Friday, December 30, 2011

sachertorte, a new york christmas, and a 2012

Two days to 2012. Unbelievable how fast this year's flown by.

More importantly, two days to Sherlock season 2. As fast as the year has passed, I've been waiting 6 damn months for this damn season to get here, and the level of excitement and hysteria I have been fruitlessly trying to contain is inordinately high.

[Though, to be quite honest, it's not nearly as bad as it would have been had I watched it when it first aired in the US last October, but if that were the case, the BBC would have received quite a lot of strongly-worded emails at this point.]

Still, being home the past two weeks has done well for my impatience. Meaning, catching up with family and taking a trip up north with Yusra and the cousins has kept me busy.

New York is always a pleasure to visit, particularly this time of year. Understandably so, of course, since it's just lovely nowadays, bustling with shoppers lined up on every corner, bright and towering Christmas displays around Rockefeller Center, cafes and bakeries full to the brim with pumpkin pies and spicy lattes wafting through open doors and windows, sax and cello players circling Central Park and bringing melodies of Christmas carols against the breezy chill of winter weather. 

And even after Christmas, the excitement of a New Year and bright lights keeps the city in full swing.

We took our leave the day after Christmas, and after four full days down the street from Times Square, I figured it was enough for one trip. 

We visited my favorites, of course, which was a non-issue, but also discovered some new ones. Magnolia Bakery and Momofuku Milk Bar, in particular, were two that I was most excited about finally visiting in person. 

I've had Magnolia's recipe book in my Amazon wish list for months now, but have been holding off on purchasing it. After seeing the bakery and ordering a pumpkin spice cake with caramel cream cheese frosting, though, I'm thinking it's about time I dish out the money and get it shipped to my place. It's an absolutely darling bakery, stuffed to capacity full of people shoulder-to-shoulder ordering cupcakes and cookies, glass cases stacked with colorful lemon bars and mini cheesecakes, and cake stands holding some of the tallest and most beautiful cakes I've ever seen. And it was, quite predictably, unmatched in deliciousness. Yusra ordered a mini pumpkin spice cheesecake with one of the most satisfyingly creamy textures I've ever tasted, and the cake I ordered was unbelievably good, hitting a perfect balance of sweet and spicy. 

Such perfection in such adorableness. Unfair. 

Momofuku was another story entirely. Not in a negative way or anything; on the contrary, it was one of the most unique culinary experiences of my life, and if I could have it my way, I'd make a pitstop there every morning on my way to class from now until the day I die. It's not quite as diverse in its selection of treats as an ordinary bakery would be, but it's also not an ordinary bakery. We visited the Milk Bar on 56th (conveniently located two blocks from our hotel), and they had perhaps 3 types of beverage options and a small handful of bakery treats for sale. The treats themselves were nothing special; delicious, yes, but not anything extraordinary.

No, the real gem is their trademarked Cereal Milk, which I had in milkshake form, on about three occasions in two days. And it would have been more had we come upon it earlier in our trip.

You know when you pour yourself a bowl of utterly unhealthy and exceptionally sugary cereal? And the milk absorbs all the sugary goodness, so that once you've eaten everything out of the bowl, all you have left to do is very classily bring the bowl to your lips and drink up that leftover, liquid heaven? 

You know what I'm talking about. Those last few seconds of perfection before the bowl is empty. The cereal milk.

Well, Momofuku has totally taken that flavor and run with it. And it is absolutely brilliant.

I cannot even describe this milkshake to you. I mean, I am so in love. It has this buttery quality about it, which I assume comes from the cornflakes, with which they steep the milk before whisking in a bit of brown sugar for just the perfect flavor imaginable. 

I just. Ugh. I can't. I'll just shut up. 

In any case, that was the bulk of my trip: eating good foods. Finally visited Junior's Cheesecake bakery, which was kind of a surreal experience since I've been baking out of their cookbook for three years now. Surreal, and delicious. Also watched The Book of Mormon, which is quite possibly the funniest musical I have ever seen before in my life [and made me rather happy that the parental units did not come on this particular trip], and have had the soundtrack playing on loop in my head for the past three days.

Did all the tourist-y things that I've never done in the past, even when I still lived in Queens: Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and peering out at the city lights from the 86th floor of the Empire State building on Christmas night. It was, in some ways, kind of surreal: being in a city I've lived in, visited with frequency since moving, and yet, I saw it from a place I've never been before, and what I saw was something I'd never seen before. I'd walked those streets, but I never really looked at them until then. It was like a reminder that even the most ordinary things can be extraordinary, if you see them just a bit differently.

I don't know. It was a strange moment, but a nice one. Maybe something to keep in mind for 2012.

Other than that, just strolling through Times Square, doing a bit of shopping, and enjoying another trip to one of my favorite cities. 

We spent all of Monday on the road, quite literally, as all of the post-Christmas traffic was backed up for hours and hours. For a lot of the drive back I alternated between reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and thinking about what I would bake Hannah, whose 21st birthday was, incidentally, that same day. I knew it would have to be chocolate, of course, but didn't know what. Something different from last year's cheesecake, but nothing too extravagant.

And then I realized that  during our visit to Max Brenner, I picked up their dessert recipe book. And as soon as I got home, I flipped through it and decided on his Sachertorte. 

Max Brenner is, after al, the god of all things chocolate.

I'm not actually going to divulge the recipe for the cake, since I followed it straight from his cookbook, but I can assure you that it is delicious. Paradoxically airy and dense, bittersweet chocolate offset by a layer of black raspberry jam, encased in a layer of fluffy, bittersweet chocolate frosting. 

I suppose that doesn't actually make you feel better about not having a recipe, but perhaps will inspire you to look him up. He really is fantastic, and his recipe book is a delight.

Happy [belated] 21st birthday, Hannah-banana! I do hope Max Brenner's recipe was up to your standards of chocolate heaven. Love always.

So I suppose it's time I bid adieu to 2011. It's been an incredible year, upon reflection. Lots of traveling and spending time with good friends. Attending some fantastic concerts and watching some of the most quality television ever created. Reading some beautiful books and eating some incredible foods. Memorable experiences and exceptional memories. And a lot of smiles and laughter. 

Still uncertain about quite a lot of things, but a new year means a year of opportunities to figure them out. I anticipate more quality television, coffee dates, memorable experiences, and laughs in the future.

And I hope the same goes for you. 


  1. Love all the different photos! Thanks for the tip about Sherlock! You made my day!

  2. @Joy: Thank you so much, sweetie! And I hope the Sherlock is doing you well :)

  3. The cake was fantastic, as always and, is as it happens, gone. It was delish! Thank you so much!!! :)


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