Operation Wedding Cake

I like to think that each of us has at least one crazy, brilliant friend who somehow makes everything seem to work out seamlessly.

Like when she recruits you into helping create her wedding cake the night before the ceremony.

Maybe that’s just me.

A couple weeks ago, I flew out to Cleveland to celebrate the marriage of one of my oldest friends. Emily (yes, there’s two of us) and I went to elementary/middle/high school together but the most hilariously memorable times were working together in a chocolatier at age 17, then thinking we could recreate the beautifully crafted truffles at home. We couldn’t. But we did make a huge mess with our sad attempts at ganache.

In the end, I kept making my sad, mishapen confections while Em went off to the Culinary Institute of America to actually focus on baking and pastry.

And here we are today.
So, ten years later, when Em told me that we’d be making and assembling a lovely wedding croquembouche when I was in town for the weekend, I didn’t really bat an eye. I would, of course, be on ganache duty…we had to fill 900 cream puffs, after all.

What I didn’t expect was a room full of friends, relatives, and bridal party in an assembly line flurry of activity – chopping pounds and pounds of chocolate, melting it for ganache, filling creampuffs, making caramel (for the glue that holds all creampuffs together in its glorious tower), and piping chocolate tuxedos onto hundreds of strawberries. With plenty of pizza and wine in the background, of course.

With all the chaos, loved ones and chocolate in one place, it was pure magic.

At least in my mind, this is everything a wedding weekend should be. Informally gathering all of your favorite people in one place and creating magnificent desserts in the process.

As you can see, though my shoddy instagram photos don’t do it justice, everything turned out beautifully.

And to think, my skills in the kitchen have improved in the last decade! Who knew?
So thank you, my dear friend and beautiful bride, for one hell of a sweet time.

Farm to Shaker Cocktails – CT Bartender Challenge

The Coventry Farmers’ Market is hosting their Farm-to-Shaker Bartender Challenge this coming Sunday, August 11th.

I attended last year and not only is it full of farm-fresh libations, but ticket costs are extremely reasonable. $25 gets you food, cocktails and the opportunity to watch some of the area’s most talented mixologists work their magic with local ingredients (not to mention RIPE Craft Bar Juice and Onyx Moonshine). Even better, it benefits the Coventry Farmers’ Market.

Chion Wolf from WNPR is emceeing and you’ll find me on the judges panel with JD Altobello (RIPE), Adam VonGootkin (Onyx Spirits) and David Brogan (mixologist extraordinaire). Bartenders from Firebox, A Thyme to Cook, Cavey’s, Eli Cannon and Max’s Oyster Bar will showcase their skills by mixing together some killer cocktails…which you’ll get to sample.

Anyway, it’s a wonderful event and I’m excited to be a part of it after enjoying myself so much last year.

So, you should come. Here’s the ticket info and purchase page: http://farmtoshaker.eventbrite.com/

Tantalizing Tapas at Pacifico in New Haven

What is this culinary sorcery?

From first glimpsing the restaurant’s vibrant color scheme to that last morsel of tres leches pound cake, the entire experience at Pacifico Restaurant in New Haven was pure perfection. Refreshing glasses of coconut and mango mojitos kicked off the dinner, each garnished with a straw of raw sugar cane – achieving the flawless balance of a minty, tropical elixir without being cloyingly sweet.

From the extensive tapas menu, Nick and I ordered four plates to share; the night’s special of yellowfin tuna ceviche in sweet, mild coconut milk, plus a plate of puerquitos (braised pork belly in a jalapeno pepper jam). We continued with the quesadilla bursting with shredded duck, roasted peppers, and smoked gouda, rounded out with a roasted corn salsita, jalapeno aioli and a pomegranate reduction.

While each of these small plates tantalized our tastebuds accordingly, the real star was our order of ostras fritas mofongo – crispy oysters over mofongo (plantain mash) topped with a saffron-mojito sauce. Cradled in the oyster shells, the dish created a lovely presentation.
A shared dessert of tres leches pound cake with fresh whipped cream concluded the meal. Needless to say, a delicious outing that confirmed, yet again, that New Haven has one hell of a restaurant scene.

Pacifico is located at 220 College Street in New Haven, CT. Visit their website and view the menu here.

Getting Baked With The Best of ‘Em

Give me an Andes mint nutella brownie and a cup of Bean & Leaf dark roast and send me straight to heaven.

Or send me straight back to Get Baked in Windsor. 

Even though I ate the brownie in about 30 seconds at the cafe, I ordered one to take home for my boyfriend (how nice am I?) and endured some obscene groans of delight as he speedily demolished the confection.

Really though, this place is awesome. I love the lofty antique auction house setting – eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe. Yesterday afternoon, Leeanne and I sat at one of the tables after ordering and had a nice chat while watching bakery regulars drift in and out. It’s a comfy spot with a low key vibe and an aroma dreams are made of.

We also sampled a few different cookies (75 cents each!) from traditional chocolate chip to creamsicle and coconut lime (my favorite of the trio). Next time, I’ll spring for a lemon lavender scone and some of the other, more savory items. Ending with the sweet conclusion of another brownie, of course.

I’m also interested in coming back for one of the auction house dinners at some point. Did I hear challah pizza?

Get Baked yourself at 25 Central Street in Windsor. Learn more here.

Dreams of golabek & bigos @ Staropolska

Can a potato pancake melt in your mouth?

I dunno, but this one did.

Staropolska in New Britain makes me really, really happy. To tell you the truth, I’d never been to a Polish restaurant despite growing up with a Polish mother who didn’t even come to the US ’til she was in her 20s. Anyway, Staropolska resides in New Britain’s Little Poland neighborhood where, to my confused delight, most of the signs aren’t even in English.

The restaurant is on the smaller side but has a nice outdoor dining area, where four of us ended up last night. After starting with a Polish vodka cocktail, three of us moved on to the Polish sampler platter. I could cry with joy at this point, especially after a bite of the crisp, nearly plate-sized potato pancake served with applesauce and sour cream.

After chowin’ on that as an appetizer, each of us was presented with a HEAPING platter of keilbasa, three pierogi (cabbage, meat, and cheese/potato), creamy mashed potatoes topped with fresh dill, golabek (stuffed cabbage) and bigos – a hearty hunters’ stew with sauerkraut, cabbage, and kielbasa. Everything was divine and I left with a container stuffed with leftovers, which Nick promptly devoured once I arrived back home. Best part besides the food? The Polish platter is $17.95 and you get a ton of food. 

Staropolska somehow has the power to make me change my mind. Truth be told, I essentially despised stuffed cabbage until coming here, but somehow ate – and enjoyed- the entire portion last night. I can’t wait to come back – already have plans to bring my mom here for her birthday next week. The only thing I will say – I wish they had some authentic Polish desserts (chrusciki, etc) but I guess that’s what Roly Poly down the street is there for!

Anyway, yeah, go here, it’s great.

Chicken & Waffles at Hash House A Go Go

Ah, Hash House A Go Go. So nice of you to grace Mohegan Sun with your highly caloric presence.

If you go here, scan the menu but end up with the chicken & waffles. This beautiful creation is a monstrosity of crispy, tender sage fried chicken, perfect waffles filled with bacon strips, maple syrup and a bed of fried leeks. It’s tasty as hell and takes at least two people to finish – or just one bottomless pit of a human being.

Tower of chicken & waffles and Nick about to attack

That said, everything here is enormously gimmicky with its “twisted farm food”. But sometimes I’m in the mood for that. My boyfriend photographs concerts at the casinos pretty regularly so I accompanied him on Wednesday and grabbed a bite at HH beforehand. The drinks are absurd in presentation. Nick ordered a BLT bloody Mary which arrived in an enormous glass crowned with a frill of lettuce, bacon strips, a bacon salt rim, and tomato slices. Two lonely pieces of toast were tossed on the side. Cute, huh? Still, tasty enough.

I ordered a cobb salad and believe me, I know it’s probably got more calories than the chix & waffles. Although I adore a well constructed cobb, the salad was particularly underwhelming as it lacked eggs and avocado, two necessary components in my opinion. The salad’s chicken came in a handful of super processed looking little cubes. Wouldn’t order it again.

Regardless, it had a fun atmosphere, service was excellent, and the price was right on. I’m interested in returning for the brunch menu above all else.