Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This year, I was uber-crafty and made mummy cupcakes for Halloween (the idea for these is thanks to the Martha Stewart Halloween magazine, which I only bought because my sister-in-law designed--I swear I'm not a Martha groupie!) The decorations are a little sloppy (mummies are sloppy, right?), but I think I finally figured out how to adjust the cupcake recipe for altitude--no floppy tops.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chefs and their last meals

Check out My Last Supper, a photoessay on famous chefs and the foods they'd choose for their last hurrah before leaving this world. Who wants a foie gras terrine? Who wants chips and guac? Who's photographed wearing a totally awesome hat made out of pasta? Find out here. Oh, and Ferran Adria, father of molecular gastronomy? His last-meal picks involve no foams, no spheres of whatever suspended in something, nothing you'd need an immersion circulator to make. Which isn't surprising, I suppose. Even Ferran Adria has comfort foods. Food is still love, even when your life's work involves playing chem lab in the kitchen.

I'll have to think more about what my own last meal would involve. What about yours?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the most decadent brunch ever

Mr. Tart whisked me away for a babymoon last weekend to the historic Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. He had scheduled me for a prenatal massage--lovely, lovely--and then took me to the theatre to see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood perform a two-man version of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", where we laughed so hard we actually cried. Sunday morning brought with it the most decadent brunch ever, which the hotel is rightly famous for.

The following list is merely a sampling of each long table's offerings!

Buffet one: Breakfast stuff (waffles, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fresh fruit, omelet/egg station, pastries, cheese plate)

Buffet two: Carving station with various meats, green beans cooked to order, mashed potatoes, rolls, and scallops seared while you watched

Buffet three: Prepared salads, green salad bar, several types of smoked fish, oysters, jumbo peeled shrimp, crab claws, lobster meat, mussels, sushi

Buffet four: Desserts! Hot chocolate made with cream, chocolate fondue, several varieties of cheesecake, several types of petit fours, five kinds of truffles, chocolate souffle, creme de menthe layered chocolate cake, coconut tuile "spoons" with vanilla cream, and so much more....

This is the only buffet I've ever experienced where the quantity was so extensive and yet the quality surpassed the quantity! While some options were familiar and pedestrian, others were gourmet (for example, I didn't recognize all the cheeses) or even Iron Chef-worthy (like the butternut squash mousse--by far the best vegetable I've ever had for dessert--and the white chocolate lavender truffles, which tasted like a bubble bath, in the best possible way). The huge pillowy scallops in a mead sauce made me gasp.

The presentation shone along with the food--the deconstructed caprese salad with jewel-tone roasted red peppers and gorgeous tomatoes and round balls of mozzarella, the creme brulee in espresso cups, the smoked salt on the truffles, the starfruit slices decorating the passionfruit cheesecake. (Ed reminds me that the ice sculpture was a nice touch--but apparently I never even saw the swan towering over the seafood!)

In honor of autumn, the brunch also had a theme going: apples. There was apple coleslaw, apple chicken salad, julienned and sauteed apple under the seared scallops, and a caramel-sauced Granny Smith-Jack Daniels flambe station on the dessert table. (Surprisingly, none of the fresh fruit options included apple slices.)

We especially liked when the three-piece jazz band played "Fly Me to the Moon," the song from the first dance at our wedding. We ended up sitting in the dining room for two hours, willing our stomachs to digest the food and open up some room for another danish, another scallop or two, another shot glass of hot chocolate cream.

I can't wait to get pregnant with baby #2 so we have an excuse to go back to the Brown Palace!

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Sunday, October 07, 2007


Okay, I almost NEVER make pies from scratch because, frankly, I am scared of making pie crust. On this blog, Melissa has often stated her caramel phobia; well, that's how I am with flaky pastry. It just never, ever ends well. I always seem to end up with too much filling or too little, and burnt, bricklike crust with nary a flake in sight. But I had a fridge full of apples, a lazy Saturday ahead of me and a husband requesting pie, so I figured I'd face my fears. Imagine my surprise when I took this beauty out of the oven:

I used the recipe from Cook Something by Mitchell Davis. It was the very first cookbook I ever bought myself and almost every recipe I've tried has been great (and I've tried almost all of them -- just not the apple pie, until today). It's 10 years old now and the pages are falling out. I'm nostalgic about this book because this is pretty much what I taught myself to cook from.

Once again, I used the freeze-the-butter-and-grate-it trick. You end up hardly having to work the dough at all, and I think that's the key.


pomegranate molasses, smoked Maldon salt

These were my impulse buys today at the grocery store. Anyone have any (preferably vegetarian) ideas what I can do with these two things?

I'm thinking I could make a pretty awesome salad dressing with the pomegranate molasses. I know it's a Lebanese ingredient, but I'm not sure what it's used for. Marinades, I'd guess? The consistency is more like a syrup than molasses, and the flavor is really concentrated (i.e., you wouldn't want to just pour it straight onto anything, I don't think). Has anyone ever used it?

And the smoked sea salt: Since I'm cooking vegetarian most of the time, I'm always looking for creative ways to introduce a little smokiness, a little umami, to things. Maldon - both the smoked and the regular variety - is very delicate and flaky, and I first had it at a restaurant in Montreal, and I swear it made everything it touched amazing. It seemed to sharpen all the other flavors. There was even a little sprinkled on top of my chocolate pot de creme. Beautiful. (That was the regular, not the smoked -- although, am I crazy for thinking the smoked salt just might work with chocolate or caramel? Maybe?)