Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Sweet Valentine

Valentine's Day was a few days ago, but thankfully pleasant memories have no expiration date. To be honest, the past few weeks have been pretty unromantic, so a sweet and easy time-out from the tension was very much appreciated. Weird that I spent the better part of the month preparing for Valentines Day, crafting new flavors and constucting special Valentine's themed boxes, but it didn't occur to me to arrange anything with Hub.
Valentine's Day is really a ploy thought up by Hallmark, Interflora, and, yes, Hershey's- the cynical interpretation of Feb 14th.
Valentine's is a day to acknowledge and celebrate romantic relationships and your partner in them. It's a brief return to the courtship phase of the relationship- the sentimental approach to Valentines Day.
I started out cynical but ended up sentimental. Sometime over the weekend Hub suggested we meet in the City on Monday, Valentines Day, for dinner and some form of entertainment. My initial impulse was "No" because of outstanding chocolate orders and a Hamantaschen article. All that, and low-grade frustration and irritation was throwing shade over everything. Just as I was about to spit out " Sorry, can't do it", my brain interceded. A night out in the City, my brother can babysit, maybe I can even extend it to an afternoon of clothes shopping and bakery hopping before meeting Hub for dinner. The article is due on Wednesday in the morning, the truffle order on wednesday evening...I did some hasty calculations in time management and shuffled around some lesser responsibilities, rescheduled a playdate, and out came: "Sure, let's do it." Instantly a gladness streamed through me, and feather-light anticipation puffed up my weekend ever so slightly.
I was charging through the subway station by 3:30. Oh the possibilities! The fact that museums are closed on mondays, went a long way in alleviating any guilt I felt about spending a totally frivolous afternoon in NYC. I strode into Loehmann's and picked up a black bag with a leopard print that I knew was perfect for everyday. Also a pair of black glitter Keds, that were necessary since my high heel wedges were already killing me and I couldn't concieve of trudging around in them a second longer. To complete the triumvirate of shiny black purchases I grabbed a black and silver leopard print scarf. I thought about hitting some other places- but instead went to Pinkberry ordered a cone, and then got down to business and made my way uptown.
Momofuko Milk Bar. Being a regular Bon Appetit, Saveur, Gourmet (now defunct), Food and Wine subscriber, and a Top Chef wannabe, I am privy to the buzz that Momofuko emits in the NY food stratosphere. I heard about this Crack Pie that they make at the Milk Bar, and knew I would have to make the voyage out. The midtown location is in the Chambers Hotel, which is very slick, well lit, and modern. I collected a whole assortment of treats: blueberry and cream cookie, peanut butter cookie, marshmallow cornflake cookie, corn cookie, a slice of the famous crack pie, and for good measure, a slice of the candy bar pie. In retrospect I should've also gotten a compost cookie- what's the point of restraint and thrift when you're already lugging around a shopping bag of goodies?
I window shopped in mid-town, peering dreamily at the confection of pink froth in the Henri Bendel's window. I noted with a blip of bitterness, the lines at Godiva... "Don't be fooled"" I wanted to yell out "They use vanillin in their chocolate, isn't your Valentine worth real vanilla!?"
I met Hub in the lobby of his building, and was glad that I got him a card. We walked to our 7:45 reservation at Gabriel's on 60th Street. The best thing about dinner was that Hub and I
enjoyed being with each other, we laughed, clinked glasses, chatted easily, flirted slightly, gently teased each other. The food? Standard upscale Italian fare, nothing earthshaking, totally decent food. The dessert menu didn't motivate me even a little, but really how could I justify ordering dessert while sitting next to a brown bag full of the kind of goodies that make bakery enthusiasts into junkies.
We finished dinner and decided to catch a movie at the artsy movie house on 64th St. It was a choice between Barney's Version and the King's Speech. I chose Barney's Version because I think Paul Giamatti is a great actor, but, also, sitting through a movie about someone's stuttering problem seems excrutiating to me. The movie, like the meal was unexceptional. It was nice to share a super-sized tub of popcorn with Hub, and to laugh and enjoy being together like we were on a date. Getting a break from the irritation, impatience, and disagreement was like taking in a lungfull of fresh, clean air, after being in a small stuffy room.

The next day I wore my sparkly sneakers, wrapped my scarf glibly around my neck, and transferred my daily items to my new black bag. I took a coffee break from the hamantschen article, and laid out the Milk Bar cookies alongside my steaming mug. The Peanut Butter was the best, soft, chewy, full of big peanut butter flavor. The cornflake marshmallow was a chewy-crunchy chocolate chip cookie. The corn cookie, tasted like sweet, crunchy cornbread. That night Hub and I tried the slices of pie. The Crack pie was very delicious, but the Candy Bar Pie topped it. It is sweet and salty, it is smooth and crunchy- it is amaaazing. And all the while I thought I'd be a Crack Pie Whore, but instead discovered I was a Candy Bar Slut.

Vegan Wholewheat Nut Hamantaschen

2 c. wholewheat flour
2 c. all-purpose flour
4 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. smart balance buttery spread
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2-3/4 c. water

In large bowl mix all ingredients together at medium speed. Add additional water if necessary to smooth out dough. Divide dough into two portions and wrap wach in plastic and chill in fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle counter with flour and roll out dough to 1/4" thickness. With a round cookie cutter or the rim of a large drinking glass cut out cookie dough rounds. Place a spoon full of nut mixture in center and fold over intro taditional triangular shape.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges turn golden.

Cinnamon Nut Filling
2 tbsp. smart balance buttery spread
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4- 1 c. chopped walnuts

In saucepan melt buttery spread, mix in brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts.

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