Read, eat and be merry

IMG_7396

A recent summer day of burgers, beers and babies.

Nothing like one day off in the middle of the week to throw everything off, right? I mean, listen, I’m not complaining (because a day off is a day off) but like someone pointed out to me post Fourth of July, it felt like this week had two Mondays. Yuck. Either way, the weekend is upon us again, and thank God. Here’s a few more links to what I’m reading… you know, should you find yourself lazying in the sun or holed up indoors with the AC with nothing but Instagram to fill your screen.

  • The dog days are here and with them my nearly unquenchable thirst for frozen drinks. I think I’m going to print this list from Eater and get cracking. I like to be a girl with a plan, ya know? (That’s actually not true. I have no plans, ever.)
  • Stories that weave actual life with food give me the warm and fuzzies. This story from Taste made my heart ache and my belly growl. Life, right?
  • A piece in the NY Times food section asked if America was ready to love cottage cheese again. Uhm, when did we stop? I know I haven’t. I freakin’ love the stuff.
  • Listen, I love avocado toast just as much as the next millennial, but if artichoke toast is trying to become a thing, I’m all about giving that a shot too, cause I love artichokes and don’t eat them nearly as much. Avocados probably need a break anyway, no?
  • The first time I had Campari, I thought it was awful, but over the years I’ve grown to really like it, which is why this grapefruit and Campari pie sounds pretty freakin’ good to me. Am I gonna end up eating a whole pie by myself?

Where pies go when they die

“This must be where pies go when they die” reads a small hand-painted sign next to the door at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Park Slope. And truly, it must be.

It’s also not far from what I imagine one version of heaven might look like either, depending who you are. If you like a pie shop that’s simple and cozy, just perfectly worn in and charmingly old fashioned, where you can sit at an old wooden table and be wrapped in the smells of butter and vanilla and coffee while you dig a fork into a wedge of pie so good it feels like God himself might’ve slipped it down to you through a break in the clouds, then yea, you must be where pies go when they die.

IMG_4928

Pecan pie’s never been my favorite but this bittersweet chocolate pecan could change my mind.

I know I tend to speak in hyperbole when it comes to food, but the pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds are deserving. I’ve had seven or eight different kinds, sometimes at the shop on a little white plate with a metal fork, other times in a to-go container when I couldn’t stay, and sometimes from the plastic packaging they come in when you order from grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct. They’ve all been delicious.

IMG_6194

Coffee custard pie with fresh whipped cream. A dream.

Their chocolate chess pie was velvety and rich, the chocolate custard like a perfect pudding cozying up to a buttery, flaky crust. The Salty Honey pie was pure decadence, all butter, caramelized sugar and honey, sea salt sprinkled on top like snowflakes. The matcha was silky and calming, the bittersweet chocolate pecan gooey and indulgent, the coffee custard like a perfectly, creamy coffee in pie form.

IMG_5013

Lemon lavender pie, not at all floral, just creamy, summery sweet.

Every time I’ve gone to the little shop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, I’ve wanted to stay for hours. And every time I’ve had a mouthful of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie I’ve thought, “My God this tastes like heaven.”

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

IMG_5394

The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Be here. Have cake.

I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately about living in a different city, and possibly because it was the last place I visited and because I loved it so much, my reveries have mostly been about New Orleans.

IMG_3646

Get you a friend who can bake

I spent a week there with friends during the holidays and a few weeks after my trip, The New York Times released its annual 52 Places To Go list, and whaddaya know? New Orleans snagged the number one spot of places to go for “escaping into the world.”

That happens to be exactly what I want to do, but since I can’t at the moment, I’m mostly just going to daydream about it. And because no daydream about New Orleans would be complete without food, that’s where my mind often wanders.

Since we’re in the time of year after Epiphany (Jan. 6) leading up to Mardi Gras (Feb. 13 this year) known as Carnival, I wanted to get my hands on some king cake, a traditional treat served all over New Orleans this time of year. When I saw that Joy the Baker, one of my favorite food bloggers who also happens to live in New Orleans, had her own recipe, I had a better idea: solicit the help of my talented baker extraordinaire friend, Stas, and make one ourselves.

IMG_3655

King cake in the making

She had most of the ingredients already (cause that’s just the kind of always-prepared-for-cake kind of badass she is) and I added the rest, mainly the fun accessories, Mardi Gras colored sprinkles (purple, green and yellow) and a historically accurate baby Jesus figurine.

King cakes are served in lots of other countries  (mostly the Catholic ones) and come in  different varieties but for the most part the New Orleans kind is a cinnamon roll-like doughy treat covered with frosting, and usually includes a small plastic baby hidden somewhere inside.

Stas had already made the dough when I came over, so we rolled it out and then made a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to spread over it before sprinkling it with pecans, rolling the whole thing up and shaping into a giant ring. She then sliced it and twisted each slice so it made kind of a big, wonky looking flower, which we let sit for a bit before popping in the oven. Once it had risen and turned a nice, golden brown, we took it out, covered it in cream cheese frosting, topped it with the Mardi Gras colored sprinkles and plopped a little brown baby on top. (We didn’t hide him inside because we weren’t sure if he’d melt and we weren’t trying to do baby J like that.)

IMG_3674

Unto them a delicious cake was baked!

It was deliciously doughy and sweet, the comforting smell of  cinnamon and nutmeg wrapping us up in a warm hug as we tore off chunks of cake and licked globs of cream cheese frosting from our fingers. Sometimes it just takes a good friend and a warm, fresh cake to put my reveries on hold and make me happy being exactly where I am.

Easy and sweet, how life should be

IMG_3021

Cannoli always make me happy

A small selection of things I love:

  • cannoli
  • ice cream
  • when things are easy

Any one of these alone would make me happy, but when I found a recipe that combined all three to make no-churn cannoli ice cream? I was over the freakin’ moon!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Plated, the weekly subscription service that sends me detailed, easy-to-follow, illustrated instructions and the ingredients that go with them in the exact quantities needed to turn out delicious and impressive meals. They’ve recently started offering dessert options, which I usually skip because I’m lazy and making dinner is enough effort for me, but when I saw cannoli ice cream I could actually make myself, without a crazy ice cream maker, I had to try it.

I’ve never felt confident enough in any recipe to say I could duplicate it without reading the original directions.  I still consult the box when making mac and cheese and have to Google how long to boil eggs every single time I make them.

But no-churn cannoli ice cream? I now have it down pat!

IMG_3051

I made this! And it was so good and so easy that I’ll do it a million times more!

Crush a bunch of pistachios and break up a couple of cannoli shells. Then whisk a cup of heavy cream for about 5 minutes until it forms little peaks and you feel you’ve gotten the most intense arm workout of your life (or you can use a hand mixer), then add in a mini container worth of sweetened condensed milk and a creamy blob of ricotta cheese and blend together. Next, toss in the pistachio bits and crunchy shell chunks and pour into a mold (like the 8×8 disposable aluminum one Plated so kindly sent me). Cover with a sheet of parchment paper (which Plated also sent me, almost like they know I don’t own any of this stuff and would be lost without them) and pop in the freezer for about an hour until it sets.

Right before you decide to eat your creamy concoction of frozen deliciousness, melt some chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave, or if you’re like me and don’t own one, in a small pot on the stove, and pour the delicious smelling chocolatey syrup all over your ice cream.

So. Incredibly. Eeeeeasy. Why can’t everything in life be so simple and delicious? I want to make this again and again, and have it with every meal and for every person who ever steps foot into my apartment.

Things are hard enough these days if you ask me. We all deserve this.

Born again sticky bun lover

IMG_2260

Sticky buns, where have you been all my life?

My first real job as a teen—first to pay me an actual check and not  involve tutoring church kids or reading mail to the legally blind old woman who lived next door—was as a cashier at a Panera rip-off in Miami.

As would become the pattern of my work life, I hated it. The ugly khakis I had to wear, upselling bread bowls, even the fact that my sister worked there, too. I hated all of it.

All of it except one thing. Even more so than my meager paychecks, the one redeeming perk of the gig was the pastries I rescued at the end of each shift. Muffins, cookies, croissants, cinnamon rolls, danishes—they were all up for grabs at the end of the night and I rarely left without a bag. (Shout out to the thousands of calories consumed without so much as thinking of working out. Ah, youth!)

There was one thing, however, that never appealed to me: sticky buns. All that shiny, sticky gunk reminded me of the rubber cement I’d used as a kid, each bun a tacky tar trap of molasses. And those nuts, stuck in the gluey goo? A warning to my teeth.

Maybe it was all those neglected sticky buns I left to be tossed, all those passed over pastries, that subconsciously drew me to the sticky bun at Little King’s coffee window a few weeks ago. Maybe it was divine intervention.

Normally a cocktail bar with a small menu, Little King recently opened a walk-up window, selling Intelligentsia coffee and Roberta’s pastries to L train-bound locals weekday mornings. Glad to have an option that wasn’t Dunkin or bodega brew, I stopped for a coffee one day, and on a complete whim, a sticky bun to go with it.

Palm sized and more popover shaped than the swirled rolls I was used to, these sticky buns from the hipster mecca Roberta’s, were airy and fluffy, all buttery brioche under their salt-flecked, caramel glaze.

I am addicted. I’ll drive myself into financial ruin buying these every morning. Sometimes, I wake up and count back to when I last had one, trying to justify if it’s been enough days to treat myself to another one. If I have a run planned later, I’ll grab one and chalk it up to carbo loading. I daydream of that soft dough and buttery, salted caramel.

I would say I’m sorry to all those sticky buns of my youth, the ones that got away and got chucked, but I’m pretty sure they were nothing like these doughy, sweet buns I now constantly crave. I can’t imagine there are any left over each day, but if by chance there are, I hope whoever’s in charge of clearing them away knows how very lucky they are.

 

Hey fall, what’s the hold up?

img_1960.jpg

Fall, I’m waiting. Drink in hand.

Dear fall,

It’s a been just over two weeks since you were supposed to show up.

Everyone runs late sometimes, so I let it slide, didn’t make too big of a deal about it. I even took off for the beach to enjoy a last bit of summer and give you time to get here.

And nothing.

Sometimes I swear I feel you right around the corner. I dusted off my booties (coated from months spent underneath my bed), bought a new coat, and got mini pumpkins to decorate the office.

The shoes are getting dusty again, my coat looks rumpled from being kept in its shopping bag, and the pumpkins just look lost.  What, did you get lost?

This weekend, even though it was muggy and warm, the air heavy without a trace of you near, I thought maybe if I did one of the things I enjoy most when you’re here that maybe you’d just show up. Surrounded by several Brooklyn coffee shops, I instead went to Starbucks. You hear me, fall? I went to Starbucks and ordered a pumpkin spiced latte. Hell I even got the limited time only PSL whipped cream, all in hopes that it might conjure you up.

IMG_1900

For the season that just won’t come.

I didn’t walk down the street with my drink in hand, nor did I hear the crunching of fallen leaves underneath my shoes. I didn’t burrow into a scarf or tie my coat tighter around me. I didn’t think, ” God I love fall. Isn’t this the best?”

Nope, I sat in that damn Starbucks instead, because they had air conditioning and enough ads for maple pecan this and caramelized apple that to make me almost forget that you are just taking your sweet, pumpkin-loving time getting here.

It’s cool, though. Take your time. Really, I mean it.

When you’re ready, I’ll be here. Probably blotting the sweat from my brow as I finish another pint of pumpkin ice cream, but I’ll be here.