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Warm and Crusty Date Pudding

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

YUMMMM!  What more can I say?!  I made this dessert for a dinner party that I hosted and it was unanimously a hit!  It’s a fairly easy dessert that will warm people’s tummies and satisfy their chocolate craving.  You can make this in one large soufflé dish or in individual ramekins like I did.

SERVES 8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted dates (6 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 large egg whites
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375ªF and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.  Coat a 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish or eight 6-ounce ramekins with nonstick spray.

Place the dates in a saucepan and add 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the dates are very soft and the water is mostly evaporated.  Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and process until well blended.  Scrape into a large mixing bowl.

Rinse out the saucepan and add the cream.  Bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir until melted.  Pour the chocolate into the date mixture and stir until smooth.  Sift together the cocoa powder and flour.  Fold into the chocolate-date mixture with a rubber spatula until well mixed.  In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold them into the date mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish or ramekins and smooth the top with a spatula.  If using ramekins, set them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake the ramekins for 20 to 25 minutes, the soufflé dish for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the outside of the pudding is set and crusty looking.  Cool until the pudding is just warm, and serve with confectioners’ sugar sifted on top.

Vue de Monde – Melbourne, Australia

I am one lucky girl!  Vue de Monde is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) reservations to get in Melbourne.  As fate would have it, two nights before I got into VDM I was sitting by myself at the bar at MoVida and happened to be sitting one seat away from the Executive Chef there Cory Campbell.  We got to talking and fast forward – he got me in!  I feel really lucky to have gotten such a well rounded eating tour of Melbourne considering I was only there for 3 days.

Vue de Monde is hard for me to describe.  It’s like no other place I’ve ever experienced before.  Shannon Bennett is the brains behind this restaurant and he’s done an excellence job creating a dark modern wonderland.  The tables are wrapped in kangaroo leather (it’s gorgeous) as well as the seat backs.  Mine (unlike my mom’s) was wrapped in the whole hide, fur and all, which I couldn’t stop touching because it was so soft.  For those of you that are squeamish about “fur”…sorry.  There were also a variety of rocks strewn about in the center of the table.  What we didn’t know then was that each had a purpose for dinner.  Two were for salt and pepper, another for your bread and butter plates (they split giving you a flat service).  And then there were two burley twigs which ended up being used to rest the cutlery on.  It’s almost like the underworld of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Back to the food.  Each dish was SO different from the one before in every way…presentation, taste, temperature, texture, you get the idea.  One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Marron which is an Australian crayfish.  It was served warm with a tarragon butter which was to die for.  You weren’t presented any flatware for this dish rather they encourage you to eat this course with your fingers:)  I could have just eaten a whole plate of these all night long.  I liked how playful the chefs are with the food here.  For instance, the wasabi that came with the tomato and watermelon salad was made from powder and then formed into frozen freeform balls by using nitrogen.  It’s the unexpected while at the same time still delivering the expected flavor.  The lemon meringue dessert was the same way, deconstructed but if you took a bite with all of the components on the plate, you got lemon meringue pie!

When you leave you’re escorted through their enormous wine cellar which is quite stunning and then to the elevator.  Before you go you’re given a bag of treat for “the morning after”.  Our had a cute little loaf of brioche, homemade muesli, honey and chocolate chip cookies.  Very unique and definitely something I will remember.

This is a place to go for a special occasion, if you’re visiting Melbourne and appreciate molecular gastronomy/modern food, and/or if your budget allows ($$$$ by far the most expensive dinner we had on the whole trip but SO worth it) and you just want to have fun with dinner.  Word of advice, don’t eat a large lunch:)

The Christofle cutlery and crystal drink ware were gorgeous

Smoked eel, white chocolate, caviar

Oyster

Salt cured venison

Celeriac, sunflower seed

Spanner crab, rockmelon, salmon roe

Tomato, fennel, watermelon, wasabi

Marron, kohlrabi, caviar, tarragon butter

Fried duck egg, lamb sweetbreads, pickled onion, truffle

Cucumber sorbet, crushed herbs

Barramundi, herb emulsion, prawn, smoked bone marrow

Pigeon, carrot, clove, orange

Blackmore wagyu beef, fig, pear

Lemon meringue ice cream, white chocolate, lemon cured, parsley

Pavlova

Tonka bean soufflé, smoke cocoa ice cream

A selection of coffee, teas, infusions & petit-fours

A photo with Chef Campbell:)

Officially called Whidbey Island Soufflés in the ‘Simple Classic’ cookbook by the Junior League of Seattle, these were the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day this year.  They are light and airy, sweet with fresh blackberries, and the perfect pinkish purple color for the occasion.  These soufflés are pretty easy to make and will impress any dinner guest.

Serves four

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blackberries, raspberries, loganberries (or Marion berries), rinsed
  • 9 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
In a heavy saucepan, cook berries with 2 tablespoons sugar over low heat until mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Puree the mixture and strain it through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
Puree the mixture and strain it through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
Butter four 1/2 cup ramekins and dust with 1 tablespoon sugar.
With an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until they are thick and pale.  Gently fold in 1/2 cup puree.  Reserve any remaining puree for another use.
With clean beaters, in a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.  Add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating until whites just hold stiff peaks.  Stir 1/2 cup whites into yolk mixture, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Divide mixture among the ramekins and set them in a baking pan.  Add enough boiling water to the pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins.

Place pan in preheated oven and bake 13 to 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.  Place each ramekin on a dessert plate and serve immediately.

Spago (lunch) – Beverly Hills, CA

Although this is somewhat of a duplicate I thought it was deserving and different enough seeing that it was lunch this time, not dinner.  Spago is one of my favorite spots in BH that never disappoints.  On a recent trip down to the land of sun and skinny beautiful people who walk like they’re someone but aren’t, we dashed from the airport straight to lunch to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Wolfgang himself even made an appearance which was warm welcomed.  It should not surprise you that the first thing we ordered was a round of tuna cones.  I really can’t be more enthusiastic about them.  I’ll spare you my thoughts…just order them!

Next we all split the House Smoked Salmon Pizza with shaved onions and dill créme fraiche and salmon pearls (aka salmon roe) – too big for one person and plenty to split amongst five as a starter.  Similar in concept to the Smoked Salmon (and Sturgeon) and Blinis but the pizza itself has more substance to it.  Not a light dish in the slightest but delicious in every bite.

For my main course I was sold on the Japanese BBQ Salmon Salad with cucumber, avocado, pickled vegetables, seaweed, butter lettuce and ponzu.  This was SUCH a good choice!  I will go back and eat this over and over if I can.

Because of the birthday celebration we had to indulge in a little dessert so the birthday girl chose the Candy Apple with honey poached fuji apples, salted pretzel puff pastry, apple cider caramel, and Tahitian vanilla ice cream…whoa…talk about the perfect ending.  This was so much better than I could have imagined it to be.  Well done Sherry Yard!  It’s not wonder she won “Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation.

 

Doughnut Plant – New York, NY

Our good friend Stanford used to work and live in NYC and now lives in Seattle but still commutes from time to time for work and recommended this decadent spot to us on our recent trip out there.  My husband happens to be a HUGE fan of donuts so this was definitely a spot on our to do list.  The good news is we walked there therefore we felt validated in eating a donut…as if it were an award for our exercise.  Sick…I know:)

When I asked what the most popular donut was, the cute gal behind the counter quickly replied, “The Créme Brulée”.  I happen to not care for creme filled things so being boring I went for the cake style donut with sugar and cinnamon.  Delicious despite how “safe” of a choice it was.  I can’t say my husband did any better.  He went for the Vanilla Bean yeast style donut.  Similar in style to Krispy Kreme.  I honestly don’t think you can go wrong here.

There she is!Choices, choices, choices…Mmmm:)

momofuku milk bar – New York, NY

After our ever so satisfying lunch at momofuku noodle bar, we walked a few blocks to David Chang’s milk bar (yes…we are that glutinous) and indulged in a few treats that our friends recommended.

Oh the choices!  Thank god we already had recommendations.The first…a Compost Cookie which my good friend Jamie from jamie of all trades aka JOAT blogged about AND that my good friend Jen from Sweet Jennies sent me after one of her NYC trips.  Thanks girls!The second…birthday truffles.  Another recommendation from Jen.  Holy $#@! these are good!  I typically don’t like overly sweet things (and I could only eat half of one) but these are outrageously good and I would get them again.  I just found out you can order them online too.  Great treat to send a friend!Ira happy with his cereal milk:)

Revel – Seattle, WA

For those of you who don’t know the background behind Revel…here it is in a nutshell…

Iron Chef America husband and wife team, Seif Chirhi and Rachel Yang, are the chefs behind this 7 month old restaurant in Fremont which has gotten an unprecedented amount of press since opening in mid-December 2010.  First it was the New York Times mention, then the taping of The Best Thing I Ever Ate for the Food Network due to Frank Bruni’s visit and now love for the asparagus rice bowl, next it was the Wall Street Journal and most recently Revel was named the Best New Restaurant in Seattle for 2011 by Seattle Weekly.

The concept is Korean street food.  Salads, dumplings, pancakes, rice bowls and noodles.  The menu changes appropriately according to the season so don’t get too attached to one thing.  It’s refreshing to know that even if you go often you’ll always find something new.  During the summer you’ll find the BBQ smoking on the deck and a whole animal being served up a number of different ways.  One week it might be a goat, next a whole pig!

Next door (attached to the restaurant) is Quoin (the architectural term for cornerstone), Yang and Chirchi’s bar.  There’s a spacious deck off the back with a great fire pit and plenty of seating around.  For those that can’t get in or don’t have the patience to wait for a seat at Revel, the full menu is served inside and out at Quoin.

If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?  The wait can be long but I promise the food is worth it!

Corned lamb salad with mizuna and spicy nuoc cham

Pork belly pancake with kimchi and bean sprouts

Lamb dumpling with goat yogurt and cucumber

BBQ of the week – whole cow

White gulf shrimp, cilantro pistou and coriander noodles

Spice cake ice cream sandwiches with salted caramel dipping sauce

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro – Santa Barbara, CA

We were recently in Santa Barbara for my good high school friend Hana’s (of Wak in Closet) wedding. We went a few days early and had some time to explore on the beach cruisers we borrowed from our hotel. Cruising up and down State St. we came upon Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro for some afternoon wine which then turned into a mid-afternoon treat. Boy was that a good decision. I, being the one with the sweet tooth that day, decided on the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart. Accompanying it was Chantilly Cream and Caramel Oreo Popcorn. The popcorn was like crack! Seriously…once you tried one piece you were doomed. If you’re ever in SB I high recommend this place if for nothing else the dessert!

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