Ken’s birthday was on Saturday and for his birthday, I scheduled a very fun day of relaxation for him. He started the day with a massage (while I did our laundry), then came home and watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi while I baked him a funfetti cake from scratch! We loved the photo from the Baked Occasions book launch party and just had to recreate it:
It’s a pretty simple recipe with lots of sugar, butter, and more sugar. I added additional jimmies to the cake batter after everything was well mixed:
While I was baking the two layers of the round cake, I had some down time and decided to make the buttercream frosting. If you’re ever wondering what’s in buttercream frosting, it’s 4 sticks of butter, some cream, and sugar. I also added some vanilla beans that I have to give it a little more flavor.
The top layer post-icing:
The finished product:
I purchased the Happy Birthday candles because they were multi-colored and I couldn’t think of a better way to top the cake:
Lighting up my masterpiece:
Ken cutting it up:
The cake is moist, dense, and VERY sweet. It’s so heavy that I thought I was getting an arm workout while I was walking the cake to our neighbor’s house for our dinner! It was such a fun cake to bake – I want someone else to have a birthday soon so I can make it again!
Going back to our Napa updates today and starting with our 4th of July dinner. If you missed the other updates, we ate at Solbar Calistoga and stayed at Chanric Inn in Calistoga as well.
On the 4th of July, we continued doing wine tastings and then went to ad hoc for dinner. In the past, when I’ve gone to ad hoc I’ve always enjoyed the food (see this post),but I’ve never been there for their fried chicken (which is usually served every Monday night). It was our lucky day when we visited because they were serving fried chicken for the 4th of July. I’ve actually made Thomas Keller’s fried chicken (the recipe is in his ad hoc cookbook – see this post) and know how much work is involved in making the fried chicken. We started with the iceberg lettuce salad with fresh herbs, radishes, and carrots from The French Laundry’s garden:
Everything was fresh and crisp; the vegetables were much more flavorful than anything we eat in New York! The entire trip Ken was enjoying himself so much that he was trying to convince me to move to Napa; while I love Napa (the weather alone is reason enough to move), I just can’t detach myself from New York.
The main course, the fried chicken, is served lukewarm:
With a side of corn and watermelon:
We also ordered the mac and cheese, which was cheesy, al dente, and pretty amazing:
There is the option to order an additional dish (even though we were getting full, there was no way we were going to say no!) – this is known as the world’s best sandwich:
The open-faced sandwich is a BLT with an egg on top (and it was used in the movie Spanglish). When I told Ken that Thomas Keller was a consultant on the movie and taught Adam Sandler how to create this sandwich, he texted his friend because they watched the movie (which they didn’t like) but ended up recreating the sandwich because it looked so damn good in the movie.
After our open-faced sandwich, we had a cheese plate with honey and mixed nuts:
And capped off the meal with a mixed berry shortcake:
Ken has visited all of Thomas Keller’s restaurants now and is a fan of all of them just like me! We had a great time at ad hoc and it was a great way to spend the 4th of July. We were even able to see some of the fireworks mid-meal!
On Tuesday, I was invited to the Baked Occasions book launch party at their soon-to-be-opened location in Tribeca. The book, which is absolutely beautiful, is filled with everyday desserts and special occasion cakes that a home baker can make (trust me, I’ve made multiple things from their cookbooks!). The launch party was really fun and I brought my friend, Ryan, to help me eat and take photos. We tried EVERYTHING and are happy to report that we left with happy bellies. The book cover is absolutely beautiful:
Their second location in Tribeca is going to open in a few weeks and already has some really cool decor, including this great light and couch:
The dessert spread:
I am a sucker for their cupcakes because their fluffy icing and very moist cake and these were decorated with sprinkles so obviously we had to have one:
And since it’s October, we had to have pumpkin swirl cheesecake bites:
Their chocolate cupcakes and brownie bites were also beautiful to look at and even better to eat:
These cookies had cardamom and coconut – an interesting combination that reminded me of Vosges chocolates – yum!:
Books lining the bookcases of their new bakery:
My plate of goodies:
The book cover’s cake was the pièce de résistance (in the background of this photo):
And they cut it up for us to eat:
I might make (or end up buying) that cake for Ken’s upcoming birthday! The Bake Occasions book has beautiful photos, great recipes that are very easy to follow, and every time I make something from the Baked cookbook for my friends or coworkers, they thank me profusely for making something so damn delicious. I can’t wait until the bakery opens in the city, too!
We were very ambitious during our Napa trip and ended up visiting two wineries in the morning after our large breakfast at The Chanric Inn. For lunch, we made reservations at Solbar, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Solage Hotel:
It was getting hot that afternoon and we opted to sit inside in the shade instead of sitting outside by the pool, where it was too sunny (we didn’t wear enough sunscreen to sit outside!) The inside was still very nice and had high ceilings and a very open layout. We started with a refreshing Arnold Palmer:
I ordered the corn soup for an appetizer, which ended up being a really good choice because it was a light and refreshing chilled soup that had the perfect texture (I’m thinking it was a puree of fresh corn and potatoes):
Ken started with a beet salad that we shared:
For Ken’s main course, he ordered the soft shell crab sandwich with chips:
While I ordered the shrimp noodle wraps with a sweet and sour pomelo sauce:
I really enjoyed the shrimp wraps but they did a poor job removing the shrimp shells from the shrimp and I kept biting into shells that were secretly still on the other side of the shrimp! The waiter noticed how many shells I had removed and placed to the site of my plate and brought out the chef to apologize — and they even brought me more shrimp wraps because of their mistake!
After our lunch, we walked around the grounds of the hotel, which are like little separate houses perfect enough for a small family:
It was a super cute afternoon and just the right amount of food to tide us over until our dinner (and to help us get through the afternoon of more wine tastings!)
· October 6, 2014
This week, I’ll cover all of our Napa Valley posts from our trip there over the summer. Ken and I had a very fun summer traveling (mostly back and forth from Chicago for weddings) and scheduled our anniversary trip to San Francisco/Napa. We spent our honeymoon in Bordeaux and Ken wanted to experience Napa for their cabernets and scenery, so we booked our flights for the 4th of July weekend. I booked the bed and breakfast for the second part of our trip (where I stayed for my bachelorette party the previous year) but left the first few days of the trip up to Ken. I usually need to plan out the entire trip and need to know exactly where we’re staying, but was able to let Ken plan the first few nights.
He searched for a few hotels and decided to book a romantic bed and breakfast – The Chanric Inn:
The inn is located in Calistoga, an appelation that is a little further north of Napa Valley/Yountville. When we checked in (after our meal at The French Laundry which I will blog about at some point), we were just in time for happy hour! The innkeeper, Joel, was a very nice man from France and he helped us check in, provided us some details about the reservations he made for us at different wineries, and offered us sparkling wine, candies, light bites. We enjoyed them by the fire:
The outside patio had different types of herbs growing (Joel picked the herbs before making our breakfast!) The patio continued around the corner with heat lamps:
Inside the beautiful kitchen:
Some of the treats during our happy hour:
The beautiful dining room:
One of the reasons Ken chose The Chanric Inn for our stay is because Joel and his partner are both really amazing chefs. For our first breakfast, we sat outside and enjoyed plums marinated in wine served with fresh mint from Joel’s Garden:
Our own personal raclette with potatoes and cornichons:
A pear tart served with lavender candies from France and fresh Chantilly cream:
Joel also baked fresh brioche (you can see it on the corner of this photo):
On another day, Joel made a fresh fruit salad with kiwi, pineapple, and fresh mint in a sparkling wine reduction:
Baked cod with fresh thyme and tomato paste:
Joel was such a wonderful host and we would definitely recommend staying at the inn to anyone going to Napa. It wasn’t a far drive from the center of Napa and Joel was very knowledgeable about the different wineries in the area as well.
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