Category: food photography

Fire Cake

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Flaming piri piri marshmallow, candy coated chocolate mousse, honey caramel, candied cocoa nibs, dulce de leche crumb, pomegranate preserves.

This dessert captures the essence of the restaurant, more so than anything else I have created.  The concept of the restaurant is built around a wood burning kitchen that is open for the diners to see.  The kitchen is basically a wall of flames dancing in the backdrop of a delicious meal.  I wanted to bring a piece of that excitement to each table, I wanted to bring a slice of the action to each diner, I wanted the fire to be an integral part of the meal.

I am pretty happy with the outcome of this dish.  It is chocolate based but not too heavy.  It is not overly sweet, it is gooey, an array of textures backed by a fruit component, and a hint of spice.

To be honest, I have been working on this dish for a while, documented here Table side Effigy and here Wait for It and again here Version 1.0

Still, this dish is not done yet.  It still has to evolve into something greater, into something better, into a new identity.  It is always hard to top a winner, and the challenge leaves a lot of room for disappointment.  Nevertheless, I only see room for potential.  The evolution continues.

 

VDAY 2017

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Red Wine Velvet.  Dark chocolate, red wine, toasted almond, red rose petal, pomegranate.

This plate is a celebration of love and sensuality.  Chocolate, red wine, and roses- all the things a luck lady wants to receive on this Hallmark of Love Holiday.  Complimented with almond and pomegranate, a dark chocolate ganache cake spiked with red wine is the centerpiece.  All the flavors are aphrodisiacs, the texture is very rich, smooth, and deep.  Topped with cold, creamy toasted almond ice cream, below a tangy pomegranate glaze, paired with crunchy rose petal candy and caramel almonds, red wine pearls strung along, this is memorable dish was created to enjoy with love.

Seeing Tres

 

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Early summer’s rendition of 3 leches:

Lemon-poppy seed cake with buttermilk added to the traditional three milk soak, rhubarb preserves, fresh market strawberries, confit lemon, strawberry chantilly, violet meringue.

Light and bright like spring’s glorious rays warming up our frosty skin, delicate like those first flowers brave enough to poke out of the hard ground, melts in your mouth like fresh spun cotton candy.

Flavors mimic a sweet tart candy, just sour enough to make you crave another subtly sweet bite.  A disappearing crunch, a creamy cloud texture, a cartwheel of flavors to carry you home.

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Convenient Conconction

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It all started with meringue.  I had a test batch of honey meringue and I did not want to simply throw it away after I assessed its success (or not).  So here I am, left with a the smallest batch possible of meringue (which is 1 quart- no less can be made while using a kitchen aid, trust me), not wanting to simply wash it away as it was still perfectly delicious. The only answer was use it to make a dessert for staff lunch. Contemplating the deli of fluffy pale yellow foam, I thought to myself, what goes great with honey meringue?

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My first thought was cream pie, and my mind went right to coconut.  So coconut cream pie and honey meringue it is.  Pie is typically made with pie dough ( you have to make it, let it rest, roll it out, let it rest, bake it- all of which was too much work) or a graham cracker push crust (super easy and fast, my method of choice for this extra credit project).  We do not have graham crackers or the store-bought crumb lying around the kitchen, so I decided to improvise: we have some extra streusel, why not grind it up and add butter just like the graham cracker crust concept?  So  I ground it up, added butter, and made a push crust.

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Next was the coconut cream- a standard pastry cream made with half milk and half coconut milk, with toasted coconut flake added it.  Pour this into the crust, and set in the refrigerator for 3 hours, top with that infamous meringue, and then, of course, torch the meringue with a flame gun (because of course, because of brulee).

Coconut Cream Pie with Oatmeal Streusel Crust and Honey Meringue

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Rice Pudding Parfait

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This rendition of the classic rice pudding dessert truly highlight the humble grain of rice.

It’s a rice on rice concept, one that makes the most out of one ingredient.  The rice is cooked in horchata-  a Latin American drink made from water soaked in rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. This flavor is highlighted by first toasting the rice in the horchata and in the rice pudding itself.

The dish is served with candied almonds, to bring out the almond flavor in the horachata, to match the toasted flavor in the rice, to add a necessary crunch to the mushy pudding.

The horchata rice pudding, rice on rice custard, is also served with diced raw banana and a caramel sauce made from Guanabara beer- A Brazilian Imperial stout made with raw cane sugar.  The caramel sauce is additionally sweetened with raw cane sugar- in this instance piloncillo, a Mexican version that is readily available.  The banana and beer go great together, each drawing out the flavors of one another.  The grain of the beer pairs well with the toasted rice, unifying all the flavors.

To further draw out the raw sugar flavors present in the beer, and the natural sweetness of the banana, the horchata rice pudding is sweetened with demerara sugar- it’s like sugar in the raw but just slightly less processed, having a nice raw flavor to it.  The only processed white sugar in the dish is presented in the candied almonds- here it is necessary because the almonds are caramelized slightly, and this can only be done with a purified sugar else it will burn.

This dish is finished off with long, thin crisps made from almond meal, banana purée, and rice flour to add height and another crunch dimension.

This dish is presented in layers in a parfait style to give class to this common food item, to showcase the subtle flavors that all tie together nicely to highlight the simple grain of rice.

Rolling with the Flavor

Brigadeiros is a traditional Brazilian delicacy,  an iconic cultural treat that is eaten by anyone and everyone in every part of the country.  This unifying treat is eaten at celebrations, parties, and is seen as a gourmet item.  The brigadeiro is basically a Brazilian style truffle.  It is a very popular confection, and seeing how I work in a Brazilian restaurant, I decided to give this treat a try.

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Being the lady that I am, I cannot keep anything basic, so I took the original and tweaked it a bit.

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The traditional way uses sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and chocolate as the filling, and it rolled in chocolate sprinkles.  I used dulce de leche in place of the sweetened condensed milk, added more chocolate, and rolled this concoction in a streusel made from milk powder, flour, and caramelized white chocolate. This truffle is finished with a nice pinch of salt to draw out all the sweet flavors.  Caramel and salt is a very nice flavor combination, each enhancing one another, like sweet does to sour.  (For those who do not know, salt is the secret ingredient in pastry).

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The goal was enhance the flavor, to bring out a more caramel and toasted flavor notes, to make a more dimensional treat.

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The end product is delicious, very toasty (my favorite flavor) and chocolaty.  I have made the treat even better, while paying homage to the tradition behind this iconic confection.

3 Leche Spring

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Because the concept of the 3 leche cake- a Latin American iconic confection, a cake soaked with 3 types of milk until soggy, is limited to white cake and milk soak.  I love this concept and I want to build upon this classic dessert with a curious twist, with fanciful flavors, and whimsical undertones.

In this rendition, I made a cajeta sweetened cake (cajeta is goat’s milk and sugar cooked down to a caramel flavor and consistency- when it is cooking it fills the entire restaurant with the scent of snickerdoodle cookies.  This is a heavenly smell and produces an equally heavenly end product) that is then soaked with the traditional 3 leches, but with goat’s milk replacing the cream, and further fortified with chocolate to make a unique chocolate milk soak.  This lightly sweet, slightly chocolaty and caramel cake is served with Brazil nut streusel (for crunch and a nice nut flavor that resembles the Macadamia nut), acai purée (a small dark purple berry valued for its high nutritional content and subtle blueberry flavor), candied cocoa nibs (a pure form of chocolate) to enhance the chocolate notes in the dish, and cajeta chantilly (whip cream sweetened with cajeta) to balanced out the heavy liquid with a cloud like aura.

This dish is reflective of the season.  This is a spring dish in the ingredients used, the textures represented, and the earthy presentation.  This dish is modeled after the soggy spring, with lush, muddy ground waiting to sprout new growth.  The chocolate soak mimics the wet and fertile ground.  The streusel mimics broken up, freshly tilled soil in appearance and texture.  Because of limited local seasonal availability,  I used the hard to source acai berry to add a fruity flavor that interacts very well with the established flavors of the cake.  Early spring, right off winter, is the season to focus on frozen and preserved foods, and highlight them in the menu when you have the chance to search to globe for ingredients.  If you are going to use a frozen product, you mind as well use one that invokes curiosity and is not readily available to the average person.

Finally the whipped cream adds such a soft touch, light as the spring’s warmth, to round of the overall mouth feel.  The flavors are not too bold, except for the tiny explosion of flavor in the cocoa nibs- as a final lasting impression.

 

 

All Together Now

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Apple allspice strudel with oatmeal streusel, bay leaf Bavarian cream, candied marcona almonds, rum cider glaze.

Apple strudel with streusel, just because it’s hard to tell the two things apart.  I thought, let’s put them both on to save confusion.  The streusel compliments the strudel in this German themed dessert.

The apples are cooked lightly in sugar, butter, and rum, tie together with 3 layers of phyllo dough brushed with allspice infused butter, a lot of butter.  The rum is represented again in the glaze, because traditionally apple strudel is made with rum soaked raisins on the inside.  I skipped the raisins and doubled up on the rum to compensate for missing dried fruit bit.  The strudel is crisp, flaky, buttery, tender, and softly sweet on the inside.

The candied almonds add texture and provide light caramel flavor for added depth.  The oatmeal streusel adds another layer of crunch, because I am texturally obsessed when it comes to composing a plate.  That, and because who can remember which is the German dessert wrapped in layers of flaky dough, and which is like a cookie without the egg?

I love bay leaf with apples in the winter, the flavors go well together like two lovers holding hands.  Bavarian cream has a mousse like texture: fluffy, creamy, and smooth.  There is just the subtlest amount of cinnamon, just to warm it up a touch.  This dish is a rare example without any added vanilla, aka the flavor of the gods.  I skipped it because it can become commonplace, an ever represented ingredient that can sometimes get lost in the medley of flavors.  I wanted the bay leaf and the apples to shine on there own, taking center stage in the mouth.

Toasted Love

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Finding flavors alive in the dead of winter is not the same as the flourishing spring, but we can still get that feeling of excitement and jubilee in this frozen wonderland.

For this dish I focus on the flavor of the amazing Maillard reaction, or more widely know as toasted.  The Maillard reaction is similar to caramelization , but the flavor is not as strong.  This is the magic spot that occurs before caramel, it is a browning process when the sugar reacts with amino acids, around 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is what happens when you put bread in the toaster, it is what happens when you start to smell the cookies baking in the oven.  The Maillard is amazing, and I love it.  That is why I chose to focus on this beautiful reaction for Valentine’s  day brunch: I did it for love.  I did it because Milliard represents that toasty warm feeling of butterflies in your stomach, stars in your eyes, a smirk on your lips, a giggle under your breath.  The feelings of love, the feeling a coziness, the feeling of comfort, content, and closeness.

I want to represent various flavors of the browning process, to create a subtle yet complex taste.  There is caramelized white chocolate ganache – toasty, sweet, creamy, and downright heavenly, brown butter milk solids- nutty, rich, and aromatic, oatmeal streusel- for texture and to add comfort, a touch of cinnamon for warmth, and finally a coffee cake sweetened with unrefined sugar- to add depth, to add a unique sweetness, to add character.  This is topped with a light sherry vinegar and unrefined sugar glaze, to add pop to the sugar, to give definition to the toasty and sweet flavor profiles.

The taste of love, the feeling of comfort, the joy of winter.