Well, guys, I did it! I talked in front of a bunch of people in New York City about food styling and I managed to not swear (I was so close to saying "fuck it") and I only forgot half of what I was going to say! And I didn't throw up! Great success!
It was whirlwind trip consisting of about 30 hours actually spent in New York in total, most of which were spent rehearsing or setting up for the event. I was set up in The Standard at the Highline, which had an AMAZING view (as you can see). When I first walked into the room, I freaked out. If you saw my snap chat, you'll know that I was saying "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, holy fuck" as I opened the curtains. What you didn't see after that was me jumping up and down and giggle-screaming for about 4 minutes straight. It really was spectacular.
I was able to go out for dinner on my first night to Scarpetta, where I met up with Dan and Julie from TheFeedFeed! It was so amazing to finally meet them in person after knowing them for years and they were just as friendly and warm and charming as I imagined them to be. We chatted about my work, their work, their philosophy on cooking at home, how their kids are picking up on cooking, and how tough it is to juggle work and everything else.
The next morning, we had rehearsals at the Samsung HQ at 9am, so I woke up at 6:30am and took the subway up to Bouchon Bakery. There was so many bakeries and patisseries that I wanted to see, but I knew I didn't have enough time since most of them only opened at 8am. The Bouchon Bakery Cookbook is one of my favourite and most used cookbooks (if not THE most used) in my large collection and I knew I had to try their stuff out in person.
Even though it was 7:45am, I ate a croissant, two macarons, and a lemon tart. Breakfast of champions. Everything was great and I wish I had more time to sit and enjoy the sunshine, but I had to get back for rehearsal.
I met up with the other three bloggers (Nik, Jessica, and Amanda - Teighan caught a later flight and was going to be there later) and we began rehearsing. We were able to chat here and there, mostly about how nervous we were and how we didn't know who were doing, which was nice because I thought I would be the only one that was like "I dunno what to do".
We had a little break in the afternoon and I had lunch at the patio of the hotel, which was beautiful! A lovely shaded bar with vines and marble and a wood burning pizza oven, which was just the most perfect thing on a hot sunny day. I had a drink, a little salad, and of course, a pizza. I took a shower and went for a little walk on the Highline, then back to the Samsung HQ to get ready for the event!
I hadn't prepared an actual speech or anything for the event and I kinda wish I had written down a few key points. I went over it in my head and even talked out loud to myself about the main things I wanted to talk about beforehand, but I was super nervous and my hands were shaking so bad and once I got on stage, I blanked and just talked about flowers and stupid stuff (you can view the video on my Facebook page). I wanted to talk about how I use only natural light and how my setup at home is just a big board on a cardboard box and how I just take photos and move stuff until it looks sorta good. So, apologies to anyone that wanted to get some sage food photography advice from me 'cause I'm a wisecrack (emphasis on crack, not so much on the wise). Also, I had T-rex arms THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS TALKING. GAH. I just…I don't know, I don't get out much, I don't know how to act around people.
My favourite part of the event was when it was over (ha) and strangers were introducing themselves to me and saying how much they liked my blog, which is mind blowing to me. I mean, I still can't believe that anyone other than my dad reads this blog, let alone strangers in another country. So that was a super cool thing. And it was nice to let the polite version of me fade away and the real version, i.e. the one that swears and corrects people on the pronunciation of "kouign amann" - sorry Sarah :|
After that, we went out for drinks at a beer garden a few blocks away, but because I am the awkward person who somehow always gets into these situations, I went to the wrong bar. The beer garden was on the ground floor of this other hotel, on the street. I didn't know this and went to the Penthouse rooftop bar which was full of models in tight dresses and stilettos and guys that wanted me to sit next to them and super loud club music. I walked around for like 5 minutes looking for everyone else and then just sat down and waited for another 15 minutes…by myself…awkwardly. I'd like to say that this was a first for me, but I feel like this happens a fair bit. I don't know why.
Anyways, ended up calling Dan and found out I was in the wrong fucking bar, then went downstairs. Of course, everyone had finished eating their food at this point but seeing as I was starving and I have no shame, I ordered a bunch of food for myself (and I guess to share, too). Buffalo chicken, fried mozzarella, and sliders. Aaaaand I basically ate all of it. Go big or go home, you know. I enjoyed that much more than the rooftop bar. Then it was off to bed for me. Woke up at 6am a bit hungover, then went to the airport. I was super early for my flight because I thought there'd be more traffic at the time, but there wasn't, so I ended up waiting an hour and a half in La Guardia, then my flight was delayed 45 minutes so more waiting. Almost missed my connecting flight in Toronto, but thankfully everyone in security let me go ahead of them and I ran through the entire stupid airport. I'm sorry to the people that sat next to me on the plane 'cause I was a hot and sweaty mess.
And that was that! 30 hours in NYC, the condensed version. It was amazing and busy and incredible and fun and nerve-wracking and silly and just the best time. I had such a fun time and I would do it again in a heartbeat (except maybe the running through the airport and intense stress of missing my flight). It's still such a shock to me that people like this little hobby of mine and what it produces, enough to fly me out to NYC or to come listen to me talk for 4 minutes about flowers while I'm holding my arms awkwardly. So thank you to everyone who came out and to those who watched it on Facebook live as well! You guys are seriously the best.
Vietnamese Coffee Éclairs
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery
175 g all-purpose flour
33 g sugar
240 g water
120 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5 g salt
250 g eggs
Espresso Pastry Cream
475 g heavy cream
100 g granulated sugar
100 g egg yolks
20 g cornstarch
10 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
85 g freshly brewed espresso (about 4 shots)
Coffee Fluid Gel
360 g freshly brewed dark roast coffee
25 g granulated sugar
3 g agar agar
Condensed Milk Chantilly
250 g heavy cream
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
First, make the éclairs. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Make templates for your éclairs by taking two pieces of parchment and using a dark pen to make a line 6 inches long. Leave 2 inches between each line as the éclairs will expand as they bake. Once you have finished, flip the parchment over so the side with the pen markings are facing the sheet pan. This will ensure that you do not get pen on your éclairs.
Combine the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir as the butter melts. Do not start at too high a heat or some of the water will evaporate before the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and, with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon, stir in all the flour. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean - the dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 g at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue to add the eggs, reserving 25 g, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with the paddle but then grabs back on again.
Increase the speed to medium and mix for 15 seconds to be all of the eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer. When the paddle if lifted, the dough should form a bird's beak - it should hold its shape and turn down over itself but not break off. If the dough is too stiff, add the reserved egg.
Transfer to an airtight container, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface on the choux, and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Transfer the choux to a piping bag fitted with a french tip if you have one or a large round tip if you don't have one.
Starting at the side of the parchment farthest from you, hold the tip of the pastry bag 3/4 inch above the parchment and apply gentle, steady pressure as you pipe the first éclair. When the éclair is about 6 inches ling, begin to lessen he pressure, and then stop it as you bring the dough back over itself, leaving a 1/2 inch curl at the end of the éclair. Pipe the remaining éclairs. Repeat with the second sheet.
If you are using a round tip, take a fork and gently drag it along the length of each éclair. You just want to create very light grooves, not deep gashes.
Wet your finger and press down on the tip of each éclair. Place the sheet pans in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350 F. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the éclairs are beginning to brown; rotate the pans halfway through. Lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the éclairs are light and feel hollow. If you break one open, the centre should be completely cooked. Set on a cooling rack and cool completely before filling.
For the espresso pastry cream, place the cream in a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring it to just a simmer.
Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch and whisk to combine.
Once the cream has come to a simmer, slowly pour a small amount into the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Continue tempering the yolks with the cream, then transfer all of back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk for another minute to cool slightly, then add the butter and whisk until combined.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl set over an ice bath. Cool to room temperature, add the espresso and stir to combine. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. Once it has cooled, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a very small round tip.
For the coffee fluid gel, combine the coffee, sugar, and agar in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
Once the gel has set, use an immersion blender to purée it until a gel-like consistency has been reached. A drop of the gel should hold it's shape when piped and be completely smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.
For the condensed milk chantilly, combine the heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a St. Honoré tip.
To fill the éclairs, use a toothpick to create three holes in the bottom of each éclair - one at each end and one in the middle. Insert the piping tip of the espresso pastry cream into a hole and pipe until you start to feel a little bit of resistance. When you remove the tip, the cream should push out of the hole. Insert the tip into the two other holes and repeat the process. Repeat this process with all the éclairs.
Pipe the condensed milk chantilly onto the éclair, then pipe dots of coffee pastry cream on the chantilly.