Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chocolate mousse at Raso's Grille

I've now been to Raso's Grille here in Medford twice. Both times, I ordered the chocolate mousse. This should tell you that it was pretty good, especially given a pretty nice selection of other desserts on the menu. Really, it was excellent both times, nice and light and with a rich chocolatey taste. My wife had the pumpkin ice cream pie (basically, a large amount of very good pumpkin ice cream with a minimal amount of a simple crust). The dinners were good, too.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Light ice cream that actually tastes good

Until recently, I was a firm believer that low fat ice creams were inherently inferior to their totally-bad-for-you siblings. Recently, though, both Breyer's and Edy's have proven me wrong with their new slow- or extra-churned low-fat ice cream flavors. These are full-taste, premium ice creams that pretty much taste just like the full-fat versions. I've had the Breyer's vanilla, the Edy's peppermint stick, and the Edy's cookies 'n' cream, and all are excellent. While these are still not low-cal treats (around 110-120 calories per 1/2 cup serving), they are quite a bit less than the 180-220 calories per serving of the regular versions.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving pies

Thanksgiving in the U.S., of course, is defined by its food. Although the details tend to vary from region to region (e.g., cranberry sauce in New England, collard greens in the south), one thing that seems pretty consistent is that dessert consists of pies. In our case on Thursday, it was pumpkin pie made by my wife and apple and pecan pies baked by my aunt.

I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie. I think it's something about the spices, which probably explains why I don't like gingerbread, spice cake, and other similar desserts, too. However, by all accounts, my wife's pumpkin pie, based on her grandmother's recipe, was excellent.

The apple pie had a lightly-baked, doughy crust. Pie purists would say that this is an affront, as pie crust is supposed to be flaky, not doughy. I, however, love anything doughy, and the filling (made with the last New England apples of the season) was great, so I thought it was terrific.

My aunt substituted maple syrup for Karo corn syrup in the pecan pie, and it turned out great. Evidently, this is a fairly common practice in Vermont, which makes sense considering all the maple syrup produced there.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went up to our friends' house in New Hampshire and had another round of pie. I had another decent slice of apple pie (made by my friend's mom), some chocolate pie that looked like it was store/bakery-bought (pretty good, nothing special), and some ricotta pie that we brought from Arthur's Pastry Shop. The latter isn't really a Thanksgiving kind of pie in my mind, but it's good, so who cares?

All in all, a successful dessert weekend. And, with Christmas approaching, visions of sugar plums (well, sugar cookies, anyway) are dancing in my head.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Oatmeal-chip cookies and butterscotch bars

When we were invited to a party this past weekend, my wife and I were (appropriately enough) asked to bring dessert. We made two recipes: oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from The All-American Cookie Book and Dagwoods (butterscotch bars) from a Rosie's Bakery cookbook.Rosie's Bakery cookbook.

The cookies were very good and very popular. Our only complaint was that they ended up slightly harder than we would have liked (they were not really crispy, more like chewy but too stiff).

The butterscotch bars were really tasty, though if you are following the recipe, cut the cooking time by 10-15 minutes (we learned that the first time we made them). We made them without the walnuts, as my wife doesn't like them and the host of the party is allergic. We did think they suffered without something to supplement the otherwise plain batter. I think butterscotch chips would work well, and nutty guy that I am, I think the walnuts would be good, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Desserts at Blue Ginger

My wife and I had been wanting to go to Blue Ginger, run by the star of PBS's Simply Ming , for a long time. We finally used our anniversary as an excuse, and we weren't disappointed. After appetizers and a delicious dinner of orange-marinated lamb shank for me and ribeye steak with asian mole and cilantro cream for my wife, we settled in for dessert. I had the sesame pecan caramel nut tart with roasted banana ice cream and hot fudge (I passed on the coffee caramel, as I dislike coffee). All I can say is Yummmmmmmm. My wife had the pineapple-upside down cake with a fruity sauce and fennel-vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream. Yummmmmmm again. The fennel-vanilla ice cream had just a hint of fennel, so even my fennel- and licorice-disliking wife found it delicious.

Blue Ginger is a bit pricey, but well worth a trip for a special occasion if you live in or visit the Boston area.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Christina's ice cream

After years of hearing how great the ice cream is at Christina's in Central Square (Cambridge, Mass.), I finally stopped there the other day. I couldn't resist banana cinnamon, and I wasn't disappointed. Creamy and smooth, it was like a particularly good banana ice cream with just enough cinnamon to be noticeable. My wife's pumpkin ice cream was also tasty (even for me, and I'm not a pumpkin fan), with the pumpkin offset by just enough spice.

Suffice it to say, we'll be returning to Christina's.

Candy corn

OK, so perhaps it's not as elegant as a multi-layer chocolate cake or as rich as premium ice cream, but something definitely has to be said for that perennial favorite, candy corn. The hurts-your-teeth honey sweetness and the satisfying chewiness make candy corn one of the leaders of the candy pantheon (also in the pantheon are jelly beans and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups). It's worth noting that the buttercream pumpkins, while also tasty, are not as satisfying as candy corn, despite similar content. Maybe it's the ratio of slightly crunchier outer shell to spongy center, I'm not sure, but they're just not the same.

Chocolate cake at Papa Razzi

Papa Razzi, a Boston-area chain restaurant, is a great choice for a meal, particularly at lunch, when the prices are lower but the food is just as good. After some delicious lobster ravioli, I had a multi-layer chocolate cake. It was not over-the-top syrupy or fudgey like what you would find at a TGIFriday's, but it also wasn't dry and bland like so many chocolate cakes. It was rich, chocolately, and moist (and big!), and it was a great end to the meal.

My wife had the oak-fired fruit with vanilla gelato. It wasn't as good as the chocolate cake (the fruit was a bit syrupy, and she didn't care for warm bananas), though the vanilla gelato was quite good.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dancing Deer sugar cane lime cookies

I think Dancing Deer Baking Company is a terrific company. They're a great example of how a business can be successful while choosing to be socially responsible and generally having priorities other than maximizing profits. I have to say, though, that I'm often disappointed by their desserts. Today, for example, I had their sugar cane lime cookies. Now, cookies are one of my favorite categories of dessert, and I love anything with lime. But, like all Dancing Deer cookies I've had, these were sort of dry, with a texture that tries but fails to find a happy medium between crunchy and chewy.

To be fair to the company, there are many desserts of theirs that I haven't tried. The lime ricotta pound cake might be fabulous. But so far, their desserts haven't won me over the way their philosophy has.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Yummy cake at Anthony's Pier 4

The other day, I was at Anthony's Pier 4, one of Boston's well-known seafood restaurants. I'd never been, so I was excited to be going to a professional meeting there. The food overall was very good (especially for meeting food), but the dessert was truly exceptional. It was some sort of cheesecake type thing with a graham-cracker crust, delicious strawberry-cheesecake filling with an ice cream consistency, and some sort of mereingue or frozen whipped cream on top. This was not a good thing for my diet. It was huge (I ate less than half), but it was worth eating a tiny dinner in exchange for such a yummy lunchtime dessert.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Microwave Fudge

My wife tried making this Cooks.com - Recipe - Microwave Easy Fudge for a work event the other day. We had pretty low expectations, but she needed something quick that she could make with ingredients we had in the house. Unsurprisingly, given the ingredients, it basically tasted like very sweet cocoa powder. Since cocoa powder does not have the most complex or rich flavor, it ended up being pretty unimpressive, more like candy bar quality than home-cooked dessert quality. Oh, well, it was worth a try.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie

Our friend came over for dinner today and, remembering that we both like mint, brought Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream. He didn't realize it, but it's our favorite B&J flavor, and we hadn't had it in a long time. The mint flavor is perfect (not too strong, not too sweet) and it has big pieces of Oreo-like cookie throughout. A pint of heaven delivered to us on Easter!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Tropical milkshake

Looking at a banana that was well past its prime, I had a sudden craving for a smoothie or milkshake. A few moments later, inspiration struck: banana plus milk plus Haagen-Dazs Pineapple-Coconut ice cream equals one yummy tropical shake.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Improving on chocolate cake mix

My secret Santa at work got me the book 101 Things to Do With a Cake Mix and its sequel. Today, my wife and I tried one of the recipes, dubbed "Death by Chocolate." It didn't live up to its name. My friend commented that it was more of a flesh wound. It was, however, pretty darn good for a cake that was cheap and easy to make and used few ingredients.

I look forward to trying some of the books' other recipes, many of which are variations on a couple of themes, such as pouring gelatin or glaze into holes in a standard cake, or adding creative ingredients to the mix.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Graeter's Ice Cream

Here in Boston, we have a lot of great ice cream shops, so it's rare that I'm impressed by an out-of-town creamery. Graeter's, based in Cincinnati, is an exception. The ice cream itself is quite good, but it's the chocolate chips that really make for a special treat. I've always disliked mint chocolate chip and other chip flavors due to the waxy, stick-in-your-teeth consistency of the chips. Greater's, though, manages to keep the chips (technically, they're chunks, not chips) creamy and fudgy. So, instead of picking them out of your teeth, they just melt in your mouth.

Peanut butter chip is pretty good, toffee chip (with pieces of Heath bar) is sweet and yummy, and I'm looking forward to trying the mint chip. I'm also looking forward to trying one of their non-chip flavors, amaretto crunch, which contains "fresh baked macaroon cookies and crunchy butter toffee pieces."

Another great thing about Graeter's is that, when visiting Cincinnati, you can get pints packed to go in a styrofoam cooler with dry ice. Well worth the cost of $30 for 6 pints if you live out of state but want your smooth-and-creamy chip fix.