Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Never Too Much Easter!

It was a blessing to have a little extra time off at Easter, because the following week was crazy-busy! Monday night, I had a dress rehearsal for my community choir's spring concert. It was called "Broadway Duos: The Great American Songbook, Vol. II" and featured the wonderful songs of such great pairs as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Rodgers and Hart. And I even had a solo this year--scary! (Normally, I'm more of a duet/trio/ensemble kind of gal.) Then Tuesday is trivia night, of course, and Wednesday is my night class. Thursday night was our final dress rehearsal for the concert where I had to sing my solo in front of the whole choir for the first time. YIKES! But they were very kind and supportive, and it went well, I think. (I sang "My Funny Valentine" in the style of Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys"--but NO, I did NOT slink around on top of the piano, thank you!) Friday night, Lee Ann and her daughter/my friend, K, made our way to the Places des Arts in Montreal to see "Hairspray!" which was SO much fun! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that show! (I wish I had some food news to report, but we walked a half an hour through a very raunchy area of town--with a seven-year-old in tow, mind you--to an Italian place called Da Giovanni that I saw recommended on Chowhound or somewhere, but it was crappy and overpriced. Oh well.)

Then Saturday night was the big concert. It was almost a full house, and I think the show was very fun and well-received. And thank you for asking...I think my solo went alright. I can tell you that doing it with a live jazz combo of piano, drums, stand-up bass and trumpet made me feel like I was singing in a smoke-filled cabaret in the 30's or 40's. Loved that! And some of my friends from work came to see me perform, so that made it even more special. Come to think of it, the whole thing was eerily reminiscent of a scene from The Talented Mr. Ripley, though I am not, I repeat NOT, a serial killer! (You believe me, don't you? You better, or you DIE, and I steal your identity! Mwah-ha-ha!)

After such an insane week, all I could think about was vegging out in my big comfy chair all day on Sunday and trying to recuperate before returning to work on Monday. But then I got a call from Janice inviting me to their annual Orthodox Easter Celebration and Mediterranean Buffet. If there was anything that could compel me to rise from my big chair and drive back into town for the eighth day in row, it was Janice's Middle East Feast! Of course, I could not go empty-handed to the party, so I decided to bake an overly-elaborate cake, as is my ridiculous way. You see, I was watching Kathy Griffin's new special, "She'll Cut a Bitch" (tee hee), and she was talking about taking some of her birthday cake over to Cher's house (LOL!). She described it as a marble cake with chocolate-chocolate chip buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. That sounded like some bakery's specialty to me, so I Googled it, and sure enough, it had to be from Hansen's in L.A. I tried to find recipe online to simulate such an animal, but I guess I should have looked harder, because the cake I produced was definitely sub-standard.

I started with the Rose Levy Berenbaum's sour cream butter cake and followed Rose's own instructions on how to convert it into a marble cake. But it was kind of dry and crumbly and wouldn't hold together when cut. Plus, it didn't have much flavor, even though the white part should have been tangy from the sour cream, and the chocolate part had both melted bittersweet chocolate and Special Dark cocoa powder. It's a mystery. And then I made not one, but TWO real, Swiss buttercreams! The chocolate-chocolate chip was DELICIOUS but set up too much, kind of like a truffle filling. (I know, I know, that sounds good, but I wanted it softer and silkier!) The vanilla bean buttercream that I made for the frosting was perhaps the most successful part of the project, but if it's even possible too imagine, I found it...well...too buttery! It was just too rich, and I don't remember ever having made that claim about a baked good before! (Sigh.) So...it's back to the drawing board for this particular cake. Maybe I'll consult my cake wizard friend at school, Keri Denchick, and asked for her advice--note to self.

At least there was an amazing Mediterranean spread at the Padula's! I don't know the proper names for everything, but there were olives and cheeses and little stuffed red peppers, a green salad with feta (fattoush), spanakopita (spinach in puff pastry), lentils, rice and vermicelli (my favorite!), kibbeh and little individual meatloaves, too, green beans with stewed tomatoes, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), stuffed grey squashes, spicy chicken shawarma, various pita-type breads, baba ganoush, hummus, and tzatziki, and I can't remember the rest!

And those were just the savory courses! For dessert(s), in addition to my lackluster cake (pictured, center), there was candy and cookies and phyllo-based desserts of all kinds, including Janice's homemade baklava. There were dates and other dried fruits that her daughter and my pal, Dominica, cut into beautiful shapes and arranged very artfully, and there were the sweetest little pastel-colored petit fours that they found somewhere in Montreal. It was an amazing dessert spread!

The best part of all was when, Janice, in her maternally generous way, sent me home with so many leftovers, that they sustained me for the next three days during a very rough week at work! BLESS HER HEART! All in all, it was definitely worth hauling my tired old bones into town for! YAY for double Easters!

1 comment:

Randi said...

I was in Lewiston for my friends Eastern Orthodox Easter( she's greek) and I ended up making a tater tot hot dish. Not too exciting, but Steph had brain surgery and wasnt up to making a full greek meal( plus, I dont eat red meat)