Chocolate Bourbon Torte, The Top

Chocolate Bourbon Torte

Whether you like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” or Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” when you’re in the mood, you’re going to want to pull it up on your playlist (or slide the record onto the turntable), and then turn the lights down low for this piece of deliciousness.

You’re more than welcome to eat the Chocolate Bourbon Torte while you’re at The Top, but chances are, you’re too full from dinner. We usually have a piece to go, and carry it home with us for later. In private. Yes, with the lights down low.

It’s a sinfully dense chocolate cake base with a thick, gooey, caramely, bourbony, nutty layer of rich filling and a thick skin of dark chocolate icing. If it sits at room temperature long enough, the nutty filling starts to ever-so-slowly ooze out the sides and drool at glacial speed down the sides of the cake. I doubt you can leave it sit that long though. It whispers from its to-go box. Possibly in French. Venir ici. Le lécher. Le dévorer…

One piece is enough to share between two people because it is so rich and dense. And of course sharing requires you to sit quite close to each other. We don’t generally look for excuses to get close, but bringing a piece of torte home is a treat.

One night I lost control of the to-go box and the cake rolled free along the floor of the car, gathering lint from the rug before I could rescue it. I swear I was not drinking that night. An accident, pure and simple. The Man looked properly sad at the loss.

I still ate it. After attempting to remove some of the lint of course. I at it for breakfast the next morning, after he had gone to work to avoid his eye-rolling. It was luxurious. And for once it was all mine!

I think I played “Your Heart is Black as Night” by Melody Gardot.

Chocolate Bourbon Torte
The Top
$DoYouCare

[Girl21]

Pistachio Pinwheel, Uppercrust

Pistachio Pinwheel

I’m not a competitive person by nature. No really, it’s true. But when I race into Uppercrust on an afternoon and see only one pistachio pinwheel left in the case, I’ll elbow my own grandma out of the way to get to the front of the line.

We have always gone for our regular pastries at Uppercrust, but one of the staff recommended these funny looking guys one day, and we’ve been hooked ever since. Generally, anything with pistachio in it is fair game. Add that to the flaky, puffy, sugar-topped pastry of a pain au chocolate, and it’s more than you could imagine. I don’t even mind the last lumpy and hunch-backed pinwheel in the tray.

There’s a $5 French name for the pistachio pinwheel, but I barely clawed my way through my French classes in high school (I got a D++, so that was technically passing), and so I have a mild aversion to memorizing anything to do with the language. And besides, Pistachio Pinwheel describes it perfectly, and it’s a bit festive.

Unless you like hearing your arteries harden as you eat, I absolutely suggest sharing one of these with someone rather than attempting one on your own. They’re as big as your hand, and topped with a butter/pistachio deliciousness. And then sprinkled liberally with that chunky decorator’s sugar. The Man and I can finish one between us easily, but one is usually enough. If anything, split a pain au chocolate also. Chocolate!

The other day when I dashed through Uppercrust and made my ridiculous purchases, I am pretty sure I didn’t physically harm any of the customers who were in my way. I think I did cackle a little though when I left. I don’t think anyone heard me muttering, “My precious… My precious…” though.

Pistachio Pinwheel
About $3.75-4.50
Uppercrust

[Girl21]

Wakame Salad

Wakame Salad

“There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who don’t like sushi, and those that pretend to.”

I don’t know where the quote came from or what the exact words are, but it’s how I felt about sushi for a long time. I’m not going to get into how Westerners have completely bastardized the cuisine and the culture around proper sushi. I just didn’t care for it.

When The Man first started dragging me out to sushi places, I put up token resistance. His family loves sushi and I couldn’t NOT go. He started shoving sushi at me with the same results as when you try to make a cat take a pill. Fortunately I was persuaded to try wakame salad early on, or I’m sure there would have been bloodshed and tears eventually.

Ironically, wakame is a kelp/sea weed type of plant, and is in the top 100 of the list of the world’s most invasive species. Sea farmers have been cultivating it for hundreds of years, but it’s now showing up in waterways around the world that it should not be in, and it’s freaking hard to get rid of. I guess we’re supposed to eat our way out of this dilemma. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals, but also high in sodium. Many Japanese and Korean dishes incorporate wakame, and it’s commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Wakame salad is a very loose term for almost anything combined with wakame. It usually has a dressing involving soy sauce, sesame oil, and/or rice wine vinegar. But again, with the bastardization of traditional sushi and the homogenization of ‘Asian cuisine’, wakame salad can include kale, cucumbers, scallions, ginger, garlic, shallots, carrots, and on and on and on.

I love the simplest version possible, so I prefer getting it at Ichiban [pictured] or Chopstix. Summer rolls, wakame salad, and miso soup makes a simple yet delicious meal in itself. Finish it off with inarizushi, a pocket of fried tofu stuffed with slightly sweet rice. Mmmmmmm.

The Man is a pescetarian (yes, this is a real word), so our sushi dinners are where he goes a bit crazy with the fish. Vegetarian sushi isn’t quite as exciting to me, but I have found I crave the wakame salad incessantly. Crispy, crunchy, slightly sweet-tart-salty. And bright green like you’ve never seen.

I’m still not a sushi addict, but I don’t fight it like I used to. Mostly because The Man is a match for my stubborn streak, and also quite convincing about getting me to try crazy foods. So he won the war with wakame salad.

[Girl21]

Tofu Ball & Peanut Sauce, Chopstix

Tofu Ball w Peanut Sauce

I cannot order this dish with a straight face. Maybe I watched too much Beavis & Butthead as an impressionable youth. Or I’m just perpetually immature. But I’m usually one of the people at the table that’s most likely to say “Hehe, she said balls”.

When the waiter asks what I want, I try very hard to casually tell him I would like the Tofu Ball with Peanut Sauce. And yes, it is on the menu without the ‘s’ (ball vs. balls? hm…), so I feel like I’m mocking an East Asian accent when I say it out loud. Which I am not.

You can opt for the same thing with tempeh or seitan instead of tofu, but I like the tofu here because it’s lighter than the other two. The peanut sauce is delicious but heavy, and needs something to balance it out. You also get big chunks of veggies in with the tofu. Usually carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas, and whatever else is in season. My only complaint is that the veggies are often quite big, and cooked exactly long enough, so still very crunchy. I have a big mouth only when it comes to the verbal garbage I have been known to let out of my face, but my mouth is not actually that big, so the size of these veggies can be intimidating to try to work around. Especially with chopsticks.

The tofu is dipped in batter and deep fried, giving it a light crispy crust, tossed into a gigantic bowl with veggies, drowned in peanut sauce at the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and then sprinkled with chopped peanuts. Oh, and you get a side of rice (you can switch white rice for brown rice, which I usually recommend, but for this dish, you’ll probably want a lighter version). Be prepared to ask for a to-go box.

When The Man and I go out to Chopstix, we usually order two different dishes and trade back and forth. Especially with this one, because it’s quite filling. It’s great to balance it with a light noodle bowl like Ap Chao Tofu & Veggies. I always start off with the Thai iced tea (sweet and lots of caffeine, so beware), and his usual is a Sapporo because you have to drink that or a Kirin with Asian food. I think it’s a law somewhere.

Chopstix:
www.chopstixcafe.com
Cafe, SW 13th St on Biven’s Arm
Open 7 days
Bistro, NW 43rd St in Thornbrook
Open Mon-Sat

[Girl21]

[Mock] Poutine

Mock Poutine

First of all you are never, ever, ever to eat what I am about to talk to you about. I accept no liability for the state of your arteries or size of your butt after this warning. This is NOT good for you.

Up in Canada and some of the colder Northern states, they have a food tradition that is made for long months of snow with a mere peep of summer sunshine every so often. They say this fatty diet is to keep insulation against the cold. I suspect it also can be a form of birth control to combat the months with nothing to do but snuggle together for warmth. Not only are you too sluggish from the heavy meals to work up the energy to look at the opposite sex, you are most likely not going to be all that excited when you do look.

But that’s just my opinion.

So we were up in Rochester, NY, and were taken out to the Tap & Mallet Pub. We had just done a loop around the Finger Lakes and tried out some of the wineries, so a break for beer was required. Beer on an empty stomach is not a good idea when you’re talking about pints of the good stuff that runs around 10-14% ABV. There are a few starchy and fatty things on the menu for just these occasions.

Low and behold, we discovered poutine, and our Southern-food-trained stomachs never quite recovered from that joyous occasion. Poutine is essentially french fries covered with cheese curds, and then drenched with gravy. The hot fries and warm gravy melt the fresh cheese curds, and it’s suddenly a delicious orgy in your mouth.

Yes, there’s a growing popularity for this dish that offers “haute” poutine which adds lobster, truffles, caviar, and more. And there’s the low versions you can now buy at fast food chains. I may be new to poutine, but I have an opinion, and neither of the above versions are true poutine. End of story.

The Tap & Mallet is an awesome pub, and if you’re ever in Rochester, you’ll have to go by for a beer or seven. Save room for food. They do elevated pub food, including some vegetarian/vegan options. The poutine had a rich mushroom gravy, and their fries were of the hand-cut from real potatoes variety.

Unfortunately we cannot visit Rochester every time we have a craving, so we’ve looked around for adequate alternatives here in Florida. Mock poutine. A favorite alternative is something we came up with at The Top (picture above). An order of The Top’s cheese fries, which are real potatoes covered in cream sauce and melted cheese, and a side order of their ultra-amazing shiitake gravy poured on top. No, it’s not really the same thing, but it is enough to dampen the cravings for poutine for now.

My word! I need to go work out now just from thinking about this for the last fifteen minutes. I am not kidding you about how yummy and fattening poutine is. So don’t ever eat any.

Thank you for the food:
Tap & Mallet Pub
381 Gregory St.
Rochester, NY
585.473.0503
www.tapandmallet.com

[Girl21]

Breakfast Club Sandwich, The Top

Breakfast Club Sandwich, The Top

Be afraid. Be very afraid. This sandwich. Will. Kick. Your. Ass.

We were at The Top for brunch last Sunday with friends before a friendly meander around the art fair downtown. No big deal. We’ve done brunch at The Top dozens of times. It’s always good, and there’s plenty of coffee. And if I’m lucky, there’s Cuban bread with goat and cream cheese with guava on the menu (absolutely recommend, but I wish they’d put more goat and less cream cheese).

The menu was a bit different Sunday. We’re used to that. They’re working on brunch constantly. You never really know what cool things will get added.

Case in point…. bom bom bommmmmm… the Breakfast Club. At first it was a curiosity that the guys skimmed over. But they started talking about it and getting worked up to try it out. An egg, tofu, or tempeh, with lettuce, mayo, tomato, bacon or seitan bacon, on sourdough toast, with swiss cheese. Side of home fries, grits, or fruit. And another $1.00 for fried green tomatoes on it.

Well okay, it’s a sandwich and it sounds good. How many times have you had something very much like that? I could whip up one of those as a late night snack. But the Man and his foodie guy friends don’t ever take the easy option. Especially when there’s an option to add cheese, hot peppers, seitan, gravy, fried onions, eggs, or more beer to anything. So of course they had to go with the version that had all of the bells and whistles.

Even then, seriously, the basic model of this sandwich is enough to make Takeru Kobayashi pause for a breath before reaching for the second half. The triple-decker had a few quivering tooth picks speared through it to hold it together, but that was just a gesture. It was touch and go while they contemplated how to put Sriracha on these things. I almost saw fear in their eyes. Almost.

Suffice it to say, they could have split a sandwich and been more than happily full for the rest of the day. But not our gentlemen. With one eye on their own plates, and one on the other’s plate, they managed to devour the whole thing without making it look like it was any kind of competition. Which it wasn’t.

I wish we could have rented adult-size strollers for the art fair because the guys were food-drunk zombies. If they weren’t pointed in a specific direction and given a gentle push, there were content to stand in the sun and digest. And I cannot underline this enough… we did not buy any food at the art fair. This is how happy and full they were. Subdued like a bludgeoned anaconda, bloated from eating a whole goat.

So thumbs up and as many stars as possible to The Top’s Breakfast Club sandwich on their brunch menu. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”

[Girl21]