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Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

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I didn’t realize this, but a few Google searches later, it seems that the search for the best maple doughnut in Vermont is akin to that for the best bagel in NYC. I can now officially contribute to the discourse and say that I have found it, at the Big Picture Theater and Cafe in Waitsfield. The doughnuts are made by the Very Small Donut Company, which used have its own storefront that closed. Each doughnut is three to four (two if you’re Dave) bites of pure pleasure. The fact that they are small makes for the ideal ratio of crisp exterior to soft interior, and the maple glaze is indescribably good. You can easily eat three in one sitting. They are dangerous. Dave and I brought home a few for everyone. The next day, we upgraded to the box of a dozen.

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BigPicture Theater & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Yes, we did the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. When in Vermont…

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Our $3, 20-minute tour started in front of these two boards: their economic mission and a wall of flavors.

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We watched a short video detailing the history of the company, which is no longer owned by Ben and Jerry, and proceeded to an area from where we could view the factory (no photos allowed, lest we be spies.) They make two flavors a day. As we watched, the pints just kept rolling by. I wasn’t that impressed by the tour, but I suppose I got my money’s worth when we proceeded into the “FlavoRoom” for…

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That day’s sample was sweet cream and cookies, and boy was it good. I suppose the distance between production and the sample room is short enough to make this ice cream some of the best Ben & Jerry’s I’ve ever had. At the end of the tour we passed by this board. In case you’re curious, here are the top ten flavors according to supermarket pint sales.

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The sample merely whetted our appetites, so we got in line to buy some cones at the scoop shop that is built into the side of the factory. I was disappointed that they didn’t have my favorite B&J flavor (mint chocolate cookie), but it forced me to branch out and try something new.

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Clockwise from top left: Dave’s Phish food, my dad’s chocolate chip cookie dough, my mom’s mint chocolate chunk, and my oatmeal cookie chunk. Delicious.

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Obligatory tourist shot outside the factory. My parents do not look pleased. After this photo was taken we visited the flavor graveyard on the way to the car. The graveyard contains headstones with old flavors on them and a pithy explanation of why the flavor didn’t make it. Some examples:

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Kyotofu

As part of  Columbia Business School’s orientation, Dave and I (along with our friend Maria, the wife of a CBS student in Dave’s class) took a group of incoming students’ spouses and partners out to lunch. We decided on Kyotofu, a place we have been wanting to try for a while. Owned by a friend of Dave’s cousin, the small restaurant built its reputation serving dessert and has since expanded its savory menu. The menu focuses on the use of fresh, organic ingredients and many dishes (especially the desserts) contain tofu.

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Most lunch dishes come with the choice of soup or salad. I went with the salad and was very happy when it arrived filled with mizuna, my favorite green of the moment. The dressing was light and refreshing. Dave went with the soup, carrot-miso.

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Dave ordered the chicken and tofu burger which came with a side of purple potato chips. He proclaimed, “it tastes better than it sounds.”

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I went with the barbequed unagi, pieces of eel wrapped in phyllo dough. When I read this dish on the menu I was excited as it sounded like my favorite dish on the menu at Matsuri, my go-to Japanese restaurants for special occasions. The portion was smaller than I was expecting, but that was fine as it left me with more room for dessert…

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To say that the desserts at Kyotofu are good is a huge understatement. They are beautifully presented, delicious, and the portions are quite generous. What more could you ask for in a dessert. Above is the passionfruit tofu cheesecake ordered by one of the women at the lunch.

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Dave went with their signature dessert, the chocolate souffle cupcake, voted best cupcake by New York Magazine. (They even printed the recipe. I have it saved at home but have yet to try making them.) The cupcake, which also comes in chocolate green tea, comes with a dollop of cream on top and a side of mixed berry compote. On their own, the cupcakes are delicious, with the cream and compote, outstanding.

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I had the soymilk soft ice cream sundae which comes with the compote as well as pieces of mochi and some sweetened cream. This dessert satisfied the frozen dessert lover in me and then some. The ice cream was cold, creamy, and paired superbly with the compote. If I had one complaint it was that the mochi was too gelatinous and not at all the right texture.

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Someone else ordered the sorbet trio which was a sampling of various tropical flavors. It came with some okara cookies.

Kyotofu is worth the trip to Hell’s Kitchen. Have lunch or dinner, whichever you prefer, but make sure that you save the bulk of your stomach for dessert.

Kyotofu on Urbanspoon
Kyotofu in New York

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After a night in Santa Barbara, we finally arrived in Los Angeles. For our first night there I had made a reservation at Jar, Suzanne Tracht’s chophouse that’s been getting great buzz. Yes, I will admit to being a bit excited by the fact that Tracht was a finalist on Top Chef Masters. We went with Jason, our gracious host in LA. The boys both ordered steaks and were very happy, my chicken was just okay. I did like my appetizer: a salad with white peaches in it. Where are the photos, you ask? Well, my main complaint about the restaurant (all blog-related needs aside) was that it was way too dark. It was a beautiful sunny LA day when we arrived, but the minute we stepped inside it was like entering a strip club (not that I’ve ever been in one). So, no photos, I tried but they were all dark blobs.

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After dinner we indulged in a real treat: gelato at Pazzo Gelato in Silverlake, Jason’s old stomping ground.

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A cute little place that serves up coffee and tea as well as its award-winning gelato. I felt like, for a brief moment, I was back in Italy.

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Dave went with the peanut butter and jelly, which he really liked, and the stracciatella. I had mascarpone ginger snap (killer!) and stracciatella too. The gelato was creamy, dreamy, delicious.

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I wish that we could have gone back again, but there was lots of other eating to do…

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Pazzo Gelato in Los Angeles

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So much ice cream

My CSA has its annual grill night on Tuesday. I volunteered to make the ice cream. That’s right, ice cream for 100. I filled every single plastic container we had in the apartment.

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I made eight flavors of ice cream and three of sorbet. Most of my recipes were taken from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I only have one 2-quart ice cream maker, but luckily I bought an extra freezer bowl. This meant that I could make four 2-quart batches a day, two in the morning, then the bowls would go back into the freezer, and two at night. In the end, I made 24 quarts of ice cream and sorbet in five days.

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I spent the grill night scooping ice cream for all the members, young and old, into cones and cups. It was a lot of fun, and I got a lot of amazing feedback.

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Each person was allowed up to three scoops. I made this sign so people could easily see the flavors. (By the time Dave took this photo some had already run out, hence the cross offs.)

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This person came back for a second round. After starting with the classic trio of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, he came back for something a bit more adventurous: (from left) plum, apricot, basil.

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Dave went with (from left) peach, chocolate sorbet, strawberry. Mint chocolate chip, which is my favorite ice cream flavor and came out really well, went the fastest. Basil was also quite popular. Some people said I should open a stand, or even try to sell it at the CSA. We’ll see.

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Saskatoon. What can I say but you can’t go wrong eating in a town named after a berry.

Nancy (a friend from culinary school) and I arrived in Saskatoon on Friday afternoon (Dave was to arrive the next morning). The reason for our trip was the wedding of Lene (who was also in our class), but, in the meantime, we were excited to eat our way through the small Canadian city. In the cab ride from the airport to the hotel our taxi driver informed us that the Taste of Saskatchewan food festival was going on right by our hotel. It’s like they knew we were coming.

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At the hotel, we met up with Kristen (another classmate) and her husband Mike and struck out for the Taste of Saskatchewan. As tempting as the deep fried Oreos and Mars bars were, the highlight of the many food offerings was the frozen yogurt from Homestead Ice Cream.

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We all went with the Saskatoon berry flavor, our first taste of something made with the fruit that is the ctiy’s namesake. Plain frozen yogurt is scooped on the spot and mixed together with the frozen berries of your choice, leading to a wonderful marriage of creamy yogurt and chunky berries. After having tasted the raw berries (more on that later) I will say that they are similar to blueberries, but meatier, with a slightly grassy aftertaste. In the context of frozen yogurt, however, they are simply divine.

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Nancy and I also tasted some lime melon trout: a piece of local trout poached to have a lime flavor and served over a slice of watermelon; and some sweet potato fries with chili lime sauce. We didn’t know that the chili lime sauce was mayonnaise-based, but after we scooped most of it out into the trash, we were able to enjoy some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve had. They were light and airy and not too greasy, with a wonderful crispness to them.

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The next day, between the wedding and the reception, I took Dave to the Taste so that he could try some frozen yogurt. Before that, though, he indulged in some “bison on a bun”: thin strips of tender meat in a smoky barbecue sauce, served on a slider-sized bun.

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Dave gave it, “an eight out of ten”

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Day two in Japan was not as culinarily exciting as the first, but I did get to ride my first 360 degree-loop roller coaster since high school. I dragged Dave to Tokyo Disney Sea, the newest addition to the Disney empire here in Japan.

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I am a huge fan of Tokyo Disneyland and try to make it there whenever I’m in Japan, but, having been the last two times I was here with Jenn, I wanted to try something new. Disney Sea did not disappoint. The park is divided into various sections with replicas of famous waterfronts. We had brought our lunch (to avoid falling prey to overpriced theme park food), but it was fun to walk around and see the various food stands/restaurants which correlated with the countries of the waterfronts they were on. There were pita sandwiches on the “Arabian Coast” and tacos and paella in the “Lost River Delta.” My favorite stop, however, was the “American Waterfront” which was divided into mini-seascapes of Cape Cod and 1930’s New York.

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Who knew chocolate popcorn was a Cape Cod speciality. There was also a New York Deli, complete with Reubens, cheesecake, and bagels and lox.

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After a busy afternoon filled with rides, we ended our visit in Venice where we enjoyed some espresso and gelato.

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After our Disney adventure, it was off for some family time. My mother had requested that I cook dinner once while here, so Dave and I went grocery shopping for dinner for seven (us, my parents, my grandmother, and my two aunts). Here in Tokyo some of the best food — prepared as well as raw ingredients — is found in the sprawling basement floors of department stores. One of my favorites, and one of the more affordable ones, is in Shibuya in the basement of Tokyu Plaza.

I knew I wanted to make some Western-style dishes as my relatives here eat Japanese food daily, but other than that I had no specific recipes in mind. The main issue was the fact that my grandmother’s kitchen (as is the case with many here) does not have an oven. I hadn’t realized how much I rely on the appliance until it was no longer at my disposal. I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to bake some fun desserts and things (which my aunts love) but I was up for the challenge. I wandered into the extensive seafood section and picked up some salmon (which my mother had requested) and saw these beautiful little clams.

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That’s when I decided I would make spaghetti with clams (no oven required). I was also drawn to the heaping stack of shimeji mushrooms and some fresh mozzarella from Hokkaido (the northernmost island of Japan), which is famous for its dairy products.

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I sauteed the mushrooms with some bok choy, and the mozzarella went with some tomato and fresh basil into a simple caprese salad. Dinner was a hit; I was relieved.

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We ended the meal with some fresh strawberries that had caught my eye at the market.

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