Archive for April, 2007

A different kind of booty call

I love it when people ask me to bake for them, all expenses paid. It’s like, you’re paying for all this stuff so I can have fun? Are you sure? Of course! It’s a booty call of sorts. You call me. I’m always wide open. Just call me pleeeeaasee…I’ll say yes. I’m a slut.

So it was A this time around. He needed some baked goods for his residents. What a caring, thoughtful RA he is! I was overjoyed to get his request. And plus, it was also very good timing–the New York Times‘ recipe for Supernatural Brownies had been screaming “Try me! Try me!” and for the whole past week, I had to resist the temptation because I knew I would end up devouring the whole entire tray all by myself, and that, my friend, is a possibility to be avoided at all costs.

Actually, scratch that–I’d more likely end up eating half the tray and then throw the other half into the trash can, topping it off with a generous drizzle of our newly purchased apple-scented Sunlight dishwashing liquid, a la Miranda from Sex and the City. B would mourn the loss of those brownies now rendered inedible in our trash can. Finally, I would call BFF for a confessional session and reassurance. Trust me, she’s good at that.

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Do I look supernatural enough?

I didn’t realize how long it’d been since my last time baking brownies. In a world inundated with so many brownie recipes and with a good fraction of them claiming to be the brownie recipe, I found it most beneficial to my sanity to just stay faithful to one, giving it the benefit of the doubt that this was indeed the brownie recipe to resort to. (Well, of course, it has to be somewhat of an excellent recipe for you to want to stick to it in the first place, like 8/10-ish at least.) My recipe of choice for the past three years has been the one from the Chocolate Bar cookbook, and self-deluded or not, I’d have to say that those brownies were pretty damn good! (If you haven’t noticed, modesty is taking a break today =p )

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Supernatural Brownies

But seriously now, how often do you come by a recipe with the word supernatural attached to it? Not Deep, Dark & Decadent, not Super-Gooey, not even The Best or Perfect…but SUPERNATURAL!?!? Well, I don’t know about you, but I fell for it. The result was indeed extremely pleasing. It came out of the oven with this gorgeous sheen and crackly surface. I cut a little piece from the corner to take a peek of the interior, and surely enough, it was beautifully fudgy. The texture was just right–chewy outside and gooey and moist inside. Flavorwise, it could benefit from a darker/higher-quality chocolate (Callebaut! Valrhona!). A couple tablespoons of espresso would probably help too, just to add a little more depth. But that’s it. No walnuts. No other fancy cookie things or allergy-triggering additives. I’m a purist in this department. I just want my brownie chewy and gooey with that deep intense dark chocolate taste (like the Original Fat Witch). I especially detest brownies with frosting or brownies with cream cheese. Please don’t get me started.

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‘The Cupcakes Aditi Made for Easter Last Year’

Aside from the Supernatural Brownies, I also baked these cupcakes I like to refer to as “the cupcakes Aditi made for Easter last year” for people who may not be as keen on chocolate. (Seriously what’s wrong with them?) Well, as their name suggests, I got this recipe from Aditi who got it from her friend’s mother who got it from…wait…she was the one who invented this cupcake. So understandably, it was this friend’s mother who told Aditi who told me to keep this recipe a secret. Gosh, this makes me feel so special and elitist it’s actually kind of awesome. haha just kidding!

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Cupcake close-up

Since I can’t really give away the ingredients, I’d just say that these cupcakes’ flavors are reminiscent of Ambrosia salad (as Sofia had so perceptibly pointed out). Ironically enough, the list of ingredients read like it was put together by a cracked-up Sandra Lee, a Sandra Lee with keener culinary acumen as evident in the delicious cupcakes. So who knows…maybe Sandra Lee’s food actually tastes good?!!!

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Angie’s birthday cake – a four-layered monstrosity

I baked this monstrous four-layered cake a while ago for Angie, one of the many many things I didn’t get around to blogging about yet. It was my first foray into the fourth layer. Just thought I should put this here because this was also “the cupcake Aditi made for Easter last year,” just 48 times its original size.

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Lobster rollin’ encore!

I know this seems a bit ridiculous. Lobster rollin’ two weeks in a row? Excessive much???

Now let me give you the context: my good friend D recently landed a full-time offer at NBC–yes, a full-time job at NBC. YAY!!! CONGRATULATIONS D!!! I’m so happy for you =). That said, don’t you all agree that this special occasion warranted a grand celebration? The day was set for Saturday, and guess where D wanted to go? Pearl Oyster Bar! It’s true, I just had a lobster roll a mere week ago, but if the person landing the job–the one being celebrated–wanted lobster rolls, again, then what could I say?

HELL YES! LET’S GO! LOBSTER ROLLS ENCORE BABY!!!

So off I rode down the 1 train, again, to that disorienting intersection of Christopher & 4th. (fyi, Pearl and Mary’s are just blocks away from each other. Quite convenient for those promiscuous lobster roll fans who don’t just set their hearts on one camp, since they can simply put their names down at both places and see which place calls first.) Of course, there was a long wait. No problem! I was too happy to stroll around and spend some time at Murray’s Cheese Shop. You see, when you put me in a store like that, especially when I’m hungry, you know a mini-spree is in order. I ended up with a 1/2 lb of prosciutto, 1/2 lb of pate de canard, a sizable wedge of this cheese called piave that smelled so much like parmigiano-reggiano (a good sign!), and then…drumroll…a thingy of burratina!! (Read about my newfound obsession with this ridiculously ethereal cheese here.) Anticipate a report on this.

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D holding up the precious Lobster Roll!
Shoestring Fries on T‘s plate in the backdrop

All happy and radiant from our Murray’s purchase, we walked back to Pearl and tucked ourselves in at the cramped bar. Some celebratory wine was ordered, and what ensued was one deliriously happy meal that would put Micky D’s to shame. Long story short: D and T each got a lobster roll. I ordered the pan roasted scallops. T proclaimed this to be the best meal of his life. T started talking to the lobster in the poster on the wall. “Dear lobster, thank you for sacrificing yourself for us…” T declared Pearl Oyster Bar the happiest place on the planet (on par with Best Buy). D and I couldn’t agree more.

I had some of D‘s lobster roll and it totally confirmed my sentiment last week. The lobster salad had significantly less mayonaise than Mary’s and you could actually hold it up! There was no celery in it, or maybe there was but it was undetectable. I take back the part about lobster chunks being too big–there’s no such things =p. With just the right amount of mayo, the absence of celery, and super-skinny shoestring fries that maximize the ratio of crispy exterior to the mushy inside, Pearl’s lobster roll is most definitely my favorite in town, and now I say with full confidence.

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Pan Roasted Sea Scallops with Roasted Potatoes, Asparagus, and Shitake

Alright, I know some explanation is needed for why I copped out with the scallops. What the hell right? I know, I know. I deserve all the yelling. This sudden wave of health-consciousness descended upon me–stupid voice of reason telling me I just had the doubly mayonaise-drenched version last week and penance was to be enacted–so I went ahead with the scallops. The wholesome foursome were cooked beautifully, velvety and all, and the shitake was crispy and smoky, a nice accompaniment. But still, it was no lobster roll. I kept glancing longingly as D and T immersed themselves in theirs. The voice of reason must be quelled next time.

Finally, it’s time to order dessert–the long-awaited out-of-this-world good blueberry pie! Our waitress cruised by and I beamed, “Can we please have the blueberry pie?” I beamed more. Waitress said, “Oh I’m so sorry. We don’t have blueberry pie this season. Instead, there’s the apple crumble…it’s seasonal…and there’s also BLAH BLAH BLAH and BLAH and BLAH BLAH, or you can have the hot fudge sundae. It’s really good…”

I was almost teary-eyed. I think I actually felt vindictive against seasonality and nature for a few seconds.

But no time to lament–SJ was also having a birthday dinner that night. I parted with D and T then headed to Magnolia Bakery to pick up some cupcakes for birthday boy. Despite my personal gripe against Magnolia and cupcakes in general–they’re so throat-clogging dry and sickeningly sweet!–I found myself going back time and again to this place (or other similar-minded shops), each time fetching a double-digit number of the saccharine cupcakes for the birthday girl/boy or anybody deserving to feel special that particular day. It’s confounding…I still don’t get the deadly sweet vanilla-vanilla cupcakes but I keep buying them for people (the double chocolate ones are ok, especially when eaten drunk). Well, I guess there’s a certain allure to the fluffy pastel-colored frosting and the petite-sized single portion. Their cultish status contributes too, I guess. They’re just cute and whimsical and they make the receivers feel extra-special…or that’s what I think. Oh I don’t know why I’m trying to rationalize all this. Sorry for the babbling!

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Clockwise from top left: a quartet of cupcakes for birthday boy; Banana Pudding aka better-than-sex pudding; a clearly emotionally purchased cupcake for moi; Coconut Layered Cake for BFF

Since the wait was a soul-sucking 20 minutes, I further rationalized that it would make more sense if I bought more items; hence another mini-spree as pictured above. Their banana pudding is actually quite good and mildly addictive. Thanks to J for introducing me to it.

Murray’s Cheese Shop (Greenwich Village location)
254 Bleecker St.
(between 6th and 7th Ave.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-3289

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-8911

Magnolia Bakery
401 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 462-2572

Lobster rollin’

Last Saturday, to celebrate the end of my bedridden condition, Baybala and I made a trek down to the West Village for some good ol’ lobster rollin’. (My poor suite was hit by a mysterious plague. Three of us were somewhat deathly sick for a collective period of one week–I know, yuck. It was the weakest time of my life, and the sickness sort of accounted for my inactivity here too, well partially…but yea, be sympathetic!) But sick or not, I definitely had been fantasizing about this lobster roll business for a while. It got so bad that, for two days straight, all I could think of was lobster rolls, daydreaming about chunks and chunks of fresh lobster meat…all squished in some uber-buttery crispy hot dog bun…dripping in mayonaise…I mean…drowning…ahhh…and also shoestring fries as a bonus…so artery-clogging but so utterly wonderful! Doesn’t that just sound like the ultimate cure for some stupid virus???

I was supposed to wait a little longer to go with D and AJ, my two lobster roll buddies, but alas, the situation was far too urgent and grave. Forgive me lobster roll buddies! With Baybala as my partner in crime, I was set on going to the new Ed’s Lobster Bar in Soho. Ok, I’ll admit it…it’s the ice-cream sammich they talked about on Grub Street. But doesn’t that just look realllllly good? And the guy was a longtime cook at Pearl too, so I thought it’d be worthwhile to check it out. Unfortunately, most of the reviews on Chowhound weren’t too auspicious. Orgasmic-looking ice-cream hot dog will have to wait…so sayonora to Ed (for now). We were headed instead to Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village, hurrah!

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Louisiana Crab au Gratin

We got there around 6ish and the place was already packed. Baybala and I had to wait 30 minutes, meh–whatever, could’ve been a lot worse. We shared an appetizer of Louisiana Crab au Gratin. The puny cup held a mixture of heavy cream, cheddar cheese, and huge lumps of crabmeat, so quite predictably, it was really good. (Seriously, how do you make something bad-tasting with that combination??) Its rich fattiness warmed my heart.

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Lobster Roll!!!

After the quickie warm-up, our lobster rolls arrived. They were delightfully drenched in mayonaise and overflowing with beautiful lobster meat–’twas a heartwarming sight indeed. I took my first bite and…mMmmmMMMmmMMm…it was so worth the wait. Hail the New Englanders!! All power to them for their mighty contribution to the greatness that is the American cuisine! What a colossal crustacean feat!! Oh yeahhhh!!

Awkward phrases and annoying alliteration abound, but of course, the inevitable question remains: so how did it compare to Pearl’s? (and yes, how many calories was in that one lobster roll???). Well, as much as I enjoyed the evening, I would have to say that Pearl’s is still my favorite. This is going to sound tres silly, but I thought the lobster pieces in Mary’s lobster rolls were a bit too large and the presence of the chopped celery, well, a bit too present–one less teaspoon would’ve been perfect for me. Plus, the mayo-drippiness did get a bit too drippy too. Don’t get me wrong though…Mary’s lobster roll was still the most satisfying item I put in my mouth since I got back from spring break (oh how I miss LA!). But after all, if I’m dropping 28 friggin dollars on that one damn roll, then I deserve to have all my idiosyncratic preferences fulfilled right? I’d hope so!

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Hot Fudge Sundae

Finally, as a conclusion to our oh-so-healthy-heart dinner, Baybala and I shared an order of the Hot Fudge Sundae, a nice end to this decadent meal of fatty comfort food. But still, I’ll have to admit I was very bummed out that they didn’t have blueberry pie on the menu–totally looking forward to having a super-Maineiac meal (another reason why I’d prefer Pearl Oyster Bar over Mary’s Fish Camp since Pearl’s blueberry pie was so out-of-this-world good).

So yes, I’m sorry for the long period of inactivity (there’s this thing called school, unfortunately). But now that I’m done with the sickness and most of my club obligations, I’m really hoping to spend more time here. It’s my happy place =). Stay tuned!

Mary’s Fish Camp
64 Charles Street (at 4th Street)
New York, NY 10014
(646) 486-2185