Rhubarb Lemon Bars

by byn on July 27, 2015

in Bars & Squares

Rhubarb Lemon Squares

When I was sick back in June and lying around on my couch drinking hot water with honey and lemon, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to completely miss rhubarb season this year. I accepted the sad tragedy that it would be a rhubarb-less summer here on Planet Byn.

But then I resurfaced at the beginning of July and made my first trip to the big Farmer’s Market near my house, where there was one stall that still had rhubarb. I was so excited, and I bought about 12 huge stalks, mind on overdrive thinking about all the recipes I pinned in the Spring, but thought I’d have to wait another year to make.

I knew when I saw these bars on Broma Bakery that they would be my first recipe. Every year I try to find a new application for rhubarb, or a twist on something I’ve made in the past. These squares are basically a lemon square with the addition of rhubarb puree. The original recipe also uses a bit of red food colouring to up the pink factor, but I kept things natural, and liked the pretty peach colour I ended up with.

I wasn’t quite sure the rhubarb flavour came through, but my #1 rhubarb recipe testers (Mom & Dad) loved them and assured me you could definitely tell it was rhubarb. The rest went to work, but people ate them so fast, I don’t think anybody even wondered what they were, besides a free treat at 9am.

The recipe makes a little more rhubarb puree than you’ll need for the bars, so I’ll show you what I made with the leftovers next!

Rhubarb Lemon Bars

Source: Broma Bakery

Ingredients

Rhubarb Puree

3 cups chopped rhubarb

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Crust

5 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups flour

Filling

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup rhubarb puree

3 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup flour

Directions

  1. First up, make the rhubarb puree. Add the rhubarb, sugar and water to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, which will break up the rhubarb. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Let cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 and line an 9×13″ baking pan with foil. Spray the foil with non-stick spray.
  3. To make the crust, add the cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt to a bowl, and cream together on medium speed for a few minutes until smooth. Add the flour and blend until combined. Add to pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. While crust is baking, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, rhubarb puree, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Whisk in the flour then pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes, then let cool. Chill in the fridge before slicing.

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Ube Cake

I was so excited back in October to finally get my hands on a copy of Baked Occasions. Even though I had a preview of the book after testing out almost a dozen recipes, I couldn’t wait to see what other treats were inside. After the launch party at Baked Tribeca, I went back to my hotel, got into bed and cracked it open. My jaw dropped open when I found an UBE CAKE inside. How did the Baked boys know about ube?!?!

When I was growing up, ube desserts were always on the tables at my Filipino friends’ houses, and this was how I was introduced to this pretty purple vegetable. My friend Kristine would always pass on an ube treat from Red Ribbon whenever her family brought some for her, and we also made sure to visit a Red Ribbon in Vegas last time we were there together. I have been obsessed with making ube treats ever since (you can see it in my blog-iversary goals from back in 2011), but could never find purple yams anywhere.

Ube Cake Slice

I immediately knew this would be the most fun recipe for me to make from Baked Occasions, and when I saw it on our schedule for this summer, I was so happy. After a small matter of procuring ube powder (I had to order it off Ebay because Amazon.com wouldn’t ship it to Canada) I was in business. The first thing you have to do for this recipe is rehydrate your ube, so you just cook the ube powder with water until it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Once you add the rest of your standard cake ingredients, the purple is quite muted, and I’d say the cake batter is looking pretty gray. I didn’t want to add too much purple food colouring to it (read this post on red velvet cake to find out why) but then again, when you look at Red Ribbon’s ube treats, they are pretty bright. I compromised and added enough food colouring to make it look purple, but not enough so that it was fake looking. Here’s what a Red Ribbon Ube Cake looks like in comparison (Kristine had just given me one last week, perfect timing):

Ube Colour Comparison

The layers baked up nice and flat, and I got my cream cheese frosting mixed up and ready to go. The frosting was a bit runny for me, and I ended up adding about 2 more cups of icing sugar to it. I think the real solution is to always start with cold cream cheese, instead of room temperature. I also had my customized purple sprinkle mix ready that I made by going to Bulk Barn and buying a few sprinkle shapes, picking out the purple ones, and combining them all together. I copied this from Sweetapolita, who is selling her own sprinkle mixes in her Etsy shop, but mine cost me less than $5 and I had so many left over.

Ube Cake Sprinkles

I absolutely loved the way the cake turned out! Just so, so, cute. I sliced it up and was excited to see my purple layers inside. Maybe they could have been more purple, but I’m glad I showed a bit of restraint with the food colouring. It’s really hard to describe the flavour of ube, but I will say the cake was dense, hydrated and almost earthy tasting, but that’s not really the right word. I ate a slice, cut two to share with friends at work, and wrapped up the rest of the cake to take to Kristine and her family, since it was her sister Mae’s birthday yesterday.

Ube Cake Top

This is no doubt the most fun baking project I have had in a long time. I need to get my hands on more ube powder!!!

Note: Each recipe in Baked Occasions corresponds with a holiday, and the one for this recipe is Hunter S. Thompson’s birthday. It’s actually called Gonzo Cake in the book, and Matt writes about his love for the author and his style of ‘gonzo’ journalism. Obviously I only saw UBE and read no further!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Hummingbird Cake

by byn on July 13, 2015

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Hummingbird Cake

Baking layer cakes is pretty much like therapy for me. I can rush my way through a batch of cookies or make a pan of brownies practically with my eyes closed, but layer cakes demand time, patience and love. We have a few coming up on our Baked Sunday Morning schedule and I can’t wait to make them.

I made this little cake for dessert for Father’s Day last month, and decided to try my hand at decorating it ‘Naked Cake’ style. I’ve seen this everywhere on blogs and Pinterest lately, but Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar has been leaving the sides of her cakes unfrosted for years.  Some styles I’ve seen leave the sides totally bare, while others add a very thin coating, which I tried to do here. I think it looks cute, but also kind of like I did the crumb coat and then ran out of icing. But let’s be honest here, the main problem is that there is LESS ICING ON THE CAKE WHEN YOU EAT IT. Not okay!

The cake itself is a banana/pineapple situation called a Hummingbird Cake. My Dad has been saying he’s sick of Carrot Cake lately, which is one of his faves, so I thought this would be sort of similar but with a twist. The original recipe also includes a whole bunch of chopped pecans, but I left those out. I can’t emphasize enough that this is the most hydrated cake that I have ever made. So much so that after I started to pile on the fresh strawberries and blueberries, things were getting very lopsided very quickly. We absolutely loved this, and I would totally make it again.

Hummingbird Cake

Source: Cake Brown Eyed Baker // Icing Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

Cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

4 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork

1 16oz can crushed pineapple, drained and 1/3 cup juice reserved

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Icing

10 oz cream cheese, chilled

6 1/2 tbsp butter, room temperature

3 1/4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 8 or 9″ cake pans with non-stick spray. (I actually halved the recipe and baked it in 3 little 6″ pans).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  4. Fold in the bananas, pineapple and nuts (if using).
  5. Divide batter into pans and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  6. For icing, beat the cream cheese and butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the icing sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then mix on high until smooth and light, a few minutes more. Add the vanilla and mix again until combined.
  7. Assemble and frost as you see fit!

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Orange Picnic Cake

Our Baked Sunday Morning project for this week was an Orange Buttermilk Picnic Cake with Chocolate Chips to celebrate the Fourth of July. The idea behind it is that it’s a single layer, easily transportable, sturdy cake that would be perfect to bring along to a picnic.

I loved reading the Baked boys intro to this recipe because I feel the EXACT same way about picnics. Every summer I go on and on about wanting to go on a picnic. I think of a big blanket spread on the grass, tons of food, relaxing in the sun, etc. etc. In reality, I hate nature, bugs, questionable lukewarm food that has been sitting outside too long, and sweating. I’m really the worst.

However, I have recently made a commitment to spending more time outside, whether it’s getting up from my desk and going for walks on my lunch break or hanging out more in my parents backyard on the weekends. That’s where I brought this cake today, and I set up this cute little scene above, complete with a picnic basket from the ’90s that my Mom dug out of the crawl space. I can’t say we actually sat on the grass and ate it, but I did eat it outside. It’s a start.

Now, the cake. It brought up a lot of complicated issues for me, as I’m not a fan of orange and chocolate together. But here’s thing: this cake is delicious! It’s super hydrated from the buttermilk, and the orange/chocolate combo didn’t distract me too much. You poke a bunch of holes in the warm cake after you take it out of the pan and brush on a simple syrup make of freshly squeezed orange juice, orange liqueur (I used Cointreau) and sugar. This also goes a long way to keeping the cake hydrated.

I would definitely make this again, but just because of personal preference, leave out the orange zest (I didn’t add the orange extract because I didn’t want to buy a bottle for only 3/4 tsp) and make a vanilla bean simple syrup to brush on at the end. Who knows, maybe I will go on a picnic by the end of the summer!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Well let’s get July started off right! As I mentioned the other day, June was not the greatest month on the foodie front over here. What I didn’t talk about was the greatest tragedy of all: it appears as though I’ve missed out on rhubarb this year. I’m going to see what I can find this weekend, so perhaps there will be a few rhubarb posts next week. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it was my new* manager’s birthday on Canada Day, so I brought these cupcakes into work on Tuesday; some for us to eat and some for her to take home and share with her family. Originally I was going to go with a chocolate espresso cupcake because she loves coffee, but something light and summery was just calling my name.

On the bottom we’ve got a lemon cupcake that I found on Annie’s Eats. Her original recipe includes blueberries, so I actually may have to make these again when I get my hands on some local blueberries later this month. On the top is My Favourite Buttercream, except I replaced the cream/milk with pureed and strained strawberries. This tints the icing a pretty light pink, and makes it taste like strawberry ice cream.

I topped all of the cupcakes with a strawberry half, but learn from my mistake and only do this right before you’re going to serve them. I put them on before I left for work and by the time I arrived the strawberry juice was running down the sides. I think these would also be outstanding with raspberry puree in the icing.

*I recently passed the one year mark in my job, and yet still think of it as new in my mind.

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Source: Cupcakes – Annie’s Eats // Icing – adapted from My Fave

Ingredients

Cupcakes

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup cake & pastry flour (just use more all-purpose flour if you don’t have this)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

zest of 1 or 2 lemons (I used 2)

2 eggs

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp milk (I used buttermilk, it’s what I had in the fridge)

Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/4 cup strawberry puree (I used my immersion blender to puree about 5 or 6 strawberries and then passed them through a fine mesh sieve to strain the seeds)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 12 cupcake tins with liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 2 or 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs, lemon juice and vanilla and mix again until combined.
  4. Add 1/2 the flour mixture, then the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture, blending after each addition until well combined.
  5. Divide into cupcake tins, filling about 3/4 of the way full. (You might have enough for 1 or 2 more cupcakes). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of each cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
  6. For icing, add the butter to a large bowl and whip with the mixer for a minute or so to lighten. Add the icing sugar and strawberry puree, and stir it a bit with a spatula until it starts to come together, then switch to the mixer. Whip for a couple minutes until nice and smooth. Pipe onto cupcakes and top with a strawberry slice.

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June on Planet Byn {2015}

by byn on June 30, 2015

in Monthly Recaps

Bacon Pecan Butter Tart

In my almost two years of writing these monthly recaps, there has never been a more depressing foodie month on Planet Byn. Bad conference food, restaurant disappointments, and yes, even a trip to T.G.I.Friday’s all went down. Pair that with the lingering effects of bronchitis, and then a sore throat/viral infection, and let’s just say I’m ready to turn things around in July. Here are the limited highlights from the month:

  • When I was feeling well this month, I actually cooked some delicious dinners for myself. I made this great Thai Beef with Basil, a Black Bean and Spinach Enchilada Casserole from my blog crush Kiwi & Bean, and a Thai Chicken Satay Salad. I also made a couple things from my archives, Creamy Bow Tie Pasta with Sausage, Kale and Sundried Tomatoes and Katy’s Breakfast Sausage & Potato Hash. Clearly I have been craving comfort carbs this month.
  • My foodie friends and I took a little road trip to Guelph to go to Amy Bronee‘s cookbook signing for her new book, The Canning Kitchen. While I’ve gotten into making my own jam in the past few years, I’ve never actually canned it (or anything else). I come from a family of canners, so I’m excited to get into this, especially with Amy’s easy approach and recipes for small batches of jams, chutneys, pickles and other delicious things. It’s on my Summer Bucket List (which I will publish soon!).
  • For Father’s Day I had my Mom and Dad over for dinner, and after checking past posts on Planet Byn, realized we had the same thing we have every year: grilled steak, twice baked potatoes with caramelized onions (and cheese for me and Mom) and roasted veggies. The classics are classics for a reason! We had a delicious cake for dessert which I will also put up this week.
  • Yesterday I tagged along with The Tasty Gardener to Bean and Baker Malt Shop, where she was interviewing the super adorable husband and wife team behind this newly opened spot. The shop is a throwback to ’50s soda fountains, but there’s so much more behind the cute decor. They make their own homemade syrups to turn into soda (and ice cream floats!), plus milkshakes and a ton of treats. We’re talking warm hand pies, savoury pastries, butter tarts, pie, cookies, eclairs, oh my god I was in heaven. We tried a cherry-cola float with vanilla ice cream, a malted chocolate shake, a BACON PECAN BUTTER TART (perfect flaky pastry and sweet gooey filling, but not runny) and then, something called Ol’ School Lunch Pie. Let me explain: graham cracker crust, a layer of raspberry jam, chocolate peanut butter pudding, and a peanut butter drizzle. Those bites alone made up for an entire month of mediocre eating.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I went to see the Entourage movie, which, obviously you’ll love if you liked the TV show. I then started watching the seasons in reverse because I couldn’t remember what happened in the last few.  The early seasons are the best, so I’m going to go all the way back.
  • I spent the entire weekend in bed a couple weeks ago because I was sick and sped through China Rich Girlfriend, the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians which was my favourite book of 2013. I was supposed to go see Kevin Kwan be interviewed by Lainey at the Toronto Public Library last week, but I was feeling so gross I couldn’t make it. Definitely read those two if you haven’t already. They’re so entertaining and such a fun summer read. I also read Where They Found Her at the beginning of the month and would recommend that one too.
  • Last Sunday I went to the NKOTB/TLC/Nelly concert, and to be totally honest, I was the most excited to see Nelly! Not ashamed! I’m still bitter that when the TRL Tour (Destiny’s Child, Nelly, Eve, 3LW & Dream) came to to Toronto in August 2001, I missed it because I was stuck in Waterloo writing exams. He did a 40 minute set of just the hits, and it was like 2002 all up in the ACC. I loved it!

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Atlanta Eats {May 2015}

by byn on June 9, 2015

in Travel

Georgia Peach

I flew down to Atlanta for the May long weekend to meet up with my friend Danielle, and support her dream of seeing her favourite musician perform in his hometown. Obviously there was extensive research completed on where we would eat during our trip, so should you ever find yourself in ATL, here’s my on-the-scene report:

  • We both arrived in Atlanta on Thursday in the late afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, made our way to our first stop: Roaster’s. This came highly recommended by my friend Jenny and it was totally worth the 20 minute walk (full of hills I would add…who knew there were so many hills in this city?). You know you’re at the right place when your waitress asks “fresh rolls and cornbread to start?” YES PLEASE! And they were warm, and they came with butter, and they were FREE! Danielle and I both had the BBQ Chicken Rotisserie Sandwich, mine with a side of ‘slaw, hers with a side of Mac & Cheese (when in the South!), and they each came with a pickle. This is a true neighbourhood hangout, kind of dimly lit, with only booths to sit in. Everyone was so friendly, and I was just smitten right away. Incredible.
  • On Friday we started out the day at West Egg Café, where our Uber driver told us that the line stretches all the way down the block on the weekends. We had to wait about 40 minutes or so for a table, but it was amazingly worth it. We both ordered iced tea (unsweetened for me, sweetened for Dani – another Southern thing, they ask you how you want it, which I love), and we each did the “build your own biscuit”. As I said on Instagram, these biscuits are made of hopes and dreams! They were so light and fluffy, and a little bit sweet. I got mine with egg, cheddar and peppered bacon, and Dani had egg, cheddar and turkey sausage. As if I could pass up adding a side of fried green tomatoes! The thing about those is that green tomatoes are unripe so they’re a bit sour and hard. Not my fave, but with a crunchy cornmeal coating, you’re still going to finish them. Because this was the kind of trip where you have dessert after brunch, and because we passed them on the way in, we had to try two classic Southern desserts: Banana Pudding for Dani, and Caramel Cake for me. So good, and the best desserts we had on our trip.

Banana Pudding

  • On Saturday we began the day at the Krog Street Market, which was a bit of a misstep on my part. I had NYC on my mind when I read about this place, and thought it would be big and bustling, similar to Chelsea Market, with a Farmer’s Market where I could have a real, fresh, true Georgia peach. Let’s just say there’s not much going on here besides a craft brewery and some small shops. I think it would be great to go here for lunch though. I just timed this one a bit wrong. There is also a Jeni’s here. More on that below.
  • Onward we went to Highland Bakery, another Jenny recommendation, were we had mini sweet potato scones while waiting for our table. They even warmed them up for us, so they were toasty, cinnamony, and delicious. Must re-create these in the fall!
  • We had a late lunch/early dinner at Fox Bros Bar-B-Q, and ZOMG, where do I even begin. First of all, there’s a smoker in the parking lot so you know you’re in for a good meal. We kicked things off with fried pickles with ranch dipping sauce and they were so freaking good. We saw these on the menu everywhere (as well as pimento cheese, but I just can’t). I had a pulled pork sandwich, Dani had a smoked chicken salad sandwich, and we had some ‘slaw and chips to round it out. I can’t even talk about how good this was. Totally amazing and I’m drooling just writing this.

Deep Fried Pickles

  • On Sunday, we had lunch at True Food Kitchen, which is a chain similar to Fresh in Toronto or The Coup in Calgary, which I had eaten at in Scottsdale, AZ when I was there for a conference a couple of years ago. I thought it might be a good idea to consume some vegetables, and we had a summer spinach salad, some hummus and a flatbread. I also had a green juice and Dani had a Strawberry Rhubarb Lime Soda which I will definitely re-create this summer.
  • Of course when stopping in any American city, I will check my proximity to Trader Joe’s and we stopped there to pick up some treats, snacks and baking stuff to bring home.
  • Our last meal of the weekend on Sunday night was at Flip Burger, Richard BLAIS’ burger joint (remember when he left me a comment!?!). We had some delicious burgers and a delicious trio of onion rings, fries, and sweet potato tots, which are served with toasted marshmallow foam. Of course they are!
  • Unfortunately one of the places we were the most excited about was Jeni’s ice cream, but all the stores were shut down while we were there, which was pretty disappointing (I mean, not that we want listeria). Also, we were just a touch too early for peach season, so that was too bad. In terms of treats, the two places we visited were just okay (Sublime Doughnuts & Pie Shop), and I wouldn’t necessarily send you there unless you were close by. We did get a few Sprinkles cupcakes from the mall near our hotel so Dani could try them. They were incredible as always. No Cupcake ATM though!

 A few other observations on Atlanta:

  • The city is super sprawled out and kind of challenging to get around. We didn’t rent a car and thought we would do okay taking the MARTA (subway) as far as we could and then walking, but that sometimes left us walking in random areas on the side of the road, so we switched to Uber. Super cheap, cashless, extra friendly drivers, this worked for us.
  • I mean it goes without saying, but yes, it’s hot. Wet hot, swampy hot, and it was only May. Another reason why the above walking transportation strategy was not going to work.
  • The concert we went to was at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, which was very nice. On Saturday afternoon we went to Criminal Records where Butch did a small set and signing, and Danielle actually got to meet him. Super fun.

This was my sixth trip in the last seven months, and now I’m staying put for the summer. More recaps here: Florida {March/April}, Vegas {February}, NYC {December}, Vancouver {October}, NYC again {October}.

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Icebox Cupcakes
Like so many other things in my foodie life, I had never heard of an Icebox Cake until I saw it on Smitten Kitchen a few years ago. The idea behind it is that you stack up chocolate wafer cookies with whipped cream, and let the whole thing set in the fridge overnight. The cookies absorb some of the moisture from the whipped cream and soften, so you can actually cut the whole thing like a cake. Sounds delicious and super easy, too.

Now, our friends at Baked have taken this dessert to the next level in Baked Occasions, and turned it into a beautiful Rainbow Icebox Cake to celebrate Gay Pride. Their version is made of homemade chocolate cookies, stacked up with six different colours of whipped cream and topped with rainbow sprinkles. It’s so beautiful, but here’s the inside scoop: this was the most challenging recipe for the group of testers that worked on Baked Occasions. This is due to the assembly of the cake, the consistency of the whipped cream, and trying to keep all the colours from bleeding together. I wasn’t assigned this recipe to test, but hearing about it from my BSM friends kind of scared me away from making it. I also just made a Rainbow Cake two weeks ago for my niece, so I was kind of feeling ROYGBIV’ed out.

Rainbow Icebox Cake

My solution? Bite Deb’s idea for Icebox Cupcakes! I made the Baked Boys’ recipe for Homemade Chocolate Cookies, and just stacked them up with some sweetened vanilla bean whipped cream, and topped them with rainbow sprinkles. Super easy, cute and absolutely addictive!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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May on Planet Byn {2015}

by byn on May 31, 2015

in Monthly Recaps

Pie Shop

The first half of this month revolved around researching and prepping for a long weekend trip to Atlanta (which I’ll write more about soon) and the second half was all about the weddings of two of my close friends. Here’s what I was up to in between:

  • First of all, my beloved co-worker who is allergic to nuts GOT A NEW JOB!!! I mean, I really love him, but of course I brought a gigantic jar of peanut butter to work the first day he was gone. The knowledge that I can have peanut butter and crackers at my desk anytime I want is a game-changer for me!
  • Jenny hosted an International Potluck at her home for our FBM crew. Everyone picked a country and made recipes from that area. It was pretty epic. We’re talking everything from Pork Belly Bahn Mi (Vietnam) to Pancit (Phillipines) to Tres Leches Cake (Mexico). Unfortunately I wasn’t happy with the way my Portuguese Custard Tarts turned out. I think this is something best left to actual Portuguese bakeries. It just made me wonder even more how they get that flaky, but almost chewy, crust. It also made me realize I want a kitchen torch so bad.
  • I met my friends at Gusto 101 for brunch and just had the best time. I have complicated feelings re: brunch (described here), but sitting on Gusto’s rooftop patio with your girls over a leisurely meal in the sun can’t be beat. (Just saying I can make a better frittata at home. JUST SAYING).
  • Every year when I’m in Florida I watch ungodly amounts of American Food Network and Cooking Channel. My Mom usually watches along with me and will be like “Ooooh, make me that” and “I want that when I get home” and everything involves CHEESE. So for Mother’s Day lunch, I made us Pioneer Woman’s Tortellini Primavera, Jan’s Spring Salad, some herbed goat cheese and Raincoast Crisps, and that Ultralemony Bundt for dessert. She loved everything!
  • Once I got home from Atlanta, I had two nights to pull together my niece’s birthday cake. She requested a Rainbow Cake, but with the elusive INDIGO layer included this time! My SIL said everyone absolutely loved it, and it’s true: this cake is a stunner.
  • I closed out the month by attending two weddings as I mentioned above. First up was Aoife & Brad’s Wedding at Vineland Estates Winery in Niagara. The food was amazing, and I chose beef tenderloin for my entrée, which came with blue cheese, red wine reduction (of course!), mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
  • Next was Nicole & Geoff’s Wedding at a cute little art gallery in their neighbourhood, Parkdale. It was catered by the Food Dudes, and everything was fantastic. Again, I chose the beef option for my entrée (what can I say, I never cook it at home!) which was a 12-hour braised shortrib with cauliflower puree, and this celeriac and cheddar croquette. They also had amazing apps, including a french onion soup wonton (what!) and mac & cheese at midnight.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • Okay, so I have been sick twice this month; once with a head cold right before Atlanta, and then with a cough between the weddings. I’m a hot mess, what can I say. Anyway, I busted out a bunch of my old 90s/00s teen movies to watch while I lied on the couch cuddled up with my box of Kleenex: She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Cruel Intentions. OMG. The best.
  • Not even ashamed to say my favourite show has returned: The Bachelorette! I’m so happy the boys picked Kaitlyn. Honestly Britt is so annoying, and I would not have watched if they chose her (okay I probably would have, who are we kidding).
  • I finally saw Avengers 2! Now Summer Movie Season can truly begin!

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NYC Eats {December 2014}

by byn on May 27, 2015

in Travel

Christmas in NYC

This post is WAY overdue, but I’ve recently had a few friends and co-workers ask me for New York bakery and restaurant recommendations, so it’s time to get this recap going! First a little background.

My friend Lydia and I take a trip to New York City every five years. Our first trip was in 2004, in a pre-blog, post Sex & The City world, and our friend Devon who lives there took us to Sushi Samba and to Magnolia for cupcakes. We had a cute dinner at Café St. Barts, some slices of pizza on the street, and as far as food goes, that’s about it.

When we went back in 2009, I was still about six months from the starting Planet Byn, but was a year or so deep into my Smitten Kitchen obsession. I think almost everywhere we ate was a SK recommendation. Lydia was also pregnant with Ethan, and as I like to joke, as hungry as I was for the time in our friendship. Perhaps I shall write a Retro-blog on that trip, because we ate a lot of amazing things.

In a random twist,  Lydia and I both went to NYC separately in 2014 before our trip together. Lydia and her husband in June for one night en route to St. Maarten, me on a 36-hr whirlwhind adventure in October.  For our third trip this past December, it was extra special because it was our first trip at Christmas (our previous visits were in May and August), and everything in New York is just so much more magical at Christmastime. To keep things in context, we arrived mid-morning on a Friday, and left early evening on Sunday. Here’s what we got up to on the foodie front in between:

  • Our first stop once we checked in to the hotel was Back Forty West, a Smitten Kitchen recommendation that’s been on my mind since 2009. It’s a cozy, cute little spot in SoHo and we split kabocha squash risotto, beet and watercress salad with soft boiled egg and a warm Parker house loaf with smoked butter and radish.
  • From there we walked down to Tribeca to visit my boys at Baked. It was so great to see the finished space (it was still a bit under construction in October), and it was PACKED with people. Matt & Renato were there, and I got to chat with Matt while Renato was filming a segment for some time of TV spot. Lydia ate a pumpkin whoopie pie, I ate a slice of chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, and I took a few treats back to the hotel – a chocolate pecan pie bar and a salty caramel Twix type thing and two types of marshmallows to take home (Peppermint and Whiskey Cinnamon) I loved everything of course!
  • Dinner was at Lupa, an OG Mario Batali spot in the Village. Lydia had a warm spinach and pancetta salad and gnocchi, and I had a mushroom carpaccio salad and I had a pasta shape I can’t pronounce with short rib ragu. It was dark and cozy, and the food was warm and comforting. Classic.
  • A couple people (my friend Nicole, plus Matt from Baked) recommended ABC Kitchen, but I booked its sister restaurant ABC Cocina after seeing some Instagrams and checking out the menu online. Everything we had was incredible, I was seriously dying: sangria, gooey spicy ham and cheese fritters, a bright crunchy salad with cabbage and apple, kale and mushroom tacos, and a tres leches cake with cranberry meringue. The menu is seasonal, so none of these are even on it now, with the exception of the fritters. A must eat.
  • We stopped at a couple places in quick succession as it was raining, but went to: Breads Bakery for a rugelech, Max Brenner for a bunch of chocolate, Trader Joe’s so Lydia could see the insanity, and a Momofuku Milk Bar so I could pick up a couple things for Danielle’s birthday.
  • The next morning we had brunch at a place we kept walking by next to our hotel, which turned out to be Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant, The National. I had a bacon and mushroom omelet, Lydia had a smoke salmon benedict, and we were ready for our last day.
  • My dream for this trip was to go to Brooklyn to a bakery called Ovenly that my friend Dafna had been raving about. After a bit of a transit adventure, we finally ended up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Ovenly turned out to be the bakery of my dreams. It’s very tiny, very cute, and everything I tried was very delicious. I had a slice of flourless chocolate cake and a peanut butter cookie, and bought a peppermint brownie to take home. When I got home I prompted added the Ovenly cookbook to my Christmas List.
  • We went out with a bang with burgers and fries at Shake Shack before heading to the airport and I did not regret it!

 Other non-foodie related adventures:

  •  We stayed at the W in Midtown, which was within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza. Our room was quite small, but the bed was comfy, there were Bliss brand products in the bathroom, and a cute little lounge with free WiFi on the main floor.
  • We have a history of seeing female celebrities on all of our trips (Julianne Moore, Tina Fey, Mary-Louise Parker, Blake Lively), and Lydia was predicting we were due to have a major male celebrity encounter. Welp, we did. KANYE WEST y’all. Just walking out of a random building in the Village. No entourage, no Kardashians. I said “What’s up Kanye?” and he smiled and got into his car, while Lydia freaked out.
  • On Saturday night we went to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring The Rockettes, and it was so much fun. We also did basically any other New York City Christmas cliche you can think of: Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza, FAO Schwartz, department store window displays, and trying to sneak a peak at Santa at Macy’s.
  • You can see pictures from the whole weekend on my Instagram! Can’t wait to go back with Lydia in another 5 years!

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