Chocolate Mousse Cake

A take on our family’s favorite birthday treat — Angela Mia Chocolate Mousse Cake. This version is slightly less dense and doesn’t include a chocolate chip siding (however, you could certainly add it, as you wish!) Best served with homemade vanilla ice cream!

Imperative ingredients: booze in the mousse– your choice, but Kahlua works extremely well. Also the darkest cocoa powder you can find for the cake as well as the ganache!

Optional additions: Berries on top, chocolate chips, jam or ganache layer within.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Mousse

2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
3 Tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tbsp Kahlua or Godiva liqueur

Chocolate Ganache
1 1/4 cup high quality dark chocolate
3/4 cups whipping cream

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease three 9-inch cake pans and lightly flour

Put 2 cups of water into a saucepan, mix in the cocoa and boil. Stir until combined and smooth, then turn off and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together.

Beat in the dry ingredients alternating with the chocolate mixture.

Beat just until blended, do not over mix.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove cakes from oven, place on cooling racks and leave them in the pans for 5 minutes.

 

Chocolate Mousse

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or a pot filled with water and bowl. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream and sugar, to stiff peaks. When chocolate is cool, whisk into cream. Whisk in vanilla and Kahlua. Set aside or store in refrigerator.

 

Chocolate Ganache

Melt chocolate and cream in a double boiler, or a pot filled with water and bowl. Set aside to cool.

Put chocolate mousse in between layers. Then pour chocolate ganache over top of cake. Serve.

$27 Banana Split

Go to The Beatrice Inn for a hearty meat-centric dinner and stay for this dessert, if your wallet allows. On a girls night out we treated ourselves to the Banana Brulee Sundae with Chocolate covered Cherries, Amarena Cherry Ice Cream, Sponge Cake and Pedro Ximenez and suffice to say it did not disappoint. The limited dessert options are gluttonous so say the least – foie gras ice cream and fried apple pie are the other choices – but this was surprisingly light for packing such a decadent punch. The bananas were perfectly fried to a golden brown, but the truest highlight of the dish was the cherry infused vanilla ice cream and PX sherry – a match made in heaven!

Tomato Tuna

 

Ahimi Nigiri

This week I attended Menus of Change, a sustainable food conference for professional chefs and foodservice operators focused on food transparency and plant-forward eating. The conference is eye-opening, featuring speakers from all corners of the food innovation world from Kimbal Musk (Kitchen Denver) and Corby Kummer (The Atlantic) to McDonald’s and Sonic.

One standout moment this year, perhaps equal with the launch of Sonic’s blended burger, was an innovation by Ocean Hugger Foods called Ahimi – A faux tuna product developed by Chef James Corwell.

We all (okay not all, but if you’re reading this you probably do) know that blue fin tuna is an endangered species and somehow still shows up in fish markets. In fact seafood is now almost always the top issue noted in food sustainability discussions. So why not create a sustainable alternative designed to have the taste and texture of tuna, but made entirely plant-based. The sous vide tomato is clean and unprocessed (the finer details are kept a secret by Chef Corwell and Ocean Hugger) but essentially it’s just water, tomatoes, soy sauce, and vinegar.

“[Our] mission is to support sustainability of the oceans, protect wildlife, and create a world where people can experience the delicious culinary tradition of sushi without harming the oceans.”

Firm, juicy, and bursting with savory flavor, the world’s first plant-based alternative to tuna has set the bar high by demonstrating the endless possibility for sustainable innovation.

Almond Milk Shots

Working with the Almond Board of California (ABC) for 5+ years I’ve tasted my fair share of almond milk. There’s always a new take, be it an innovative add-in or sweetener, a blend of coconut or other milks, but usually the simplest recipes take the cake.

Chef Matt Vawter holds it down at Mercantile with this perfectly creamy and slightly sweet recipe. Mercantile is also an incredible place to hang out if you find yourself in Denver’s Union Station – grab a pastry and an iced almond milk latte and set yourself up on the sun soaked patio for a few hours. Then you can make this stuff yourself at home!

Almond Milk

Chef Matt Vawter — Mercantile Denver

150 grams Almonds

Soaked fully submerged in water for 24 hours.

2 each medjool dates

Method:

Remove the soaked almonds from the water and blend in a high powered food service blender with 600 grams fresh water and the dates. Blend until smooth and then strain through a nut bag.

This photo is from a food trends tour we curated in Denver and Boulder for ABC – to taste the recipe on its own we all had a shot alongside our almond milk and coffee beverages.

Ad Hoc/Addendum Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken

“Since fried chicken night only happens twice a month,” Thomas Keller says, “people have a wonderful sense of anticipation.”

Well I’m not sure if it’s the sense of anticipation or the tried and true lemony brine, but the fried chicken at Ad Hoc is truly unsurpassed in my book.

Outstanding crisp, juicy chicken, and the fresh mix of seasoning make for a salacious take on the classic. Sure to extensively take over dinner table discussion, the chicken wins the meal without question. Heavy sides – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes – prove far denser than the flawless main event.

To try recreating at home, see below for Food and Wine’s posting of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Two 3-pound chickens
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

RECIPE

  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  4. In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

Ladybird

Ladybird, located in a space that ironically used to be a meat and cheese fondue locale (The Bourgeois Pig), has managed to impress a gamut of New York City diners with a fully vegan menu. An omnivore myself, I enjoy earth’s bounty of fruit and veg as much, if not more at times, than meat. However, limited animal protein and a focus on plant-based foods is one thing, whereas vegan territory is a different “beast.” Particularly with vegetarian mainstays like cheese and eggs being forbidden by the vegan mantra, chefs truly need to get creative to pique diners’ interest. Below is a sampling of what we tasted, all kind of mysterious, given that there obviously was no cheese or pate at our table.

  • Chardonnay Fondue – served with focaccia & seasonal vegetables
  • Roasted eggplant with tofu ricotta cream
  • Mushroom truffle pate
  • Saganaki – Flaming soy mozzarella, smoked carrot, chive pesto

So deliciousness aside (I was quite impressed!), one qualm I have with Ladybird (and most vegan menu items, really) is the determination to make dishes into something they are not. Instead of listing the cashew and coconut crème ingredients in the “fondue,” the menu feigns normalcy.

On this topic, Alan Sytsma and Adam Platt verbalize my feelings succinctly in Episode 19of the Grub Street Podcast. When speaking of veggie burgers in particular, the two nail it in banter about the transition of highly ritualized foods in an ever evolving food environment:

Alan Sytsma: The thing that I have often thought is, why is there this desire to turn vegetables into a dish that’s only successful because it works with meat? Why not find the thing that vegetables are good for, instead of trying to re-create the experience of eating beef with soybeans?

Adam Platt: Well, the answer is that the chefs are getting more canny and focusing on it. The top chefs didn’t used to worry about this stuff. They worried about getting their perfect engorged foie gras, searing it beautifully with sauces. These guys are taking those techniques, and food science, and applying it to the veggie burger. Whereas before, the people who made veggie burgers were stoned line cooks in San Diego. So these are top, trained chefs. And, like Brooks Headley, they’re food-lab wizards. So the science, if you could call it that, is there now. They figured out how to not just re-create the somewhat-accurate taste of a real burger. Although it’s ultimately not. It’s not really beef, and you don’t have this great umami. But they’ve made it look like a real beef burger, and they’ve made it feel, texturally, like a beef burger, both in your hand and sort of in your mouth. So they’ve created the highly ritualized, satisfying experience of eating a beef burger, but it happens to be vegetable.

The veggie burger is the most conspicuous part of this trend. A top chef now is not just a cook. They’re socially engaged, politically involved … in the ideas of the times. They’re like philosopher kings. The food world is that way now. It’s linked to the environment in ways we never thought about, even 10, 15 years ago. Like Dan Barber and David Chang, they’re preaching the gospel. The veggie burger is one of the easiest ways, and most popular ways to preach this gospel.

So while I do agree that Ladybird is creating an experience far superior to the antiquated tofu chunk or carb-heavy vegan option, and I agree wholeheartedly with the food science involved in re-creating staple food “experiences” for different dining preferences, why not just say what it is? Cashew cream. Mushroom based “béchamel” style sauce. Lemon herb tofu. Those all sound delicious too, so why not own it?

The Birthday Cake Croissant @ Union Fare NYC

Rainbow or cake-flavored anything is a guaranteed win in NYC, but typically at the expense of taste. The Birthday Cake Croissant from Union Fare, however, not only maintains the integrity of its flaky pastry namesake, but launches it to a dessert-like level of richness.

Filled with cake cream – pastry cream lightened with whipped cream (+ sprinkles, of course) –and dusted with pulverized sprinkles, this unique rainbow explosion is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Of note, the cookies ‘n cream, matcha, and crème brulee croissant variations are also worth a try — as is their dinner menu!

DIRTY BLONDIES

In my family chocolate chip cookies and brownies trump all other desserts. And so was born the dirty blondie, offering the best of both worlds!

Cookie Layer (adapted from Pinch of Yum)
1 stick salted butter, room temp.
¾ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Brownie Layer

6 tablespoons butter

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars in a small mixing bowl. Add vanilla and egg; cream again until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir gently until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. For the brownie batter, in a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. With a whisk, beat in the vanilla and sugar. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Stir flour, measure into a small bowl, and stir in the baking powder and salt, blending well. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the first mixture.
  5. Pour brownie batter into a glass 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish. Scatter pieces of cookie dough over the top of the brownie batter. Press gently on the dough just until it starts to sink down into the batter a little bit.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes (35 for gooey, 40 or more for fully baked), covering with foil if you need to keep the cookies from getting too brown on top. Let stand for 15-20 minutes and cut into pieces for serving.

FIKA

Pretty much everything about Sweden enticed me – the cuisine, art, cityscape, and waterfront — but I must say that the tradition of Fika is what won my heart. I suppose it’s comparable to England’s afternoon tea, but there’s a certain coziness to taking a moment for coffee and cake that removes the stuffiness from afternoon snack time, and brings everyone closer to the table.

I was lucky enough to have Fika every day while in Sweden, and each experience was unique and special in its own way. First, after climbing the stunning Norra Berget on a chilly day, we enjoyed the foggy view of the city between two mountains and took refuge in a sweet little café at the summit. There we served our own coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and placed orders for waffles with whipped cream and cloudberry jam. Sitting by the fire surrounded by local Swedes, we’d fueled up for our journey back down the mountain!

A most traditional Fika was in the home of my dear friend, Johanna. There, her mother prepared coffee for us and I was wide-eyed at the tray of home-baked treats she placed on the table in front of us. In the comfort of their family living room, we all sat enjoying the afternoon respite, getting to know each other over ginger cookies, muffins, and chocolate cake.

In Stockholm, Fika takes its own form. Our city-home for the week, Urban Deli, offered all-day Fika of at your convenience. But in the city Fika seemed more often taken with a book or laptop, a time at which to have a meeting or catch-up. In Stockholm it’s clear that Fika is the true coffee culture of Sweden, be it city or suburb, defining how Swedes converse and decompress in the afternoon. While Fika literally means “to drink coffee,” tea is also a common choice one may enjoy with a sweet snack. A cinnamon bun, cardamom cake, oat cookie, fig square, almond tarte, or chocolate sandwich cookie are just a few options to choose from there and throughout the city locales.

And now, even in New York City we have our very own Fika! The chain, which opened in 2006, embodies the Swedish tradition and appreciation of a coffee-centric lifestyle. Above all, this local iteration is the perfect place to treat yourself with high quality ingredients, and a caffeine and sugar kick to help you take on the day.

 

Havana, CUBA

To guide your wanderings, some Cuba favorites…

La Guarida – Read the story about this famed Havana restaurant in an abandoned apartment building – the rooftop bar is worth a visit while you wait for a table – Reservations required // Find it: Concordia number 418 between Gervasio and Escobar

Le Chansonnier – In a gorgeous old home with modern art on every wall // Find it: Calle J number 257 between 15 and Linea

304 O’Reilly – Reliable food, cozy (tight) seating, and delicious cocktails // Find it: 304 O’Reilly

Café El Dandy – The heart of Havana Vieja – tasty small plates and incredible people watching // Find it: Teniente Rey/Plaza de Cristo (Old Havana)

El Chanchullero – Sit up on the small third floor rooftop here and have rotating daily snacks and a beer in the open air – Open late! // Find it: Right next to El Dandy and Clandestina on the square

303 O’Reilly (EL DEL FRENTE) – Sit on the rooftop here, or at the bar…great food, same owners as O’Reilly 304 // Find it: 304 O’Reilly

O’Reilly Café – Perfect for a quick breakfast and coffee – Have eggs, toast, fruit and coffee all for ~ $3.50

El Submarino Amarillo — Beatles tribute bar, sometimes at night they have live shows // Find it: Calle 17

Fabrica del Arte – Art gallery/bar/restaurant with two different dance floors  // Find it: Calle 26 between 11 and 13

La Torre – At the top of La Focsa, this rooftop bar has great views // Find it: Calle 17 and Calle M

Hotel Nacional – Touristy hotel but worth a visit for the gorgeous patio overlooking Mallecon // Find it: Calle Obispo Esquina A S/N

Vista Mar — Good seafood on the water in Playa // Find it: Avenida 1rs No. 2206

La Bodeguita del Medio- Touristy but good place for drinks (mojitos in particular) early on in the night. // Find it: Empedrado