Saturday, December 10, 2011

Virginia

Greetings from Virginia!

I have sincerely missed sharing recipes with you all. My move has left me in a much longer state of limbo than anticipated, as my kitchen is still sitting in boxes and will be through the Spring. I'll try and keep my update as food oriented as possible though.

As soon as summer hit, I jumped on the road and moved just south of Washington, D.C. on the Virginia side for a new job. Florida had its good moments, but I've been looking to move north for a long time now. Even though I've been here for months now, I still catch myself smiling spontaneously at the realization I'm finally someplace new. I was able to experience my first real autumn, and I'm looking forward to seeing snow this winter.

I'd have to say the most difficult part of the move was finding food to eat. The stores here are all different, and I used to shop at a co-op in Tallahassee which had everything I needed. Thus far, a grocery store named Wegman's has been holding me over pretty well. Their prices are about what I paid in Florida and their organic grocery selection is broad. My cooking is limited, but I've browsed through most everything and made a mental note of what to seek out from local, organic farms.

Which brings me to the fact I have not had raw milk or milk products since leaving Florida. I really miss my raw milk. I can tell I have less energy and my body is craving the calcium I used to supply it with regularly. In Virginia, it is illegal to sell raw milk. Instead, you have to buy into a cow share, which gives you the legal right to consume the milk since you own the cow. Local farms use the money from the cow share to feed and take care of the cow, and then distribute the milk to those people who are paying for its care. I've been using coconut milk for my coffee and eating coconut ice cream to hold me over, but it's not the same.

The closest cow share to me is in Richmond, which is over two hours south. Avery's Branch Farms provides not only raw milk through their cow shares, but eggs, pork, poultry, and several other delicious items. I've been speaking with Joy, who co-owns the farm with her husband Tim, and they are looking to expand further north. If you're in the area, but sure to send them an email to let them know you're interested!

I was able to make it into DC in early November for the annual Metro Cooking Show. The expo had several organic booths set up, thankfully, so I was able to snack and find some new favorite vendors.


I like to snack on granola mixes since it's non-perishable and crunchy. I used to get in in bulk from my co-op, so I hadn't tried any up here yet. A company called Michele's Granola, based out of Maryland, was at the expo and I was able to sample all their flavors.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo

Pound Cake Sandwich
Scented strawberries. Their sweet smell wafting on the humid Florida breeze signals the unofficial dawn of the summer.

With summer also comes dips in the pool and burgers on the grill. My favorite burger recipe still remains the Apple & Gruyere Turkey Burger with Sage Mayo by Susan Russo, aka Food Blogga. She was one of the very first food bloggers I ever discovered, and she was coincidentally the first food blogger to follow me on Twitter. I was dumbfounded at the time. Susan Russo following my little Twitter feed.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Food Blog Forum - Orlando & A Giveaway

Something told me I should go to the Food Blog Forum event in Orlando. It was the closest food blogging event that had occurred to me, and the speakers looked spectacular: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, Julie of the little kitchen, Helene of Tartlette, Dawn of Wicked Good Dinner, and Lindsey of Love and Olive Oil. So many food blogging idols in one room - I had to sign up!

And I had to get sick! Not a little sick, a *lot* sick. So sick as in the girl-who-coughs-in-your-face-when-you-ask-her-a-question-and-eventually-loses-her-voice type of sick. I knew the day before I left in my little rental car that it was all going downhill, but you can't put life on hold sometimes, so off I went hoping to make the best of it. Thankfully, my mental focus on not coughing as much as possible, and a high fever, helped keep me deliriously even tempered in the face of so much greatness.

Brie "Cake"
On Friday evening, everyone was thrust into a mixer at Whole Foods, with much wine, to hopefully jump right over any stage fright on meeting complete strangers. Although a few of us have forged deep relationships online with fellow bloggers, many times it can be a different story in person. Some only recognize people by their icons or names, so matching faces to blogs was a bit of a game at first. I actually wore my brown fedora for this reason, and it paid off since many did recognize me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings

For this month's International Incident Party by Jeroxie (with me as a co-host since it's my birthday month!) we're featuring dishes of nostalgia.


Abstract definitely fits with my personality, and since food is such a major part of my life, a dish immediately sprang to mind: Chicken & Dumplings.


If I could say one item from my life that has always brought with it happiness and fond memories, it is chicken & dumplings. From the time I was a child, until the present, this classic dish warms my stomach and soul every time I am able to savor a bite. It tends to appear when things are calm and peaceful, allowing me to appreciate the little things of the moment and reflect upon all the blessings I have in my life.

My siblings and I grew up on this dish, and it's one of the few I believe we have each mastered in our way. I prefer the strips of dumplings my middle sister is known for, to the common dumpling "balls" of dropping the dough into the soup. My youngest sister is known for her spice mixtures, and can turn any classic recipe into her own. And our brother is a master at eating this soup, although he can wield a spatula in his own right when he feels up to it (and he is healing from his surgery, albeit slowly).

Although chicken & dumplings are usually served with just onion, celery, and carrots, I love vegetables and add many more of my favorites that happen to be on hand. It helps individualize the soup and create a heartiness that can stand up to the thick dumplings. The soup is more satisfying and is a lovely personal touch to experiment with your favorite vegetable sampling. Enough recipes exist for practically every cook, with differences that range from how to cook the chicken, to which seasonings should accompany the dish. Chicken & dumplings is a classic for many people, so start experimenting and create new memories with potential nostalgia for your loved ones, too.

Chicken & Dumplings

Soup
3 lbs. farm-raised, organic, whole chicken (roasting instructions)
16 cups filtered water
1 large onion, medium chopped
6 large celery stalks, medium chopped
6 medium carrots, peeled and medium chopped
1 large leek, medium chopped
2 medium bell peppers, medium chopped
10 large crimini mushrooms, medium chopped
1/4 cup raw milk
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp dried thyme

Dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup raw milk

After roasting the chicken and removing it from the oven, allow it to rest while you prepare the water. In a very large soup pot, add 16 cups water and bring it to a low boil. While the water is heating, remove as much meat from the chicken bones as possible; set aside. Add the chicken bones and skin to the water and cook for 45 min.


During this time, prepare your vegetables and set aside in a large bowl. Once the simple stock is finished cooking, use tongs and a spider to remove all the chicken bones and skin. Then add the vegetables, as well as the raw milk through dried thyme. Cook over medium-high heat for 30 min.


Prepare your dumplings by mixing together the flour through raw milk in a medium bowl. Liberally flour your working surface and roll out the dumplings to cut into rectangles.


Add to the soup one at a time, ensuring none stick together. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 min. Serve with fresh parsley if desired.

~Yields 8-10 servings.

~Original by Brie.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moussaka


These past two weeks, I'm beginning to feel like myself again. My pain is starting to subside, as I'm not uber cautious of any movement I make, unlike the first two months after the accident. My desire to cook has returned, although it's still slow going. My photos are blurry when I attempt to lean down towards the stove to get a photo of the food cooking, and I do not yet have the energy to set up a more beautiful final shot. I can tell I'm out of practice, but I wasn't in a rush to perfect being a food blogger just yet anyway.

My meals have consisted of sandwiches, raw fruits and vegetables, and hot meals from New Leaf Market mostly while I've been unable to cook. I snuck in a few meals from our new Chipotle restaurant a few times, since I had never eaten there before they opened a shop here. I've had to make do with what I could get my hands on since I'm at the mercy of people who are willing to give me a ride, whether it be to the doctor's office or grocery shopping. I've never been without a car, and Tallahassee is not set up to be a walking city - nor have I been in any condition to go perusing around on foot. It's nice, however, not having to worry about the gas crisis at the moment, but assuming I'll have a new vehicle within the next few months, the issue might be worse at that point. Maybe I can convert my new car to run off of vegetable oil, since powering a car is about the only thing that gunk is good for.

I made moussaka a few days ago, one of the first dishes I've successfully made since December with little effort. The casserole dish allowed most of the cooking to be done while I sat and waited, so not being on my feet for long was helpful. This recipe is a blend of Middle Eastern and Greek traditions, and the addition of cinnamon is what makes this dish seem exotic. I think one of my favorite aspects of this dish, besides the wonderful flavors, is the tradition of allowing it to reach room temperature before serving. I normally do this with nearly all of my foods just as a personal preference, so to see it recommended for a dish is a treat.

Moussaka a group of familiar palate tastes, just in a neater package.

Moussaka

olive oil
2 extra large russet potatoes
2 large cloves garlic, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
8 large mushrooms, medium sliced
1 lb ground beef or lamb
15oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raw milk
2 eggs

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and dry. Use a mandoline on 1/4" setting, and slice each potato.


In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and place 1/4 potato slices into the pan without overcrowding. Cook for 2 1/2 min on both sides. Remove from the pan, add more oil, and repeat until all potatoes are cooked. (Slice an extra potato to cook if you know you'll be snacking on the pieces - I did!)


Add the chopped garlic through mushrooms. Cook for 5-7 min, stirring occasionally, until translucent.


Next add the ground beef or lamb and cook for 10-12 min until fully cooked.


Add the tomato sauce through cinnamon, stir well, and turn off the heat.
 
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In an ungreased 13"x9" glass pan, add half the potato slices overlapping.


Next spoon in the cooked mixture and spread evenly.


Then add the remaining potato slices, also overlapping. Finally, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then pour evenly over the casserole. Bake for 35 min. (Optional: After 30 min, remove the casserole and add 1 cup shredded cheese evenly, then finish baking.)

Remove from the oven and allow the moussaka to rest before serving, traditionally to room temperature. Optional toppings of Greek yogurt and fresh herbs, if desired.

~Yields 4-6 servings.

~Adapted from Cooking Light.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Leaf Market: Fine Wine & Gourmet Food Sampler


This past Saturday, New Leaf Market hosted its first fine wine and food festival. The event was held not only showcase the variety of expertise of their chefs, but also benefit a local elementary school.

The evening began with raw appetizers. The first selection was a raw vegetable wrap.


Vegetable & Cheese Bruschetta

Raw Pesto on Toasted Bread


Soy-based Balsamic Vegetable Dip


Fresh Herb Couscous


Although New Leaf Market has been the area's best co-op for over 30 years, it has recently expanded its offerings to include a gourmet deli and catering branch, as well as refine their wine selection, among other helpful modernizations.

The Seafood Course: Alaskan Pollock with Capers & Fresh Lemon Wedges

Dill Crusted Salmon


Salmon Cakes - My 3rd favorite of the evening.

This rapid expansion may have been missed, even by its most dedicated of customers. The event, only $15 (with $5 of each ticket benefiting the local school), displayed the assortment of delectable dishes available from their creative chefs, as well as offer a generous wine tasting from their expanded selections.

The Pork Course: Marinated Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions


Savory Bacon & Onion Tarts


Southwestern Pulled Pork Shoulder - My favorite of the evening.

The market filled up quickly as the patrons were eager to get started. As soon as the clock struck 7:00pm, the food and wine started pouring - literally.

Chicken Salad Puff - My 2nd favorite.

The chefs were hardly able to make their way out of the kitchen before their trays of goodies were obliterated. Hands were reaching from every direction, as people were touching elbows from the mass of people in the organized chaos.

The Dessert Course: Candied Orange Rinds in Orange Marmalade on Shortbread Cookies with Whipped Cream. Not Photoed: Blackberry Reduction Over Shortbread Cookies with Whipped Cream.


Key Lime Pie Tarts
Chocolate Sandwich Shortbread Cookies
 
I attempted to get the best photos possible, but sometimes only three pieces were left on the trays by the time I moved the camera up to take a shot. One of the head chefs must have known what I was up to, as she snuck me back into the kitchen for a few nice shots of the trays before they brought them out. I think a few of the patrons thought I was attempting to sneak food when I came back out from the kitchen, but I pointed to my camera and they nodded in approval.

The Cheese Course: Sweet Grass Dairy Soft Cheeses


Highlight of the Event: Opening an 80 lb. wheel of Parmesan Reggiano from Italy.


One person holds the wheel, while the other wedges it open after slicing the rind.

Splitting it open.


Creamy perfection. The cheese had been aged since 2008.

If I was happy at seeing everyone enjoying the food and wine, New Leaf must have been ecstatic! I told them I needed to find an excuse the throw a party just so I could eat this much of their food again in one sitting.

One of my purchases from the event.

I chose to purchase an Italian sparkling wine by Mondoro and a German Riesling by bl├╝feld, the most popular of the evening. I also found two French Chardonnays and a Merlot to enjoy the next time I host book club.

Every morsel of food and each sip of wine was absolutely delicious. I am a very lucky person to have such a sophisticated organic market in a petite Southern town. Thank you to New Leaf Market for hosting such a lovely evening!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Savory Triangles & Sweet Curd Sauce


My family. We have our quirks and inside jokes, but I love my siblings more than anything. They have always been the light in the darkness of my life.

This past week, my brother went for some tests since he had not been feeling well. We all may not like the doctor, but since our father passed away so young from heart disease, we don't mess around.

After being admitted to the hospital and undergoing testing all day, the tests came back negative last Monday and the doctors said he was the picture of health. He kept reiterating that something was wrong and wanted more tests done. We certainly didn't want them to find anything wrong, but better safe than sorry, so he stayed overnight for observation and to prepare for more tests.

I didn't hear from anyone all day last Tuesday and I was getting really nervous. My brother was under general anesthesia for two of the tests and I was praying they would find something simple and easily fixable, if anything, to help him feel better.

Late Tuesday night, I was able to get his girlfriend on the phone and the news was regrettably not good. The doctors had diagnosed him with a very rare disorder, called Brugada's Syndrome. This disorder involves the electrical impulses that keep the heart functioning, so if the disorder ever leaves its dormancy and becomes active, it can cause sudden death. Since the disorder has no predictability, the only thing that can be done to counteract it is to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator.

I lost it.

I was trying to control myself on the phone so his girlfriend could catch me up on the past two days and how the doctors had confirmed without a doubt he had this disorder, but I didn't say much since I wasn't holding myself together well. As soon as we finished talking, I ran into the office to tell Guy, where I nearly collapsed from crying so hard. I would not have been able to organize everything to get down to my brother so quickly without Guy's strength.

And that was just my reaction - what the junk was my brother going through?!?

They were going to do the surgery as soon as possible on Wednesday. I obviously couldn't sleep on Tuesday night, so I exhausted myself researching the disorder online, packing, etc. On Wednesday morning, I called the dog sitter, but she was out running errands, so we had to wait for her to come home before we could leave. She took much longer than anticipated, and the trip to my hometown is several hours away. Once I said a sad goodbye to my confused pooch, I kept myself mentally busy while Guy drove (since we are still trying to work out a replacement car from my accident last month), and we finally made it to town Wednesday afternoon.

Our mom works at the local hospital, so my brother had a large room that allowed our family to fit inside and be with him during this emotional time. He was sleeping and being checked on by a nurse when we reached the room, and everyone was pretty quiet. I had wanted us to arrive before the surgery to speak with him, but it turns out they had just brought him out of surgery. I just stood by his bed, staring at him sleeping, not knowing what to think. This discovery is not a one-time event. The battery will need to be replaced on the devices, which means more surgery within every ten years, not to mention avoiding complications during his lifetime. I have been having a hard time recovering from my accident, but my brother's disorder and surgery puts this in a whole new perspective.

My brother is a unique person and handled this entire process better than anyone else I know could. He kept thanking the doctors and nurses, thanking my family and I for being by his side, and trying to keep us laughing as usual. My middle sister and our beaus stayed late on Wednesday night talking and keeping our brother company, which hopefully helped take his mind off the pain (with the help of medications). I couldn't bring myself to leave, so Guy and I stayed the night in the hospital. My brother was so sweet and kept asking if my back was okay in the chair I was sleeping in beside his bed, but I told him not to worry since it doesn't compare to what he's going through. It was somewhat comforting to be with him and help him during the night, to know he wasn't in that room all alone.

The doctors discharged him the next day, so we packed everything up and took off for his little apartment. We made a fort out of pillows and tried to tuck him in as best as possible, but those hospital bendy beds are much more forgiving after major surgery. Guy and I stayed one more night so we could check in on my brother the next day, since most everyone had to return to work after being out all week. We started watching Man v. Food again (we both love the show and had stayed up until 2am in the hospital watching it together), which caused him to ask for cheese fries over and over - but he was a little out of it from the pain medication. I of course couldn't say no, so we headed to the store to gather supplies. I made him some cheese fries, which he loved, but it was sadly time to return home. It was very hard to leave, but he's in good hands and we couldn't stay forever.

My sisters and I have to be tested now for Brugada's Syndrome as well. It's usually only found in males, but since our brother has been diagnosed, we need to be checked. I'm not ready to mentally face that yet, but I will have to soon. Obviously, I turned to my kitchen for comfort, trying to feel some sense of normalcy after this week; however, I came home to most of my food being spoiled. I cleaned out the fridge and freezer, making something from anything I had left - including a strong drink.

All the vegetables I had left were cooked with spices, then wrapped in phyllo dough and baked through. I whipped up some sweet curd sauce to counter the savory triangles in just a few minutes. The dish was comforting, quick, and simple - just the item I needed after a trying week (and I didn't even experience the difficult part). I hope you'll be able to enjoy this dish in brighter spirits. I'm grateful my brother was able to get help and he's at home recovering, I just wish he didn't have to go through any of this. My siblings and I are optimistic people, plus we have each other, so we'll keep laughing and joking together through anything in life.


Savory Triangles & Sweet Curd Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups spinach
1 tbsp curry
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

phyllo dough - 8 strips, 4" wide, 3 layers deep
8 oz smoked Gouda, shredded
melted ghee

6 oz sour cream
1/4 cup fine organic sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp fresh lemon juice


In a lipped skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5 min to allow the onions to brown. Then add the garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower and cook for 5 min.


Next add the spinach and all spices, stirring occasionally. Cook until the spinach has wilted and all ingredients are mixed well. Remove from the heat.


Preheat the oven to 400*F. Lay down a kitchen towel and cut the phyllo dough into 8 strips that are 4" wide and 3 layers deep.


Using one strip at a time, add 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture, top with 1 oz Gouda, and wrap into triangles.


Repeat with the other strips.


On a baking sheet, brush with ghee and lay down each triangle. Then liberally brush each triangle with ghee.


Bake for 12 - 15 min until the triangles are browned.


While the triangles are baking, fill a small pot half way with water and simmer over low heat. Add a second metal bowl on top to create a double boiler, and add the sour cream and sugar. Whisk together until the sour cream has melted. Then add the egg yolk and continue whisking to prevent it from cooking, then drizzle in the lemon juice until fully combined. Remove from the heat and pour into a serving bowl.


Remove the triangles from the oven and serve warm.

~Yields 8 triangles.

~Original by Brie.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lucy & Leo's - Cupcake Wars

Lights.


Camera.


Cupcakes.

On Tuesday night Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery put Tallahassee, FL on the map! They proudly competed in Food Network's Cupcake Wars after being contacted to come out and take a chance on winning $10,000 and instant cupcake fame.


Lucy & Leo's has been a gem of Tallahassee's for several years now. The cupcakery is named after co-owners Jean & Paula's dog Leo & the pup-next-door Lucy. 


Jean & Paula started selling their family recipe cupcakes from their home, and soon had to find a storefront to keep up with demand.


A quaint spot in the area of Tallahassee labeled Midtown is a perfect location to feed die-hard fans and welcome newcomers. Lucy & Leo's is well known for their consistently delectable cupcakes of moist cake and rich frosting, plus their dedication to regularly creating new winning flavors.


They use many organic ingredients, like milk and sugars, in the cupcakes which helps keep the flavors bright and clean, instead of the often artificial synthetic flavors other bakeries use. Although you can't go wrong ordering any of their cupcakes, some of my favorites are the German Chocolate Cake Cupcake and the Grasshopper Cupcake (chocolate + mint). During the holidays, they made an Eggnog cupcake which was pure heaven. To ensure everyone can enjoy a cupcake every now and then, they also feature gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan cupcakes every week. And, my personal favorite, Happy Hour Fridays! They feature 'happy hour' flavored cupcakes like Amaretto Sour, Margarita, and Guiness each Friday and even stay late some days relaxing with the regulars.

In addition to their voluptuous cupcakes, they also create mini-cupcakes and cakeballs from their daily flavors. They love working with clients to create individual requests for weddings and other celebrations, some of which have included Monopoly and Cheshire Cat cupcakes as seen on their website. If you're a Twitter follower of their shop, you can also discover sneak peak announcements of BOGOs and new flavors.

Lucy & Leo's has definitely turned me into a lover of cupcakes, something I was not before they came along.

To thank their loyal fans, Paula & Jean held a premier party Tuesday night during the airing of their show at the 5th Avenue Tap Room across from their shop in Midtown. These two ladies are still humble in their sudden leap in fame, and are as dedicated to their customers as they are Tallahassee. They're often involved in supporting Midtown's shops, as Jean is President of the Midtown Merchants Association, as well as local animal shelters since both Lucy & Leo were adopted from the Leon County Humane Society. They had shared their audition video for Cupcake Wars months ago, so the fans had been waiting a long time to see them on tv!

The room looked sleek and elegant, with their surprise cupcakes lighting up the room. Although we were unable to discuss what magical ingredients were hidden in each one, we were free to taste upon arrival. They had done such a beautiful job of displaying the cupcakes, I was hesitant to pick any up; however, I reminded myself who had made them and quickly snatched up all four flavors. It was at this point I knew if they had made four flavors, they had at least made it to Round 2, but I sequestered my excitement for the moment.

Soon Jean & Paula took to the stage to welcome everyone and thank their fans for their support not only of their cupcakes for these past several years, but also for their excitement and believing in them to do well on Cupcake Wars.

Moments later, after the cheering had died down, the speakers began playing the familiar introduction to the show and Jean was on screen! Thankfully nothing much happened in those first few minutes because you wouldn't have been able to hear them over the roar of the fans.


The theme of their show was 'Weddings'. Thus, their first cupcake had to include the old adage, 'Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue'. Jean & Paula had to include ingredients that fit these four criteria into one single cupcake. Their cupcake included the following: Old - balsamic vinegar, New - marzipan, Borrowed - matcha powder, Blue - blueberries. This was the most complexly flavored cupcake of the evening, and my personal favorite (I went and bought two more the next day since I was modest and only had one at the party).The matcha powder I had guessed incorrectly as being wasabi due to the tang from the balsamic vinegar reduction. The cupcake was vanilla and had blueberries in it, with the green tea frosting topped by a marzipan flower which held another blueberry with the reduction. The flavors were not busy as one might expect, but melded perfectly. Although this cupcake is time consuming, I would buy it regularly for its sophisticated notes. The judges seemed to enjoy the cupcake, and only complained that the vanilla cupcake was too plain with all the available options. Thankfully not a real complaint, but I assume they must find something to spice up the show.

With the success of the first round, Jean & Paula made it to Round 2! This round required them to invent three more cupcakes. Whew.


First, a Groom's Cake Cupcake consisting of chocolate and espresso flavors with a white chocolate drizzle and chocolate covered espresso bean as garnish.


Second, a timeless Raspberry Chambord Cupcake and champagne frosting, garnished with a fresh raspberry and sweet raspberry sauce.

Third, a classic Southern Hummingbird Cupcake with fruity flavors and topped with pineapple and pecans in the shape of a hummingbird.

I was attempting to take notes on all the components of each cupcake, but I should have reserved eating them after hearing the descriptions, not at the same time. I just kept drifting off into space mumbling to myself how delicious they all were and so impressed how these amazing cupcakes could be made on a whim.

The judges decided to fault these cupcakes as not being decorated enough. Lame. The flavors were outstanding and the decorations were a classic representation of such a mature theme. Although I admit to being partial, the flavors were outstanding and thankfully the judges recognized this by advancing them to Round 3!

In this round, Jean & Paula had to create a tablescape to hold 1,000 cupcakes. 1,000. Yikes. They decided to create a Japanese oval table, which reminded me of the sideways 8 eternity symbol, complete with dark wood branches and wispy cherry blossoms. The table was gorgeous and brought the theme into focus, since all the cupcakes looked like they belonged on that table together. Jean gave a great speech to the judges explaining their choices and everyone at the party went wild with excitement!

The Tap Room seemed to be buzzing with anticipation over the next few minutes until the announcement of the winner. Everyone was on their feet ready to celebrate, but, alas our beloved cupcakery took second place. While we think the judges chose wrong (they did admit to deliberating much longer than normal), Lucy & Leo's has much to be proud of. Their feature on Cupcake Wars has brought them to a new level of recognition in the cupcake world and will bring many new customers, near and far.

I was able to steal Paula away from the party for a few minutes to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about the show. While I knew filming would have to be long, I was surprised to learn they spent at least 15 hours filming in one day in Los Angeles. They had to buy new equipment and have it shipped out to be ready for anything that might be brought as a challenge on the show, since the studio is not fully equipped for each contestant (since they assume each team will want to use items that are familiar to them and their usual kitchens). Plus, the studio was kept freezing cold and extremely bright from a plethora of lights. The physical and emotion drain of filming sounded exhausting.

All their decisions were made on the spot. They do not have any time to sit and think about what they should make or build, so the timed portion of the show is true to real time. The assistants in the third round are local chefs, culinary students, or volunteers that want to participate in the show. And what about all those extra cupcakes? Paula said they are donated to local food shelters or community programs for hungry children, plus the crew get their pick as well.

Although it would have been a pleasure to see Lucy & Leo's win, I'm happy to hold onto them for a bit longer locally. Their publicity has opened them up to national clientele who can always send away for delicious individualized cupcake flavors for weddings and other parties.

Congratulations to Lucy & Leo's for their amazing display of cupcakes and talent on the Food Network! Make sure to thank them when you become a regular, too.

Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery on Urbanspoon