Tag Archives: chocolate

4th of July Weekend

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BBQs and 4th of July are synonymous to me, so I was happy to attend my friend’s BBQ and enjoy bacon-wrapped mini sausages, chicken wings, salmon steak and grilled peaches. We also had a wonderful white frosted cake with red trim, and a blue flower. Inside was layered white cake with chocolate frosting in between, which was so darn delicious (however, a bit overly sweet)!

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We enjoyed several different street fireworks displays and the next day I prepared to go camping at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania with a group of people.  I had a wonderful time. Once again, there was soo much food… I had salmon on top of fennel and sprinkled with thyme. There was also marinated ribs, jerk chicken, steak, sausage, corn, yams!

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Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful, despite the rain from Friday night and we took a hike through the forest and along the waterfalls. There were trees and green plants, babbling streams, bridges, and more- Such a charming scene in nature. But by far the most magnificent, most glorious creations were the many waterfalls… Some were small, while others spanned the distance of entire boulders. They were absolutely breathtaking and I enjoyed being in the presence of such beauty, taking in the refreshing spray of the water and the sound of the water streaming down.

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After the hike, we decided to head to the beach where I enjoyed being in the lovely water and just chilling in the shade, making conversation and having ice cream.

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Back at the campsite, we started preparing dinner and this time I learned how to make a new delectable tasting dessert. Take a banana, split it length-wise, add a caramel piece, Reese’s Pieces (or chocolate + peanut butter), marshmallow pieces, wrap it all up in tin foil and put it atop the fire for a few minutes until everything is melted together in a wonderful gooey mess. Yes, it is over indulging, but it is so worth it!

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I had a great 4th of July weekend and hope you did as well!

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Dining at Slide

Slide is a newly open restaurant on Bleecker Street in the West Village, specializing in Sliders (What else?) My friend and I ate in the outdoor beautiful garden-like area in the back which had hanging plants & flowers, a rock wall with waterfalls that cascade gently into a pond with koi fish! It was lovely and made us feel like we were not in the city, enveloped in this outdoor haven.

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The sliders come three to an order, presented on a custom-made wooden cutting board with cylinders cut out to hold each individual mini burger. I decided to try a combination of different sliders: Classic beef slider, fried chicken with cheddar waffle, pork belly slider.

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The classic beef slider is made with a top secret meat blend that’s mixed in-house. It came with Manchego cheese, plum tomato, arugula, remoulade and caramelized onions and is delicious. The meat was perfectly juicy, flavorful, tender and all the flavors combined perfectly to create a wonderful culinary experience.

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The buttermilk fried chicken & cheddar waffle w/ maple bourbon pear butter & spicy coleslaw was decent, but didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The fried chicken was not as seasoned as I would have liked; the waffle, though orange did not have a pronounced cheddar flavor and was too dry. I had to ask for syrup to moisten and sweeten the waffle. Also, I could barely taste the maple bourbon pear butter.

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Last was the BBQ pork belly slider, which I had reservations about but turned out to be quite good. It was made with Monterey Jack, pickled onions & fried brussel sprouts. I didn’t really taste the brussel sprouts, but the pork belly was crispy, and a slightly sweeter version of ribs.

I also had Parmesan, garlic & herb fries, which came in a silver tin. They were pretty good, and had plenty of Parmesan shavings but not so much the garlic and herb. I would have enjoyed it more if the garlic and herb were mixed in and cooked with the french fries; instead it seemed like some Parmesan cheese was thrown on top and that was it. They also have curly fries cooked in bacon oil which dark chocolate shavings, which sounded delicious but a little too indulgent. Maybe next time.

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Also for next time I would like to try the CBLT -Crab cake with bacon; the bulgogi cheese steak; the lobster slider, as well as one of their shakes!

Afterwards, my friend and I walked along Bleecker Street and kept passing amazing, tempting shops with posters, cheese, macarons, books, cupcakes… We stopped in a couple of the places. I ended up trying some of the macarons at bisous, ciao which had a clear white window exterior and white walls, accented with hot pink paneling and hot pink twinkle lights. I chose lavender + honey and gianduja, which is a classic mix of hazelnut and milk chocolate. The lavender + honey was truly delightful: Light, delicate flavor of lavender married with the sweeter, richer taste of honeysuckle cream. The chocolate one was surprisingly not as delectable, and was heavier, more dense and doughy with not enough hazelnut flavor.

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Location of Slide Restaurant: 174 Bleecker Street, New York NY

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Birthday in NYC

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Since I was in CA when my birthday hit, I celebrated with New York friends over the weekend, after I came back from holidays in California. I wore my new “Bright By My Side” dress that I ordered online from ModCloth. This flattering and sassy coral red dress is made of crepe fabric with sheer, puffy long sleeves with wrapped bodice and waist sash. I paired the dress with fashions from Shanghai: Coffee colored tights with cute little hearts all over and black high heel glittery boots, that are actually comfortable. And, of course the outfit would not be complete without an exquisitely sparkly and pearl tiara.

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I had my birthday dinner with a bunch of friends at Max Brenner at Union Square, which is a fun place to eat but incredibly crowded on a Saturday night and where we had to wait quite awhile, even with reservations. We were finally seated downstairs, in nice booth seating and I ordered one of the sharing dessert tastings with chocolate fondue. Our orders came fairly quickly and mine included a birthday candle on top an ice cream scoop, which was on a sweet waffle with berries. Everyone sang Happy Birthday, then we dug in!

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The dessert meal was pretty good, and was presented in a way that made it fun and creative to share. We had marshmallows that we could roast on the open fire (we had a little bit too much fun with that), as well as strawberries, bananas, cake, fried plantains, and the waffle. I pretty much dipped everything in the chocolate fondue. Yum! I also got to try some onion rings, waffle fries and black sesame encrusted salmon. If I had to order a non-dessert item, it would definitely be the salmon- Perfectly crispy, good flavor, beautifully presented.

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After eating, we were planning to spend the evening at Polar Lounge, which is located within the Marcel at Gramercy. However, we were informed that Polar was closed, so we waited for others in the lobby at the Marcel, which was actually quite lovely with silver and white accents… A silver couch, an area with a rectangular fireplace, and the main lobby area had a circular sleek black couch surrounding the room. In the center of the room, little white tables were adorned with candles, pretty pink, red and green flower bouquets on top. And the walls had interesting geometric patterns of white, brown and black colors.

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After more folks gathered at the Marcel lobby, we headed onward, in search of a suitable place to party. We passed by a park with this huge, gorgeous ball that changes into all different colors. There were also viewing seats that we could lay back on and watch the magic.

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We decided to go to Vunyc rooftop, which had a breathtaking and very close view of the Empire State Building! We had some drinks, shared great conversation, laughter and all around had a great time together.

The night didn’t end there. We barhopped a bit in the East Village and hit up Gin Palace and Easternbloc, where we did a lot of dancing and got a little crazy! I had a wonderful time with everyone… Even though we couldn’t party at Polar, we found some great places (and unexpected) to hang out at and enjoy each others company!

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Hershey Weekend

I spent a relaxing, pampered Girl’s Weekend in Hershey, PA the past couple days. We stayed at the Sheraton in York, PA which was a lovely, luxurious hotel with all the amenities and at a discounted price.

The first night, we went to Crimson American Grill, where I shared both an appetizer and a meal. For the appetizer, I got to try Loaded Fries- fries with melted cheddar, bits of bacon and green onion. It was delicious of course. As for the meal, I sampled the seafood platter, which came with fried cod and fried shrimp, crab cake, lobster… It was all very tasty. We also got a side. I chose the rice pilaf, but it was basically just rice. There weren’t really any vegetables, even though they’re supposed to be included.


Later that night, I went out with a couple of the girls to The Hop, which was across the street from the hotel. It looked like it was in a barn and it was fun in a hicks town kind of way. However, I couldn’t stand that everyone was allowed to smoke in there, so we didn’t stay for very long.

Next morning, we all met for complimentary breakfast at the hotel. It was good- Bacon, eggs, potatoes, pancake, orange juice. We decided to head to Hershey Gardens after that, and it was gorgeous! Rolling landscapes, beautiful fountains, Hershey-kiss shaped sculptures, pretty roses, colorful flowers,  lovely brooks and bridges.

We also got to check out the Butterfly House, which was wonderful and charming. Nice little waterfall, leading into a small pond with golden fishes and pretty flowers all around. There were quite a few different types of butterflies in yellow, orange, pink, dark blue and deep purple. They were also quite friendly – A few of them landed on my clothes and fluttered close around me.




We went to The Hershey Pantry for lunch and were very lucky to get a table right away (since there were 9 of us). I had the turkey club with bacon, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, and chips. It was scrumptious- everything was fresh, crisp, flavorful and went together beautifully. And since Hershey is known for chocolate, I just couldn’t resist dessert- I tried the chocolate peanut butter pie, which was simply divine. I loved the taste of the chocolate, merged with the peanut butter on top.


Next on the agenda was Chocolate World, which I was most excited for because chocolate is one of my favorite treats. Chocolate World was huge, and quite crowded but definitely worth it.

We started off doing the free tour around the Chocolate World factory which took place in a ride. It was really cool to see the process of how they make Hershey’s Chocolates.


Then we did a Chocolate Tasting, which was held in Hershey University. We got to try Hershey milk chocolate, extra dark, Bliss, Artisan Confections, kisses and really savored them so we could identify the flavors, whether they were fruity, woodsy, earthy, citrusy, floral, coffee, nutty and/or buttery. Afterwards, we received a Hershey’s University Masters Degree in Chocolate Tasting, signed by Milton S. Hershey, Founder and D.P. Quigley, Master Chocolatier! Pretty awesome to have that distinct honor.

We also got to do a trolley ride that went through the town of Hershey, PA and got to learn about the history of Milton Hershey, the man himself and how he built his Hershey empire. It was really quite an inspirational story, especially because Hershey had failed so many times, but instead of giving up, he kept trying and look at what he accomplished through that tenacity. And the story was told in a fun, lively way- There was our main tour guide who was very knowledgeable and very sweet, and there was also an actor playing different characters from Hershey’s life. It was over the top hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable. They also sang some songs, and passed out chocolate samples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was so much fun to visit Chocolate World, and made me feel like a kid again. We headed back to our hotel after that and just relaxed, hung out in the pool (which was really gorgeous!) and jacuzzi for awhile.

We ended up having dinner in the hotel, and prices were actually not too bad. I ordered the crab cake sandwich with french fries. It was quite good. The crab cake was made of flavorful lump crab meat, bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and made even better with tarter sauce.

After eating, a couple of us went out to a club called Banana Max. I didn’t love it, because smoking is prohibited and I get headaches if I’m exposed to smoking too long, but at least it was better than The Hop. It also had a cover charge, which I pretty much never pay in NYC. However, Banana Max did have a nice dance floor, played great music and was pretty hoppin’.

All in all, a great trip with fun people, full of delicious meals, beautiful places, chocolate, lots of laughter and good conversation!

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French Macaron Baking 101

Over the weekend, I took a Macaron Baking 101 class, of the French variety (not the coconut kind) through Skillshare, taught by the very sweet and very knowledgeable Kristen Joerger. It was a bit of a long and involved process, but I love these cookies so much that it didn’t seem like it.

We started with making the filling, splitting up into two groups. I was on the chocolate ganache team, while the others made a blackberry buttercream filling. The chocolate filling was the easier of the two – We weighed out the chocolate (we used grams in this particular recipe, because Kristen believes it’s more accurate), poured the hot heavy cream a little at a time into the chocolate, gently whisking in between. After letting the chocolate mixture cool to a comfortable temperature, add the butter and let cool in the refrigerator. And voila, you have your chocolate ganache!

Then we started on the French Macaron shells. For this we combined almond flour, powdered sugar, egg whites and cocoa to color the shells brown. We had to sift through the mixture to ensure there were no large clumps. Then for the meringue, we whipped egg whites (on high speed) in a mixer, and quickly added hot sugar water to it. It was kind of cool to watch the mixture thicken, and transform into a marshmallow-fluff consistency.

The next step was to fold the meringue (1/3 at a time)  into the almond/powdered sugar mixture in big sweeping motions. It is ready when everything is completely incorporated and the batter runs in a slow, thick ribbon off the spatula.

Fill a pastry bag with the macaron batter, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Then start piping the macaron shells, by holding the pastry bag at about 90 degrees to the sheet and pipe straight down, cutting off the shell when your circle is about an inch. Below, are the purple macaron shells for the blackberry buttercream filling.

Let the piped macaron shells rest until they no longer stick to your finger when you lightly touch the top of them, which takes about 10-20 minutes. Next, bake them in a pre-heated oven, at 325 F for about 12 minutes. Make sure to turn the pan halfway through. They are done when you lightly tap them and they don’t move too much. Once out of the oven, carefully twist the macaron shells off the parchment and let the shells cool completely before filling.

 

Here is a recipe for the Macaron Shell, taken from Gourmet or Gourmand:

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 egg whites at room temperature
  • 3 Tb. granulated sugar
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • coloring: only powder or gel
  1. Blend the confectioner’s sugar and the almond flour in a food processor.
  2. Begin to whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until they start to froth. Add a pinch of cream of tartar, and as they foam up more gradually add the granulated sugar. Beat until stiff.
  3. Add the almond mixture to the egg white mixture and fold until the mixture begins to flow “like magma”. I would say this will take about 40 – 60 turns of the spatula.
  4. Fill pastry bag fitted with 1/4 ” tip and make 1 inch mounds on cookie sheets lined with parchment. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

And the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Filling, from Chow:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), at room temperature and cut into cubes
  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
  2. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Stir it into the chocolate without creating bubbles. Let sit for 1 minute.
  3. Add the butter and stir until smooth.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until thickened but still spreadable, about 30 minutes.

To assemble:

Pair macarons of similar size. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. If you choose to pipe the ganache, transfer it to a resealable plastic bag and snip about a 1/2 inch off a bottom corner. Squeeze or scoop the ganache to about the size of a cherry (about 1 teaspoon) onto the center of a macaron half.

 

Our French Macarons came out wonderfully. We got to take home a bunch of French Macaron cookies to enjoy later, and of course I sampled some on the spot. Delicious, perfectly chewy and sweet with great flavor!

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