May 30, 2012

cheesecake: listen to your mother (and Mark Bittman)

When it comes to cheesecake, I'm a purist.  I'm also a little snobby.  Cheesecake should be creamy and deceivingly light in spite of the hefty fat content.  It need not be laden with gelatinous fruit topping or filled with chocolate chips to be successful.  Not that I don't love the occasional caramel-chocolate-peanut butter explosion cheesecake.  I mean, any cheesecake is better than no cheesecake.  Except no-bake cheesecake, 'no' being the operative word.  Don't do it.

Until recently, I've solely used my mom's cheesecake recipe - and with 100% success.  It's simple - the ingredients all go into one mixing bowl & you dump them into the prepared crust.  It bakes, it cools, and then it's ready.

I love that about cheesecake.  It's just...easy. 

So why on earth would I choose to try a cheesecake that's a bit more complicated?  Well, because Mark Bittman said it was good, and though my loyalty is to mom, I've also had a 100% success rate with his recipes.  My husband & I received a copy of "How to Cook Everything" as a wedding gift, and it's easily my most used (and most food stained) cookbook. 

As far as skill level, making this cheesecake is really not a difficult process, but it's definitely more involved than the aforementioned one-bowl method.  Even so, it's worth the extra dirty bowls & whatnot. 

What won me over about it is the light, creamy texture achieved from whipping the egg whites separately.  The fresh lemon zest and the sour cream topping offer a double whammy of pleasing tartness that is so delicious and perfectly balances the sweetness.  I followed his recipe exactly, with the exception of using real vanilla bean instead of extract. 

I can't wait to make this one again.  I think, however, that I'll use a friend's recent recipe as inspiration and use ground pistachios in the graham cracker crust and replace the lemon zest with lime. 

I like to think of this one as a special occasion cheesecake.  The fancy dress party of cheesecakes.  But when I want the snuggly, comfy pants version of cheesecake - the one that makes me feel at home - I'm going back to mom's standby.

May 15, 2012

Savor Nashville + a contest

Remember the episode of Friends where Rachel and Monica battled against Chandler and Joey in a game about how well they know each other?  They're neck and neck, until Monica and Rachel lose (the apartment!) because they can't identify what Chandler does for a living.

"Oh gosh, it's something to do with numbers...and processing.  He carries a briefcase."
"Something to do with transponding..." 
"Oh, oh!  He's a transpon...a transponster!"
"That's not even a word!"

Welcome to the world of public relations.  I feel fairly certain that most of my family members couldn't tell you what I do for a living.  Cue another favorite, this time the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary.  I don't just "fanny about with the press releases," you see.

In a nutshell, it's my job to make sure you, the public, hear about the exciting things going on with my clients.  The great thing about working for a small agency is that we seek out and work with clients whose products and services are of personal interest to us.  That said, I spend a good part of most days talking about, writing about, dreaming about, and well, eating food. 

So if I didn't tell you about Savor Nashville, I wouldn't be doing my job. 

The annual culinary weekend does an exceptional job of showcasing the local food scene, not just in Nashville but in surrounding areas. 

I love the concept of the Celebrity Chef Dinner, which brings in award-winning chefs from other markets.  It's like I get the opportunity to try out new restaurants without having to leave the city, which is great for someone who's not doing too much traveling these days.  This Saturday, May 19, Savor Nashville will offer a five-course meal prepared by Chef James Boyce of Cotton Row in Huntsville, AL and Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington's Restaurant in Charlotte, NC. I've seen the menu, and I'm already planning on which forgiving (read: stretchy) outfit I should wear to accommodate all five courses.  It will be an evening of culinary firsts for me, as I've never tried a quail egg, which will make an appearance in the first course.  And true to form, I'm most excited about the dessert course: peanut butter and jelly in phyllo with strawberry compote, milk chocolate ice cream and salty peanuts.  All the stuff in between sounds decadent (stretchy pants): roasted halibut with potato pave, wilted greens, green garlic soubise and caramelized shallot vinaigrette, followed by beef short ribs with grits, balsamic portabella mushrooms, herb salad and provencal tomato. Each course will feature wine pairings from Cultivate

The weekend of Eating All The Delicious Things continues Sunday, May 20, with Challenge to the Chefs: a local chef cook off where contenders must use the following local ingredients:  Benton's Bacon, Goo Goo Clusters and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.  Attendees will get to meander about, watching some of Nashville's legitimately best chef talent work to prepare incredible food.  And then we get to eat it.  There will be a Bloody Mary bar, plus samples from Cascal, Juice Nashville and Jack Daniels.

Job perk: I've already sampled an incredible creation that includes all three of the local ingredients.  Deb Paquette made a Goo Goo Cluster quesadilla with spicy bacon, bourbon apple relish, and bourbon caramel sauce for a recent TV segment.  That won't be her contest entry, but I'd sure vote for the chance to eat it again. 

Tickets to Savor Nashville are still available.  Don't miss this weekend of culinary genius.  Hey, if you need stretchy clothes, I'll even lend you a pair of maternity pants that I haven't yet parted with. 

Now, the contest*! 

I'm giving away a pair of tickets to Savor Nashville's Challenge to the Chefs, set for this Sunday, May 20, 12 p.m. at Union Station Hotel.

To enter, leave a comment telling me which of the Challenge to the Chefs local ingredients you'd most like to cook with.

For up to two additional chances do the following, leaving a separate comment for each:

  1. Follow @nashlifestyles on Twitter and tweet the following: "a delicious giveaway! i just entered to win tickets to @nashlifestyles' #SavorNashville Challenge to the Chefs."
  2. Become a fan of Nashville Lifestyles magazine on Facebook. 
The contest is open from now until Friday, May 18 at 1 p.m. CST. Please leave a valid email address with your comment so I can notify you if you’ve won. I’ll draw a random number that afternoon and the corresponding comment will be the winner.

*Attendees must be 21 or older to attend.

Contest is closed.  Congratulations to commenter #18, James!

Full disclosure:  Though this event is something I publicize for a living, the decision to post about my personal experience was unprompted by the event organizers.  And yes, I will be wearing stretchy clothes.