March 21, 2012

Pi Day

As you nerds may know, last Wednesday was 3/14 or Pi Day. I decided to honor the mathematical constant with a little pie for dinner. Instead of visiting my usual spot in North Hollywood, Republic of Pie, I stopped by the more renown Pie Hole in Downtown.

The first thing I noticed was the logo was jarringly similar to the Republic of Pie.

Which one is the evil one?

I asked the Pie Hole owner if they had anything to do with the NoHo store. He sucked his breath in through his teeth and muttered "Yeahhh the owners were coming in here a lot before they opened..." I glanced over the menu and was shocked by the similarities between the two. Both had sweet and savory options. Both had their own form of mac n cheese (Republic has it in a pie, Pie Hole in a turnover). I was quite disappointed to find my beloved pie cafe was just a a knock off.

That is until I tried the food itself.

Even though the Republic of Pie is a copycat in some aspects, they kicked the Pie Hole's ass in taste. From the Hole I tried the Mexican chocolate and maple custard cream.

Pie Hole's Maple Custard Cream pie
The maple custard was okay, just a tad too sweet and the crust had a gummy consistency to it. The Mexican chocolate was disappointing. I was expecting a rich chocolate complimented with a hint of spice. Instead I got a dark sticky mess consisting of overpowering espresso poorly mixed with cinnamon and too dark chocolate that left a bitter taste lingering in my mouth. On top of everything, they used a graham cracker crust that contrasted too sharply with the heaviness of the pie.

Republic of Pie's Mac n Cheese pie
On the other hand, everything I've tried from Republic of Pie has been wonderful. The mac n cheese pie is gooey and stringy, like a cartoon pizza. The lemon cream pie is wonderfully light in body and the perfect balance of tart and sweet, reminiscent of my Granny Finch's recipe.

The improvements don't stop there. The interior of the Pie Hole was stark and minimalist. But not the attractive kind of minimalist, just really...bare.

The environment at Republic of  Pie is warm and inviting, complete with skylights and soft antique leather furniture. There's even a frickin' TREE!

A safe haven for hopeful screenwriters in NoHo
Bringing it back to the mathematical roots of this hallowed Pi Day: Σ = RoP > PH

October 19, 2010

Adventures in Baking!

Hey kids! Are you ready for something exciting and new?!?!?! You better be.

This is entry #1 for my new blog subseries called "Adventures in [fill-in-the-blank]", where I will be discussing my experiments in cooking. You see, life as a working girl trying to make it in this crazy world riddled with inflation and a recession has rendered me unable to dump loads of cash on eating out. In other words, I'm broke. But to every stormy cloud there is a silver lining; mine comes in the form of pots and pans.

My first adventure will be in BAKING because:

1) I've been baking since I was 10.
2) I have a killer sweet tooth. His name is Gobzilla, and he has a hunger for chocolate.
2.5) I studied pastry arts in culinary school for about 3 weeks. Then I dropped out.

My recipes were inspired by Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. If you're looking for the ultimate baking recipes, BUY THIS BOOK. If you're looking for traditional recipes with a modern twist, BUY THIS BOOK. If you don't own a single baking book, BUY THIS BOOK. I promise you they're not paying me to tell you this; I'm saying this for free.

Their recipes are very thorough and detailed, but sometimes they are straight up science experiments. To ease the process I created a few short cuts for myself.

Sweet & Salty Cake

A moist dark chocolate cake layered with salted caramel and rich dark chocolate caramel frosting, then sprinkled with cocoa dusted sea salts. Ever since I got this book I had been wanting to try out this recipe. But it was too overwhelming. It is basically 3 difficult recipes mushed together to make 1 ultramegadelicious cake.

But as luck would have it, I received a jar of dark chocolate frosting from Williams Sonoma as a birthday present. I knew it would be PERFECT for this cake. For the cake itself, I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge mix (a trick I learned from Alton Brown; it's not about the cake, but the frosting). The only thing I made from scratch was the salted caramel, some of which I whipped with the jarred frosting. Et voila, semi-homemade Sweet & Salty cake! Tip: Nuke it for 5-10 seconds. Eat. Lick plate. Enjoy.

Root Beer Fudge Cake

I deviated from the original recipe by using root beer concentrate instead of soda. This resulted in a much more flavorful cake that melds beautifully with the deep fudge-y fudge. The cake also ages like fine wine; the longer it sits in the fridge, the root beer flavor grows and intensifies. Like a mold. But more delicious.

I actually met the baking geniuses Matt & Renato at Disney's Food & Wine Festival in California Adventure. I can't begin to tell you how starstruck I was; to me these guys are like the *NSYNC of baking. I told them about my substitution for the root beer cake and they fell in love with the idea. Next time I'm in NY I have to visit their bakery in Brooklyn (also called Baked). Who knows, maybe I can talk them into opening a store here in California...