Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crispy French Toast at Silk Road, Vdara Hotel in Vegas

First of all, let me say how lucky I feel that I get to travel to Vegas for work (for free!). Not only did I get to see a ton of new and awesome design products at the trade show, but I was put up at the newest hotel and casino property on the strip. For those of you not familiar with it, City Center opened in December 2009, and is comprised of two hotels, a large spa, five or something restaurants, and a pretty neat casino.

But let's talk about my room. Or rather, let's just look at it.

IMG_3609
{the dining area at the entry}

IMG_3610
{living room...to the right, out the window, was the Bellagio...I could see the water show from my room}

IMG_3626
{the bedroom...oh yes. pretty amazing.}

IMG_3617
{the bathroom}

IMG_3616
{my favorite part of the whole room...a tub that someone else had to clean}

Now let's talk about what I ate for breakfast my last day there. On our many trips in and out of the hotel during our stay, we kept passing by this venue called
Silk Road that looked like a nightclub. Metallic wallcovering, bright pinks and purples in the furniture, funky carpet...completely trendy. So it came as a shock that this place was not a nightclub or bar, but a breakfast and lunch venue. What? Look at the picture below...can't you just hear the music blaring?

silk_road_restaurant
{silk road, a breakfast and lunch destination, masquerading as a bar}

So, aside from the misleading nightclubbish vibe, this place has some pretty good (and, well...sort of expensive) food. I sat down for breakfast (all by myself - don't you just cherish those moments? I do), and was asked if I wanted coffee. Of course, I said. The coffee turned out to be an entire french press of Illy (the best coffee on the planet, hands down), which cost me $12. Yeah, they don't tell you that before you order.

On to the food. I felt like something sweet, so I went for the Crispy French Toast, with carmelized apples, cinnamon custard, and cider reduction. Guys. This was so good. Go
here and scroll down if you want to see a fuzzy picture (I was too hungry to snap one myself). The outside of the french toast was exactly what they said - crispy. And the inside? Warm and gooey and all yum. I guessed that the bread must have been coated in egg, then dipped in either sweet bread crumbs, or cornflakes, or something...I thought to myself, I must try to recreate this when I get home. Hmmmpf. Apparently this is not a new thing, judging from the results I got when I searched for something similar. There are no new ideas in this world, I tell you.

Nevertheless, I intend to make crispy french toast as soon as my schedule allows, perhaps tweak some recipes until I get a perfect result, and then I will post back here with my findings.

Up next...cupcakes for a baby shower! (Yay for
baby A!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vegas, baby!

vegas!

I've had barely any time to bake lately. I hate that. I did, however, manage to fit in a very lovely banana bundt cake (recipe here) on Sunday, which my husband and I have been happily munching on all week.

But guess what? I'm leaving again. This time...to Vegas! However, this trip will be for work (boo).

I intend on fitting in as many culinary adventures as I can. Wednesday night we're dining at the
S&W Steakhouse in the Wynn, and Thursday night we have reservations at Botero at Encore. Honestly, I'm not too thrilled about eating at two steakhouses in a row (I think I could easily be vegeterian if I had to), but hey, when you're dining on someone else's tab, you don't have much say (or room to complain), do you?

Last year (on my own dime!) I made it a point to check out the much-hyped
Lotus of Siam, which was, by far, some of the best Thai food I've ever eaten. It's the type of place you wouldn't even dare to check out unless someone recommended it to you. It's located in this abandoned-looking strip mall, next to a worn-out-looking laundromat. It was fantastic.

Aside from the fancy casino eateries, any other hidden gems I should check out while I'm there?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Frontera Grill in Chicago

frontera grill

Oh, Chicago. To say that I needed this vacation is an understatement. The main goal of this trip was to attend a friend's wedding on Saturday, but, seeing as I took a girlfriend with me, and we had no other plans other than going to the nuptials (my first Jewish wedding - it was amazing!), you can bet that we spent a good deal of our time shopping. And walking. And more shopping. Let's see, Filene's Basement (#1 AND #2...did you know there were two?)...check. Zara, H&M...check. All of Michigan Ave...check. You can see the trend, no?

And of course, we ate. Before we left, I made up a map of all the places I wanted to check out, and
Frontera Grill was one of them. Do you watch Rick Bayless on PBS? You know the one, the chef who specializes in Mexican fare, the one who pronounces everything Spanish just right? Well, this is one of his four restaurants in town, and, having seen his shows and seen what he prepares, I was all about trying to get us a table there for Saturday morning brunch. I called on Wednesday to make a reservation, only to be informed that they were already booked up. Disappointed - but obviously not discouraged - we decided to walk by the restaurant on Saturday to see if there was any way we could get a table. And aha! They take walk-ins. So, here's my tip: show up around 10:25 am (they open at 10:30), and you should get a table, no problem.

So what did we eat? To start, and to celebrate our awesome vacation weekend, we ordered mimosas. Mimosas with fresh-squeezed orange juice and hibiscus-flavored water, to be exact. Mimosas with a $14 price tag (!). But so worth it.

And for my meal? I ordered the Sapitos, a "trio of Xalapa-style gorditas (corn masa cakes) in chipotle-black bean sauce, each with its own topping: scrambled eggs, grilled chicken, chorizo and plantains, with homemade crema and queso fresco." My darling friend Christy ordered the same thing, but Erin went crazy and ordered the Hot Cakes Indgenas, which were Iroquois white corn pancakes with whipped goat cheese and piloncillo-agave syrup. Yes, I asked her if I could have a bite, and yes...I sort of finished them off when she said she couldn't eat any more.

Well-priced (except for those mimosas!) and well worth it. Check it out if you're in Chicago!

Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610

Monday, May 10, 2010

Flower Baking Cups

flower baking cups
Aren't these adorable? I snagged some at Crate and Barrel during my trip to Chicago this past weekend.

A more substantial (and Chicago-related) post to come next!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blackberry Key Lime Scones

key lime blackberry scones

The grocery store closest to my house (a whole three minutes away, thank goodness) is not exactly known for being the nicest place to shop. So much so, that some Memphians like to call it "ghetto". Which, honestly, I have to laugh at. The place is just fine. I've shopped at much sketchier grocery stores (ok, Kroger's) in my hometown of Cincinnati (Over the Rhine, anyone?). So, rather than look at it like that, I tend to see my grocery store for what it truly is: a goldmine.

Let's start with the basics. It's never uncomfortably crowded. The produce is always in stock, and never out of, say, arugula. They've got the sweetest lady working at the floral department, who is so nice and went out of her way to special-order some rananculus for me. I mean, who does that?

But the deal was sealed when I found key lime juice in the product section. I wasn't expecting to find it here, as the store typically doesn't carry your more hard-to-find ingredients. But there it was, hanging out with the lemon juice. I was elated. I'm very easy to please, as you may imagine.

I was also thrilled when these scones turned out. I couldn't turn down the blackberries at the store, either, so the only logical solution was to make key lime blackberry scones, right? A little about these: my first attempt at incorporating the key lime juice was to combine it with the sugar before blending it in. As this didn't result in a strong key lime flavor (barely any at all), I decided to top them with a key lime sugar glaze. That did the trick.

Blackberry Key Lime Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1tbsp key lime juice (you may want to add more, see my note above)
1/2 tsp salt (I used 3/4 tsp)
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" cubes and chilled
1/2 to 3/4 cup blackberries (I had to cut some of mine in half they were so big, hence the purple stains!)
1 cup heavy cream

1/4 to 1/3 cup key lime juice
3-4 tbsp powdered sugar

1. Position your rack in the middle of the oven and set to 425 degrees.
2. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. With a fork, mash together 1 tbsp key lime juice and sugar until well incorporated. Whisk the lime juice/sugar mixture into the flour mixture. Make sure that you really mix this in, as it's a bit clumpy and won't blend in as easily as dry sugar.
3. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gently stir in your blackberries. Transfer to large bowl, and mix in the heavy cream with a spatula. Mix until it just comes together (now the dough will be very tacky/sticky).
4. Transfer dough to a dry surface and knead for 5-10 seconds. Press the dough into an 8 or 9" round pie plate, then cut the dough into 8-equally sized wedges. Use a sharp angular spatula to transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake until scone tops are light brown, about 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10-15 minutes.
6. While the scones are baking, whisk together 1/4 to 1/3 cup key lime juice and the confectioner's sugar until it reaches a thin icing consistency (you may have to add more of either one or the other to get just the right texture and taste). Drizzle onto the slightly-cooled but still warm scones (to simplify your cleanup, just set the wire racks on a large dinner plate to catch all of the icing run off).

Enjoy!


OH! I forgot to mention that I'll be going to Chicago this weekend for a wedding/girl's vacation! I. Can't. Wait. With work and work and more work lately, this is a much-deserved break. All that to say - fellow foodies, what restaurants should we check out? How about any neat fabric/craft shops? Vintage stores? I think our goal for the entire weekend is to eat, relax, shop, and eat some more. Any suggestions, just leave it in the comments!