Brownies and Bouchon!

You can see me in the reflection.

As 2009 draws to a close, blah blah blah. I have nothing inspirational to write or words of wisdom. I’m just glad the year is over. A chapter in my life is done, complete, locked away never to be repeated. One thing I will repeat is a visit to Bouchon. This year I dined at Bouchon FOUR times. Three of those times were in Las Vegas. Yesterday I visited the new Bouchon outlet in Beverly Hills.

Edited to add this picture. I can’t believe I forgot to add it. Why am I the only one wearing color? I realize it’s winter, but we’re at Bouchon!! Oh well, they all look great.

Me, Aaron, Jen, Michelle

The service was outstanding. The waitstaff was very proactive. We had a long leisurely lunch, mostly discussing the chaos  that is my life (I apologize for being a conversation hog: Jen, Michelle, Aaron!). This time  instead of my usual salad and gnocchi, I had the soup du jour (butternut squash) and the croque madame without the HAM.

My friend Michelle wrote a more in-depth description of our experience.  You can read it HERE.

The dark things in the middle are pomegranate seeds

On brioche!

I can't seem to order anything else for dessert!

Even the bathroom is gorgeous.

I went on a baking binge right before Christmas and thanks to  C & H Sugar who sent me a gift card to use  to purchase ingredients, I added a last-minute item of brownie squares to my cookie plate.  I made this recipe, but with out the nuts–because there are some people in my family who do not like nuts. They may be the same people who like HAM.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

2010 is going to be AWESOME!!

Thomas Keller’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

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If you haven’t already baked these cookies that have taken the food blog world by storm, you must drop everything and make them NOW. Seriously, they caused an existential crisis in me. They are that GOOD.

At first, you take a bite and think: “it’s a chocolate chip cookie. it’s good” and then the flavor hits. AMAZING. It’s like an EVIL TWIN of the standard chocolate chip cookie. A little darker, a little mysterious, and very irresistible. And I’ve always been drawn to the bad boys. The recipe uses special dark (molasses) brown sugar, no vanilla, and makes you sift your chopped chocolate (two kinds: I used 41% milk and 70%)  to make sure there is no chocolate dust in the cookie.

In celebration of the opening of Bouchon Beverly Hills this month, I made Thomas Keller’s Chocolate Chip Cookies from his new cookbook Ad Hoc.

If you don’t know by now, I am a big fan of Bouchon. And that’s putting it mildly. I’ve been counting down the days for the local branch of Bouchon to open…but because of my travel and the holidays I probably won’t make it to the restaurant until after the New Year. 😦

Of course, now that I’ve tried the cookies I really want to go to Ad Hoc the restaurant.

You can find the recipe for these bad boys HERE. The recipe says to place 8 per sheet, I baked six per sheet and would suggest that number because they do spread.

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{twd} split level pudding pops

My idea for turning this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe–Split Level Pudding–into frozen pudding pops was a bust. I made 1/3rd of the vanilla pudding and the full-recipe of the chocolate ganache and decided to make frozen pudding pops.  I had enough to make 3 popsicles, but I could only successfully release one from the mold.newpic

But that’s okay because I had a fun weekend in Las Vegas with friends from high school. And I ate at Bouchon twice. Once for dinner and once for breakfast.

At Bouchon with friends

At Bouchon with friends

I will always *heart* the bread, but the sourdough waffles for breakfast were so amazing. I will never ever be able to make waffles as good as Bouchon’s. They were so perfectly light and crispy. And they were served with Tahitian vanilla butter.

The Bread and Me

The Bread and Me

And by the end of the weekend, my friends were all taking pictures of their food. In addition to eating at Bouchon, we ate at Tao and as luck would have it, the nightclub portion of Tao was celebrating their 4th anniversary and we got in VIP. Jennifer Love Hewitt was the host and also in attendance were P. Diddy and Tiger Woods.

P. Diddy at Tao

P. Diddy at Tao

We also ate at Tom Colicchio’s craftsteak. Where they gave us free Muscato with dessert because we were celebrating a friend’s birthday (and they customized our dessert choice, monkey bread, with a birthday message).

At craftsteak with friends

At craftsteak with friends

Thank you to Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla for selecting this week’s recipe. If you would like the recipe, vist his blog or buy the book.

Whole-wheat Pasta with Summer Vegetables

This recipe was inspired by the Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables recipe from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. I didn’t have the time to make the gnocchi and I wanted to veganize it for Vegan Tuesdays so I used some whole-wheat penne I had on hand instead. I also used Earth Balance instead of butter.

This is not a quick recipe, but it is simple and delicious. The flavors are fresh and the addition of the olives and lemon juice really make this dish. You can find the original recipe HERE.

Edited to add: I’m mentioned and quoted in today’s Washington Post Food Section. You can find the article HERE. Thanks to  Cheryl for writing a great article!

Honey-Wheat English Muffins

I’ve baked the English Muffins from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice before and they were delicious as written.  I made them again for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, but this time decided to make a honey-wheat variety. I used 1/2 traditional whole-wheat flour and added 1 tablespoon of honey instead of the sugar. I made them 2 ounces each  and was able to yield 8 instead of 6 muffins. They turned out great–light and fluffy and pretty tasty.

Or at least I thought so, until I tasted THE BEST BREAD EVER. I went to Bouchon for dinner while in Las Vegas. I can only dream of baking bread this good. The crust was unbelievable, it was just the right crunch, just sweet enough, and the inside was light and fluffy. It all just melted in my mouth. I bonded with the person that refilled our water over the bread. I was giddy and excited and he told me the bread was his favorite too. I can’t wait for Bouchon to open in Beverly Hills. (By the way, the rest of the meal was amazing–but this is about the bread!)

THE BEST BREAD EVER

THE BEST BREAD EVER