August 31, 2010

Butter Lane Cupcakes

I need deadlines, even for sweet tasks. I bought a deal a few months ago: 6 cupcakes for $8 at Butter Lane. I had been meaning to sample their cupcakes for a while after hearing good reviews. They're a relative newcomer to the NYC cupcake scene (about to hit the 2-year mark) and I had yet to sample the sweetness. My coupon, however, expired today (8/31), so on my way back from a meeting I popped in with Mel and we filled our box with six sweet snacks.

It's a tiny little storefront, adorably decorated with a bright poppy wallpaper print, chalk drawings on the board, and a rotating parade of cupcakey deliciousness on an Ipad mounted on the wall. If you didn't want a cupcake when you walked in, you will by the time you reach the register.

The guy behind the counter was super helpful and patient, and didn't even roll his eyes when he saw my voucher! :) He talked me through the different kinds/flavors. Butter Lane makes three flavors of cupcake: chocolate, vanilla and banana. They top them with either a regular American-style buttercream or a lighter, softer French buttercream (egg whites and melted sugar). I can now say they are both yummy. They're a bit smaller and fifty-cents or so more than my standard go-to, but they blow Magnolia & Company out of the water, I dare say.

It was early in the day, but this was my one shot at heading down to this part of town, so we had a smaller selection than you might if you popped in around, say, 3pm. We picked 2 of the Elvis (banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting), a vanilla with vanilla buttercream, a chocolate with sour cream frosting, a chocolate with maple-pecan frosting, and, of course, a cherry!

My absolute favorite was the cherry: soft, delicious vanilla cupcake with real cherry bits in light frosting (I'm pretty sure this was the French buttercream). I wish I'd gotten two of these (but it's a good thing I didn't).

My second-favorite was the Elvis--that peanut butter icing was WAY too good, and the cake was like the lightest banana bread you ever did taste.

Even the mini-marshmallows on the Elvis were soft and fresh!

Not only did we get cupcakes, we also got coffee. And what do they put in their iced coffee? Frozen coffee cubes! Aww yeah. Any iced coffee pro will tell you THIS is how you make good iced coffee. That way it doesn't dilute the drink! The coffee comes from Stumptown Coffee, and I was delighted to find that it was smooth, not the least bit bitter or acidic, and was a steal for $1.75.

August 30, 2010


What's this, you ask? Oh, nothing...just one of the most delicious snacks I ever made. Nutella spread on Trader Joe's High-Fiber, Whole Wheat bread (5g fiber per slice!), and fresh, local strawberries. Holy freaking YUM.

Note: Nutella is not low-cal. 100 calories per Tablespoon--use sparingly and savor every morsel!

August 25, 2010

Poached Eggs & Caponata

I love, love, love poached eggs. I like the way I make them the best, but if they're on a menu in a restaurant, I'll usually order them, too. Most of the time I just simmer them in a shallow pan of water, but sometimes I feel like getting a little fancy and swirling them a la chef style. This past weekend I was in just such a mood.

I got out my deep saucepan, added a generous glug of white vinegar (crucial!) and set to swirling the water.

I dropped each bad boy in there individually and used a spatula to keep things moving. In less than 2 minutes they were ready to eat!

I had some stovetop espresso bubbling away while I made the eggs--and everything was ready in a matter of minutes. Cooking at home does not have to take forever! Sometimes it can, and sometimes even that's fun, but today it was all about delicious food, fast!

ABF & I sampled some Trader Joe's caponata on our most recent visit, and I liked it so much (despite my ambivalence re: eggplant) that I brought a jar home. I decided to use this as a bed, sort of a shakshuka/rancheros nod. I used just a few tablespoons as a bed for the perfectly poached eggs. Yum.

It was pretty darn delicious, though the sugar in the caponata was a little too pronounced for me. I'd also recommend heating it up next time--I wish I'd waited a little longer for it warm up a bit more. That would have gone a little better with the piping-hot poached eggs. I might have to make these again very, very soon.

August 23, 2010

Birthday Deliciousness

This year, Restaurant Week was still in effect for my birthday, so ABF asked if I wanted to go anywhere in particular. He named a few favorites, but I said I was definitely open to something new, so surprise me! He was a great sport and did just that, not even hinting as we walked together that warm Thursday night to our destination-- Delmonico's! I love the history of this place--started in 1837, it's touted as the first fine dining restaurant in the US, and the origin of many food classics: Chicken a La King (originally a la Keene), Lobster Newburg, Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska and more! Great stories behind them all.

Restaurant Week is your chance to dine for a set price from a set menu. Delmonico's Restaurant Week menu is by far one of the best I've seen in a while. ABF made a good choice! The hardest part was narrowing down my choices. He picked a corn soup with peeky-toed crab, but when he went to order it, the server told us that soup was actually a cauliflower puree. Apparently they get so many repeat customers during RW that they change up some of their offerings. We were both bummed to hear this, but he went with the cauliflower anyway. It was just okay--not worth photographing or ordering again. :)

I saw 'poached egg' in my salad description and was sold. It's made of frisee, aka that Stuff I Normally Pick out of my Salad, but holy cow was this a solid hit. A bed of fresh, crunchy frisee tossed lightly in a truffle oil vinaigrette and bordered with citrus supremes. This was so scrumptious, I nearly licked the plate. For once, ABF had order envy of one of MY dishes!!

I ordered the filet mignon, one of my all-time favorite cuts of meat. Delmonico's is known for their steak, so I wasn't about to order fish tonight! It came with sauteed veggies and potatoes. The potatoes were just okay, but the veggies were crispy, crunchy, and tasted so fresh. The meat was buttery, soft, perfectly seasoned--I gave ABF two bites! He had steak frites, not-pictured, which he enjoyed. He gave me a few fries, and they were outstanding (and I'm not a 'fry' gal).

They had a special that night on wine: a bottle of Lindeman's Cabernet Sauvignon for 28.00. I saw ABF's interest piqued with this one, and was totally on the same page. This was delicious and a perfect match for our meat.

I knew exactly what I was getting for dessert: the Meyer Lemon tart! Meyer Lemons are almost lime-like in their citrusy awesomeness. This was beautiful, and dotted with microbasil oil that was so perfectlyn pungent. ABF loved this, too.

ABF ordered the Baked Alaska, which he'd never had before (it's basically ice cream cake covered by a meringue dome). I still remember how cool I thought my mom was for making this when I was eight or so. This was pretty delicious--the meringue was light and glossy inside, perfectly browned outside. The banana gelato inside was out of this world--I'd go back just for that (and the frisee salad). YUM.

Restaurant Week or not, this is a must try--but it's an exceptionally good deal during RW! Thanks, ABF, for another delicious and memorable birthday dinnner!

August 20, 2010

Cool Cocktails: Key Lime Martini

This is one of my all-time favorite cocktails. I'm almost always disappointed when I order them at restaurants or bars, so I usually stick with my homemade version (a recipe I got from my old roommate, Ann). Trust me--stick to this one and thank me later. This could easily stand in for dessert..dreamily delicious!

You can use whole milk if you're really freaked out about the cream/half and half, but it's only a few tablespoons per serving and it really makes a difference.

Also, please don't take my word for it--make this at home and see if your guests aren't asking for another round (or 3--ahem, please drink responsibly!)

Ann's Key Lime Martini (serves 2)
6 Tablespoons Licor 43 (Cuarenta y Tres)
2 Tablespoons citrus vodka
4 Tablespoons key lime juice
4 Tablespoons heavy cream (or half and half)

August 19, 2010

Cool Cocktails: Elderflower Fizz

(Happy Birthday to Me!)

One of my favorite liqueurs is St. Germain, a French spirit infused with elderflower. Their website has a recipe for an Elderflower Gin & Tonic, but I think tonic water is too sweet, considering St. Germain liqueur is already sweet on its own. I made this version of their recipe and think it's much tastier and very refreshing on a hot summer day:

1 1/2 shots St. Germain

1 shot Tanqueray gin (infused for 3 days with fresh cilantro)

Soda water or seltzer

fresh cucumber slice

Pour the St. Germain and the gin in a shaker, shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour into chilled martini or highball glass. Add generous glug of club soda (I used seltzer) and garnish with a slice of cucumber. The cilantro in the gin and the cucumber make wonderful partners! Enjoy!

August 17, 2010

Cool Cocktails: Godiva & Soda

This is another simple but fabulous taste: Godiva, soda water, and half and half. Oooh baby.

Godiva & Soda (serves 1)

4 ounces soda water (seltzer)

2 ounces Godiva liqueur

1 ounce cream or half-and-half

Pour the liqueur and the half-and-half into an ice-filled shaker, shake about 15 seconds, pour over ice in small glass. Add hefty splash of soda water on top. Cheers!

I'm not normally a white chocolate person, but I make an exception for this liqueur. of course, it's even better with regular chocolate liqueur, and also delicious when you mix the white and the regular chocolate!

August 16, 2010

Cool Cocktails: Watermelon Margarita

In celebration of my birth-week, and in an homage to the dog days of summer, I'm featuring a fabulous cocktail recipe each day this week! Today I'm starting off with one of my favorites: the watermelon margarita. I actually got this recipe from Cooking Light--each serving is about 100 calories! It's also gorgeous!

You don't even need a blender--I poured everything into a pitcher and then mashed it up with a potato masher--I wanted a drink with bits of fresh fruit and some heft.

I also took a melon baller and made cute little balls o' can see the mercilessly-hacked fruit in that lovely photo. It was a lot of fun, though pretty messy. Then I speared speared the melon balls with my American flag toothpicks. The fruit soaks up the cocktail and is all kinds of yum.

Ahhh...doesn't it just scream summer?

What's your favorite summer drink? Drop a comment and tune in this week to find out if it's one of mine, too!

August 05, 2010

Cafe Mocha

After our sushi feast, Carlota and I somehow managed to toddle across the street to Cafe Mocha, where we'd also stopped the last time we had sushi (but I managed to lose those photos somehow).

We sat in the crowded dining room and the owner (manager?) immediately came over to us and greeted us. I ordered a cafe au lait (photo shown right) and Carlota got the hot chocolate, which came beautifully presented (below). Carlota seemed to enjoy her drink. My cafe au lait was QUITE strong, but it was good balance to the sweet treat coming our way.

One glance at the menu and we were both on the same page: we ordered the banana-Nutella crepe to share.

It was rich, delicious, and super filling. One is definitely enough for two people. Yum. This place was delicious and super-affordable. Try it for yourself!

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