When a friend needs some cheering up, the thing to do is go out for a lovely lunch. It certainly does not cure all that ails, but it sure does take her mind off things for a while. How can it not when it’s at The Dutch and when it ends with this….
If you are a product of the 80’s, you’ll appreciate that a couple of the girls and I headed out to Jones Beach to see The Steve Miller Band and Journey. As tempting as it was to Aqua Net the heck out of our hair and wear feather earrings, we kept it pretty low key. That is, until they played “Don’t Stop Believin’”. How could we help ourselves? I still have a sore throat from that evening.
A couple of weeks of my favorite things would never be complete without some oysters. Maison Premiere gets it right with a capital “R”. Aside from décor and staff that makes you feel as though you’ve just stepped into a Toulouse Lautrec painting, their oyster list is as long as my arm. Ninigret Cup oysters? They’re on there. Blackbear Points? Yup. As well as a host of other obscure varieties.
Mollusk Madness was followed by dinner at The Elm. Chef Paul Liebrandt is masterful at combining interesting flavors and textures. Ocean trout with burratta followed by salt cod with gnochetti and broccoli rabe. I was skeptical too but sometimes you need to put your meal in the chef’s hands. Skilled chefs rarely disappoint.
Dessert was no exception. The Gold Bar (ganache, huckleberry, red fruit sorbet) and Japanese Cheesecake (coconut, pineapple, lime).
The week wrapped up with farmer’s markets, Pier 25 playground in Tribeca, some outdoor music and brunch at Locanda Verde. That is a week ended well.
These past two weeks have centered largely around Nate. He has a lot going on in his life…at least for a little kid. Not only did he turn five, but he also graduated from preschool. On the same day. These events involve parties and celebrations of all sorts. Plus an effort to wrap his five year old mind around it all. I won’t even mention trying to wrap my own adult brain around it all. Suffice it to say there have been a lot of emotions (ok, tears) whirling around our house. Though these milestones are bittersweet, they are happy ones and we are grateful to be able to celebrate them.
For his party, Nate really wanted a Star Wars theme. In a bouncy castle place, to boot. Try as I might to change his mind, Nate wasn’t having it. I should mention that I know nothing, whatsoever, about Star Wars. Until I was 18 I thought that Princess Leia was nothing more than a girl’s hairstyle. Etsy saved the day. I was able to find some chocolate dipped pretzel light sabers (HitstheSpot), those awesome masks and other paper elements (PimpYourParty) and some adorable pins for the goody bags (BurritoPrincess). These sorts of things come in very handy when all you have to work with is red and purple decor and fluorescent lights.
In the end, everyone had a blast. Perhaps the adults most of all.
His school celebration was very sweet. It made me remember what a big deal it was to bring cupcakes in for your whole class. Not to mention having your mom come in and read a super cute book about crayons going on strike (The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt)
We wrapped up “Nate’s Week” with a super sweet graduation celebration. Since I can barely talk about him moving on to kindergarten without tearing up, it is doubtful that I can string together some sentences to describe the occasion. Instead, I’ll focus on the fact that my contribution to the Potluck Graduation Dinner was deviled eggs. Preparing them was a “Like Water for Chocolate” moment for me, but they are a crowd pleaser. And usually don’t reduce me to tears.
This has me in the mood to cook all the day long:
So, this past week, I made some homemade ricotta gnocchi with asparagus, peas and morels. Just seemed like the right thing to do this time of year.
The flavors are so reminiscent of spring, plus it was so quick and easy that it allowed me to enjoy the lovely weather and some time with these two:
I also concocted this funny, but delicious, little breakfast. I kind of just pulled a bunch of odds and ends out of the refrigerator and “voila”, ended up with a bowl of rice with scallions, spinach, and kimchi topped with an over easy egg. If, like me, you struggle to find a simple savory breakfast, look no further.
And, to top it off, I got to work on a photo shoot for work, which is one of my favorite things to do. Rebecca and I decided it was time for a new promo card to showcase our lovely “Joyful Cakes”, dessert tables and event favor boxes. So, we came up with the palette, overall aesthetic, sweets assortment and all of the other details and spent half the day photographing all of our pastry chef, Ayumi’s, lovely work. I would say my job is not a bad one.
People pay Khara Ledonne to write on their walls. And sometimes - sometimes - she gets paid in cookies.
Khara recently revisited our Dean Street shop to add something special to the family tree mural she painted here about 7 years ago... the name of Dawn and Dave's 4 month old daughter, Camille. Her mural design is executed with a feathery hand, concentric circles of family generations garlanded with a hazelnut toned paint that reads like antique ink on parchment. Sitting in the cafe on a spring or summer day can feel like you've been swept away before a fresco in a hidden Sicilian church.
Working out of her Greenpoint studio, Khara has created murals at our neighbors Stinky Brooklyn and Jolie Cantina, both just down the street on Smith, and at best kept secret wine bar Flying Lobster in Red Hook, among many other venues found not just around Brooklyn, but around the world. Back in NYC, she first met Dawn after capturing Spain in paint at wine shop Tinto Fino on the Lower East Side. The wonderful paradox is that Khara the full scale muralist has a thriving shop on Etsy - creating miniature painted lockets.
“I like the feel of the space, it’s so calm,” she says, letting a cup of Majorelle Mint tea steep in front of her, a selection of brushes and paint temporarily transforming our cafe into her personal studio. She works hypnotically, tracing existing letters she has already painted into the mural to be sure the hand matches when she letters Camille’s name. Working in public is a part of the process she incorporates, tracing and then painting with delicacy as customers settle into tables to watch.
Under normal circumstances, Khara does not need to negotiate the rate for her commissions. But today is a little special. “You don’t understand, if you paid me, I’d just spend it all on cookies!” ...So, cookies it is! A boxful of lemon bars serve as a bonus.
Finishing the “e” in Camille, she steps back. “It’s more feminine” she says, and she’s right, the “e” in Nate’s name has crisper edges while Camille’s is ever so slightly rounder. She adds a lilting coil to the “C” and is done. Camille has officially joined the One Girl Cookie family.
To see the mural, drop into our 68 Dean Street shop in Cobble Hill, and to keep up with Khara, please check out her site at www.kharaledonne.com
I can’t complain when my week is bookended by celebrations for people I adore. My nephew Jonah’s 4th birthday party was on Sunday. Always a fun time at my sister and brother-in-law’s place..especially if Jonah is performing for everyone. He’s quite a character, that kid.
Seeing some very dear friends visiting from Boston was a treat followed by a girl’s night out with a few other dear friends. This group is a bunch of foodies who know a lot about food and wine..they are “in the business,” if you know what I mean. So, to say that we were all thoroughly impressed with our experience at The Gander is no small feat. It’s not surprising as Recette, Chef Jesse Schenker’s other place, is one of my favorite restaurants. This place is a completely different, but an equally satisfying, experience. Dishes like sea trout tartare and halibut with morels, artichokes and caviar are not upstaged, but certainly share the stage with a killer dessert menu. They had me at banana parfait with saffron, caramel and coconut. But why would we stop there? We went for the whole shebang.
A visit to the kitchen by Nate’s pre-k class got us over the midweek hump. Kids this age are just so curious and inquisitive. And cute too. This is Nate with a best buddy.
In the world of plants and trees, there was a lot of change. Those cherry blossoms that we had been waiting so patiently for gave us only a brief rendezvous. And just to rub it in, they blanketed our sidewalks with about a kabillion petals. The natural pink shag carpet was so lovely (just ask one of the many people who stopped to take photos).
The “farm” has transformed into a whole new place. We even had our first harvest… baby mustard greens and spinach. Has me pretty excited for the bounty to come
And just when I thought my week couldn’t get any better, it ended with a surprise 45th Anniversary party for my parents. Attended by their nearest and dearest friends. We hosted it at our house and a great time was had by all. It was a celebratory night replete with fake mustache selfies and couples cake cutting!
Currently Trending: Breakfast for Dessert
Ok, so this isn't exactly anything new. Thomas Keller has been serving donuts and coffee since The French Laundry first opened. Allegedly, according to The New York Times, it all started in Los Angeles in 1991 with an out of work Keller. And really, who doesn't have a fond memory of eating warm, sugary donuts right out of a paper bag? It's such a simple treat and yet it has the power to make even the most seasoned diner giddy with excitement. Breakfast foods seem to bring back childhood memories and make us all nostalgic for an easier time.
These days when many desserts can leave us confused and unsatisfied, breakfast is an easy way to keep diners pleased and content. Breakfast is also a great way to keep flavors familiar while textures and the overall presentation might be unfamiliar. Case in point: dinner at Per Se. Pastry Chefs also seem to be able to make something as simple as French toast sound fancy ("caramelized brioche").
I think breakfast for dessert has become a trend because of a general feeling of nostalgia in New York City. Time is moving quickly and everything is changing so quickly around us; it's nice to slow down and eat a bowl of cereal after a busy day. At One Girl, we've noticed a trend where brides request s'mores-flavored wedding cakes and dessert bars that include things like oreos, snickerdoodles, and snowball cupcakes. We all love nostalgia and breakfast is the easiest way to remember a time when you were sitting at the kitchen table in your pajamas and mom was making you eggs and bacon.
1. Betony: amaranth, maple, and caramelized banana
2. Momofuku: cereal milk panna cotta with caramelized corn flakes
3. Shake Shack, the LumberShack: vanilla custard, maple bacon brittle and peanuts
4. Alder: vanilla milk custard, cinnamon cereal, candied almonds, apple, coffee
Not pictured but seriously addicting: The Dutch Brooklyn Blackout Donuts.
This past week, it was all about trees, blossoms and all manner of things growing from the ground (literally, and not so literal). For instance, additions to our hand-painted family tree at the Dean St shop,
and our ever changing cherry trees which are now at their fluffy peak.
Mother Nature is really pulling out all the stops. There is no better proof of that than the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens which we visited this past Saturday while Dave’s parents were in town. It was packed with people, but also with also sorts of lovely blossoming trees.
Our little “urban farm” is coming right along. Dave and I are already talking about what kinds of dishes we will whip up with this year’s crop, what veggies will get pickled and what to do with the overabundance of mint and thyme.
And last, but not least, a highlight of the week, having nothing to do with vegetation, we had our Annual OGC bowling outing. It was our second at Melody Lanes in Sunset Park, which is so terrific because it makes you feel like you hopped in a time machine and traveled back in time. Everything just pushes the boundaries of being overly outdated but the bowling is great and the company even better. Who can argue with this:
Dave and I feel pretty lucky to work with such a special group of people. And that sentiment has nothing to do with their impressive bowling skills.
It's time! You can ditch those overused recipes with citrus, beets, and winter squash. It is spring! I don't think any of us at One Girl Cookies have been shy about sharing our excitement over this welcomed-season. I wanted to take this time to share some of the produce I'm looking forward to finding at my farmer's market this month. Not many people were eager for April showers. Instead, April showers meant additional cold, cloudy days and more indoor activities. However, to me April showers are truly a great thing; April showers mean spring and summer produce are receiving the healthy hydration they need. Here's to a few more spring showers so that we're able to enjoy the following items for a long, delicious spring season.
- Rhubarb: Rhubarb and strawberry are no longer a surprise-combination; we are all aware of the winning duo. However, rhubarb on its own demonstrates an award-winning dessert that won’t over-power you with sweetness. When cooked, rhubarb has the right texture and flavor profile to work perfectly with some biscuits (aka cobbler) on top. And as Deb says, this is a delightful addition to Mother’s Day brunch. Test it out.
- Spring onions: Before transporting myself over to the restaurant world, I would never in a million years felt excited over onions. But now I do. Spring onions have the right flavor and aroma to pair alongside any main course you may be cooking. Test it out.
- Fava beans : Let’s be honest: these are not pleasant to prepare. I avoided favas for a long time until I found it could be quite therapeutic peeling these guys. Throw on the news, your favorite talk show, or even the Frozen soundtrack and just savor the time you’re spending to prepare your dinner. Reflect, relax, and don’t let the tediousness get to you. Test it out.
- Cherries: I could never have a list without cherries; they’re tart, sweet, and just scream of warm weather. I don’t mind pitting these either, just make sure you’re not wearing any white clothing. Cherry pie is possibly my favorite dessert on this earth to eat. This recipe will win you over. Test it out.
- Strawberries: I know what you’re thinking when you see the following recipe: Pickled strawberries? You’re crazy, One Girl! These will blow your mind. I love pickling the last of the season strawberries as a way to hold onto the berry season a little bit longer. However, this is also perfect when you have the first-of-the-season berries that are still a bit tart. Pickled strawberries are an excellent addition to a cheese plate, salad, or even a dessert. I prefer them as a mid-afternoon snack while contemplating dinner. No matter what, you’ll become addicted to these tart and zesty treats. Test it out.
- Best for last: Ramps: For those of you who are fortunate enough to be familiar with this tantalizing vegetable, you are aware of their short season. Ramps are available between March and April and it seems mania unravels at the start of their season. The majority of ramps harvested each year are actually foraged within the Eastern United States and Canada. Ramps are almost scallion-esque and will leave you with a stinky-breath. Chef’s marvel at their ability to be both an aromatic and cooking green. Test it out.
Having a five year old around has really changed Easter morning in our house. I hadn’t partaken in an egg hunt in many years but I have to say, it was so much fun to watch Nate scurrying around the house looking for goodies. I actually put together a mini scavenger hunt for him too….the final clue leading him to the basket, brimming with treats…and the police Legos that he’s been begging for!
That was followed by a huge feast and another egg hunt at my parents. The words “sugar shock” have taken on a whole new meaning. Wow.
My nearest and dearest friend, Tom, visited from Boston. Whenever he’s around it’s unfailingly a good time. Having a great lunch doesn’t hurt either. We went to Piora. A lovely spot in the West Village which has been on my “list” forever. After our lunch, it has moved from the “Restaurants to Try” list to my “Restaurants to Return To. Soon.” List.
The space itself was so lovely with a very cool graphic line pattern on the wall. The meal was stellar. Standouts were the garganelli pasta with Brussels sprouts, hedgehog mushrooms and pecorino as well as the crème fraiche panna cotta with pear and graham cracker. That dessert was just as pretty as the room.
The decadent dining continued on the following night when we had a knockout meal at French Louie, our new neighborhood spot. The meal somehow became more delicious with each course. If you have not been, run, don’t walk. When you arrive, be sure to order the smoked sardines, le grand socca and roasted king mushroom. But don’t you dare leave without having the pineapple tart tatine. It was really one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.
I cannot end my post without an update on the flora and fauna around our house. Here’s what Mother Nature has been up to in our neck of the woods:
Apple blossoms, baby greens and radishes. And those cherry trees…they are officially in full bloom in all of their pink glory.
Ahhhh.... It's Springtime in New York. Love is in the air, and on Saturday, April 12th, the weather was perfect for a wedding! Blue skies, sunny and 70 degrees.
I loved putting together the Cookie Bar for John and Justin's NYC wedding celebration. For the table design, we wanted to keep it what I started calling "masculine Springtime chic" which meant clean lines with glass apothecary jars and wooden display pieces. The dominant colors for the reception were shades of green, from celadon through moss to hunter, with pops of sunny yellow being provided by the daffodil centerpieces. For the desserts, we kept a neutral palette with yellow French macarons and lemon meringue tarts adding a touch of color.
It was a delight to put together a sweets table that both coordinated with their palette and satisfied their palates.
The Cookie Bar menu: miniature Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Lena (rosemary sugar cookies), Susanna (oatmeal wafers studded with crystallized ginger), buttercup yellow French macarons lightly brushed with gold dust and filled with a rich dark chocolate ganache, Mary (traditional chocolate chip cookies), Miriam ("linzer" spice cookie sandwiches filled with raspberry jam, featuring a heart cut-out), Mexican wedding cookies, and miniature lemon meringue tarts
Color palette: greens (celadon, moss, hunter) with pops of yellow
Floral design: daffodils
Venue: Manhattan Penthouse