Thursday, August 25, 2011

BEST.CHOCOLATE.CHIP.COOKIES.EVER.

You just can't go wrong with a classic chocolate chip cookie. I would have to say it's my favorite dessert of all time.  When it comes to the classic dessert, I've always been a Tollhouse girl. UNTIL NOW! Don't get me wrong, I'd be happy as a clam if Tollhouse was the only chocolate chip cookie I was ever able to consume again. BUT, when my best friend Kalle introduced me to a different chocolate chip recipe that simply blew me away, my world was opened up. There's life beyond Tollhouse...you have to make it to believe it! 

Kalle found this HERE from Tender Crumb's blog. It comes from famous chocolatier Jacque Torres and it's supposed to be a secret. Whoops! Guess the secret's out!

Jacques Torres' Secret Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
Makes twenty-six 5-inch cookies or 8 1/2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cookies

Ingredients
1 pound unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.
- Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
- Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies.
- Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Few notes from my personal experience of making these cookies:
  • Per Tender Crumb's recommendation, we put the dough in the fridge for 24 hours before baking. The cookies came out so freaking delicious that I am afraid to NOT put the dough in the fridge for 24 hours. Plan ahead and DO IT!
  • We used Ghiardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, and almost 2 bags.  The more chocolate the better.
  • This recipe makes a TON of cookie dough. In fact, it was almost comical to see it swishing around the mixer considering it definitely didn't fit in all at once. Yes, you can cut the recipe in half, but you might as well just make the whole batch and freeze the rest for later. The cookies are also pretty large. So one or two (or 7) will be enough to satisfy you at a time.
  • Yes, you have to buy pastry flour and bread flour for this recipe. I'm going to need you to just do it. It's worth it.
A few mouthwatering pics (the first three are from Tender Crumb):








Now that I've figured out my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I wish I had my grandmothers skills for making her cookies rise! Grandma's chocolate chip cookie rise was legendary, and only my Aunt Ro can come close to replicating it. Does anyone have any tips for helping cookies rise instead of turning out "flat?" Try out these cookies to make everyone in your household happy :) 

Be safe everyone on the East Coast - Hurricane Irene is on the way!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sweeter Than The Tea

Happy Tuesday all! I have a quick post here to start off your day with a dose of cuteness...

When I was in Asheville recently (you can read about my fabulous trip HERE), I bumped into an adorable little kiosk called "Sweet Tea Clothing Co." The kiosk sells a line of clothing called: Sweeter than the Tea and fabulous mason jar garland lights! Let's take a look:

 I LOVE these mason jar garland lights. You can buy a string of 12 jars for $34.00, or they can make you a custom strand! These would be absolutely perfect for a backyard wedding. I hope I get a chance to use these in the near future! You can buy them HERE.





They also sell a line of clothes for babies and adults with their signature tagline, "Sweeter than the Tea." You can personalize it by state. Between you and me, I am not usually a big fan of "Southern themed" taglines...(i.e. G.R.I.T.S. - Girls Raised in the South...just not cool)... BUT, this "sweet tea" line is just too cute! I can just picture a cute little baby wearing one of these shirts :)


Order some sweetness for yourself or a friend HERE! Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Asheville - 2011 Version

Happy Monday all! I have so much to share with you about my fabulous long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. The main topic of this post? That would be FOOD. You've been warned.

You might remember from this post that we take a trip to Asheville, North Carolina almost every year. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I am going to plagiarize myself and just copy my description from last years post:

This past weekend, Mr. Fo and I took a trip to Asheville, NC. Asheville is a wonderful town filled with the following: 1) The famous Biltmore Estate 2) 9 different Beer Breweries 3) Hippies. Tons of hippies. 4) Amazing natural and organic food. 5) Mountains. 6) Independent coffee houses (i.e. coffee houses that have signs in the window that say "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks.")

Mr. Fo and his family have a special connection to Asheville as they lived there for several years while Mr. Fo was in elementary school. They still go back every summer to play golf at the GORGEOUS Biltmore Forest Country Club.

I tagged along this time, and I am so glad I did. 

Okay, enough plagiarizing myself, it's time for some new material:

While Mr. Fo and Mr. Fo Senior (my father in law, who might be upset I am referring to him as the "Senior") spent the daytime playing golf, I found several ways to occupy myself.

I spent a good chunk of time perusing the Screen Door, a funky antique furniture mall with so many cool knick nacks and decor items. I found a bunch of cool glass bottles I will be using for my picnic photo shoot this weekend. 

They had an entire wall of cool signs, like this lovely one:


I also spent some time at an excellent local Farmers Market, Asheville City Market.


I tasted fresh goat cheese, had a watermelon mojito popsicle and met the author of this book:


This cookbook is loaded with beautiful photos and simple recipes using fresh ingredients. The author, Sheri Castle, was so sweet and chatted with me for awhile. Sheri has been a recipe developer for years and has worked with many magazines and other publications - cool job, right?! Check her out here!

Asheville has some excellent shopping. I love how they support their local artists and vendors.



I was also delighted to find that one of my favorite bake shops, Bake It Pretty, had its storefront in Asheville! The store was just adorable, and I highly suggest visiting if you are in the area! If you can't make it to Asheville, check out their darling baking accessories online.


I broke up my day of exploring with a mid day snack at Curate, a delicious Spanish tapas place in downtown Asheville. I sat at the bar watching the open kitchen work their culinary magic.


I had a mini snack of freshly baked bread, tomato preserves and manchego cheese. I don't understand how something this simple, could be this flavorful, but it absolutely was. It's proof that good, fresh ingredients are essential. I wish I could have tasted more on the menu, but I'll be back!


I also spotted a celeb:


That would be Mr. Woody Harrelson, who is in NC shooting a movie. I could tell by his quick gait and his staring directly at the ground that he didn't want to be recognized. Good thing I always have my trusty celebrity identifying radar that allows me to spot celebs under any circumstances. Did anyone else ever find Woody Harrelson kind of cute? Just me? Please advise.

Let's fast forward to dinnertime (why not, right?). Mr. Fo and I enjoyed an amazing meal at Corner Kitchen, another restaurant where fresh, seasonal ingredients reign supreme. The restaurant is located in a charming old house, which just adds to the experience.


Each night they serve a different mini appetizer, or an "amuse-bouche," as they say in France. (Amuse-bouche is defined as: Similar to but not to be confused with hors d'oeuvre. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite.)

Our amuse-bouche (a phrase that I will now use as often as possible), was a plantain chip with fresh black bean curd and a ____ sauce. (I can't remember what kind of sauce.) Let's just say this little bite of heaven was so good that we kissed up to the waiter to get a few rounds....YUM!


I had basil pesto salmon with soft Parmesan polenta. Delectable.


I was smitten to find out that the restaurant had recently hosted some famous guests.



I wonder if the president and his lady enjoyed their amuse-bouche as much as I did. (Please note: Despite the tense state of our economic times, please keep all mean-spirited comments to yourself. This is a FUN blog with no room for political drivel. Thanks friends :) )

 The next evening we celebrated the close of the golf tournament. Biltmore Forest Country Club threw an amazing New York City themed reception and completely outdid themselves! The reception was chock full of interesting food presentations...it was an event planners dream! I am pretty sure everyone thought I was crazy because I took about a million pictures - I claimed it was "research."

Check out the mini appetizers presentation with the lit displays:



There was a "Little Italy" station that was so authentic it had hanging cured meats!




Chinatown was represented with its own station complete with a Chinese dragon. You will never guess what the dragon was carved from...MARGARINE. The back of the dragon is cardboard, and the front with the designs is made from margarine. I can't make this up. Maybe margarine carving is a thing, but I was unaware of it!





NYC's famed skyline was also represented. This was hand cut using foam board. The windows were cut out individually and backed with tracing paper. Shine a light through the back of the skyline and boom - you've got city lights!


Have you ever seen so much shrimp? Mr. Fo and Mr. Fo Sr. about about half of this...


Let's talk desserts, shall we? In addition to mini cannolis (swoon), mini tiramisu, and mini mousse, there were mini ice cream cones with your choice of homemade hazelnut or vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was scooped with a melon ball scooper and was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen.


The flower centerpieces were all lit up which was very chic:




The mantel decoration was unique as well:


Hello Statue of Liberty ice sculpture!


And Helloooo liquor luge carved in the shape of the club's logo!


There was even a throwback vintage candy display inspired by Coca-Cola. The inspiration came from an old picture found from the club's early days:



After all that, are you tired? Hungry? I know I am. I hope enjoyed my obsessive photos and culinary tour through Asheville. I certainly did! If you haven't been to this divine city, I suggest you go asap! It has so much more to offer than just the Biltmore Estate (which is absolutely wonderful in its own right - a must see). 

I guess it's back to the real world for me! Have a great week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cork Mania!


Todays post is all about corks, corks and more corks! To help make my May bride's wedding more unique, we are using wine corks in all aspects of the decor. I did a Pinterest search for "corks weddings" (OMG Pinterest, btw), and here are some ideas. We also have a super cool idea for a guest book using corks, but I'll surprise you with that after the wedding :)












Hosting a wine and cheese party? Use corks for decor like I did for my Wine and Cheese Tablescape.


This afternoon I am headed to Asheville, in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. I am tagging along on my husbands golf tournament. I plan to relax, take in the beautiful mountain air and bum around Asheville, a great city jam-packed with funky shops, interesting people and fantastic food. 


Have a great rest of the week and weekend!  
 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sparklers!

Hope you all had a sparkly Monday :) 

Before I hit the hay, I wanted to show you a really cool website I found today that's all about ...


I have several brides this fall and next year who plan to use sparklers for their big "send off", and while they are beautiful on their own, the extra details make them even sparklier (not an actual word, I know)...

All photos pulled from Sparklers Online






I hope you have a sparkly good nights rest! (I just can't help it.)