Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Punch

Ok, yes, I know, I write a lot about food. Going out to eat, with or without Beatrix, is one of our remaining pastimes from the halcyon pre-baby/toddler days, and it's an important part of our lives.

And speaking of kids, I don't know how I would exist in our current lifestyle without Punch Pizza. The pizza is cheap but incredibly flavorful, and feels like you are eating something special. We can get lightning fast takeaway, or eat there with Beatrix. They have a sense of humor, and wonderful specials. Tonight they tweeted about a free salad with pizza order, so we bought 2 pizzas, got 2 free salads, and they tossed in some rosemary foccacia.

Yum!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

It's always the everyday things. My friend Meghan says one of her most commented FB statuses was about the annoying "headband headache." For me, I brag about how much I did last night, but all anyone wants to know is "Tell me about the cupcakes!"

So without further ado...

My friend Rebecca, who clears the path for me in culinary exploration, had mentioned chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes and I was curious. She made them gluten-free, with vanilla bean batter and icing, but I decided that was too much work and stuck more closely to the original recipe.

Make a batch of cupcakes from yellow cake mix. Follow the recipe on the box, but also add 1/2 cup applesauce (sugar-free if possible). Next time I do this, I'm going to use the regular yellow cake mix — for this I used the "butter recipe" and it was a little too buttery.

Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. For me, these all sank to the bottom as they were baked. Not a tragedy, but a little annoying. I might futz more and do a marble batter next time.

Bake as directed.

I then used a metal teaspoon to cut out a scoop from the top of each cupcake, and filled with the cookie dough filling, which I had made while the cupcakes were baking and cooling, and chilled in the fridge for about an hour until it was pretty stiff:

Filling:
4 Tbsp softened butter
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup + 2 Tbsp flour
7 oz (half a can) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

All creamed together and chilled as above.

I filled the hole with the cookie dough filling (in a pinch, if you were keeping these in the freezer, you could probably just fill with cookie dough ice cream). Then, Beatrix and I ate all the cake bits I had scooped out of the cupcakes.

I then frosted the cupcakes (with plain old canned white buttercream frosting) and topped each cupcake with some little rolled balls of the filling (there was a lot left over) and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.

Yum! They are very sweet, and not as good as the $5 cupcakes at fancy bakeshops, but also not $5 each, so I win.

I am now dreaming about the root beer float cupcakes Rebecca made from the Smitten Kitchen recipe, which are truly amazing. But then you would know how much time I waste on food blogs, decorating sites (I'm looking at YOU, Young House Love!), and various cute craft sites that tempt me to make adorable things for Beatrix if I could only suss the time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Faces Hits It Out of the Park

See, I'm not so hard to please, give me a good restaurant experience and I'm over the moon!

For my birthday last night we went to Faces (formerly LoTo) on Mears Park. David Fhima has purchased and re-opened his former restaurant, and though it does not *look* much different than LoTo, it really shines.

The menu is simple and locally sourced. We each ordered, of all things, sandwiches, a chicken Monte Cristo for me and a Croque Madame for Patrick. Both were huge, came with excellent sea salt fries, and were delicious. We also had a lovely flourless chocolate cake (on the house since it was my birthday!)

Though the food was delicious, it was the wonderful service that really set it apart. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and treated us like royalty. The host checked in on us. Fhima himself was working the room, and though I've only met him a few times before, he was wonderfully gracious and claimed to remember me, "it's nice to see a friendly, familiar face."

One incident is particularly enlightening — the restaurant was busy, and our waitress was handling several tables in our area, all seated at almost the same time. She overlooked our complimentary gourgere cheese puff appetizers, and when she realized this, insisted on sending us home with a box of the lovely delights, which are awaiting our late night snack pleasure. I've so often had something like that handled badly or with indifference, but she was brilliant. When we mentioned that to the host on the way out, he was pleased to hear it, remarking that in this economy, you have to work hard for repeat customers, and he wanted every experience there to be special.

It certainly was. We'll be back as soon as we can get a babysitter!

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After dinner, we headed over to Bin Wine Bar, another of my personal favorites. We were extremely full form dinner, and rather tired, but wanted our evening to last a little longer. I had forgotten that they also serve cheap "tastes" of wine, so for just a few dollars we had lovely, generously poured small glasses and the perfect way to end our evening.

Faces and Bin. Go now.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Doing It Right

Well, Al Vento was a lovely Restaurant Week meal. Fresh caprese salad, gnocchi, olive oil cake — very flavorful, nice service, very pleased!

Then I went with two friends to the patio at Salut. We shared a bottle of Viognier, and J accidentally knocked over her glass of wine while reaching for the bread (and yummy salty butter). The waitress insisted on immediately bringing over a replacement glass, though it was in no way the restaurant's fault — very nice!