Bellvale Farms and Creamery

By grace.g.yang · October 30, 2008
Under: My Life,Travels

After our unsuccessful (but fun) apple picking adventure, we drove to Bellvale Farms to find some pumpkins. The original plan was to find pumpkins at Masker’s as well, but they didn’t have much of a selection so we figured we’d have more luck somewhere else. We drove to Bellvale Farms and didn’t see many pumpkins at first, but that’s because the REAL pumpkins were still in the pumpkin patch – the owner of the farm took us out on his tractor:

Tim Notebottom, the farmer behind Bellvale Farms and Creamery, talked to us about the farm his family owned – it’s been in his family for seven generations! The land we were on switches between alfalfa and corn (alfalfa is on the ground now to replenish the nutrients in the soil) and the crop will switch every five years or so. The alfalfa was already harvested and it’s used as feed for the cows on the farm:

I can’t remember the exact number of cows on the farm, but I think it was around 50. The cows provide the milk for the creamery up the hill from the pumpkin patch/farm/pasture (also owned by Tim Notebottom):

Once we arrived at the pumpkin patch, we started searching for our perfect pumpkin. Actually, we started searching for a pumpkin for Sara. I can’t remember the last time David and I actually carved a pumpkin (probably sometime in college), but Sara carves one every year and we had to find one for this year.

David’s pumpkin – which is almost as big as his head:

ONE of the pumpkins Sara fell in love with:

And I started a pile of pumpkins that I thought Sara would like (we were looking for REALLY BIG pumpkins):

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Once David and I found the pumpkins we liked, we started taking goofy pictures, including this one:

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Yes, I know it’s amazing that I can jump with a pumpkin.

Sara couldn’t decide which two pumpkins she liked the most (she was getting one for herself and one for her roommate, Jamie), so we ended up taking all of the “final” pumpkins to the weighing station:

Sara ended up buying all three pumpkins and giving us one to keep in our apartment! David and I haven’t carved ours but we feel really festive with the pumpkin in our apartment now – I might try to make a pumpkin soup or pumpkin tempura if I have time (although the pumpkin is starting to rot a bit). I also picked up some butternut squash and ended up making a butternut soup that was a big hit!

After our pumpkin adventure, we drove to Bellvale Creamery for some ice cream:

I was thinking it might be similar to Jarlings Custard Cup in Champaign, especially since it smelled really great inside (from the homemade waffle cones). The flavors change based on the season AND they close during the winter (just like Jarlings!) so I had high hopes. Here are the flavors they had that Sunday:

David, Sara, and I went crazy on the samples – I think we each tried three samples before we finally decided on the ice creams we were going to order. I went with pumpkin:

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David ordered the Bellvale Bog (dark chocolate with brownie chunks and fudge swirl), and Sara ordered cheesecake – all of us with our ice cream:

The ice cream was a little disappointing because it was melting from the moment it got into my hands. Ice cream needs to be firm (but not hard) and not too soft either (because I REALLY HATE WHEN COLD THINGS MELT WHILE I’M EATING THEM!) The ice cream was really creamy, but I definitely wasn’t blown away – especially from Sara’s cheesecake ice cream (because I thought it tasted like I was licking a stick of cream cheese). Even though I wasn’t a fan of the ice cream, I was definitely impressed with the view from the creamery:

It was so beautiful!

After a full day of apple and pumpkin picking, we headed back to New York (but with a stop to Wal-Mart beforehand). Grocery shopping in New Jersey is really fun because you realize just how much value you get from living in the suburbs. I mean, where else can you get 18 eggs for $2.18?!

Happy Halloween!

Masker Orchard – Warwick, New York

By grace.g.yang · October 30, 2008
Under: My Life,Things to do in NYC,Travels

On Sunday, I rented a car with my remaining Hertz points and drove upstate to pick pumpkins and apples. We were a little late for apple picking season, but had a lot of fun at the orchard. David and I looked for a good twenty minutes before we found our first apples – there were a lot of apples on the ground, but barely any on the trees. Apparently, we were two weeks too late for the good apples and ended up eating a LOT of red delicious apples. Masker’s has this weird rule – you can eat AS MANY APPLES AS YOU WANT while you’re on their orchard, but if you want to take any apples home, you have to pay $20 for a bag (the bag can fit about 20 pounds of apples). They even checked our trunks to make sure we weren’t hiding any apples on our way out – isn’t that crazy?

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We found apple picking to be really tiring so we decided to make up games and take pictures of us jumping around:

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There was also a small general store, a pumpkin patch (it was very small), and a refreshment stand. We picked up some apple cider doughnuts at the stand:

And took some awesome pictures:

We also made this game up where we used the apple picker as a catapult – we loaded the catapult with an apple and aimed it at another person across the field. That person had a plastic bag in their hands and tried to catch the apple in the bag (it was a lot of fun, but I ended up getting hit in the knee and the thigh by an apple). David was really good at aiming the apple and Sara ended up catching two of the apples he threw:

Here’s a video of the game:


Masker’s Orchard from Grace Yang on Vimeo.

After our orchard visit, we headed to a pumpkin patch to pick some pumpkins – stay tuned!

Top Chef: Taste of the Five Boroughs

By grace.g.yang · October 27, 2008
Under: Celebrity Sightings,Desserts,Lunch,Midtown East

Today at lunch, my friend Sabrina and I headed to Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall to attend Top Chef’s Taste of the Five Boroughs. The event was co-sponsored by Bravo and NYC and Company and showcased different restaurants from all the five boroughs. Here are some my favorites from the event:

Australian Shrimp with Asian Mixed Vegetables from Le Cirque:

Kobe Club’s Wagyu tartare on sourdough ficelle crostini:

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Taylor Bay Scallops with Spicy pickled green papaya mignonette from Perilla:

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Sirloin with black eyed peas and pickled jalapeno from Craft:

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and Pumpkin and butterscotch ice cream sundaes from The River Cafe:

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My least favorite thing from the event was Buddakans lemongrass bubble tea with kaffir lime salt:

The drink was creative, but I thought it tasted like salty soap. I wasn’t a fan.

The event was also an opportunity for the contestants from Top Chef to walk around and meet fans (I usually watch when there’s a marathon, but the new season starts on November 12th so I’ll be sure to check it out). There was also a Q&A session with Tom Colicchio:

Thanks for the tickets, Justin!

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

By grace.g.yang · October 19, 2008
Under: Desserts,My Life,Recipes

Did you guys celebrate Yom Kippur two weeks ago? David had a big potluck break-fast on Thursday night and his guests all brought over cream cheese and lox (the first meal after the Yom Kippur fast is usually some bagels with lox and cream cheese). I couldn’t attend the party because I was in Champaign, but I came home to A LOT of leftover cream cheese:

I’m a big fan of bagels and cream cheese, but I can’t finish four containers by myself (well, I’m trying to cut back on my cream cheese consumption). Anyway, I looked up some recipes for cheesecakes and I found a great one on epicurious.com – a deep dark chocolate cheesecake that looked beautiful and easy to make. The perfect way to spend a Sunday night!

Recipe for Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Crust
Half bag of chocolate teddy grahams (cheaper than buying the wafers and less work than Oreos)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Filling
10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs

Topping
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

I started by making the crust, which was really simple – teddy grahams and butter (to hold the crushed teddy grahams together). The original recipe calls for sugar, but there is definitely enough sugar in the cheesecake and teddy grahams that you don’t really need to add them:

I couldn’t locate my rolling pin, so my Eberle wine bottle was the next best option. Crush all of the teddy grahams and incorporate the butter. Bake for 5 minutes:

To make the filling, melt chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for premium chocolate, but I do not have that kind of money!). I used Trader Joe’s chocolate chips and I thought it tasted pretty good. Since I don’t have a lot of kitchen equipment, I just put a little water in a large pot and then placed a small bowl with chocolate into the pot to melt the chocolate (the poor man’s way to temper chocolate, I suppose):

See, it’s easy!:

After the chocolate is all melted, set it aside and let it cool down while you prepare the rest of the cheesecake. The crust should also be out of the oven and cooling down (if either is too hot, it’ll cook the eggs that are in the dessert – scrambled chocolate eggs just don’t sound good at all!). Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder and add eggs one at a time:

I added the last two eggs together because it didn’t seem to make much of a difference by adding the eggs one at a time. After the cream cheese and eggs are incorporated, mix in the cooled chocolate and pour over the crust. I tapped the pan a couple of times to get rid of all air bubbles and baked for an hour. While the cheesecake was baking, I made the topping – a rich (and simple) ganache topping. After the cheesecake cooled, I poured the ganache over the cheesecake:

Ta-da! The cheesecake was a big hit at my brother’s office and apparently one person managed to eat THREE slices!

Getting into Ko

By grace.g.yang · October 17, 2008
Under: Dinner,East Village,gracenotesnyc.com,My Life

Getting a reservation at Momofuku Ko is like getting on a packed subway during rush hour and trying to get a seat. Everyday, I try to get on one second faster than everyone else but I somehow I end up being the odd man out. On the subway, I end up holding onto a pole and praying that the man standing so close to me has a cell phone in his pocket. In Momofuku-land, I end up seeing this screen:

It pains me to see this screen. I literally want to melt into my chair every time I see the red X’s on my laptop. The thing is, I always SEE the green checkmarks on the screen and click on them, but I’m always freaking TOO LATE. Someone ALWAYS GRABS MY SPOT! ARGH!

Does anyone know how any tricks to get a reservation at Ko? If you do, e-mail me at gracenotesnyc [at] gmail [dot] com!


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