Taj Update!

We’ve been busy at my job the last couple of months with Easter and Mothers Day being big brunch holidays! I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to practice showpieces and really experiment with new flavors and designs. It’s been a lot of fun! Check out some of the work my teammates and I have been up to!

 

Restaurant Bucket List: Boston!

It’s no secret that I love food and experiencing a great restaurant or new dish. Boston has so much to offer and despite being here for two years, my list is still long! So without further adieu and in no particular order, here’s my Boston Restaurant Bucket List!

Sweet Cheeks Q

Mistral

Craigie on Main

Bistro Du Midi

Alden and Harlow

Harvest

Sarma

Oleana

L’Espalier

Cutty’s

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Toro

Central Kitchen

Fairsted Kitchen

Neptune Oyster

Bronwyn

Lumiere

The Beehive

Highly recommended:Tiger Mama
Deuxave
Ribelle
Posto
Deep Ellum
Lulu’s

I’m 100% open to suggestions to beef up my list! What kind of restaurants are your favorite? Thank you for visiting and be sure to come back on Tuesday for another post grad blog!

I’m back!!

Hey friends!

I’m finally back from my hiatus and I missed blogging and being a member of this community SO MUCH. I’m going to make this post a short re-cap because I have a lot of fun (and embarrassing and awkward) material to share with you guys in the upcoming weeks.

I’ve been working 6 day weeks since Halloween at the Taj Hotel constructing this GIANT gingerbread scene-scape of the Boston Tea Party. With a team of 6, we were each able to construct one business and at least one house to be placed along the dock  with a ton of miscellaneous details to recreate a piece of  Boston history. It took us over 300 hours to build and probably 100 lbs of gingerbread and other decorating material. But it’s done and on display in the lobby! To anyone who lives in Boston- feel free to visit! Come back on Thursday to see an extended post (with plenty of pictures included!) of our gingerbread masterpiece!

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Other than spending my life at work, I’ve managed to hold onto a bit of my social life. My apartment had an epic Halloween/birthday party for my roommate filled with plenty of snacks, candy and jello shots. I was Spinelli from the kid classic cartoon, Recess. I had a lot of fun being a drunken idiot with all of my friends and managed to scrape through the night without throwing up. PERSONAL WIN.

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I’ve been Zumba-ing my butt off and am considered a regular at the classes now. I was actually forced to be in the front row today, so maybe I’m finally starting to get the hang of it! I’m really loving that it keeps me moving and motivated to remain healthy especially through the holiday season where I just want to stuff cookies and donuts down my throat. Speaking of food…

I have a couple new recipes and restaurant reviews to share!! Be sure to check back on Food for Thought Thursdays to check out some of my favorite holiday/winter recipes and cool Boston hotspots!

On a more somber note, my roommates dad passed away recently and we made a trip down to New Jersey for the funeral and wakes. This was really tough on our apartment but managed to bring us closer to one another. It definitely reminded me to tell those close  that I love them and not to take any of my relationships for granted. Be sure to tell your friends and family you love them! Go do it!

But as much as life is fleeting, new life is brought into the world every day. One of my best friends from college had a baby October 16th! I’ve visited Logan Joseph twice and am more and more in love with the little nugget. Isn’t he the cutest squirmy little baby!?

Also coming up in the next few weeks, I have plenty of awkward and embarrassing stories to share… especially when it comes to my dating life. EEK, spoiler alert- it may include another run in with Chris from the infamous post Tinder Meets Real Life! AHHH MY LIFE IS WEIRD!

Happy Holidays, friends! I’m so happy to be back and share my life with you! Don’t miss out on the action every Tuesday and Thursday!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins!

The name might be a mouthful but I can promise you that these muffins are even better. Perfect for a special sweet treat in the morning or dessert at night. These are multi-functional muffins people! Get em while they’re hot!

I got this recipe from the Flour cookbook by Joanne Chang. I can personally attest to this recipe after having worked for Joanne for the past year. I did change just a few little things however, to make it my own! So here you have it!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
makes about 24 muffins

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
4 T flax seed
1/2 c packed. brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c canola oil3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 T creme fraiche or sour cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 bag peanut butter/chocolate chips

**For this recipe, I added flax seed, used half brown sugar half white and added chips! Without these, you can easily make plain banana bread!

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and flax seed. I used a fork to “fluff” the ingredients if you don’t have a sifter at home!

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3.Using a stand mixer, whip the sugar and eggs on medium speed until they become light and fluffy.

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4. On low speed, drizzle in the oil so it has time to incorporate itself into the egg mixture.

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5. Add the bananas, creme fraiche/sour cream and vanilla and mix until the banana is broken down into fairly small pieces. This should only take about a minute or less.

6. Using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture by hand.

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Right before all of the flour is completely incorporated, add 1/2 bag of chips and mix only until combined as to not overmix.

7067. Only mix just until there aren’t any flour streaks left.

8. Portion the muffins about 3/4 full and bake until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes). You can also bake this full batch in a loaf pan but it will take much longer to bake in the oven!

7059. Wait until the muffins cool and VOILA! A delicious treat for any time of day.

704Let me know if you try this at home! Does anyone have any recipes they want to share or would like me to share? Have a good weekend and enjoy your muffins! Be sure to return on Tuesday for another blog post!

Restaurant Review: Deuxave!

There is just SO much I love about being in this industry, but I think what I love the most is the community. I’ve been finding that the world in general is a small place, but the culinary/food service world is even smaller.

When I started working at the Taj, we all I know I experienced the “its a small world” feeling with my awkward tinder moment (you can catch up by clicking here!)… But I also have connections with each of my co-workers! One of them used to work with my old Flour co-worker and the rest went to Johnson & Wales where our worlds somehow crossed from time to time.

I ended up going to Deuxave with two of my Taj co-workers to try the dessert menu by pastry chef Jamie Davis Schick (check out her instagram here!) before she moved on to the next step in her career. My friend April used to work for Jamie at No. 9 Park so we were treated as extra special guests at an extra fancy restaurant!

692Deuxave is located at 371 Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay area. It’s easily accessible by the T; its just a few minutes walk from the Hynes Convention Center on the green line. They also do valet parking for a pricy $18 or if you’re the luckiest person on the planet, you might find a free metered spot along Massachusetts Avenue. Deuxave is open for dinner 5 to 10pm on the weekdays and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

This restaurant is beautiful and definitely high end. Save your pretty pennies and dress up for a fancy night out! April and I waited at the bar for our friend Sarah and chatted with Jamie for a few minutes! I was definitely excited to try her menu and it was also really great to get to know her a little bit.

700After being seated, we were sent 3 glasses of champagne! We took a couple silly pictures, toasted and then reminded ourselves that we needed to behave in such a nice place. We perused the menu and picked one dessert for each of us to order with the intention to share.

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Also unexpectedly, we were sent an intermezzo. I’ts basically a pre-course to set the precedence for the rest of the meal. We were sent a fennel celery sorbet with compressed yuzu and tarragon. It was a really interesting mix of sweet and savory. The sorbet reminded me of chicken noodle soup- almost a little buttery!

696Our individual courses came out and they were absolutely beautiful. They were well executed with specific attention to detail. I’ll go through our courses one by one:

Local Peaches and Corn

691Corn panna cotta, hazelnut polenta financier, bourbon compressed peaches, peach sorbet and candied hazelnuts

Summer Berry “Trellis”

689White Chocolate Cheesecake, Summer Berries, Pistachio Pain de Genes, Blueberry Sorbet, Caramelized Puff Pastry, Pistachio Puree, Aged Balsalmic Glaze

Milk Chocolate Silk Ribbon

690Red Velvet Cake, Fresh Raspberries, Raspberry Sorbet, Cocoa Nibs, Malted Meringue

And again, we were sent EVEN MORE stuff! Jamie sent us the creme brulee with meyer lemon sorbet. The creme brulee was so creamy and rich and the sorbet was a nice change of pace from the fatty creme brulee. The sorbet wasn’t super tart because meyer lemons are small and sweet. YUMMM.

Jamie also sent us a new dessert in the testing phase!  It was yogurt panna cotta with a green apple gelee, chartreuse and apple sorbet, olive oil cake and green apple glass. The yogurt panna cotta was super super tart but I’m also not the biggest fan of yogurt. My friends were gobbling it up though! I really enjoyed the olive oil cake and green apple/chartreuse sorbet.

702Fat and happy, we were ready for our bill. We were sent little mignardise on the way out which are small bites (almost like mints that go with a bill). We each got a vanilla caramel, coconut macaroon and coffee bonbon. I WAS SO FULL AND HAPPY.

695They only charged us for the three plated desserts and our water (first time I’ve had that happen…) so our bill only came to $55 with tax. We each paid $25, leaving a healthy tip for our waiter and waitstaff who took such good care of us. I had an excellent time at Deuxave and was so happy to be able to experience someone else’s menu!

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On Tuesday, I divulge how to deal with crazy landlords and still walk away with a win! As stressful as adulting can be, it certainly isn’t boring. Have a great weekend eveyrone!

M

Bitte Chocolate!

As most of these stories go, I met Mike Hoffman in college through friends of friends. Mike ended up graduating a couple years before me and moved to South Carolina to pursue his dreams. After working for a few years, he turned one of his hobbies of making his own chocolate into a budding business, Bitte Chocolate!

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I’m always looking for things to fulfill my life; finding my passions and making them prevalent in my day to day life. I think it’s really brave that Mike has taken this leap of faith to follow his passion. Check out the interview with him below!

Tell me about Bitte Chocolate! Where did the name come from?

Bitte Chocolate started my senior year of college. My friend Sarah and I started messing around with making chocolate. Well… it was more like she was watching while I made it but nevertheless she was there. I I started out by using different kind of beans and  a small food chopper to chop up beans and sugar. I had a hard time with texture/grittiness because I was using a mortar and pestal. Professionally, this process (called conching) takes about two days. My chocolate was very gritty, almost like Modica Chocolate  where they do not conch and the sugar is still big and gritty. 

After graduation I moved down to Charleston, SC and didn’t  make much chocolate at the time. I worked for a French Chocolatier for 6 months but became bored doing the same things over and over again. In the beginning of 2014, I bought equipment to really make chocolate. At first, I  was just playing around when my boss encouraged me to turn it into a business. I was skeptical; I didn’t want to ruin my love for making chocolate by turning it into a business and having to do it all the time. So I took it slow and never let it overwhelm me. It has slowly formed into what you see today after a year of formula testing and packaging design.


The name was the hardest part of the entire process. I wanted something  strong, classy, and not cheesy. I came up with a hundred different names but couldn’t decide on one. I always pictured something  that was short, sweet and too the point but could never quite put my finger on it.  I would dream about it, wake up and write the word but nothing seemed to fit. After about 3 months of brainstorming, I was bouncing ideas off of my roommate and she recommended something like bittersweet. It was too cute and nice; it wasn’t me. Then a light bulb went off! Bitte (bit-tah) is the German word for ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘please’. After researching, testing the word on friends and chatting with a german exchange student from high school, I settled on the official name Bitte Chocolate.I find that the word Bitte is a perfect fit for my chocolate as I produce chocolate with strong flavors uninhibited by vanilla or other flavorings. 

What inspired you to start your own company? How have you broken into the market?

Ever since taking a chocolate class in college, I fell in love and  knew I wanted to be a chocolatier. I feel like most great pastry chefs are great at chocolates. Chocolatiers are always seem very confident. I think I started this company because I saw a void in the market here. Charleston has such a great food scene- it’s impossible to come across a bad meal.  I figured that if there was any time to do it, it was now! It was perfect- I love to make it and market needs it. I have had a very soft opening for the most part, and I am just starting to sell to local businesses.

Explain the chocolate making process. How long does the entire process take?

Once I receive the beans, I roast them. I make sure to test the beans by eating a couple to double check they are up to my standard. I then winnow/ grind them. Winnowing is the process of separating the bean from the skin.  After grinding them, I add cocoa butter, sugar and sometimes milk depending on the kind of chocolate I am making. After, I put the mixture in a melanger which are stone rollers that crush the sugar small enough so it creates a smooth mouth-feel. This part of the process takes about two days. Once the chocolate is ready, I temper** and mold them. I let them sit, wrapped in foil for about 3 weeks to mellow out a hard acidic flavor from the beans. Once they age, I package and sell them! So the entire process takes a little over three weeks.

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(**Side note: tempering is the process of creating a balance in the chocolate so it hardens quickly, can resist slight changes in temperature and moisture, and keeps fat from rising to the surface on chocolate)

Where do you source your ingredients? Any particular reason you pick that location to source from?

I get my beans from Peru. I’ve tried dozens of different beans but prefer the ones from Peru called Criollo beans. Criollo beans make up 1% of  cocoa beans in the world, but have the best flavor! I also get beans called Tumbes.They have a malty fruity flavor that really helps bring out the chocolate flavor!

How did you get started in the industry? What keeps you passionate?

I don’t know exactly how I got into the industry but I think I can speculate. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a chef besides the usual pipe dream of astronaut or baseball player. Being a chef was the first real job I wanted to do. I hear from my friends that they got into the industry because they loved making things with the mom/grandmother or something cheesy like that but I just had the love of food in me.. In high school, I had figured out that I liked baking more than cooking which eventually lead me to pick the four year pastry program at Johnson & Wales University.

What keeps me passionate? What doesn’t keep me passionate is the real question. I love everything I do. Everything about chocolate is amazing. I love that I can be artistic as well as scientific. It’s hard to put into words the way I feel about my craft. I commit so many hours to my job and it can really wear on you but it’s still amazing to be able to produce these lovely works of art.I was sitting at a chef’s table, watching the wonderful ballet that is a kitchen and my heirloom tomato came out. Before I took a spoon and destroyed it, I stopped and took a step back and admired it’s beauty. I took a bite and savored every moment of that delicious tomato. I thought about everything that it had been from the farm to mouth. I feel like people need to see that food isn’t just a way to survive.

What’re your future goals for Bitte Chocolate or otherwise?

My future goals are just to grow. Right now, I am just doing it in the back of the bakery but would like to open up my own place when the right time comes. I have a couple of ideas brewing at the moment. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or give away any of my secrets!

I have noticed in my time making chocolates, that some people are afraid to admit milk chocolate is there favorite. Milk chocolate shouldn’t just be related to Hershey products or other products loaded with sugar and vanilla. I’m confident I have a milk chocolate bar that people won’t be afraid to say they like! My milk chocolate uses high volume cocoa liquor and milk to give it a high end taste and a less sugary taste.

If you are in Charleston,  you will start to notice Bitte Chocolate popping up in local shops! We hope to start shipping this fall. You can go to our website at bittechocolate.com or follow us on instagram bittechocolate or on Facebook!

632I hope you guys enjoyed another inside view into the industry! I wish Mike the best of luck and I can’t wait to order chocolate bars from him! Check back on Tuesday for a new post!

Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Review!

So for my birthday, I asked for the ice cream maker attachment made by Kitchen Aid to accompany my mixer. At full capacity, it can make up to two quarts of any type of ice cream or sorbet or frozen treat. So being that I’m just me, myself and I, this sounded perfect. Who doesn’t want to take two quarts of ice cream to the face?!

484The ice cream maker is $99.99 at retail value but can sometimes be seen on sale at places like Kohl’s in the home-goods section. Plus, Kohl’s almost ALWAYS has some type of promotion running which is how I got my attachment for $75 instead!

So the first time I used this machine, it was a complete disaster. It basically comes in three pieces- the mixing bowl, and two pieces that make up what’s called the dasher. One piece attaches to the top of the mixer (no matter the style of mixer you have) and it has jagged teeth facing down. Those teeth then line up with the other piece kind of like gears, and then will push against each other to churn. The other plastic piece with up-ward facing teeth looks like a square version of the paddle attachment. The major problem that I have with these pieces is that they’re made of plastic. PLASTIC? I wish they came as more durable pieces given that you could’ve paid $100 bucks for the attachment.

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Here’s about how my horror story went down- I had frozen the bowl overnight in my freezer so that the liquid inside the bowl would be cold enough to help my sorbet form it’s ice crystals. When I was assembling the pieces, I was being very careful to read the directions and follow the instructions. HOWEVER, there weren’t any pictures and I suppose I didn’t understand how it worked… At last, I poured the liquid in which immediately began to freeze and flipped my mixer switch to the absolute lowest setting. However, something happened where the teeth weren’t lined up properly and the ground against each other causing the plastic to break and jam into the bowl!

So here I was, the mixer head locked and the pieces jammed below. There was no way for me to unlock the head of my mixer so I stuck my hands in the blueberry sugar juice (for blueberry sorbet) and stained my hands trying to un-jamb the pieces. After a minor panic attack and a 20 minute call to my mom, the pieces miraculously un-jambed themselves. I still have no idea how this happened but thank the lord.

So here I was, with broken plastic pieces and a dent in the mixing bowl of a present I had just gotten for my birthday and never officially used. What the fucking fuck!? Still on the phone with my mom, she told me to make sure that my mixer was also still working. So I plugged it back in and turned it on the lowest speed and IT DIDN’T FREAKING WORK. So NOT ONLY did my attachment break, but it also broke my $300 mixer!!! So I know that this sounds like a horrible equipment review, but I promise it has a happy ending.

I ended up calling customer service at Kitchen Aid and they replaced my ice cream attachment AND mixer for free. They sent me the new equipment in a pre-paid shipping box so I could send back my old mixer to be re-furbished by the company and then re-sold. They were quick, prompt and VERY polite. Probably one of the best customer service experiences I have ever had. So despite all the drama surrounding my first use of the equipment, I was ready to give it another go-around.

The first recipe I tried was their French Vanilla ice cream recipe which you can see below. YUM. It was so creamy and delicious and fatty and everything I want ice cream to be! Check it out!

Ingredients

600g milk
6 large or 7 medium large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 fresh vanilla bean, split in half and seeds removed.
300g cream

Method

1. Heat milk in a heavy based, non-stick saucepan, stirring often until very hot and without boiling or scorching milk. Transfer to a jug or bowl with a lip and set aside.

2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl.

3. Gradually add hot milk and vanilla and mix until well combined (called tempering!). Transfer mixture back to saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook for about 8-10 minutes over a very low heat until mixture thickens and lightly coats back the spatula (called nappe!). Mixture must not boil or it will curdle, however it will be quite hot and a little steamy. Be patient with this step do not rush making the custard.

4. Whisk in cream and refrigerate overnight!

5. Assemble drive assembly, freezer bowl and dasher (as per instruction book). Turn mixture to speed 1, slowly add cooled custard to freezer bowl. Churn for approximately 20 minutes or until a very firm soft serve ice cream results.

6. Immediately remove ice cream to serving dishes or transfer to an airtight, sealed container and freeze for 4 hours or until frozen.

7. Remove ice cream for about 5 minutes before scooping. Homemade ice cream is harder than commercial ice cream so remove from freezer and allow to soften slightly.

I think I would give the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment 3.75 Abby stars. I’m not a fan of the plastic dasher pieces and that you cannot find their individual replacements online at sites like Amazon or Ebay in case only those pieces break or crack. I also don’t love that you have to freeze the bowl almost 24 hours in advance and if your freezer is as tightly packed as mine, you’ll have trouble making space for it. However, once I finally watched a helpful assembly video on YouTube, I had a blast making and eating my creations! I would also give Kitchen Aid Customer Service 5 stars for all of their help in this long and frustrating process. The ice cream is great to have if you want to WOW someone for dinner or if you’re just having a terrible day and need a large helping of the fruits of your labor.

What do you think? How many stars would you give the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment? Let me know what you think of the recipes! Have a great weekend- stuff your beautiful faces for me! Next Tuesday will be another blog about my vacation in Myrtle Beach! So come back and check it out!