Sunday, April 22, 2012

One Sweet Weekend

Everyone, I have a confession. It's a deep, dark secret I've been hiding for a while now and I think it's time I confess...

I've lived in the Boston area for nearly all my life and until yesterday, I had never been to Sweet Cupcakes.

I KNOW! It's terrible. I was feeling like a complete foodie fraud and so when I found myself on Newbury St. yesterday afternoon, I knew the time had come. It wasn't that I hadn't wanted to visit Sweet more than ANYTHING (really, what could be more important than Boston's most highly rated cupcake?!), but I just hadn't had the pleasure of darkening their door yet. But, that all ended yesterday and I am SO happy it did because my first Sweet experience was definitely one to remember!

Walking into Sweet is like walking into a girly cupcake heaven. The walls are covered in pink, white and brown toile, and a giant, delicately-lit cupcake case greets you as you enter. There are a few small tables positioned by the window overlooking the hustle and bustle of Newbury St. The atmosphere is definitely inviting and the employees are friendly! 

Of course I love ALL cupcakes, but if I had to choose my absolute favorite flavor in the world, I think I'd have to go with red velvet. I'm not a huge frosting fan, but the signature cream cheese frosting on red velvet always keeps me coming back for more. And of course, the dense, cocoa-delicious flavor and romantic red hue of the cake never fails to seduce my taste buds, either! 

Photo by
Sweet's rendition of the red velvet cupcake was the brightest shade of red I'd ever seen! The cake was moist, but not as flavorful as my all-time favorite red velvet cupcake from Cupcake Charlie's. Also, the frosting was a little more sugary than I prefer, but the cream cheese was still evident. The frosting was topped with a small chocolate shaving that added a fun and simplistic decorative garnish to the cake. Overall, the cupcake was yummy, but not the yummiest! Cupcake Charlie's still has my heart, but I am looking forward to heading back to Sweet soon to try another flavor. When it comes to cupcakes, I always keep an open mind.


Ice Wines and Seasonal Desserts at Finale

After a simply divine Valrhona Chocolate and Port Wine tasting at Finale Desserterie earlier this month, I was psyched to return to Finale's Park Plaza location this week to be back in the care of Executive Pastry Chef, Nicole Coady, for an Ice Wines and Seasonal Desserts tasting. I entered into the evening having never experienced ice wine before, so I was very excited to find out what all the fuss was about! And of course, enjoy some of Chef Nicole's delectable seasonal desserts. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with ice wine, here's a quick ice wine 101 for you:

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must (must is freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit) to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards. Due to the labor-intensive and high risk production process resulting in relativively small amounts of wine, ice wine is generally quite expensive. Canada and Germany are the world's largest producers of ice wines. 
We kicked off the evening with what turned out to be my favorite pairing of the night: a 2006 Jackson Triggs Vidal from Niagara, Canada paired with Finale's Signature Cheesecake.

Chef Nicole makes Finale's Signature Cheesecake with Mexican vanilla, which gave the dessert a more earthy flavor and a deliciously dense consistency. The earthy themes in the cheesecake set the stage for a perfect pairing with the Jackson Triggs Vidal, highlighting the sweet and fruity notes in the wine. Combined with the chocolate and strawberry topping, I was in heaven! 

Throughout the evening, we continued to experience a variety of other radiant pairings including:
  • 2009 Renwood Amador ice wine from California paired with a Strawberry Frangipane tart
  • 2006 Selaks Marlborough from New Zealand with a Key Lime Tart
  • 2009 Cooper Mountain Vin Glace from Willamette Valley, Oregon with a Lemon Tart
  • 2006 Inniskillin Vidal ice wine from Niagara, Canada with Creme Brulee

In tasting each pairing, I was amazed by how well the sweet and citrusy flavors of each wine complimented each delightful dessert. I imagined the process must be somewhat scientific, like an online dating site for ice wines and seasonal desserts, but Chef Nicole admitted to a strategy that sounded much more fun! She explained that as she tasted each wine, she proceeded to raid the pastry case at Finale until she found each wine's perfect dessert match. I don't know about you, but if that's how Chef Nicole spends her days at Finale, I'd like to get in on the action! Every ice wine deserves a perfect dessert. Aw, how romantic!

Many thanks again to Chef Nicole for hosting us, and for preparing such an impeccable array of seasonal desserts for our enjoyment that evening! 

I already can't wait to return to Finale for next month's tasting: Craft Beer and desserts! 

*While I did receive this complimentary tasting from Finale, these opinions are honest and entirely my own.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blog Makeover!

Chelsea's Choice is looking shiny and new these days, thanks to Melissa at Cherry on Top Blog Shoppe and Miss Pickle Design Studio

Melissa and Miss Pickle were both absolutely delightful to work with from start to finish! Between the two of them, I was able to reach my custom personal branding dreams. I reached out to Melissa with the idea of creating a custom recipe resume, and only a few weeks later, I ended up with an amazing personal branding package that completely exceeded my expectations! We couldn't have done it without Miss Pickle who brought my custom illustration vision to life. If you're looking for creative and clean designs, Melissa and Miss Pickle are your girls. I can't thank them enough for all of their hard work.

What do you think of the makeover? I'd love to hear from you! Check out my Contact page and shoot me a note! Oh, and while you're at it, check out my new About Me page, designed by Melissa, too!

Happy Sunday!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

5 Reasons Today was "Wicked Awesome"

So, in case you didn't know, I'm from Boston! And in the Bean, we like to use the worked "wicked" instead of words like "really," "very," or "so," to emphasize other adjectives. Today was a pretty great day in the city, so "wicked awesome" is really the only accurate way to describe it.

1.) The Weather
Now that spring has sprung in New England, Boston has started to enjoy some pretty fabulous sunny days in the high 60's and low 70's. Luckily, today was one of those days! There is nothing that puts me in a better mood than waking up to blue skies and the sun shining. Spring in Boston is beautiful because all of the color that winter slowly melts away starts to creep back into view. Everything is beginning to bloom. It really puts a spring in your step... (ha, get the pun?!)

2.) Belle of the Ball
Do you remember your prom? I remember mine! It was such a special evening that I'll never forget. Today, I volunteered to help out at Belle of the Ball, a Boston-based charity event that provides prom dresses to high school junior and senior girls who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend their school's prom. Since the program began in 2005, over 1,900 girls have received beautiful dresses! Today, I helped two super sweet girls shop for their special gown and it was such a rewarding feeling to know I helped make their magical night just a little more special by helping them find the perfect dress.

3.) Me vs Gravity
After Belle of the Ball, Cassidy (in case you still don't know who she is, she's my YouTube celeb roomie) and I headed over to Newbury St. to walk around and enjoy the beautiful day. We came across an awesome band playing live in the French Connection UK store, called Me vs Gravity. They're a group of Berklee College of Music students who perform both original and cover songs. Their sound is simple but spot-on and reminds me of Fall Out Boy meets John Mayer. We had a ball hanging out with them today and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this talented group!

4.) Pinkberry
There are tons of amazing spots to stop for a bite to eat on Newbury St. in Boston, but if you're looking for some amazing fro-yo, Pinkberry is it. If you've never been to Pinkberry, the way it works is that you choose one of their amazing flavors of fro-yo (you can also mix flavors!) and then you are allowed to top your fro-yo with as many delicious toppings as can comfortably fit in your cup. They have everything from fresh fruit to candy! Today, I opted for a small half original, half salted caramel cup of fro-yo, with raspberries, kiwis, cinnamon streusel, chocolate shavings and a waffle crisp. It was absolutely amazing, as is to be expected from Pinkberry. I forgot to snap a photo, but check out what Cass ordered... yum!

5.) Vibram Grand Opening Party
You know those crazy sneakers that look like frog feet that everyone's been wearing? Well, today Cass and I learned that the company that makes these amphibious-looking footwear is called Vibram. We happened to walk by the grand opening of their brand new Newbury St. location today and were somehow invited in to the party! They did a great job of building up hype around the event, as we were initially intrigued by a street graffiti artist painting a giant mural inspired by the Vibram brand outside of the new store. After somehow being invited in to the party, we walked the "yellow carpet" (yellow to represent their brand colors) into the event where there was an open bar, DJ, delicious apps and a who's-who crowd mingling. We stayed long enough to meet some great members of the company who hooked us up with some lovely sparkling wine and tasty appetizers. Thanks, Vibram for spontaneously making Saturday afternoon that much more fun and interesting! I may even head back to try on a pair of the shoes at some point!

And that, my friends, concludes the 5 reasons why today was "wicked awesome!" Hope you all had a fabulous Saturday, as well! :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Valrhona Chocolate and Port Wine at Finale

If you aren't salivating after simply reading the title of this post, I may have to question your humanity.

Recently, I was invited to attend a spectacular chocolate and wine tasting at Finale Desserterie in Boston. The evening was full of sweetly intricate flavors and brilliant pairings that had my taste buds all sorts of excited. Executive Pastry Chef, Nicole Coady (that's her in the photo with me above), was a wonderful host and led us on a delicious journey of French Valrhona chocolates and an array of port wines. We tasted everything from white chocolate mousse with a light Croft Pink, to dark chocolate whoopie pies with a heavier Graham's "Six Grapes" Reserve Porto. As an admitted chocoholic, I was in heaven. I was amazed by how much of a difference pairing the chocolates with each wine made in how much I enjoyed each sample. Some wines tasted too bitter and syrupy when tasted alone, but when paired with a piece of premium Valrhona Guanaja, I couldn't get enough!

Thanks again to Chef Nicole for preparing such an exquisite array of chocolate desserts for our enjoyment that evening! I even talked her into shooting me an email the next time she plans on experimenting with new menu items, so you're looking at the new Finale taste-tester (woohoo!)

After experiencing the superb service and delicious treats at this Finale event, I was psyched to be invited to an Ice Wine Tasting at Finale later this month, so stand by for mouth-watering commentary from that event in the next few weeks.

Until then, feel free to join me in daydreaming about visiting Tain-l'Hermitage in Hermitage, a small French town that Valrhona, one of the foremost chocolate makers in the world, calls home. *Sigh* Someday...

*While I did receive this complimentary tasting from Finale, these opinions are honest and entirely my own.
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