Friday, April 25, 2014

Help the Cinnamon Snail Get Back on the Streets

Our pals at the Cinnamon Snail are having some truck troubles. Their old truck has permitting issues (if there's one thing we learned about NYC street food from writing our book it's how much insane red tape there is for vendors) and is prone to breaking down. They just renovated a new kitchen in Brooklyn and need help getting a second truck so they can get back on the road...

Chef Adam Sobel, founder of the Cinnamon Snail, is one of the kindest (and zaniest) guys you'll ever meet. Their doughnuts are among the BEST you'll ever taste. Their food will make even avowed carnivores stop and think, huh, maybe I could be vegan.

Here's the thing about the food business. The margins are low. Especially when you use top of the line and organic ingredients (did you know they event fry their doughnuts in organic oil?!) If you don't know the Snail, make a point to get to know their awesome food. Check out their Kickstarter for the full details and if you're able, consider making a pledge. They have just THREE days left for their project to be funded and about 20k left to go. There are some pretty sweet rewards--doughnuts, cooking classes and more. I'm pledging. How about you?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Prize Pies' Banoffee Pie with a Crunchy Twist


About a year ago, I was introduced to Banoffee pie and it immediately claimed a spot on my favorites list. But I didn't realize how unbelievable easy it is to make until this past weekend when I experimented with First Prize Pies' recipe! Allison Kave's book just came out and it's filled with seasonal pie recipes, Banoffee being one to whip up in the summer, and you should check it out if you're a big pie fan, but totally don't want to just make plain fruit pies. But back to my pie which was described as "a cloud of orgasm"....

I was experimenting with pie because I was really experimenting with Quadratini wafers. Loacker is currently running a Pinterest contest involving recipes made with their little wafers and I'm in it!! So, with my gratis bags of wafers--one each of chocolate, vanilla and lemon--I set out to form a recipe. Except I am not in a place in my semester to really invest hours in the kitchen and after I saw the recipe for Banoffee in the book, I *really* wanted to make it.

With Crumble
Banoffee is traditionally made with whole wheat digestive cookies, but we don't have those in my neighborhood meaning honey graham crackers got subbed in for the crust. Following that is a layer of dulce de leche--I did the can boiled in water method. Then slices of banana, a layer of chocolate wafer crumble, and homemade whipped cream. And that's it. Well, except for the little decoration on top. But really, that's it! If you have dulce de leche already made, this entire pie takes about a half hour to 45 minutes to pull together and doesn't involve rolling anything out. And really, who actually likes regular crust more than cookie crust?

Finished pie

Banoffee Pie with Chocolate Wafers
Makes one 9-inch pie
Time: ~30 minutes active unless you have to make the dulce de leche

14 oz. dulce de leche
3 bananas
1 1/2 c. Loacker Chocolate Quadratini, crumbled
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 graham cracker crust

To make dulce de leche, submerge an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk--label off!--in a deep pot of water, making sure that the water fully covers the can. Cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Once there, turn down heat to medium or enough to allow for a rolling boil, and boil for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours. When done, turn off heat and let the water and can fully cool. (I did all of this the night before, leaving the water and can to cool overnight.)

Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Make your favorite graham cracker crust and place in oven for 15 minutes to set. Allow to cool. While doing this, I hand crumbled the Quadratini in a plastic bag, breaking them into small chunks.

Once everything's cool and ready, make the whipped cream. Place the heavy cream in a middle mixing bowl and whip using a hand mixer or whisk until stiff peaks form, about a few minutes of whipping. Now, spread the dulce de leche into the crust. Slice the bananas on top of the dulce de leche. Place the layer of wafer crumbles, and then dollop all the whipped cream on top. Decorate with more crumbles, chocolate shavings or a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve immediately.

About this contest. It's all happening over on Pinterest where I've finally created an account. The recipes that are pinned the most make it into the final round. Judges then determine a winner--who will win a $1000 Amex Gift Card! That's a lot of pie crusts! So, please go repin me with the #PureIngredients! Also, you can head over to their Facebook and get a $1 off coupon for your own wafers (and seriously, this is one of those cookies where you eat the whole bag in one sitting.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Headed to Seattle . . . Where Should I Eat?

Seattle's Crumpet Shop
Friends, I'm off to Seattle this week and so excited to stuff myself silly on the left coast. I already have plans to hit Skillet and Hot Cakes. And I'm hoping to squeeze in a visit to The Crumpet Shop because, um, crumpets are awesome and delicious and I haven't had them fresh baked anywhere else ever. But...I'm always open to suggestion. So...where else should I go?

Last time I visited Seattle was in the fall of 2008. I hit Pike Place Market, Cupcake Royale, and Trophy Cupcakes. This trip I'll be visiting for a few days but will be working for a good chunk of that time, so I want to make those meals, snacks, treats, and COFFEEEEEEEEE count. If you're a reader, you know I love doughnuts, pie, hot and cold caffeinated beverages, and basically anything that's delicious. Tell me where to go and perhaps most importantly, tell me what to sock away in my suitcase for the trip home.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Day at Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury!

At the ChocoBanana
I told you I'd be back on Monday!! So the second day with the Ben & Jerry's crew in Vermont involved a quick visit to St. Albans Cooperative Creamery to discuss their continued efforts to buy milk and cream from local Vermont farmers only as a part of their Caring Dairy program. Afterwards, we headed to Waterbury and the factory!

The current flavors
Tours at the Waterbury factory are totally free and open to the public, so this is part of my trip that you can do yourself. The place is all about ice cream, right down to a collection of antique scoops. When your tour is finished, you allowed to try a few scoops of the day's experimental flavor (that's the ice cream up at the top,) ours was "At the ChocoBanana" banana-cinnamon ice cream with brown sugar caramel swirls and milk chocolate chunks. If anyone wants to recreate this in my life, I will gladly help with taste testing.

The Cores!!
Following a quick snowshoeing adventure (my first!), our group finally got to taste the new Cores flavors. If you haven't heard of these, each flavor has one or two different flavor ice creams with a soft "core" so you can add as little or as much as you want to your scoop. Part of the thought process behind the Cores was that the B&J team knows their fans really like eating straight out of the pint, so why not include a little topping?

Testing Cores
These are cut open regularly as well to see how the cores are coming through. They had to look towards sausage-making tools to find a way to bring this dream to life. Of course, cutting open of pints meant tasting because we couldn't just let ice cream go to waste.

Aftermath of Cores Tasting
I had thought the Peanut Butter Fudge (chocolate & peanut butter ice creams with mini peanut butter cups and a peanut butter fudge core) or the Hazed & Confused (chocolate & hazelnut ice creams with fudge chips and a hazelnut fudge core) would be my favorites since they both have things I love. But That's My Jam (chocolate & raspberry ice creams with fudge chops and a raspberry core) actually came out on top for me! The raspberry isn't too sweet or overwhelming and paired well with the chocolate. Of course, my bodega keeps selling out of Cores, so I haven't been able to have my own pint!

Flavor Graveyard
Our way out included a quick stop to pay our respects at the Flavor Graveyard. I still think they should do a zombie promotion where old flavors come to life for a limited time, mainly because I want to try Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Wild Maine Blueberry.

Ben AND Jerry!!
And the whole trip ended with a quick talk with the men themselves, Ben & Jerry! They chatted about the company and what they're up to now, before leaving us to enjoy dinner.

If you are looking to taking this trip or simply visiting the Burlington area, I highly recommend staying at Hotel Vermont (the communal tea & coffee areas were so great *and* fancy bathrooms!) and eating at The Kitchen Table, Hen of the Wood, Penny Cluse, and The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. All are serving some great food and drinks, but are not pretentious about it.

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to the entire Ben & Jerry's team for everything. They do this trip for a select  few food bloggers and writers and they really know how to host a big group. They are awesome! Now, go get your free cone tomorrow!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Free Cone Day is Coming!!!

A little over a month ago, I received one of the best emails of my life: would I like to go to Burlington, Vermont for three days to hang with the Ben & Jerry's crew? "UH, YEA!" was my exact response. Our love of Ben & Jerry's (and ice cream in general) is well documented and going to the Waterbury factory was on my bucket list anyway, so why not?! Here's what went on during the trip and information about Free Cone Day!!

The office slide!
The group of us spent the first day at the corporate office and yes, there were "slide breaks." After I don't know how many years of not going down slides, I forgot how scary twirly enclosed slides are, but also how much fun. I went three times.

Cutting open Milk & Cookeis
We also found out that they really do pick up pints from random locations and check to see how the chunks are being distributed IRL. Then the pints are left out for eating and I am never turning down my third favorite flavor.

The office freezer!
And yes, there is a freezer full of pints for the taking because three pints a day is not a joke benefit. It's very, very real.

But the BEST part was breaking up into teams and making our own flavors. My team, "Team New York," made one using coffee liqueur, chocolate chunks, chocolate covered almonds and a fudge swirl.

Then came deliberations and oh my goodness, it was so nerve wracking. They took a long time, people were summoned in, what was going on?!?!?! The problem was TWO of the flavors were so good, there was a tie and yes, friends, ours was one of them!! To win meant a scoop party!! I finally get the ice cream party I always dreamed of as a kid! Somewhere up above, my dad is so proud of me and our shared love of ice cream!

And holy baloney, this post is getting long and I'm still on day one, so day two is coming on Monday (I super extra bonus promise and yes, it involves the new Cores flavors) but what you want to know is WHEN IS CONE DAY?!?! It's TUESDAY!! Yes, this Tuesday, April 8th, almost every Ben & Jerry's will be giving out free ice cream and this year the goal is 1 MILLION cones in the US alone. People, I know we can fall on this sword to make Ben & Jerry--my best friends in my mind--happy. We can do this!