Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cucina & Co. Black and White Cupcakes revisited

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the cupcake offerings from Cucina & Co in Rock Center. Though I was generally down on the flavor as most of the cupcakes I sampled were overly dry, jumbo sized cupcakes for $1.25 in midtown at Happy Hour--aka end of day sugar low desperation time--is a darn good deal. Then I tried the vanilla black & white cupcake...

It started with a tip from fellow
Midtown Luncher and blogger, Chocolate/Olives, who posted in response to my initial review that "The vanilla cupcakes at Cucina tend to be moister than the chocolate ones. The vanilla black&white is pretty decent. None of them are terrific--I think there's a little bit of help from Betty Crocker in their kitchen." Ever since then, I had been on the look out to try one of these vanilla black & whites and an opportunity presented itself on Friday afternoon when I discovered a lonely cupcake leftover from another department's birthday celebration on the counter at my office that is reserved for free food offerings. Mmmmm...I'll admit it feels a little pathetic to write this, but you know you have that counter in your office and you know there have been times when the abundance of sweet treats have called your name and you heeded that call. Besides the only thing better than a $1.25 jumbo cupcake is a free one.

So, armed with a plastic Dixie knife, I cut the vanilla cupcake open and to my delight discovered that it was indeed much moister than the previous Cucina cupcakes that I had sampled. Yes, I'll agree with Chocolate/Olives that the moist cake was reminiscent of something Ms. Crocker or perhaps Mr. Hines might have whipped up, but that's not necessary such a bad thing, it's better than a super dry cupcake and did I mentioned that this cupcake was free? You can forgive a lot in a free cupcake.

The icing this time was more flavorful. The chocolate was chocolate-y-er and the vanilla had a richer flavor. And the vanilla cake, while it was probably from a pre-fab mix, was light and fluffy and made the cupcake a much more similar approximation to a true black and white than the chocolate black and white cupcake. And as my husband, Lawman, points out, at $1.25 (or free, if you can manage) the vanilla black and white cupcake is cheaper than your average NYC black & white cookie.

Cucina & Co.
30 Rockefeller Center
Concourse Level
New York, NY 10020
212 332-7630

Friday, March 28, 2008

King Yum-olicious

(This post is dedicated to Lawman-in-law. The following is what you are missing.)

For Lent, my brother's girlfriend, Energizer, and her bestest, Cannoli, gave up Chinese food. A date was made for Easter Monday, at King Yum, a classic Chinese-Tiki restaurant in the boro of Queens, for them to indulge in Chinese delicious-ness. I, being unemployed and always down for King Yum, tagged along and documented.

Every meal there is accompanied by fried wontons, with the complementary duck sauce and mustard sauce. Cannoli, being brave, was the only one to try the mustard sauce and said was quite disappointing. "Blech" I believe was her comment.

My brother and I were the only ones to go tiki. I have tried to no avail to acquire the boco loco, the drink that involves a coconut shell, but yet again they were out of coconuts! I'm calling ahead for my birthday dinner! This was a Hawaii Delight. Mmm, rum. Argh! (Rum makes my brother and I speak like pirates.)

This is the only wonton soup I will eat. It's delicious. Do you see the chunks of meat in there? This is on 'small' and you can still see the chunks of meat. That's how big they are!

Now the egg rolls, MY GOD those egg rolls. I LOVE THEM!!! One is a meal. They're HUGE. This is how egg rolls are supposed to be made. Crispy on the outside and filled with veggies, shrimp, and roast pork. o, m, gee-zie in the hee-zie.

Energizer and Cannoli decided to split a round of pan-fried dumplings. On the outside, they looked delicious, fried to crispy goodness. Much to their dismay, the meat in the middle was "mushy" and unappetizing. Double "blech".

Going 'round the table, my brother ordered the above Hunan Beef, which he said was spicy, and evidently good as he ate all of it; Energizer ordered Sesame Chicken, but they gave her General Tso's chicken. She said it was good, but she didn't eat much because of overloading on fried wontons. Cannoli ordered the Shrimp in Lobster Sauce combo (w/ egg roll and fried rice). Another winner. I decided on the Chicken and Broccoli in garlic sauce. It was perfect. The broccoli had a little crisp still left in it (I'm not a fan of mushy broccoli) and the garlic wasn't too overpowering.

There was no dessert this time since the girls were full and we had a lamb cake waiting for us at home. But if any of you want a fun, kitshy Chinese-Tiki experience (and don't mind the grease - a few hours later, I nearly passed out watching "Coming to America", one of the funniest movies ever) then I definitely recommend the trip out here (or down the block from your school, ahem, Lawman-in-law.)

King Yum Chinese Restaurant
181-08 Union Tpke, Fresh Meadows, NY 11366
(718) 380-1918
Take the E/F to Kew Gardens/Union Tpke and jump on the Q46


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Di Fara's!

If you had a problem with our blog today, ummm...that was my fault. Fortunately Blondie has html coding savvy that I lack. And she rescued our blog from the abyss. Yay. Thanks, lady!

Last night was a semi late night at the office for me and when I got home I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do for dinner. Lawman called me from his office to say his brother would be joining us for din din. Uh oh. Now I had to come up with something good and quick. Well, my dinner suggestion wasn't quick, but it was definitely VERY GOOD.

Let me start by saying I was raised on pizza. Excellent pizza. The best pizza in the world. My mother's first meal at Yale New Haven Hospital after my birth was a Sally's clam pie. I know pizza. After years of reading about Di Fara's, and dismissing it as too far out in Brooklyn, one month ago almost to the day, Lawman and I decided to give it a shot. It was a Saturday night, we didn't have any other dinner plans. This was around the time of the recent price increase and I had recently been reading Chowhound threads where members were debating if Di Fara's was worth the money. By the passionate responses I read, I knew that I had to go check it out.

Our first visit was on 2/23 and we've been back, ummm...four times since. Their pizza is as delicious as people say. Our first four times we've kept it simple and gone with the traditional round pie. Even with the price increase, at $20 for a round pie it's still a bargain for the love and care that goes into the creation of each pie, not to mention the quality of the ingredients (sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, fresh bufala mozzarella, grana padana cheese sprinkled liberally on the top, freshly cut basil, and the generous drizzling of high quality extra-virgin olive oil).

When we arrived that first Saturday night, somehow our timing was such that the dinner rush hadn't yet arrived. There were a couple other people waiting for their pies. We put in our order and grabbed a spot at the counter to watch the master at work. Though a crowd was gathering, nothing was slapdash or hurried. Dom stretched the dough, spread the sauce and scattered the cheese with a Zen-like calm. Even as still more customers arrived, one of the things I noticed was how quiet the store remained. Everyone was transfixed.

Flash forward one month and three more visits later. The regular round pie is a classic, you can't go wrong with it, but we were ready to try something, so last night Lawman and his bro picked up our first square pie. I had been hearing about the wonders of the artichoke topping, most recently from Chowhounder, MMRuth, and I knew that I had to try it. Lawman and his brother wanted to mix it up further, so we finally settled on a square pie with one 1/2 artichokes and 1/2 onions. Lawman's bro is one of those car owning New Yorkers so he was able to phone in the order, pick it up and drive it to our place.

Wow! I'm not generally a Sicilian pizza kind of gal, but this was a cut above. It wasn't as bready as most Sicilians, due in part to the olive oil that Dom drizzles in the square pan that the pizza cooks in. The result--a crispy bottom crust. Yum. I enjoyed the sauteed onions, but the nicely charred artichokes hearts were my favorite topping of the night. I'll definitely order the square pie in the future, however, next time I think I'll go back to the classic round pie. I enjoyed the square pie and I definitely enjoyed the toppings, but there is a kind of perfection in the simple round pie that's hard to beat.

Blondie, we've got to get you out of Queens to Di Fara's. Field trip!

For those of you interested in more Di Fara's pics, check out our flickr.

Di Fara's Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

Take the Q to Avenue J or for those of you in Park Slope/Windsor Terrace, take the B68 down Prospect Park Southwest/Coney Island Avenue to Avenue J.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just opened: Batch, a new venture by Pichet Ong

Aw, I'm so proud of Blondie with her little lamb cake. It's scarily lifelike. The eyes are watching me...

I can't believe you've never had Dairy Queen, Blondie! That's it. And DQ is officially on the list for the great CT feed weekend this summer. New Haven pizza, burgers from Louis' Lunch, berry picking at Lyman Orchards, and Blizzards at Dairy Queen. Mmmm. So much to look forward to...

Speaking of looking forward...I've been eagerly anticipating the opening of Batch, Pichet Ong's newest bakery.

I headed to Batch today during my lunch break. The shop is bright and fun. There wasn't much seating inside yet, but several customers came and got their goodies to go while I was there. According to the staff I chatted with today, the paper officially came off the windows this weekend and it's been crazy ever since. Opening day on Saturday was especially insane and it's been hard to keep up with the traffic, but they are managing well. Fortunately my timing was such that it hit the store during a short lunchtime lull.

As soon as you walk in the door you can't help but be mesmerized by the case of treats. Luscious layer cakes, assorted homemade puddings, cookies, Blondies and Brownies (oh, yes, Blondie, we must go back together to try these!), and cupcakes in sophisticated flavors like Lemon, Lemon, Lemon, Coconut Raspberry Green Tea, and Dragon Devil's Food.

The staff was friendly and helpful and Mr. Ong himself was on hand overseeing all the activity. After much deliberation I selected a Dragon Devil's Food Cupcake and a Lemon, Lemon, Lemon Cupcake to go. On my way to the subway I picked up a skim latte from Joe. Mmmm. Lattes and cupcakes. Does it get any better?

I saved the cupcakes for a post-work early evening treat with my buddy, FinanceDude. FinanceDude is an honest critic and great supporter of my baking and though he's primarily a very healthy eater, FinanceDude is always up for trying new desserts.

First up: the Lemon, Lemon, Lemon Cupcake. When we split the cupcake open we discovered that it had a lemon curd filling. Interesting. The cake was light and fluffy with a fresh and pleasant lemon flavor. The creamy butter frosting was nicely balanced by the tangy sweetness of the lemon curd filling. Cupcake perfection. I'm not the biggest lemon person and this was lemony without being overpowering. Delicious.

Next: The Dragon Devil's Food Cupcake. The Devil's Food cupcake had a a salted caramel filling. Yum. The devil's food cake was rich, moist, and dense with a subtle spicing. The salted caramel filling was a nice touch. I wouldn't have minded it had a tiny bit more filling. The frosting was dark and rich. And the dusting of glitter on top was a fun addition.

Both cupcakes were delicious, but of the two, Lemon, Lemon, Lemon the winner by far. The cake was airy and moist. And it had just enough frosting and just enough tart filling to satisfy. The Devil's Food Cupcake was very good--better than many other chocolate cupcakes out there, but it's wasn't exceptional. I wouldn't turn one down if it were offered to me, but if I had to choose between the Devil's Food and the Lemon, I'd definitely go with the Lemon.

At $2.95 each (plus tax) they were a bit more expensive than some of their competitors--nearby Magnolia charges $2.25 plus tax per cupcake ($2.75 for Red Velvet). But, as FinanceDude put it, "The combinations at Batch were unique and different." So maybe you wouldn't indulge in a Batch cupcake everyday, but their presentation is gorgeous and they'd be terrific to bring to a party for the wow factor. Established cupcakeries had better watch out!

150b West 10th Street (between Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 929-0250

Baaa, Baaa, Eat Me!

Brownie, I'm jealous you've had the Shamrock Shake. I considered field tripping to Jerz in search of Shamrock goodness, but it never really seemed worth it. Bravo, Lawman. Second, I've never been to a DQ myself, but I like their commercials. Food Adventure! Now about my beautiful little lamb and I don't mean Jesus.

For years, I've talked about the lamb cake, often to responses of "Ew! You eat a cake with lamb in it!" No sillies. I eat a cake shaped like a lamb. (I would also eat a cake shaped like a cow, if any of you want an early start on my birthday presents.) We even give him eyes to be super-creepy! I'm not sure if this is just a Czech thing (the Czechs did do this. Yes, we're a little nutsy!) or any Eastern European thing or what. My mom inherited a special two piece lamb-shaped mold (front and back). We hadn't made this in more than a year, so when we made the first lamb, we put all the batter in the back part of the mold (my grandmother's instructions only said "batter in deeper mold" whatever that meant) leading to insufficient rising into the face and hence, a faceless lamb. He didn't survive very long sans face, but my belly was happy. This lamb was 'Lamb Cake Take 2'. I believe that any cake recipe may suffice for such cakes; our recipe calls for 1.5 tsp. of baking powder and no baking soda as there aren't any acidic ingredient (Right, mommsie? You are reading my blog, mommsie?!). It's your basic golden cake recipe, but if any of you would like it, drop me a line and I'll send it to you next time I'm at my mom's. As for the edible green apple grass. It doesn't have a taste, but if you have pets in the home, I believe it's a good investment for Easter baskets.

A Shamrock Shake at last!

I first heard about Shamrock Shakes from my Texan roommate in college. St. Patty's Day rolled around and she suggested we hunt for one. Artificial mint flavoring? Green food coloring? Ice milky-like substance. I was so in.

Alas, we came up empty handed. After much hunting around the Shamrock Shakes. And every year since I've searched and hoped. Watched and waited. And still nothing. After taking it to the internets, I discovered that The New York Daily News uncovered the vast NYC Shamrock Shake conspiracy last year. Apparently the New York regional franchisees voted to not carry the shake. Sigh. St. Patty's day came and went and no Shamrock shakes. Yet another year without sampling the sweet minty nectar.

Last week I traveled Utah on business. During my layover in Atlanta on 3/19 I hit up the airport Mickey D's and just in case they might have had some leftover mint goo, I tried to order a Shamrock Shake. "Sorry m'am, we don't have Shamrock Shakes." Double sigh.

I had all but given up the quest for 2008, when I heard word of a sighting in Utah! After finishing up work on Saturday I met up with my husband, Lawman. He had spent the day relaxing and hanging out at the hotel and knowing of my longstanding desire for a Shamrock Shake, he went on a reconnaissance mission. Success! As of 3/22, they still had Shamrock Shakes at one of the McDonald's in Orem, UT. Lawman reports that they were minty with a hint of chocolate (from what I've read it sounds like it might have actually been a "McGrasshopper" and not a true Shamrock Shake) and pretty darn tasty.

We didn't have time to go back to the Orem McDonald's to pick one up for me, but later that night on our way to the airport Hampton Inn hotel we were able to stop at a McDonald's in downtown Salt Lake City and I finally got to try my first Shamrock Shake. After years of hearing tell of the wonders of the Shamrock Shake and building up its deliciousness in my mind, it would have been hard for any beverage to live up to my colossal expectations. The Shamrock Shake I had didn't have any chocolate. Lawman took a sip and said that my Salt Lake City Shamrock Shake was much sweeter than the one from Orem. The mint flavoring was a bit too mild and toothpaste-y for my liking. And as a New Englander, I'm always disappointed when shakes aren't double or triple thick (frappe anyone?). It was fun to finally try the Shamrock Shake, but for sheer shake bliss I think I'll stick with the Mint Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Sadly the closest DQ is in Jersey City. Triple Sigh.

For more Shamrock Shake pics check out our flickr.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shhhhhhh! Brownie's Fav Underground Midtown Lunch Spot Revealed

While Blondie was enjoying her Easter basket and baking up an Easter Lamb Cake, I was off in Utah traveling on business--more on the Utah food discoveries later this week.

After a busy morning catching up in the office, I was totally in the mood for some good, cheap Italian comfort food by lunchtime. Unfortunately midtown Manhattan isn't exactly known for inexpensive--let alone good--Italian food. But sometimes tasty, cheap eats can be found where you least expect them.

I first discovered Pepe Rosso to Go in the Village as a broke college student and I was excited to learn that they opened an outpost in the Grand Central Terminal Concourse. With most of the pasta dishes under $8.00, it's a very good deal for freshly prepared pasta in midtown.

Usually I order the Penne with Basil and Tomato Sauce, but today I mixed it up and went for the Fusilli with Seasonal Vegetables. My meal was $6.95 plus tax and that included a side of Italian bread. The pasta was good and al dente and the sauce: tangy and filled with fresh veggies. My only small complaint would be that the veggies watered down the sauce a bit, otherwise, a solid lunch pick.

Next time I'm definitely going to check out their Lunch Special, $8.95 for soup or an organic greens salad and a choice of: a proscuitto, mozzarella, arugula panini, a grilled vegetable and mozzarella panini, penne with tomato basil and mozzarella, or fusilli with chopped tomato and arugula.

Check out our flickr for more Pepe Rosso pics.

Tomorrow, a taste of Utah...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!!!

I'm happily spending my Easter hopped up on candy. Mmmm, Reester Bunny.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ah, spring has sprung

For me, nothing personifies spring more than a delicious carrot cake. The problem is that my thighs don't necessary share this feeling. Their response is more along the lines of "Why'd you go and eat that for? Don't cha realize you have to be on the beach soon?" BTWs, my thighs speak with a guidette accent. So when the weather started changing back in January, I set out on a mission to find a lower fat carrot cake recipe that I would enjoy eating. My dears, I think I've got it.

After much searching, I narrowed it down to two contenders. This from and the carrot cake recipe found in Weight Watchers' Simply Delicious cookbook. I modified the Allrecipes one a smidge for my liking. Then, these two went head-to-head with my panel of judges. The modified Allrecipes won hands-down, but many enjoyed the raisins found in the Weight Watchers. With that in mind, I went back into the kitchen for Palm Sunday.

Behold the bestest low-fat carrot cake recipe ever!

1 cup cake flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I'm currently loving King Arthur's white whole wheat flour)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. each nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
2/3 cup light buttermilk
1 1/2 cup grated carrots
1 cup golden raisins, soaked (throw raisins in a pot with water, boil water, turn off heat, and let it soak for 5 minutes, then drain)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray one 9x13 inch pan or two 9 inch round cake pans with Baker's Joy or Pam with Flour.

2.Separate eggs and beat egg whites until frothy, then continue whipping and gradually add 1/2 cup of the white sugar. Beat until stiff.

3. In a large bowl combine; the cake flour, wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and cinnamon, mix until blended. Add the applesauce, oil and the buttermilk and mix well. Add the egg yolks and mix well. Fold in the egg whites, then the carrots, and then the raisins. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite Cream Cheese frosting using light cream cheese.

Here's what it going to cost you for 1/12 of the recipe: 244 calories, 3.9g Fat (1g saturated), 47mg Cholesterol, 150mg Sodium, 49.3g Carbohydrate (1.8g Fiber/29.3g Sugar), 4.5g Protein, RDV: 47% Vitamin A, 7% Calcium, 2% Vitamin C, 9% Iron.

Now covering it with low-fat cream cheese frosting, and though it's not as diet-friendly as angel food cake, it's still pretty do-able as dessert.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Surviving on a latte and a cupcake

I'm not a person that ever forgets to eat. Eating and plans for further eating are usually at the very forefront of my mind. In fact I have a hard time understanding people that don't remember to feed themselves. But today was completely crazy and between everything I was doing, you guessed it, no food.

Fortunately my friend CupcakeGirl is awesome and amazing and she brought me not only a latte from Dean & Deluca, but also a Red Velvet cupcake. Ohhhh, red velvet.

At around 8:00pm I finally gave in (and dug in) to my cupcake. Let's just say, I will never leave one of these cupcakes lonely on my desk again. The cake was moist and had a nice hint of cocoa. The frosting was good and creamy, if a little rich. In face my only criticism is that it could use a little less frosting. (I can't believe I just suggested something--anything--could use less frosting).

In a couple of hours I'm headed for a business trip out west. Travel food reviews when I return!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blondie's St. Patty's Day Roundup

Sorry for taking so long, three rejections in 24 hours makes me eat leftover pieces of cake while watching General Hospital. But here I am to review Ladybird, and Dorie Greenspan's Linzer Cookies. I'm going to leave you waiting for that carrot cake and the story on those 3 Musketeers.

Like Brownie, I had heard and longed for a visit to Ladybird Bakery. Unlike Brownie, I never actually passed by and saw the deliciousness that lay within, you know, being from Queens and all. I have no idea why it took her so long. Here's my Ladybird run-down:

The clear winner was the vanilla cake.

It wasn't too sweet, and I thought the frosting was great, not greasy. I like whipped cream frosting better than buttercream. There was also a vanilla pastry cream filling inside that was very well executed. I'm going back to buy one of these. For myself. Yes, I roll like that.

In second place is Mr. Brooklyn Blackout. It was chocolate to the max. This would probably be great if it had a side of rich vanilla ice cream. And maybe some hot fudge. Mmmm. Next time I'm in one of my "chocolate, just give me chocolate" moods, I will think of this, ponder a trip to Park Slope, and depending on time of day and my waist size, follow through or not. Or maybe it'll go head-to-head with Two Little Red Hens' Blackout.

Next up was the chocolate sprinkle. At the end of the day, I like simple vanilla/chocolate pairings. I found the cake a little dry, but I would get it again. The frosting was very creamy and I liked it.

Latte Cupcake: Looked soo delicious. And then you opened it up to find a coffee ganache-esque filling. The coffee flavor was too overpowering for me, evidenced by my lack of even taking the chocolate in it. The yellow cake was moist, but I don't remember tasting the frosting. Keep in mind that I had this after the Blackout so my taste buds were a little off.

The marble cupcake's taste was very subtle. It wasn't overwhelming chocolate or vanilla. It was almost like a marble pound cake. My taste buds didn't know where to turn or what to taste. And no one likes confused taste buds. I did find this frosting a little on the greasy side.

Now, I only had an itty-bitty taste of the Emerald Velvet. Of what I tasted, I liked it. It was moist. Personally, I'm not the biggest velvet cake fan. Yes, I've had what's considered good, but any cake that NEEDS a strong frosting in order to taste good just doesn't seem worth it. Maybe when I buy my own personal little cake, I'll buy a velvet cupcake and re-review.

NOW, for the COOKIES!!! Dorie, if you're out there, these cookies were TIME-CONSUMING. Probs 5 hours of work, between grinding hazelnuts, and cutting cookies, and dipping chocolate. All in all, 7 batches went into the oven. In her recipe on Serious Eats, Dorie calls for a 375 oven and 11-13 minutes, but with my oven, it was more like 350 for 9 (notice the crispy edges on some). When I tasted the first batch, I thought "Either I've done something wrong or I've done something wrong. These are a bit dry." Then you dip them in chocolate and everything changes. They become wonderful vessels of chocolate-hazelnut goodness. Mmm, I think I need to experiment with using these and Nutella for a cookie sandwich. I would def. use this recipe when making a raspberry linzer cookie sandwich.

St. Patty's Day Cupcake Roundup

After hitting up Cucina & Co and Alice's Teacup last week, I thought I was off my cupcake kick, at least for a few days--I couldn't never really be off the cupcakes for more than a few days--but Sunday rolled around and an opportunity to test out the cupcake offerings of Ladybird Bakery presented itself and was just too good to pass up.

Full review and more delicious cupcake pics after the

Sunday afternoon Blondie came over for a little Palm Sunday/Pre-St. Patty's day luncheon. Who am I kidding? It was more like dinner by the time everyone assembled and I actually served. But anyway, Blondie has been perfecting her low fat carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, more on that from her later, and was planning on bringing it for dessert. I thought I was set on the treats front. Turned out more guests planned to come than anticipated so at the last minute Blondie and I set out on a treats obtaining mission and decided to hit up Ladybird Bakery in Brooklyn, formerly one of the branches of Two Little Red Hens.

I've often gazed longingly at Ladybird, but I've never sampled any of their goodies. Their cakes are stunning and fun. After the initial, "Mmmm, everything looks so delicious" stupor, Blondie and I decided on one small St. Patrick's Day themed vanilla cake with Buttercream frosting an filling and a selection of cupcakes. And what a selection they had!

After some deliberation we chose the Latte Cupcake, the Marble Cupcake, the St. Patty's Day Sprinkle Cupcake, the Brooklyn Blackout Cupcake and the Emerald Velvet cupcake. Emerald Velvet?! Yes, Emerald Velvet.

Apparently even the Red Velvet cake is Irish on St. Patty's day (or the day before as the case may be).

The Emerald Velvet proved to be the cupcake winner. The cake was moist and delicious, the frosting was sweet yet not over powering and bonus points for making them green yet calling them Emerald.

For me the Brooklyn Blackout cake was a close second. I love chocolate, and while I'm not a total chocoholic, this cupcake was to die for. Moist cake, rich chocolatey filling, with a thick dark chocolate frosting. What's not to love?! Blondie was a little more reserved. She liked the Brooklyn Blackout, but thinks it's a bit much and is only really good for if you are in a super chocolatey mood. I can appreciate that, but it's still a winner in my book.

The St. Patty's Day sprinkle cupcake was darling, but the cake was much more dry than the others and certainly not as tasty.

I really liked the Latte Cupcake and so did my husband, Lawman. The yellow cake was nice and moist and the filling was a rich chocolate with bold coffee accents. So good. Again, Blondie was not quite the fan. She felt the coffee was overpowering. But for someone like me with a latte problem, it would be a perfect treat.

The Marble Cake was eh. Not as good as the others. The cake was a bit dry and the frosting was more greasy than the original batch.

Of all the treats, cupcakes included and Blondie's carrot cake excluded, it was actually the little yellow cake that was the hit of the evening. My fam loved it's subtle sweetness and the moistness of the cake. Not to mention it was just darling to look at. For me the frosting here again was a bit greasy, it reminded me of the traditional Italian whipped cream frosting from my childhood that I grew up hating. Not to say that this little cake was bad, I did enjoy my taste, but if I were to analyze it critically, I'd say taste and texture wise the frosting didn't do it for me.

More cupcakes photos on our flickr. Tomorrow check back for more of a full review of the meal and of Blondie's recent baking adventures.

Monday, March 17, 2008

When Irish Stomachs are Smiling...

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Blondie and I started celebrating early yesterday with an assortment of St. Patty's day cupcakes from Ladybird Bakery in Brooklyn.

Full review of the cupcakes to come this evening. For now I'll leave you with some tantalizing photos of the Emerald Velvet cupcakes. Oh, yes...Emerald Velvet...

For more St. Patty's Day cupcakes check out
our flickr set, Cupcakes I Have Known and Loved.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cupcake Roundup: Alice's Teacup

I'm a big fan of tea at Alice's Teacup. They make a mean scone. Their cupcakes certainly look scrumptious, but how do they taste? Reviews and more pics after the .

Going to Alice's is always a treat. The shop is adorable. The people that work there are super nice. And when you get a scone to go, they offer you a little container of clotted cream and jam! Awesome.

When I arrived, they had an assortment of cupcakes: Banana Chocolate Cupcakes, Banana Blueberry Cupcakes, Black Bottom Cupcakes, Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, and Red Velvet Cupcakes. The Banana Chocolate Cupcakes had a tiny dot of frosting and Banana Blueberry Cupcake had no frosting whatsoever. Can a cupcake be a cupcake without frosting? Don't know about that...

After some deliberation I got a Black Bottom Cupcake, a Red Velvet and a classic Vanilla Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting to go.

While Alice's might not necessarily be as known for their cupcakes as some other NYC cupcakeries, they definitely know their cupcakes. I always worry about the post-purchase cupcake transit. There are few things as sad as smooshed frosting. But fear not! Alice's has your back. Their cupcakes come packed in special cupcake containers. Two cupcakes to a box. Special recessed cupcake holders. Nice. If I'm paying $2.50 a cupcake, it's nice to have the peace of mind that they will make it to their final destination in tact.

Yesterday was a cupcake eating kind of day so, after my post-work Cucina & Co Sugar Bomb with FinanceDude, I needed a little bit of a break and some savory sustenance, so I met up with my friend, Mr. Hungry, for a sushi dinner and then on to dessert.

First up: the Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Mr. Hungry and I were in total agreement. The frosting was excellent. Sweet, but not too sweet. The cake was pleasant but dry.

Next: the Red Velvet. The cake was much more moist than the Vanilla Cupcake and had a hint of lemon. When I make Red Velvet, I usually use vinegar to get the reaction with the baking soda. So the lemon accent was unexpected, but pleasant. Mr. Hungry and I both felt that the cream cheese frosting was a bit too sweet, but I did love the way that they piped it in a flower shape. Cute!

Last: the Black Bottom Cupcake. This was our hands down favorite. The chocolate cake was perfectly moist. And the cream cheese filling was perfectly sweetened. Not your traditional cupcake, but a real winner and I would definitely go back for it (and to sample the other cupcakes). Click for more cupcake pics.

Cookies on my brain

As many of you can see from my very first post and our Flickr, I made Robyn Lee's Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookie recipe on New Year's Day. I think I made them a bit tooo big, but they were delicious nonetheless. I am one of the many on the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Because I made these too big, they were a bit too crunchy for my taste, I prefer chewy. I promise to try these again soon, maybe combining this recipe with my absolute favorite, the Neiman Marcus Cookie, probably by adding some espresso powder into the mix.

Brownie has also brought up the possibilty of making some black and white cookies at some point. I have scoured the internets for a wonderful recipe and think I have a winner. It involves many ingredients and much waiting time, and I just have not been motivated to make them.

But this weekend is for the shamrocks and leprechauns. Preferably green ones. Last month, during that loving time of year aka Valentine's, the wonderful Dorie Greenspan posted this GORGE-ous thing and I said "Too bad I have no Valentine. I could make them for myself, but that's just selfish." So I kept the recipe in mind for an upcoming holiday. And folks it looks like I have one. Stopped by my fave store, NY Cake & Bake, picked up a four leaf clover cookie cutter and the forest green food coloring (and splurged on the 1/2 pound of Callebaut chocolate chips aka a little bag of heaven), and I will be going to it during the weekend. Unfortch, Mrs. Brownie will not be able to eat such things due to her nasty treenut allergy. Photos TK!

Cupcakes Revisited: A Round-Up of Cupcakes from Cucina & Co.

So today, to roll with the cupcake kick, I hit up Cucina & Co for a little taste test.

Located in the belly of Rock Center near the skating rink, Cucina & Co offers a terrific "happy hour" deal--1/2 price treats from 4:00-5:00pm! So I loaded up a box with a selection of interesting and different cupcakes. "Regular cupcakes," which include the Black & White Cupcake, and the Vanilla Creme-Filled Cupcake, are normally priced $2.50 and $1.25 at Happy Hour and "Special Cupcakes" the Vanilla and Chocolate frosted ones below with the Chocolate Crunchies on top are normally $3.00; $1.50 at Happy Hour, so the whole box below came to $5.50. Not too bad! These cupcakes are huge!

Cupcakes in hand I tracked down my friend FinanceDude for an after hours cupcake break. We split the cupcakes open to share and discovered that the Chocolate and Vanilla frosted ones had jam fillings. Intriguing...

The frosting was sugarlicious, in a very good way. And the crunchy chocolate candy topping was an inspired choice. Alas, the cake part didn't hold up. It was overly dry and not particularly flavorful and the jam filling was sugary and cloying.

The Black & White and the Vanilla Creme-Filled Cupcake didn't fair much better in terms of taste. Both cupcakes, while aesthetically pleasing, were dry and the frosting was meh--sugary ,but not satisfying.

FinanceDude and I agreed that the Chocolate Frosted Jam-Filled Vanilla Cupcake was the best of the four, but by no means a must-eat treat. FinanceDude perhaps put it best when he summed it up saying that these cupcakes weren't worth the caloric opportunity cost. FinanceDude's theory is if you're in the mood for a sugary snack and you can have anything in the known snacking universe, why would you waste your calories when superior substitute goods are readily available in your office vending machine? Point taken.

I say, while I might not be returning in the near future for a Cucina Cupcake, I wouldn't rule them out all together. Ok, it's not really a destination snack if you don't work in the Rock Center vicinity. But the price is certainly right at Happy Hour--did I mention that these cupcakes are HUGE?!--and if you need sugar bomb reminiscent of the supermarket bought cupcakes of your youth, Cucina will more that do in a pinch.

Check out our updated flickr set: Cupcakes I Have Known and Loved for more photos of the cupcakes from Cucina and a sneak peek of some of the cupcakes from Alice's Teacup that I'll be reviewing tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I will conquer you yet, yeast!

First off, so proud of my brownie and her pictures getting us attention. We're so not worthy of Cupcakes Take the Cake. LOVE THEM! Thanks guys. And Zach too! I was the one who discovered Midtown Lunch and quickly told EVERYONE in our old office. Some of you may be wondering why I have no pics. Well, I have no digital camera (edit-I do have my camera phone). It was on the list of 'Things to buy" but then I found myself unemployed. Once some lucky company/organization decides to take me on, I promise to go out and buy one. On with the show...

After my last failed experiment, I did some research on the effects of warmth and humidity on yeast. I probably shouldn't have chosen a cold and rainy day. In my defense, it was the first time I had ever opened a yeast packet. I have to learn somehow! So I waited until it was a bit warmer out, and drier. That happened a few days ago. The night before I took one of the frozen dough loaves out my freezer, placed it in the loaf pan for defrosting and hopefully rising. I was on such edges that I woke up at 2 and 4 in the morning to check my dough. I'm cuckoo like that. When I woke up in the morning, we had risen! Not as much as I'd like, but enough to make me smile. I preheated the oven, had some breakfast, went to move the loaf in the oven, and my slight movements managed to burst whatever yeast bubble inside! In seconds, we had deflated. Flat. Tears, people, tears and screams of "No! We were so well together!". I baked it just to have my apartment smell nice. Ate a few pieces with jam to soothe my soul. And damned yeast everywhere.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cupcakes, cupcakes, and more cupcakes!

Blondie has been ragging on me for my lack of post-age on our site, so here I am, at last!

I've been on a bit of a cupcake kick lately. Eating them. Photographing them. Eating them some more...Between bites, I was excited to see a couple of my cupcake photos show up on a two of my favorite food blogs. First some cupcakes I photographed at Cucina & Co in Rock Center turned up on Midtown Lunch, my go-to lunch idea blog. Then I got a message from Rachel at Cupcakes Take the Cakean awesome blog dedicated to all things cupcakethat she wanted to post a picture I took of the cupcakes at Alice's Teacup on the Upper West Side.

And just to prove to Blondie that I'm not a completely slackerly blogging buddy, here are some more of my cupcake photos for your viewing enjoyment.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a full review of the cupcakes from Alice's and a roundup of the cupcake offerings at Cucina!