Friday, December 31, 2010

Food for Thought | Harriet Van Horne

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.”
--Harriet Van Horne
from Vogue, October 1956.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fresh Find | Rifle Paper Co. illustrated notes

My mom ordered me the cutest personalized stationery for the holidays from Rifle Paper Co., a boutique stationery brand and design studio located in Winter Park, Florida. I've been eyeing its custom illustrated personalized stationery for quite some time now, so it was exciting to finally be able to see how this awesome paper boutique could portray little ol' Stefie!

Ta-da! Look at that awesome packaging--reminds me of that line in "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music:
". . . brown paper packages tied up with strings--
These are a few of my favorite things . . ."
The striped twine also reminds me of the ones used to tie the cake boxes at Eileen's Special Cheesecake in Nolita--for something fresh out of the oven, except instead of cheesecake, it's newly printed stationery! The tag tied to it absolutely makes the packaging--"Personalized Flat Notes made especially for Stefie!"

The process behind creating the little, cute illustrated version of me was very easy and accommodating. Very shortly after placing the order with the basics (i.e., my name*, custom illustration type [single portrait, double, more], number of flat notes, lettering choice/color), Rifle Paper contacted me asking me for more detailed information regarding my custom illustration of myself, including:
(1) hair color and style,
(2) skin tone,
(3) accessories (scarf, hat, pipe, etc.), and
(4) attire (to be drawn from the neck up so something like a scarf, tie, etc.)
So after replying saying that I have black hair that is styled in a medium-bob; that I have a medium skin tone; that I would like to be accessorized in a chef's hat (a toque, if I wanted to sound pretentious, haha); and that I wish to be sporting a red scarf and holding a wooden spoon, Rifle Paper e-mailed me an initial proof of what they had in mind from my description. I absolutely loved it, so what you see below was the e-mailed proof in its final form! Don't ya think it's quite the splitting image of yours truly? :D

I highly recommended working with Rifle Paper Co. with any of your stationery/illustration customization needs--they are lovely and very easy to work with!

I can't wait to begin correspondence with my nearest and dearest on these nifty flat notes, so if you're near and dear, expect some snail mail from Lil' Chef Stefie very soon!

Rifle Paper Co.
Illustrated Notes, template personalized here or custom illustration here at
Price point: template personalized stationery starting at $75 for 25 flat notes with envelopes, custom illustration for a single portrait at $100 (plus 25 flat cards with envelopes starting at $65).

* Please note that my last name is blurred out in the stationery photographs.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Signing | Eric Ripert

Marcus and I went to a book signing at Williams-Sonoma (at 59th and Lexington) for Eric Ripert and his new book, Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert. This new cookbook is based on his television program on PBC, Avec Eric, which centers around high-quality ingredients and simple cooking methods in a series of adventures to new places and meeting new people to cook food (both familiar and new) together.

As I've mentioned before, Williams-Sonoma is known to give out samples they cooked in the store of a couple recipes from the cookbook being signed that day. They chose to make the salmon rillette (page 181), which uses smoked salmon and poached fresh salmon. It is served as an amuse-bouche at Chef Ripert's Manhattan flagship, Le Bernardin.

Here is the salmon rillette served on toasted baguette slices. It was very refreshing and would make for a great entertaining dish.

Me with Chef Ripert! He was a little shy at the signing, but it was lovely to meet him anyhow--very nice guy!

My copy of Avec Eric.

The signed and personalized title page!

Findings: As I've mentioned before, I'm a little (very much) obsessed with going to book signings. And to finally have met the famed "Fish Guy"--nothing can top that! Now I have to make my way to Le Bernardin (currently holding the highest Zagat rating and three Michelin stars!) to see what the Fish Guy can do! I also need to start DVR-ing his television program on PBS ASAP--it's on its second season now. The recipes in here embrace the show's mantra of simple cooking methods with high quality ingredients--can't wait to test out some of these recipes! Anyhow, yay to adding another chef to my Beeline and John Hancocks collection on Flickr!

Price point: $34.95 for each book.

--November 18, 2010

121 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022

Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert
Eric Ripert
available here at

Cooking Class | Butter Lane cupcakes

In early October, my friend Alice told me about Groupon, a nationwide (but locally focused) daily deal offeror. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon gets unbeatable discounts and deals on the best things to do in Manhattan (and several other cities) that can't be found anywhere else--they call it "collective buying power" (i.e., Group + coupon = GROUPON)!

The specific Groupon she told me about was a deal on one cupcake class at Butter Lane (a $50 value) in the East Village at only $25! Butter Lane is one of my favorite bakeries in Manhattan (in fact, I used them to cater cupcakes at my birthday wine tasting last year), so I was sold. Each class lasts two hours with a total of 12 students, and each students gets to bring home a dozen cupcakes! Not a bad deal at $25!

Outside Butter Lane's bakery on the left. The cupcake classes are located next door on the right.

Advertising inside the bakery portion of Butter Lane for cupcake classes!

Inside Butter Lane's bakery! It's a small little place, but the cupcakes are amazing. Its focus is on pure ingredients (e.g., real vanilla beans, real cocoa, dark chocolate)--plus everything is organic! They also offer two types of buttercream, French and American, which makes them different from the typical cupcakery. As the bakery describes, "French buttercream is made with egg whites, butter, and granulated sugar, while American buttercream is made with confectioners sugar and butter. The French is more like a meringue while the American is like the familiar icing we all know." I actually prefer the French buttercream--it has a very rich lightness to it that I enjoy very much.

Inside the baking studio. All workstations are complete with industrial KitchenAid mixers, organic ingredients...

...and baking tools!

Alice and I signed up for a class on November 16, and once we got there, the bakery had cupcakes in the middle for students to nibble on before the class began. Once all the students arrived, the class was divided into three teams of four, and each team was assigned a cupcake type (vanilla, chocolate, or banana) and frosting type (vanilla, chocolate, or cream cheese). Our team consisted of Alice, myself, and a couple, and we were assigned banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Thus, the name Team Banana came to be. Whoo!

Team Banana figuring out how to operate the KitchenAid mixer.

The first step was to combine 1/2 pound of butter and 2.5 cups of granulated sugar in the mixing bowl, combining until the sugar and butter form a cream.

We then cracked three eggs in a separate bowl, adding a splash of vanilla extract to the eggs, then adding all of this to the mixing bowl. We had to mix this all on medium speed until the mixture became light and fluffy. Our instructor told us that we could be very generous with the "splash" of vanilla--can never add too much as it adds a nice flavor to the cupcakes.

More ingredients: 3 cups of cake flour and 1.5 cups of buttermilk!

Next, we combined 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp baking soda, and 1 pinch of salt with the flour.

The instructor told us to add half of the flour mixture followed by the buttermilk, and then add the rest of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. We then continued to mix until everything was combined, but wary not to overmix.

On a low speed, we added 2 cups of puréed bananas, mixing for one minute.

Then we removed the mixing bowl from mixer and finished mixing by hand. Next, we lined the tins with cupcake liners.

Using a spring-action ice cream scoop, we scooped the batter against the side of the mixing bowl so that the amount scooped didn't overflow the scoop, thereby fitting nicely in the cupcake liner in the tin. Great technique! P.S. the recipe I just recited yields 30 cupcakes!

Alice's completed cupcake tin. Look at how perfect the scooped batter looks here!

My completed cupcake tin. Major FAIL on my end. I can cook very well, but I admit that baking may not be my strongest suit. I need some practice scooping, that's for sure!

Team Vanilla, Team Chocolate, and Team Banana group photo before placing the cupcake tins in the oven at 300°F for 23 minutes!

While the cupcakes were baking in the oven, Team Banana began making cream cheese frosting. Here's the 16 ounces of cream cheese needed! The instructor emphasized that Butter Lane's focus is NOT on sugar, but on cream cheese, which explains why the bakery's buttercream is so amazing!

We combined the cream cheese and 1/2 pound of butter in the mixing bowl, mixing on medium speed for five minutes. After this, we mixed in 8 cups of confectioners sugar at low speed. Once combined, we added a splash of vanilla extract, mixing on medium for three minutes until smooth and fully combined.

Here's our finished cream cheese frosting!

And look at those cupcakes, right out of the oven! It looks like Team Vanilla made a few marble cupcakes, too--love that idea!

Our class getting ready to frost/ice our finished cupcakes!

Me and Alice waiting to frost the cupcakes!

Butter Lane's master froster teaching us some the techniques used to create beautifully frosted buttercream cupcakes. Using a flat, flexible baking spatula, he told us to get a nice round shape (see photo above), then placing it at the center of the cupcake, dabbing as you turn the cupcake.

Showing us the technique again.

His end result--the perfectly frosted Butter Lane cupcake!

My frosted cupcakes! I think I did a little better here than I did with the batter scooping.

Alice's frosted cupcakes! Notice the one on the right is a "special ingredient" buttercream--the recipe isn't provided to the class as Butter Lane wishes to leave its "specialty" items a mystery! The class voted on pumpkin (we had the choice between that, raspberry, blueberry, and cinnamon, I believe), so there it is!

The master froster also had a mini-competition for the students of the class--he said he would walk around to judge who was the best froster in the class. The winner would get a Butter Lane burlap tote in which to carry his/her cupcakes!

Guess who won?! It was a tie between two members from Team Banana! Whoo! Go Alice! See above photo for the one of the winning cupcakes!

The class frosting the last of the cupcakes.

Me and Alice frosting some cupcakes.

The finished products to be taken home and shared!

Alice with her finished cupcakes!

Findings: I thought this class was great--very educational. I learned a lot about ingredients as well as baking techniques with regards to cupcakes. Plus, what a deal--a $25 comprehensive cupcake baking class that comes with a dozen cupcakes at the end! Score! I would still say that it is quite a deal as a dozen cupcakes normally at Butter Lane is $30 (cupcakes alone are $3 each), so really you are paying for a dozen cupcakes plus $20 for the class instruction. Nevertheless, this class is definitely great for team building, a night out with friends, a celebratory party, or even a date! And I promise you'll be in a sugar coma for the next few days, munching on those cupcakes, but no worries--it is well worth it :D! So keep an eye out for future Groupons! And thank you, Alice, for sharing this deal with me--I had a lot of fun!

Price point: a two-hour cupcake class (and a dozen cupcakes) for $50; $25 with Groupon!

--November 16, 2010

Butter Lane
123 East Seventh Street
New York, NY 10009

Butter Lane cupcake class deal available here*!

* This deal is no longer available at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled! Sign-up for Groupon, and maybe they will offer the deal again soon. Since taking this class, I've seen Groupon offer the deal one more time, resulting in me purchasing an additional three more Groupons valid for three classes!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Exhibition | Have a Foodie Holiday

Barneys New York announced back in late October its upcoming holiday campaign in partnership with Food Network, Cooking Channel, and illycaffe.

Per the luxury department store's announcement, the "upcoming national holiday campaign, Have a Foodie Holiday" would be "Barneys' celebration of foodie culture." Once I heard the news, I immediately added the unveiling date at November 16 into my calendar so I'd be able to catch the first glimpse of the famed department store's glitzy window displays, though I didn't make it there until the 20th.

I actually think I viewed the windows in reverse order so please pardon this slight failure on my part. This first display was created by Simon Doonan, Barneys' creative director. The main attraction is Miss Illy, a modern diva outfitted and adorned in recycle tins and aluminum manufactured by the Italian espresso empire. In fact, there is a total of "300 3-kilogram illy tins, 250 foil bags (former home to illy’s single-serve iperEspresso capsules) and 250 8.8-ounce illy cans!" The holiday tree is also made from illy shopping bags. Gotta love all that red, silver, and white!

Miss Illy even is sporting a coffee scoop earring, a dress train fashioned from 300 paper cups, and espresso machine (i.e., illy’s Francis Francis X1 iperEspresso machine) tiara--something on every foodie's wishlist. Very shiny, indeed.

This next window includes the inspiring women figures in the culinary universe. You'll see Paula Deen on the left (in what I think is a Snuggie?), Rachael Ray as the clock, Ina Garten (best known as the Barefoot Contessa) in blue, Sandra Lee in Pink, Martha Stewart in white, Anne Burrell in the oven, and Lidia Bastianich in the right rear corner. The male seen at the bottom (under the sink, that is) is Lee Brian Schrager, the creator of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, with his latest cookbook inspired by the festival. Surrounding the frame of the window are little face placards made using pie tins with illustrated caricatures of famous female chefs, including Nigella Lawson, Gail Simmons, Anita Lo, and Alex Guarnaschelli.

This window features influential male chefs in the food business. Here, they're depicted in an epic food fight. You'll find Anthony Bourdain all the way on the left, Daniel Boulud with a baguette in his mouth, and Guy Fieri under the table with a mustard bottle in his mouth, a drumstick in one hand, and a ketchup bottle in the other. In the center of the table you will find Mario Batali's head stuffed with an apple in his mouth, similarly to the way a roast pig would appear on a dining room table during the holidays. Standing above him, you'll see Bobby Flay ready to fight! Next to him, there is a portrait of Mark Strausman along with Emeril Lagasse about to say, "BAM!" All the way to the right you'll find Wolfgang Puck reclining in laughter. Surrounding the frame here is similar to the female chefs' window--you'll see pie tin caricatures of famous male chefs, including Eric Ripert, Laurent Tourondel, Jacques Torres, Marcus Samuelsson, Tom Colicchio, Francois Payard, and Ferran Adrià.

I found this last window to be the most interesting. It showcases the "envelope pushers" of the culinary domain, dividing them into three categories: the Innovators, the Trail Blazers, and the main players in the Revolutionary Stew. The Innovators include (from the pie tin caricatures) Wylie Dufresne, Jacques Pepin, and Grant Achatz. The Trail Blazers include Nobu Matsuhisa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Alain Ducasse. The center focuses on the "steaming ingredients" and "aromatic geniuses" of Revolutionary Stew, including (from left to right) James Beard, Jamie Oliver, Julia Child, Thomas Keller, and Dan Barber. The best part of this stew are the fans with blue and orange lights blowing frayed cloths up to emulate brewing flames.

Findings: Once again, Simon Doonan wows and impresses Madison Avenue holiday shopping spectators with his creative genius and execution. I am even more blown away at how well he incorporated the major prominent and influential forces that continue to enhance the dimensions of the existing culinary world of today and tomorrow. I especially enjoyed Miss Illy's window display. I think Mr. Doonan said it best: “Think of Miss Illy as the ultimate exercise in creative recycling. One look, and you see she’s quite the contemporary gal, so her recycled content goes right along with her modernity. Her very idea and life quite literally sprang from others before her. So while this is great fun, with art, with coffee, we are serious about the multi-use message, about sustainability, as has been illy, long before it came into fashion.” Way to go, Barneys! You really outdid yourself this year! This wowed me so much this year that I can definitely start to see how "a foodie holiday" can be a la mode in the fashion world today!

Price point: free until the New Year!

--November 20, 2010

Barneys New York
660 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Have a Foodie Holiday on window display from 11.18.10 through early 2011


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...