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Do I want to blog about my Mom’s health, surgery?   12:48 AM Oct 10th

Can’t sleep tonight. Too many things.  Mind is racing.   3:40 AM Oct 14th

Doctor just gave us the good news! First time I’ve seen my Dad cry in years.   12:28 PM Oct 14th

Just saw Mom in CICU    1:21 PM Oct 14th

Had lunch with Kirsten. So good seeing her again.  Asks if I Twitter?   2:19 PM Oct 16th

Mom finally moved to her recovery room.  Time for me to breathe again.   12:34 PM Oct 17th

Heading back to NYC, but will be back in another week.  12:28 AM Oct 20th

Auditions, auditions, auditions.  If I have to play “Part Of Your World” one more time…   1:20 PM Oct 21st

Has it really been a month since my last blog entry?   2:43 PM Oct 22nd

Just “re-lived” the Bernstein “Mass” at Carnegie Hall. So proud of my friends. So moved by the music. 10:22 PM Oct 24th

Well, I guess DST is next weekend after all.   11:52 AM Oct 26th

Carnegie Hall: Pollini playing Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. How classic(al).   2:34 PM Oct 26th

Hint #2: Last row of CH = leg room and behind-the-seat storage.   3:01 PM Oct 26th

Four encores! Including the G-minor Ballade! Grazie!   5:39 PM Oct 26th

Walking through Central Park.. Guess it has been a few weeks, there’s color on the trees and on the ground.   6:06 PM Oct 26th

Little girl, age 9 – “It smells like popcorn and horses.”   6:34 PM Oct 26th

Thank You, Matthew Weiner! -Can’t wait for Season 3!   10:55 PM Oct 26th

Pack-a-little, Post-a-little… Getting to head back down to Richmond for the week.   11:24 AM Oct 27th

The wheels on the bus keep going round and round. 100 miles to go.   8:37 PM Oct 27th

Being a ‘rent to the ‘rents today.   1:36 PM Oct 28th

Over at Steve’s right now taking a break from the parents. Soup’s On!   6:28 PM Oct 29th

Heard about this ( http://tinyurl.com/68y572 ) on NPR yesterday, downloaded the free(?) album today ( http://tinyurl.com/6hgqpz ) Mash-Up!   1:17 PM Oct 30th

Pumpkin & Coconut Brownie Ice Cream from Bev’s Ice Cream http://snipurl.com/4uzsi 8:07 PM Oct 30th

Happiness is a non-sold-out Bolt Bus. Two seats for the price of one.   7:31 PM Oct 31st

Off to MoMA for the last Member Preview Day of the new Miró exhibit.   2:06 PM Nov 1st

This exhibit keeps going and going and going… “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement”   4:50 PM Nov 1st

Tracking a couple of friends in today’s marathon, and wondering how delayed the online results are.   11:58 AM Nov 2nd

Standing amid a sea of Silver, Blue, White and splashes of Orange! Inspiring!!   4:05 PM Nov 2nd

About to head out for some post-Marathon sushi with my brother and Maria.   5:58 PM Nov 2nd

Off to meet some friends for a morning-after-the-marathon breakfast. Could be interesting.   10:01 AM Nov 3rd

Times Square at 2:28pm EST – CNN Central http://snipurl.com/53wod 2:29 PM Nov 4th

Overwhelmed, but in a good way. The sense of Purpose and Hope was palpable in the midtown air (regardless of who you voted for).   6:14 PM Nov 4th

Just listening to the Cheering and Car Horns outside my apartment in Harlem!!!!!!!!!!   11:11 PM Nov 4th

OOPS! HA!!! ABC (in NYC at least) just interrupted their coverage for a Flomax commercial?!?!?!?!?   12:26 AM Nov 5th

Magnolia, Levain and Shake Shack all within seven blocks of each other… Is that a good or bad thing to know?   1:56 PM Nov 5th

At Lincoln Center about to experience Doctor Atomic.. And watching a lot of people trying to sell their tickets on the plaza…   7:30 PM Nov 5th

Intermission at The Met: People eating,drinking, chatting… leaving…   9:43 PM Nov 5th

Back at MoMA to catch the Kirchner once again before it closes… And the Van Gogh and Miró, of course   3:33 PM Nov 6th

Back at The Met tonight for the Berlioz. Technology and Art striving for their potential. I hope.   7:15 PM Nov 7th

Ah… The (Bittersweet) Hot Chocolate – with Marshmallow – from ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park http://snipurl.com/59hf1 3:52 PM Nov 9th

At Zankel Hall tonight for Jeremy Denk playing Ives Concord & Beethoven Hammerklavier. Monster program!   7:13 PM Nov 11th

Bravo, Jeremy Denk! Bravo!   9:52 PM Nov 11th

I was looking for an excuse to be lazy today: Thank You, Rain.   1:26 PM Nov 13th

Coolness in progress at MoMA http://twitpic.com/lrk1 3:43 PM Nov 14th

I wonder if they’ll have the Basil Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park today…   1:34 PM Nov 16th

More cupcakes coming to midtown Bway & 53rd… (Magnolia recently opened in Rock Center) http://snipurl.com/5n42q 2:45 PM Nov 16th

Thank you, Mr. Carfizzi and Mr. & Mrs. (Grant) Murphy for a wonderful recital. http://snipurl.com/5nlok 6:27 PM Nov 16th

Well, I thought I got here early enough to get in line for the movie. Probably #100ish, and still 30 minutes till they open   7:54 PM Nov 16th

“Slumdog Millionaire” – SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank You, Danny Boyle   10:35 PM Nov 16th

Everyone seems to be seeing snow this morning except for me – and I like snow!?!?   9:31 AM Nov 18th

ReTweet: @BravoTopChef Get ready! Spike is back and so are his shenanigans. Make sure to follow our boy tomorrow during the show   2:12 AM Nov 19th

Best lunch deal in Chinatown – 5 dumplings for $1 http://twitpic.com/mqr2 4:39 PM Nov 19th

Warming up with a Café Mocha at Abraço http://twitpic.com/mr4z 5:35 PM Nov 19th

Hmmm… No line… very tempting… http://twitpic.com/mra7 5:55 PM Nov 19th

What I’m playing this afternoon.. http://twitpic.com/mxqr 5:14 PM Nov 20th

Dinner at El Toro Partido – Torta! http://twitpic.com/ne8e 4:54 PM Nov 22nd

O Christmas Tree Stand, O Christmas Tree Stand… (145th & Broadway) http://twitpic.com/nvns 9:15 PM Nov 24th

On the Acela down to DC for the holiday weekend http://twitpic.com/o4xg 7:13 AM Nov 26th

@BravoTopChef Thanks, Andrew!   11:02 PM Nov 26th

Eat Well. Stay Safe. Happy Thanksgiving!   11:31 AM Nov 27th

Horse-Drawn Carriage rides in Carytown this weekend http://twitpic.com/osvq 5:21 PM Nov 28th

Then down to Cafe Gutenberg for dessert http://twitpic.com/ouyl    9:05 PM Nov 28th

My dessert: Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Float http://twitpic.com/ouz6 Yes! Beer (stout) and Ice Cream (chocolate gelato)   9:08 PM Nov 28th

Back at Bev’s Ice Cream – http://twitpic.com/p3kx Chocolate Chai with…   7:30 PM Nov 29th

With a Cranberry chaser – http://twitpic.com/p3lk 7:31 PM Nov 29th

My parents’ church actually has TWO late seating breaks during the mass.   12:22 PM Nov 30th

Who knew that my parents liked Vietnamese food? http://twitpic.com/p928 12:49 PM Nov 30th

Anderson Cooper swimming against Michael Phelps on “60 Minutes” tonight.   7:44 PM Nov 30th

Back on the bus back to NYC. Thankfully no one got trampled once the driver opened the doors, but there was definitely a throng.   7:29 AM Dec 1st

Take a Moment to Remember – World AIDS Day 2008.   9:44 AM Dec 1st

Happiness is a D (or A) Train across the platform.   3:49 PM Dec 1st

Anyone else going to the World AIDS Day “Bacharach to the Future” Benefit at New World Stages tonight? http://tinyurl.com/5jrv2j 3:54 PM Dec 1st

Condee Rice playing Brahms? I knew she was a good pianist, but… The Quintet is a LOT of notes! http://tinyurl.com/5q96px about 16 hours ago

Just saw a cop tie an elderly man’s shoes – I love New York City!   about 11 hours ago

It’s beginning to look a lot… http://twitpic.com/ps3q about 8 hours ago

I really should be asleep by now, but just came up with an idea for a new – and long overdue – blog entry.   about two hours ago

Well, I guess I am going to finish this blog entry tonight, well, this morning. -Who needs sleep?  27 minutes ago

Done! Publish. less than 5 seconds ago

http://twitter.com/JoseSPiano

Ah, yes, the Food!

One of the highlights of the most recent SETC Convention in Chattanooga, Tennesee, was discovering the rotating cake display at the City Cafe Diner.  Getting to Chattanooga the day before the auditions started was filled with various travel woes (delayed flights, missing pilots, and non-existent hotel reservations), so I felt that I was more than qualified and justified to treat myself to something sweet after I had finally gotten myself settled into my hotel room.  Besides, I needed something to snack on while I was watching "American Idol" that night.

I had been to Chattanooga once before when the SETC Convention was held there in 2004, but I had not ventured into the City Cafe Diner which is the house restaurant for the Days Inn by the convention center.  I had thought about splurging on some room service that first night, but after thinking about it, I realized that I was not in the mood for dinner, just dessert.  So, I headed out of my hotel, and across the street. I figured the Diner was bound to have some desserts, but little did I know that they would have quite the selection of cakes spinning around in a case by the front register.  Sadly, I did not take a picture of that diabetes-inducing display, but there were at least twelve different cakes available each night, in addition to a selection of pies, tarts, Greek pastries and cookies. I decided to stick to the cakes.

For that first night’s indulgence, I took a chance on their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cake.

It was a tall slice of alternating layers of chocolate cake and chocolate-peanut-butter frosting topped off with a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  It was good, not great.  Strangely enough, I thought the cake and frosting were not sweet enough, and both the chocolate and peanut butter flavors were somewhat muted.  I only ate half of the slice, if that. The cake itself had a great texture and crumb, but, overall, tasted sort of bland to me.  Maybe I should have tried the Butterfinger Cake instead? -Although, the almost-glowing neon-looking orange-brown coating of crushed Butterfinger bars kept me from exploring that option any further.

Well, after my first day of auditions – just under 280 people, I was definitely allowed to treat myself to another sweet indulgence that night.  So, I headed back to the City Cafe Diner, and checked out my other options.  I had noticed that they had just put something new in the display case.  "That’s our Baklava Cheesecake.  One slice and you’ll go into a sugar coma!" was the answer I got after I had pointed to the cinder-block slab of a dessert that was sitting in the bottom of the case.  Sure! Cut me a slice to go!  -And maybe a sugar coma would not be that bad a thing after watching the "American Idol" results show and "Lost" that night?

Once I was back in my hotel, I discovered that the Baklava Cheesecake was more of a layered affair.  The core of it was a plain cheesecake that was sandwiched between two thin layers of Carrot Cake, and the top and the bottom were composed of inch-thick layers of baklava (phyllo dough, walnuts, butter and honey-syrup).  Sadly, it ended up being too much of the sum of its parts.  I questioned the Carrot Cake layers at first, but then realized that they were probable there to shield the crunchy, flaky layers of phyllo dough from the moisture of the cheesecake layer.  However, the baklava portion of the dessert had not been protected from the moisture of the display case, and the flakiness of the phyllo dough ended up having a bit of a chew to it.  The cheesecake center was decent, but could have probably benefited from a few less minutes in the oven initially.  And just like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cake from the night before, the whole concoction seemed somewhat on the not-so-sweet side, however, I’m guessing that whatever sugars were in the various components of the dessert may have cancelled each other out.  The Baklava Cheesecake was not a total waste of $4.95 (yes, all the cakes were just $4.95 a slice!), but I think it would have worked better if it were assembled á la minute rather than giving all the layers time to meld.  I finished maybe a third of it, so, alas, no sugar coma.

Day Two of the auditions came and went, and since I had managed to have quite a nice lunch at the Tallan Cellar restaurant (a good ole "meat & three") that day, I decided all I needed to eat during that "American Idol"-free night was another slice of cake.  I decided to pick something basic: Caramel Cake.

No problem with this slice of cake not being sweet enough!  Slathered between the layers of amazingly fresh and vanilla-infused layers of Yellow Cake were generous heapings of Caramel Buttercream. Caramel Cake is one of many Southern Classic Desserts, and this rendition was most certainly insuring that Classic status.  Yes, my teeth did ache a little bit as I took my first bite, but they were supposed to!  The Caramel Buttercream and Yellow Cake layers complemented each other perfectly, and, yes, the dessert was most definitely rich, but it was not at all heavy. I ate half of it. Then ate the other half about a half hour later.  I had to pace myself.

The third and final day of auditions came to a close, which also meant that the convention was also ending that night.  Of course, I had to celebrate that night with another piece of cake!  So, it was back to the City Cafe Diner for my final visit and my final selection of the trip.  There was a gentleman in front of me who was inquiring about the various cakes; he, too, was getting a slice to go.  The manager was answering all his questions, but then referred him to a young woman who had come out of the kitchen bearing a few just-made creations.  She was affectionately called "The Cake Guru". She explained what all the various layers were in the Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cake.  She showed him the California Cheesecake with it’s it’s layers of plain Cheesecake and Angel Food Cake, and fresh fruit topping.  Then there was the Key Lime Pie she had just made that afternoon.  The Devil’s Food Cake, the Red Velvet Cake, the Oreo Cake, the Checkerboard Chocolate Mousse Cake with it’s alternating blocks of White and Dark Chocolate Gooey-ness.  After he had walked away with a slice of the Strawberry Mousse Cake, I then turned to the Cake Guru and explained my situation, "It’s my last night in town.  I’ve come here every night for the past three nights, and I really want to have a great piece of cake tonight. What should I have?"  Without any hesitation, she proclaimed, "The Sampler Cake."

Read the rest of this entry »

Well… There’s this:

cantumise1.jpg cantumise2.jpg

cantumix1.jpg

cantumix2.jpg cantulogs.jpg

cantubaked.jpg

cooling.jpg cantuclose.jpg

cantucup.jpg

And this too:

amazmise.jpg

amazmix.jpg amazpan.jpg

amazcake.jpg

amazslice1.jpg

amazslice2.jpg amazslice3.jpg

And these, of course:

 bowls.jpg dishes.jpg

*For the recipes for the goodies pictured above, just refer to the entries for February 22 and January 31.

Whenever I work on a show, I’ve been known to spend my day off (Mondays usually) doing some baking.  Then I bring in the fruits of my labor – and my KitchenAid stand mixer and oven – for the cast and crew the next day.  Not only does this give me something to do on my day off, but by knowing that I am baking for someone else, it helps me control my own sweet tooth cravings.  It’s also a nice way to start the work week. Nothin’ says lovin’… However, sometimes, if the mood hits me, I will go ahead and bake at night after I get home from a show, and, sometimes, even in the morning if there’s enough time for the baked goods to cool down properly.

One of my "morning recipes" is a chocolate cake one that I came across in a New York Times article about cocoa powder.  It has no eggs, no butter, but the resulting cake is amazingly moist, and has a good crumb.  It’s also very "sink friendly", since there’s only one bowl and one measuring cup that needs to be washed afterwards.  (Those disposable aluminum cake pans also help in this regard.)

Well, one morning before a matinee at Arena Stage – I think I was doing Damn Yankees at the time – I decided to make a cake to take in for the company.  I had already made a cheesecake the night before, but I wanted to bring in something with chocolate too. So, I brought up the recipe for "Amazon Cake" on my computer, scribbled down the amounts on a Post-It note, and proceeded to get to work in the kitchen.  I went ahead and doubled the recipe so that there would be plenty to go around – there were usually about 30 mouths to feed.

When I had finished mixing everything up, I noticed that the batter looked very thick, too thick.  Oh, I guess I didn’t double the amount of water.  Of course, when I went to check the cakes at their designated finish time, they were still a soupy mess… But I did notice that the edges looked like they were cooking up properly. Thankfully, I had started baking early enough that morning, and I was able leave them in the oven to finish baking.  Sure enough, after another half hour or so, the cakes looked good.  The tops sprung back properly after being touched, and my toothpicks came out clean.  So, I just left them in the pans, and placed them in the back seat of my car to cool during the trip in to the theatre.

I placed my goodies on the table in the green room, and gave a brief disclaimer about the cakes.  I explained how I had gotten myself mixed up while doubling the recipe, but since the finished products came out looking "right", I went ahead and brought them in.  Two brave souls – a bass player and a props runner – were the first people to try the cakes.  I cut each of them a slice…  Hmm… They have a different texture, and look different on the inside… Hmm...  The bass player took a bite of the wedge I had handed him, gave me a questioning look, then stated, "It tastes OK, but it’s definitely not the same as last time."  He then proceeded to eat the rest of his slice.  The props girl took one bite of her slice, promptly spit it back out onto her napkin, let out a confused scream,  "Ewwwww! It tastes like Chinese food!!!"  I then took a bite, and, yes, it had a strange hint of "Chinese Food", both in texture – sort of like a steamed rice flour cake – and the chocolate flavor was obliterated by notes of ginger and toasted sesame oil(???).  I promptly took them off the table, dumped them into some bags, and threw them in the trash.  "Why are you doing that?" asked the bass player.  -Here, have some cheesecake.

When this cake is made properly, it really is quite wonderful, and it’s very easy to mix up in the morning, afternoon or evening. If you properly double the recipe, it can be baked in two round cake pans (for a layer cake), or in one 13"x9" pan (with a slight increase in the baking time).  I have doubled the recipe successfully since that "Chinese food" incident, but, to be on the safe side, I made two individual batches, side by side.

Amazon Cake
From "The New York Times"
Adapted from "Cafe Beaujolais" by Margaret Fox and John S. Bear
serves 6 to 8

1 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1 cup sugar
½ t. salt
5 T. corn oil
1 ½ t. vanilla
1 T. cider vinegar
Confectioners’ sugar.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar with 1 cup cold water. Whisk in the dry ingredients, blending until completely lump-free. Pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Cool before removing from the pan and dusting with confectioners’ sugar, or frosting if desired.

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