Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh my Darling!

When it rains, it pours. I was rather proud of myself for abstaining from cookies at lunch on Friday and a chocolate ice cream cake at a party that same afternoon. Such self control! It was worth it to save room for an iceberg-sized chunk of luscious cheesecake from Darling's Cafe and an array of tapas-style desserts at Bar Ferdinand. I know. The dessert opportunities are ridiculous this time of year, so one MUST be choosy. And did I choose well! The classic Philly cheesecake with chocolate crust was divine - dense, rich and creamy like it should be. Of course, I haven't met a Darling's cheesecake I didn't love so if you haven't stopped by for a slice, put it on your goals for 2008. Later that night I had dinner with the girls at Bar Ferdinand and, I have to say, I LOVE this place. The decor is fun and innovative with inlaid furniture and matador-themed tile mosaics gracing the walls. High-energy, the room starts buzzing at happy hour but it's not so loud that you can't comfortably converse at your table. After 15 small plates and 2 pitchers of blood orange margaritas, we moved on to the new dessert menu. The almond ice cream with a smear of berries was yummy and the chocolate torte was ok.
However, the churros con chocolate were amazing! I have to say I had my doubts (thanks to a not-so-fondly remembered peppery pot de creme from white dog) but this spicy, melted chocolate was dark and strong with just the slightest bite. The sugar crusted andalusian doughnuts nicely balanced both the taste and texture of the chocolate. I capped off the night with an ingenious variation of french toast - baked in apple cider with cinnamon and orange zest, this dish was queen of the night!

Darling's Cafe
21st and Spring, 20th and Pine
Bar Ferdinand
N. 2nd and W. George

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Flying Monkeys!

Great name for this little patisserie in the Reading Terminal. I'd been hearing that their cupcakes were all the rage so, after our lab holiday lunch outing, we skipped the fried ice cream at Penang and went in search of the elusive perfect cupcake. Judging from the website, they have quite a collection of interesting little frosted numbers, but we were disappointed with the variety on Friday. The moist cakes themselves are quite good, vanilla or chocolate, with the mushrooming top cooked to a crisped edge perfection (takes me back to the muffin top Seinfeld). However, frosting is what really makes the cake for me. I love a sugary whipped buttercream that's good enough to entice you to lick the paper wrapping, leaving no trace behind - c'mon, you know you've done it. Maybe if I'd gone with a standard buttercream or even the creamcheese topping, I've have been satisfied, but I pushed back traditional constraints and sampled the espresso and Jim Bean, both on chocolate of course! The frosting was decidedly slimy - the texture ruined it for me and I'm backed up on this one by the 3 year old with whom I shared. The quest lives on!
Flying Monkey Patisserie
12th and Arch Sts

Saturday, December 1, 2007


One of my close friends defended her PhD yesterday (alleluia, they DO let you out) and we all celebrated by dining at a more recent addition to the Philly scene, La Fontana della Citta. This restaurant recently filled a vacancy which had been open for 10 years and there is often a line seen snaking out onto the busy sidewalk, so I was excited to see what the fuss was all about. Upon entering, I was immediately overwhelmed by the grandness of the high ceilinged space and the ornate furnishings. The noise level was quite high and servers rushed to and fro filling water glasses and bread baskets and guiding throngs of people through the extensive menu choices. My penne puttanesca was quite good and the portobello pepperoni arrosto exceptional, however, the gnocchi al gorgonzola while creamy, disappointingly lacked the pungent strength of its namesake cheese. But this blog is dedicated to desserts so let's move on to the good stuff.

I have a slight obsession with cannolis and love few things more than a creamy rich, yet not overtly sweet tube of ricotta and mascarpone, balanced by its crunchy (never soggy) shell. Imagine my disappointment when I traveled to Tuscany this summer, only to realize that cannoli are native to Sicily and are only found frozen in Tuscany! Last night's particular sample had an inventive twist with what i think was chunks of coconut in the cheese enhanced by a touch of coconut rum perhaps. The shell, which I really only notice if it is bad, was good but the filling was perhaps a little heavy on the marscarpone for my taste. I prefer the grittier sweetened ricotta.

The tartufo was tasty with a real cherry in the center, but rather than being dipped in solidified chocolate it was dusted with cocoa and quickly melted into a puddle.

Sorbets were a nice, light treat adorned with the rinds of their former life and the tiramisu was good although the vienna fingers were not sufficiently soaked in coffee and rum.

Overall, because of the loud environs, the priciness and the lack of a star dish, I don't think this is a place I'm willing to line up around the block for.

La Fontana della Citta
1701 Spruce St

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In the interest of full disclosure, I had planned to post about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I did not anticipate that my first attempt would be how NOT to make a chocolate mousse, but so it goes. After all, adventurous cooking is all about taking risks and trying new things and hey, it doesn't always come off without a hitch. I orchestrated a seven course meal for my sister's 26th birthday this evening, observing a japanese theme and aiming for a light, clean feeling after a long weekend full of face-stuffing. The meal was lovely (if I do say so myself) including a house salad with Teagan's carrot ginger dressing and to top it off I imagined a light, fluffy mousse with whipped cream and strawberries using a recipe my mom discovered during a french cooking course. Instead, I created a chunky, thick bitter flop (luckily my family is not overly pretentious and kindly downed the results). My mistakes were in thinking I could substitute unsweetened chocolate for semi-sweet with the addition of only a tablespoon of sugar and, in my anxiety over burning the chocolate, removing it from the heat as a melted, but viscous paste instead of a smoother liquid. If you avoid these mishaps, this recipe is a fabulous addition to your repertoire that is sure to impress and please.

Mousse Au Chocolate
8oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp orange juice (or butter)
6 eggs
2 heaping Tbsp sugar

Melt chocolate with OJ over LOW heat, stirring periodically.

Separate 6 eggs. Add pinch of salt to whites and beat until stiff peaks form.

Add sugar to the yolks and beat well. Add chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture. You may feel there is no way this is going to work, but it will. Chill for 1-2 hours and serve with butter cookies or some other sweet to offset the strong chocolate.

Serves 6.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Death by Chocolate

My aunt arrived at my sister's birthday celebration yesterday with this fabulous cake from Gregg's of Providence, RI. The leftovers have been haunting me all day. Six layers of moist, velvety chocolate cake with gooey fudge frosting crammed into every crevice and bittersweet chocolate chips raining down everywhere. Four boys at our table left significant portions of their slice behind but the ladies were sneaking chip-studded crumbs off the platter well past dinner. No deaths were induced this time, but I understand how the attraction could be fatal.