Sunday, September 30, 2012

NEXT UP: August & September in Photos

And once again, another month comes to a close. While September had its moments--a pleasant day spent exploring the upper west side, a free Yom Kippur service in the city, painting on the roof deck--it was definitely a tiring month. A heavy workload and moody weather dragged me down a bit. Luckily, my favorite month is about to be upon us! October: birthday, halloween, a concert, pumpkin...what's not to love?

But before we move on, here's the last month recapped in photos! Well, the last two months. Of course I fell behind :-P I didn't take too many photos recently, but here's what I do have. Until next month!



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Sunday, September 16, 2012

NEXT UP: Read "Paris, My Sweet"

I am Jenny, and I have a problem.

I can't stop reading books about Paris. First this one, then this one, and now THIS one?!

But hey, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem right? And I believe the second step is buying a plane ticket and moving to said object of obsession. I'm no doctor...but...yea, that sounds like the medically accepted treatment.

At least my problem is your present, because I am about to give you a wonderful gift: a must-read, très magnifique book recommendation.

To backtrack a bit, I read Amy Thomas' Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) immediately after I reviewed The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. You might recall my somewhat harsh critique of the latter book, which detailed one woman's experience at Le Cordon Bleu Paris after leaving behind an established corporate job. Soon after publishing that post, a relative forwarded it to a distant relative who had actually done just that: bravely left her comfy career to pursue her culinary passions in cooking school. She responded with a different opinion of the novel: "I LOVED the book and am really thankful to have read it before going to culinary school because it truly prepared me for how difficult it would be." (I recommend checking out her cooking blog!)

Clearly, the book struck a cord with her, which is why I personally preferred Amy Thomas' book. Amy had thoughts, problems, and experiences that I could relate to much more. In the memoir Paris, My Sweet, 30-year-old Amy's job at a well-known PR/ad agency (cough Ogilvy) gives her the opportunity to work in Paris writing ad copy for Luis Vuitton. Already a lover of all-things-French, Amy says goodbye to her posse of girlfriends and neighborhood haunts in NYC (her home for the past several years), and sets up camp in the City of Light. While the book does talk a bit about her job, it goes into intricate, mouthwatering detail about Amy's sweet freak side. As her loyalty is torn between Manhattan and Paris, her dedication to all-things-chocolate-and-sugary remains steadfast throughout.

What I Liked: Amy's experience is not perfect. She loves Paris immediately, but soon becomes lonely for her friends, her familiar NYC locales, her easier job back home. She does not meet un homme très beau to sweep her off her feet. She does not complete every project perfectly. And she does discuss the five pounds her butt gains after all the foreign indulging. But I liked all the imperfections--the realness of it.

And her descriptions of food? AMAZING. Amy has a real gift for descriptive writing. Listen to her commentary on macarons: "They're delicate yet persnickety [...] A delightful combination of powdered sugar, finely ground almonds, and egg whites and not much else, save for the luxuriously creamy ganache or buttercream filling that holds the two cookies together. Firm but tender, shiny yet ridged, with ethereally light shells and heavy middles, they're miniature studies of contrasts--and deliciousness."    She reveals the best bakeries, cafes, and restaurants for specific desserts in both NYC and France, and even provides guides and maps so the reader can shadow her adventures. 

What I Didn't Like: Not much. I wish there was some sort of epilogue tagged onto the end, but otherwise I would easily enjoy reading this book again.

Should you read it? Yes. It is le meilleur--the best. If the back cover's sentence, "Part love letter to Paris, part love letter to New York, and total devotion to all things sweet," sounds appealing to you, then by all means, indulge in this wonderful memoir. I certainly enjoyed living vicariously through it.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

NEXT UP: Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries

Fall has arrived in the city. The temperature may have crept up into the 80s today, but that hasn't stopped New Yorkers from breaking out boots, Starbucks from cranking out pumpkin-spice lattes, and my roommate and me from turning off our air conditioner. Well, that and our eagerness to lower our electricity bill.

But saying goodbye to summer is a bit sad. Fall no longer means a return to textbooks and lectures. Yet I still look forward to all of the things associated with summertime: long days, beach reads, sun-toasted shoulders (sounds better than sunburned), and summer produce.

Produce like...oh, I don't know...strawberries?

So before I break out the much beloved pumpkin bars recipe, I decided to try a super quick and easy strawberry dessert. I've been eyeing this delicious-looking treat on Pinterest for a while now. 

I like cheesecake. I like strawberries. I like stuffing. Mmmm Thanksgiving stuffing...

Sorry, got off track for a second. Back to summer.

These Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries were a hit at a dinner party I had recently (A dinner party?? How old am I?!). They were gone in way less time than it took me to make them, and it really took me no time at all.

Basically, you hollow out strawberries, mix up a simple cheesecake filling, pipe it into the fruit, and dip the stuffed strawberries into graham cracker crumbs. A sweet ending to a sweet summer.

Now onto the pumpkin!!

Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
Inspired by multiple Pinterest posts

1 lb strawberries
8 oz package of cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Small plastic bag (or piping bag, if you're fancy enough to have one)
1/2 c graham cracker crumbs

1. Wash and dry off strawberries.
2. Use a small knife to remove leaves and create hole inside the strawberries.
3. In a mixing bowl, whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla.
4. Scoop the cheesecake filling into a small plastic bag and cut off the corner to create a piping bag.
5. Pipe the filling into the strawberries.
6. Dip the cheesecake-filled end of the strawberries into a dish of graham cracker crumbs to coat.
7. Refrigerate until serving.
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NEXT UP: (Probably Don't) Read "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry"

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of food and mildly obsessed with Paris (What. Up.).

My most recent read  combined those two interests. When I saw a hardcover copy of The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry marked down from $25.99 to $5.99 (Raise your hand if you love The Strand!), I eagerly bought it. Oh yes, I'm also a big fan of being frugal.

But the low price was not my only reason behind purchasing the novel. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, praised the work: "Flinn's tale of chasing her ultimate dream makes for a really lovely book--engaging, intelligent, and surprisingly suspenseful." Indeed, Flinn's memoir is very similar to Gilbert's tale of leaving behind a corporate, steady career to pursue a dream. When she's fired from her job, Flinn takes the advice of her former co-worker and soon-to-be boyfriend Mike and finally signs up to be a student at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Mike and Kathleen move to Paris, and the latter begins her journey into burning souffles, entertaining visitors from abroad, falling in love, and meeting an international crew of fellow cooks.

What I Liked: Food. Paris. Did I mention I like food and Paris? I really enjoyed learning about the real tasks presented to Le Cordon Bleu students, as well as the recipes. Flinn details her cooking challenges in a clear and engaging manner. The French language sprinkled throughout the memoir enhanced its Parisian feel and made me long for an afternoon stroll by the River Seine.

What I Didn't LikeI think Elizabeth Gilbert was being generous when she called the book "surprisingly suspenseful." Yes, I felt compelled to keep reading, but little about this book was unexpected. The school is harder than she thought? Shocking. Her first recipe is a dud? Who would've guessed. Her last recipe is a total hit? Whoa, surprise ending. She falls in love with both Paris and her male friend? Stop, I can't handle the twists! It is a true story rather than fiction, so perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh, but Flinn also way overdid the use of metaphors and tidy life lessons. I'm about to spoil the last paragraph of the book for you, but it really doesn't give anything away (which should say something). It reads: "As in cooking, living requires that you taste, taste, taste as you go along--you can't wait until the dish of life is done." The dish of life? Really? And "From my romance with Mike, I've come to realize I'd never explored the streets of my emotions enough to learn the geography of my heart"...Huh? Basically, the book was a little too corny and predictable for my sophisticated (ha! kidding) tastes. Pardon the pun.

Should you read it? Meh. It was enjoyable, but clearly I disliked more aspects of it than I liked. There are too many great books on Paris (and food), such as Almost French, to spend too much time on the okay ones.

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