Monthly Archives: June 2013

Scharf & Zoyer at Brooklyn Oenology and Smorgasburg News

BOE-Kugel-cookingKugel warming up

Tuesday night, Scharf & Zoyer, the food vendor I’ve been cooking for at the weekly Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, held its first-ever pop-up at Brooklyn Oenology‘s tasting room.  About thirty or so folks gathered to nosh on Noah Arenstein’s takes on classic Jewish flavors re-invented in sandwich form while imbibing from BOE’s wine and beer list.  From the cleared off serving trays, raised glasses, and general good cheer, it seems as though the evening was a fantastic success.

BOE-Savory-KugelSavory Kugel

On the menu were some of the items for which S&Z has become known in the press and at the market.  We had half-size pieces of our Savory Kugel, with a green bean-spinach-walnut pesto, dill crème fraîche, and topped with fried chicken skins.  Creamy, tangy, crunchy.  This bite hit every savory, salty note, and it has been a huge hit with many of our fans.

Sweet Kugel

Sweet Kugel

For dessert, we served up our most popular item – the Sweet Kugel.  It’s the same noodle kugel that is used in the savory dish, one based on Noah’s grandmother’s recipe (several cousins were on hand to verify the authenticity of the taste).  After the kugel is fried golden brown on both sides, it’s topped with maple-farmer’s cheese, apricot-orange preserves, and topped with crispy shallots.  There’s a bit of creaminess and sweetness contrasted with a hit of savory and crunchiness given by the shallots to balance it out.

Gefilte Fish SliderGefilte Fish Slider

We also served a few other items not usually on the Smorgasburg rotation.  One of these was the Gefilte Fish slider above.  Noah’s family serves these meatball-style patties rolled in breading, fried and then allowed to get cold, rather than in the usual liquid base.  As someone who did not grow up with this dish, it’s taken a bit of converting, if you will, to win me over to them.  A dash of horseradish-mustard mayo and a dollop of carrot slaw anchor the slider firmly on a soft, squish potato bun.  The first time I had a taste of it, I was surprised at how well the flavors all melded together.  We had these on the last weekend that we did the market and they sold all right, although we did meet with some skeptics.

Meatball SlidersSweet-n-Sour Meatball Sliders

Another slider we prepared exclusively for this event featured Sweet-n-Sour Meatballs served on Potato Rolls with a sliver of Provolone cheese and a side of Mushroom Ketchup.  They were a bit messy to handle, which might be something we work on for the next time we hold a pop-up, but they were devoured by the guests and met with rave reviews from a few of them.  Having snacked on several of these during our prep sessions, so I wasn’t at all surprised, as I knew how delicious they were.

Latkes w Farmers Cheese and AljoukLatkes with Ajlouk and Farmer’s Cheese

No exploration of Jewish cuisine would be complete without latkes.  For the pop-up, we used them to showcase our Ajlouk, a savory, spicy spread with a harissa base that we usually served made-to-order with an omelet-style egg and farmer’s cheese on toasted marble rye bread.  In this incarnation, the latke served as the “bread” with a schmear of the cheese and a heaping spoonful of the Ajlouk, this time made with eggplant instead of our usual zucchini version.  Cool, hearty, crunchy all in one bite.

MandelbrodtMandelbrodt

The other dessert we served was Mandelbrodt.  I have to brag a little bit about this one, as I’d never baked these before and took my instructions from a recipe that Noah had emailed me that was his grandmother’s.  These cookies are similar to Italian biscotti in that they are cooked twice and allowed to get dry and crispy.  Noah gave me a thumb’s up after we took them out of the oven after the second baking cycle, telling me that I’d nailed the recipe.  Whew!  He packed up the extras from the party to enjoy at home.

PicklebackPickleback at BOE

We had several other offerings on the menu as well, including Pimento Cheese, Chopped Chicken Livers, and Tuna Salad, all served to get the evening started.  To close out the night and to toast how well our first pop-up event went, Noah, Emily Hanhan (aka Nomnivorous, a mutual friend who offered to help us out for the evening), and I slugged down a pickleback from BOE’s drinks menu.  It was delicious and refreshing, and it completely hit the spot after all the prep and hard work that we put into making the night happen.

Scharf & Zoyer signScharf & Zoyer at Smorgasburg

Unfortunately, despite the success of this event, there is also some sad news to share.  Scharf & Zoyer will be taking a haitus from the weekly Smorgasburg market.  Serious Eats has been covering Noah’s progress and the development of the business this season.  Having had a front row seat as we’ve worked hard to make his concept a reality, it is disappointing that we might not be back.  There’s so many terrific food vendors in the market whom we’ve gotten to know each week.  For the complete interview and Noah’s thoughts, click here to read the article.  Thanks so much to everyone who has supported us at the market and who came to our event on Tuesday night!

Buon appetito!

New Amsterdam Market – June 2013 Market

New-Amsterdam-Market-sign1New Amsterdam Market – Information table to greet visitors

Sunday was the much-anticipated market day for the New Amsterdam Market.  At one time, I’d seen it advertised as the opening day for the summer season for this market, but it turns out, it is going to be the only one held for the next few months.  I wrote here previously about the hearings that took place at City Hall in support of the market, as the city reviews a proposal by developers for how to revamp the entire South Street Seaport area.  There is overwhelming support for the market from New York City residents, farmers, food artisans, and chefs, many of whom came out in droves on Sunday to shop, buy, eat, and to hang out and to catch up with friends.

P n H Soda - Candy Cap Mushroom & Toasted Almond Egg Cream

 P&H Soda Co. – Candy Cap Mushroom and Toasted Almond Egg Cream

One of my first stops was to grab a soda from P&H Soda Co. to pick up something refreshing to drink.  While there, I ran into Anton Nocito’s wife Erica and their adorable little guy.  Anton had on display his new book about how to make syrups and sodas at home using seasonal ingredients and experimenting with flavor combinations.  I also saw some of the group from Serious Eats hanging out nearby, enjoying some market treats, too.  I asked them what they recommended, and they pointed me in the direction of Lonestar Taco.

Lonestar Tacos - Carnitas Taco
Lonestar Taco – Carnitas Taco

They did not steer me wrong.  Although there was a bit of a wait for the taco, as they were one of the busier stands on Sunday, it was well worth it.  I opted to go with the Carnitas Taco with lots of perfectly-seasoned, rich chunks of pork nestled in a corn tortilla and dressed with mouth-puckering pickled onions and a sprinkle of cilantro which balanced out the rich, luscious meat.  It was great to see them doing so well at the market, like so many of the other prepared food vendors.  Several folks, like Luke’s Lobster and Mosefund Farms also had lines and sold out of many items before the end of the day.

Suleiman Goods - Zatar Pita
Suleiman Goods – Zatar Pita

The market on Sunday also highlighted many local farmers and food producers.  At one end, there was a bread pavilion with displays from Hot Bread Kitchen, Orwasher’s Bakery, and Runner & Stone, to name a few vendors.  There were cheese selections and other dairy products to sample and for sale, lots of gorgeous fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from area farms, and even regionally-caught fish to take home.  It was also wonderful to catch up with some of my favorite food entrepreneur folks like Jen and Liz from Liddabit Sweets, Cyrilla from Nuts+Nuts, Scott from Brooklyn CuredChris from Kings County Jerky, and Leana from Anarchy in a Jar.  This was a terrific chance to stock up on some of their terrific products, which I had been used to seeing on a weekly basis at this market the past couple of seasons.

Spicy 'N Sweet - display
Spicy ‘N Sweet – Try their new smoky sauce!

The energy and the vibrancy of the market was palpable on Sunday, and its contribution to the community, to feeding it and to creating and fostering it was really in evidence to anyone who stopped by.  Everyone seemed really happy to be a part of this effort to revitalize the downtown area, which was so hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.  It was almost as though it was a reunion with vendors, food writers, photographers, bloggers, NYC-ers, and first-time visitors all milling around enjoying themselves amidst all the vast selection of products and nibbles to try, lots of hugs, and tidbits of local news being exchanged.  This is one of the truest expressions of how New York City is really just a large small town at heart with folks coming out to lend support to the folks who make this a more enjoyable place to live.

La Newyorkina - ice cream
La Newyorkina – Strawberry & Creamy Lime Ice Creams

At the same time, however, as I slurped down my last bite of the day, the fantastic ice cream by Fany Gerson of La La Newyorkina (who also had to rebuild her business after the storm), I felt that this gathering was somehow bittersweet.  Several of the folks with whom I spoke also seemed a bit wistful, too.  The future of this wonderful market and all the hard work that has been done to keep it going is still in jeopardy.  I don’t know that there’s a fixed date for another session, although from what I heard, there might be another one in September.  The fate of the Fulton Fish Market and the old market buildings is still being disputed as well.  I’m definitely keeping my hopes up for my friends who are vendors there and for all of us who enjoy being able to eat great food and to be able to talk to the people who produce what we consume, that there are many more wonderful days for the New Amsterdam Market like the one on this past Sunday.

Buon appetito!

For more information about New Amsterdam Market and what is going on with regards to the re-development of the former Fulton Fish Market site, you can visit their website.

April Bloomfield’s Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad

Carrot-Avocado-and-Orange-SaladCarrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad

At the New York Culinary Experience a few months ago, I had the pleasure of assisting Chef April Bloomfield in the class that she was giving.  During her lessons, she walked students through how to make a few recipes from her book “A Girl and Her Pig.”  One of these was this colorful Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad, which I made a note to try at home.

Colorful carrotsColorful Carrots

I feel as though I’ve been stalking the vendors at the Greenmarket at Union Square, just lurking impatiently for the summer’s multi-hued carrots to appear.  Finally, today, I found them and grabbed up a couple of bunches so that I could make this dish.  One of the gorgeous visual aspects of this dish is the balance of color with the ruby, ivory, and orange vegetable on the plate with the greens of the cilantro and avocado and the bright-toned orange segments.  The spice and oil mixture combined with the roasting technique give this dish additional depth and make the carrots almost seem meaty, with a tangy brightness from the citrus dressing and a cool creaminess from the avocado.

Recipe set upRecipe ingredients

This is a perfect summertime vegetarian side dish for a barbecue or for an evening eating al fresco.  Seeing the colorful array of produce on the plate just makes you want to dig in and to eat your way through salad, getting a bit of everything on the fork.  If you would like to add a carnivorous component to it, I would suggest a simply grilled piece of protein.  This salad is really the star of the meal and should be allowed to take center stage.

Carrots and spices cookingCarrots and spice mixture cooking

I made a few adjustments to the recipe based upon a. my laziness and b. what I had observed during the cooking lesson.  I didn’t toast and grind the spices prior to adding them to the carrots (a).  Instead, I used already-ground spices and mixed them with garlic I had crushed, the red pepper flakes, the salt, and the oil.  Then, as the students had done in the class, I added the mixture to the carrots and used a large pan to roast the carrots on the stovetop until they were soft and had a nice color to them (b).

Cooked carrotsCooked carrots

When cooking the carrots, it is important to remember that the thinner ones will cook much faster than the thicker ones, so you might want to have a plate or tray set to the side to pull out the ones that are thinner so that they don’t burn while you are waiting for the thicker ones still to cook through.  The total cooking time on the stovetop is about 15 or so minutes, but it is best to keep a close eye on the pan.  You can definitely segment the oranges and make the dressing for the salad in the time that the carrots take to cook.

Orange segmentsOrange segments

Orange segments, it’s one of those things that I did several times in culinary school and had to do recently while at a catering gig.  One trick I’ve discovered is to use seedless oranges, as the seeds make it more difficult to make clean segments.  This is also one of those tasks where you’ll want to sharpen your paring knife before getting started as the sharper it is, the easier it will be to cut around the membrane.  I also peeled the orange with a knife, which allowed me to cut away the pith and the peel a little more cleanly.

Mixing salad togetherMixing salad together

The recipe calls for being careful when mixing the salad together because the orange segments and avocado have a tendency to break apart as they are delicate.  I discovered that the best way to combine everything was to toss it gently all together by using my hands.  Then, I used my fingers to plate the dish, arranging it so that there was a bit of each ingredient on the plate.  To finish it, I spooned up some of the dressing and drizzled it on top of everything.

Carrot-Avocado-Orange SaladCarrot, Avocado, Orange Salad ready to eat

Be prepared for you and your guests to want seconds. This salad is so delicious and has such a surprising harmony of flavors that you’ll want to add it to your recipe keeper file.  The recipe is available on line at Epicurious.com (click for link).

Buon appetito!

Scharf & Zoyer Pop-up Evening at Brooklyn Oenology

Scharf & Zoyer signScharf & Zoyer stand at Smorgasburg

For the past couple of months, I’ve been manning the grill at Scharf & Zoyer each Saturday at Smorgasburg.  Now, Noah Arenstein, the owner and creator of S&Z, has put together a one-night tasting at Brooklyn Oenology called Scharf & Schnickered where he’ll showcase some of the sandwiches for which his stand has become known at the market.  Interested in seeing how modern Jewish-style deli food pairs with beer and wine, maybe even how it goes down with a pickleback?  If so, you might want to check out this unique food & beverage event.

Scharf-Zoyer-menuScharf & Zoyer weekly menu

The menu has the fan favorite Kugel Double-down in sweet and savory versions, the Berber spice-inspired zucchini spread that we use on our breakfast sandwiches, and the tuna salad that goes into our really delicious tuna melt.  In the photo below, you can see how we usually serve these items at the market.  The dishes will be modified somewhat to be small portions so that guests can taste a bit of everything as they sip the beverages that the folks at BOE have selected to go with them.

Scharf & Zoyer - menu display plateS&Z Sandwich Menu Display

In addition, Noah is bringing back a couple of items that debuted at Smorgasburg, but he decided not to continue to carry, as they didn’t really find an audience at the market.  One of these was the chopped chicken liver.  It had many faithful followers, but it was a hard sell compared to some of the other things that we fix each week to bring with us.  There’s an interesting series of articles about S&Z in Serious Eats that talks about how a food vendor creates a concept and then works to make it all happen.  It goes into a bit more depth about the process for our menu development and selection.

Scharf & Zoyer saltine w pimento cheeseSalted Habanero Pimento Cheese on Saltine

Another of these items was his fantastic, spicy, creamy pimento cheese.  I know how great-tasting it is, because I took home a bunch of leftovers to work with on the last day we had it to sell.  As a very perishable food item, as are most of the things that we make, if we can’t sell it, it has to be discarded (sadly) or exchanged with other market vendors for things they haven’t been able to sell that day or we take it home to eat ourselves.  The pimento cheese found a home on my breakfast table when I used it on poached eggs to give them a bit of a kick.  I miss the fact that we don’t carry it anymore.

Scharf & Zoyer - cooking kugelHeating up the kugel for the double-down

So, if you want to treat your tastebuds to a new take on this cuisine, you might want to pick up a ticket to Scharf & Schnickered (click on the link to purchase them).  I’ll be there, too, cooking away and helping to prepare the dishes.  It takes place from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25th at Brooklyn Oenology‘s tasting room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  There’s a limited number of tickets available.  This is a wonderful chance to taste products from two New York City food and wine entrepreneurs in one location and to support local business.

Buon appetito!

2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Dessert Professional - Top 10 Pastry Chefs in AmericaDessert Professional Magazine Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America 2013

Yesterday evening, I attended the Dessert Professional Magazine 20th Annual Awards Ceremony for the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America 2013 held at the Institute of Culinary Education.  This gathering brought together top pastry chefs, food writers, bloggers, photographers, and other industry professionals to celebrate the recognition of all the hard work that these chefs do to create those sweet concoctions that we enjoy so much.

Chicken Skewers w Peanut Dipping SauceChicken Skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Before the festivities got underway, the guests sampled a few savory nibbles prepared by our hosts, which we all agreed would help to balance out all the sugar that we were planning to eat later when we had the chance to try the desserts the chefs had prepared for the event.  The catering kitchen at ICE was going full steam with tray after tray of small bites of beef tenderloin on baguette, endive spears of salmon mousse, toasts with cheese and radishes, and chicken skewers appearing to tempt us.  Before long, however, the ceremonies started, and we all filed into the room where the awards were to take place.

Chefs chatting before the ceremonyChefs chatting before the ceremony

The energy level and excitement started to rise in the room as everyone gathered together.  Hugs, high-fives, and congratulations were exchanged as the chefs mingled with their peers as well as with friends and family members.  Cameras came out.  Bloggers and media types angled to get the best pictures of the group as well as of the other prominent chefs who had arrived to support this event.

Top10PCiA - Engraved KitchenAid bowlsKitchenAid mixing bowls engraved with the award winners’ names

After introductions by Matthew Stevens of Dessert Professionals Magazine, Zac Young of David Burke Kitchen called each of the chefs up individually to present them with their engraved KitchenAid mixing bowls which go along with their new 7-Quart stand mixers given to them by the company as part of their award.  For the group photo, boxes of Guittard chocolate, also a sponsor for this event, were given to the chefs.

2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America

The awards for this year for Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America went to:

Lifetime Achievement Award - Florian BellangerZac Young of David Burke Kitchen announcing Florian Bellanger

The Hall of Fame Honoree this year is Florian Bellanger of MadMac.  Chef Bellanger was formerly the Executive Chef at the famous Fauchon in Paris and pastry chef at Le Bernardin and is a judge on Cupcake Wars on The Food Network.  In his remarks, he commented that when he’d first arrived in the United States, pastry chefs worked almost exclusively in restaurant kitchens.  Now, their professional has grown and developed to the point where pastry chefs are opening their own businesses and are found working in many aspects of the industry.  He commented that he is “so happy to see the new generation” and that pastry chefs’ talents are being widely recognized.

Andy Chlebana's show pieceAndy Chlebana – chocolate showpiece

After the last photo was taken, the crowd headed to the kitchens to taste the desserts that the chefs had worked on for everyone to sample.  Students from the Institute of Culinary Education had assisted them with getting their dishes ready, although some of the chefs also brought members of their culinary teams with them to help out at this event.

Andy Chlebana - Chocolate Cake with Amaretto Ice Cream, Raspberry Sauce & Baked Raspberry MousseAndy Chlebana – Chocolate Cake with Amaretto Ice Cream, Raspberry Sauce & Baked Raspberry Mousse

Like several of the chefs, Andy Chlebana had brought most of the components of his dish with him to New York almost fully completed.  He’d packed up the moist, rich chocolate cake with chocolate glaze, the ice cream base, and the baked raspberry mousse (which he told me takes three days to make), preparing the fresh raspberries and finishing the ice cream when he arrived in town.

Bill Corbett - German Chocolate Cake - veganBill Corbett – German Chocolate Cake

This vegan, deconstructed version of a German Chocolate Cake got a bit smashed in transit, Chef Corbett mentioned to me, but I couldn’t taste that any harm had been done to it.  This super-rich, moist, almost fudgey cake had some pronounced notes of citrus and coconut for me.  I loved the candied pecans on the top and just really enjoyed the whole set up of this dessert.

Chrisophe Feyt - Dessert displayChristophe Feyt – Dessert Display

The set up for the event involved the guests walking from kitchen to kitchen on a couple of floors of the school.   The desserts were laid out on the table ready for the guests to pick up with the chefs available to talk about their creations while they made sure that there were enough plates at the ready.  The chefs and their helpers hurriedly replenished the dishes as soon as they vanished so that everyone was given a chance to taste everything.

Christophe Feyt - milk chocolate creameux, fresh apricot compote, almond streusel mousse, & salted caramel bon bon  Christophe Feyt – Milk Chocolate Creameux with Fresh Apricot Compote, Almond Streusel, and ring of White Chocolate with a Salted Caramel Bon Bon

This is what those desserts looked like up close.  I popped the chewy, salty caramel into my mouth to start.  The buttery flavors melted over my tongue.  Then I broke the thin ring of white chocolate and ate that, too.  I dipped my spoon into the glass to scoop up a bit of the creamy milk chocolate, the apricots, and the streusel all in one bite.  It was a bit of sweetness, some tart aspects, and crunchiness all rolled into one taste.

Brooks Headley - Red Chopsticks to use for dessertBrooks Headley – red chopsticks

Using chopsticks to eat dessert?  Yeah, I thought it was a bit daring, too.  It worked, sort of, but not completely, at least not for me.  As you can see from the photo below, the dessert was a bit challenging to eat with chopsticks, and I had to keep some of the dish from dripping down my chin and onto my shirt.

Brooks Headley - Burrata with StrawberriesBrooks Headley – Strawberries with Burrata, Olive Oil, and Sweet Croutons

The creamy, milky cheese was made more luscious with the addition of olive oil topped with sweet-tart strawberries done three ways.  Then, there were crunchy, sweet croutons sprinkled on top to add depth and additional texture.  This was a dessert that hit some of my favorite notes, despite its messiness to eat.  I think I might have to figure out a way to re-create this dish at home.

ICE students plating desserts from WD~50ICE students plating desserts from wd~50

Throughout the evening, students from ICE were assisting the chefs with plating and serving the dishes to the guests.  While moving from table to table and room to room, we managed to get a look at the process as it was taking place, the students carefully constructing each of the plates as they’d been shown to do.  With several different components in this particular dish, it definitely took a deft hand to get them all placed just right.

Malcolm Livingston II - Mango-lemongrass gel w Sheep's Milk YogurtMalcolm Livingston II – Mango on Lemongrass Gel with Sheep’s Milk Yogurt and Crumble

It should come as no surprise that the pastry chef from wd~50 arrived with one of the more out-of-the-box creations of the evening.  A tube of compressed mango on a lemongrass gel topped with sheep’s milk yogurt, a sprinkle of crumbs, and a few sprigs of herbs were put before us.  As much as I admired the ingenuity and incredible talent that went into this dish, it had a bit too much going on for me.  I also found that the mango part had an odd backnote of meaty funkiness to it, which isn’t something that I find appealing in a dessert.

Jimmy MacMillan - plating dessertsJimmy MacMillan – Plating Desserts

Chef Jimmy MacMillan also had a complex plating for his dish.  When I walked up to the table to photograph this selection, I noticed that the edible flowers were being added to the final presentation using large tweezers.  This intricacy and detail made this a stunning dish visually.

Jimmy-MacMillan-Barolo-Nebbiolo-ices-with-freeze-dried-berries-a-raspberry-chipJimmy MacMillan – Barolo and Nebbiolo Ices with Freeze-dried Berries and a Raspberry Chip

Wine ice creams seem to have appeared on quite a few menus lately.  Done correctly, they are filled with rich flavor that captures the notes of the wines as well as their personality.  The Barolo and Nebbiolo ones in this dish did just that with the chocolate and berries highlighting those same notes in the wines.  The freeze-dried strawberries and raspberry chip gave the dish an intriguing textural component as well.  It all just worked so wonderfully together.

Clarisa Martino - Blueberry Panna Cotta w Blueberry Compote & Lemon-Poppy Seed MacaronClarisa Martino – Blueberry Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote topped with a Lemon-Poppyseed Macaron

I loved the colors in this dessert.  They just leaped off of the table and begged to be eaten.  The smooth panna cotta paired with sweet-tart blueberries partnered with a pillowy, citrusy macaron.  Again, this dish just hit so many high notes.  At the awards ceremony, Chef Martino’s boss, Bobby Flay caused a bit of a stir with his presence.  I thought it was terrific that he showed up to support one of the members of his culinary team, who brought with her not only this dessert but also a couple of other amazing ones.

Clarisa Martino - Deconstructed Banana Cream PieClarisa Martino – Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie

As a child, we went through a banana pudding phase at my parents’ house.  You know the version, the one made from a box, with the Nilla Wafers along the sides of the bowl.  Well, this is light years away from that.  The cup was filled with creamy mild banana essence combined with crunchy bits folded into the filling.  Then, thin slivers of banana were layered on top of it along with some whipped cream.  The final garnish was a crunchy wafer somewhere between those childhood cookies and a graham cracker.  It was fantastic.

Clarisa Martino - Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce & Ice CreamClarisa Martino – Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

This dessert alone would make me plan my trip to Mesa Grill around when it appears on the menu.  It was hands-down my favorite dish of the evening.  This opinion was shared by a number of other folks whom I bumped into at the event, too, with plates of it flying off of the table the instant the ice cream touched down on them.  Cool ice cream in a pool of buttery-sweet caramel sauce and a mound of super-moist, intense, sticky toffee pudding to go along with it.  There’s a reason the English refer to this dessert as being moreish.

Laurie Jon Moran - finishing up Dark n stormy dessertLaurie Jon Moran – Plating his Dark n Stormy

For a unique spin on a dessert inspired by a cocktail, Laurie Jon Moran was the chef who pulled that off last night.  His Dark n Stormy had a frothy top and layers of creamy smooth chocolate and ginger underneath.  All the flavors married together beautifully as I dipped my spoon into the glass again and again scooping up some of each layer in every bite.

Laurie Jon Moran - Dark n Stormy - Ginger & Chocolate with FoamLaurie Jon Moran – Dark n Stormy – Ginger & Chocolate with Foam

I also loved that Chef Moran replicated the straws in cocktail with thin chocolate ones.  I don’t think I’ll be able to convince my friends to abandon the alcoholic version of this dish for the dessert one, but I could easily see swapping them out, using this as an idea for a future dinner party.

Nancy Olson - Chocolate Macaron w Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Hot Fudge Sauce, Caramel & Candied PeanutsNancy Olson – Chocolate Macaron with Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Hot Fudge Sauce, Caramel and Candied Peanuts

Can I have yet another favorite dessert from the evening?  I’m a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter eaten together.  The delicate, soft macarons and the cool peanut buttery semifreddo with a dollop of caramel sauce just seemed perfect for each other.  The intense fudge sauce and sugary peanuts were extras that added extra layers to bring these two tastes even closer together.  I think if you put this plate in front of a group to share, they’d be fighting over every last morsel of it.

Nancy Olson - Chocolate Macarons and Caramel SauceNancy Olson – Left over Chocolate Macarons and Caramel Sauce

While scraping up the last of this dish from my plate, trying hard not to leave a spare speck of the fudge sauce, I spotted the leftovers to the side of the counter.  What would happen to these at the end of the evening, I wondered.  Do they just take them back to the restaurant for the staff to devour?

Roy Schvartzapel - Chocolate Layer CakeRoy Schvartzapel – Chocolate Layer Cake

Another chef who had traveled with his pastry creation to this event was Roy Schvartzapel.  Unfortunately, as we were told during the ceremony, his original selection met with a bit of an accident in transport, so we were treated to this glamorous presentation instead.

Roy Shvartzapel - Raspberry Layer CakeRoy Shvartzapel – Raspberry and Fruit Cream Layer Cake

He had made several cakes that spelled out the name of the event and the year, each of them in a different flavor.  The top one was in chocolate, this one was fruit flavored, and the one in the photo below tasted of cappuccino.  The attention to detail and the meticulous construction of each of these layers was awe-inspiring and demonstrates the incredible amount of technique and dedication that goes into this level of pastry-making.

Roy Shvartzapel - Cappuccino Layer CakeRoy Shvartzapel – Cappuccino Layer Cake

This was another cake that received rave reviews from the folks around me who were trying it.  The creamy “foam” layer with the cake and chocolate were harmoniously composed.  As with last year, I probably ate way too many sweets at this one event, but I enjoyed seeing the craftsmanship and the incredible flavor pairings that went into each and every dish.  Congratulations to all the winners!

Dessert Professionals - Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America backdropBackdrop for the group photo

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Ruskin International for inviting me to participate in this event.