Recently… A Dinner Party

On Sunday, I had a couple of friends over for a little dinner party! In the spirit of trying new things with my blog, here’s a little instagraphic of the meal–the main course of which did not make it onto Instagram since we were so excited about diving in!

A dinner party

I made Joy the Baker’s tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits. It was so good! Heirloom cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, and basil, with fluffy, baked with tangy buttermilk biscuits on top. Super easy–the hardest part was the onions!–and great for a little get together. On the side, I just put together a simple spinach and fresh herb salad with this shallot-dijon vinaigrette. The perfect end of summer meal. (Can you believe it’s September!?)

And then, even though I had made browned butter cupcakes the day before, I wanted something lighter, so I made another cake–just a simple vanilla guy–with fresh vanilla bean whipped cream and raspberries.

Plus, my friends brought the prettiest sunflowers! (Which, miraculously, lived untouched and thriving for a full two days on my table before one of the cats started chewing on them!)

PS: I also got my haircut last weekend if you’d like to further neb into my life!

Chelsea Lives: San Francisco

It’s time for another Chelsea Lives post! At the beginning of August I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco for work. While there I of course indulged in as many foodie recommendations as I possibly could! From start to finish, here are my favorites.

Blue Bottle Coffee, specifically its outpost at SFMOMA, had been on my list for years ever since I found out that they employ a pastry chef whose duty it is to create desserts inspired directly by their permanent collection. (DREAM JOB.) Before I found out about this, a dear friend and I had had a similar idea, which is why there’s a pitifully small section of this site devoted to art-inspired treats. Turns out I just can’t bring myself to combine my day job (thinking about art) with my hobby (baking!), as much as I’d like to (there’s only so much research I can do in a day, and fancy art treats do in fact require research!)–so needless to say I was THRILLED that my work trip brought me to SFMOMA so that I could finally try these desserts.

It was a hard sell between the Mondrian cake and the Thiebaud cake, but I was running on low steam after a long flight in, so I went for espresso and the Thiebaud, a yellow cake with coffee ganache and vanilla buttercream. Oh my god–I think this is the best cake I have ever had in my life. The coffee wasn’t overpowering and the buttercream was this perfect, silky texture, while still being thick and rich. I went and visited the Thiebaud painting afterwards and I swear it really was like I had just eaten a slice of the cake right out of the canvas.

Long story not short: Caitlin Williams Freeman is my idol.

Speaking of best things ever in my life–which pretty much is the caption for every picture in this post since food in California is AMAZING–burrata salad. Agh! Burrata is one of my favorite non-dessert treats. Who can resist mozzarella and heavy cream encased in more mozzarella!? Three cheers for whatever Italian came up with that genius idea. And this salad, with deep red tomatoes, arugula and herbs, good quality olive oil, and a generous helping of S&P was its perfect complement. I found it at Cowgirl Creamery‘s little take-away counter in the Ferry Building, an overwhelming mecca of fancy gourmet food stuff. Between an outpost of Miette Patisserie, Scharffen Berger chocolate, and Ciao Bella, I was definitely a happy camper.

The next day I went to much-hyped Tartine Bakery for lunch. It definitely lived up to the hype and may have changed my tune about underbaked baked goods. I love a gooey, sugary, doughy baked good, but this scone… Wow. Just wow. The density of flavor thanks to baking it to that awesome caramel hue is out of this world. New baking resolution: Fear not burning, embrace caramelization.

I also had a delicious sage/lemon/pecorino grilled cheese for lunch, don’t worry–a girl does not live on scones alone (though perhaps she does live on scones and a combination of various types of cheeses).

I met up with a friend and we had coffee at Blue Bottle! I wanted to try the New Orleans iced coffee on Sara’s recommendation, but since I’d been caffeinating myself throughout the day, I thought it best to stick with something decaf, which they couldn’t do with the premade iced coffee. Also, San Francisco is gloriously chilly, which I of course loved thanks to my bizarre affinity for 40-60 degree weather, so a hot latte was perfect. Blue Bottle’s coffee is ridiculously good. I am still regretting not bringing home a tiny bag of beans.

For dinner, it was a famed Delfina pizza. The line was ridiculous so we got it to go and ate it in Mission Dolores park (thus the grassy backdrop for above dinner). It was awesome. The perfect combination of doughy and crispy and some of the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy.

For dessert: Bi-Rite Creamery, which is just around the corner from the park. AHHH!!! This is my new favorite place in the world. Okay, one of like 25 favorite places in the world, but still. Certainly up there as one of my favorite ice cream places, second only to San Crispino in Rome. This ice cream is crazy! Anywhere that sells anything honey lavender flavored has pretty much stolen my heart, but seriously, this beats out Wisconsin custard by a mile. (Sorry, Wisconsinites. I still love a Leon’s malt, but even that comes only so close to Bi-Rite.)

And actually, I’m not even that big of an ice cream person. Further proof that this ice cream is insanely good.

I have actually thought about that honey lavender ice cream every day since getting home. I’ve been considering buying an ice cream maker and the Bi-Rite Creamery cookbook solely to attempt its recreation. Stay tuned.

Last but not least, I snuck into Craftsman and Wolves (again on Sara’s recommendation) before my meetings on my last day there and it’s got to be one of the most beautiful coffee shops I have ever set foot in! Everything is really well presented in San Francisco, but this place takes the cake. The display cases are like those in an art gallery–precise, designed, intentional. Really beautiful. I wasn’t blown away by the muffin or the coffee, but it wasn’t bad by any means. (Poor muffin, it just couldn’t compare after Tartine the day before.)

In conclusion: San Francisco, I think you’re pretty awesome. Writing this post made me remember how delicious your food is and how much I loved your weather. Now I’ll stop typing to you as if you are a person and put you on my list of places to convince my family to vacation next so I can get back there sooner than later (hint, hint, Mom, I know you read this blog).

PS… What did you think of the graphics for this post? I thought I’d jazz up my Instagram photos in Photoshop a little. Would love to know what you think!

Chelsea Lives: Toronto

It’s time for something a little bit new!

I’ve always enjoyed posting photos of my random travels on this blog. Since they are usually food focused, it hasn’t felt too far away from my point of view. But I thought up this silly little name for these sorts of posts and couldn’t resist (Chelsea Lives! Hah, get it–like Chelsea Bakes! But not baking, ’cause I’m living my life! I didn’t need to explain it, did I? Ah, well–what would this blog be without a healthy dose of my characteristic rambling). Also, I have been wanting for a while to create my own guide to Milwaukee, so that is in the pipeline too–and is how I came up with “Chelsea Lives” in the first place.

So, it’ll take me a bit of time to do my city justice, and in the meantime, I’m applying the moniker to a few of the places I have been lucky enough to travel to this summer!

First up is Toronto! A trip six years in the making. I went on my birthday to visit one of my very best friends (that’s us above), who had devised five days filled with everything that I love: desserts, coffee, beaches, super cool people, and her (cue the “aww”‘s). This post will, naturally, focus on the edibles. Observe…

COFFEE! There were two spots that were my favorite coffe-wise: the first is not the one that is pictured above. It’s Ezra’s Pound, which remains the best coffee I have EVER had outside of Italy and certainly the best iced coffee. Mainly because it’s an iced americano, not straight-out iced coffee, and they use coffee ice cubes. I literally have thought about that iced coffee every day since that trip. And I was in Toronto over a month ago now. Sigh.

The place in the two pictures above, though, is also quite good: Little Nicky’s! A totally adorable, retro little spot with great decor and pretty darn good coffee. The pastries are not bad, but what’s really awesome (and, I believe, what they’re known for) are the freshly made mini-doughnuts, pictured above. They pop out into this pretty ceramic holder at the end of this old time-y doughnut making machine. How can you go wrong at a place with fresh hot cinnamon doughnuts in a little paper cone?

For my birthday, we had a long, leisurely lunch at one of my new favorite tea spots in the whole world: Red Tea Box! The savory food was so-so, but the tea and desserts were INCREDIBLE. Above is the white peach jasmine tea and lavender lemonade.

We had the strawberry bento box for dessert. You guys, I cannot even begin to tell you what was in this treasure trove of tiny, strawberry inspired miniature treats, but I will try… strawberry bon bons, strawberry lemon cake, strawberry almond cake, chocolate strawberry ganache tart, roasted strawberry shortcake, strawberry lavender mascarpone tart… And those are just the ones I can remember. I have never had more fun eating a dessert in my life!

We had dinner at Terroni–a painfully, gloriously hip Italian restaurant that was right up my alley (they played a techno remix of a teach yourself Italian tape in the restrooms–I mean, washrooms). Here are the fried zucchini flowers… crispy and delicious.

Back home after dinner, we had (tiny miniature) birthday cakes! (Naturally we’d taken two to go from Red Tea Box for later celebrations.) The pink is white chocolate rose and the other is lavender honeycomb. They were quite yummy. This reminds me that I need to procure some honeycomb to bake with.

Side note: This is where my friend went to college… it’s Hogwarts. Basically.

After we went to the beach one morning, we stopped at Frangipane Bakery for a take-away box of cookies: molasses cookie, lavender shortbread, lemon shortbread, sour cherry tart, and a pecan tart. The sour cherry tart and the lavender shortbread were my favorites.

On the last day, before I had to leave to fly home, we went to an amazing vegan restaurant, Live, for brunch. Seriously, when vegan food is done right, it is sooo good. I was full the rest of the day and I couldn’t even finish this dish! Here is their gluten-free waffle with maple cashew cream, berry jam, coconut whipped cream, and lemon sugar. I still can’t believe there was no dairy at all in that gorgeous plate. Plus the salad dressing was to-die-for good–I’ll be attempting to recreate that one for years, I’m sure. Also, not pictured is the mango lassi cardamom smoothie. Mmm.

After a lounge on the grounds of Spadina House, I headed back to the Midwest. There aren’t enough words that could thank my best friend for such an incredible birthday trip. I’ll just say this: I am so lucky to have you in my life. Thank goodness ArtCat brought us together. Now go drink some water!