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.