October 29, 2008

the best cupcakes ever

A few days ago, we got the November edition of Seattle Magazine in the mail. The cover article? "Best Desserts: Where to find the 95 richest cakes, creamiest pies and most decadent desserts for every craving"... accompanied by a simple picture of three of Trophy's gorgeous Chocolate Graham Cracker with Toasted Marshmallow cupcakes...

Now there's a lot to like about Trophy. They make a mighty fine cupcake--a clear cut above the other cupcake bakeries in the Seattle area--good enough to wow Martha Stewart... a local business we can be proud of.

But Martha hasn't had a chance to taste the decadent chocolate cupcakes from the greatest cupcake maker I've ever encountered.

For Lav's birthday, I got two dozen of her all-time favorite cupcakes, half with vanilla buttercream frosting and the other half with raspberry buttercream. Phenomenal chocolate flavor, unbelievably moist and tender... and topped by decadent frosting. The vanilla buttercream used to be my favorite, but the purity of the all natural raspberry puree flavor in the raspberry buttercream was insanely good. These cupcakes are really without match, surpassing even Trophy's version of the chocolate cupcake. Don't worry, we didn't eat them all by ourselves--although we probably could have made a significant dent on our own.

Where can you get these cupcakes? Well, it's pretty much an underground operation for now, but if you're in the Seattle area, you can always try your luck at topsecretcupcakes@gmail.com. Maybe for next year's dessert issue, Seattle Magazine can get the scoop on this one...

October 19, 2008

more signs of fall

Not that it hasn't been pretty apparent already, but this week it really sunk in that the fall season has fully arrived. Leaves are changing color all over the place and there's a new, denser quality to the chill in the air. Now, on a clear day like today, there isn't quite the same warmth to the sunshine... plumes of steam shoot out of the side of our house as we run the dryer, and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.

But with the onset of this cooler season, I'm looking forward to the return of slow roasting and braising, the use of a richer palate of flavors and textures, and the pairing of dense, brooding wines.

Lav picked up some cranberry beans from the market recently, which I've never worked with before. Even fresh, it takes a good 15-20 minutes to boil these beans down to a tender, creamy consistency, unveiling their slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavor. What struck me most was the stunning colors of the pods and the beans themselves.

Like an explosion of fall foliage... maybe less sun, maybe a bit chillier, but lots to look forward to.

October 15, 2008

a bookmark of sorts

Sometimes you get an idea, but it's only half-baked... Here's something I made near the end of the summer that I want to revisit and refine at some point. It was an experiment of sorts that had a bunch of different flavors and textures.

So what's going on here? The base of this dish is a savory broth made of late harvested sweet corn. There are chunks of roasted beets for a complementary, parallel sweetness... roasted bell peppers for some earthiness, blistered green beans for smoky flavor and crisp texture, chunks of potato for body, cherry tomatoes for brightness and acidity... all topped with a poached egg for added richness.

On the one hand, there's probably some discordance here on account of the number of disparate characteristics... but I do think we got pretty close to wrangling everything together into a cohesive dish. Again, only a half-baked idea... but there's some potential. If nothing else, it's a nice memory of the last days of summer.

October 14, 2008

changing seasons

Wow, it has been a while since I last blogged... so long that I'm totally out of rhythm with the whole thing. I missed all of August and September, mostly because we had people visiting, we were out of town, or we were just too busy enjoying our fleeting days of perfect summer weather. Lots of great food during that span... just no real time to hit the blog.

Now all of a sudden, fall has definitely arrived... the sun sets WAY earlier and temperatures have dropped a good 30 degrees... so I'm back to blogging. And there have been some other "changes of the season"... like the arrival of J and N's new superstar (who looks like a wise philosopher):

We had a chance to have a simple dinner with J and N about a week before the big day, and J made us some of his amazing pizzas. He started by superheating an iron skillet on the stove on high while waiting for the broiler to heat up.

Once smoking, the skillet is inverted and the homemade pizza dough was placed, with toppings, onto the skillet and set under the broiler for 2-3 minutes... the resulting pizzas were blistered, lightly crisp, slightly chewy, and utterly fantastic.

So then we gave J & N a little break after they had their baby boy... but less than two weeks later, we got to share a dinner together. The menu was set up specifically for N (she deserved it after all that work)... meaning no tomatoes, mushrooms or cucumbers. Instead, we went with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and kabocha squash risotto with bacon and sauteed dandelion greens. But truth be told, I think N was more into the little appetizer of hand cut fries (a modified method I'm testing) and the slice of Lav's pear-almond tart (with an accompanying glass of tawny port for J).

I gotta say, I'm impressed that these two had the energy to get together for dinner so soon after their son's birth... and it's a real blessing to share these moments with them.

N, any time you want fries, just give a holler.