How to Grow a Business

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of meeting some friends-of-a-friend, the charming couple Justine Lynch and Tom McCauley.

A Brooklyn-based acupuncture, alternative medicine, and cookery duo, Justine and Tom have a great project in the works that seeks to incorporate joyful, conscientious eating as part of an overall body-loving approach to health. Sounds like good sense, no? And yet so many people still consider “healthy eating” to be synonymous with “boring” and “self-deprivation.”

Clearly these individuals’ brains are lacking in food, and therefore common sense.

Apothecary Kitchen, part of Justine and Tom’s up and coming holistic services center, Mountain, will focus on fresh, locally-sourced, organic foods that are treated with integrity and prepared simply to allow for maximal nutrient and energy benefit to the consumer. Like, for example, the salad of fresh greens they offered me, picked from their own rooftop garden. Or the moist, floral carrot cake baked with honey from their very own bees!

That’s right, this multi-talented couple can add urban apiculture to their list of accomplishments, as they tend to a hive on their roof situated amongst their potted garden plants. Right across the street from Prospect Park, their bees are probably responsible for pollinating half the flowers in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. 

Tom has a long history of chef work behind him, and he’s combining it with his and Justine’s knowledge of holistic medicine to help people eat better on a day-to-day basis.

Licensed acupuncturists, both, as well as specialists in Chinese herbal medicine, Taoist medicine, and bodywork, they’re working to create a space where people can care for every aspect of their physical selves, and by extension, their spiritual selves.


I think you’re all fairly familiar at this point with the importance I place on feeding the heart/soul simultaneous to feeding the body. But don’t for a moment think that only sugary, fatty, generally unhealthy items feed the soul! That salad they fed me took me on a mental trip to a lush sun-drenched garden where bees buzzed while the green leaves drank up the rays. I felt like I drank up the sun rays myself, just by eating them. (the greens, not the bees)

As for the carrot cake, suffice it to say I didn’t put my fork down until my plate was empty. Super moist, soft, dusted with powdered sugar and perfectly perfumed with honey, this is a great summertime treat - though it would also be perfect in the winter when you’re craving a dose of sunshine. Have you noticed how many of the recipes I post here incorporate honey? It’s happy-making, for small people and tall people alike.

Tom was good enough to share his carrot cake recipe with me and agreed to my posting it on here for all to see. Give it a try with some local honey from your area, or maybe a new varietal honey you’ve been dying to play with, or even carrots from your own garden!

And as for Tom and Justine’s project, Apothecary Kitchen within the larger framework of Mountain, pass along a little bit of your love and support to help make this beautiful vision into a reality. Check out their Kickstarter campaign here and drop a dollar (or several!) in the basket.

Then get back into the kitchen, cause the sooner you start this carrot cake the sooner you get to eat it!

Tom McCauley’s Honey Carrot Cake

Rampant Writings

I know I’ve been slacking with the posts the last couple months, but it’s not cause I’ve run out of things to write about - quite the opposite!

Fact is I’ve been putting my energies into another project. And foolhardy individual that I am, I’ve failed to bring it to your attention.

Must’ve slept through Marketing 101..

For the last several months, I’ve been doing all the pastry writing over at StarChefs.com! In case you’re not familiar, StarChefs is an industry publication aimed at foodservice professionals - chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, mixologists. It’s a super fun gig as I pretty much just talk with awesome pastry chefs and geek out about techniques, ingredients, products, and trends, and generally get really excited about what they’re doing.

Carrying out tastings across the country and around the world, StarChefs provides insight into the state of the industry and the direction it’s heading, recognizing Rising Stars across different disciplines, connecting chefs, and building a community based on our shared love of the industry. I got to go on my first tasting trip last week - Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Kennebunk (Maine) - and it was fantastic! I spent the week running around like a mad woman from one appointment to the next, perpetually stuffed to the gills, talking with chefs, typing up interviews.

To say that this sort of thing gets me going would be a gross understatement.

So anyway, without further ado I would like to direct your attention to the top of the page, where now resides a brand new tab: Writings. This page houses links to all of my StarChefs features thus far, and I will update it as they continue to be published. But don’t worry! I’ll still be writing here as well. And hopefully even some other places, if I can wrangle it..

Onwards and upwards!

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

Wowzers, sometimes life gets busy. But there’s so many tasty things going on that I want to tell you about! Most of all, I want to show you the wedding cake I made for my friends S&J a couple of weeks back (yeah, I meant to post it the next day, no, that clearly didn’t happen).

I make a mess when I bake at home..

This was not my first wedding cake but I’m still a fairly fresh-faced cake maker. Each one is awesome, different, incredibly intensive, and great fun! I really love the idea of doing occasion cakes, for the satisfaction of making something beautiful; for the challenge of disproving the commonly held notion that wedding cakes look good but don’t taste good; for the engineering and problem solving aspect of making a cake that clocks in at about 75 pounds but won’t collapse or slide or settle in a non-air conditioned room; and for contributing in the best way I can to someone’s super exciting celebration!

My first cake was back in 2011, for the wedding of two of my closest friends. It was in early April and their wedding flower was the artichoke (yes it’s a flower, it’s a thistle, and it’ll even bloom if you leave to its own devices). So I made them an artichoke cake. Well, actually I made them a chocolate-banana cake that kind of looked like an artichoke. I had a lot of help on this cake, it was a very manageable size, and overall it came off pretty well. A good start!

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Looks purply cause of the lighting, but really it was a lovely vegetal green.

I made a couple of cakes while in New Orleans, and then last summer I made a crazy nut-gluten-dairy free groom’s cake for an old friend and his bride who couldn’t enjoy their wedding cake without risk of death. That was a challenge, to say the least.

But this cake – this one just had to be delicious! And beautiful, of course. Done, and done:

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The banner on top says “Just Married” - made by the crafty bride herself!

Back in May we did a tasting in which I prepared three mini cakes for S&J, based upon a few flavor profiles we had narrowed it down to. They were looking for something light and summery, hopefully something you’d really want to eat on a warm June night. I made them a tiny coconut cake filled with lime curd and covered with vanilla-lime buttercream, a diminutive white cake filled with lemon curd and fresh berries and covered with vanilla buttercream, and a pint sized chocolate cake with raspberry mousse and raspberry jam between the layers, and ginger-orange buttercream on the outside. I really loved the coconut-lime cake but my friends opted for the vanilla-lemon-berry one.

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Strangely enough, I got feedback from more than one person that coconut-lime is not a “wedding cake flavor”.

Can someone clarify for me, what exactly is “wedding cake flavor”?? Cause I’m pretty sure it’s any delicious flavor you want it to be.

Ridiculous preconceived notions and their unfortunate deliciocity-limiting effects..

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I had my friend look around and pull together a bunch of photos of wedding cakes that she really liked so I could get a sense of her aesthetic. Zig-zags and chevrons made several appearances, though they had to battle it out with a mod interlocking ring pattern and a girlier design based in flowers. We thought about combining different graphic elements on different tiers, and incorporating all her wedding colors (purple, navy, and cream with green and brown accents), but our sketches started getting super busy. In the end the chevron design won out as something that both the bride and the groom really loved, it fit in with their clean, unfussy tastes, and it was unique and distinguished without being contrived or gimmicky. 

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Each layer got a generous slathering of lemon curd..

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..before being packed with berries.

For a 150 person wedding I made a 4-tier cake, each tier about 4” high. The base tier was 14”, then 12”, then 8”, then 6”. This would have allowed enough servings for S&J to save and freeze the entire top tier for their first anniversary celebration. Too bad the venue didn’t get the memo on that and proceeded to cut up the top tier first.. To be honest, I feel a lot better about the whole cake being consumed right then and there at the wedding while it’s fresh and delicious. Freezer-burned and possibly rancid cake doesn’t really make for a happy first anniversary.

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Each tier was iced in vanilla Swiss buttercream, which has a wonderfully silky, cloud-like texture. Once you try it you’ll never go back to the straight powdered sugar+butter kind.

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Also, fondant! S&J liked the clean look of fondant, as do I, but I was never keen on actually eating it - until I used this stuff! The white chocolate fondant from Albert Uster has a beautifully forgiving, slightly elastic texture, is a creamy neutral shade of off-white, and actually tastes good. Whaaaaat? It’ll cost ya, but it’s totally worth it. I used about half a bucket to cover these four tiers.

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Might seem counterintuitive to some, but my favorite part of creating a beautiful pastry is seeing someone appreciate its presentation, then dive in with unrestrained enthusiasm to consume it. Some clenched part of my stomach didn’t relax until we had the cake hacked into slices and I could see and taste for myself that it was as delicious as it was beautiful. Due to the top-tier mishap we ended up having about 15 extra servings, but as people were going up for seconds the whole cake was devoured within about an hour. A success, I’d say!

The happy, cake-addled couple!

I’ll throw my white cake, lemon curd, and vanilla Swiss buttercream recipes up here in the next few days. But if you don’t feel like making them yourself, give me a call! Whether it’s for a wedding, a birthday, a dinner party, or just cause you like cake, I would love to bake for you! Tarts are totally an option as well, and an especially great one during the summer months. In fact, most desserts are fair game. Tell me what you have in mind!

 I’ll deliver anywhere in Manhattan. Other boroughs are negotiable, and beyond that we can work something out.

You can have your cake and eat it, too!

An Abundance of Delicious

Dear lord, I have been eating so much delicious lately! Here are some of the highlights:

  • Fantastic omakase sushi dinner with my Pops
  • Tasty Japanese bakery goods
  • 5 days of gluttony in the Bay Area
  • A cookie-making date

Each of these points deserves a post of its own, so lets just start from the top.

Now I know I usually focus on the sweet treats that make me so very happy, but truth be told, savory gets me equally excited. The thing is, it’s easier to find quality savory food than quality pastry, which is why finding (or making!) great sweets seems so very special. But join me for a moment, as I step off the pastry train..

Within my family, I’m something of an anomaly. I eat everything. My relatives have a way of ruling out entire classes of foods - seafood, meat, spicy foods, offal, stinky cheese, most vegetables, even! - which often leaves me wondering a) how they find enough calories to stay alive, and b) DON’T THEY HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH THEY’RE MISSING OUT ON??

But I’m not a fan of proselytizing, so if they choose not to eat some things (many things), I’ll leave them be and just enjoy it myself. Luckily, I do have a few familial eating buddies who I can count on to enjoy a great meal with me - my dad and my Aunt L.

Recently I was recruited by my dad to join him in checking out a local sushi joint that’s received a lot of great press. It’s “local” to my parents, which is White Plains, NY - not necessarily where you’d expect to find some of NY’s best Japanese cuisine (I mean, with NYC right next door and all..). But Zagat gave ‘em a 29, Westchester Magazine rated it the best sushi in the county, and earlier in the year the Journal News ran a glowing profile of the tiny place.

It’s called Sushi Nanase, it’s tucked into the front of the Japanese market Daido on Mammaroneck Ave, and the whole restaurant is about the size of my parent’s living room. Four tables and a handful of seats at the counter overlooking the galley kitchen. That’s it. They only take reservations and will turn away walk-ins even if the restaurant is completely empty. We dutifuly reserved in advance, and opted for the omakase, which is the chef’s choice menu, entrusting ourselves to the skill and judgement of chef/owner Yoshimichi Takeda.

That was a good decision.

Suffice it to say that every single course put in front of us was interesting, incredibly subtle and nuanced, and (almost every one was) SO VERY DELICIOUS. Here’s a little photo journal of the experience:

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Sake! The “23” designation tells us that the rice was polished until only 23% of each grain remained, to remove every last speck of protein-and-fat-containing bran or husk. The center of the rice consists of purer starches, which ferment into a lighter, cleaner tasting sake.

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House brewed soy sauce - less salty than commercial brands, doesn’t overpower the flavors of the sushi itself.

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Warm appetizer: fish cake with tofu. This was very soft and delicate in texture, tasting just subtly of ocean. A well-balanced farce of fish meat and tofu, gently poached in a light fish stock. We ate at Nanase shortly after Passover, and I couldn’t help but think of gefilte fish (which I don’t like) as I ate this (which I did like).

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Cold appetizers (left to right): Pickled Japanese rhubarb; Grilled bamboo w. miso; Flan gelee; Japanese sweet potato; Sesame-crusted (cured?) sardine; Roasted baby eggplant w. Japanese mustard; Kidney beans. I particularly liked the sardine, which was salty and sweet and dark in flavor. The mustard on the eggplant was great, with a slow but inexorable power that unhurriedly rose through my sinuses and created a fireball behind my nose before dispersing completely.

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Raw scallops, garnished with Meyer lemon and truffle. This was incredible. The scallops themselves were perfectly silky and tender, their natural sweetness highlighted by the floral acidity of the Meyer and the earthy umami of the truffle. Wowzers.

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This is the only dish that didn’t really do it for me, and I will readily admit that it was due in large part to a mental block. While I have absolutely zero qualms with consuming caviar and fish eggs in many forms, something about the presentation of entire egg sacs (3 per serving!), with the interior vein intact, set my stomach fluttering. Ridiculous, and I usually don’t get hung up on these things. The dish itself was very mild and inoffensive - the eggs had been gently poached, were soft and ever so slightly gritty, had no strong (or even particularly interesting) flavor, and even the vein was tender. The poached ginger matchsticks on top were unremarkable as well. But while I did eat most of my serving, I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed it..

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This, on the other hand, was fantastic! Kampachi sashimi, topped with pepper, ponzu sauce, sesame oil, chive, and another sliver of Meyer lemon. Beautifully balanced flavors, between the delicately ocean-y fish, the tart/salty/dark complexity of the ponzu and the nutty sesame oil, and the brightness of citrus, chive, and fiery freshly-ground black pepper. Beautiful.

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Grilled sea bass, served with a spear of young ginger and a small, ugly, pickled mountain peach. The glaze on the fish was sweet, the meat itself incredibly tender and flaky and barely cooked. The young ginger was bright and sharp, while the peach was sweetly acidic. This was the most perfectly “done” piece of cooked fish I’ve had in a long time.

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And finally, the sushi (left to right): Fatty tuna (Otoro); Yellowtail (Hamachi); Medium-fatty tuna (Chutoro); Sea bream (Tai); Lean tuna (Akami); Fluke (Hirame); King Salmon (Sake); Sweet shrimp (Ebi); Sea eel (Anago). The rice was masterfully prepared, each grain tender and distinct, but clumping readily with its brethren to provide a platform for the fish. Each piece of sushi had a garnish to complement the fish, be it sweet, salty, or spicy. They were all fishy revelations, but for me the salmon, sea bream, and fatty tuna were transcendent.

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This stuff was incredibly indulgent - like the pork belly of fish. The heat of your mouth is enough to melt the fat, reducing the silky flesh to an indecent mouthful of liquid tuna essence. The rice and roe provided just enough toothsome texture to keep you from drowning in fat.

I don’t know about you, but I love fat.

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And to refresh the palate, a bowl of mango-passionfruit sorbet. Heaven.

At the end of this meal I felt a perfectly blissful satiety, physical as well as mental, that can only be described as gustatory euphoria.

Go eat at Sushi Nanase.