Saturday, March 31, 2012

A March Top Ten List

1. The Sliced Spring Salad with Avocado and Feta from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. I can’t get enough of it, having eaten it every day for the past week.

2. Cheerful tulips wherever I look: spilling out of a vase on my living room table, planted in the dividers in the middle of Broadway and on Park Avenue, at every corner deli selling flowers, at the farmer's markets...

3. Big bouquets of radishes, ready to be shaved into a salad or layered on top of baguette slices with avocado.

4. Drinking Sancerre Rosé in the late afternoon at Balthazar. Pure bliss.

5. Bundles of asparagus, thick and thin. They often beg me to top them with a freshly poached farm egg. 

6. Weather that’s warm enough to wear shoes without socks. (You can take the girl out of California but you can’t take the California out of the girl.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guinness Gingerbread Cake

I am serious about celebrating birthdays, not only my own but those of my loved ones, and I truly believe that a birthday should involve great cake. When a friend’s birthday is on the horizon, I usually pounce on the opportunity to try out a new recipe on my long list of Things To Bake. I can’t usually justify whipping up a multi-layered cake for myself, but I somehow made an exception to that rule this week, for I found myself making this Guinness Gingerbread Cake not once but three times in the past week. It was that good. 

Sylvia had a big birthday last weekend, and I volunteered my cake-baking services for her celebration. Most of my friends request some form of chocolate creation, but Sylvia’s favorite cake is a spicy gingerbread one. Some of the best gingerbread recipes I’ve made involve dark beer to intensify the flavor, and it’s convenient that her birthday falls right near St. Patrick’s Day since I always have plenty of Guinness on hand. 

I once made Claudia Fleming’s Oatmeal Stout Gingerbread Cake for Sylvia’s birthday several years ago, a dessert our friends had all enjoyed at Gramercy Tavern once upon a time. It was a rich Bundt cake, dark with molasses and heavily spiced with two kinds of ginger. But I wanted to do something different this year, having recently came across this Gingerbread Beer Cake in my new book, Sky High Cakes, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Black&White Guinness Float

I’m dying to share something that I know will make your day. Once you taste my Black&White Guinness Float, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. I know you’re probably thinking, “Louise, are you out of your mind?!!” While it may sound strange pairing beer with ice cream, the combination totally works. Think of it as a root beer float for grown-ups.

I’m always happy when I find a multi-purpose recipe that is appropriate for a variety of occasions. Some of you may want to jumpstart your St. Patrick’s Day festivities this week, so this Irish stout cocktail will definitely get into the spirit of it all. If you’re celebrating the arrival of spring, a refreshing ice cream drink can enhance your enjoyment of the gorgeous and unseasonably warm days we’ve had in NYC this week. And if you’ve had a slightly stressful day–whether or not you were interviewed by Anderson Cooper in the morning about your unusual autobiographical memory—then a Guinness float is exactly the thing to help you unwind. Trust me, it really helps!

Guinness stout has long been my beer of choice. Velvety and bittersweet, I love it for its full-bodied complexity. As a major bonus, not only is it rich in iron and antioxidants, it is oddly low in calories. What’s not to love about that?

I wanted my beer float to play up both the deep chocolaty notes and the creamy quality of the Guinness. Since I prefer a Black&White milkshake—made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup rather than being made from only chocolate ice cream—I decided that that principle should apply for this drink as well. A healthy glug of chocolate syrup mixed with the beer in the bottom of the glass intensifies the toasty richness of the Guinness, so much so that it’s practically crying out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make the party complete.