Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Georgetown Cupcake

111 Mercer Street (between Spring and Prince) New York, NY 10012
(212) 431-4504

Finally, we found a cupcake place that is totally worth it to make a trip to Soho besides the shopping, of course. We were strolling in the city the other day and came across one of the best cupcake shop so far. Me and my hubby are huge fans of cupcakes and have tried almost every cupcake shop available in NYC. This came as a pleasant surprize. It has several locations besides Soho like Georgetown, Boston and Maryland.

When we arrived at the store, there was a long line. As it turns out, all cupcakes are made on  location towards the back of the store. The interior of the shop was modern and uplifting. There was so much choice that it got a little confusing as to which one to pick and which one to leave to try the next time.

There was the Valrhona chocolate cupcake with a thin layer of Callebaut chocolate ganache icing topped with a fondant flower. This one was my son's choice as his favorite color is blue and this cupcake had a blue flower on top.

Then there was the Georgetown Cupcake's signature cupcake — the classic red velvet cupcake with a vanilla cream cheese frosting topped with a red fondant heart.

Another chocolate variety that caught my eye was the Valrhona chocolate cupcake with a whipped Callebaut chocolate frosting topped also with a orange fondant flower.

There other flavors are a bit not common like Lavender Earl Grey Tea cake. This was a vanilla cupcake with lavender and earl grey tea, topped with a lavender infused buttercream frosting, a fondant flower, and a sprinkle of lavender sugar. The sweetness was just perfect and not overwhelming at all. The lavender frosting was tasty too.

What goes with a good cupcake, a good cup of coffee. There is also an extensive menu of coffees, lattes, cappucchinos and teas to go with these delectable desserts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Roasted Laiya (Puffed Rice)

Makes about 8-9 cups

This is a quick and light snack, which is made of puffed rice and nuts. It can also be used to make bhelpuri. You can munch on this low fat snack anytime of the day.

6 cups Laiya (Puffed Rice/ Mamra)
1/2 cup raisins
3 tsp Vegetable Oil
10-12 Curry Leaves
3/4 cup Broken Cashews
1 cup Raw Peanuts

For the Masala
1 tsp Black Salt
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Chaat Masala
1 tsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Sugar

Heat the oil in a large wok and fry the cashews for 3-4 minutes by constantly stirring it so that it does not get brown unevenly. Keep aside. Now fry raisins and then peanuts till they are golden brown.
Leave the remaining oil in the wok and add the curry leaves to it. Now roast the laiya in the wok for 15 minutes. Add all the nuts and raisins and fry for another 7 minutes. Mix all the ingredients of the masala together and add it to the laiya mixture. Let cool slightly and then snack on. Store it in an airtight container.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Neri's Bakery

31-37 Pearl Street, Port Chester, NY
(914) 937-3235

For the past few children's birthday parties that I have attended, I have been delighted by a most wonderful cake that is full of fruits and made with fresh cream. Most birthday cakes are often appreciated only for the color and design and are very often left un-eaten. But not these. At almost each party, I found myself and others taking second and third helpings. It should have been no surprise, as they were all from a bakery that is actually one of the largest in the United States and one that is extremly popular all across the northeast. Lucky for me that it is located right next door in Portchester.

This past Friday, I had planned to get a cake for my son's birthday and I drove up to Neri's retail store location which is right next door to their factory. They have a very wide variety of cakes ready for any event that you may have, and you will be tempted by the beautiful creations on display.

The fruit tarts looked as fresh as can be. Peaches, blueberries and strawberry combinations were all around. They also make fresh filled cannoli and eclairs in both mini and large sizes.

In New York and around the tri-state area, every bakery has some version or the other of the 'Tiramisu'. Over the course years, I have had many variations some that were eclectic and some not so much. Considering the size and scale of Neri's I was really delighted by their version. Light and soothing with the perfect balance of coffee, ladyfingers and mascarpone it brought out the layered tastes in every spoonful. They have a full size cake version which I did not take (I do need to watch my calories), but the small individual portion that I had was completely satisfying. Next time for a girl's night out, I will surely be getting one of these.

The assortment of cookies is mind-boggling. Too many to choose from. Jam dots, cholocate drizzled, sprinkles, butter, plain, sugar, anisette, black and white and several other Italian cookies made into the collection that I requested be made. Over the next couple of days, these made a nice accompaniment to my tea time at home. The kids were happy with the giant cookies studded with red and chocolate m&ms.

The cake selection consists of eight to fourteen inch varieties with single and double fillings. For the birthday we selected an eight inch chocolate mocha filled cake. Even though the cake was already well decorated, the staff was helpful and creatively wrote out my son's name and Happy Birthday on three large sugar cookies that they placed on the cake. It made his day with his friends later at the party.

Neri' also offers fresh baked pound cakes like marble and walnut. Try them out with a good cup of coffee.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Le Pain Quotidien

30 Purchase Street, Rye, NY 10580
(914) 967-1460

Brunch is always a nice sounding word and it always brings to my mind pictures of relaxed and lazy mid mornings with fresh omelets, toasted bread, juice and coffee. There is something common about brunch and weekends. I guess they were always meant to be together. In the suburb of Rye, there are several places that fit this description, but I have one favorite even though it is part of a large global chain of restaurants.

The window dressing of most Le Pain's I have noticed is quite enticing and here too in Rye downtown, there is a lot to take in. There are rows of fresh baked circular rounds and loaves of aromatic Wheat, Rye, Spelt, Five-Grain, and even Walnut breads. Invitingly they line shelves and baskets. I have bought a couple of loaves on friday evenings especially when I plan a nice weekend brunch on Saturday at home, but this time I wanted to sit down and enjoy the ambience.

There are also tarts and desserts that will attract your eye even before you have decided your main meal dish. On the menu was a fresh strawberry and blueberry tart and mini mousse chocolate pastries which are titled 'duos'.

The soup du jour turned out to be butternut squash, which at first I thought seemed to be out of season, but nonetheless was on the menu and was vegan. It came made fresh topped with parsley leaves and served with a couple of organic bread slices. The bowl serving was fulfilling and I realized was not the least out of place on a warm summer afternoon.

Glancing up at the chalk board menu, I saw more seasonal specials that I mused over and thought as options for the next time. Organic granola and yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit salad and steel cut oat meals are standard fare. Same goes for the avocado, tomato, wild mushroom and other organic veggie filled omelets that are listed on the menu.

While I pondered over what to have next, I noticed armoires stacked with jars of jams and fruit compotes. The preserves are part of speciality retail products that Le Pain has added over time. A good accompaniment to take home, after you leave, they come in a wide range of fruit options.

Post the soup, I decided upon the six-vegetable quiche that came with artichoke and garden vegetables on a gluten-free buckwheat crust. Artistically served and delicately assembled, the quiche was a bit too mild for my taste buds. The salad dressing made up for the extra flavor that I thought was missing. I must admit, it was a healthy choice that I made and to be fair, the delicate flavor lingered on for some time.

As a final note, I think the portion servings at Le Pain, are apt for one individual only, so if you plan to share do order more when you are there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sweet Lassi

Known as the summer drink in northern India, you will find exclusive lassi joints all busy with serving this in earthern glasses known as Khullads. With the mercury reaching almost a 100 degrees on peak heat days, this drink can stave off heat strokes and keep you cool. You can check this recipe on the Fox news website.

One interesting story from Punjab runs that the local lassi shops modified electric motors and parts from washing machine manufacturers and turned them into whisking their daily gallons of lassi. To make it creamier you can use greek yogurt that gives it a smoother feel. Mango lassi, which is another variation of this original version is very popular in the west.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tadka Dal

Serves 4

This Tadka dal recipe has yellow lentils infused with garlic and onions. It is a very good source of protein for vegetarians and is a part of everyday lunch in most homes in India. While growing up, I remember my mom having lunch ready, which consisted of tadka dal, a vegetable dish, plain rice, roti and yogurt along with some cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. This has always been comfort food for me. Now, I usually make the whole spread on Sundays for lunch to enjoy with my family and it always brings back the sweet memories of childhood.

1 cup plain Yellow Split Pigeon Peas (arhar/ toor dal)
4 cups Water
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Salt

2 tbsp Ghee/ Butter
a pinch of Asafetida
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 cloves Garlic
1 small Onion, finely sliced
1 medium Tomato, chopped
1/4 cup Cilantro Leaves
1 tbsp Lime Juice

Soak the lentils for 1/2 hour and then drain it. Heat a heavy bottomed pot and add the lentils to it along with water, turmeric and salt. Cook it for 40mins or till it is nice and mushy. You can add half a cup water in case you feel that the consistency is thick. Take a whisk and mash to achieve a smooth texture.

Heat the ghee in a medium skillet and add asafetida to it. Then add the cumin seeds. When they start crackling mix in the garlic and onion. Cook till they become slightly brown. Add in tomato and cook till soft.

Pour in the lentils to this garlic and onion mixture and cook for 5 mins. Sprinkle the cilantro leaves and add a dash of lime juice and serve with plain rice.