Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cake Decorating 101

You volunteered to bring a cake to a party. You have no idea how to decorate. No worries, I've got you covered. Relax. You don't have to go buy a Wilton decorating kit or scour the internet for ideas. 

The easiest decorations are non-edible. It's alright if you have to take them off before you cut the cake. No one cares what the cake looks like after it's cut. Fresh flowers are a great way to top off a cake. This past Christmas, I decorated a cake with ornaments. Andrew's graduation was a few days before Christmas, so I combined Christmas and Clemson with these decorations. 
I had to make the cake two days in advance, so it worked out really well to pile these ornaments on top of the cake. Instead of stacking the ornaments and hoping they wouldn't roll off, I used a hot glue gun to make them stick together. The topper was also really easy to transport and move since it was all in one piece. 

Ribbons are also a great way to decorate. Just wrap a thick ribbon around the circumference of the cake, put some fresh flowers on top and everyone will be talking about your cake. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"At the Chef's Table" Tour

I found out about "At the Chef's Table" Tour this past August after my boss posted about how good it was on Facebook and Twitter. The tour is lead by local author and historian John Nolan. John teamed up with the Table 301 restaurant hub and together they have come up with a tour that gives participants the chance to dine at five different restaurants over the span of a few hours.

After reading about it online, I knew it would be the perfect birthday present for Andrew. Unfortunately, his birthday is in December so I had to wait four long months to give it to him. We finally got to go on the tour today and loved it. At each of the five stops, one of the chefs came out and talked to our group and told us how the dishes were prepared. With the exception of Nose Dive, all of the restaurants were closed during the tour, so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Here's a little recap of the places we went and what we ate. 

We started out at Soby's on the Side, where we sampled several items from their catering menu. Here's what's on the plate starting with the metal cup and going clockwise: Passion fruit creme brulee, open face Reuben with slaw, BLT with candied bacon and sun-dried tomatoes, toast with brie and lingenberry jam, and portabella mushroom with curry chicken and arugula.

Our next stop was Nose Dive, where we were taken to the upstairs loft. We ate Minuto soup, which is somewhat similar to chili, but it's main ingredient is tripe. I found out tripe comes from the lining of a cow stomach. So that was...neat to find out. This was actually my least favorite stop, but not because I don't like Nose Dive. The soup was just way too spicy for me, but I think the restaurant is great. 

Soby's was next on the list where we were offered two different drinks along with an entree. The drink on the left is made from muddled strawberries, mint leaves and club soda. The drink on the right is a fig bourbon mixed with lemon juice and club soda. 

This is the snapper we had at Soby's. It was served over hummus, chick peas, kale and cauliflower. 

We headed over to Devereaux's and tried some grouper served with carrots, polenta and mushrooms. 

We finished the tour at the The Lazy Goat with some champagne and this lovely cake. It doesn't look like it in the picture, but it was a huge piece of cake. The pastry chef made a vanilla cake with a hazelnut filling. The cake was covered in chocolate ganache and topped with toasted almonds.

I would highly recommend this tour to anyone who loves food or Greenville. Between stops, John would tell us about the history of Greenville. I found out some interesting things about some buildings downtown, and he also showed us old pictures of downtown Greenville. It was neat to be standing somewhere along Main Street and then see a picture of how it looked in the same spot a hundred years ago. 

I also really enjoyed being able to meet the chefs and hear about what goes on in the restaurants every day. Our tour group had 24 people in, but I think our tour was larger because they didn't have any tours during December due to holiday parties. The minimum people the tour needs is 6. 

If you decide to go on a tour, you may not eat what we ate today. There is no set menu, though the restaurants typically serve one of their famous dishes. Both Soby's and Devereaux's served some type of seafood today, but it wasn't planned that way. The cake we had at Lazy Goat wasn't even on the menu, it was just something the pastry chef was experimenting with. I would love to do the tour again and taste more menu items. The tour would be a great gift or creative date night to any foodies.