One time, I ate a cronut.

Jun 11 2014

On a scale from 1 to patient, I’m probably a zero. One of my biggest pet peeves is waiting on a line. As a child, I thought water parks were the stupidest thing ever, because you’d stand on line for 30 minutes to scoot down a water slide for five seconds. Is this really the best use of time? Absolutely not. I could be eating funnel cake, for crying out loud! Also, I’m a terrible swimmer.  Especially after eating funnel cake.

So, in the beginning, I was not all that excited about this cronut hype.  My friend convinced me to visit the Dominique Ansel Bakery on a recent trip to NYC (as a local, she’d been waiting for the hype to die down a bit before embarking on the cronut adventure. Spoiler alert: the hype hasn’t really died down).

My enthusiasm waned drastically when I arrived an hour before the bakery opened to this:

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Free stuff! Free stuff! Free stuff!

Mar 07 2014

Hi, blog readers. Didja hear? I’m doing a Facebook giveaway this weekend. 

If you “Like” my Facebook page between now and Sunday, I will enter your name into a drawing to win a free brownie gift box. Double chocolate brownies, to be exact.  I’ll pick the winner at 9pm ET on Sunday night. 

The link to the page is www.facebook.com/sugarbombsweets

In case you forgot how delicious sugarbomb brownies are, here’s a little reminder: 

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You’re welcome. Have a wonderful weekend! xoxo

Fat Tuesday

Mar 05 2014

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I love New Orleans! I’m lucky that sugarhusband comes from such cool city and that we get to visit several times a year. I don’t think he is as excited to visit New Jersey as I am to visit New Orleans. (He can just live his life eating disgusting bagels and pizza in ignorance).  I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but I did have a recent trip to the Big Easy and I celebrated a few weeks early.I thought I’d share my top three dishes from this trip in honor of Mardi Gras today!

I stopped into Sucre before brunch one day (you read me. Brunch appetizer). I’ve been meaning to get there on my past couple visits, but this was my first time — so naturally I had to try some of everything! We tried a slice of King Cake (pictured above), some macarons, and a salted caramel eclair. That’s right, filled with salted caramel pastry cream.  Eclairs were one of my favorite foods as a little kid (ok, actually, the favorite food was Boston Creme donuts, but they are essentially the same thing right? I lost my ish the first time I tried an eclair) – this was a fun spin on a classic favorite. 

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In addition to being delicious, the eclair was also covered in gold glitter. Boom.

After our brunch “appetizer”, we headed to Coquette, where the brunch is pretty freaking amazing. Some of the dishes we tasted included sweetbreads (which are basically like offal nuggets), a pickled veggie plate, and some ballin shrimp and grits. The winning dish dish was pork cheeks over a biscuit with braised greens. It pretty much melted in the mouth. Accompanied by a delicious bloody mary, it was pretty much the ideal Sunday morning brunch!

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On Friday night, I attended a rehearsal dinner at Calcasieu, Donald Link’s event space above his tremendously popular restaurant, Cochon. This was a pretty baller rehearsal dinner – the number of forks and knives set at our seats was almost overwhelming. Some of the pre-dinner highlights included a giant charcuterie plate at each table and an artisinal moonshine tasting.  The star dish of the dinner was this chicken agnolotti with crisped prosciutto on top. The pasta was perfectly cooked! I need to try and recreate this dish at home.  

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There were a lot of standout dishes in this meal, but for the most part I kept my camera hidden to avoid being a rude poodle and enjoy the event. The weirdest dish served was a mushroom, fried lemon rind, and mint salad. It was both refreshing and earthy, except I don’t like mint or mushrooms, so it wasn’t really my thing. There was a course of pork cheeks (they are seriously in vogue right now!) and a pineapple upside down cake for dessert. I thought the cake was amazing, but most people were too stuffed to eat it!

These are just 3 of the awesome dishes I had in NoLa for my last visit — there were also plenty of chargrilled oysters, grits and grillades, gumbo, and more than enough Bloody Marys to go around. I’m telling you, if I lived there, EVERY Tuesday would be Fat Tuesday. It would just turn into Fat 2014… and 2015…. and 2016. 

I hope that everyone had a sinful treat today! I am having some salted caramel gelato as we speak. It’s bringing me back to that killer eclair from Sucre!

 

YOTM, installment 2 – Macaron Battle Royale

Mar 03 2014

You guys. I was lucky enough to visit Paris last week. I don’t know how I ended up in this crazy life of mine,  where it’s somewhat normal to hobnob with friends who are living abroad, sipping wine in a posh Parisian apartment. I’m not complaining. 

Winter storm Pax was quite the saboteur (side note: have you ever slept in an airport? It’s quite unsavory. Although if you’re strong, pushing two rows of airport seats together makes quite a spacious bed), but I made it to France and had an awesome time with my friends.  Can you believe it’s been two and a half years since I studied at ENSP and finished my culinary internship? Yeesh. 

Anyhow, I’ll cover some of the culinary high points of my journey in a later post, but of course no visit to Paris is complete without binge eating millions of macarons. Since 2014 is the year of the macaron, it seemed apropos conduct a taste test between the two of the most famous macaron producers: LaDuree and Pierre Herme. 

Disclaimer: unless you are really, really interested in macarons or cookies in general, this post is going to be a total snooze for you. I won’t be offended if you skip the rest (as long as you come back later).

LADUREE VS PIERRE HERME: MACARON BATTLE ROYALE

LaDuree

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Pierre Herme

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Taste: LaDuree
This is a tricky one. PIerre Herme features more ambitious, out-there flavors ( some of our favorites were a jasmine macaron and the passion fruit, rhubarb and strawberry macaron.  Seriously, DID YOU JUST PUT ALL OF MY FAVORITE FOODS INTO ONE COOKIE?!) but they lacked some classic flavors that I’d expect to find at a macaron shop.

LaDuree hit all of the classic flavors, but even their special seasonal flavors were pretty standard. They didn’t have anything off the wall or with crazy flavor combinations, except for one flavor called the Marie Antoinette, which contained: some French word I don’t know, a second French word I don’t know, and honey.  Generally, their seasonal flavors are pretty tame (lemon verbena, green apple, etc). 

Reglisse (licorice) was a flavor choice in every macaron shop I stopped in. French people, get a grip. That’s disgusting. I am pretty sure we’ve kicked licorice jellybeans out of 90% of bags here in the US. 

For the purpose of this taste test, I used chocolate and vanilla macarons so that I’d have a fair comparison between the two shops (I wanted raspberry as the third flavor, but it wasn’t available at PH).  For these flavors, LaDuree killed it. Their vanilla is fantastic and has a super rich flavor.  The chocolates were both good, but Pierre Herme uses a darker chocolate that’s slightly bitter – it tastes delicious, but it overwhelms the delicate flavor of the meringue. 


Visual Appeal: Pierre Herme

I’m on the fence about this one. Again, the two powerhouses had a really different approach here – it depends on your aesthetic and whether you prefer a look that is classic but flawless or a more edgy, stylish look.  LaDuree macarons are bold colors with perfectly consistant size, both in the roundness of the meringues and the thickness of the filling. As for decorations, the cookies speak for themselves. They are in assorted bright colors, but beyond that, there is little additional decoration. 

PIerre Herme is another story. Luster. Dust. Galore. Now, I’m a girl who lusts for luster dust (you should see how many bottles I crammed into my suitcase coming home from the trip). The PH macarons were definitely snazzier. Here’s an example – this macaron was pale yellow with a dark pink luster dust airbrushed over the top. The bottom side of the macaron was plain, giving it a cool two toned effect.

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Generally, PH had a more exciting look to the macarons, but LaDuree was more consistent. In the photo above, you’ll notice that the bottom meringue is slightly smaller than the top (but the SPARKLY LUSTER DUST totally distracts you).  It was a close draw, but ultimately my love of glitter gave this round to PIerre Herme. 

 Here’s the Laduree chocolate – classic and rather unadorned: 

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And here’s the chocolate from Pierre Herme, coated with a coarse grain sugar for a little extra chutzpah: 

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Texture: LaDuree

The texture of the LaDuree macarons is what I expect from a perfect macaron: crispy on the outside, chewy and delicate on the inside.  Some of the fillings (for example the green apple) were gel-based, and some (such as the raspberry) were jam based. 

The Pierre Herme macarons were too soft. Though their deliciously pillowy texture was like eating a cloud, they were missing that crispy crunch factor of the outer shell. Additionally, they had a little too much filling for my taste. The majority of Pierre Herme fillings are buttercream, and this further impacts the texture, making it overly soft. 

Packaging: LaDuree

I mean, they both nailed it. As  someone who sells macarons, I can tell you that they spare no expense in the packaging – this stuff ain’t cheap.  As I mentioned, the PIerre Herme macarons were bigger, and thus their box was larger as well. Both companies offered several selections for their boxes. 

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The inside packaging was really similar. LaDuree uses a seal to fold over their parchment, while Pierre Herme does not. I found this extra touch to be the one thing that could push LaDuree over the edge here, but honestly, they were pretty similar. 

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Price: LaDuree
For six macarons, LaDuree charged just under 15E.  Pierre Herme was 18E for seven. LaDuree has a slight edge here, though you could argue that their food cost is lower, since they use less flair to decorate their macarons.

Overall: LaDuree

Shockingly, LaDuree swept 4 out of 5 categories. The mega disclaimer here is that Pierre Herme macarons are also awesome! If you give me a box of either of these for my birthday, I will be thrilled. 

This macaron taste test was really fun! I’ve already decided that on my next trip to Paris I’m going to do a battle royale of chocolate. Who’s in? 

 
 

Be mine.

Feb 13 2014

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How awesome are the “conversations” on conversation hearts? Last year I bought my husband a little box of “scandalous” conversation hearts for V-day. Let me tell you, if those were scandalous, I should probably go to prison immediately because my standards of scandal are extremely skewed (I guess I have Olivia Pope to thank for that).  The hearts above are the regular ones, but their sentiment is tepid at best. If my valentine ever tried to seduce me by whispering “LOL” or “BFF” into my ear, I’d probably shove him through a window. BFF???? Isn’t that the opposite of what you want to hear on Valentine’s Day?? 

Anyhow, I’ve been dying to make this cake for months since I saw it on Pinterest (inspired by gimmie some oven).  As much as I detest the chalky taste of conversation hearts, I thought the idea was stinking adorable! 

 

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I mean, that is pretty awesome, right? It was oddly therapeutic to put all of those hearts on there. It reminded me of my childhood days playing with legos. 

The inside of the cake was almond pound cake with blackberry frosting. The hearts became grossly soggy after sitting on the cake for awhile, but they were easy enough to toss off the outside of the cake before eating.  It was definitely a huge waste of conversation hearts, but if my target is any indication, there is definitely no convo heart shortage happening this year. 

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So Valentine’s week has been CRAY, you guys —  mostly because of my newest nemesis, winter storm Pax.  I’m currently cozied up in my bed listening to giant ice pellets slam on my roof. NC is getting hit by one of the worst winter storms in a decade, and of course it’s the week of a) Valentine’s Day and b) my sister-in-law’s wedding in New Orleans, for which I’m relying on safe airport transportation, which is currently nonexistent. Le sigh. At least I can wallow at my plight, curl up on my couch, and read the Divergent books. Ok, who am I kidding… RE-read the Divergent books. 

Luckily – or perhaps more accurately, due to my obsession with weather.com – I saw Pax coming and shook my tail feather to get all of the VDay packages out two days early. I’ve gotten a lot of excited text, photos, and instagrams (KEEP THEM COMING – love it!) today with people’s excitement over their early sugarboms. Better to get your valentine two days early than two days late, amiright? Then it just looks like your valentine forgot and frantically ordered tasty treats at the last minute. 

 

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Look at these cute little sugar cookie bags! Who WOULDN’T be your if you gave him one of these? Barbie pink frosting certainly makes me swoon. Happy Valentine’s Day to my super sweet readers!  Lots of xoxos coming your way from sugarbomb!


Love is in the air…

Feb 06 2014

I’m going to be upfront and let you know that Valentine’s day is one of my least favorite holidays, second to New Year’s Eve.  I’m probably traumatized because my husband and I started dating in early February. He sent me flowers at my workplace that first Valentine’s day, but unfortunately the heat in the office was broken and cranked up to a hellacious 80 degrees. There were dead roses and melted chocolates everywhere, like some sort of creepy haunted house.  I worked with the urgency of an ER doctor as I struggled to keep those stinking flowers alive – I even resorted to feeding them sugar-water and keeping them in the fridge. It was a no-go, and as he picked me up from work, I was carrying a bouquet of mega-dead flowers that I promptly shoved in a garbage can on the corner of 34th street. 

 The night didn’t get much better – we had dinner (one of our earliest dates) at a restaurant that was supposed to be amazing — but they featured a stuffy, underwhelming prix-fixe holiday menu. The servers were wearing overly formal outfits and trying to rush everyone through their meal.  “This is the end,” I thought.  Luckily, he also thought it was terrible and we spent the entire night making observations about all the nervous couples around us. This was fairly easy to do, as we were sitting elbow to elbow with the surrounding tables (oh, sometimes I miss New York so…).  

 

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Obviously it worked out for us in the end, but now we pretty much avoid commercial Valentine’s day all together. Cooking a delicious meal (including a really decadent, over-the-top dessert, obviously) is way better than forcing some romantic encounter.  Plus, a dinner party is equally fantastic with a group of girlfriends as it is with a special someone. I hope that you have either a fantastically romantic or fantastically comical Valentine’s day with stories that you’ll remember for years to come! 

To do my part for lovers everywhere, I’ve put together a few super fun gift boxes for Valentine’s day.  You can find the options listed on my online boutique. There’s no need to stress over the perfect Valentine’s day gift because everyone (well, anyone who’s anyone at least) loves sugarbombs!  Alternatively, you could also send a gift box to yourself. I’ve been known to do that before. The deadline for orders is midnight on Friday, February 7th. This will ensure that I have time to bake, package, and ship your goodies in time for the big day. xo!

The Year of the Macaron

Jan 25 2014

Ah, the macaron. My best friend and my mortal enemy. 

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Macarons are probably the classiest dessert craze that have come on the scene recently.  They’ve always been one of my favorites, as evidenced by my wedding cake: 

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Photo credit for that one goes to my awesome photographers, The Beautiful Mess 

I love the textural contrast of the delicate meringue shell – how the crisp exterior gives way to the chewy interior, the joyful shatter a perfect macaron makes when you bite into it.  The airy cookie paired a dense buttercream or ganache filling.  Yum.

The problem with macarons is that they’re super temperamental. If you made them five times using exactly the same ingredients and method, three times they’d come out perfectly, one time they’d be slightly flawed but usable, and one time they’d be completely, absurdly terrible. Environmental factors play a serious part – slamming your oven doors can cause the fragile meringues to drop.  An air bubble in your piping bag or uneven pressure when you’re squeezing the batter onto the parchment paper causes cracks. And humidity will completely botch them all together. Which is awesome in a place like North Carolina.  (NOT.) 

In my early days of baking, macarons caused me undue anxiety. I remember my culinary school exam where I had to make them.  I fell prey to one of the errors above, and the shells came out like flat little hockey pucks. I got a 0 on my first attempt. A ZERO! I’d never gotten a zero on anything in my life. Those culinary school teachers are really the “all or nothing” type.  Luckily, I was able to try them again the next day, and they turned out slightly better, but it was still one of my more shameful moments in my culinary journey.

This is why I’ve decided to redeem myself. I’ve declared 2014 the year of the macaron. Every morning, I shall glance upon my reflection in the mirror and declare: I AM A MIGHTY CHEF! I WILL NOT BE BESTED BY A MERE COOKIE!  I’m going to make macarons all day every day, until I can make them perfectly and without anxiety. I’ll make them with an almond base, a hazelnut base, and maybe even a peanut base.  I’ll fill them with jam, ganache, and myriad flavors of buttercream. It will be GRAND.

The trick here is that almond flour is, like, hella expensive. ($15 a pound!? Who the hell is this Bob, owner of the Red Mill? He’s running a racket and preying on the gluten free!)… so perhaps “all day, every day” is a slight exaggeration.  Maybe “some days, a couple of hours a day” would be more accurate.  The other challenge, as I mentioned before, is the humidity. I will scour weather.com and wait until we have 0% humidity for several days in a row before cranking out a big batch.

In order to help me achieve this goal, I’ve put macarons on my online shop.  Hopefully, millions of people will order them (cough cough) and then I’ll be the next Pierre Herme! 

 

Maybe.


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2013 Wrap-up

Jan 17 2014

Christmas Cookies

2013 definitely went out with a bang! I felt like a crazy person for the last month of the year, but I had a great time and sugarbomb really made some good headway. In January, I will move into my commercial kitchen and start up my mail order business! (And local delivery in Charlotte).   Things have been in the works, and there’s much more to come as I get my online shop up and running. 

Here are some sugarbomb highlights from December:

Best Cake

A reprise of the giant cookie cake. My brother in law’s birthday is on Christmas Day, so we were inspired to make a giant cookie cake by this tub of miniature chocolate chip cookies that everyone was munching on all Christmas. 

Cookie Cake

Honestly, I just think these cookie cakes are so cool!  They give me a gigantic bellyache though. 

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Cutest Cupcakes:

These vanilla-vanillas were for a 1-year-old birthday party. Aren’t they cute as a button? 

Birthday Cupcakes

 I went a little Type-A with the sprinkles and applied them all individually with a toothpick.  I’m sure the 1 year old I made them for really appreciated that. 

Biggest Accomplishment:

Getting through the first holiday season in tact! I became BFFs with the UPS man (is there nothing that can’t be accomplished with a few chocolate covered pretzels?), filed all the paperwork necessary to get sugarbomb up and running, and mentally prepared myself for the opening of my business! Way to go me. :)
Package1Here’s a picture of some of the holiday gift boxes I sent out in december. 


Best Use of Leftovers/Mess-Ups

I turned some dry coconut cake into these Coconut Cake Truffles. I made them as you would a cake pop, using cream cheese icing. Then I froze them and dipped them in chocolate and they were party-ready! Crisis averted – I managed to recycle my overbaked cake and people were asking for the “recipe” of these treats! 

Cake Truffles

Best Non-Dessert Item (It’s a TIE!):

Pretzels and Beer Cheese

PretzelsI had a weird hankering for soft pretzels, so I decided to make them for a cocktail potluck that I was attending. They wee AMAZING and puffy, but I have a new appreciation for Auntie Anne – it’s pretty hard to get a perfectly shaped pretzel! Mine were fairly “rustic”. Anything with beer cheese is amazing in my opinion, so these were just over the top. 

 

French Onion Soup turnovers

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These were out of control. For my last holiday party, I made raspberry and brie turnovers that were a big hit, so I wanted to try something similar. These puff pastry pockets were filled with caramelized onions doused in beef stock, a smear of whole grain mustard, and Gruyere cheese. They really tasted like a tiny French Onion Soup and they went like hotcakes at the holiday party! 

Best Party

While my annual holiday party did not disappoint, I have to say that the best party of the season was not thrown by me.  Some friends threw me a Game of Thrones sleepover in honor of my 30th birthday. We watched a Game of Thrones marathon and ate giant chicken legs with our hands. Some guests even went as far as to eat rice and beans with their hands. (Dedication!)  Here’s a picture of me with a giant turkey leg: 

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Best New Tradition

A good friend of mine grew up in Germany, where they celebrate Advent on Sundays in the holiday season.  It’s a time to gather with family and friends and just sit around and RELAX. What a great idea for a party! No hectic socializing or rushing around, just vegging out on the couch drinking Gluhwein from a boot-shaped mug. Gluhwein is basically mulled wine (everyone’s recipe is different and it’s a source of hot debate as to which is the best!) The stuff is addictive and packs a punch. 

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Whoo! Well I think those were the high points of my holiday season. Now, on to bigger and better things in 2014!!!

A New Year’s Feast

Jan 13 2014

Now that I’ve been married for six months, I’m on a renewed mission to use our china and crystal.  To be frank, I didn’t want to register for any of the fancy dishware, because I thought it would sit in our precious cabinet space, gathering dust. I made my husband promise that we would use it once a month.  This was the third time we used it – so I guess we have a 50% success rate so far. 2014 is the year of crystal! And Kristal. I hope. 

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I must say that our dining room table looked gorgeous with all of the fancy place settings, though. 

For New Year’s Eve, we hosted our traditional dinner party. I’m up for anything on New Year’s Eve, as long as it doesn’t require me leaving my house.  This year, we had a five guests for a five course menu. After a whirlwind week of Christmas travel, much of the meal was pieced together the 36 hours before the party, but it turned out amazingly well! (I’m sure the fine china helped up our image).  Here’s a recap of our night in photos!

For cocktail hour, we had gougeres and champagne, which is pretty much my favorite food and drink combination on the planet. Gougeres are basically cream puffs with cheese baked into the dough. I probably ate twenty.

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With our champagne, we also had some gravlox, which I brought back from New Jersey. It’s my dad’s specialty and the hit of his holiday parties. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to snap a picture of this before everyone gobbled it up. 

The first course was a sweet potato bisque with bacon and spiced pecans. I actually made this soup with some leftover mashed sweet potatoes that I thew in the freezer before we left for the holidays. I pureed them with a little bit of sautéed onion, chicken stock, and a ton of cream – voila! Soup!  We served the first two courses with a Meursault, which is a Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. It was hearty enough to stand up to the creaminess of the soup (and pasta) but still fairly light. 

Sweet Potato Bisque

I think the next course was the universal favorite. House made tagliatelle with prosciutto, peas, and mushrooms in a parmesan cream sauce.It was worth the weirdness of having coat hangers draped with drying noodles hung all over the house when our guests arrived.  Fortunately, they were delayed by an hour, or they would have seen me covered in flour, making a huge mess.

Pasta Course

Nothing beats homemade pasta.  The process is somewhat lengthy, but I find it super relaxing. It makes me feel like an 1800s grandma. I used this seven yolk recipe by Thomas Keller and I would highly recommend. Just be sure that your hands are strong because some aggressive kneading is needed. 

 

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I’ve got a need to knead.

The next course was lamb chops with a sunchoke puree, roasted asparagus, and a red wine and shallot sauce.  I didn’t actually get a picture of the sauced plates but you can use your imagination: it was red. Sugarhusband cooked the lamb to a perfect temperature (if I do say so myself) and made a banging pan sauce to go with it.  We served this with a 2010 Groth Cabernet from California. 

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In the French style, we had our salad and cheese course after the entree. This is one of my favorite things about French cuisine. Think about it: in America, we eat cheese before the meal, and end up feeling all bloaty and full by the time the appetizers roll around.  If you wait until after the meal, you eat just the right amount of cheese instead of gorging yourself. 

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The salad course was really simple greens with a super tart vinaigrette. It was nice after the heavier lamb dish. We added a little fried goat cheese round, which was basally a super classy mozzarella stick.  

We served Rogue River blue cheese and Fromge D’Affonois.  I actually really dislike the blue cheese – it was way too strong for me. This course paired with a Heitz Port. I first tasted this wine on a trip to California four years ago and I’ve been waiting for the perfect blue cheese moment to drink it.  It’s amazing… if you drink it alone, it tastes like syrupy sweet raisin juice, but with the cheese, it’s perfect. It also cut the mustiness of the blue cheese and made it taste much less strong.  

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For dessert, I made a simple but delicious chocolate mousse, topped with some whipped cream and a raspberry. These little glasses are the size of shot glasses, so it was the perfect portion after such  big meal. Chocolate mousse (and most custards) are a great dinner party option because you can make them the night before and let them chill out in the fridge. No stress! IMG_1814

I liked the idea of having a really demurely sized dessert, but I was smart enough to make a few extra, because chocolate mousse is off the chain! No judgment to those who had seconds (I myself was eating the leftover pasta straight from the sauté pan). 


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With espresso, we served cinnamon hazelnut biscotti and madelines. 

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Blurry, but delicious.




Madelines

 
 
And by this point, it was a quarter to midnight! Everyone laughed at me when we sat down to dinner at 8:15 and I set an alarm on my phone so we wouldn’t miss the ball drop. I had to drag everyone away from the table for the big countdown. Good friends and good wine really make the time fly by. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014 for all!