Tuesday, November 17, 2009

bluebottle coffee

I know this is an obvious fact for the hipster coffee-drinking residents of San Francisco, but I just wanted to confirm that Bluebottle Coffee is really, really good.

They do the whole organic microroaster thing and make cool designs in your foam, and you know what? It really is better. Mmmmm...

chocolate chip banana bread

I was never a fan of bananas until my discovery of banana streusel muffins. Banana bread was a complete revelation. How could some dry, sandy "fruit" turn into something so moist and decadent?

Now banana bread is my backup recipe when I need something fast and delicious. Despite my infrequent blogging habits, I've written about 3 variations already. It's a bread! It's a cake! It's a muffin! Check it out:

Your Mom's Banana Bread
Candied Walnut Banana Cake
Blackberry Banana Bread

Not convinced? Maybe you need chocolate to make it better. Throw in some chocolate. Maybe some pumpkin seeds. Bake for awhile. Now you have chocolate chip banana bread. Yeahhh.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Housed in the funky, kitschy boutique Hotel ZaZa in the Houston museum district, Monarch seemed liked a promising choice for some bachelorette/girls' night dining.

When the food was on, it was addictively fantastic. Let's go over the highlight reel:

Deconstructed ahi roll: A tower of Ahi tuna tartare, crab ceviche, avocado, sushi rice, and peppery dressing. What's not to love? Perfectly balanced proportions and flavors. Easily my favorite dish of the night.

Scallops with fancy garlic mashed potatoes, corn pudding, and red pepper beurre blanc. Would all my food taste this luscious and velvety if I cooked with pools of butter? You bet there was nothing left on the plate.
We also tried the salmon with honey chipotle polenta which was just oddly sweet like plums, and an awful creme brulee that was served cold and more akin to curdled cheesecake. HOWEVER, a complaint yielded possibly the best chocolate cake I've ever had.

Decadent chocolate cake tends to result in this super-rich indistinguishable chocolate-in-chocolate-on-chocolate-over chocolate monstrosity. But not this one - fudgy cake layered with smooth, creamy, oh so lickable dark chocolate fondant. And that's it. We found ourselves inadvertently grazing on fork after forkful even though we were delightfully stuffed.

Overall, what Monarch gets right, it really rocks. See and be seen with the ahi, scallops, and chocolate cake. The cocktails were nice, too.

red velvet black and white cookies

Black and white cookies? Plus red velvet cake? In cookie form? You know it's gotta be your birthday. If you drew a Punnett square for these two fine pastries, this would be a prime example of co-dominance. This recipe makes exactly what you think it does - if you are a purveyor of red velvet or black & white cookies, you need to get on this. RIGHT NOW.

After a bowl of botched frosting and red food dye everywhere, I mailed off a stack of these to my old roommate. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope I put enough bubble wrap in the box.
Here is approximately what I did, adapted from Joy the Baker and good ol' Rachel Ray.

Red Velvet Black & White Cookies
Makes 10 big ol' cookies

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 T cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (I used baking powder and it was fine)

5 T butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 T red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup buttermilk

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp butter, melted

Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 T butter
1 T honey

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In separate bowl, mix butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk until smooth.

Place 1/4-cup scoops of batter 2 inches apart of the prepared baking sheet, spread the batter out with a butter knife, about 1/4-inch thick. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Make the glazes:
Whisk together the powdered sugar, melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 to 2 T milk. Add milk slowly till glaze reaches smooth, easily spreadable consistency of your liking.

For the chocolate, melt butter and chocolate in a microwave for about 1 minute. Add honey and stir until smooth. If it's a bit too liquidy and you're ready to get decorating, pop it in the fridge for a little while.

Once the cookies are cooled, spread half of the cookie with vanilla glaze and the other half with chocolate glaze. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set.