Monday, July 28, 2008

paula dean's cinnamon buns

frosted, originally uploaded by doesinheadlights.

Every time I make these, I am slightly ashamed to admit I used Paula Dean's recipe, but, despite the time it takes to make these deliciously gooey buns (about three hours from bowl to plate), they're the best homemade cinnamon rolls I have ever made. I've made them five times in the last year, including this batch for one of my best girlfriend's recent brunch.

Here is the recipe, although I make a few alterations. Cut the butter for the filling by at least two tablespoons, or the rolls will fall apart. Add a little cinnamon to the filling for more cinnamony goodness, even more if your cinnamon is old. I make the filling with homemade vanilla sugar, but that's just extra credit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

More fall preview shoes! These are from Dolce & Gabbana and they're at Neiman Marcus. If you've seen me walking around this summer, you'll notice I've rekindled my love for black and white. Here, I love the delicacy of the heel and shape combined with the starkness of the white piping against the black.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

I have been totally remiss and have missed all of the really cute shoes that have come out. These ballet pink and silver-sequined Pedro Garcia mary janes have officially taken me out of shoe hibernation. I could have missed them!

These shoes perfectly recall what ballet looked like to me from the inside: the veneer and sheen of costumes in the form of sequins, ribbon, tulle, lycra versus the hideous beauty of torn up shoes. And, just like my trusty pink slippers, these would look amazing with navy. Available at Net-a-porter, for $425.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

blais bliss

Whatever my opinion on reality television in general, Top Chef definitely ranks amongst my top three current television shows, and in fact beats out all other food related shows, including Alton Brown's Good Eats, if only because Good Eats is only a half hour long and Alton Brown keeps selling out to the Food Network and accepting gigs on other, fairly stupid shows. Anyway, I digress.

My dad shares my love for Top Chef and brings to the table a certain amount of common sense and foresight, and so decided to make a reservation at Richard Blais'--one of the, err, "Cheftestants" that made it to the season finale this season--Buckhead restaurant home as part of our July 4th celebrations. We weren't particularly sure what to expect; a late-evening telephone to the restaurant to check on the dress code introduced to us "Ted" (must have been a pseudonym) who informed my stepmother that ladies should come to the resto "sexy casual".

In reality, home is located in an old house, and has all sorts of fun charms, including real silver flatware left over from the previous occupant (another restaurant), enormous wine glasses and portholes into the kitchen (ask for table thirty for a great view). Sexy casual is an excellent way to describe the dress code and style, and even the menu, which features all kinds of twists on overwhelmingly delicious southern basics.

This post isn't really about the dreamy meal though, it's about the dreamy experience with chef Richard Blais, who took several minutes out of his busy evening of chef-ing it up at the kitchen of home to make the meal incredibly special for me. We checked that he was cooking when we arrived. That shocked me, as in true jaded New Yorker fashion I imagined that celebrity (or even semi-celebrity) chefs didn't cook in their restaurant kitchens all that often, and especially not on holidays. As we were left to our table (yes, the aforementioned table thirty), I witnessed Richard pow-wowing with some staff and perhaps due to my awkward and embarrassing reaction, he came over to greet my party and was as friendly as could be. He chatted with us and wished us a wonderful meal and we sat down and had one.

At the end of the meal when Richard was doing the rounds and the waitress came by to ask us if we needed anything else (we were bordering on stuffed over the cornbread cake with coffee ice cream, blueberries and caramel-butter sauce, not to mention the Coke float with vanilla-cardamom ice cream), I asked her if Richard would sign a copy of the menu for me. We were working on the check when Richard stopped by and asked us how our meal was and so on, not carrying my signed menu. I figured no one had told him or he had forgotten and since he was working I wasn't going to pressure him, but then, before ducking his faux-hawked head back into the kitchen, he asked if we'd like to see the kitchen. I stammered out a "yes, please" and he told us that our waitress would bring us in when we were done settling up and she did. She also brought me the day's menu which he'd drawn all over, and scribbled with birthday messages and other sweetnesses (my birthday is in forty-five days). Fans of the show will understand when I say that Richard showed us his nitrogen tanks and circulators, he introduced his protein chef and showed us where he approved the night's dishes. At the very end of the evening he shook my hand again and said he hoped to cook for me again.

I was too nervous to ask all sorts of intelligent questions and so on, but what really impressed me was his graciousness as a chef. I am guessing his run on Top Chef (a very successful run at that) has popularized the already nifty home, and I am sure he was busy enough without bringing a troop of six diners into his kitchen. Instead of shunning his guests, he was a charmer and a true host. He made me feel absolutely special and he guaranteed that I would travel to home again on a future trip to Atlanta. His faux-hawk may not be bobbing behind the portholes as he chugs water and furrows his brows, but his excellent, sometimes hilarious, food will be on the table, and that in itself is well worth the trip.

Friday, July 4, 2008

quick shout out to the atlanta cupcake factory

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory's somewhat homely website brings to mind the old-fashioned bakery's guileless interior. It's a small, bright shop with nothing but a two-by-two case of cupcakes on the counter, and nothing but water, milk and cupcakes on the chalkboard menu. The available cupcake varieties vary, perhaps daily, but it seems like almost every flavor has its charms. If you don't believe me, consider this: today, we (six of us) ordered one of every cupcake available (well, two each of the Red Velvet and Key Lime) and shared them, round robin style. We discovered that each cupcake yielded six frosting-laden bites. And that's the genius of the Cupcake Factory's miniature cakes. They aren't the gargantuan sugar bombs, baked in extra large muffin tins, that pass for cupcakes these days. They are the same size as the cupcakes your mother made using Duncan Hines mix in the kitchen you grew up in, except, for the most part, ten times more delicious because someone actually decided (rightfully) that making cupcakes, and cupcakes alone was the best idea ever. And they were right.

My one reservation is that the varieties based on white cake (the Sugar Cookie Dulce de Leche, Coconut and Sugar Cookie Chocolate) were dry. Otherwise, the cupcakes were moist and the creative frostings were truly standouts. The Key Lime was as creamy as the real thing. The frosting spread across the Chocolate Peanut Butter was so honestly peanut-buttery it could not be believed. I forfeited my bites of the Lemon Lemon and the Strawberry, but they looked like knockouts as well, bright yellow and pink respectively, and smelling strongly of fruit and sugar (that's a good thing!). The Carrot Cake had no raisins and no one had refrigerated the thing until the frosting was a solid log of cream cheese. The menu has some other awesome sounding flavors, including Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Mint, that weren't out today, but that's how the cookie crumbles when it comes to a real bakery, the sort of place that closes when the cupcakes run out. Charm and a sugar-high don't come cheap, with each delightful cup of joy and butter going for $2.50, but the Atlanta Cupcake Factory is a gem, completely worth a stop-in or a detour.

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory, located at 624 N Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306, is only open for retail sales Thursday through Sunday.