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Think: “I’m gonna make fondants,” “I am so gonna make fondants, chocolate covered fondants,” “ZOMG, I need a bunch of cute molds for fondants because THIS IS WHO I WILL BE!”

Make fondants.

“FTS. I am never doing this shizz ever again.”
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Sooo, my adventures in fondant making were successful, but time consuming. From start to finish, it was a multi-day project, and waaayyy too sweet for me. The husbear, my own sugar fiend, loved them, and is sad to hear this was my first and only endeavor.

Painting the chocolate into these molds was a bitch and a half. Oh my gosh. And tempering the chocolate? Wow, I’m actually surprised I succeeded at first try on that one, but I did. Glossy little fondants, all around.

The fondant filling I used was a purely sugar based fondant, which was… way too sugary for me. Haha. I need fat! And when you make just the sugar
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So. Much. time. But hey, most things are painfully time consuming at first.
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They did look cute. Maybe I will try them again.
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After all, I do have two sets of rosette molds that are perfect for filled chocolates. Sigh. Okay. I’ll try it again. Eventually.

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I don’t have many bucket list items. But I’ve read tale of Google’s corporate kitchens, and it’s been in the back of my mind to check out for some time. One of my friends from Albany took a job in their Chelsea offices in NYC. While I was sad to lose my friend, I was a wee bit happy to have an “in” to Google’s NYC office foods.
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Lego land! No pics of Googlers were allowed, which was great, because people are never my photo target, just food. This was when you first walked in past reception – a lego themed area as a nod to how they first started building computers in a garage with legos.
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Snacks, candy, and fresh fruit. They even had fresh rambutan!
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Lego heads filled with candy. Google owns the building across from Chelsea Market entirely (home to Food Network, and Google’s own YouTube), so the layout is pretty maze-y. But every floor has a few food areas. Oh, it was so cool!
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We settled on the top Google floor kitchen for lunch. They had griddled fish and sauteed zucchini. Yum!
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And also wood fired but tough pizza. Still, very cool to see the execution and scale. So many worker bees, and yet the turnaround was very quick.
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More snacking on a lower level with outdoor seating. They had creme brulee! CREME BRULEE! and more fresh fruit, and…. oh man. So awesome. If I worked at Google I would have a hard time wanting to go out to eat. This was great cafeteria food, and so many healthy options, too.
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And even sushi! It was on par with what you’d pick up at a supermarket, or other pre-fab sushi, but still. How awesome is it to just be able to leave your desk, grab a quick roll, and get back to work? Man, very cool, and better fuel than candy or processed foods.

Oh, and their coffee bar with baristas? So totes amaze. I had an almond milk cappuccino with Counter Culture coffee when I first walked in. It seems like a nice place to work for productive people – everyone was motivated and working hard, but friendly and very polite, too. I know those Googlers work their patooties off, and it still seems like a really neat place. There aren’t really any offices, everyone is out in the open, working collaboratively, and there are private booths for phone calls and video calls, in addition to delightfully quirky conference rooms. Any way, I’ll stop raving about their corporate culture and structure. If you’ve got a friend you can visit at Google in NYC, you should give them a ring. It’s an awesome place to visit.

 

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Went to Amherst for an early Thanksgving with the in laws. So much delicious food. Papa Amherst got this as a freebie turkey, and brined it into this delicious beauty. That man can make anything taste awesome.
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Looks like I was so excited for dinner, I forgot to take pics of the rest of dinner. But so good.
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And dessert! Blueberry pie, pecan pie, and white chocolate pie with quince drizzle.
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Papa Amherst makes such good pie crust. Crispy, flaky. So good.
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I brought a white chocolate tart with a bit of quince and rosewater jam. The white chocolate didn’t quite set up at room temp (too much cream), but the metered dose of quince + rose jam cut the richness a bit.
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Papa Amherst’s mom used to make quite the spread during the holidays, and it’s a trait he’s picked up. He also made pecan pie (!). So good!
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New fireplace
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And pensive pup photos.
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Queen of the blankets. All of them.
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We checked out Oriental Flavor in Amherst, the new Sichuan/Canto restaurant downtown. The name is super generic, but they’re legit Chinese food in Amherst.
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They had BEEF TENDON on the menu! $8 or $9 for a plate of spicy Sichuan-style beef tendon served cold and chewy. It would have been a bit much for one person to eat, so it’s a nice app to split for a group.
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They also had har gow and xiao long bao on the menu. I was skeptical, since it’s a pretty small restaurant (give or take a about a dozen tables) and it wasn’t super busy, but I asked and they said they made them both fresh daily. The har gow were very good! Pliant and supple-soft rice noodle exterior, and a fresh shrimp interior.
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The prices are a bit on the high side, but hey, it’s cheaper than a road trip to Flushing if you live in Western Mass. Soy bean wrapped pork is in the background. This was too sweet and I suggest skipping it if you’ve had it before. Turnip cakes were good and worth ordering – nice crispness to them. Siu mai in the front.
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Go for the har gow, skip the XLB. In some ways, the per-prepared ones may have been a better way to go than putting forth the effort of making these themselves. They seemed to be made with wonton skin type wrappers, which meant they all cracked and lost all soup, kind of defeating the purpose of ordering soup dumplings.XLB are the popular kids in dim sum now, so I get why they’re on the menu. The meat inside was a dense meatball, and a bit on the sweet/bland side. Though to be fair, they are taking on two very difficult dim sum dishes to make from different regions of China. Har Gow = Cantonese/Hong Kong style. Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings = Shanghai. I’d be more surprised if they did both very well. They could also probably scratch this from their menu, since they’re more disappointing if you’ve ever had a true soup dumpling.
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Seasonal veggies were also very nice. I wound up eating most of the garlic ^_^

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After that, the ladies split off and went shopping for horrific christmas gifts crafts.

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As opposed to the slutty earrings I’ve been wearing all these years. Just kidding, I hardly ever wear earrings, and even then it’s mostly stainless steel industrial/unbreakable stuff.
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They also had sweet straw/hay sculptures.
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Here’s a random picture of 5kg/11lb Callebaut chocolate bars I picked up at Restaurant Depot for ~$5/lb. They are kind of a bitch to break apart (the easiest way is to drop/slam them from a height.

How are your holidays going? This year, I am just so not feeling the holidays, or like being close to anyone. I’d just like to go hibernate from Thanksgiving through Christmas. No holiday decorations are up. No dozens upon dozens of different types of cookies. No cookie swaps, no excitement at all for any of what I’m missing/not doing either. I haven’t even bought gifts, which is now starting to fill me with moderate anxiety since I feel kind of like I should. It’s weird. I feel like I should be going through these motions, but I can’t really bring myself to do it. No wee ones to pass traditions off to, so I figure this is a good year to be all blahlidays about this time of year.

Any way, how are you holidays going?

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Beef Chow Fun! It isn’t dim sum with my family without an order of beef chow fun. However, I wasn’t with my blood relatives when I had this beef chow fun at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro for dim sum with some of my local “family”.
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I also hope you like cheong fan, because when left to my own devices, I will order literally all of the cheong fan options available. Hong Kong Bakery makes their cheong fan fresh, and it’s hard to resist that slippery-chewy, tender-stretchy quality freshly steamed rice noodles have.
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The shrimp and duck fillings are two of my favorites (favorite favorites?) – very well executed.
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The seaweed and octopus salad was on the specials menu for $9.99. The picture probably looks larger than it was, but these were baby octopus on a small plate. I wasn’t a fan of this one –  served iced cold out of the fridge, well – it didn’t do the octopus any flavors. The seaweed salad underneath was nice, though.

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December is here, and colder weather calls for rib-sticking, hearty meals. Kenji’s take on traditional cassoulet recipe is fantastic for a comforting, warm meal in cold weather. Read through his recipe – it’s really phenomenal writing and made me want to try this, despite not being much of a bean eater in my normal meals.  And now I have  a reason to add beans to my repertoire. It’s a really versatile recipe, too, so you could go traditional, or you could just go with what you have.
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The real revelation here is adding gelatin to boxed/canned broth or stock. It really beefs up the flavor and helps combine the liquid and beans into a creamy, rich dish. I should strive for homemade stock, but I go through more broth than chicken carcasses to make enough stock/broth, and it’s just never really worked out for this household like that. Ah well. One day. Either way, homemade stock or no, you’ll have delicious beany goodness after several hours.
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Great Northern beans, some mild italian sausage, chicken thighs, and lamb shoulder (there’s lamb nubbins in there, too) were a nice combo. The sausage was… eh, a little out of place, but it’s what was in the fridge, so it’s what went in the cassoulet. I tried this again with just lamb and chicken, and the flavor was a little lacking, so some sort of sausage or third meat is a good idea.
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As is, this makes a TON of food if you’re a 2-person household like mine. So be good at eating leftovers, or freezing. This was so good I happily ate it all week for lunch and a few dinners. Me. The lady who hates leftovers. Loved this and looked forward to it so much. It was that good.

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Happy 1-Year-in-Saratoga Birthday to TC Bakery-Paris! They turned one more than a few weeks ago, and invited a few folks up to celebrate the joyous occasion.
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Our fabulous hosts getting ready. I went with someone who is very particular about getting there on time, so we arrived right when the ball began.
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They put out a few trays of some of their popular treats.
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Like their delicious sandwiches, with baguettes made in-store. So delicious.
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They were also deputing their new Gateau de Reves (dream cake!). I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but this rich and decadent affair was hard not to like. TC describes it is “4 layers of Rich chocolate cake, 2 layers of dark chocolate mousse, and a layer of our whipped salted caramel. A second coat of whipped caramel on the outside of the cake, and glazed with our rich Valrhona Cristal Glaze“. I would also be one happy camper with a piping bag full of whipped salted caramel. Fantastic.
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The shop was also open, so I took the opportunity to buy one of the ispahan macaron ($6.95). A softball-sized macaron is filled with rose and lychee infused buttercream, and dotted with fresh raspberries along the border.
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The deliciousness ROI  is high with this confection.
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I’m also not quite sure what the portion size is on this, but I’m assuming it’s not an entire macaron. Still, I soldiered on.
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The fine folks at TC Bakery-Paris were also kind enough to send a few local food bloggers off with goodie bags. I get such warm fuzzies when I see goodie bags! They remind me of childhood. Except these are filling with artfully crafted treats (and a judicious amount, thankfully).
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Toffee pieces and olive sables! The olive sables straddle savory and sweet in a wonderful way. The dough itself is lightly sweet, and the olives hold up well to the slight sweetness of the dough. The size of the olives also gives just the right amount of salinity without being overpowering.

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