sparkling cucumber basil lemonade

May 10, 2017


Lemonade.

That's how I knew Lily and I were cut from the same cloth. No, not this recipe. But Beyoncé. That Lemonade.

Let me backtrack — I don't remember when or how Lily came into my life. But it made sense. We share the same circle of friends and have even lived in the same city (granted, at different times). So one day, out of the blue, we started texting: first to talk about shop, and then to talk about Beyoncé.


When Lemonade came out, I was in a sad, isolated place. I was reluctantly spending the year in San Francisco, apart from Erlend and my friends in Portland. I struggled at my day job, and buried myself after hours in additional work for this blog. But Lemonade's message of regaining identity and female empowerment gave me hope and reassurance that, despite the rough patch I was currently in, things would eventually be okay. And texting and tweeting with Lily about our favorite songs from the album and about Beyoncé and all her fierceness was one of the lighthearted, bright spots in an otherwise quiet and lonely year.


After Lemonade, the world marched forward. Lily and I kept in touch, but less about Beyoncé and more about our own lives. I moved to New York, and the weight I felt in San Francisco slowly lifted. Lily continued to work hard at her book, Kale & Caramel, which was released out into the wild at the start of the month.

It's a gorgeous book — Lily has always been an extremely beautiful writer and photographer on her blog. On paper, her talents become even more pronounced. Each chapter is divided into fresh herbs and edible flowers, with culinary recipes, scrubs, and face masks dedicated to harnessing the power of the plants. This sparkling cucumber basil lemonade is from the first chapter, "Basil", and to me, perfectly embodies Lily and her work: refreshing, sumptuous, and earthy, with a subtle dash of Beyoncé.


also featured:

Some maker's notes:
  • Because I used extremely fresh cucumbers and basil from Gotham Greens, it made an intensely flavored juice, similar to the fresh-pressed kind you can get at fancy juice places. I loved it. But if that's not your thing, you can more honey and sparkling water to your desired level of sweetness.

  • Lily notes that each drink recipe in her book translates well into a cocktail, including suggested alcohol pairings. For this lemonade, she suggests pairing it with gin, vodka, light rum, or maybe even cachaça.

sumac sugar jelly donuts + a mother's day giveaway

May 3, 2017


PSA: Mother's Day is coming up on May 14th! Are you ready?

Truth be told, I always get a little bummed when Mother's Day rolls around. My mom and I live so far apart that we rarely get a chance to celebrate together! In fact, the last time I think we were able to was back when I was still a sophomore in college. At the time, Portland's food scene didn't have the hip and happening options available today; I'd asked my friend Leah for recommendations, and she suggested I make a reservation at Papa Haydn, a Portland institution known for their desserts. The food wasn't particularly memorable, but my mom and I randomly ended up being seated next to my friend Leah and her mom — it turns out that after I'd asked her, she'd had the same idea to take her mom to brunch there as well! Too funny.


So every year Mother's Day rolls around, despite the fact that my mom is literally oceans away, I still inadvertently find myself planning activities for us. Most of them revolve around food, of course; I always idly check my favorite restaurants to see if they're doing any sort of Mother's Day special for our hypothetical brunch or dinner date.

However, it occurred to me that the last time my mom visited, she didn't seem to like New York too much. The city was too dirty, crowded, and loud for her. Instead, she preferred to stay in the relative comfort of my apartment, relaxing with her mug of tea and my cat on her lap. It gave me the idea — this time around, our hypothetical Mother's Day date would be a cozy brunch made at home with her favorite (and slightly weird) Chinese digestive tea and incredibly light and fluffy jelly donuts:


Originally, I wanted to do a breakfast in bed situation, but honestly, my mom is too much of a neat person to tolerate eating in the bedroom. But you should totally do that for YOUR mom! In fact, I've partnered with some awesome companies to do a Mother's Day giveaway filled with all the items you need to make your mom the perfect breakfast in bed. Think — breakfast pastry mixes and jams from Stonewall Kitchena fuzzy pink mohair blanket from Garnet Hill, pretty breakfast-in-bed wares from Simon Pearce, and a customizable frame from Framebridge to gift to your mom!


Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

This post was done in partnership with Stonewall Kitchen, who sponsored this post by providing the compensation, ingredients, and giveaway goodies in this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own — thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!


Some baker's notes:
  • I let the dough develop overnight in the fridge because I found that the slower rise brought out more flavors in the bread. I also liked breaking up the work into two portions, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just sitting around waiting for things to happen foreverrr. But if you’d like to just get it all out of the way, no worries! After kneading the dough, allow the dough to proof for about 1 1/2 hours in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap. During this time, it should double in size. After it's doubled, follow the instructions in the recipe to roll out and re-proof the rolls a second time.

  • To coat the donuts, I tossed them in sugar with a teaspoon of sumac, a citrusy flower with a beautiful maroon color frequently used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It tastes like lemon zest, but funkier and more complex. You can find it in Middle Eastern groceries or specialty spice stores (New Yorkers: I got mine from Kalustyan's in Manhattan, but I've also seen it in Sahadi's in Brooklyn). In a pinch, use your favorite citrus zest or omit altogether — the donuts will still be tasty, I promise! Read more about sumac on Serious Eats.

pretzel stout cupcakes

April 26, 2017


Hi, hi, hi!

It has been a whirlwind of activity around these parts! A few weekends ago, I got to hang out with all my bestest blogging babes at Cherry Bombe's Jubilee! Then I hopped, skipped, and skidadled over to San Francisco where I bought too many snacks in Japantown and drank too many tequila shots with my fellow Yelpers. Then my pizza delivery was accidentally stolen by my downstairs neighbors who may or may not be running an illegal daycare service (LONG STORY). Now, my friend Tracy is in town and I fully plan on dragging her to all my favorite junk food spots in the city!


If I'm being 100% honest with you guys, all this activity has not given me much motivation to bake. While the rest of the country is already starting to harvest their rhubarb and strawberries, New York is still stuck on fall/winter fruits like apples and pears. I have been baking with apples and pears since last fall; it's time to switch it up. I am obsessively checking the Union Square Greenmarket app (which tells you what fruits and vegetables are at the farmers market, because this is the terrible dystopian future we live in) daily, hoping that one of these days it will show other things besides parsnips and sweet potatoes and apples.


In the meantime, I'll just have to make-do with what's in my pantry. And that happens to be chocolate. And beer. Lots of it. Perfect for these cupcakes!

This recipe comes from fellow blogger Linda Lomelino's latest cookbook, My Sweet Kitchen. Linda is one of the first baking bloggers who really inspired me and her work over on Call Me Cupcake really helped influence my own blog. Her photos are absolutely gorgeous, and her bakes are even more so. Think: cakes beautifully adorned in flowers, pies carefully and intricately woven, and a selection of perfectly rustic Swedish desserts. These cupcakes are no exception — the stout beer compliments the chocolate very well, adding complexity to their flavor and creating an incredibly moist texture. Each is topped off with a creamy cream cheese frosting and pretzels for additional crunch. Enjoy!


featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • A stout is a type of porter beer made from roasted malt or roasted barley, giving the beer its distinct flavor and dark color. The most famous stout beer is probably Guinness, which you can use in this recipe to great effect. I personally used a milk stout, which contains lactose, a type of sugar derived from milk — because lactose cannot be fermented by beer yeast, it adds sweetness and body to the finished beer.   

dinosaur fossil cookies

April 19, 2017


Do you guys remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

This was something I found myself asking a ton of my friends as I started writing this post. The responses were all hilariously sweet:

"A roller coaster engineer and divorcee who lived in New York City," said Tracy.
When I asked why, she simply said 'because roller coasters are cool'. And that her 6-year-old-self didn't believe that love could last forever. Hm. 

"The First Female President," said Meredith.
Good news, Mer — you can STILL be the first female president! 😢

"Something in math," said Molly, who then explained that she once kicked a hole in the wall because she was frustrated with her calculus homework.
No comment.


If I'm being honest, I don't entirely 100% remember myself, lol. I do know that I went through different phases — nothing really logical or significant, they were mostly determined by what I happened to think was superfreakingawesome at the time. Like that time I wanted to be a stewardess (because planes are cool!), and another in which I wanted to be a dentist (because I was too young to realize that going to the dentist actually terrifies me).

There is one childhood dream of mine that does stick out though. There were a few months in my life in which I wanted to be an archeologist. I blame Jurassic Park. Although the movie frightened the daylights out of me (seriously, that scene where the T-Rex gets loose and wreaks havoc on the cars was pretty scary as a 6-year-old), I was still enamored by all the dinosaurs. That year, instead of requesting the usual Barbies and Polly Pockets for birthday and Christmas presents, I wanted dinosaur books, figurines, and eggs.


Of course, you guys know the rest of the story. I did NOT become an archeologist. In fact, the closest I will ever came to archeology in my adult years are these dinosaur fossil cookies.

And in order to fulfill my childhood dream, I decided to have some fun and create an edible archeological site! I first made the fossil cookies, and then created a "dig site" by burying them in layer upon layer of Oreo crumbs, topped off with "desert plants" (ehem, baby broccoli). I then used some very scientific and highly accurate archeological tools (ehem, a pastry brush) to unearth my beloved cookies:


As for the cookies themselves, think of them as a cross between a salty Oreo and one of those royal icing cookies that have taken over Instagram. I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it took to ice each cookie (though those of you who follow me on Instagram Stories probably saw my low-level breakdown while doing so), but I'm even more embarrassed to say how quickly it took for the cookies get eaten. Enjoy!


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Some baker's notes:
  • The cookie recipe is based on a Thomas Keller one for homemade Oreos ("TKOs"), as also seen this homemade Oreo recipe from 2013 and my friend Steph's Corgi Oreos. Because it's Thomas Keller and he's meticulous to a fault (he allegedly hired ballerinas to train staff on how to move around gracefully at The French Laundry and Per Se), the ingredient quantities are super weird and precise. Just go with it. It's worth it, I promise. Be sure to use Dutch-processed cocoa (as opposed to natural — I like Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa) so that the cookies turn out midnight black! 

  • To stamp out the dinosaur shapes, I used these cookie cutters that also included stencils for the fossils/bones. I'm not artistic at all, and probably wouldn't have been able to come up with this bone design if it weren't for the stencils. When stamping out the cookies, it's a lot easier to ice if the cookies are thicker and have more prominent outlines for the bones. I'd aim for a cookie dough stamping surface that is about 1/4-inch thick. That being said, if you're confident in your icing skills and want cookies that taste more like Oreos, I'd aim for a cookie dough stamping surface that's slightly thinner at about 1/8-inch thick.

  • Before burying the cookies in your archeological dig, just make sure that the icing on the cookies is 100% dry, otherwise you'll have soggy cookies and a sticky mess that won't be easily brushed away. I ended up burying my dinosaur fossil cookies in super-processed Oreo and Golden Oreo crumbs, but really, you can use any sort of cookies you prefer. There are also many ways to decorate the top of the cake once the fossil cookies have been buried — you can use vegetables (I used broccolini), edible flowers, chocolate rocks, and more! If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can even make marzipan succulents like my friend Molly on her cute lil' cake

caramel rum banana bread + dining at eleven madison park

April 12, 2017


A few weeks ago, I spontaneously bought reservations to Eleven Madison Park.

If you're unfamiliar with Eleven Madison Park, here's a quick summary from Eater. TL/DR: it's one of the few restaurants in the United States that has three Michelin stars, and, was recently determined to be the best restaurant in the whole entire world (well — according to this list). It's also the sort of restaurant that makes you pay to eat there beforehand, because at $300 a head (that's without alcohol — wine pairings are another $200 a pop!), it's not exactly what you would call an impulse buy. In fact, I'm probably the only idiot in their entire history who was idly browsing through their reservations system (which sell out fairly quickly for prime dinner slots), saw a random Sunday afternoon opening, and pulled out her credit card to purchase two tickets on the fly. I don't know really know what overcame me. Despite what my mom says, I'm not really much of of a spendthrift. I agonize over purchases that cost more than $100, dragging my feet for months in an effort to will the product to go on sale. I have never shelled out for an Economy+ seat, even for international or overnight flights. I don't believe in spending money for an "exercise top", instead going to the gym in unflattering and shapeless t-shirts left over from tech conferences.

But maybe it's because the restaurant is located at the bottom of my office building, and walking by it everyday had me wondering about its hallowed walls on a daily basis. How strange it was, that while I hunched over at my desk puzzling over our plans to transition to a new marketing automation tool, people several floors below me were dining on a sumptuous meal of truffles, foie gras, and lobster. There was also the fact that Dan, one of my good friends from college who is discerning about the same things as I am, had taken his wife there for her birthday years ago. They were both still raving about the experience. "They figured out we were celebrating her birthday without us telling them!" he exclaimed, impressed by what could only be their sleuth Facebook stalking skills. Plus the restaurant had recently announced that they were closing this summer — right when my 30th birthday happened to be, the only event that could potentially justify a $1000 meal for two people — for an indefinite amount of time for renovations. "Don't worry!" they cheerily said. "We'll have a pop-up in the Hamptons!" It was clear who they were trying to placate, and that definitely did not include folks like me.


All of those things combined to me pulling out my credit card on some random Friday afternoon, and us walking through Eleven Madison Park's brass revolving door a few weeks later. And while we weren't greeted by name, we certainly did find ourselves dining on luxuries like caviar benedict with smoked sturgeon and pickled egg yolk, butternut squash roasted in bone marrow, and honey lavender glazed duck. The food itself was exemplary; I found myself enjoying vegetables I usually avoided. To wit — I've never once cared for rutabagas, finding their flavor sharply bitter and one-dimensional. But at Eleven Madison Park, when served with celery and walnuts, the root took on a new texture and flavor akin to an oyster: the hors d'oeuvre was sweet, subtle, and all too fleeting.

The service itself was exceptional and attentive, to the point of being almost clairvoyant. At one point, I was low-level convinced that they were actually bugging all the tables. Because shortly after I wondered about the ingredients in my cocktail, a server appeared out of nowhere, handing me the cocktail menu without comment (presumably so I could double-check its contents). A few courses later, I whispered to Erlend about how, although I was enjoying the food, I personally wasn't sure if all the pomp and circumstance was for me, our next course was served in a more minimalist style. The server casually remarked that although it was one of their less decorative courses, it was one of his favorites regardless; he then subtly nodded in my direction. It was probably coincidence, but honestly — I'M NOT SURE. Just like how I'm still not sure if it was coincidence that, when they took us into the kitchen for a quick tour, it was their pastry chef who came up to greet us for a demo.


Overall, it was a once in a lifetime experience that I would do again (if I'm ever hit by that bout of temporary insanity that drove me to buy reservations in the first place). But it also taught me something I'd long suspected about myself, but never had the chance to really confirm until our time at Eleven Madison Park: fine dining isn't my style. While the rest of the people our age who had also splurged for a reservation arrived in ties and heels, I walked in wearing jeans and a leather jacket. And the meticulous service, instead of making me feel pampered and important, left me feeling slightly embarrassed and fraudulent more than anything else.

It made me realize that, yes, while a $300 meal has its merits and is worth occasionally splurging on, it does not actually bring me 100 times more joy than the $3 hot dogs I used to get at the German butcher near my college campus. Although I chronicled the whole experience through Instagram stories, I realized that none of the food served would fit in with the rest of my Instagram feed. All of it was beautiful and complex, but each plate looked more like works of modern art than something that looked tasty. Because at the end of the day, to me, there is nothing more delicious and appealing than a simple baked good like this rustic banana bread: rich with rum flavor and studded with caramel chunks for extra goodness.

Enjoy!


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Some baker's notes:
  • For the best banana bread, use bananas that are so spotty and ripened that they almost look more black than yellow. In a pinch, you can ripen bananas faster by pulling them apart from their original bundle and placing them all together in a brown paper bag. Roll the bag to a tight close, put it in a warm place, and wait a few days — the banana skins emit a kind of gas that speeds up the ripening process, and you're basically taking all that gas and sealing it in to create a hyper-ripening environment. Congratulations! You just scienced the shit out of your bananas.

  • This recipe instructs you to throw chunks of soft caramel candy into the banana bread batter; the caramel melts, infusing the banana bread with caramel flavor. Don't use the hard caramel candies that you suck on — you need one that's soft and chewable, like these varieties. I personally chopped up pieces from this giant caramel block from King Arthur Flour. It's important to toss the pieces in a little bit of flour before throwing them into the batter to help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf; don't skip this step! 
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