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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Time On Cupcake Wars . . .

This weeks episode revolved around the 100th episode of Ace of Cakes.

The taste challenge was to make a cupcake that not only would Ace of Cakes, cupcake-hating Duff Goldman like but one that would contain some of his favourite food stuffs: pulled pork, gummy bears, goat cheese, jalapeno jelly, bacon crunchy, and crunchy peanut butter.

It seemed as if for this particular challenge a lot of the contestants had the same idea in mind which reminded me of a previous episode that left me sick of seeing lemon cupcakes and fondant decorations.

Alyssa Magliato's (The Perfect Circle Cupcakery) assistant, Jeff , suggested a pulled pork and jalapeno jelly cupcake that I wouldn't have minded see become a reality but somewhat understandably Alyssa worried this was too far out of the box and wanted to play it safer. Her ultimate choice to make a dark chocolate cake peanut butter chocolate inside was "a little caramel surprise" yielded a very nice looking confection.

Poor Erica Tucker (Sweet E’s Bake Shop) was up next and this woman underwent a real struggle in the kitchen. After overcoming a heating issue while cooking her cupcakes she came to the challenges end and realize she'd forgotten to fill her cupcakes!

Michael Centimore (Cupcake Charlies) made a cinnamon velvet cupcake that contained a goat cheese and jalapeno jelly mousse center which he then iced with a maple butter-cream frosting that he topped with bacon. I must admit when I heard him working up his cupcake idea in the kitchen I wasn't sure how behind it I was but I think his ultimate choice was daring, creative, and inspired.

Taste and presentation brought back more of those familiar red velvet cupcakes and fondant toppers a Cupcake Wars viewer may be getting very used to seeing. However, because Ace of Cakes desserts are always draped in fondant this may be the week to go ahead and make that move.

Everything that Alyssa quite literally brought to the table was beautiful and sounded fantastic but she had me with her banana bomb; which was "a banana, cream cheese, pecan, caramel topped cupcake." Even hard to please Florian Bellanger (formerly) of Fauchon (a favourite of mine) was able to enjoy it. All of this made it a shock to me to see her go.

Mike's choice to utilize his cell phone camera in conjunction with an available edible printer to make Duff toppers was once again, a unique move. I. Loved it. The finished product was a chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate peanut butter ganache, iced with a peanut butter butter-cream with full peanut butter cup adorned with "Duff's mug."

When it came down to the final presentation challenge I was feeling totally on board with team Mike. He'd proven himself to be a creative baker who consistently brought something tasty to the table. But what really seemed unique was how incredibly thoughtful he was in all of his preparations. With every challenge he kept who he was baking for in mind and it always showed through. Apparently his final presentation just did not quite bridge the gap between thoughtful and event appropriate.

In all honesty this is where the show ended for me. Tuesday's winner, Jessica Cuff (The Coffee Shop), was the contestant I had pegged to win from the moment I saw her in the introductions. What bothers me most is that of the four episodes that have aired I have been able to pick the winner this way for the last three. In some cases, the winner was someone who totally deserved it. I just did not feel this was the reason this week. I felt a face that popular opinion considers pretty won with the added help of shameless, open flirting.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Full Monty on Mo's Bacon Bar

Alright, I have been unintentionally taunting my Facebook fans for over a week now in reference to my recent purchase of Mo's bacon bar. Sorry darlings, I will do my best never to play with your bacon-flavoured emotions for so long without smoky gratification again.

Bacon chocolate is nothing new, but it is a new sort of purchase for me. Not yet to the point of ordering it online I have been going without and lying in wait.

On my penultimate trip to World Market I checked to see if they sold the bar of legend. It appeared they did not. Bummer. Curse these four eyes and praise be to my husbands better two because on our way out of the store he told me he saw them!!!! ELEVENTY!!!! Ready to turn around, have him point out this white whale, purchase and consume - I was stopped. By the boy himself! He could not get over the price tag and wasn't having any of it. I said fine but told him I planned to be back without him and do it any way.

Birthday around the corner and my GPS (I'm quite literally lost without it) in the boys car I carefully chose my moment. Wanting a bottle of champagne for my special day I chose World Market for my shopping destination and preached the birthday gospel that is "it's my birthday and if I want a bacon bar I deserve one." The boy was stuck.

When we arrived I rushed right to the chocolate isle where for once I saw the box for the bars . . . and it was empty! EMPTY!!!!! There had even been a sign that said 2 for $10. I quickly found a sales person to ask if there were any in the back. The World Market employee told me that she had just checked the back for another person (that turned out to be the boy) and there was nothing left. I stood there in the isle, looking as if someone kicked my puppy and then I saw my husband walking up to me - with two bars in hand. The staff had overlooked a box on the top shelf that was completely full.

You'd think I'd scarf down the bar in the car right away or maybe even wait until I got home to lite it up, but with all the trouble that surrounded my new precious it needed to meet a fitting end.

I finally ate a quarter of the bar as a shared dessert with my husband after a belated champagne dinner.

Still feeling grateful to the boy the first piece broken off was given to him. Immediately after breaking off my own I sniffed the bar and don't act like you wouldn't do the same! I was truly overcome with the smell of smoky, smoky applewood bacon and alderwood smoked salt.

Looking at the bar it looks like a pretty regular chocolate bar.

With my first bite, I tasted something incredibly sweet with crazy smoky bits. Those smoky bits had just a tiny bit of crunch but don't take tiny bit to be minuscule, no it was perfectly paired. It felt so right and I was able to start to see little flecks of bacon inside the bar when I looked at it.

My second bite caused me to make the note "ZOMG," that's right, I take notes as I eat new things for you guys to make sure I don't miss or forget a thing.

The third bite was when I noticed how very smooth the chocolate and it medium to long finish.

Fourth bite, I am obsessing over the smooth texture and perfect crunch.

Fifth bite, my last bite, I am now closing my eyes to insure I get the full on feeling.

A large part of the reason I did not immediately blog about this adventure was to make sure my opinion on the bar was not swayed by the amount of champagne I'd imbibed at that point.

The boy and I just finished off the bar this evening and I have officially decided that yes, I do like this bar.

Om Nom Nom Studios rates this bar five stars. I will admit it is not full on perfection - but this may be as close as is lawfully allowed for a person, chocolate, and bacon to get to the point they aim for.

Because bacon chocolate is going to be an experience that varies from person to person I've enlisted the boy to give you a second opinion:

Hmmm. Well it was good. You could tell the chocolate was high quality, very rich and creamy. The bacon was smokey and like most bacon, delicious.

Hype was the undoing of the bacon bar I'm afraid. It did not live up to my expectations and I felt let down and disappointed by what otherwise was a delicious candy bar.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Wilds

I mentioned that last weekend we intended to go to The Wilds during my birthday weekend but we didn't make it. But hubbo promised to take me this weekend.

The Wilds is a wildlife conservation here in Ohio that features (almost exclusively) endangered animals. The intent of their guided safari's is to "advance conservation through science, education, and personal experience." There are multiple touring options but we chose to do the two and a half hour open-air tour.

My two favourite animals we saw were the camels.

(Check out how awesome these look! I kept imagining nommy nom camel yarn.)

And a new animal that, to me, looks like a giant, horned capybara. It's called a sichuan takin.

Tonight I planned to blog about my experience with Mo's bacon bar but it seems that I am suffering from some heat exhaustion and feel incredibly sick. I promise I will get that review to you very soon though. So sorry guys!

For the rest of the pictures from our wild adventure you can see there here in the Om Nom Nom Studios Flickr stream. I will also try to see about getting your correct animal names in the near future.

So I leave you with a nifty picture I took of the sky this evening.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cupcake Wars Episode Three - Matchmaking Party

Tuesdays show opened up with it's usual introductions but at the same time that I was learning a little about Cupcakes Nouveau from Shayrin Badillo, I was being introduced to the concept of guava cupcakes which seemed all too inviting. Jeff Bonilla, of Cups looked as if he were torching some creme brulee cupcakes but sadly no mention was made of them so this girl will have to only dare to continue her dream.

This weeks taste challenge was to incorporate ingredients known to have, or associated with, aphrodisiac properties (oysters, strawberries, aniseed, ginger, honey, vanilla beans, dates, nutmeg, champagne.) So many choices and only 45 minutes. This time the contestants seemed to feel the time crunch even more than in previous episodes.

I must admit the idea of a vegan cupcake no longer excites me (it did in my vegan days and those are behind me) but Chloe Coscarelli peaked my interest once I heard the words "date caramel drizzle" and her presentation was just beautiful. I must say if I were fellow competitor, Shannon, I could understand her total shock when she heard the judges gush about this "indulgent" confection.

Jeff (Cups) started to make me feel he was playing it a little safe with the chocolate champagne cupcake (which I wouldn't turn down any day but this is war we're talkin' here) but quickly won me back his choice to top it with a raspberry, basil, cream cheese icing topped with organic raspberry. Sadly no matter how safe it seemed he was with his attempt to insure a delicious cupcake that didn't step too far out there and fall flat the time seemed to be his ultimate demise. Watching him struggle with cooking the cupcakes through with the rest of the time was hard enough but then to watch as his BEAUTIFUL topping melted and slid off was a bit heart-breaking.

I've got to say I was barely able to pay total attention Shannon Noormand (Crushcakes) after I heard her mention Grand Marnier, but I did my best and all other ingredients fell short in my mind.

For round two's taste & presentation challenge I found myself surprisingly on team before the time was even set! This round brought those almond guava cupcakes from that I was so hoping to hear more about, but Chloe managed to dominate my almost Pavlovian cupcakey response even more than before with her Tiramisu cupcakes with espresso and amaretto frosting.

Round three's presentation challenge Chloe ran away with it when she came up with a fresh, exciting, and dare I say hip idea to create a "hot" cupcake bar with silk flames blowing in the center. When it came to Shannons bedroom display what I really enjoyed was the stands at the foot of the bed - really, really beautiful cupcake-covered, tiered dessert stands.

Congratulations to Chloe Coscarelli

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fancypack Review and Genji Overview

Warning (before you read): Since there is so much to cover more of the hypertext links take you to items that are related but not directly covered in todays blog to make sure you still get just about everything in.

Now on to today's blog . . .

Blogging while fancypacking all weekend turned out to be more of a time strain than anticipated. Bad for the blog but good for me. I was pretty busy from Wednesday until Sunday.

Thursday the belt was just used for taking my sweet pup out for a walk and for this purpose I have to say I really love this. During the winter I am usually bundled up and have pockets, during spring I wear a light jacket, but now that summer is upon us I got really sick of wearing the track jacket around my waist so that I could have pockets. When I take Perfect out, in my pockets I usually carry 1 plastic grocery bag, 1 pair of latex gloves, my cell phone, and my keys. I am able to carry all of this and more in the fancy pack. Since I prefer to always be prepared ahead of time I just keep more bags and gloves in than usual instead of grabbing some each day.

That night I also tried out Genji, a Japanese steakhouse here in Columbus for my birthday dinner. There are two, I chose the one out of the two that had the higher approval rating on Urban Spoon.

My entree was okay, I had the fillet and sesame chicken. Since this looks like it will be a long blog I will just give you the pros and cons of the experience.

*No choice of a mushroom or chicken liver appetizer.
(Which I have gotten used to being a standard offer)
*The sushi menu was minuscule at best.
*Instead of miso soup we were served beef broth.
*The "show" was the worst I've seen
(Do not take this to mean total disappointment - I've just seen much better)
*Needlessly surly hostess

*Endless dipping sauce
(So long as the "chef" is still at your table. Every other place I have been, once you're out - you're out!)
(Nothing felt grubby, sticky, grimy, or just yucky in general)
*Nommy food
*Birthday photo

(On the far right you can see my friend DreemGypsy from I Can Knit That)
*Birthday chopsticks

*Birthday pineapple
(Nicely sliced and came at the same time as the drumming, singing, chopsticks, and right before the photo)

Friday was actually one of my cousins birthdays (and a few other people I'm not related to as well. Happy public belated birthday once more to those people.) Grandma was kind enough to take five of her grand-children to the Columbus zoo to see the new polar bears, for birthday fun, and a great place for continued Fancypack testing. When one of our cousins saw the bow he immediately remarked that it was "fancy" - good call on the name Carla! Grandma's reaction to it was that it was a great idea instead of carrying her purse and headed off for her "lime green" fannypack.

I had cause to use it before we even left grandmas house when she gave me her second parking pass and then immediately once we were all through the gates when we needed to grab a map. The fancypack got constant use that day with all of my picture taking. One recommendation about carrying your camera is to make sure if you keep your camera in any sort of camera sock, try to choose one that wont constantly try to stick to the Velcro like mine did. Eventually I just had my husband carry the camera sock to make everything easier.

Despite the fact I have an actual camera sock I made for myself,

I have been using this coffee cup cozy for months now instead.

Saturdays plans to go to The Wilds were thrown over for mischief with some of my family which included a trip to the dollar store where the Om Nom Nom Studios model you may remember from the grand opening, Lizzie K., found cute sidewalk chalk.

But I did still get to experience just a tiny bit of the "wilds" in the form of Columbus zoo stuff in Raising Canes (chicken so good I had it at my wedding!) where we had lunch.

Sunday, Lizzie, one of my brother-in-laws, the hubbo, and myself trekked down very close to Cincinnati to go to Kings Island. When we stopped for gas Lizzie and I had a mini DeLorian adventure.

The temperature Sunday was in the high 80's to the mid 90's so we chose to head to the water park portion first. There my Fancypack was relinquished to a rented locker, where it spent the majority of the day.

My rating for the Fancypack after this weekend is four stars. I would have given it five but I want to see how long this Velcro lasts and see how it does in a few other environments.

Since this post was so long I plan to blog about the most recent episode of Cupcake Wars tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cupcake Wars Goes to Sea World

Last nights Cupcake Wars centered around the twelfth birthday of Killer Whale Sumar at Sea World San Diego. All of the nights challenges centered around not only looking the Sea World part but very much tasting the Sea World part.

After Hollis Wilder's lemon-scented lox cupcakes I was beyond excited for "the taste challenge", where the first chosen flavours were borrowed from the sea and the bakers were given sea weed and sea salt. Instantly, plans for sushi cupcake creations swirled around my mind (which would be in terrible taste for the Sea World theme).

Allyson Fiander
's idea of rimming the cupcakes with brown sugar and sea salt didn't sound as appealing as it did plain. I thought the idea of rimming a cupcake with salt would be fantastic for a Margarita cupcake of some sort - "to-cook" list you just got bigger.

Bret Thompson chose to break out some spirulina, an idea that was only a taste the originality he had to dish up. He then powdered the spirulina and mixed it with vanilla as the base for his cupcake. This is a cupcake I may just leap at the chance to taste.

When it came to baker, Lindsay Morton, I got distracted by her choice to use honey frosting which is a refreshing change from so many butter cream frosting's that seem to await you atop a cupcake. The cake underneath however, didn't sound as special to me.

The star of the "taste & presentation" challenge for me was once again, Bret Thompson with his cherry coke ice cream cone cupcake with cream cheese frosting and hot fudge ganache topped with a maraschino cherry, pink lemon aid and cotton candy cupcakes with marshmallow frosting, and dark chocolate squid ink infused cupcakes topped with a Sumar marzipan garnish. Squid ink is an ingredient I have been dying to get my hands on for my own at-home use. I agree with the judges that these all came out looking a bit more fun-at-the-fair than they did see-Sumar-at-sea-world.

This round left me sick of seeing lemon and fondant. It felt like nearly everyone was using it and none of it really "popped".

Here's hoping the next episode is much better than last nights which despite the culinary inventiveness of Bret Thompson, left me unaffected.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fancypackness Is Next to Rachel Rayliness . . .

. . .well, sort of. "Next to" meaning, also used by Kim White, Rachel Ray's makeup artist.

Carla Morales, graduate of one of the art schools I begged my parents to let me go to (RISD), has the solution for anyone else out there, like me, who frequently has no pockets and just enough times that you don't feel like carrying a purse. The solution comes in the form of an adjustable belt with a bow containing two pockets, cleverly named - the Fancypack.

Examples of great times to Fancypack-it-up:
*Walking your dog
*Amusement parks / zoos / fairs
(so you can carry a little more than you already have in your purse and carry-on)
*Firework fights
(Hey I'm a girl from a family of boys that married into a family of boys. This comes up more often than you might think!)
*Country kiddies who need to carry a small amount of ammo out into the woods

Carla was kind enough not only to work with me to create a custom made Fancypack that fit the Om Nom Nom spirit, but to also make sure to get it to me in time for my birthday. Ultimately we decided the extra-large sized Fancypack would best suit my possible needs. Here is the mock-up she came back to me with.

I was able to pick the belt colour as well as the kind and colour of the clasp. I chose a slimming chocolately belt with strawberry heart accent clasps.

My Fancypack arrived today - two days before my birthday. I intend to test it out and report back on my Fancypacking all weekend long and let you know how it stands up.

For all of today's Fancypack pictures you can see them here in the Om Nom Nom Studios Flickr stream.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How 'Bout Them Cupcake Wars?

Last night marked the beginning of The Food Network's Cupcake Wars. I thought about warning your earlier but somehow felt that most of you already knew. If you didn't, I apologize. But no matter what - if you don't have your DVR's set to record the series, what are you waiting for!?

Each episode will feature four amazing bakers going head-to-head-to-head-to-head in three elimination challenges until, but much like Highlander, there can be only one. The winner not only absorbs all the other competitors baking prowess (that is if judge Florian Bellanger doesn't beat them to something similar after his Simon Cowell-esq remarks) but an opportunity to display their delicious cupcakes at an A-list event, ten-thousand dollars, and sugary glory!

Congratulations to last nights winner, owner of Sweet bakery in Orlando, Florida, Hollis Wilder. From the moment that woman dared to try a lox cupcake I was in her corner and now can only think of finding a way to score such a sweet sweet treat!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Yarn Storage

Yesterday hubbo and I helped some good friends of ours move. A turn of fate that was possibly long overdo for us. Our pasts are littered with moves military and otherwise but I can't actually remember staying anyplace long enough to need to help anyone.

Perfect also got some quality time with her friend Sissy Von Rauch, named after Princess Sisi of Bavaria.

As is the case with so many moves, in the end our friends had things they either had no space for or for which they no longer had any further use. We were given this (the tan closet-y thing):

I have no idea what to call it. Whatever it is, it's now yarn storage. So here is my new "work area" as it is right now [and unfinished.]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Liz Lemon Break

This Liz Lemon break is brought to you by Fuck Yeah Liz Lemon, the letter G, and the number 7.

Liz: [to Jenna] What’s going on? Why are you being so happy and nice?… Are you soaking your tampons in vodka again?
30 Rock 4.19 - “Argus”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So. Much. Fur.

It's that time of year again - flowers are in bloom and dogs are shedding. Perfect, regrettably, is one of those blooming shedding dogs and somehow this year it seems worse than ever.

Vacuuming doesn't do the trick. I have to use our [borrowed] hand-held wet/dry vac to pull up the hair and then vacuum.

To all you other dog owners out there with fur working its way as deep and it can into your carpets the Om Nom Nom household feels your pain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecake & Desserts

A few weeks ago I was flipping through my foodie friend SiamKittie's Facebook photos and saw this photo of what turned out to be a slice of strawberry shortcake cheesecake, and instantly needed info about how I could make this happen for myself. SK was kind enough to direct me straight to where I could buy my own online (and currently on sale too!)

Before ordering I did my usual online search to learn a little about what I was getting myself into. In an online forum I saw someone said that Junior's Cheesecakes make Cheesecake Factory's cheesecakes taste like Sara Lee. It was ordered within the next 48 hours. Then I played the waiting game, in fact while I played I avoided all other desserts until my cake arrived.

Finally the day came, and much to my chagrin UPS didn't show until very late in the day; however it did show right as we were about to have dinner. UPS pulled a bit of a ding-dong-ditch and was gone before my husband answered the door. They also set the box on its side which had me a little worried about the state of my cake. There was minor squashing on one side but nothing like the pizzas that have obviously carried the under a delivery guys arm.

The cake was incredibly well packaged and was shipped with dry ice to keep it cool.

My initial response to the cake was that it fell short of my now somewhat hyped expectations. It was alright, and I liked the shortcakey bits, but the cheesecake was still slightly frozen. Still more cake to go I decided that I would just wait until the cake was entirely thawed and see how I felt about it then.

The thaw was just what the cake needed. The icing is light, nearly fluffy, leaving me wishing there was just a wee bit more to enjoy; it complimented the cake perfectly. Sandwiching cheesecake in between the shortcake was an interesting call on the part of Junior's and I must say as a girl who adores a sandwich - I approve! Inside the cheesecake was mixed just the right amount of fresh strawberries. There wasn't a strawberry in every bite but one sure seemed to show up when you wanted one. When it comes to the shortcake two words come to mind and those are springy and spongy.

Overall I'd have to say each individual piece that went into making this creatively layered cake was well crafted.

Was it the best cheesecake of my life? Since there's more life to live it's really too soon to say; but whenever I am back in New York I have every intention of seeing what other freshly concocted desserts Junior's has to offer.

Final rating? Three and a half stars - I really enjoyed it but didn't fall head over heels, I wouldn't turn down a piece if offered, and would actively pursue trying it again fresher than I was able to get it here in Ohio.

If all of this has you interested in placing an order of your own two good facts to have are that the cheapest available shipping is $11 for 2-day shipping. The alternative is $20 for overnight. And that you can choose your delivery date.

All of the pictures from this can be found in the Om Nom Nom Studios Flickr stream.