October 31, 2009

Easy Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes - Happy Halloween!

We're big fans of cheesecake and pumpkin pie, so we wondered how the two of them could be combined together to form one delectable dessert.

Add in Dad's mini cheesecakes in which he would use Oreo cookies as the base and we've got ourselves one easy and addictive Halloween sweet treat.

Ingredients (makes 1 dozen mini pumpkin cheesecakes):
12 cupcake wrappers
6 Oreo-type cookies 
1 package cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour (forgot to add it in the photo!)
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon (another absentee in the photo!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg

1. Take all ingredients out so that they've warmed to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350F.

3. Twist the cookies in half as the crust for each mini cake.
4. Mix together cream cheese and sugar. 
5. Add the pumpkin puree.  Love how the color changes from a nice tan to a warm orange.

6. Add the cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt.
7. Add the egg and mix the batter.
8. Add the batter to each cup.  Turn the oven down to 300F and bake the mini pumpkin cheesecakes for 45 mins.  Let the mini cakes cool for about 2 hours (we just left them in the oven with the heat turned off)

We were going to chill the mini pumpkin cheesecakes overnight, but truthfully, we ate about half of them soon after while the photos were taken.  They had the nice spice and fragrance of pumpkin pie with a thicker cheesecake texture.  The cookies made for an easy crust - we're thinking that other types of cookies would work as well (vanilla creme, ginger flavored, etc.).

Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2009

What to Do in NYC This Weekend - Oct 30 to Nov 1

Lots of big events will be happening this weekend in NYC - Halloween weekend is made sweeter with the Chocolate Show and ends with the most inspirational event of the year:  the ING New York City Marathon.  Have a sweet, sweaty, and spooky weekend!  

Calling all chocoholics, from today until Sunday, the Chocolate Show is back in town.  This international chocolate exhibition features tons of vendors including Jacques Torres, Brooklyn's Madecase (Madagascar chocolates), and Dubai's Al Nassma (creator of the first camel milk chocolates).  In addition to satisfying your sweet tooth, there will be cooking demonstrations to watch and a beauty pavillion to test chocolate products for the body.  Tickets are $28 online, $30 at door, children under 12 free.  The event will be held at the Metropolitan Pavillion (125 W 18th St. btwn 6th and 7th Ave).

Of course Saturday's Halloween, which means there are plenty of costume parties and events in the city.  The biggest event is the NY Village Halloween Parade where almost 2 million people watch over 50,000 costumed participants on floats or parading puppets.  To watch the action, you'll have to get there hours before the 7pm start.  The parade goes through 6th Ave from Spring St to 21st St.  For a head start on Halloween night, why not check out the Halloween Candy and Wine/Spirits tasting at Bottlerocket from 2-5pm.  Try pairings like caramels with Bourbon - costumes optional, reservations not required, admission is free.  Bottlerocket is located at 5 W 19th St (btwn 5th and 6th Aves).

And then on Sunday is one of our favorite non-foodie related events in NYC:  the ING New York City Marathon.  It's truly inspiring to watch and cheer on runners from all over the world.  We like to grab a coffee and bagel and watch from Central Park.  If you want to stay inside, you can head to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center for a macarons and espresso to watch the end of the race.

October 29, 2009

Where to Go for Coffee in NYC

In New York City, there are plenty of places to go when you need a coffee pick-up.  But when we need help waking up, we'd prefer not to get watered-down deli coffee nor anything from the ubiquitous big coffee chains.  Don't get us wrong.  In a pinch, we'll drink anything with caffeine; however, when we have time or are in the neighborhood, we would rather check out the following great coffee shops.

October 28, 2009

Crumbs: Yankees Cupcake All Dressed up For Tonight's Game

With Game 1 of the World Series scheduled for tonight, a couple New York cupcake vendors have started selling specially-decorated Yankees sweet treats.  This morning we heard about Cupcake Stop's ode to the pinstripe' starting line-up and this afternoon,we found the after-school crowd munching on these blue and white cupcakes from Crumbs on the UWS.

We dug right into this light and fluffy vanilla cupcake to find a pale blue frosting center.

We're guessing that Crumbs will continue to sell these cupcakes as long as the series lasts.

Crumbs is found at various locations throughout the city.  We went to the UWS one at 321 1/2 Amsterdam Ave (at W 75th St).

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tasting event at Union Square Wines

 We are big fans of French Rhone wine...well actually of wine from any region.  Chateauneuf-du-Papes are favorite wines of ours because we love their taste of dark red fruit with pepper and spice.  So we were really excited to attend Union Square Wines' CDP tasting with Bastien Tardieu, of La Maison Tardieu-Laurent.  For $20, we got to taste 9 different wines, enjoy some local charcuterie and French cheeses, and received a $10 store voucher.  The only thing that could be better is if we flew to the Rhone Valley ourselves! 

While waiting for the tasting room to be opened, we were served tastes of 2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs.  This bubbly brought back wonderful memories for us - we first enjoyed this Blanc de Blancs while sharing a special meal at The French Laundry.

Our first flight was accompagnied by a hearty plate of local meats, French cheeses, and crusty bread.

The first flight consisted of the new 2008 Maison-Tardieu Laurent Cotes du Rhone Villages 'Le Bec Fins', 2006 Vacqueyras Vielles Vignes, 2007 Cotes du Rhone Rouge 'Guy Louis' and the 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vielles Vignes. 

The 2008 Le Bec Fin was steel-aged, resulting in a fresh but light wine. The 2008 Southern Rhone vintage was a struggle and ended up being a lighter wine compared to the prior few vintages. We preferred the richer 2007 Guy Louis Rouge, which was closer to the bolder style of the 2006 Vacqueyras. 

Our favorite food selection from the first plate was the D'Artagnan dry-cured duck prosciuotto.
2005 Maison-Tardieu Laurent Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vielles Vignes:  This 90% grenache/10% syrah blend is rich and ripe, with great color, medium to full body, pepper, spice with a sweet glycerin finish.
The second flight included four of Maison-Tardieu's Chateauneuf-du-Papes, all from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages.  It's like we were kids in a candy store!  The big, round 2005 Cuvee Speciale is 100% whole cluster grenache and has an almost candied, spicy taste.  The 2006 Vielles Vignes was spicy and peppery but with a little too much heat on the finish that should hopefully die down over time.  The 2006 Cuvee Speciale was a more elegant, balanced style.  All of the wines were excellent - we were in heaven!

And to top it all off, we got to eat French cheeses and this Trio of Pate:  Pheasant Terrine Herbette, Mousse Truffee, Pate de Campagne.  So rich, meaty, and delicious!
Above, the recently released 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vielles Vignes was a plush, juicy wine with deep, primary fruit - it's still very young - and a fantastic, long finish.  This is going to be a great wine down the road.

We had a fantastic time at this wine tasting and look forward to attending a few more in the future.

Union Square Wines is located at 140 4th Ave (at 13th St).

October 27, 2009

Tres Generaciones Tequila Pairings at Toloache

We have enjoyed wine and beer pairings before, but never had a dinner paired with tequila.  So when we were invited by Tres Generaciones to dine at Toloache for a special tequila pairing and presentation, we were eager to expand our tequila knowledge beyond those long ago college days' shots.

We started off with a Guacamole Trio:
Frutas:  This was a fruity guacamole with avocado, pomegranate, mango, apple, vidalia onions, peach, habanero, and Thai basil.  This was mild with a fresh taste.

Traditional:  This was a very mild and slightly salty traditional guacamole with avocado, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano.

Rojo:  This was a nice, spicy guacamole with avocado, chipotle, tomatoes, red onions, and queso fresco.  We really enjoyed the subtle smokiness and spiciness in this brown-colored guacamole.

A close-up of the frutas guacamole.  Though purists would disagree, we actually liked the fruit (that were both sweet and tart) in this guacamole.

Jaime Salas, Tres Generaciones' National Tequila Ambassador, led us through sniffing, swirling, and appreciating each of the three tequilas.

Our tequila tastings (we sipped them from right to left):

Right:  Tres Generaciones Plata:  This was lightest in color (essentially clear) and tasted spicy and peppery with a noticeable heat from the alcohol.  It was clean and relatively smooth.  This tequila is triple-distilled.

Middle:  Tres Generaciones Reposado:  Gold in color, this tequila is triple-distilled and then rested in American oak barrels for at least four months.  We could smell a plesant white oak aroma that made this tequila smell (and taste) softer than the Plata.  It had a slight caramel (Jaime mentioned "bananas") and spiciness.

Left:  Tres Generaciones Añejo:  This would be appreciated by Scotch and whiskey lovers.  This is the same tequlia but aged for more than 12 months and up to 3 years in oak bourbon barrels. It's has a high quality and smooth, round taste with a pleasant oak nose and a lingering finish. 

This is a close-up of the Plata - crystal clear in color.
To pair with our appetizer course, we enjoyed the bright pink Granada Fizz.  Pomegranate, champagne, and Plata tequila make a nice, light, bubbly, and refreshing drink.
Taquitos de Cangrejo:  This was fantastic!  Two crispy taquitos were filled with sweet crab salad, habaneros, sweet onion, and topped with Thai basil.  They were held up on the plate with a jicama paste that tasted sweet, like chestnut.
These Bandera cocktails were a tribute to the Mexican flag.  Though it had beet puree in it, the beets were very subtle.  The drink was sweet, sour, and fresh with a kick.
Carnitas de Pato:  Our entree course was a duck confit carnitas on a duck egg with requeson (ricotta-like cheese) huarache, and covered with fig mole.  The duck was tender and this earthy dish was nicely paired with the beet cocktail.

Tres Generaciones Añejo cocktail tasted like summer.  It smelled citrusy and tasted like lemonade with a kick.  The agave syrup sweetened the Añejo and made it very easy to drink. 

Crepas de Cajeta: The dessert was a cake of caramelized milk crepes, Tres Generaciones Añejo caramel sauce, and banana ice cream.
We loved the soft, light milk crepes (reminded us of the tasty French dessert, mille crepes).  We thought that the crepes were nice on its own and didn't need the overpowering taste of the banana ice cream. 

Overall, we had a pleasant dinner and learned a lot about fine tequila.  We learned that the flavor of these three tequilas (all based on the same ingredient:  100% blue agave) resulted from different preparations.  We also gained appreciation for the tequila as a sipping drink as well as its versatility in cocktails.

  Toloache is located at 251 W 50th St (btwn Bdwy and 8th Aves) in NYC.

Tres Generaciones portfolio of tequilas can be found in liquor stores throughout the world.

October 26, 2009

New Amsterdam Market - NYC

Yesterday, we went to the second installment of the New Amsterdam Market at South Street Seaport.  From seafood to sorbet, pastries to pate, and tea to kimchee, we sample to our hearts' content and meet many friendly local vendors in the process.

These beautiful flowers make tea time both elegant and sophisticated.  Dynasty and Ceremony sells these blooms that makes a light and refreshing white tea.  Just steep the buds in hot water and watch the different flowers appear.  We met with owner Alicia who mentioned that these will be available online in the next couple of weeks.

Not one, but TWO kimchee vendors.  We love the spiciness of this Korean dish of pickled cabbage.  We sampled Mama O's Kimchee's five kimchee dishes:  vegan, classic, extra fermented, daikon, and kimchee salsa.  Loved the variety of kimchee options.  We also tried both the classic (mild) and the spicier daikon kimchee from Mother in Law's Kimchi.
Shucked oysters - we couldn't resist.  NYC restaurant Stella offered 4 oysters for $5, but we wanted to try somewhere new so we opted for the shellfish at Brooklyn-based W&T Seafood instead.  We had the steamed mussels ($2) and happily tried each of their oysters (including their top seller, Island Creek oysters).  All of the shucked oysters ($1.25 ea) were fresh and plump.
Oh, Bent Spoon, we're so happy you came down from Princeton with your delicious ice creams and sorbet.  We enjoyed scoops of their Roasted Pumpkin Cocoa Nib (made with organic pumpkins, like the ones seen above, from NJ's Oak Grove Farm) and Dark Chocolate Rosemary (made with 61% chocolate and organic NJ-farmed rosemary) ($3.50 for 2 scoops) plus a tasting of their third flavor, Heirloom Cranberry Cider sorbet (made with NJ heirloom cranberries and NJ apple cider).  Because these ice creams and sorbet are made with organic, local products, the taste is natural and saturated.  Eating these frozen treats is like biting into a cooler version of pumpkin pie, fancy chocolate bar, and fruity cider.

Lots of fresh vegetables on hand from McEnroe Organic Farm (we tried their award-winning kale salad, blue potato salad, and bought the leafy Boston lettuce for $2).  We were also amazed by the gigantic mushrooms from Wild Gourmet Food.

We offset our hot chocolate ($1.50) with a healthy tofu sample provided by Basis & Farm to Chef
Lots and lots of meat products and samples including rich and tasty pate from the farm with the best name, The Piggery (We ended up buying a $5 jar of the pate).  We loved the head-wear on the boys from The Meat Hook and devoured Jimmy's No 43's beef brisket with mustard on crusty bread.
Chili ($5) from Marlow and Daughters, poultry from Bo Bo Poultry (we were tempted to buy the $12 black silky chicken, thinking it would make a great Halloween dish), more pate, and sausage and white beans ($5) from Bklyn Larder.
Nothing like a nice substantial tasting of hot chicken pot pie soup from Spoon on a brisk, but sunny day.  We also enjoyed trying their fruity and flavorful jams.  Other comforting foods included apple-cheddar-rosemary galettes from Sweet Deliverance and crusty loaves from Balthazar Bakery
No food market would be complete without a few sweet treats!  We salivated over Liddabit Sweets' caramel apples, beer and pretzel caramels, and their top-selling sea salt caramels.  Taste-testing chocolate is always a fun thing to do, so we enjoyed a few of the products by Taza Chocolate and then checked out the baked goods from Williamsburg’s newest bakery Saltie.
We ended our day with some wine sampling from various local wineries (Atwater Estate Vineyards, from the Finger Lakes region and Long Island's Paumanok Vineyards and Wolffer Estate Vineyards) as well as some more pate.  The longest line of the day seemed to be for Luke's Lobster, and after a couple of hours, some products from Hudson Valley Duck Farm (tasty duck prosciutto) and Bo Bo Poultry were starting to sell out.  We're glad we came to the market when it started at 11AM and look forward to next month's market.

New Amsterdam Market is located in South Street Seaport, on South Street (btwn Beekman Street and Peck Slip), on the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan.  The next market will be held on Sunday, November 22, 2009 (just in time for Thanksgiving!)