April 20, 2014

Easter: Lamb Cake

My mom started a tradition years ago- baking an adorable lamb-shaped cake from a mold and decorating it for Easter.

Years ago, I bought a lamb cake mold of my own....and they sat in my kitchen, collecting dust.
I don't know why, but this year I suddenly got the courage/nerve/chutzpah to try to make a lamb cake on my own.


I made the cake with a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe, subbing in almond extract for the vanilla. I felt the pound cake would be sturdy enough to hold its shape and travel well.



The batter all goes in the half of the mold with the lamb's face, so you get the details of the ears and eyes.


Per the instructions from many a fellow blogger, I reinforced the ears and neck with wide bamboo skewers to support the cake, and tied my mold shut with twine, but it wasn't tight enough. When I pulled it from the oven, I saw a lot of batter had leaked.

So my lamb was a little smaller than usual- that's where frosting comes in, right? I made the cake Saturday night and wrapped it tightly in the fridge until Easter morning. Then I got up early and  made a buttercream/cream cheese hybrid frosting. 

I smoothed a crumb coat, or a thin layer of frosting, over the entire lamb and out it back in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then I filled my pastry bag (with small pastry tip) and squiggled it all over the lamb. I was so taken with how easy and cute it was that I couldn't contain my giggling.

I surrounded the cake with shredded coconut colored with green food dye, placed a few Reese's eggs around it (for Spring color, not because I'm confused about animal biology), and off we went to Easter brunch!

The lamb cake got quite a reception when we arrived- it really does have a wow factor! I was also glad to be able to bring one of my family traditions to the table, even if my family couldn't be there in person. 

I was very relieved to find the pound cake was delicious, if maybe just a smidge overcooked. I think I would shorten the cooking time by 5 minutes, and I plan to try a fluffier frosting next time. And there WILL be a next time! I might not even wait until next Easter-this would be a fun cake for anytime in this long-awaited season! Happy Spring!
PS: Here's a link to a pan similar to mine: check it out for yourself! And a link the recipe I used (which I cut in half, and subbed almond extract instead of vanilla): pound cake recipe here.

February 11, 2014

Bareburger

Some days I just CRAVE a burger, and one cold winter day, my friend Mel joined me for my first visit to Bareburger, a burger chain that first began in Astoria, Queens (where Mel & my friend CJ both live)! They now have locations in Manhattan, Queens, and plan to open up locations on Long Island and in other states. This particular location was on Third Avenue in the Kips Bay area.

Bareburger prides itself on using local, organic, and earth & people friendly ingredients. Their menu options are almost unlimited, and it can take a while to decide if you want one of their many signature burgers or to create your own. You have regular beef, chicken, wild game, and vegetarian options for the burger themselves, and the toppings are almost infinite.
There IS a burger under there!


I finally broke down and ordered the Habanero Express, which was a beef burger with pepperjack cheese, habanero relish, spicy pickle chips, and habanero chipotle mayo. I normally avoid mayo on burgers, but I was willing to 'when-in-Rome' it. I opted for a lettuce leaf bed instead of a bun to save calories/carbs.
Yes, there is a burger in there. It was a bit ridiculous how much lettuce was on my plate-- just one or two pieces would have been fine. Also, it was very wet. I should have asked for paper towels to dry off the leaves. I ended up leaving about SIX pieces of green leaf on the plate. Despite the superfluous roughage, this burger was fan-freaking-tastic. Perfectly cooked to medium, spicy, crunchy, terrifically tender meat. It was sublime. (See the first photo in this post for the cross-section.)

My friend Mel got the three mini sliders. These are two to three bites a piece, tops. I shared half of one with her and it was deeeeeeelicious.

The only thing I didn't care for was the iced tea. It was a weak sort of blend, and I like my iced tea very strong.

Mel ordered the Ginger Brew. I had a sip and it is CRAZY gingery. If you LOVE ginger, you'll like this. If you only like it, like I do, it might be too much. A little went a long way for me, but Mel loved it and found it refreshing.

The burgers were remarkably good, and I'd go back in a heartbeat. They're not very large, so without fries or something on the side I was still a little hungry. I'd get a little something extra next time (I hear their shakes AND their fries are very good) to share. And I would definitely return. CJ & Mel, I get it now!!!

Bareburger
514 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10016

212-679-BARE (2273)










January 22, 2014

Friend of a Farmer


I met my friend Jen for an early dinner at Friend of a Farmer.


We started with some of their trademark cornbread, topped with a spiced apple layer. This will keep you coming back for one more bite!


My entree was the peppered tuna with vegetables. This was perfectly cooked, but so absolutely overpowered by the cracked pepper that it's all I could taste. I scraped off most of the outside layer. 


A side of roasted Brussels sprouts for added veggies- these were pretty good.


Jen ordered another seafood dish: blackened trout over risotto. This was excellent, and so much better than my dish! 



Our dinners were light enough to leave us room for dessert: fresh fruit with a maple cream glaze. (Low light by the time this arrived). The fruit was good, but the maple cream glaze was incredible. I would have loved to have more than the two tablespoons they gave us, but it was easily the best thing I tasted all night. 
Overall, I wasn't crazy about my meal, thought it is a lovely location and I enjoyed the company. If I go back, I'll be sticking to breakfast!


Friend of a Farmer
77 Irving Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-2188




January 20, 2014

Peanut Butter & Co.

A college friend of mine was visiting NYC with her family, and ABF & I decided to meet them in the West Village for a kitschy and tasty lunch at Peanut Butter & Co., a family/tourist/tastebud friendly spot that's been around for quite some time.
Tourist & Family-friendly fare! 

It's a small space, but we managed to snag some seats in the back for our group of 6.


Peanut Butter & Company makes their own peanut butter, as well as peanut butter spreads, and they will make just about any sandwich concoction you want. I ended up going with my standby: creamy peanut butter with raspberry preserves on whole wheat bread. My only mistake? I forgot to ask them to cut off the crusts (yes, they will do this)!

I also ordered a coffee milkshake because, well, I wanted one! It was creamy, with a strong coffee flavor and lots of sugar in there. This would later come to haunt me...but we'll continue. You can also get a glass of milk if that's your thing (I will MAKE that my thing next time).

ABF got the Elvis: peanut butter, bananas, and bacon, all fried in a pan. I wasn't feeling too adventurous, so I declined his offer of a bite. However, this is one of their most popular sandwiches-- I'm just an odd duck.

As we finished our sandwiches, we decided to all get some sweet treats to end the meal. Here's where caused myself some trouble- quickly forgetting the liquid sugar bomb of a shake I just had, I thought it would be a GREAT idea to have the brownie sundae and share it with ABF. What was I thinking!? Clearly I was all hopped up on sugar. Well, that sundae was SO good that I kept taking 'just one more bite,' unaware that I was bringing myself ever closer to the stomachache of a lifetime.

Everything we ate was quite tasty-- like comfort food without having to do your own dishes. However, if I had a do-over (and how I wish I did), I would have skipped the shake and saved room for the sundae instead. Sometimes you really CAN have too much of a good thing.
Peanut Butter & Co.
240 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012
(212)677-3995


January 17, 2014

Doughnut Plant

If you love Doughnuts, if you even kind of LIKE them, you simply MUST swing by one of the Doughnut Plant's locations. Before this visit, I'd only been to the Chelsea area location, and taken them to-go. This time I went to their original spot on Grand street with my friend LaShauna, who was visiting for her birthday. We squeezed in time for a quick coffee for me, chai for LaShauna, and sweet treat before LaShauna had to leave. Oh, what a delicious visit we had this time, didn't we?
Their coffee is strong and smooth-- I loved my latte. LaShauna had their hot chai (not pictured).

They have yeast, cake and doughseed donuts, and we tried one of each: the peanut butter & jelly, the creme brulée, and tres leches. The fabulous, fabulous tres leches.

Creme Brulée
Creme Brulée's custardy insides
I always forget how tiny the creme brulée is-- two bites, TOPS. If you are trying to get as many doughnuts as you can, sure, share this, but you probably will want one all to yourself. The crackly bruléed top, the fluffy doughnut, and the sweet custard are a trifecta of fabulous flavors.

We also shared a doughseed that was a PB & J, with strawberry jam, and a peanut butter doughnut flecked in chopped peanut pieces. This was great, of course, as I've never had a bad doughnut there.

The showstopper, however, is the tres leches donut. How do they make this masterpiece of physics and flavor? It's cloaked in a gorgeous glaze that almost crackles like a piece of pottery- the doughnut inside is light and chewy, and the filling is perfect.
Tres Leches, man. Tres Leches.
How do they take everything about a tres leches cake and squeeze it into doughnut form? I don't know.. THEY JUST DO. This is a must-taste every time I go there.
It's obviously pretty pricey if you compare it to a Dunkin Donuts or other shop, but worth every penny. They're not just lumps of dough thrown into a bunch of oil-- they're edible art, and you'll remember them long after you dusted away the last delicious crumb.


Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700




January 14, 2014

Butter Midtown

While LaShauna was in town for her birthday, we wanted to find a fabulous spot for a celebration dinner. Alex Guarnaschelli's Butter Midtown had opened recently, and it was on the top of my proverbial List.

We got a reservation for 7 and showed up pretty early. They weren't able to seat us right away (nor did we expect them to), so we got a seat at the spacious, welcoming bar. These bar seats are fabulously comfy, and we could take in the whole restaurant, which features communal seating as well as luxurious booths.

Our bartender, Devon, set us up right away with drinks: the Anjou & Forelle for me (pear liqueur, pear vodka, and a pear garnish) and the Calamansi (Grey Goose Vodka, fresh watermelon 'ice cubes,' mint, and Calamansi lime juice) for LaShauna. Cocktails are $15 each.

That pear cocktail was so delicious-- not too sweet, full pear flavor, and a perfectly crunchy slice of pear on the outside. I could easily have had another, but then we saw Devon make a mojito with elderflower liqueur-- and that was our second round.
Devon was great-- attentive, while working with a lot of customers, and he makes a perfect cocktail.

It was about 20 minutes past our seating time and we hadn't been called to our table, so we checked in ourselves. They sat us a few minutes later at a booth. This is when service went from stellar to sadly spotty.
We eventually got some bread and butter (herbed and salted--both stellar), and just about pounced on that.
We ordered one more cocktail (oh be quiet), another Elderflower mojito. The young woman taking our order asked if we wanted the Mount Gay mojito. I clarified that it was the one Devon made with elderflower. She looked a bit confused, but nodded...and came
back with 2 Mount Gay mojitos. We took a sip and decided that these would not work. We actually sent them back to the bar-- something I've never done!

They replaced our drinks quickly, and we tore into our appetizers.
I went with the Welsh Rarebit, which at Butter Midtown, is a toasted pullman bread with melted Wisconsin cheddar & ale sauce. The wholegrain mustard was strong and in the forefront, but it didn't overpower the delicious cheese and ale flavors, either.

LaShauna's app was the ricotta crostini-- 3 crunchy bits of bread with housemade ricotta, hen of the woods mushrooms and toasted, crackly brussels sprouts leaves. It was a small portion, but LaShauna still shared it with me. I could have eaten a bowl of those leaves, and I'm still wholly undecided on brussels sprouts in general!

LaShauna had a pork chop special for her entrée, and she loved every last bite of it.
My entrée was the wild boar, over toasted fregola (a Sardinian pasta similar to couscous, but even better, I think) and sautéed kohlrabi, which I'd never had before, but enjoyed. I tried cutting into the meat and it felt incredibly tough, but I kept sawing away. It took me a few seconds to realize the twine was still tied around the meat. Oops! Once I removed that (it was a bit tricky/messy), I cleaned my plate. Squeaky clean. I hate to say the boar tasted 'gamey,' because that's a word that normally has a negative connotation in my book, but it was definitely different from my usual fare and quite tasty. It was supremely tender (minus the twine) and expertly done.
We also had an order of fingerling potatoes ($10), and there was more than enough to share for 2. These were so delicious and craveable that I kept eating even when I knew I was getting full. The perfect texture, seasoning, and size. Bravo.
We pushed through and MADE room for dessert. I ordered the Dobosch torte: multiple layers of sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with a caramel drizzle that gave it a buttery flavor and a fabulous crunch (with a little sea salt to boot). The textures alone kept me coming back for bite after bite. I'd probably share this next time, but I would definitely order it again.
LaShauna's dessert was the house made S'more. This one definitely was NOT very shareable, but she still gave me a bite. It was FLAWLESS. My only wish is that there were more of them!
I had mentioned in both OpenTable (online reservation program) and to our server that we were celebrating LaShauna's birthday, but they still forgot a candle or sparkler or whatever they normally do for a special occasion. I was definitely more disappointed than LaShauna was, but I still wish the servers paid a bit more attention overall. This was not a cheap meal, and I definitely felt like we were getting service that was subpar compared to the on-point food and drinks.
TL;DR: Service is spotty- we actually wish we'd stayed at the bar. Despite my mentioning it twice (in Open Table and to the server), they still forgot about LaShauna's birthday, and we waited a long time for placing orders, getting food, and getting the bill. Everyone was nice, it just seemed a bit.. off. I'd go back at least once more, but I'd definitely eat at the bar.

Butter Midtown
70 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 253-2828


























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