Saturday, November 19, 2011

Eatery Profile - Everything Frosted

I had my first ever cupcake in Mrs. Chan's 8th grade algebra class when I was 14.  I had my first gourmet cupcake from Kara's Cupcakes @ Ghirardelli Square when I was 22.

I love cupcakes!  I love them so much I try to check out each bakery I come across.  Some bakeries I go back to repeatedly & some bakeries I try to avoid.  Of the handful of cupcake bakeries that I've been to, there is 1 that I just cannot get enough of.

Obscurely located up a flight of stairs in a nondescript building down the easily missed Mosco Street in New York City's Chinatown is my all time favorite cupcake bakery - Everything Frosted.  Owned & operated by pastry chef John Wu -  he studied under Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef - this no frills bakery produces some of the most delicious & creative cupcakes I've ever had.  Raved by the New York Times as "exceptional, worth a special journey", I love this place so much so that I have gone out of my way to visit it each time I've been in New York.

3 things make a cupcake - the overall flavor, the texture of the cupcake; & the frosting.

Overall flavor.  Everything Frosted offers traditional as well as innovative cupcake flavors like jasmine tea, pink champagne, taro, etc.  The bakery also offers unique frosting flavors like black sesame & mango.  What is extra cool is that you can choose to combine the flavors of cupcake & frosting.  Some of my favorite combos are Red Bean/Jasmine White Chocolate, Green Tea/Strawberry, & Taro/Black Sesame.  As if this is not enough, John Wu also offers specialty cupcakes such as Tiramisu (LOVE!!), Triple Chocolate, & Lemon Drop.

Cupcake texture.  Regardless of the flavor, all of the cupcakes I've had from Everything Frosted have been moist; even after I have stuck them into the fridge for a couple of days.

Frosting. This is where I have the most problem with most cupcake bakeries because the frosting is usually too thick &/or too sweet.  But at Everything Frosted, the frosting - OMG the frosting - is amazing.  The cream cheese frosting is tangy & fluffy (I think it's been whipped).  The butter cream frosting is whipped (I think) so it doesn't have the dense mouth feel that butter cream frosting can often have.  Also, it resembles a stiff whipped cream; preventing it from the granular texture that butter cream frosting can also often have.  If you want to get a sense of what I am trying to convey, go to a Chinese bakery and get yourself a cake...the whipped cream is very similar in sensation.

I can go on & on & on & on (...); but no matter how hard I try to search for the perfect adjectives, no words will do these cupcakes justice.  So the best thing I can do is to enthusiastically urge you to check this cozy bakery out if/when you are ever in the Big Apple.

Everything Frosted
105 Mosco Street
New York, NY 10013

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick & Easy - Seared Mahi Mahi

Since I get home pretty late from work, I can't really do anything fancy with dinner.  That's why I love fish - it can be really simple & yet delicious.

Getting things going...
     Defrost a fish filet of your choice.  I used mahi mahi because there is a grocery store near my parents' that sells them all portioned and frozen.
     Once the fish is all defrosted, used paper towels so soak up as much moisture as possible.  Having excess water is bad news later.
     Sprinkle generously with salt & pepper (& maybe some chipotle powder too).
     In a sautee pan, heat up some oil over medium heat.  Once the pan is hot, place the filet skin side up.
     Watch the filet intermittently, once it has turned opaque halfway up, flip it over.
     Continue cooking till the whole filet looks opaque and it slightly firm to the touch.

That is all there is too it.  You can eat the filet with rice, pasta, or vegetables.  I really like the Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers® vegetables because I can microwave them while I am searing the fish.  The whole meal took only 10 minutes from start to finish; it is easy, healthy, & mmm-mmm-good.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sweet As Sugar

This past Monday was Halloween & seeing kids going  trick-or-treat'ing made me think of sugar.  I personally am not anti'sugar, I use it when I cook or bake; but when it comes to sweetening a drink - i.e. coffee - I instinctively pick up a pack of Splenda® instead.

I never knew much about artificial sweeteners except that my grandmother used it because of her diabetes.  I also knew that blue packets (Equal®) are better than pink packets (Sweet 'n Low®).  According to my research (mostly Wikipedia), the first artificial sweetener was discovered by accident & it became popular with manufacturers because it was cheaper than actual sugar.  To verify this claim, I went onto Amazon and looked up the prices of white sugar as well as 4 popular sugar substitutes.  Here is the verdict -
  • C&H® Pure Cane Sugar - $0.08 per oz
  • Equal® Zero Calorie Sweetener - $0.33 per oz
  • Sweet 'n Low® Zero Calorie Sweetener - $0.27 per oz
  • Splenda® No Calorie Sweetener - $0.79 per oz
  • Truvia, Nature's Calorie-Free Sweetener - $0.07 per oz

Even though these calculations are not absolute; the differences in price is pretty clear.  If the prices of artificial sweeteners can be up to 10x more than that of sugar, then why are they so popular?  As a frequent user of artificial sweeteners, I wanted to know more about their pros & cons.  I did more research (mostly Wikipedia again) & did these following comparisons -

Aspartame (Equal®)
     First discovered in the early 1980s, aspartame is the common sweetener used in diet
     soft drinks.  It is 200x sweeter than sugar and it is made mainly of 2 amino acids.
     Unfortunately, aspartame breaks down @ high temperatures so it can't be used for
     cooking/baking.  Health wise, aspartame has been involved in many controversies
     in the past (i.e. aspartame metabolites were thought to be toxic/carcinogenic); but all
     of the claims have been rebutted by the FDA.
     Used mostly in fruit/vegetable juices, neotame is 7,000x to 13,000x sweeter than
     sugar.  It is similar in properties to aspartame but more stable.  Other than having a
     bitter after taste, neotame is 1 of the only artificial sweeteners that is ranked as "safe"
     by the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Saccharin (Sweet 'n Low®)
     Discovered in 1957, saccharin was the first table top artificial sweetener & it is 300x
     sweeter than sugar.  In addition to having a bitter & metallic after taste, this sugar
     substitute was linked to bladder cancer in rodents in the 1970s.  However, all health
     warnings have been removed since 2000.
Sucrolose (Splenda®)
     Even though it was discovered in 1976, sucrolose wasn't really made popular until
     recently.  Unlike earlier sweeteners, sucrolose is made from sugar & has no artificial
     flavor.  Additionally, sucrolose can be heated up to 450 degrees which makes it
     appropriate for cooking/baking.  The 2 main negative attributes are that (1) it does not
     produce browning/caramelization like sugar & (2) it has potential negative
     environmental impacts.
Stevia (Truvia)
     Using only the leaf of the stevia plant, this natural sweeter that is 300x sweeter than
     sugar.  Like sucrolose, stevia can also be used for cooking/baking.  Although Truvia
     and other stevia products have been popularized since 2008, not all stevia products
     have been approved by the FDA.

After doing my research, it doesn't seem like artificial sweeteners are horrible for people's health.  So go ahead & sweeten it up!