Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interior Fetish: Extraordinary Desserts

I'm in love with the interior space of Extraordinary Desserts in the Little Italy section of San Diego, California:

The high ceilings and open space is a "true loft" feel, with high ceilings and exposed ceiling beams. Th zen-inspired decoration adds a much needed warmth to this restaurant and bakery. My favorite detail is this custom wood wall. I love the way the light plays through the circles:



Love it!

When the Spice Loft opens, I hope it turns out as beautiful and inspiring as this Extraordinary Desserts location.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Naked Chocolate Cafe

Have any of you Philly foodies out there ever been to the Naked Chocolate Cafe? Do tell!

I'm dying to go-- everything looks so delicious, and their reviews are amazing!

Super thick hot chocolate... the best and only way to drink hot chocolate. It's like drinking hot chocolate pudding...

Oreo and Peanut Butter Tarts {via}

The Cafe was recently featured on the "Unwrapped"series by the Food Network.

And now that I'm on the topic of "Unwrapped"... I can't watch that show without having flashbacks to the early 90's when Marc Summers hosted "Double Dare" on Nickelodeon!

I *LOVED* that show!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spice Spotlight: Saigon Cinnamon

I had to start the Spice Spotlight series off with my favorite spice, Saigon Cinnamon!

Cinnamon has a long history, dating back to 1000 BCE in some Eastern records. Used primarily as a medicine, cinnamon wasn't used as a spice on food until many years later. Ancient apothecaries prescribed cinnamon tea for sore throats and to help reduce fevers. Even today, cinnamon has a myriad of health benefits, securing it's place on most "Super Food" lists. Recent studies have proven that just a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day will lower LDL cholesterol levels, help regulate insulin levels for some diabetics, and boost cognitive function in both children and adults. Two other studies document a reduction of pain for some arthritic patients, and a decrease in leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. All on just a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day!

(Read more about cinnamon's health benefits here and here)

Cinnamon is the bark of a tropical evergreen tree growing predominately in Southeast Asia. Once the bark is peeled from the tree and dried, it ships to you in the form of cinnamon sticks. Ground the cinnamon sticks into a fine powder and viola, you have cinnamon.

When the strong flavor of the spice was discovered by us "Westerners" back in the day, strange legends spread along the Silk Road in order to dissuade merchants from seeking out one the East's most precious treasures. One such legend tells of scary man-eating birds making their nest of the bark, violently protecting the cinnamon like they would their young. Of course some Western kings and queens finally gained access to the exclusive spice, ordering merchants explorers to bring back more. Today, cinnamon is a staple in most of our kitchens, and a spice preferred in many-a-culinary-treat.

Interestingly enough, most of us aren't actually buying cinnamon off the grocery store shelves. Most "cinnamon" in the United States is actually a close cousin of the spice called cassia (pronounced "cash-ah"). Since the average American isn't usually a risk-taker when it comes to cooking endeavors (and please do excuse the stereotype, fellow foodies), I guess marketing geniuses have brilliantly decided to play it safe and call cassia by the more recognizable name of cinnamon. Still, most chefs prefer the bolder, stronger and slightly spicy flavor of cassia to cinnamon.

Saigon Cinnamon is actually cassia. And in case you didn't pick up on it in the name, it comes from Vietnam. It has an incredibly stronger aroma than traditional cinnamon, is a deep and dark tone of brown, and isn't just a spice you use for desserts. In fact, this is why Saigon Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices-- it is sooooo versatile. Whether you're sprinkling it onto apple slices for a quick snack, baking your grandma's pumpkin pie, or roasting lamb, Saigon cinnamon can make a big impact on the taste of your dish.

Anyone have a favorite dish using cinnamon? Share, share, share!