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When in Shanghai

A week ago I was in China for work, and on my free day I went to Shanghai with a co-worker to check out the architecture, food, shopping and sights. The only thing I felt I needed to do was eat soup dumplings, so that was my one request. We were in the old part of Shanghai, pretty touristy I could tell by all the cameras and posed photos being taken. Many of the tourists were Chinese, so I didn’t feel like too much of a sucker.

The restaurant we went to, Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, had a crazy takeout line about a block long. We went inside and sat down to eat our dumplings, perhaps having paid a premium for the seating and peace but prices weren’t too bad.

I got a giant soup dumpling that comes in a bamboo steamer and a long soda straw for sucking out the soup prior to eating the whole thing. This is a Shanghai dumpling thing, not just unique to the restaurant. I’d seen it on some television cooking show, so it was exciting to try one for myself. It was pretty tasty and a fun way of eating a dumpling. We also got a couple different kinds of smaller soup dumplings, which you can oftentimes find in major Chinatowns like NYC or San Francisco. They look like your standard dumpling, except they have a more delicately thin wrapper and the filling is sitting in about a tablespoon of soup. Needless to say, you have to pick them up carefully with your chopsticks so as not to puncture the wrapper and have the soup leak out. You’ll see people transfer the dumplings to chinese soup spoons, top them with some soy sauce and/or vinegar and ginger before slurping from the dumpling. I only needed to eat 6 of those and I would’ve been full.

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Goat Cupcakes

I have a co-worker who lives on a goat farm. He and his family have maybe 30-40 miniature dwarf goats, and they are just the darndest little cute things! He was kind enough to invite some of us over to see and bottle feed the baby goats, some of them only one day old. Unfortunately we didn’t get to bottle feed the babies because we gave the child guests that privilege. It was still fun to sit amongst the baby goats as they sprung across the fields of grass.

Here are some pictures of the adorable babes, mamas and daddies:

It was also an opportune time for me to make some decorated cupcakes for the get-together. I’d actually meant to make a goat-decorated cake for my co-worker’s birthday a few months back, but never got a chance…some hurricane got in the way. He’s kind of known as “the goat guy” and the “weather guy”. Anyhow this time I made decorations for each cupcake, which was a tad more time-consuming than making one decoration for a cake. Flood-work is a really good choice when you want to make one larger detailed decoration for a cake.

You can use white chocolate chips from the grocery store and melt them down carefully in the microwave, adding gel or fat-based food coloring to make different colors. If you were to use regular food coloring, the water would make the chocolate seize (get chunky), rendering it useless and a waste of money. If you’re using real dark chocolate for outlining, you will want to temper it so that it isn’t too fluid and run all over the place. You could also use compound chocolate, which is the stuff you’ll typically buy in the grocery store (bags of chocolate chips).  I personally believe it’s easier to create finer lines and nicer definition using real chocolate, but you don’t have to get all perfectionist with it. Flood-work can be more about the fun aspect than the detailed precision work and flavor. The tools you need to do flood-work are: parchment paper cones (you assemble these), melted chocolate chips, gel or fat-based food coloring, acetate (clear transparency type material that’s food safe), and a printer. I won’t go into the directions on how to do it, but you could look it up. It’s fairly easy to do. The designs and potential are endless!

Number Two Coffee Beans

I had heard of a particular type of cat that swallows coffee beans only to have them exit the other end as the best coffee in the world. I often hear of gimmicky things like this and dismiss them. But I was reminded of this cat-digesting coffee process recently while traveling.

As someone who appreciates a good cup of coffee, I was curious to try this delicacy going for $40/50g bag. Now granted I was buying a bag from the Duty Free shop at the airport… Regardless, this coffee is a bit on the pricey side.

What’s the deal with this coffee you ask? You can read more here.

Here’s my thoughts on the coffee. It was pretty decent, although I wouldn’t say I’d go out of my way to procure the beans. I might try it again to see if there’s a difference in brand and roaster. Oh and this cat looks more like a rodent to me.

Close-Up-Civet-Cat-Vn-1photo (11)

This past weekend I made my way to the last day of Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, NY. Sadly I did not get to indulge in the lobster rolls from Red Hook Lobster Pound. My those are the tastiest looking sandwiches I’ve seen! As many of you know Hurricane Sandy took a toll on quite a few homes and businesses in the area, and a few of them were vendors at this market. Hopefully they will get back up and running soon enough.

Many vendors at the market were still there to close out the season with a bang. I tried a couple of things, but wasn’t really impressed by much. One booth did stand out though. Vegan Treats, a bakery in Bethlehem, PA had a table full of beautiful and uniformly decorated desserts on display.

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Tail End of Cupcakes

To be honest I thought the cupcake craze would be over by now. I like cupcakes and I’ve even frequented a few cupcake places in Chicago and New York (e.g., Sprinkles, Magnolia, independent shops). Yet I’ve never been convinced to come back for more. Four dollars for a ho-hum little cake with cloying sweet frosting that I scrape off?

But ya know what? I recently ate a Crumbs cupcake at the Newark airport, and it was wonderful.

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I wanted to make a thank you gift for someone the other day, and thought of a simple and delicious baked good to give. The apple crostata. Originally I was going to make a galette, which is very similar but more refined looking in its concentric splayed apples glistening with glaze.

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I once had a discussion with some friends about whether these cookies were French macaroons or macarons. If you ask me, you can call them either. They are the same.

So Adam’s mother sent me some lavender as a gift a couple of weeks ago and a lovely cookbook with various recipes. I had also recently spoken to my mother about her first macaron eating experience, which she absolutely loved. I took the lavender as inspiration and decided to make my mother macarons for Mother’s Day. It has been over a year since I last made them, so I went to the library and grabbed a few books for recipe referencing. If you’d like to try your hand at them, here are some books you can use:

  • Mad About Macarons!: Make Macarons Like the French, by Jill Colonna
  • Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride
  • Irresistable Macarons, by Jose Marechal and Akiko Ida

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