Tag Archives: NYC

out of the oven

Martha Stewart’s Popover Fail

Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve eaten a popover – a light and crispy eggy bread – but I couldn’t remember how it was supposed to turn out, as I set out to bake Martha Stewart’s recipe.

Some preliminary thoughts:

  1. I don’t have a specific popover tin, which Martha highly recommends, seeing as the tin is designed such that each cup is taller than it is wide to help with the vertical rise of the batter. Subsequent research shows that you can make popovers in any container really.
  2. The popovers are best served immediately out of the oven as they will start to deflate as soon as they are out.
  3. They rise from the interior steam, since the batter is so soupy – leaving a hollow middle and flakey exterior.
  4. Popovers are called Yorkshire Pudding in Britain and usually eaten with a roast or meat and gravy. I made mine for breakfast, but I think they would have been better suited to a meat dish.
  5. Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for powdered sugar, since I guess in the US it’s more typical to have a sweeter version than in Britain. Frankly I couldn’t taste any sweetness in my outcome, and further investigation shows many many recipes that don’t have any sugar…and so if it’s not actually sweet, why bother adding the extra sugar calories? Skip the sugar.

I easily made the batter since it’s very few ingredients: mostly eggs, milk and a bit of flour.

popover batter
popover batter – very liquidy

I tested three different vessels: 1. a mini muffin tin, 2. a larger ramekin (small dish) that I typically use for souffles or chocolate lava cake, and 3. a coffee mug.

all the vessels
all the vessels

Let’s start with the most obvious fail: the coffee mug. Remembering that there are all these “mug microwave brownie” recipes floating around, I thought, maybe I can make the popover in the microwave too!

Well just no.

up and up and over
up and up and over in the microwave

The whole thing rose sky high – almost straight out of the mug! But there was no way that it was going to crisp the outside (duh) and the end result was basically a rubbery omelette.

Now let’s move to the not-so-obvious fail: the mini muffin tin. There is a photo in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook of the final popovers’ exteriors, but no interior shots. So I thought the insides were supposed to be dry and bread-like, perhaps more like a brioche.

I used 1+ tablespoons of batter in each mini muffin cup, and they rose beautifully. When the tops were golden brown, I took them out of the oven and bit into one. It seemed underdone to me. A definite egg flavor, and even though there was the desired hollowness to the center, I wasn’t quite sure if the whole thing was “correct.”

See how eggy they look even here? Like little omelettes!

So I popped them out of the tin and threw them back into the oven on a baking sheet.

Well, if it wasn’t a fail before, it was a definite misstep at this point. The outsides burned and the insides didn’t seem any more cooked through.

Further research leads me to believe that indeed the insides are supposed to be kind of wet-looking. Maybe it was an unexpected success and I just don’t LIKE popovers? Could be. I have a friend-date to go to an NYC restaurant whose popovers she loves – some hands-on research will ensue and I’ll keep you posted!

And then there was the large popover in the ramekin made with 10 tablespoons of batter – double the suggested amount from Martha. I let it bake 40 minutes – 10 minutes past the normal cook time – just to be sure.

ramekin popover out of the oven
ramekin popover out of the oven – note the burnt minis beside it

The outside looked awesome – toasted and with an odd shape, just like many of the photos in the cookbook and on the internet. The inside was hollow and the dough seemed to be moist but a bit more cooked through, which I appreciated. The downside to this vessel was the fact that the sides and bottom COMPLETELY stuck, even with a liberal butter coating. Hmmmmmm….I’ll have to dig a little deeper here to see what I can do to remedy that. Any thoughts?

I can easily try this out again with some tweaks, given the quick and simple nature of the recipe and ingredients. In the mini-muffin tin, I would probably look to bake them initially a hair longer (maybe 15 minutes instead of 11) to try to dry out the insides a touch. I could also see myself making big ones in ramekins at dinnertime to be served with a roast….once I get a handle on the sticky bottoms.

Popovers to be revisited. Suggestions welcome!

 

margherita pizza

NYC Pizza Review: Masseria Dei Vini

Mark and I had a fun Memorial Day Weekend with friends from our building (and from life, since I’ve known her since we were five): eating pizza, seeing a Broadway musical and getting midnight gelato.

We had dinner at an unsuspecting Italian restaurant on 9th Avenue: Masseria Dei Vini. You would never know from a street full of hole-in-the-wall quick-bite eateries that a large, bright, white-washed upscale Italian restaurant lies behind huge glass windows.

Complete with white tablecloths, mannered waitstaff and a restaurant-length (and height) wall of temperature-controlled, beautifully lit wine bottles, Masseria Dei Vini felt luxurious in an off-beat part of town. Like we had been transported away from anything grungy….maybe to the suburbs even?

 

Mark and I split a pasta as a our appetizer (even split it was a lot of food), and then I had the Margherita pizza as my main, of course.

magherita pizza
margherita pizza

The pizza was excellent and actually fairly large. I ate the whole thing. But I probably could’ve taken half home and still been full!

The crust was a puffy and charred. There was a perfect ratio of sauce to cheese (not too much sauce) and lots of basil leaves. I ate it with a knife and fork, but you definitely could’ve eaten it with hands too, which is to say, it wasn’t too soggy in the middle.

I would definitely return, although next time I would probably split the pizza, or force myself to stop eating and take the rest home!

Affordable Art Fair brochure

NYC Affordable Art Fair

A few weeks ago, I attended New York’s Affordable Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion in what I guess is Chelsea on W. 18th St. (I haven’t yet nailed down the boundaries of all the various NYC neighborhoods.)

I trucked down there, paid my $20 admission fee, and spent a few hours wandering around the galleries showcased within. While there were many art pieces that I loved, I can’t really say that the curators’ idea of “affordable” art and mine were in line.

They tout the exhibit as having art from $100-$10,000, with half priced at $5,000 or less. This may have all been true, but I don’t really think of $4,999 as affordable. Less expensive, maybe. But not affordable. Maybe the better question is, affordable to whom? I only counted a handful of artworks under $500.

But oh well. The affordability of the works didn’t deter me from swooning over some beautifully large animal portraits or giant abstract flowers in oil and acrylic.

Affordable Art Fair brochure
Affordable Art Fair brochure

What also caught my eye was that one of the booths exhibited works from the Art Students League that is a collective-like school just around the corner from us on W. 57th. I have been eyeing to join ever since my mom told me about it, but I haven’t done so yet because of the time commitment to become a member. You pay to be a full-time or part-time member, going to classes 2-5 days a week. And it’s open to anyone of any level which is very cool.

I would go to the Affordable Art Fair again next year, better prepared for what to expect. Maybe one day I’ll be able to go as part of an exhibit, rather than as a shopper!

ingredients for brownies

#MarthaBakes Brownies

Did you know #MarthaBakes is a well-known and highly used hashtag on Instagram? I didn’t when I started this project, but now I follow it regularly to see what other home cooks are up to as they also delve into baking and cooking adventures with Martha Stewart. And there is always the potential that the folks at Martha Stewart might choose your photo to be featured on their own Instagram feed if you are using their hashtag. But typically only if your food photos are really amazing….I’m working on it.

Needing a pot-luck offering, I turned to Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for a brownie recipe, and found her “Fudgy Chocolate Brownies” which, as she states in the intro, are meant to be dense and fudge-like and less like a chocolate cake. Well, she nailed it. No surprise though.

After melting the requisite amount of dark chocolate and adding the sugar and seemingly a lotta eggs (4), my arm was pretty much going to fall off from trying to “whisk” this super dense, thick batter.

 

And I hadn’t even added the flour yet.

In terms of the flour, to make the brownies even richer, I subbed out 2 tablespoons of flour for 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. I did a small amount of research ahead of time to see if I could make the straight substitution or if I would have to add/subtract other ingredients. What I generally found (since there are so many differing opinions out there on the internet) was that if you stick with a minimal amount (under 2 tablespoons), a straight substitution will be fine. It’s once you get into large quantities that you may need to add more moisture (as the cocoa powder absorbs more moisture than flour) or different leavening agents.

Since this recipe had 0 leavening agents (no baking soda, powder, cream of tartar, etc), I decided not to worry about that. The ingredient list was lovely and simple and what one wants in a homemade baked good: butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate, flour, vanilla and salt. Done.

Never having baked this recipe as written, I can’t say whether the addition of the cocoa powder helped or harmed it, but overall the outcome was moist, deeply dark chocolatey brownies. And the crispy corners were definitely the best part, so when I make brownies again, I might have to get one of these contraptions to bake it in: all brownies are corner pieces!!

Killer Bee pizza from B Side

NYC Pizza Review: B Side

I pass by B Side in Hell’s Kitchen at least once a week on my way to yoga. I knew it was a pizza place but the name didn’t inspire anything in me, so it wasn’t truly on my radar until a friend’s Italian boyfriend said it was one of his favorite pizza places in the neighborhood. Well now…

B Side is owned by a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant group that includes Vynl (the name B Side making more sense, as it is tucked around the corner from Vynl which is on 9th Ave and serves comfort food), El Centro (Mexican), Hell’s Kitchen (modern Mexican) and B Squared (another outpost of B Side farther down 9th Ave).

Mark and I went for dinner one evening and sat at the bar. I love the neighborhood feel of this place. It’s tiny, with mostly high top tables and a wrap around bar that provides a lot of seating. The front garage windows were thrown open this evening, and there is more bar seating along with window ledge. The decor is sleek wood with bright modern light fixtures shaped like star bursts along the wall.

We split the Marge (traditional cheese pizza) and the Killer Bee with sopressata, honey and chili oil.

Killer Bee pizza from B Side
Killer Bee pizza

Both pizzas were great! Chewy bubbly crust and not too soggy in the middle like some Neapolitan pizzas can be (I know, I know, they’re supposed to be like that).

I think my preference was for the Marge, just because the Killer Bee had a lot going on with it, and I didn’t love the sweet honey on this one as much as on other honey pizzas I’ve tried.

Also, the wine list is short and to the point, but includes some solid glasses. I had a light dry rose that was perfect for the early spring evening and the fresh hot pizza.

And they do carry-out. All wins!

Art New York

Art Basel. Art Miami. You’ve heard of these huge international art exhibitions that attract the who’s who of the art world. I would have totally assumed that there was Art New York; why wouldn’t there be? But actually Art New York is only in its second year.

Which doesn’t mean that it’s not a force. I attended the fair at Pier 94 last Wednesday and wandered for hours through the 150 galleries represented. I was thoroughly impressed and delighted.

I wanted to attend the show to specifically see photographic work by Joshua Jensen-Nagle at the Galerie de Bellefeuille. In Jensen-Nagle’s recent works, he takes high aerial photographs of beaches such that the sun bathers, umbrellas and underwater sand patterns become abstractions really. He does have some scenes that are taken at a closer distance which are serene in their lightness and brightness.

IpanemaII Ipanema II, Joshua Jensen-Nagle, photo from http://debellefeuille.com/jensen-nagle-joshua-2/

I chatted for a while with one of the gallerists in the booth about Jensen-Nagle who is from NJ but now lives in Canada (the gallery is in Montreal but represents artists from all over), He told me about the photographic printing method where the photographs are embedded on slabs of acrylic that are backed with metal (aluminum) that really illuminate the photos and make them pop brightly – almost as if they were lit from behind, which they are not (there were some photos at other gallery booths that did have lighting elements). The mounting is called Diasec, which is the trademarked name for the process….I’m sure I’m way oversimplifying this, so if you want to read more, go to Wikipedia.

 

Anyway, I loved meditating on his images for a while, before moving on to see the rest of the show. I was at first a bit put off by the $40 entrance fee, but I guess that’s just proportionate to the cost of the works, which were generally in the $10,000+ range, however you could get a smaller Jensen-Nagle for $2500, and I did see one or two small paintings for under $1000.

A few themes I noted in the works generally were the use of 3D elements and rainbow color schemes.

There was one artist who’s paintings looked like 3D paintings on 2D surfaces, and the images moved as you moved up, down and around the art. It was a crazy optical illusion though! When you got up close, they were in fact painted on wooden 3D panels that stuck out in points from the wall. I feel like I’m not describing this well – think of the shape of a mountain range but sticking out from the wall rather than the ground.

Also, I rounded a corner and saw these photographs and immediately thought: those look like Baltimore. Well, in fact, they were photographs of Baltimore row homes, shown by a gallery from Baltimore.

 

I really enjoyed the art fair immensely and would love to go back next year. I even ran into an old friend I haven’t seen in 10 years! Small world!

Sunrise, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstractions: New Art

Like a lot of people, being in nature feels very comforting to me. I loved staring out the window of the car when I was a kid, as my mom can attest, getting lost in the shapes and colors of the clouds. I guess it was my version of meditation.

As an adult, I still love the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Just this morning I thought how happy I was to hear birds in Verdi Square at the 72nd Street subway while walking to work. It reminded me of growing up in the rural suburbs.

And I can still stare at clouds endlessly. The number of sunset and sky pics on my Instagram can corroborate. 🙂

So naturally, I’m drawn to the wide blue skies, sweet green grass and moody grey clouds in my painting. I try to capture the feeling, movement, calmness and tranquility I see and feel when I’m surrounded by the natural world.

In the grouping that I’m putting up today, you’ll notice a lot of playfulness and liberties taken with the idea of “landscape,” “seascape” or “skyscape.” These aren’t super representational works – definitely abstractions to one degree or another. But I hope they evoke in you a sense of peace and happiness when meditating on them. Enjoy, and I welcome feedback on what you’d like to see more of, so please comment or email me!

slice of crumb cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake…Updated to be More Delicious

Okay, by now you are so sick of hearing about sour cream coffee cake, as related by me in Sections 1 and 2 of this Epic Poem to Martha Stewart‘s Classic Crumb Cake.

But don’t quit reading quite yet! Because I’ve made some tweaks that have this baked breakfast cake getting even better!

Martha Stewart's Classic Crumb Cake
Martha Stewart’s Classic Crumb Cake

Tweak #1: Using the correct size pan. Duh. As you may remember, I didn’t think I had a 9×13 pan so I used a loaf pan instead. Well turns out I DID (insert Derek Zoolander voice here) have a 9×13 glass pan, and really I think that helped so much in getting a good cake to crumbly topping ratio going (i.e. more crumb topping please!!!)

Tweak #2: In the cake, I added brown sugar to give some extra moisture and richness. To do this, I straight substituted half of the called for white sugar with the same amount of light brown sugar.

Tweak #3: To amp up the flavor of the cake, I added cinnamon to the cake, and not just the crumb topping.

Tweak #4: The topping seemed really dry to me the first time around, so this time, I cut the amount of flour in half and cut the amount of butter by about a third, so that overall, the topping was damper. I kept the same amount of sugar though so that it would be proportionally sweeter!

Tweak #5: I ditched the knives I was using to cut the butter into the flour and sugar for the crumb topping and went with fingers – so much easier and quicker! I made sure that all the dry bits were coated with butter…or really that all the butter chunks were coated with flour and sugar…so that there wasn’t any dry powder remaining.

That’s about it! I found this version to be so much moister and sweeter, which is really what I prefer in my coffee cake. Unfortunately no new pics because I brought it to a party where it was basically all eaten, save for two pieces I had for breakfast the next day. It pretty much looked the same as the first time, except not as tall (due to the larger, shorter pan)….so you get the idea.

 

Artist Profile from Whom Studio

I had a fabulous time a few weeks ago having Candace from Whom Studio out to my apartment to photograph my paintings for my website and take some “candid” shots of me at work!

We chatted about my love of clouds, sunsets and general moodiness. As she was styling some of my favorite paintings with items found around the house, I told her the history or story of each item. Most of my furniture has come from family – like the red club chair from my grandmother.

And a lot of what I have decorated with around the house has come from our families as well: for instance a stuffed baby cayman (like a small alligator) from my great-grandparents’ honeymoon (when you were still allowed to bring those things into the country); and a bugle played by my great-great-grandfather to draw in crowds as he rode around the West with Buffalo Bill and his cowboy shows.

She wrote up this very nice blog of our get together and shared some of her favorite shots!

After you’ve read her blog above, pop over to my site to see what’s cooking in the art studio (aka my apartment).

green landscape.jpg

This blue jar was purchased by my parents at a Southern PA antique market back when they lived there in the 70s. These two little bronze dinosaur statues were my dad’s (perhaps as a child? Dad you’ll have to weigh in on their full story).

Thanks Candace!

 

 

meatball pizza (top) and spinach pizza (bottom) at Co. in Chelsea

Co. (NYC Pizza Review in Chelsea)

I have read so many great reviews of Co. (short for Company), a wood-fired pizza restaurant in Chelsea – from Food & Wine magazine top pizza lists, to Eater must-eats, that I was incredibly excited when a group of friends decided to dine there Friday night.

The chef, Jim Lahey, is a James Beard Award-winning baker, and Co. was founded by Lahey in conjunction with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of my all-time favorite chefs. All the more reason to get pumped for pizza!

First of all, I didn’t have a hand in making the reservation, but my friend who did said that they were SUPER accommodating and helpful. When planning a sit-down dinner for 15 or more, working with a restaurant that gets that there will be changes is key. She probably went back and forth with them on the number of people and menu details three or four times, literally right up until 5 minutes before we were served!

We had a prix fixe for $35/person (not including tip, tax, beverages) that consisted of appetizers, pizza and dessert served family-style, which was incredibly reasonable for the amount of DELICIOUS food we consumed.

For apps there were: olive oil flatbread with whipped ricotta, olives, roasted beets, caesar salad, bruschetta with beans and eggplant.

Group favorites: caesar salad, flatbread

For pizzas, we chose 5 varieties, although we ate many more than just 5 pies: margherita, meatball, prosciutto, sausage and mushroom, spinach and pecorino.

meatball pizza (top) and spinach pizza (bottom) at Co. in Chelsea
meatball pizza (top) and spinach pizza (bottom) at Co. in Chelsea

Group favorites: margherita, sausage and mushroom

For dessert, a fudge-like chocolate cake with powerful vanilla bean ice cream. I may have eaten two people’s portions 😀

OMG delicious all around. Wonderful customer service and well-priced. I will have to see if we are on their delivery route.