Culinary Adventures Thanks to Twitter!

6 Jan

You probably already know that Twitter is an awesome tool. But did you know it is a super awesome tool and can hook you up with cool opportunities? (Props to those who already do…)

In less than two hours I’ll be dining at one of DC’s best restaurants – 1789 – thanks to the generosity of Chef Dan. Based on @OneVanillaBean‘s blog post re-capping her experience the other day I know I’m in for a treat.

Here’s to Chef Dan for being so kind and a great night of dining with @Carolinefjones. Details on our meal tomorrow!












Mom’s Chocolate Cake vs. Mom’s Chocolate Cake

2 Jan

Yesterday, I baked my first cake of 2011 – Food & Wine’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake. This time I actually had an occasion to bake since it was Mandy’s birthday. The cake is your classic chocolate cake – light, springy, and rich with a creamy, fudgey icing.  If I liked milk it would be the perfect accompaniment.

Although F&W’s cake is called Mom’s Chocolate Cake, it’s not MY mom’s chocolate cake. My mom’s cake is delicious and baked every December for my dad’s birthday. It’s similar to the F & W cake, but the cake is denser. The difference is the use of brown sugar. My cake requires a simple syrup that in turn created a thin batter.

Anyway, the real story here is the icing. In recent years my mom can no longer get the frosting for her cake to set. One year, the frosting just stopped setting. Reason unknown.

This fact made me a bit nervous about preparing my frosting. Would it set? Let’s see:

So why does my frosting work? The process is identical to my mom’s frosting. She also uses an ice bath to cool and thicken the mixture. My friend believes the secret is the salt, but both our recipes call for salt. She explained to me last night that salt sets the mixture. Who knows? I think it might have to do with the cream in my frosting.

We may never figure out why my mom’s frosting doesn’t work, but either way, I’ve decided on my own solution. My mom’s chocolate cake and F & W’s chocolate frosting. The best of both worlds.


My Mom’s Deluxe Chocolate Cake

  • 3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water

Stir chocolate with 1/3 cup water over low heat until melted. Cool. Cream butter andsugar until light and fluffy; add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Blend in chocolate withmixer.
Combine flour, soda, salt. Add alternately with 1 cup water on low speed. Beat just until well blended. Pour batter into well greased and floured pans.

(2)8” pan: 35 – 40 minutes

(2)9” pans: 30 – 35 minutes

A Modern Spin on Gift Giving

24 Dec

It just wouldn’t be my style if I didn’t come up with a
creative way to wrap gifts at Christmas. Half of gift giving is the
presentation! This year instead of pulling my inspiration from the
pages of “Martha Stewart Living,” I drew my vision from my day job
as a digital strategist. I adorned packages of baked goods with
custom QR codes instead of gift tags to let recipients unlock my
Christmas wishes for them. It’s easy to make your own QR code and you
can even get creative with codes
that play music
. Check out my goodie bags below!

WMATA Holiday Cheer (No, Really)

14 Dec

It’s not often I find a reason to laud anything related to WMATA, but this morning I found myself singing a different tune (literally) because the Farragut West metro station has been turned into a center of holiday cheer. Honest to goodness I swear on my life, people were smiling and in great spirits leaving the station. No, really. I bore witness to this once thought impossible feat.

What could prompt people to audibly say something nice about metro during the morning commute? Well, sometime in the past week or so holiday decorations appeared at the station -ribbon wrapped around rails, bows, candy cane poles, and a wreath or two. But, this morning the #WMATA employees had taken it up a notch with the addition of icicle lights to the booth and MUSIC!

That’s right – I exited that station to the merry sounds of Christmas music and lights! While it’s nothing grandiose, I really appreciate the effort to spread some cheer. If I had to guess, I think it’s the fantastic WMATA employee who usually stands in front of the gates and says good morning to all the customers. She is awesome and if she is responsible for the decorations she is doubly awesome.

Does anyone else have decorations at their metro stations?


A Two-Day Affair with Cookies

13 Dec

It’s no secret I love to bake – cookies, cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes – you name it and I’ve probably baked it. Though I need little reason to whittle away time in the kitchen, Christmas brings with it a “no excuses, just do it” type attitude when it comes to tasty treats.

I have a carefully crafted list of creations I only prepare at this time year, including caramels, toffee, and fudge. Each of these treats requires a bit more time and attention than your average cookie or brownie that’s worth the effort when gift recipients find homemade candy inside a package.

While candy takes precision, none of these treats amount to the commitment that is the palmier. These french cookies are a rare treat among Christmas cookie spreads. Slightly crisp on the outside, flakey on the inside, palmiers melt in your mouth.

My Gingersnap Palmiers are courteous of Martha Stewart Living, December 2006. The cookies require at least three hours of prep time in the freezer once assembled, plus another 30 minutes in the freezer once on the baking sheets. Between assembling and freezing the cookies it takes two days to make them. But, I promise the extra effort comes through in every bite.

Vampire Weekend + UStream

12 Sep

Last night we trekked it out to Merriweather Post Pavilion for Vampire Weekend. The company, tailgate, music, and atmosphere made the show one of my top concerts to date. Coming from me this a rather bold statement since I’ve seen a number of unbelievable bands live. But Vampire Weekend delivered with a non-stop, high-energy, two-hour set.

Merriweather is no Wolftrap, but at least you can tailgate in the parking lot. We brought one our traditional picnic spreads:

From Chef Val:

  • White Bean Dip
  • Quionia Salad

From Chef Dan:

  • Mozarella, Basil, Tomato, and Prosciutto Sandwiches
  • Watermelon slices with a lime mint syrup
  • Choclate Chip Cookies with a hint of Cinnamon

From Bartender Jason:

  • Wine x a lot

Really the only sad part of the whole affair was @Carolinefjones’ absence. Thankfully, technology rocks and I was able to UStream part of the concert. I’ll just put it out there now – the recording is um, rough. More of less the only real draw here is the fact I was able to stream from my phone. Regardless, I thought I would share anyway!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vampire Weekend, posted with vodpod

Update: Our photo made DCist!

Remembering and Honoring Heros

11 Sep

It’s a beautiful Saturday here in DC, but nine years ago all of us spent this day in shock as the events of 9/11 unfolded. I was a freshman at the University of Georgia on my way to take a Stat test. The first reports of the attacks came across the bus’ radio, but I only had vague information before reaching my stop. I remember walking into my test terrified and unsure where my Dad was traveling to that day. It was all I could do to finish my test, rush back to my dorm, and call my Mom.

The September 11 Digital Archive collects, preserves, and shares the history of the 9/11 attacks and public responses to them. These types of collections are critical to remembering our history and keeping in mind those we have lost to protect our great nation.

Take a moment today to explore the collections online and reflect on the last nine years. Where were you?