delicious discourse

honoring each year

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on January 29, 2010

As Matt was cutting his 31st birthday cake last night, I began to think about birthday cakes and how fabulous they have been in the last couple of years. Birthday cakes are kind of my “thing.” No one should let a birthday pass without one and I love nothing more than to make – or give – someone a cake on their birthday. If you have to be a year older, at least you can mark it with cake – good cake, made specifically for you, either given or made with love.

cutting the cake, 2010

In turn, it seems I have found the perfect man because – he may not bake – but Matt gives truly great cakes. You can tell he grants the matter thought and he isn’t afraid to go different or quirky. And they are always surprises. Every birthday – you could say – is an adventure in cake.

Italian cream cake, Lucy's Cakes 2008

Italian cream cake, Lucy's Cakes 2008

Two years ago, I came home from work and opened the refrigerator to a huge, bright pink smiley face and couldn’t help but return the smile. Underneath the shocking exterior was a flavorful Italian cream cake from Lucy’s Cakes. Matt’s parents had sent him a few while he was living alone in graduate school and he has fond memories of savoring every last crumb, by himself. I’d never really explored Italian cream cake before this one; my birthdays have always been celebrated with carrot cake, a continuing tradition from childhood.

Bee Cake, Walton's Fancy & Staple 2009

Last year, for my quarter-century birthday, I came home from work (this year my birthday will finally be on a Saturday) to find a gorgeous Bee Cake from Walton’s Fancy & Staple. Almond cake, buttercream filling, and chocolate ganache cake with a halo of confection bees with sliced almonds for wings – amazing. This past summer was the summer of Walton’s, stopping in for a sweet treat after hours at Barton Springs and I’d remarked on how cute the 4-inch Bee Cakes were. Remembering that, Matt ordered the very first 10-inch Bee Cake Walton’s had ever made. To go along with this large cake, I got a surprise party that was truly a surprise. What cake was leftover from the party was enjoyed crumb by crumb over the following week, not a bite wasted.

carrot cake, 2008

As for Matt’s birthday cakes, history tends to repeat itself. He always requests my carrot cake claiming it is simply the best. Three birthdays ago, I made him a full-size cake, which was just too much. Last year, he settled for a 30th-birthday trip with friends to San Francisco and Big Sur and a slice of pecan pie served with smoky ice cream and a single candle at NOPA in SF.

pecan tart with smoky ice cream, NOPA in san francisco 2009

This year, I thought maybe he would want a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting like I’d made for my Dad for his birthday dinner while we were in Hawaii recently. Or something evoking our longing to be back on the island, like a haupia  something or other. Nope. He wanted carrot cake, definitely. I decided to scale down the size and purchased two 5-inch cake pans at Sur La Table. Served on a yellow plate, with green candles, the cake could not have been more perfect for an intimate dinner of two (it was preceded by an eclectic offering of macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi, fettucine alfredo, and a salad of orange, avocado, and greens). We have enough left over to share generous slices with a few friends as well as personally revisit the sweet carrot, spiced cake and creamy frosting scattered with pecans (local, organic carrots are so much sweeter than ones you will find in the grocery store.)

mini carrot cake, 2010

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ahh, the sweet elixir of life

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on January 24, 2010

Cappuccino, Cafe Medici, Austin

I like Bon Appetit. And for the most part, I trust in their recommendations. When roadtripping to Seattle last September for a solitary night, I consulted their Top 10 archive on bonappetit.com for recommendations on where to eat. We, my fellow travelers and I, decided on Boom Noodle for our one shot at dinner (“Top 10 New Asian Noodle Bars”), Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream for an after dinner treat (“Top 10 Ice Cream Shops”), and Baguette Box for sandwiches to take on the road (“Top 10 Sandwich Shops”). All were spectacularly delicious, had clarity, were unpretentious, and had a great vibe. The trip proved incredibly successful: great food, gorgeous weather (it rains in Seattle, really?), and I found my wedding dress – first shop, first dress – check, check, check.

Eating Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream in Seattle.

Yes, Seattle was like this both days we were there. Magical.

So, when BA’s “Top 10 Best Boutique Coffee Shops” came out in their January 2010 issue, I was eager to try their one Austin recommendation – Progress Coffee. Mid-morning the weekend after Christmas, Matt and headed over to Progress Coffee to see what the BA buzz was all about. I’m not going to elaborate of the experience, but it was not any better or unique that my usual, sometimes daily, trips to my favorite coffee shops in Austin – Cafe Medici, Bennu, Walton’s Fancy & Staple, Dominican Joe’s, and wherever else a good cappuccino might fall into my lap (recently the Driskill Bakery and 24 Diner). This brings me to my point, what is the BA selection process for their Top 10 lists? I know restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton does not teleport all across the country dining at every new asian noodle bar or boutique ice cream shop. Do they rely on public relation professionals (let’s hope not), word on the street, their own intuition? What?

This is an important question, because similar to yoga – there is nothing worse than a really bad yoga class –  people who really enjoy coffee and take it seriously know that there really are few things worse than a really bad cup of joe. Take this Sunday morning for example, sitting at Cafe Medici before 9 a.m., Matt takes a sip of his impeccably-made cappuccino and croons, “Ahhh, the sweet elixir of life.”

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a belated happy new year

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on January 21, 2010

Wow. It has been an embarrassingly long time since my last entry. As a feeble excuse, this summer, fall, and winter have been insanely busy with travel, unfortunately drama, and just LIFE. And with the explosion of food bloggers in Austin – and the egos that occasionally accompany blogs – disenchantment took its toll. But, 2010 – after 10 days in Hawaii – has started off fresh and slow and I’ve decided to pick up where I left off, blogging for me. And for you, if you’re reading. d:d was started as a tribute to my thoughts, values, and adventures in the kitchen and with food -a personal journal of sorts – simply because I enjoy writing. Such as it has been, such as it will remain.

One thought to leave you with. A friend of mine started a tradition last year – as a substitute for New Year’s resolutions – of sending a quote to each of her friends for the coming year. This year she picked one for all of us,

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’ ( Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Happy 2010. Go big.

It’s good to be back.