Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Camera is Back!

Marty's Camera Repair

Oh, frabjous day! My beloved camera is back to health! I couldn't be happier and it's all thanks to Marty's Camera in Forest Hills, Queens...

A couple of weeks ago I dropped my camera in Grand Central. The impact screwed up the lens so it wouldn't retract and as a result the camera wouldn't turn on. Oh noes! I know from friends that digital cameras can be very difficult and very costly to repair. Often times it costs less to replace the camera than to fix the broken one. I love my camera. We've been through a lot together. Thousands of pictures. Hundreds of food adventures. I couldn't give up my friend without a fight, so I took my search to the internet to find the best place for the job. I stumbled onto a recent New York Magazine article that referenced Marty's Camera Repair in Queens. "Repair anything" and "well-executed" sounded pretty good to me and the Yelp reviews seemed to concur that Marty was the man for the job and he'd do it for much less than repair shops in Manhattan or the manufacturer.

Fortunately for me Marty's isn't that far from Lawman-in-law's place so he was kind enough to drop the camera off for me. Marty's serviced the camera quickly. I had it in hand for Thanksgiving Day and all of my photos from before the accident were still safely on the camera. Many turkey and pie photos were taken. Then I went to download the photos. Uh oh. My computer wasn't recognizing my camera. It was like my camera had amnesia and wasn't telling the computer who he was.

I called up Marty's and the gentleman told me to bring it in. One long F train ride later I popped up in Forest Hills. The gentleman took a look at my camera and asked me to leave it overnight so he could look at it. It sounded like the impact of the fall had messed up the circuitry for the USB connection. When I explained that I needed my photos (so I could blog about Thanksgiving!) and that I didn't have the proper adapter for my memory card, he graciously helped me download them to my computer using another camera. I left my camera with the assurance that he'd give me a call the next morning. On my walk back to the subway I got the call that he had fixed the camera. Hooray! No need for an extra trip.

The total cost of the repair for my lens was $120 (and he didn't charge to fix the USB issue). Very reasonable when you consider it would cost hundreds more to repair it in the city where they would most likely just toss my very good lens and likely replace it with one of a lesser quality. I hope that I don't have any camera trouble in the near future, but if and when I do, I know that I'm going to Marty's.

DSC00092

Marty’s Camera Repair
7125 Austin St., Ste. 203
Flushing, NY 11375
718-793-4666
Store hours: Monday through Friday 9:00am-6:00pm. Saturday 9:00am-2:00pm. Closed Sunday.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake

Slice of Caramel Cake

Six months ago I was perusing Tastespotting I was struck by all of these amazing cheesecake pops. Dozens of cheesecake pops each more fabulous than the next. Why was everyone making cheesecake pops? What was going on? Clicking through I discovered that these people were all members of a group called the Daring Bakers.

The Daring Bakers started in November of 2006 when Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice decided to challenge themselves by baking pretzels for the very first time using the same recipe. They each went ahead and posted about it. And it grew from there. Today there are thousands of Daring Bakers around the world who challenge themselves every month with a new recipe and this month I had the honor of serving as a co-host along with Dolores of Culinary Curiousity and Jenny of Foray into Food...

Being a relative newbie to the DBs, I was so excited when Dolores sent out the call for co-hosts. Planning our challenge was well, a challenge. After all, the Daring Bakers are spread throughout the world. We're talking both hemispheres here. Different things are in season. So much to consider. We just completed the fabulous October Pizza Challenge, so after that savory fix it seemed time for something sweet. When Dolores suggested Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake recipe I was totally sold. Bring on the sugah!

CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon as published on Bay Area Bites

FOR THE CAKE:
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt, and cream the mixture until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

FOR THE CARAMEL SYRUP:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

FOR THE CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING:

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Let me just say that this frosting is AMAZING. I was a little wary because as much as I go for sweet treats I don't like things to be overwhelmingly sweet. I took down the sugar a bit in the frosting as I usually do with this type of butter cream. Basically I just add and taste until it's sweet but not too sweet. The frosting recipe made a ton extra and it does keep very well and I'm pleased to say that I used it as a topping for apple cake (yum), carrot cake (double yum), and banana cupcakes (yum, yum, yum). I would definitely make it again.

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake


The cake was excellent as well. I was worried it might be too heavy, but it absolutely melted in my mouth. Recipe was straightforward though if you are unfamiliar with caramel I would highly recommend perusing David Lebovitz's Ten Tips for Making Caramel.

I can't wait to do the recipe again. I was hoping to have a chance to make the cake as cupcakes this month, but alas, the camera dropping incident happened. A cupcake version still begs to be made so stay tuned.

A Peek Inside the Caramel Cake


If you are up for an extra challenge try out this recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels. Perfect for gift giving!

GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS
from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Ingredients
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Equipment
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Procedure

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Variations

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

For gorgeous and creative takes on Caramel Cake and Caramels check out the DB's blogroll. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Daring Bakers! Here's to many more years of Daring Baking!
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Travels with Brownie: Seattle's Trophy Cupcakes

Cupcake and a Latte

Mmm. Post Thanksgiving food coma. While I'm figuring out what do to with my leftovers and deciding if I need another slice of Pear Gruyère Pie for lunch, let me share some deliciousness from Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle...

A couple of months back I took my very first trip to Seattle and cupcakes were high on my to do list. I had heard about Trophy Cupcakes when their Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcake was featured on Martha Stewart's Cupcake week. I wanted that cupcake sooo badly. Alas, they only feature it on their menu on Sundays and Mondays and I didn't get into town until late Monday night. Too late for Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes. Naturally I needed to console myself by tasting a selection of other available cupcakes when I did get over to Trophy and here's what I tried...

Trophy Cupcake Trio

I got the Chocolate Chip Mint Cupcake while my friends opted for the Lemon Coconut and the Chai Cardamon. We shared the cupcakes all around and each one was delicious. I'm not usually a coconut fan but the flavor here was delicate. I liked the toasted coconut on top. Yum!

Trophy's LemonCoconut Cupcake

The Chai Cardamon was also excellent. I love chai tea and I've been wanting to make my own chai cupcake for sometime. I hope when I do it turns out like this one. The cake and frosting were nicely spiced and neither was overly sweet and everything about this cupcake from the fancy flowery piping to the coordinating brown and white was just gorgeous. Definitely the type of cupcake that would make a really nice hostess gift.

Chai Cupcake from Trophy

The Chocolate Chip Mint Cupcake was hands down my favorite and that's saying a lot as I don't usually gravitate towards chocolate cake based cupcakes. This chocolate cake was a cut above. The cake was moist and super chocolatey. Rich and yet not heavy. And the mint frosting. Oh, the mint frosting. Perfection.

Trophy's ChocolateMint Cupcake

Take note that this cupcake trio is only available on Sundays and Wednesdays. Next time my travels take me to Seattle, I'll definitely make a return trip to Trophy (hopefully for that elusive Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcake...maybe you could make me some in the meantime, Blondie. Hint, hint...).

Coming from New York where it seems like everyone is selling cupcakes now, it was interesting for me to see how the two big cupcake players in Seattle have carved out a different niche for themselves. Cupcake Royale, which I also had a chance to visit, seems to primarily make vanilla or chocolate cupcakes with different flavored frostings to add variety (vanilla, chocolate, mocha, peppermint, orange, coconut, lemon, and lavender). They also make a carrot cake and a red velvet cupcake both with cream cheese frosting.

Cupcake Royale Kate Cupcake


The Kate Cupcake aka Chocolate Cupcake with Pink Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Lavendar Cuppycake


Vanilla Cupcake with Lavender Frosting

Trophy Cupcakes also works off that basic vanilla and chocolate base model offering five cupcakes that are available everyday: Chocolate Vanilla (chocolate cake and vanilla frosting), Triple Chocolate (chocolate cake and chocolate frosting), Vanilla Vanilla (vanilla cake and vanilla frosting), Vanilla Chocolate (Vanilla Cake and Chocolate Frosting), and Red Velvet, but they also do four to five special cupcakes of the day of which at least three are neither a chocolate or vanilla base--flavors like Hummingbird (banana pineapple coconut cake with a cream cheese frosting), Green Tea (green tea cake with a matcha frosting), and Lemon Strawberry (lemon cake with a strawberry buttercream).

Both stores had a distinctive look. Trophy Cupcakes has one location and goes for the sweet, cozy and charming with everything right down to the pretty teal packaging and the little boxes that perfectly hold one cupcake.

Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle

While Cupcake Royale has multiple locations and at least the Ballard Shop that I went to had more of a funky coffeehouse feel. The space was bigger and more open and there were people hanging out working on laptops enjoying the free wifi.

Seattle's Cupcake Royale

Cupcake Royale's packaging was also more in the funky/funny vein than sweet and charming. Their 1 dozen cupcakes box had cute instructions for the proper care and handling of a Cupcake Royale...

Cupcake Care Instructions

As for the cupcakes...

Trophy's Cupcakes


Based on my limited sample I have to give the edge to Trophy. I wouldn't turn up my nose at a cupcake from Cupcake Royale, but one of my favorite things about cupcakes is how versatile they are and I love the sound of all the unique cupcakes on Trophys' menu. And I love love loved the ones that I tasted. Speaking of unique cupcakes...looks like Trophy has some extra special ones on their menu for the holidays including: Chocolate Candy Cane, Bourbon Eggnog, Gingerbread Orange and perhaps the most intriguing...Candied Yam with Toasted Marshmalllow (a yam cupcake with pecans and traditional fall spices topped with toasted marshmallow meringue--ok, while I can't eat the pecans, it sounds FANTASTIC). Check their website for holiday cupcake availability. Oh, how I wish I were in Seattle...

Trophy Cupcakes
1815 N 45th St
Suite 209
(between N Burke Ave & N Wallingford Ave)
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-7020

For more Trophy Cupcake pics check out our flickr set.

Cupcake Royale
Ballard Location
2052 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 782-9557

Madrona Location
1101 34th Avenue
Seattle, WA, 98122
(206) 709-4497

West Seattle Location
4556 California Avenue SW
Seattle, WA, 98116
(206) 932-2971

For more Cupcake Royale pics check out our flickr.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Morning Cartoons: Happy Thanksgiving!!


Things I'm thankful for: cake, frosting, blueberries, cookies, alcohol, Shake Shack, macarons, and our readers!!
Brownie and I will be hard at work cooking and eating today, along with giving thanks and all that. Until we get over our food and/or drink hangovers, enjoy some Swedish Chef and his uncle. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! jump

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Whole Family will Know About SSS

Box o' cake
Last week, Blondie for Realz and her older sis visited for exactly 45 hours during which I decided to introduce them to my favorite bakery, Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Lucky for me, both times I stopped by in that 45 hours period, SSS had some new goods to try. Yay for new desserts, or one I haven't eaten before!

Pumpkin Trifle
The night I stopped by with my lovely fam, they chose the banana pudding (they loved) and Sunshine cupcake (they loved even more), while I went with the pumpkin trifle: layers of pumpkin cake, eggnog pudding, and whipped cream. I'm not a big fan of eggnog; I love custards, I love milkshakes, but not eggnog, so I was prepared to not be a fan of the eggnog pudding. Thankfully, I ended up being wrong. The eggnog flavoring isn't that strong so it doesn't overpower the moist and spicy pumpkin cake. Mixed in with the whipped cream, it is absolutely one of the most delicious, comfort dessert I have ever had. I very nearly ate the entire cup, even though we had just had a huge dinner.

Coconut Cupcake
Meanwhile, Blondie for Realz was falling in love with the Sunshine cupcake and openly wondered if a box would survive the trip home. Seeing as this was in the first 24 hours of their stay, I volunteered to make a return trip the following evening to pick up a box for her. When I made it back to SSS, they had two specials, Coconut Cloud and Orange Cream Cheese! Of course, I had to get my own box of cupcakes. I picked up those two along with a pumpkin and pistachio. The coconut is really a cloud, very light, fluffy, and moist with the meringue frosting making a perfect complement. It made me think that I might be liking coconut.

Orange Cream Cheese Cupcake
Unfortunately, the orange cream cheese was a fail. The cake was too dense and the orange tasted very sour and acidic. There is orange pulp in it, so they do use real orange, not just extract, but there was just something wrong. It did not taste like Florida.

Pumpkin Cupcake
Their pumpkin cupcake is still one of the best in the city, moist and spicy, just like the pumpkin cake in the trifle. SSS allows the tang of cream cheese to come through, instead of overpowering it with sugar like some bakeries, which makes for an excellent frosting in my book.

Pistachio Cupcake

Lastly, this was my first pistachio cupcake ever. I don't know why I've always passed it over seeing as I will down entire bags of pistachios if allowed. I absolutely loved this cupcake, it is light, fluffy, and full of pistachio flavor. Delicious.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

126 Rivington Street
(212) 995-1960
www.sugarsweetsunshine.com
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekend Desserts: Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin
Two weekends ago, not only did I make pumpkin ravioli, I decided to try my hand at a tarte Tatin, a favorite fall dessert of mine. First things first, I've officially given up on my 10" circle pan. Its whereabouts have been unknown for months now and this has led me to either squish cakes into 9" or going rectangular.

After searching through various recipes, I decided to test Chocolate & Zucchini's recipe for Tarte Tatin Caramel au Beurre Salé or Tarte Tatin with Salted Butter Caramel. The dough came together quite nicely and is fairly easy to roll out. My problems happened after.

Melting brown sugar
Any recent attempts on making caramel have not been going well, either it gets too hot and goes hard, or I burn the sugar. With this recipe, I burned two batches and very nearly ruined the third. When you transfer the caramel to a cold pan, it immediately seizes up and becomes rock hard, not conducive for spreading around. Some quick thinking led me to place the pan on the still hot burners (I use gas) to slightly heat up the caramel, making it more pliable. After placing the apples and dough on top, it is time for baking or making your house smell like caramel apple delciousness.

Tarte Tatin Caramel au Beurre Salé
Though the tarte didn't come out exactly as I would have liked, the crust was crunchy than I like, and I didn't make a 'true' Tarte Tatin since it wasn't done on a stove top with a cast-iron pan, but my family and I did enjoy it. Next time, I may take it out of the oven and flip a little sooner in order for the juices to soften the crust a bit. Or I could try my hand at the stove top variety.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

I Got a Smile Out of the Dessert Truck

Bomboloni
Last Friday, I wanted a little something something, a little sweet ending to my lunch. But it was cold out, and I don't like being in the cold, much less wandering around in it searching for a little sweet treat. Fortunately, I remembered that the Dessert Truck was nearby, and that they were selling pomegranate macarons for a limited time only.

I'm not typically a fan of spending $3 on three bitty macarons, but some of the proceeds were going to go to City Harvest and I didn't feel like eating a cupcake, so what else was there? I know you like my rationalization. I completely disregarded all other dessert options in the immediate area and went to the Dessert Truck. Upon arriving 5 minutes later, I found out that all was not right with the world. 1) there were no more macarons and 2) one of the Dessert Truck men was actually in a good mood and smiling.

Warm Delicious Bomboloni
Let me that back up for you. Every time I've been to the Dessert Truck, I noticed one key thing lacking and it wasn't reasonable prices, it was an iota of a smile. Click here to see how scary this can be. Maybe I just always hit them at the wrong time? Whatever it was, it became a detriment to my experience. Now on Friday, after realizing no macarons were in my near future, I decided to try the bomboloni. Too bad I couldn't say it, and as I tried, Chris Chen smiled and even sort of tiny laughed. As if that wasn't odd enough, something even weirder happened. I liked the Bomboloni. They were cinnamony, warm, gooey and the vanilla cream wonderfully spilled out in between bites. I wasn't even bothered by my slowly freezing hands or the fact that I just spent $5 on three two-bite Bombolini. I got a smile out of one of the Dessert Truck guys, and then I really, really liked the dessert. Yes, Brownie knew of these developments within moments. The tide may just have turned in our relationship...

Dessert Truck

Daytime: Park Avenue at 52nd Street
Nightime: St. Marks at 3rd Avenue
www.desserttruck.com
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons: I'm Winter and I'm Cold



My hot chocolate at Shake Shack earlier this week was my first hot chocolate of the season. Winter has made his grand entrance and I don't like it one bit. Snow and I are not friends. Today, I plan on doing a lot of snuggling under covers, baking, and staying indoors. Brrrr!! jump

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rock the Vote! (Please!)

Cup Pies!-1

I entered my Pear Gruyère Pie in the 2008 Best Pie Contest over at the most excellent food and cooking blog, The Kitchn. The judges are tallying up the votes right NOW! If you are a Kitchn reader, lover of pie, lover of cheese, and/or lover of me, please show entry #26 (aka my Pear Gruyère Pie) some love...

Cup Pies!


To view all the entries, click here. Warning: If you don't already have an Apartment Therapy account, you will need to sign up in order to vote!

Judging runs through Saturday, November 22 (TOMORROW!!) at 12 noon. Get out the vote!
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Warming up with Sun Dubu Jigae from Woo Chon

Banchan!

I heart Korean food. If it were socially acceptable I would eat Kimchi with every meal. Alas, Korean food generally doesn't come cheap, so I generally stick to Woorijip for my fix, but lately I've been eager to branch out and try some new places to get more of a sit down experience. And who am I kidding, I can't resist the allure of banchan, the assorted little side dishes that accompany a more formal Korean meal. After reading a number of the good reviews on Yelp I decided to check Woo Chon out and see if their free appetizer coupon really worked...

I headed out to Woo Chon with one of my good friends. We were both impressed with the menu and the number of lunch options under $10. The banchan was very tasty. Mmm. Banchan. I noticed a gentleman dining alone at a table nearby and it was nice to see that he got ample banchan as well. Since it was just the two of use we didn't have a chance to try a ton of stuff, but what we did try was delicious. The Sun Dubu Jigae ("soft silken tofu and seafood stewed in a spicy clam broth") was warming and filling. A giant shrimp and a clam still in its shell were spotted in my bowrl. Banchan and soup, the perfect combo for a cold fall day.

Sun Dubu Jigae

We had a little trouble getting the Yelp coupon for a free appetizer to work. First our waiter said he wasn't familiar with the deal. Then he told us it was only for dinner. Looking at the terms the coupon does say that it's for all day long if you order an entree, which we did. My friend brought this up with him in Korean, he spoke to his boss and then relented. The pancake was small but it was free and free is always good. Especially because kimchi pancakes don't come cheap--menupages lists the "small" kimchi pancake as $11.95.

Free Kimchee Pancake

With the weather getting colder, I'd definitely recommend warming up with a soup or stew from Woo Chon. I hope to make a return trip soon. If you do go, don't forget to bring your coupon!


Woo Chon

10 W 36th St
New York 10018
Between 5th & 6th Ave
Phone: 212-695-0676
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Custard in One Hand, Hot Chocolate in the Other

Big Dig
On November 1st, Shake Shack Mad Square Park was supposed to be fully equipped for winter with outdoor heaters. Winter obviously didn't wait for them. As of last night, they were still without and had no idea when the heaters would be fully installed. Wait, did you think a little 15° wind chill and frozen extremities would stop me from my ultimate Sisyphean custard goal of trying all the flavors? Yeah, I did.

The November Custard Calendar saw a repeat of October's Monday flavor, Pumpkin Spice. That means a day off for me and one less photo to look at for you.

Tuesday Mulled Chocolate
Tuesday-"Mulled" Chocolate
The "mulled" aspect turns a regular chocolate custard into a spicy chocolate, similar to Mexican chocolate. Brownie thought it tastes like "chocolate mixed with gingerbread."

Wednesday Apple Cider Custard
Wednesday-Apple Cider
This tastes spot on: tart, tangy, and exactly like the apple cider I buy at farmer's markets.

Thursday Custard
Thursday-Cranberry
At first bite, very sweet and tart, but then the cranberry flavor would disappear leaving behind the egg flavor. That made it all taste like a cranberry omelette.

Friday Buttermilk Rum Raisin
Friday-Buttermilk Rum Raisin
I thought the buttermilk would make this tangier than it is. On the flip side, there is more rum and raisins than I anticipated, a happy surprise. It reminded me of rum cake, and transported me to John Smith's Bay.

Biscotti Chunk
Saturday-Biscotti
Oh man, another spot on custard, this one even includes real chunks of almond biscotti. Delicious.

Sunday Almond Quince
Sunday-Almond Quince
In my cup, the almond flavor, though very present at the end of a bite, was overwhelmed by the quince. The amount of quince made this a bit too cloying for me. The custard though is a beautiful shade of pink peach with little pink seeds.

IMG_1652
The Shack did make up for the lack of heaters by offering hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow topping. It is very similar to drinking chocolate in thickness, but it's fluffy. Brownie and I both thought we were still drinking the topping, then we realized 3/4s of our cup was gone.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park & 366 Columbus Avenue
www.shakeshacknyc.com
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Murray's Cheese Bomb Shelter

Cave of Cheeses
Prior to visiting Amy's Bread, that group of friends and I had been underground, taking the $10, half hour Murray's Cheese Cave tour. And yes, it is everything you think it is, except the dark, damp cave part.

Rack of Cheese
Have you noticed my love affair with Murray's? When Moniker and her hubby, Loc Dog, proposed finally taking the cave tour, I was in. I didn't really know what to expect, but I didn't think it would be a true cave being in Manhattan and all. Murray's wonderful affineur, Zoe Brickley, leads the tours through her underground domain.

Cave Door
Underneath the store, there are four big, humidity and temperature controlled caves along with one huge walk-in refrigerator, all full of cheese. Each cave has its own purpose, one is for younger cheeses, one for washed rind, another for harder, older cheeses.

Rack of Washed Rind Cheese
All of us found it really interesting to see how the different cheeses are stored and nurtured prior to sale; for instance, for the bloomy cheeses someone has to pat down the mold 'bloom' every few days while turning, and they're kept on straw mats so that no side goes completely flat leading the rind to develop unevenly. Zoe also gives you a few history lessons, like why is Valencay's rind ashy? See, you didn't even know that you wanted to know that. I think Zoe might have one of the best jobs in Manhattan.

Washed Rind Cheese
Washed Rind Cheeses

Older Cheese
One of the hard cheeses, I'm not sure which one

Cheese table
You get to see the tools used by an affineur; I always did wonder how they cut 80-pound wheels. Though our tour was only supposed to be for a half-hour, it ended up going on for a hour and we were so glad it did. The best part, she lets you sample a few of the cheeses you're looking at, one of which was the Scharfe Maxx which would work perfectly well in an impromptu sandwich at Grand Central Terminal.

I'm not sure when they're doing cave tours again; it's usually one Saturday a month, but they may skip it for the holidays. In any case, click here for more information on the caves and cave days. Tonight is actually their first Beer Pairing 101 class and I'm so mad I'm not going. Fingers crossed that they do that again. For all classes at Murray's, click here. Lastly, for Zoe's blog, click here.

Murray's Cheese
254 Bleecker Street (south end of Cornelia Street)
(888) MY-CHEEZ or (212) 243-3289
www.murrayscheese.com
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Camera Accident

My beloved camera had an unfortunate accident this past weekend. It fell from one of the high tables on the lower level at Grand Central. I didn't really think anything of it at the time, other than "Argh!" Unfortunately when I got home I discovered that all was not well...

The fall shattered the UV lens. The camera won't turn on without an error message and the regular lens won't retract. Yikes. I've sent it off to the camera doctor and hopefully I'll hear back tomorrow about the estimate. I feel like I'm missing my arm. Not to mention all the pictures I took this weekend and couldn't upload. Thankfully, Blondie's camera is in fine shape and she's has been documenting all sorts of deliciousness this past week.

I suppose there is a silver lining...I do have bunches of photos I've been meaning to blog about, so there will be plenty of posts from me while my camera is in the shop. And Blondie will be happy that I'm clearing out our archives. I'll keep you posted as things progress. Think happy thoughts for my camera!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blondie is Full of Cake

Durso's Red Velvet Cake
I love cake. I love little cakes. I love big cakes. I love tiered cakes. I love cupcakes. I love cake in a house. I love cake with a mouse. I ate two cakes in the past weeks that you should know about.

Inside Durso's Red Velvet Cake
Cake numero uno is from Durso's. When I picked up the pasta sheets for my ravioli, I just happened to go near their small dessert case. It doesn't hold anything mind-blowing, just great classic desserts. The day I picked up the sheets also happened to be the day we were celebrating Silly's birthday and, like the awesome friend I am, I picked her up a little treat, a mini red velvet cake. Until then, I never had the chance to taste their red velvet, but I knew it had to be good and it is. The cake is moist, rich, a little crumbly, and has a subtle cocoa taste. The cream cheese frosting is more on the tangy than sweet side. Delicious and perfect for a little treat. Don't worry Brownie, I'll bring you one soon.

Amy's Bread Black & White Cake
Cake nombre deux is the black and white cake from Amy's Bread. Last Saturday, a group of us fell into the Greenwich Village location during one of the rainstorms. Originally, I was going to abstain from sweets (I was still carrying around the Momofuku goodies), but Moniker's hubby convinced me to split a slice of Amy's black & white cake with him. I believe he said something along the lines of "you know you want it. it's calling your name." Though I might be imagining that. This is a no-joke slice of cake. The thing is at least a pound and 5 inches tall; I wanted to take a picture with it standing up, but that was impossible. This cake was all sorts of crazy good; rich and moist dark chocolate cake covered with Amy's sweet vanilla buttercream frosting. Nothing survived.

Durso's
189-01 Crocheron Avenue
Flushing, NY
(718) 358-1311
dursos.com

Amy's Bread
3 Locations in Manhattan
www.amysbread.com
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