Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eating my way around NYC, one cookie at a time

NYC! My sister and her husband moved up to NYC this summer, and I finally had the chance to visit them. It all started when we were lucky enough to win tickets to the Martha Stewart Show. A lifelong, and I know lame dream of mine. : ) I figured while I was up there I should do a bakery tour of the city and try out some of these infamous bakeries I hear so much about all the time. I thought I would hate the city, with its over crowded streets, dirty subways, and over priced activities...but no...I LOVED IT! The people were super friendly, the subway wasn't all that bad, and I really enjoyed my time there. My sister is a human GPS and was great at navigating us around the city as we bakery hopped. She is not a sweets person, so I have to apologize to her for making cookies our main sustenance for the week. So here it is folks...my journal of what I ate that one awesome week I spent in NYC.

Front row seats at Martha BABY!

Hum...what exactly are we eating here? Still not sure what it was.
A dark chill followed us as we wandered aimlessly around the city searching for nourishment. Then suddenly a bright light emerged from the darkness. The warm, white, and clean restaurant called our names like a hypnotic melody from the past. We were quickly lured in by the fragrant Italian dishes that filled our senses. Say what? Hum yeah, basically we ate at Mario Batalli's new restaurant. For $60 we got two small, uber thin, not so special pizzas and one really nasty creepy looking antipasto salad. Never again. We were however seated next to a famous cookie blogger and cookbook author that I recognized, Bakerella. I introduced myself, she laughed and said nothing. I don't like her stuff anyways. Take that famous lady with bad food. : )

I love the name of this place. Mostly because I really wanted to eat one of their famous brownies and say, "what a wicked brownie." Besides the cute logo and clever marketing this place really didn't have much to write home about. I saved my two brownies for an end of the long sight seeing day treat...but ended up tricked...haha get it? : ) These brownies were boring and tasteless. How on earth did they become famous?

This place wasn't originally on my list of places to visit, but it was right next store to Fat Witch in Chelsea Market so we stopped in. This was a lovely bakery. You walk in and are instantly intoxicated by the smell of yummy freshly baked bread. The back and side wall of the bakery is covered with baskets upon baskets of crusty loaves. We got a French Baguette, and a Raisin/Walnut/Wheat Breakfast twist. The Baguette was decent, but the breakfast twist was d-licious!


My poor sister. I am such a pain to eat with. I refuse to eat at chain restaurants when I travel, and I take forever to decide where I want to eat. We walked up and down Chelsea Market about 5 times before I finally decided that we should eat here. Well worth the wait! We shared a large pulled pork sandwich with pickled red onions, a medium sized fresh green salad with vinaigrette, a large order of heavenly sweet potato fries, and 1 glass of red wine. All for $20! This place uses fresh local seasonal ingredients, and change their menu accordingly. If I ever visit NYC again I am definitely stopping by...and this time I am getting my own sandwich. : ) I want those fries everyday for lunch...they were out of this world!

Magnolia Bakery: FAIL PRICE:HIGH TASTE:TOO SWEET, put your dentist on speed dial.

This place is famous. Lord knows why. People are always talking about Magnolia Bakery on food blogs, magazines, and tv shows. So naturally I wanted to stop by and test out some of their items. The location is great and the general set up is inviting. I sat there looking at their pastry case for quiet some time. Mostly because I was unimpressed and couldn't decide if I should actually spend money on items that didn't look appealing. Nothing was calling my name, so I finally decided upon a chocolate chunk Blondie. What a let down. This bar was waxy tasting, corn syrupy, and way too sweet. I hope this Blondie doesn't represent all their items accurately.


After having so much fun at the Martha Stewart Show we decided we were going to try and get into another show. My sister is a fan of the Regis and Kelly show so we woke up super early and went and stood in the stand by line at the show from 7am-9am. Everyone who worked there kept telling us the chances looked good. So we waited. We saw the hosts and guests walk in. We waited. We saw the audience walk in and be seated. Still we waited. We saw the doors close. We waited. Then we saw the show on the TV screen come on and we knew we hadn't made it in. Darn it all! So tired, cold, and starving we started walking in hopes of finding a nice hot breakfast. We saw this place and they had a good crowd so we grabbed a table. I guess it was more like we crawled and bumped our way to a table, talk about too many table in a tiny space! The fresh squeezed orange juice was refreshing and made me feel healthy. The sausage potato fritatta was cold and tasteless. The bread was nice and crispy with some decent jam. The restaurant had a great view and for $20 bucks for the both of us it wasn't too bad...but I wouldn't go back.

Levain: MAJOR PASS PRICE:HIGH BUT WORTH IT TASTE:If heaven was a flavor this would be it!
I heart Levain Bakery. What I love about this place is they are honest. There are no gimmicks, barely any marketing, their product speaks and sells itself. Pure honest to goodness awesome pastry! This place was a little hole in the wall on a back street. We circled the block a few times before finding it. There was barely room for 5 customers to stand in line. Looked like a bakery you would find in France. Their pastry case only had a few options, a few breads, cookies, and scones. I loved that I had limited options, and couldn't decide, but this time because everything looked AMAZING! Way to be Levain Bakery, I am coming back soon! I got the chocolate chip walnut cookie, $4, but it was a mother huge cookie. My sister got a cinnamon butter brioche stick, it was light, and perfectly sweet. Here is a video about their famous cookie.

This place is also popular among foodie gatherings, so I searched it out and found it. I went to one of it's branch locations called, "Birdbath". I thought the display idea was cool, little shelves on the back wall piled high with cookies. I got an oatmeal raisin cookie that looked pretty and tasted good. However, I like chewy cookies and this cookie was flat and crisp. That being said, next time I go I am going to try what they are famous for, their pretzel croissant.

Grey Dog Cafe: WAY PASS PRICE:PERFECT TASTE:EXCELLENTAfter a long day of waiting in line for Regis and Kelly, walking through Central Park, and eating lots of cookies we meandered over to Greenwich Village. We searched and searched for a decent looking non-Italian restaurant. After walking down what seemed to be a million streets we finally stumbled upon this place. It was small, urban looking, and hip. The staff was friendly, the room was warm, and the food was comforting to our weary souls. We once again shared a pulled pork sandwich, Greek salad, and a split pea soup. The sandwich was good, but Friedman's was better. The salad was awesome, and the soup was nice and light. They had some really good looking slab pies and brownies I just couldn't bring myself to eat any more sugar at that point. Next time I am in town I will go back and save room for dessert.

Mr. Chocolate own this place so I felt it was my duty as a lifelong pastry student to stop by. The shop was very chain feeling, which it is. The staff was pushy and rude. The cookie was expensive and too sweet. The chip to dough ratio was insanely off. The cookie was all chocolate and no dough. Could I get a little dough with my chocolate please? Way over rated, never going back...sorry Mr. Chocolate.

There were many other places I wanted to go visit, but alas we ran out of time. One day I will visit again, and when I do I plan on going to these places: Kitchenette, Balthazars, Locanda Verde, Momofuko Milk Bar, Tall grass burgers, Ma Peche, Mamasuns, Pomme Frites, Arepa Bar, Palino Salsiccia, Cafe Orlin, Mud, and Butter Lane.

My NYC visit ended perfectly with a last minute small casual Josh Groban concert at City Hall. What an incredible singer, and such a nice guy. He said he walks in Central Park all the time so my sister is going to stalk him and ask him if she can be his Personal Assistant, and then ask him to marry me. I will bake him cookies, he will sing, and together we will live a sweet musical life. The end.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Where did I go?

Mom and her Mom

Death is a funny thing. There is so much sadness surrounding it, yet so much joy. My Grandmother, Mama, passed away suddenly last week. She lived a hard life filled with physical and mental illness, but because of her so much love exists. She had a heart as big as the grand canyon, and tried to love everyone she met in her own way. I have her to thank for my creative mind, and love of writing. I was sad to see her go, but happy knowing that she is finally at peace in heaven. The days surrounding Thanksgiving were spent with family, and friends of the family. It was great reconnecting with all the cousins and relatives again. It had been a long time since the whole family had been in the same room together, and I know Mama would have been over joyed to see the family reunited. RIP Mama, have fun bowling with the angels!

Needless to say this has been an exhausting 2 weeks for me. I traveled North for 1 week to visit my sisters, then returned home and somehow filled all 40 of my Thanksgiving pie orders, then got the call about my Grandma, hopped in a car and spent 5 days in Louisiana with the family. I have been ignoring sleep for too long now, and after looking at pictures from the last few days I see it has taken its toll on me. Sleep, how I missed you.

I promise to post my NYC bakery tour details soon! It was so much fun!!! Thanks to all of you who ordered pies, I hope you enjoyed them!

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Cookie Winner!!!

Hey folks thanks for participating in my first cookie contest! I love hearing about everyone's favorite cookies, and cookie memories! Thanks for all the new ideas for cookies to try and make, I look forward to making up some new recipes.

I picked a random number between 1 and 20, and the lucky number was 16. So congrats to Erin Campell my friend from the good old college days. I will be sending you one dozen cookies of your choice. So watch out for an email from me Erin!

I am currently in the middle of my North East tour...so I will be posting something new after Thanksgiving. Wish I had time to post a good pie recipe, but as soon as I get home I will be busy making 25 pies that people ordered from me. Crazy pie time!!!

See you soon, and thanks for all the kind comments! My readers are the best!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

100 posts, 1 dozen cookies, and a cake.

German Chocolate Pecan Pie...don't you wish you were spending Thanksgiving with me? : )
I wish you were!
The huge cake my Dad made, it eventually fell over
Dad proud of his first cake ever!

Well folks, here it is. My 100th post!!! In honor of my 100th post it just so happens my Dad made a cake. Apparently it is the first cake he has ever made in his entire life! It was funny watching him try to work the kitchen appliances that he had never used before. I must say though, it came out far better then I thought it would, so good job Dad. He came home from the grocery store the other night with all the fixings for making a cake, including cake pans...which we already own a million of. : ) He was suddenly inspired to make a cake after remembering this yellow cake with dark chocolate icing that his Uncle and Dad used to bring home to the family from Schrafft's in NYC. I thought I would be able to find a recipe from the NYC legendary eatery somewhere online, but surprisingly I couldn't find any recipes for their cakes. So, my new goal is to come up with a recipe for this famous yellow cake with chewy chocolate icing.

I find it shocking that I had 100 ideas to post, and had something to say about all of them. I guess my brain is bigger then I give it credit for...good job brain, way to be. Here's to hoping I have at least 100 more recipes to share with you all! : ) Thanks for sticking with me and reading my humble posts, I keep posting because you keep reading...and hopefully cooking too! In honor of the big 1-0-0 I am having a contest! 1) Because I love anything involving a good fight, 2) I want to reward my faithful wonderful readers, and 3) Nothing makes me happier then giving good people good food!

So here is how it is going to work:

1) Respond to this post via the comments telling me your favorite kind of cookie
and why

2) After 1 week I will put all your names in a hat, take a break and eat a cookie, then pick one lucky winner!

3) I will send you, or someone you love 1 dozen cookies or bars of your choice...and no, I do not make "special" brownies : )

4) If I get zero comments I will take it upon myself to eat the one dozen cookies on your behalf, yeah, I am that noble. : ) Contest ends 11/18/10

check back after the week is over to see if you won...if you did you can email me your mailing information. Good luck, and may the person with the sweetest tooth win!

While we are on the topic of cookies, I thought I would share with you some info about the "cookie."

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a cookie is:

1) a small flat or slightly raised cake
2) an attractive woman
3) a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a Web site server, and containing personal information Just to be clear, I will send the winner one dozen of the first definition, not an attractive woman or a small file...that would just be weird.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Holy grail of recipes

I really hope there are chocolate chip cookies in heaven
If you knew how many chocolate chip cookie recipes I have tested in my lifetime you would be shocked! I have spent hours pouring through cookbooks and websites trying to uncover the secrets of making THE chocolate chip cookie. There are so many ideas out there! Melting the butter, dissolving the baking soda in water, adding cream of tartar, using bread flour, chilling the batter, clicking your heels three times and then jumping...really the tricks are endless. I finally realized that the trick to achieving the ultimate chocolate chip cookie is the process. You treat your ingredients well and in return they will reward you with a lovely cookie. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature, and make sure you scrape down the bowl often.

After comparing hundreds of recipes I finally decided that this was the recipe for me. Thanks to Tyler Florence for this winner of a recipe...I didn't realize he was a cookie man, but now that I know I will have to try more of his recipes. I like this recipe because it is a nice balance of chewy and crispy, and just the right amount of sweetness.

My Big, Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted slightly from Tyler Florence

2 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, must be room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs, must be room temperature
8 oz block coarsely chopped chocolate or 1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. This will take a few minutes, make sure you scrape the bowl down with a spatula at least once and then mix again for a few seconds. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and no longer broken looking. Scrape down and mix again.
Mix the chocolate with the dry ingredients and add the to the wet. Mix until combined. Scrape, mix again briefly.
Measure 1/4 cup of dough and roll into balls, place on parchment and slightly push down tops. If you want your cookies to look even more impressive top each cookie with an extra 2-3 chocolate chunks. Bake 12 minutes for chewy, 15 minutes for slightly crispier.

FYI - My next post is my 100TH post...so keep your eyes open for a give away...and it might have something to do with cookies. : )