|SPRING IN THE CITY|
Gramercy Park | New York, NY
© Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
A few Sundays ago, I fell head-over-heels in love with the first sweet bite of my slice of Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I wiped a piece of the flaky crust, studded with a fleck of fleur de sel, from the corner of my mouth while simultaneously loading my fork with the next perfect bite. Perhaps I should preface this by saying I have been, up until this very moment, completely unimpressed with the pie movement which seems to be overtaking this city. Are pies the new cupcake? Maybe - but flavorless, dense crusts encasing mediocre fillings peak my interest even less than cloyingly sweet icings piled upon dry, crumbly cakes. If I can create a better version of a dessert at home, you can bet I will not be paying anyone for sub-par baked goods.
And until this first bite of flaky, apple pie passed my lips, I would have sworn on my life, my mother's happiness, and the graves of my great-grandmothers that my family holds the best recipe for apple pie. So imagine my profound shock - but what a sweet shock to bear - to be proven utterly incorrect. I chewed over this little dilemma, seated in a rickety wooden chair in this little pie shop nestled in Brooklyn, foamy cappuccino in hand. Touché Four & Twenty Blackbirds!
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215-3119
Note: Cash only
Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 8am – 7pm, Saturday: 9am – 7pm, Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the week. My eyes lazily open to the sun brightly peaking through the wooden blinds and I pull my fluffy down comforter up to my chin. Whoever gives up their ground on the bed first is silently required to put on the first pot of coffee for the day, which sputters and fills the apartment with its scent, usually stirring the other from sleep. We slowly migrate to the living room, where we sink down into the soft leather couch, cup of coffee in hand, and relax a few sips longer.
Breakfast is a distant thought, as I will my coffee to last a little longer to keep me from facing a sparsely stocked fridge, destructed by the hectic lives of two working adults. Around 11 am, when my stomach starts voicing its displeasure about not being fed, I am forced to start the conversation, "What would you like for breakfast?" I shuffle to the refrigerator to take stock of our options. It is a good start to the day when there are both fresh eggs and whole milk awaiting me - pancakes it is! - but that was not the case last weekend. A mish-mash of items greeted me: eggs, pancetta, leftover red sauce, and more basil than I knew what to do with. A torn loaf of semolina bread rested on the cool granite counter and my eye caught the flash of extra oranges, leftover from a baking project forgotten during a busy week.
I warm the oven, crisp the thin pancetta rounds in a hot skillet, then warm the red sauce in a bit of the residual pancetta fat. I haphazardly layer the components in two individual cast-iron bakers, crack two eggs over each, and sprinkle with a pinch of coarsely-ground pepper. As these bake and the griddle heats, I half the oranges and release their juices. Uneven slices of semolina cook on the griddle. The baked eggs emerge from the oven, the whites just barely set to ensure a delicious, runny yolk. I instruct Mike how to chiffonade the fresh basil to scatter over the eggs, as I pull the grill-marked bread from the heat.
Breakfast is served.
Posted on 4/22/2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
After a relaxing vacation on Kiawah Island, the female members of our group made a day trip to Charleston while the boys squeezed in another round of golf. I have been excited to visit Charleston for some time now; in fact, whenever we were in a 3 hour radius of the city, I would beg Mike to go. When his friend moved to Charleston, I suggested a trip. But I finally, finally had the chance to explore this beautiful city, even if just for an afternoon.
Sipping on peach iced tea during lunch at Palmetto Cafe set the mood for a sunny, Southern day. We explored the shops and then the market, where we fell in love with every seagrass basket along our path. We stocked-up on pastries and admired the iron gates. And as we drove along the water, gasping at each house we passed, I made the executive decision that Mike and I should move there when we grow up. I did not consult him on this decision, but rather made-up my mind and informed him of this later. I do this often - make decisions about parts of our adult life - though usually these decisions are smaller, such as the reclaimed farmhouse table that we will one day share meals upon.
So for now and the foreseeable future, we will stay Manhattanites. But every time I need a little break from the pace of city life, I find my mind drifting back to one of those houses, with porches on both sides of the house and the open windows and doors allowing a cross-breeze to drift through the house.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Nestled snugly among a row of breathtaking Charleston homes, is a little shop called WildFlour Pastry. Palm trees line the street and the “Open” sign on the stained, wooden door invites you into the cozy store. I am immediately drawn to the cake plate of cookies, the various muffins wrapped in their individual wrappers, the gorgeous, bright red espresso machine - a necessary component that seems to take so much space in a tiny work area.
I am overwhelmed by the smells, and the laughs, and the choices. I turn around to see how seating might be configured and am pleasantly greeted by colorful window seats, beneath the large, sunny windows. As I turn back around, Lauren welcomes me with a smile and a somewhat stressed “Hello!”. I know this feeling; I have been in her shop less than a minute and I know exactly how she feels. Working in too small of a space and trying to finish the day’s baking with a smile and exhausted feet. But she must be doing something right - she was a 2011 James Beard Award semifinalist for 'Outstanding Pastry Chef'. Tomorrow is Sunday, not a day of rest for Lauren, but rather, I learn, ‘Sticky Bun Sunday’ - the morning when hoards of people will willingly squeeze into the shop like sardines to buy every last sweet, sticky bun. I already wish I could be one of those lucky customers.
Instead, my travel companions and I start rattling off everything we want, as Lauren delicately places each treat in a large cake box. We each order coffees to go, fuel for our trip home, thank Lauren for her time and her talent, and head on our way. Later that evening, back home with our companions and guests, I am happy to lead the way for a dessert tasting. I take a slice of every single treat we purchased: frosted sugar cookie, snickerdoodle cookie, oatmeal walnut with cranberry cookie, double chocolate cookie, strawberry oat bar, pecan cinnamon coffee cake, blueberry muffin, banana chocolate chip muffin, and pumpkin pecan muffin with cream cheese frosting. I happily hop back up on the stool and feel the heat of people staring; I peer up to see everyone eyeing my plate composed of all these little tastes. Everyone but Mike, I should mention; by now he is accustom to my quirks and greeted my gaze with a smile.
If you are in Charleston, be sure to swing by WildFlour Pastry to enjoy Lauren’s hard work. My absolutely, could-not-stop-eating favorites were the double chocolate cookie and pecan cinnamon coffee cake. I can assure you my next trip to Charleston, will be planned around a Sunday, just so I can stop in and grab a sticky bun.
73 Spring Street | Charleston, SC 29403
Hours: Tuesday - Friday 6:30 AM - 4:30 PM; Saturday 8 AM - 3 PM; Sunday 8 am - 1 PM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Spring is here. Finally. If the slightly warmer temperatures and rainy weather did not signal an end to this rather rough winter, the fact that my winter coat has been hanging, untouched, on a hook for the past week confirms my suspicions. Sunny bunches of daffodils greet me each morning, as I resist the urge to collect each one into a large, beautiful bouquet.
Amidst the changing seasons, Mike's lovely grandmother, Mary, celebrated her birthday last week. The family gathered over Sunday brunch and I was more than happy to not only provide the cake, but also to have been given full authority in selecting the flavors. While normally I would fret over such a decision, waning back-and-forth between ideas, I immediately knew what flavors I wanted this special cake to offer: a sunny freshness, a light creaminess, and a unmistakable, loving richness.