefully unbroken) halfway across the country, I left in what felt like a hurry; there was none of the usual ‘packing process’ per say, other than putting some Colorado appropriate clothing into a suitcase and waiting for the twenty-one-footer to show up with her crew.

salted dark chocolate mousse cream beaters

My apartment remained decorated and fully put together until the day I left, lending a sense of ‘is this really even happening?‘ right up till the eleventh hour. We were lucky enough to manage to finagle a week spent on that dizzyingly busy island onto the end of our recent trip, and even luckier still to have two friends offer up their gorgeous apartment in SoHo – the same friends whose wedding we had toasted just a couple of weeks earlier (the little lucky duckies were still honeymooning in Southeast Asia!). I am so thankful for their generosity, as there is no better way to visit somewhere you used to live than by staying in an actual home.  Being in a hotel would have made me feel like a stranger; a peeping tom creeping around trying to catch glimpses of scenery I wasn’t meant to enjoy. Having called the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Gramercy, Greenwich Village, and the far West Village all home at one point or another in the six years we spent there, staying in SoHo was a treat, and the moment touched down I was eager to get out and explore.

salted dark chocolate mousse custard

I’m not sure this it is even possible, but Manhattan felt even buzzier, crazier, and more alive than I remembered. Even though the mercury was busting way up into the high 90s the day we arrived (and the humidity had my hair doing it’s best Medusa imitation – not my best look), the streets were absolutely mobbed, and that same frenetic energy came flooding back in a surge of sweaty excitement. With time, there is a certain way that you learn to navigate the busy streets, and there is a definite art of maintaining that familiar bob-weave-stop-start pace while simultaneously holding three shopping bags and a full iced coffee while sending a text and managing not to be struck by a yellow cab at a crosswalk or an errant bag of Thai noodles waving perilously in the wind off of a bike messenger’s handle bar. My chest swelled with pride and there was a noticeable pep in my step with the realization that I still ‘had it,’ and it felt so good to slide into the backseat of an Uber (because who takes cabs anymore?) and rattle off the cross streets of a restaurant without even consulting the Google.

New York has not entirely removed herself from me.

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the whole shebang: 6300 miles and a whole (lazy) lemon tart, iphone edition

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My past 28 days have looked something like this:

Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.

We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.

(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)

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Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.

The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.

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We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.

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with that sweet southern drawl: king cake

king cake - a traditional new orleans treat!

Two of my favorite Manhattanites arrived in New York by way of Mississippi, and without a doubt I always received the most attention while keeping their company. The harsh staccato of a New Yawk accent was no match for the sweet and syrupy drawl of their “heyy ya’ll”s and “oh mah gawwwh”s, and no matter where I went with them it always turned into a case of all-eyes-on-us.

king cake egg yolk

(And, I should clarify – not that we minded.)

king cake vanilla

On top of their accents, Katie and Kristen were the best work-allies a girl could ask for. Our trading floor wasn’t exactly teaming with the female persuasion, and to have a few partners in pencil skirts available to dish and gossip with by the water cooler was a very lucky thing, indeed. Though I had visited New Orleans a couple of times before meeting these city-fied Southern belles, I had never experienced a King Cake until a whole one arrived smack in the middle of our office one chilly February morning.

king cake dough hook

Looking like an oversized Krispy Kreme – covered in a thick gloopy glaze, and dusted in a technicolor pinwheel of purple, green, and yellow sparkling sugars – it didn’t look like anything that would normally appeal to my sweet tooth….but one bite of this cake that was more like a bread, molten in the middle with a cinnamony-sweet filling, and I was enamored.

king cake dough risen

This particular cake had been specially ordered and flown into our office from New Orleans for these two special ladies in honor of Mardi Gras, and when it was gone – it was gone. King Cake is not exactly something that is sold on every Northern street corner; more cinnamon bun than cake, it manages to touch on all of my favorite dessert flavors: salty, but sweet; rich, but simple. And the most enigmatic thing about this ring-shaped confection? One lucky diner bites into a baby.

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a birthday treat best: cappuccino ice cream with dark chocolate + sea salt

Sort of along the lines of “What do you get a girl that has everything?” is the perhaps not-asked-as-oft question:

“What do you get a girl that positively swoons over scoops of ice cream?”

Of course anything less than ‘ice cream’ or something ice cream related just won’t cut it – lest you wish risking to see her little heart deflate upon showing up with a piece of cake, a slice of pie, or even a perfect petit four.

And if said friend is my adorable friend Courtney, and said ice cream is of the coffee/chocolate/salted caramel persuasion – well, then, you just know you’re going to hit the proverbial ball out of the park.

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so the time bode well: carrot cake with mascarpone-cream cheese icing

Though I can’t say there are many good things to come out of spending the better part of three hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles with what always feels like the.most.random.assortment.of.the.population.EVER, I can now firmly say that the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten is one of them.

And I suppose it’s a little bit naughty to say that the best carrot cake I have ever had – ever – is something that I made with my own hands in my own kitchen, but in this case, it’s true, and that is due in no small part at all to one Mr. Nigel Slater.

You see, I had set off to the dreaded DMV to procure my motorcycle license, and not because I have a penchant for leather chaps or plan to kick start some Badass Baking Betty chapter of the Hell’s Angels, but because we have a brand new mint-green Vespa that I plan on zipping around town on, and in these parts you need a motorcycle license to do so legally (but hey – I’ll be licensed to ride a Harley too – you know, just in case). I spied my copy of Tender just as I was dashing out the door, and tucked it under my arm to help get me through the next few hours of torture in a relatively happy mood.

As the red numbers advanced mind-numbingly slowly towards mine (thirty-four numbers ahead), I settled in to my cheap plastic chair for some good reading. The thing about Nigel is that his cookbooks read like books – and books that you want to teleport yourself straight into.  As the minutes crawled by, I found myself not in an over-lit room with scuffed floors in Boulder, but in England, knee-deep in wonderfully musty soil, helping Nigel cut his finicky asparagus while debating the best way to keep greedy slugs at bay.

And so, while I was in England very busy doing all of these wonderful things with my pal Nigel, I happened upon this carrot cake recipe that sounded right up my alley.

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a taste of my old city: cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies

I’ve not minced my words when it comes to the fact that I will always have a big ole’ soft spot for my former stomping grounds.  Besides the people – my fabulous friends, hysterical co-workers, the curious and strange souls, and even the sweet coffee-cart-man on 48th and Park who had my morning cup ready and waiting every day just the way I like it (large, with a generous tip of cream) – the thing I find most enticing about that great big city is the food.

Being as interested in cooking and eating as I am (yes, I do loathe the term ‘foodie‘ and will continue to avoid it at all costs….**shudder**), I am massively lucky to have ended up in Boulder.  For a city that takes up only a small sliver of the size of New York City’s giant and jumbled pie, there has been an answer – and an amazing one at that – to every one of my old favorites.  Lights out bakeries, small meticulously curated restaurants, white tablecloth service, excellent vegetariankiller Neapolitan piescraft breweriesimpossibly fresh seafood, and food trucks galore….my little city of one-hundred-thousand does a bang-up-job when it comes head to head in comparison with my old playground – a playground that contains, arguably, some of the best food in the world.

However there are some things that are so unique to a certain place, there is just no amount of re-creation, re-imagination, or reanything that can be done to properly replicate them, and, to be frank —  you wouldn’t want to.  There are a thousand rotating reasons I will forever have to be excited for trips back to New York, and if I had access to all of each and every one of those things, well….

what would be the fun in that?

But there are a few things….a few small, round, crunchy and delightfully chewy things that I am oh-so-happy I can whip up on my own. 

When one of aforementioned fabulous friends (Mary) drops a package in the mail that contains a little piece of aforementioned food in mailable format (The Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook), I am not going to be in any position to refrain from trying to make everything that the outrageously quirky bakery stocks it’s shelves with.

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impulsively waiting: lemon icebox pie

This pie was folded up and tucked into the pages of this year’s January issue of Saveur, which made its way into my shopping cart as I stood in the checkout line at the market just a few days before New Years Day.

I’m really quite powerless when it comes to those magazine stands at the checkout counter; when I’ve managed to pile my cart high with enough rations to feed a family of six (let alone our three mouths – and that’s counting one hangry and demanding puglet), that impatient streak of mine rears its ugly head as each item is methodically scanned into the computer.

As the “beep….beep….beeps” drone and my cart’s contents slowly bottleneck their way across the cashier’s platform, I begin to fidget and futz around, and usually end up grabbing a copy of whatever magazine beckons to me most loudly.  This time, it was a copy of Saveur’s 100 best, whereupon they had corralled and polled all of their favorite people, places, and dishes into the first issue of the new year.

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