Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hot Chocolate

I'm in Chicago for a few days to meet up with a couple of friends and there is such an amazing food scene here  Choosing which restaurants to visit is not easy!  Being my first night in town, I wanted to hit up Hot Chocolate.  This cute restaurant is the home of Chef Mindy Segal.  She is this year's recipient of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.  Located in a "hipsterish" segment of the city, the restaurant creates a very comfortable, trendy ambiance.

I had a cosy seat in the corner of the restaurant. My server, Dan, was phenomenal. He was extremely knowledgeable and offered a lot of information about where their food was sourced and what I needed to try.

I started my meal with the Mac & Cheese. How could I resist - its in a category of its own on the menu. Usually when I order a Mac & Cheese, I am disappointed, however,  this one was so good, I finished it all and practically licked the crock bowl clean. It was super creamy and came
straight from the broiler with a charred top! 

For my meal, I ordered the house-ground burger. It was topped with organic bacon and 4-year aged cheddar on a sesame seed bun and served with cottage chips and slaw.   It didn't wow me like that Mac & Cheese, but it was a darn good burger!

Picking dessert was so difficult. I was instantly drawn to the skillet souffle and doughnuts, (see descriptions below) but ultimately decided on the study.

Skillet souffle
Gooey, chocolate skillet souffle, salted caramel ice cream, pretzels

Brioche doughnut squares, hot fudge and caramel corn

Flavor of the season we choose to reflect upon and handcraft together to present
you with an experience in textures and temperatures

This seasons study was on cherries - one of my favorites!  The cherries come from Mich Clug Farms. (Check out their site

The tasting was the following...

Classic Manhattan spiked with cherry liquor

Vanilla bean ice cream
Sour cherry sorbet
Cherry jubilee

Brown butter cherry clafoutis

Black forest cake
White chocolate cream
Port wine cherries

Tart dried cherry and pistachio biscotti

Words cannot begin to express how great this tasting was. I spent ten minutes trying to decide what my favorite component was, but even the biscotti blew me away!!   It was the perfect texture (for me anyway) and had a hint of sweetness from the cherries.

The black forest cake was beautifully presented and plain-old delicious! The sundae was very good, too. The sourness of the sorbet coupled with the sweetness of the ice cream and cherry sauce paired perfectly.

If I had to choose a standout, it would be the clafoutis. It is probably the component I was least looking forward to (with the exception of the cocktail, since I'm not a drinker) that I wasn't expecting it to BE SO GOOD!  It was served in a mini mason jar and was nice and warm allowing the tiny scoop of brown butter ice cream which started to melt on the warm custard. Amazing, amazing, AMAZING!!

As I was preparing to leave, Dan informed my that Chef was sending a little something extra for me to try.  A sampling of Lemon Chess, Banana Butterscotch and Salted Caramel Ice Cream were placed in front of me and I was super excited!  All three were packed with flavor and were the perfect ending to a perfect meal.  Chef Mindy came over to introduce herself and we chatted for a few minutes.  What a nice lady and amazing chef!  No wonder her motto is, "Eat seasonally, drink chocolate, and always save room for dessert!"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

You Get What You Get

This weekend was another crazy one for us at Layers NYC!  Our first cake was for a graduation and featured the ever-so-popular Hello Kitty.  Check out the Layers NYC page or Emma's blog to learn more about it!

Our second cake was for a close friend of the family, Michelle.  She planned a surprise party for her fiance, Billy, and wanted a cake in the shape of his favorite bottle of booze - The Macallan.

We were pretty excited about making the bottle., but we knew the cake needed another element to add some texture.  I decided to make a "box" to house the cake.  After whipping up a batch of pastiage (similar to fondant but it dries out completely), I created "wood" pannels.  When dried, the box was assembled and Emma did an awesome job coloring the piece

The cake - vanilla on vanilla - was covered in fondant and given a shiny coat and a label in the likeness of the one on the actual Macallan's bottle.  Special thanks to Christine for creating the art used to make it!

After the cake was made, we slipped it into the box. 


The finished cake.
Detail of the box.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Every time I tell myself I am going to blog more frequently, it inevitably fails.  It's usually for a good reason.  The past few months have been CRAZY!  I have been working on a special business project and it's been eating - no pun intended - at my (already limited) free time. 

Instead of blogging about something I made, this is going to be more of a rant.  Why is everyone settling for mediocre food?  We live in a time when you can get your hands on pretty much anything - European dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, caviar, amazing chocolates, etc.  With the internet, you can get your hands on anything you desire.  Yet, most people just don't care. 

As I work hard to perfect my craft, I wonder - are people going to even want to eat this stuff?  I can spend weeks perfecting a recipe and sourcing the best ingredients to make the best cake possible.  Once I get it right and bring it somewhere, it sits next to a stale King Kullen cake and no one even wants to try it.  For some reason the box mix cake with it's artificially flavored "buttercream" icing is a hit.

Now don't get me wrong, every now and then even I enjoy a slice - like when I'm craving cake and it's the only option - but why is this the acceptable norm?  There is a bakery on every corner in NYC, and, a lot of the stuff out there is good, if not amazing! 

I'll stop here for now, but, if you made it to this point, all I ask is that you open your mind to new, higher quality foods.  Next time you're at a nice restaurant, try something different - not the molten cake or the creme brulee!  Ask the server what's their favorite.  90% of the time it's the best thing on the menu.  This rule goes for savory food, too!  Also, when you go to the bakery supermarket or are purchasing something with a label, check to make sure you are familiar with ALL the ingredients.  EVERY baked good can be made without a stabilizer, preservative or artificial flavoring.  If you see one of those things listed, move along - it's an unnecessary addition and is probably tastes bad.  If you ever have a question, ask me! 

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet Eats in Breckenridge

Usually I blog about things that I make, but this blog (and the next couple) will be about some of the goodies I've come across on my travels.  This week, I am in Breckenridge, Colorado.  What a beautiful city!  Yesterday, after walking over two miles along Historic Main Street, I wanted a treat.  A friend recommended Mary's Mountain Cookies.  The place is a hole-in-the-wall.  I was a little disappointed by the selection.  A lot of peanut butter based cookies, and I'm not the biggest fan. 

The three cookies that appealed to me the most were (from left to right) the chocolate caramel, German chocolate, and COW (cranberries, oats, and white chocolate,)  My favorite was the COW.  It had the perfect amount of inclusions for my taste.  The German chocolate cookie was ok but I was satisfied with the single bite.  The caramel chocolate was my least favorite BY FAR!  There was something about the base that was off - too much leavening, perhaps.  My only other critism is that the cookies weren't chewy enough for me.  I like my cookies borderline RAW!


This afternoon I decided to eat lunch out.  I came across a bakery - La Francaise French Bakery - hidden (literally) on Main Street.  When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation of the pastries in the case.  I ordered Le Turkey and Brie which was served on a house made baguette.  It was delish!  I was especially impressed with the authenticity of the baguette. 

On the way out I grabbed a cinnamon brioche (bottom left corner of the picture.)  It's basically a cross between a cinnamon roll and brioche.  It was pretty good, but didn't blow me away.  I will definitely be back to try something else and grab a baguette!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As usual, it's been a while since I've had a chance to blog, but the holidays got the best of me. I decided that my new year's resolution is to work on my dream restaurant concept and recipe test a menu item once a month. Today was my first test run. It went ok but not as smooth as I had hoped for. Hopefully next month will be better. I'm still in the beginning phase and am not yet ready to share my finished dishes, so...
For Christmas Eve I wanted to make something different. When I interned in Beziers, France, I fell in love with the lemon tarts that we made there. Not only did I think they looked beautiful, they tasted AMAZING! I decided to make one in the style of Maison CarraTie. The tart consists of a sweet shell, tart lemon curd and a delicate Italian meringue.