Monday, September 17, 2007

Recent Projects

The past few weeks have been busy and full of interesting projects. Although I knew that September would bring a slew of challenging projects, I was somewhat unprepared for the physical amount of hours it would take to complete them. It's been fun nonetheless, and I'm happy with all of the outcomes. It's very enjoyable to work on things that present a challenge, things that require you to think outside the box and make you do things differently than how you've done them before. It's true that you don't get better at anything unless you're constantly working to improve your skills.

I made this cake for a surprise 30th birthday party. I was told beforehand that the birthday boy's hobbies included coffee and climbing. I wasn't told that he was once the barista champion of the world and employed by Intelligentsia Coffee. His fiance and I came up with the idea to have a little man scaling the side of a huge coffee cup. The latte art on top is a representation of Matt Riddle's award-winning creations. The handle is made of chocolate modeling clay and the little climber is made of gum paste, which is completely edible, although you'd never want to eat it.

This one was for a one-year-old birthday party. The baby's mother requested a lavender hippopotamus wearing a pink tutu as a homage to a cartoon she used to watch when she was young. Carving cake is one of my favorite things to do, as it's a different experience every time. Before it was iced, it looked just like a teddy bear. The bow is made of gum paste again.

My best friend Kristin is getting married this weekend. She asked me a long time ago to make her cake for her, which was a great honor. Since I'm standing up in the wedding, and time is of the essence, we opted to do a "fake cake." It's polyfoam underneath instead of cake. It's for display only. Sheet cakes will be cut and served at the reception so that freshness isn't an issue.

Kristin sent me a few pictures of cakes that she liked, but gave me free reign to design one for her. From the photos I gathered that she preferred squares over rounds and that the cake should be fairly simple.

I thought about how to design it for a long time before I came across a swatch of Japanese paper. The pattern on the paper was called "Rolling Gold Waves," and it reminded me of a vacation that she and I took a few years ago. I thought it would translate well onto a cake, and decided to use it as my main focus. To keep the look simple and clean, I chose to keep the background and pattern white. Six hours of piping later, I am so happy with the result. It's elegant and delicate. All it needs is a few flowers on top at the reception, and it's good to go.

I think it's perfect for my friend. I hope she thinks so too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Summer Eats

It nearly reached 100 degrees in Chicago today, so although Labor Day marked the unofficial end of summer, the heat wave rolls on. I love it, as long as there is an escape route that involves central air conditioning.

Yesterday's holiday got me thinking about all of the great things I have eaten this summer. There have been some fantastic meals, a few lovely picnics, and many good times.

Notable fare, Summer 2007:

Stone Fruits. Apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines.

Watermelon Muddle Cocktail at De La Costa. Cool refreshment in a 16 ounce tumbler.

Countless Wrigley Field hot dogs, fresh blueberries, and more gelato than one person should ever eat with Dave.

Strawberries. I already miss them.

Locally roasted Intelligensia coffee from Linz and Vail, the espresso bar that opened next door to Tags. It kept me alert on countless days.

Figs. I made some nice little cakes with fresh figs at the base and a rosemary infused caramel sauce.

Anything I could think to make with all of the amazing herbs that Sara and Rob planted and gave me. See above for one example. There's also been a lot of sweet corn with chive butter, and tomato and basil bruschetta.

Kebabathon. Nate brought an entire leg of lamb to the park, cubed it, and seasoned with curry and cinnamon. It was fantastic. We drank High Life and played frisbee all day.

Seu Jorge at Ravinia, amidst the cicadas. They're wonderful dining companions.