plum & almond tart

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There are so many things I love about summer. The sunshine, beach getaways, and carefree attitudes are all great, but one of my favorite things about late summer in particular is stone fruit. Plums, peaches, apricots, and more are all at their peak ripeness at this time, and you can find them all over the farmers market here in NYC. While they taste super sweet and juicy all on their own, stone fruits can lend themselves to a seriously delicious dessert as well. I love halving them (to show off their beautiful colors) and baking them up in a tasty, yet simple tart. I've used some nice hearty plums here, but feel free to substitute whichever stone fruit you please!   

Plum & Almond Tart:

  • 10 plums, halved and pitted
  • 3 tbsp Cointreau
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or almond extract)
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • whipped cream or ice cream, for serving

Pastry:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • iced water, if necessary
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Marinate the plums in the Cointreau with 2 tbsp sugar for at least two hours, preferably overnight. For the pastry, mix the butter into the flour in a mixing bowl with your hands (or use a food processor) until it's a course, crumbly mixture. Add the egg yolk, sugar, and salt, and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Add a bit of iced water if the dough seems to dry and crumbly. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour. You can make this ahead of time, or if you're in a hurry, use a store-bought pastry dough.

Coarsely grate the pastry into a 9-inch tart shell, and spread it out with your fingers. This method gives the pastry a rustic, flaky texture. Chill the prepared tart shell for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F, and prick the tart's base with a fork. Cover with parchment paper, weigh it down with dried beans, and par-bake for 15 minutes.

Whisk butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and any juices from the plums until mixture is well combined. Stir in almond meal and flour, careful not to over-mix. Pour this into tart shell and push plums in, cut-side up. Reduce temperature to 300 F, and bake for about 1 hour. Cover with foil if edges start to brown too quickly. Allow to cool, then serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. 

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olmsted

Olmsted has been on my must-try list for some time now, so I was excited when my husband and I finally made it there for my birthday dinner! This Brooklyn hotspot has been getting rave reviews for its seasonal, ingredient- driven menu. They even have their own backyard garden and living wall, which provide produce for the dishes. Chef Greg Baxtrom, who has an impressive list of restaurants on his resume including Per Se and Alinea, partnered with farmer Ian Rothman to create a vegetable-forward restaurant with a strong focus on sustainability. Talk about right up my alley!

The menu draws inspiration from many different types of cuisine, and even has a secret "menu within a menu" called the Yakitori Olmsted. Ask for it for a fun departure from your typical neighborhood restaurant menu! We stuck to some of the classics, and were not disappointed. The duck chakna, while not something I would typically order, was so full of flavor, and the accompanying red lentil naan was like a fluffy pillow of doughy goodness! The rutabaga tagliatelle was a creative take on pasta- the ribbons of rutabaga giving us that perfect al dente bite! The highlight of the meal for me, and something I was looking forward to before we even arrived, was dessert (shocker, I know). At Olmsted, guests can roast their own s'mores, complete with homemade marshmallows and artisan graham crackers, right outside in the backyard. How fun, and something you don't typically see in New York City! My husband, being the wonderful man that he is, had them surprise us with all the desserts on the menu, so in addition to our freshly roasted s'mores, we got to indulge in caramel apple donuts and chocolate mousse as well! Click through the photos to read about the rest of our tasty dishes. Sounds like a dream meal to me!


tiny boxwoods

I love that my hometown of Houston, Texas has such a great restaurant scene. Living in NYC can sometimes spoil a person, but I'm lucky that I still get to eat plenty of delicious food when I'm back home as well. Tiny Boxwoods is one of my go-to spots, as both the cuisine and atmosphere are right up my alley. Their mission is to "create an experiential bond between food and environment that's contagious to all and forgotten by no one... to prepare good food from good places. Not just from its origins, but from our kitchen". The food here truly speaks to that idea, and the fresh, seasonal ingredients really do make for a memorable meal. Click through the photos for more details about each of our vibrant and flavorful dishes. I'm bummed I missed a photo of our wood-fired pizza, but I can assure you it's perfectly delish! If you do happen to stop by, try to snag one of the beautiful outdoor garden tables, and don't forget to grab a freshly baked cookie to-go on your way out!

16 oz. espresso rubbed dry-aged rib eye // oven roasted yucca, baby heirloom tomatoes, house chimichurri 


sauvage

I'd been looking forward to trying Sauvage ever since it opened across from McCarren Park and the ever-popular Five Leaves. Other restaurants have had trouble surviving in this location, but this place just seemed different. Months passed without stopping by, then my husband and I got word that his mentor and chef Damon Wise had taken over the kitchen, which instantly moved it to the top of our list! We dined with a good friend and enjoyed the fresh spring menu, which was full of seasonal favorites like morel mushrooms, strawberries, ramps, and asparagus! Each and every dish was well-balanced and full of flavor, it would be hard to pick a favorite. I loved the chef's unique take on vegetables, from the multicolor carrots with cloumage & ramps, to the roasted cauliflower with broccoli pesto & spicy pistachios, I could easily make a meal of all the appetizers! My black bass entreé just melted into its creamy but light buttermilk broth, and the morel mushrooms added a lovely earthy flavor. You know I love dessert (and usually order multiple), but after such a big meal something light and refreshing was all we could handle, so the yogurt granita was just perfect! Scroll through the slideshow to check out the rest of our ridiculously delicious meal! And full disclosure- since we dined at Sauvage, Chef Damon has left the restaurant and returned to the South, where he's originally from. But it's still his menu and the cooks continue to execute it with ease!


moro

On a recent trip to London I got to have dinner with a good friend from NYC. It's funny that with our busy travel schedules, sometimes it ends up being easier to get together when we're away from home! She knows London better than I do, and also appreciates really great food, so she suggested we dine at Moro. This place is a true classic (it's been around for 20 years!), and after trying their food, I totally understand why. The chefs focus on the flavors of the Southern Mediterranean- think Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara- which leads to some truly vibrant food. Everything was flavorful and delicious, from the seasonal special we shared to start (which we ate too quickly for a photo!) to the charcoal grilled halibut. I think the highlight, for me personally, was the mixed vegetable mezze- it's everything I want on a plate and truly how I love to eat on a daily basis. Not to mention the fresh bread was baked to perfection!

A few nights later I also got to dine at their sister restaurant, Morito Hackney Road, which was equally impressive and totally up my alley. Think a similar vibe but offered in more a small plates setting. Super tasty and great for a group! I really cannot say enough good things about Moro and Morito, and I definitely look forward to returning to both spots on my next trip to London!

vanilla cupcakes

Everyone needs a good 'ol vanilla cupcake recipe, and this one is a tried and true favorite. It's the perfect blank canvas, making it super easy to customize based on what you're in the mood for! Whether it's with fillings (strawberry compote and salted caramel are both great), or toppings (I love nuts, chocolate, or sprinkles), the options are endless! Swiss meringue buttercream is the best frosting option, in my humble opinion. It's super pretty and glossy, less sickeningly sweet than traditional American buttercream, and holds up well at room temperature and even outdoors! You can also add flavor to the frosting if you want to mix things up, but the vanilla is a great classic that goes with many flavors. Whatever you end up with, you'll almost always be guaranteed a delicious treat! Now get to baking!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups cake flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed & softened
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with liners, and spray them with nonstick spray. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the base of a stand mixer fit with whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, beating well and scraping down the bowl to ensure they are fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, then mix in buttermilk until just combined. Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point. 

Add flour mixture until just incorporated, careful not to over-mix. Pour batter evenly among cupcake liners, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then completely on a cooling rack. Makes about a dozen cupcakes

While cupcakes are baking, make the buttercream. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a bowl over a double boiler until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into the stand mixer (make sure it's clean & dry!) fit with paddle attachment and whip until it turns white glossy. Add the vanilla, then the butter and continue to whip until buttercream comes together. This may take a good 10-15 minutes, so don't worry if things look curdled or soupy at the start!

Once cupcakes have cooled, you may add filling if desired. Scoop out a small bit of cake from the top (using a knife or melon-baller), add the filling, and replace the cake on top. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes using a pastry bag fit with an icing tip, and finish with toppings if you choose! Enjoy!

*Adapted from Best Birthday Cake by Smitten Kitchen.


top shop byron bay

Byron Bay is truly one of the most magical places. I got to spend a few days there with friends on my trip to Australia, but I'd gladly return at the drop of a hat! It's a picturesque beach town, with tons of cute shops and places to eat. I've raved about my love for Aussie food culture before, but it's seriously the best. I love the idea of going out for a leisurely breakfast or lunch, sitting outside, and enjoying all the fresh flavors the season has to offer. Top Shop Byron Bay is a popular little corner store and café (super close to where we stayed!) that focuses on local and organic produce, and makes some really great coffee! We stopped in multiple times on our three day getaway from Sydney, and practically everything on the menu is right up my alley. The acaí bowls come topped with tropical fruit, dried coconut, and granola, and are the perfect refreshment after a morning in the sun. I became particularly obsessed with the maca-mango smoothie, made from mango, macadamia nut milk, and macadamia nut butter. Oh my glory it was so delicious, and I cannot wait to recreate it at home! My husband was a fan of the breaky burger, which comes fully loaded with egg, bacon, and avocado! All the homemade baked goods are laid out on display to tempt you as well, and they are absolutely worth the indulgence. Top Shop is totally my kind of spot, one that I definitely wish there were more of stateside!


deliciously ella

I've been following Ella Mills (@DeliciouslyElla) for a while now, and was super excited when she opened The MaE Deli (now called Deliciously Ella) along with her husband, Matthew. Now with multiple locations around London, the delis offer natural, seasonal, and delicious food. While I (luckily) don't have any allergies or need to avoid any specific ingredients, all the food at The MaE Deli is free from wheat, dairy, additives, and refined sugar, making it the perfect, healthy spot for breakfast or lunch for just about anyone. On a recent trip to London, I visited twice, and loved all the fresh, colorful options to choose from. I created my own "MaE Bowl", with miso broccolini salad, sweet potato with coriander tahini, cauliflower & broad bean falafel, and grilled vegetables with sorrel pesto, all topped with avocado pesto dip! Talk about a mouthful, but this is my favorite kind of lunch. Veggie-based, full of flavor, and super healthy and satisfying!

You know me- I rarely pass on the sweets, and this occasion was no different. The fudgy brownie tastes sinful and indulgent, but is far from it. I love when a dessert still tastes rich and decadent, but isn't full of a bunch of processed crap! Win-win! And how pretty is the hot pink frosting on that red velvet cupcake?! You can now also buy Ella's energy balls in various stores around London (like Whole Foods!). These bite-sized treats, made from nuts and fruits, are great, quick sources of energy and protein, and delicious to boot! I like keeping a few in my bag for whenever I start to get hangry. Here's hoping a NYC location opens soon!