I love spring
May 27th, 2010 by

Strawberry Buckwheat Cake with Strawberry Compote and Sorrel Ice Cream


This dessert provided a lesson. The lesson was this: just because a fruit is in season elsewhere and you desperately want it to be in season where you are does not in fact make the fruit you can get delicious. This week’s dessert should have been delicious: the lush, sweet strawberries perfectly complementing the earthy complexity of the buckwheat flour and the browned butter in the cake. However, the strawberries, while a beautiful ruby red, were in fact watery and flavorless. This made me very sad but I compensated by making them into a strawberry compote: pureeing the strawberries and adding rose wine to punch up the flavor. The sorrel ice cream, my favorite part of the dish, added a lovely color contrast. Sorrel is similar to spinach in leaf shape and size. Its flavor changes drastically as it ages; young leaves have a fruity flavor with hints of citrus; however, age increases the oxalic acid level and makes the taste more woody and harsh. Therefore, for this ice cream I used less mature leaves that imparted a pleasant, grassy flavor. I can’t say that everybody loved the result, but a number of people, including my chef, thought it was delicious. It also complemented the rest of the dessert well. This dessert was neither sufficiently complex nor interesting enough to make it onto the regular menu at Public; however, perhaps someday I will be able to develop the ideas here into a dish that will be worth offering nightly.

Ice Cream Candy Bar!!!
May 14th, 2010 by

Rosemary and Pinenut Ice Cream Bar with a Goat Cheese and Balsamic Truffle


This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and to me Mother’s Day suggests breakfast in bed and chocolates. Since there was really no way to provide the first, I designed a dessert around the second; however, because chocolate is a staple of desserts, I wanted to make the flavors unusual or at least interesting. I started with the idea that I wanted to make an ice cream candy bar and then chose a rosemary, buttermilk ice cream for its earthy, herbal attitude and tangy-ness. After that was decided the rest of the flavors and textures fell into place.

The construction of candy bars is very important. The textures need to go from the softest on the top to the hardest on the bottom. Why? The most important reason is that, if they don’t, then the middle will squirt out when you bite into the bar.  A second reason is that there needs to be something at the bottom stiff enough to keep the bar from bending in the middle. Following this principle, the bottom layer of this candy bar was a flaky, crumbly, shortbread cookie. Stacked on this base was a caramel and toasted pinenut crunch and the buttermilk, rosemary ice cream. This stack was topped with a deep, dark, salted chocolate ganache.

The truffle that accompanied this candy bar was a luscious mixture of milk chocolate, barn-yardy goat cheese and balsamic glaze that was coated in white chocolate and topped with just a little bit of strawberry powder. The swirl on the plate is a whiskey caramel. Which I liked the idea of because whiskey can be nutty and earthy which seemed like a good combination with a dark caramel but I think it may have been a little too potent.

I’m sorry that the picture of this dish is from a birds eye view, I think most of the beauty of this dish is getting to see the layers but I hope you can see the point. Overall, the dish appeared to be well received and perhaps in the near future a version of it will make the regular dining menu.

Doughnuts and Milkshakes
May 12th, 2010 by

Star Anise Doughnuts filled with Orange Cream and served with a Malted Milkshake


This week started out with a very different plan for Sunday Supper, but when Saturday arrived, the plate hadn’t moved from “interesting” idea into stellar reality and so the idea had to be benched. At that point getting something delicious made was far more important than being innovative or gastronomically original. Making doughnuts seemed an easy back-up plan because they are a people pleaser and can be fried off early and reheated to order. I tried to make them a little more interesting with the flavorings. (For those of you who have never eaten star anise (floral, licorice flavor) and orange together then you should try it in some form. When the intensity of each is right, it tastes a bit like a fireworks display in your mouth.) No problem, all the components can be made the same day and are not technically challenging; therefore, this should be something I could easily throw together on Sunday in time for the servers’ tasting at 5:30.

I hope that everybody who reads this enjoys train wreck stories because I am not looking forward to when summer really hits NYC because nothing is easy in a hundred degree kitchen. It wasn’t until 3 pm on Sunday that I began to put together the doughnut dough. Doughnuts are an enriched dough, enriched with both butter and milk, which means that one must always be vigilant to ensure proper incorporation. Unfortunately, it was a hot day and the kitchen was stifling.  I couldn’t get the butter into the dough properly;  instead of smushing into the dough, the butter was melting, making the dough impossibly sticky. I will admit to 2 minutes of panic during which I wondered what my back-up plan to my back-up plan was before I picked up the entire mixer, grabbed extra all-purpose flour and moved into the manager’s office, which has an air conditioner. Eventually I got the dough to cooperate  but not before I added as much extra flour as I dared and frustrated the rest of the kitchen staff by cutting the doughnuts in the walk-in.

All is well that ends well, right? The doughnuts were delicious, light and fluffy. The flavoring was everything I could have asked of it and was well complemented by the malted milkshake. It may not be the most beautiful or innovative dessert but as far as I am concerned: I’m glad it was a people pleaser.

Frozen Chocolate
May 8th, 2010 by

Chocolate semifreddo with tamarind meringue, citrus salad and green tea ice cream


It is starting to get warmer here but with just enough winter left to keep the popsicles and air conditioners at bay. In the dessert world this means a transition period between the heavier desserts based on chocolate, nuts and dried fruits of winter and the lighter more refreshing desserts we crave in the summer. Therefore, this week’s dessert combines a super, rich, frozen, dark chocolate mousse with things that make it feel lighter. The green tea ice cream is custard based and thus creamy and cool, cutting the richness of the chocolate. Tamarind meringue is added for crunch and visual appeal. Tamarind comes from a seed pod that grows all over the tropical belt and is both sweet and sour in flavor. The sourness of the tamarind was added to the crunchy meringue to balance the inherent sweetness of the meringue. The citrus salad is composed of ruby red grapefruit, orange and lemon slices which were cut down so as not to overwhelm the plate with their size and stored in simple syrup until service. The simple syrup kept them fresh and juicy and tempered their acidity, making them both a colorful garnish and a foil to the denseness of the chocolate. I felt this was a successful dish as all the components worked together as I intended them to and its visual appeal and color palate had the servers calling it the “fruitloop” plate all night.

Sunday Suppers
May 6th, 2010 by

At the restaurant where I work, Sundays are a special day. In an effort to get people to come out on one of the slowest nights of the week, we offer a special 5-course tasting menu, called Sunday Supper. This is a menu devised by the kitchen staff and is unique every week. The dishes are based on our food heritage, things that we read about and want to try, or whatever other inspiration we find in our daily life. The official website says Sunday Supper is ” an opportunity for the kitchen to explore new ideas and ingredients and a chance for our patrons to experience new dishes not on the regular menu.”

I am in charge of the last course: dessert. My boss has given me almost free reign as she considers this kind of innovation and experimentation to be a good way to allow young cooks to develop their own philosophies and styles. Obviously my ideas need to be pre-approved and she reserves the right to veto and change things if they don’t meet standards but for the most part these my desserts. My attempts at deliciousness. So, feel free to follow along week to week and leave comments and suggestions because I would love to know what you think.

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May 6th, 2010 by

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