Archive for the Sweets Category

Grapevine Cafe, Donaldsonville

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Restaurants, Reviews, Sweets with tags , , , on 30 December, 2009 by la fille

After returning from The Frozen North on Christmas Eve and watching movies ’til my brains turned to mush on Christmas Day, I found myself restless on Boxing Day.

I decided to take a drive up River Road with no real destination in mind, just to see what I could see. I crossed over the Huey P. and went up on the Westbank, through the weird combination of plantations and industry. There were lots of neat things to look at. I was treated to some good advice:

I ended up in Donaldsonville, which has a quaint little downtown area, but was super dead that day, due to it being both Sunday and the day after Christmas. The Grapevine Cafe was open, however, and seemed to be doing a brisk business.

Here’s a blurb from their website:

Grapevine Cafe and Gallery’s award-winning cuisine has earned rave reviews from food writers and local residents for its authentic and original South Louisiana fare.

Our recipes draw from the diverse cultures that have made Louisiana the unique treasure it is. With the perfect blending of Cajun, Creole and African traditions, we are proud to offer you the best in Louisiana dining.

The restaurant resides in a 1920s storefront on the main drag of town and features high ceilings, brick walls, and displays by local artists. I sat by a side window that looked out at a lovely alley-way garden, complete with a cat sitting outside on the sill. “A” for atmosphere!

I knew that the place was famous for Chef Cynthia Schneider’s white chocolate bread pudding– which she served at the James Beard Awards Dinner in 2006– so I was sure to order light to save room for it. I got a cup of seafood gumbo and a grilled crawfish tail appetizer.

The gumbo was good; not as thick as some I’ve had, but it came with a side of rice that solved the problem. It was also accompanied by a scoop of potato salad that was heavy on the relish or pickle juice or something, but tasty nonetheless.

I found myself slightly disappointed in the crawfish tails. The seasonings didn’t add a whole lot of flavor, and the tails themselves tasted like they’d been sitting for a bit before winding up at my table–not very warm. The remoulade tasted like the same pickle monster made it who made the potato salad. Again, not bad, but a little overwhelming.

So. Mediocre fare thus far, but I wanted to stick with it through dessert, which did end up salvaging the whole meal. That’s some damn fine bread pudding, as Dale Cooper would say. Spongy and warm, with a subtle flavor to showcase the stellar white chocolate sauce that it was drenched in. Not to mention the fact that the serving was more than generous.

I’ve read nothing but phenomenal things about the Grapevine Cafe, so I’m guessing I just chose poorly from the menu. If I ever get back to Donaldsonville I’ll give the place another try, this time for dinner, though, since the lunch menu is truncated.

Here’s a copy of Chef Schneider’s bread pudding recipe (via):

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

8 Servings

Stale French bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups chopped white chocolate
2 large eggs
8 large egg yolks

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray the bottom of a 4-by-8-inch baking dish and place a layer of bread slices.

2. In a saucepan, scald the cream with the milk. Add the sugar and white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the yolks. Gradually whisk in the white chocolate mixture until blended. Pour half the mixture over the bread and let it stand until absorbed. Cover with another layer of bread and pour the remaining mixture on top, making sure each slice is thoroughly soaked.

4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the center of the pudding puffs up. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes. Let cool until set, about 15 minutes. Scoop the bread pudding into bowls with an ice cream scoop or serve in squares, topped with warm White-Chocolate Sauce.

White Chocolate Sauce

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup chopped white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk in the whipping cream until smooth. Serve warm.

The Grapevine Cafe and Gallery

211 Railroad Avenue

Donaldsonville, Louisiana 70346

(225) 473-8463

(225) 473-8486

(interior photo courtesy of grapevinecafeandgallery.com)

Snow Cream

Posted in Eat, Sweets, Words on 23 December, 2009 by la fille

Since my weekend trip up to the Northeast has turned into a weeklong winter break due to a massive snowstorm, I figured I might as well take advantage of the situation and do something I hadn’t done in probably fifteen years—make a batch of snow cream.

I vividly remember one winter when I was still in elementary school that a blizzard hit my part of Tennessee and we were out of classes for over a week. I spent much of that vacation hanging out at my parents’ restaurant, entertaining myself as well as I could. Now, said restaurant was a fine-dining establishment that was only open for dinner, so during the day I had my run of the place as long as I stayed out from under the feet of the prep cooks. In addition to sledding down the hill out back on a giant baking sheet and reenacting epic battles between dinosaurs and My Little Ponies in the dining room, I made a lot of snow cream. Since I had a whole kitchen to work with, I experimented with ingredients from mint to orange juice who knows what, but the simplest recipe is ultimately the best as far as I’m concerned. The combination of snow, heavy cream or half and half, sugar, and vanilla yields a treat that will forever produce a sense memory for me of winters in Tennessee.

When I started writing this, it was with the mind of telling NOLA readers about something they don’t really have the opportunity to enjoy, being that the main ingredient is a bit difficult to procure, but I’m realizing that the closest thing I’ve ever had to snow cream that wasn’t made from actual snow from outside my door is the New Orleans sno-ball. The texture is very similar, with real snow cream being of an only slightly grainier consistency due to the inability for the sugar to dissolve completely in the cold mixture. That super-thinly shaved ice, though, is VERY close to real snow, and with some vanilla syrup and condensed milk you have a pretty darn close approximation of the real thing.

Granted, the experience of eating a dripping sno-ball in the middle of a sweltering summer afternoon is vastly different from the insanity of giving yourself brain freeze from a food when you could just as easily step outside the door and do the same thing. Sno-balls are for cooling off; snow cream is for eating while bundled up in a blanket standing over a heater, watching the sun glint off the icicles on the window frame.

Which, if you’ll excuse me, is exactly what I’m going to do right now.

Recipe: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Posted in Eat, Recipe, Sweets with tags on 27 November, 2009 by la fille

Mamàn is the pecan pie maven in the family, so with her out of the state for Thanksgiving, the dessert responsibility fell to Pops. He’s not much into baking, but he sure does LOVE to make ice cream. No matter what flavor he makes, it’s always astoundingly good, and this is the absolute best vanilla bean ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Thick and rich, almost marshmallow-y, and delicious over the fresh mango cobbler we made.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

makes about one quart

INGREDIENTS

7 large egg yolks

3/4 c. sugar

dash salt

1 vanilla bean (a great quality bean is the secret to a superlative ice cream)

2 c. half and half

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

RECIPE

1. Whisk egg yolks with sugar and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Combine beans, seeds, half and half, and heavy cream in a large saucepan and bring just to a simmer.

2. Gradually whisk hot cream into the egg yolk mixture. Return it all to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon (don’t let it boil).

3. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Recipe: Fresh Mango Cobbler

Posted in Eat, Recipe, Sweets with tags , , on 27 November, 2009 by la fille

Pops got this recipe online somewhere, and it was pretty tasty. Both of us were happy with the fruit mixture, but felt that we’d alter the dough recipe if we ever made it again. The texture wasn’t stellar, and I found it a little too salty.

Fresh Mango Cobbler

serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

2/3 c. plus 1/3 c. sugar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 c. water

3 c. sliced mangoes

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. butter

1 tbsp. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. shortening

1/2 c. milk

RECIPE

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 2/3 c. sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, gradually stir in water, mangoes, and lemon juice. Heat, stirring well, and pour into 1 1/2 qt. baking dish. Dot with butter and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the top.

2. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture gets a mealy consistency. Stir in the milk and mix well.

3. Drop the dough mixture by spoonfuls onto the hot fruit. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Berry Buttermilk Cake

Posted in Eat, Photos, Recipe, Sweets on 25 June, 2009 by la fille

june09-08

(photo by lafille)

Brother O’Mara emailed this recipe to me a while back, asking if I thought it looked tasty. This is rare, since, although he can cook pretty much anything as long as he has a recipe in front of him, he has no real ability to actually choose the recipe himself. I don’t know if it’s just the immensity of the options or what, but I don’t mind since I LOVE picking out dishes. Thus, I was surprised and figured I’d make it for him since he actually picked it out and emailed it.

It turned out to be the perfect sweet for a mellow evening at home with a couple of friends. Fresh and summery (like everything I’m eating and drinking lately — I need to find some more adjectives) and great with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

This is the verbatim recipe from SmittenKitchen. I substituted strawberries and blueberries and it turned out wonderfully. I look forward to trying it with raspberries, too!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009, via SmittenKitchen.com

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter (see Note) raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Link to original SmittenKitchen post.

Mouthwatering Meals on Magazine: Baru

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Photos, Restaurants, Reviews, Sweets with tags , , on 21 June, 2009 by la fille

large_Baru exteriorA few days ago, Flojindamesa over at Eat Drink Nola posted about Baru, a Caribbean/Tapas restaurant on Magazine Street. Of course after reading her post, Baader-Meinhof Syndrome set in and I saw Baru mentioned everywhere! Brother O’Mara has been working in that part of town this week, and suggested we check the place out on Friday night, so we picked up a bottle of Domaine Audras 2006 Julienas at Martin Wine Cellar and made our way to the lovely purple building on the corner of Magazine and Amelia Streets.

As Flojindamesa noted, Baru is strictly BYOB and charges a flat $8 corkage fee. I have no problem with this, as $8 is far less than I usually spend on drinks at a restaurant, I can bring whatever I want, and it allows me to spend more money on food!

I can’t overstate what a wonderful time Brother O’Mara and I had that evening. Even though the day had been blisteringly hot, we decided to sit outside on the sidewalk rather than wait half an hour to score an inside table, and as a result we had some great social interactions and got in a lot of good people-watching. The service was terrific — attentive and pleasant butnot overbearing — while the atmosphere was relaxed and unpretentious. And the food. Oh, the FOOD! A tapas restaurant was the perfect choice for us that night, because I had recently eaten an entire pastrami on rye at Stein’s Deli, while O’Mara was famished from a long day at work; thus I ordered one small plate and he ordered three.

Ceviche

I had the ceviche, described on the menu as “fresh gulf fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with avocado, cilantro, and pickled red onion”, and it was exactly what I was craving. The heat outside combined with my lack of extreme hunger meant this cool, refreshing dish satisfied me completely.

Pimenton Asado

This was the first of O’Mara’s dishes to come out: roasted red bell pepper marinated in olive oil and citrus, served with grilled bread. Cool and crisp, this was a terrific appetizer, especially once the juices seeped into the bread and made it all soft. Mmm.

june09-06chuzo and empanadas

Chuzo

Grilled skirt steak marinated in mojo and served with chimichurri and papas fritas. Man o nam, this was a great little piece of meat. That’s what she said. The chimichurri was nothing to sniff at, either. What a great combination of flavors.

Empanadas

Picadillo beef-filled cornmeal pies with aji. I’ve since learned that aji is a pepper native to Peru, but I wish I had more words to describe how awesome this sauce was. I tried to pick out flavors at the time of ingestion, but apparently I was too wrapped up in the moment to remember anything noteworthy. You’ll just have to trust me that it was FANTASTIC!

Since we didn’t have to pay for a bottle of wine, we decided to go for two desserts, the Tres Leches Cake and the Mango Flan, both of which were presented beautifully and served as delightful finishes to the meal. Look at that use of fresh fruit!

june09-07tres leches cake and mango flan

The combination of great food and great wine was enough to make it an evening to remember, but we were lucky enough to make the acquaintance of one Manolo, who was eating dinner there with his family and turned out to be very close friends with Baru’s owner, chef Edgar Caro. Manolo took a shine to us, and insisted we go back to the kitchen to meet Edgar, which we were glad to do. It’s always a pleasure to be able to interact on a personal level with someone who has created such a wonderful, comfortable environment for his patrons.

I really cannot wait to make a return trip to this little gem of a restaurant.

Baru Bistro and Tapas

3700 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70115-2637
(504) 895-2225

(exterior photo by David Grunfeld of the Times-Picayune, food photos by lafille, taken with O’Mara’s new iPhone)

Birthday Treats

Posted in Beer, Cocktails, Eat, Imbibe, Photos, Recipe, Sweets with tags , , , , , on 29 May, 2009 by la fille

Yesterday Brother O’Mara had a birthday, and for said birthday, I decided to jump on the bandwagon (albeit rather late) and make some cupcakes. They’ve been super-trendy for ages, but until now I’d only eaten and not baked them. I decided on a couple recipes from my favorite magazine, Imbibe: Chocolate Stout (I used Young’s) and Coconut Tequila, both of which turned out so incredibly well that we had to take them all to work this morning so we wouldn’t eat only cupcakes all weekend.

Recipes below the photos.

may09-01

Chocolate, beer, sugar, and cream cheese. Yes please.

may09-05

Though they were already cool by the time they hit the windowsill, it’s still pretty idyllic, no?

may09-03

This is the presentation to which Brother O’Mara came home.

MAKE THEM FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES TODAY!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 24

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. stout beer (they called for Guinness, I used Young’s)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 c. sour cream

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, plus more for garnish

2 1/2 c. sugar

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

for the frosting:

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 c. heavy cream

1 1/2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar (I used less and got a more liquidy frosting)

RECIPE

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beer, melted butter and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.

2. In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet beer mixture.

3. Divide batter among 24 buttered or papered muffin tins and bake 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender.

4. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream, then slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar.

5. After cupcakes have cooled, top each one with a heap of frosting and a dusting of cocoa.

from the Nov/Dec 2006 issue

may09-06

Coco Loco Tequila Cupcakes

makes 24

INGREDIENTS

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

large pinch of salt

1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 c. unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger

1 tsp. coconut extract

1/4 c. tequila (I used what was on hand, Cuervo Gold)

1/2 c. buttermilk (I didn’t have any so substituted 1/2 c. milk mixed with 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar — gross, but it works)

1 c. shredded sweetened coconut

for the frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. tequila

2 tsp. coconut extract

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

shredded sweetened coconut for garnish

RECIPE

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition.

2. Add coconut milk, ginger, and coconut extract and beat for one minute at high speed. In a measuring pitcher, stir together tequila and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients in three batches to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture in two batches, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing well after each addition. Fold in the shredded coconut.

3. Fill each cupcake tin (you buttered or papered them, right?) about three-fourths full with batter and bake until a toothpick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

4. Meanwhile, to make the frosting, beat cream cheese on high speed until smooth. With mixer on high, slowly add coconut milk, tequila, and coconut extract. Continue beating until thoroughly combined and smooth, about five minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and continue beating on high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

5. Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with shredded coconut.

from the May/June 2009 issue

may09-04

(all photos by lafille)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROTHER O’MARA!