As most of you know, I will be moving soon. I'm travelling light. I am excited! and scared! and a little sad... There are things about my life in Rochester that I will let go of with great reluctance. I wish I could capture this sense of peace and equilibrium, put it into a bottle and keep it by my side!
Coupled with this reluctance, like George Sheehan said, there is also "the desire to secure the self yet to be." One of these days, I will wrap things up nicely with this blog but in the meantime, many thanks for your wishes, for your generous affection and most of all, for your love.
Picture: The Chokilait maestro in Melbourne
Heres a round-up of my favorite chocolate destinations! I certainly do not lack for distractions... The Chambourcin truffles we made at the New York Culinary Center were quite yum. And then I stumbled upon Vosges Chocolate Bars at Parkleigh. As if living within walking distance of Stever's is not enough temptation! I've held myself back with excruciating restraint. Happily, I surrended to temptation at Phillips European and Goodness Cakes on University Ave. And who can resist the miniature Opera Torte at the Little Bakery. Sigh.
What better way to sweat off those pounds than to sign up for a Chocaholics Historical Walking tour!! Suzie Wharton leads tours in Melbourne and shows off the city's gorgeous arcades. We paused for sustenance at 4 specialty chocolatiers in 2 hours. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
We started in Royal Arcade, at Haigh's Chocolates. Much ooh-ing and aah-ing over Haigh's creations. We trotted out to Deva, a specialty gift store. They had the most exquisite designs I've ever seen on handmade chocolates. Deva was a hard act to follow but Chokolait held its own. Tucked away in one of the rare calm nooks in the middle of Melbourne's shopping epicentre, Chokolait is where one goes to revive one's spirits. Their iced dark chocolate drink was perfection. With a spring in our step, we walked to Koko Black's. Really, we should refer to this as the Koko Black's chocolate temple. Their menu reads like a wish list and I could happily stand by their store all day, nose pressed to the glass, watching their chocolatiers work their magic. But I digress. We sampled their classic Belgian truffle. My worldly cares slipped away. I progressed into a higher state of consiousness.
Last, but not the least, my fondest chocolate memory is Soma in Toronto. We strolled into the shop plus kitchen one rainy summer afternoon. The Mayan Hot Chocolate piqued our interest... a combination of chocolate and Australian ginger, Madagascar Vanilla, orange peel, chili and SOMA spices! It was rich and sumptous, majestic and completely entrancing. It exceeded our wildest expectations. 'twas the high point of an incredibly good year ;-)
As most of you know by now, I have excellent taste in food and men. (What? I never said I was modest!) The happy intersection of these two, led me to bills in Sydney!
I went to the original location in Darlinghurst for brunch on a Friday morning. The legendary communal table was gone but the the place was bustling. The restaurant is housed in an unassuming grey building, a block away from busy Victoria St. The wait staff, dressed in black, are a blur. Honestly, their movements are choreographed, those embodiments of efficiency.
So I put myself in their hands, ordered a cappucino and bill's famous corn fritters. Allow me to explain. Many items enjoy star status on the breakfast menu. For example, the eggs routinely get rave reviews! The ricotta hotcakes and corn fritters please the most exacting palates. bills is known for not just good food prepared with fresh, flavorful ingredients but CONSISTENT good food. The latter, as we know, is much harder!
The restaurant is great for people watching. One table was in the middle of what looked like a business meeting, complete with macbook and coffee, over breakfast. In a nook, two women dove into fruit and coffee, looking like they had stepped off the covers of a magazine. Quite likely they had!
My favorite thing to do is to watch people interact with food in the context of their relationship! Take for example, the folks seated on either side of me. Two couples to be precise. The couple to my right looked like newly-weds, in the early stages of developing their couple-equation. Still aglow with marital bliss. He had the eggs and she had the corn fritters. Their glances shy and happy. The couple to the left of me were well-ensconced in togetherness. The music between them was a familiar, oft-played tune, one that lingered and seemed to always play in the background. They spoke little, seemed comfortable in their own skin and with each other. He had the eggs and she had pancakes.
At the end of their respective meals, they looked into each others eyes. The food, the ambience effortlessly fell away, highlighting the simple emotion underlying their enjoyment of life. Love! Truly, theres a simplicity to bill's that somehow enhances the whole experience of eating, and indeed, being!!
Corn fritter image credit: Dimsum Dolly
Bill Granger's Corn Fritter:
(recipes from Bill Granger's Bill's Food
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob
1/2 cup sliced spring onions
1/4 cup chopped coriander and parsley
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and paprika into a large bowl, stir in sugar and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. The batter will be quite stiff.
Place corn, spring onions and herbs in a mixing bowl and add just enough batter to lightly bind them (about 3/4 cup). Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick fying pan on medium heat, then drop in 2 tablespoons of batter per fritter and cook 4 fritters at a time, Cook for 2 minutes, or until the underside of each fritter is golden. Turn over and cook fritters on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.
Corn fritters on the web:
All about Bill
Isn't it amazing how one always picks the hottest, summer days in July to move? Between packing, labelling and cleaning, staying cool was a challenge. The fridge needed emptying anyways and so heres a dessert for the occasion!
Heres what I did:
Original recipe: Gale Gand's Passionfruit Parfait featured on Ming Tsai's website
- Mixed together 2 eggs, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup passionfruit puree, 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste).
- Cooked the mixture over water, whisking continuously till it thickened.
- Chucked it all into the freezer for 4-6 hours. I stirred every hour to break up crystals.
Delicious! Tart, sweet and creamy, it adds a whole new dimension to my passionfruit sorbet experience. If I'd taken the time to whip the cream, I might have achieved a creamier texture. Cut corners not-withstanding, the parfait was really quite refreshing.
Heres what I did:
1. Made the multigrain bread from Peter Reinhardt's "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" I read every sentence in the first chapter and then read the recipe about four times. Chock full of details.
2. Made the multi grain struan from Floyd's post at The Fresh Loaf
The struan used whole wheat flour and about 5 minutes of vigorous kneading, while the multigrain bread extraordinaire (MBE) called for bread flour and 12 minutes of kneading. Ouch. I confess that the MBE was harder to work with, but the resultant texture was incredible. Golden crust and hearty crumb. The struan had more interesting ingredients in it and was an easier dough to work with. I added quinoa, millet and brown rice. However, unlike Floyd's version, mine did not rise as much. I am sure I will have to give this a couple tries before I figure out exactly whats going on! Used the breads for toast as well as sandwiches. It works with honey, butter, hummus and mild cheese. All in all, I am very satisfied with both recipes and if I HAD to pick one, it would be the MBE. However, clearly, I need to practice :-) Wish my hapless victims luck!
PS. Top 2 pictures: MBE, Bottom 1: Struan. It has occurred to me that I could just clear the table and take pictures. For now, please forgive the background clutter. I was too fixated on the bread (read 'too lazy to clean up or even crop'!)
My sweeth tooth has been clamoring for some attention... so I made Nibby Buckwheat Cookies! This time, we discovered the happpy marriage of buchwheat, butter and cocoa nibs, recipe from 101cookbooks.com, originally featured in Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert
Heres what I did:
Halved the recipe. Subbed whole wheat pastry flour for allpurpose flour and followed the recipe to the letter. Refrigerated the dough for 8 hours. Stuck it in the freezer between rolling and re-rolling. One needs to keep a close eye while baking the cookies. Since they are small, they tend to brown easily.
Like the walnut sticks, these cookies are perfect - rich, buttery and always satisfying. Buckwheat is a suprising ingredient in a butter cookie and works remarkably well. The nibs add crunch and the texture of the cookie is perfect.
Nibby buckwheat cookies on 101cookbooks.com and Orangette.
Anyhoo, the bread was a resounding success, (I think) primarily due to the addition of buttermilk and potato, resulting in a tender, fluffy crumb. I was generous with garlic but held off on the rosemary. I like to 'accessorize' my breads with all kinds of cheeses, pesto and spreads but I also like to start with a plain canvas :-)
Heres what I did:
Original recipe from Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart
A version from The Bread Bakers Apprentice is reproduced here
For the biga:
1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup water at room temperature
For the bread:
All of the Biga
1.5 cups whole wheat high-gluten or bread flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground (optional)
3/4 teaspoons Instant yeast
2 medim potatoes, mashed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted garlic
Olive oil for brushing on top
- Made biga by mixing all ingredients together. Fermented at room temp until double in size. Degas and stored in fridge overnight.
- Next day, unchilled biga till its at room temp.
- Break biga into 10-12 pieces.
- Nuked pototoes in microwave till mushy. Cooled and added all the ingredients.
- Kneaded for 10 minutes. Got a drink!
- Put the dough into an oiled bowl and let it rise for 2 hours, until double in size.
- Shaped it into a loaf and a boule. Misted the dough and covered with plastic wrap.
- Let it rise 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brushed top of loaves with olive oil and scored the tops.
- Baked for 40 minutes, rotating pans half way through.
- Cool for about an hour before serving.
This bread marks the tender-est crumb I have achieved in a hearty whole grain bread. I suspect, its the combination of buttermilk, potato and warm weather that contributed. My favorite bread so far.
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My favorite restaurants in Rochester are Lento and Rooney's. But I LOVE Dogtown Hots just as much! Click on the blue balloons in the map above for more!
Alladin's: Best Value for Money on a Hot, Summer Day
Visions of crisp, leafy greens dance enticingly... Perhaps a little creamy dressing on the side... And so, I find myself sitting under a canopy at Alladin's often. I've tried their falafel, baba ganouj and hummus pitas and have come away staggering at the ginormous portions. They serve bean sprouts with their greens (yum!) The tzatziki is always tangy. All in all, fresh, flavorful food thats excellent value for money. Voice of experience: The food is just as good at their Monroe Ave location as at the Schoen Place location.
John's Tex Mex: Best Tofu Quesadillas!
Stumbled upon John's Tex Mex Eatery on South Ave. To my great delight, this bright little place was just thing I was looking for on both fronts, flavor and budget. In addition, the interior is a bright orangey-red, undeniably cheerful. The service is quick and friendly. The food is not terribly authentic (like I would know!) but is quite delicious all the same. Their guacamole is quite unusual - I can't quite put my finger on the spice mix in it.
Aside from the food, John's is in the Southwedge and I'm all for revitalizing the Southwedge. John's, owned and run by an outrageously young entrepreneur, is part of the 'Southwedge renaissance'. Show your support!
And the award for Chick Appeal goes to: Simply Crepes
I've taken many of my guests to Simply Crepes at Pittsford landing, which (I think) is cute even when the weather is terrible. I've stepped out of the drizzle / slush /heat and into this bustling little restaurant. Simply Crepes has personality, lots of it. Classy and casual, it has this bright, friendly feel to it. Sure, some people will find it pretentious / yuppie. Pshaw, I say! Its the kind of place that will make anything special - you can go there with co-workers/ family/ friends/ a date and the ambience will be just right.
Anyhoo, the food is routinely fabulous. Tried the Oatmeal Creme Brulee one time. It was perfection... warm comforting oatmeal topped by luxurious cream and a wafer-thin layer of caramelized sugar. Loved the Goat Cheese Arugula crepe, Ditto for the Fresh Fruit Crepe with buckwheat flour and of course, the Chocolate Mousse Crepe. Lusty sigh.
Strictly Mediocre but Good Date Places:
'Twas dusk on a Fall evening, mercury floated in the 60s. I stepped into the warm interior of Café Cibon, and the last traces of my frantic day disappeared. Café Cibon is a charming little place, and lives up to its reputation as a "European style bistro". The pace is anything but rushed.
I'm willing to wager that the food here is consistently above-average. (clears throat apologetically) Not outstanding. I know I'm being excessively picky but I'm just sayin'. Its a slightly pricey place that features reasonably good food. To be fair, Café Cibon would be a good choice for a first or second date. Conversation will flow easily. Sit back and enjoy how the candlelight flickers on her beautiful skin / makes his eyes sparkle. The world will be tinged with a mellow glow. If you discover that s/he is a discerning foodie, grin self-deprecatingly. You've been busted!
Not to be a snob, but I would add the following in this category. Lola Bistro, , Edibles and 2 Vine fall into this category.
Best Place to get a Beer:
The Old Toad, The Tap and Mallet
Heres what I did:
Original recipe featured in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, inspired by the traditional Japanese combination of soba noodles and a dipping sauce
1. Cook the soba till al dente.
2. Follow Adam's instructions. The recipe is forgiving so feel free to improvise.
My favorite summer meal! The ginger - cilantro - scallion combination is delicious, the dressing is simple and refreshing!
My quest led me to The Little Bakery . They have an absolutely delicious brioche loaf for $ 4.50. Highly reccommended. My only grouse was that it was a tad too rich (I know, I know, its brioche! What was I thinking!) I couldn't help wondering what middle class brioche made with whole wheat strong flour would be like... No, no, I'm not an elitist! Peter Reinhart provides three different versions of brioche based on the flour:butter ratio. The three versions are: Rich Man's brioche (80% butter!!!), Middle Class (50%), Poor man's brioche (20%).
Needless to say, I modified the recipe to 30% butter and created whole new social class (insert grand flourish here) - this is the brioche that lives well, within her means and is diligent about her IRA and FSA. Meticuous, responsible and discerning. (Grin)
Heres what I did:
Original recipe featured in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
1. Halved the recipe.
2. Used bread flour to make the sponge.
3. Used whole wheat bread flour from Lori's for the dough.
4. The proofing times and all other kneading instructions worked perfectly.
5. Skipped the egg wash. (just plain laziness)
The crust was lovely - shiny and golden. The texture was that wonderful mix of fluffy, fragrant, pull-apart goodness - rich and light, meltingly tender and yet with the slightest chewiness. I love this loaf! Its so delightfully pleasing, so relaxed and easy-going. Blissfully belying all the sweat and stress that went into its creation!
Next time, I'd like to try adding an egg to the dough to see how the texture changes. I confess, I may have overbaked my loaf by a couple minutes. The bottom corner looks pretty brown, the tops and sides were good though. So next time, I will cut the baking time to 28 minutes and see what happens.
The best brioche writing (and pictures):
1. La Cerise explains brioche with many many versions.
2. PastryGirl adapts an Alice Medrich briche recipe with a muscovado sugar filling!
3. The most entertaining brioche recipe ever comes from the Traveler's Lunchbox. The Seven Steps include instructions to successfully muscle your way through Ebay, the power of prayer and other gems, such as an outstanding recipe, adapted from versions by Sherry Yard and Dorie Greenspan.
4. If you'd rather make individual brioches, here is a lovely droolworthy recipe for Apple Cinnamon Brioche by Bron of BronMarshall.com
This semi-healthy (read "whole grain, lower fat") version of brioche goes to Equal Opportunity Kitchen for Tried, Tested and Tasted - 2 !