Friday, March 3, 2017

Sayonara with the usual makeover!

And another one is done! Our research fellows from Japan generally have two years to spend.  For career reasons they have to return to continue with an academic position but more importantly to get back to work!! Work means seeing patients and serving in the clinical services at their respective institutions. Since those days can run from 6AM to 8PM Monday through Saturday, you can understand why they appreciate the two years of 9AM-5:30PM, 5 days a week only research that they conduct here. Comparatively, it's a bit of a vacation with the added bonus of spending some time with family that is less regular than during the time they are here.
He didn't know it was a celebration!
Nice looking blueberry custard tart!
But we also got the ganache cake!
With tour message of farewell.
We had someone who had signed up for cake hour and he dutifully brought in his creation which was a blueberry flan type thing.  However since the occasion was a bit more celebratory we also got a chocolate ganache cake from LaSalle's Baker with our message of thanks! We served everyone a piece of both.
Contemplating the final cake hour!
Checking the selection with a not too scary senpai!
The blueberry tart was very nice although everyone got a very small piece. The chocolate ganache cake was actually a chocolate cake, with mousse between the layers and the ganache as the frosting.  It was good and fresh, not as heavy as one would expect and not incredibly sweet either. It went great with coffee and was a nice treat to recognize our colleague's contribution.

Blueberries in custard were very good!
Cake with mousse and ganache - a sure hit
For parting gifts we did another Brown University makeover an also included a framed Richard Benjamin photograph print that bedevil those who have to get it back to another country on an airplane!
Another successful makeover!
The first ten second shot with a few missing faces.
This one is better!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A thank you with Pastiche

I think we are rapidly becoming the best customers of the Vienna Bakery of Barrington, RI and Pastiche here in Providence. The latter was a special favorite of one of our colleagues and in particular their fruit tarts. Today is the day before his last at the Center prior to returning to the Land of the Rising Sun!  So he treated us to one of those favored tarts.
Another day, another Pastiche item
His fave and ours - the fruit tart!
Colorful rings of fruit are a given!
This one was, as usual, gorgeous to look at with fruit rings of mango, raspberry, kiwi, orange, blackberries and strawberries.  It all sat on the usual buttery crust and a lighter than usual vanilla pastry cream.  There was a message of thanks on a white chocolate bar on top.  He thanked us for his years of support and we of course thank him for his hard work....more to come tomorrow!

We had an enlightening discussion about how senpai and kohai interact in Japan.  There is actually a Wikipedia entry and it describes these two as terms from the Japanese language describing an informal hierarchical interpersonal relationship found in organizations, associations, clubs, businesses, and schools in Japan. The concept is based in Japanese philosophy and has permeated Japanese society.  It has also permeated the popular culture - "Notice me, Senpai" - is a catchphrase commonly associated with anime shows and manga books to express a quest to resolve unrequited admiration.
You can even get this on a T-Shirt!
Our colleague told us about how the kohai tend to be scared of the senpai and more importantly how the senpai try to be scary until they reach the very top of the University structure at which point they become nice and friendly. If you go out to dinner with them then they even pay the bill.  I guess there are some benefits.  Our friend is going to have some kohai when he returns and has every intention of meeting their expectations by being scary! 
Not the expression for your kohai!
Let's hope they don't do anything drastic to get noticed!
Not a good way to get noticed!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In his final week, another baby! Happy Mardi Gras!

Today is fat Tuesday, the final day before Lent on the Christian calendar, better known as Mardi Gras! Many years ago, with a student from New Orleans at the Center, we started celebrating this day of indulgence with a little NOLA flair!  Our King Cake arrived from New Orleans and we donned our festive Orpheus amulet and beads and grabbed some doubloons to toss while some New Orleans jazz played!
Guess what's in the box?
It's King Cake!!
The final product after we added the frosting and the colored sugars!
Orpheus is ready to serve the cake!
Other revelers celebrate!
Mardi Gras cheer!
This year we opted for the praline king cake.  Pralines to us were always a kind of specialty chocolate with a soft filling made by the likes of Lindt or Godiva.  However in New Orleans they are a type of specialty candy made from sugar, butter, cream and nuts. As such they are like big gobs of sweetness and in this case they are baked into the cake. This tends to make them a little soft so it ends up being a cake which is very much like a coffee ring, with big sugary blobs dispersed throughout.  This may sound too sweet but it wasn't and all together it made for a great pastry.  Even though it travels for three days, it still tastes pretty fresh when it gets here.  To get the true experience you have to decorate it with the sugar frosting and colored sugars yourself because doing it beforehand and shipping it would yield you one big mess upon arrival.

The gooey brown stuff on the right is the praline!
Naturally the other thing dispersed in the cake is the little plastic baby.  This year the baby went to our colleague about to return to Japan.  We playfully observed that this was his second baby since arriving here in the US as one of his sons was born here.  We gave him a couple of the doubloons to take home to the other kids to celebrate the birth of their "sibling".  We were told that the two oldest boys were thrilled to get the coins.
Look what I found!
His second American baby!
Orpheus acknowledges the baby man!
Till next year -

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!

Monday, February 27, 2017

If it has chocolate and cherries then call it Black Forest

I think we are rapidly becoming the Vienna Bakery's best customer!  Because several of our colleagues live in Barrington, RI where it is located, when they sign up to bring it something for cake hour it usually is from that bakery.  Lately we have had a run but they still manage to come up with something different.
An interesting look for a cheesecake!
Today we had a cheesecake.  It was not entirely typical.  If you've read some of the posts from previous years, you have to know by now what  Black Forest cake or in German Schwarzwälderkirschtorte.  Basically it is a cake that features chocolate and cherries -as well as some cherry brandy if it is the real thing.  Over here, pairing up those two and then calling whatever it is Black Forest has become somewhat regular.  So you can get a Black Forest muffin, a Black Forest trifle (which we have had) a Black Forest ice cream sundae and today we got a Black Forest cheesecake.
The bottom looks classic New York sryle!
Topped with some dark chocolate and bright red cherries!!
It was a standard New York style cheesecake however the filling included some cherries, a bit of a chocolate swirl, (we think),  a layer of dark chocolate on top and then some more maraschino cherries as garnish. In truth,  the cherries should be the dark sour cherries but they are probably harder to come by. 
How do they get the stems so red?
And how did this all go together in a cheesecake?  Pretty well actually!  This type of cheesecake from Vienna Bakery is very creamy, not too sweet and not overpouringly dense.  The cherries and the chocolate worked well together with the cake and it tasted very good.  So we concluded a Black Forest cheesecake or German Schwarzwälderkäsekuchen was not such a bad idea.  And as you can see the German language does indeed have some very long words!
Chocolate and cherries on the inside too!

Friday, February 24, 2017

And it's time to start saying thank you b- with a cake!

One of our guys will be leaving shortly to further his career back in Japan!  In anticipation, a colleague with whom he had done a lot of work signed up for cake and it came with a personal message.  It was yet another cake from the renowned Vienna Bakery in Barrington and it was again something we had not seen before! It was a bit of a Boston Creme type cake.  The layers were yellow/vanilla with a pastry cream in between.  On top there was a modest layer of chocolate frosting with a white frosting drizzle. Instead of the frosting dripping over the sides a la Boston Creme style, there was instead a covering of white chocolate curls. This was a little different though taste wise it was very similar to the Boston cake relative.
Somewhat resembles a Boston Creme Pie/Cake
It's got the chocolate on the top!
The white chocolate curls are a creative touch!
Layers of yellow cake with pastry creme filling worked well.!
As with all of the Vienna cakes, it was very fresh and as such quite delicious. The big secret to their cakes and a lot of quality bakery products is that they are lighter and seemingly less caloric than a lot of the commercial cakes most supermarkets and mass production bakeries come up with. The Vienna also has some interesting combinations and that was the case here adding the white chocolate to the sides.  This was very much appreciated as was the message of thanks that was inscribed on the top!
From one colleague to another!
Message on top says it all!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A cannoli cake with some Ramen noodles.

Well here we are with another entry from the Vienna Bakery.  I think we are becoming one of their better customers with four or our senior people living in Barrington and patronizing the bakery.  Today's cake volunteer brought in something very good looking that we hadn't see before - and we have seen a lot of Vienna cakes!!  Because it had a small cannoli on top we presumed it to be a cannoli themed cake and that turned out to be the case.
Where have we seen this before?
Another visual treat from the Vienna!
Stripes of chocolate and something else on the top!

Cannolis are a thin tube-shaped fried dough that is stuffed with sweetened ricotta cheese. Sometimes chocolate can be added to the filling and also as a dipped coating around the edges. If you have ever been to the North End of Boston, any of the bakeries there feature cannolis with Mike's Pastry being the most popular. One thing about cannolis - they are practically a meal.  There is quite a bit of the cheese which tends to fill you right up.
Yes that is a mini-cannoli on top!
So how would today's cake follow a cannoli theme? That's a good question and it turns out it is mainly through the use of sweetened ricotta for the filling between the layers of the cake.  The cake layers were chocolate and the ricotta was used for the filling between the layers and also on the top of the cake. The sides of the cake and rim of the surface were frosted with whipped cream - a fave - and some chocolate shavings.
The whipped cream is especially enticing.
The cake was good and fresh and certainly satisfied the sweet tooth. There was a total of three layers separated and topped by 3 layers of the cheese as mentioned.  That was probably one layer two many as far as the cheese is concerned. Although the cake was very good if the middle layer, like the sides, had been whipped cream it would not have been so rich and less heavy. Like a cannoli, you tended to get filled up right away. That is not to say we didn't enjoy it - we did!
Three total layers of cake and filling!
That's quite a bit of cheese in between the layers.
For and added treat, one of our colleagues picked up some Japanese treats for us to try.  These included Ramen snacks.  This is not a pack of Ramen that you put water into and toss in the microwave but rather some dried noodles that are salted and spiced to be eaten as is.  They weren't bad but not as much fun as the spicy peanuts!
It's a pack of ramen but don't boil the water!
A crunchy and previously unknown snack opportunity!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For Valentine's Day - a pie with red filling!

Red is the color of Valentine's Day!!  In the past we've celebrated with some heart shaped donuts but nobody was really into Dunkin' Donuts or DD!!  Today we just had a pie -  with a red filling so there was some intimation of recognizing VD!
Trader Joe's for VD
Its a pie indeed!
Thatched top is a nice touch!
The pie was strawberry rhubarb from Trader Joe's.  It looked kind of homemade and not like your cookie cutter pies from the regular supermarket.  There was a thatched curst on top and exactly what you would expect from strawberry rhubarb filling.
The irregularity of the crust and the stuff spilling out gives it a homemade appearance!
Some of that crust is pretty thick!
It was good for the most part but the takeaway is this was a very doughy pie.  The crust tended to be a little thick and not very flakey. The volume of filling to crust was probably a little on the low side.  It was nice but even though it is Valentine's Day, probably no expressions of eternal love for this pie, just a passing fling.