Dobos Days


If you tune in to my radio appearance tonight, you may hear me talking about the layer cake pictured above. It's a dessert my mother made throughout my childhood. I remember having it all the time until I was about 10 or 11, when it disappeared from her repertoire. While this '70s creation may not contain the finest ingredients according to the contemporary food snob's standards, it still tastes pretty damned good.

We called it a Dobos Torte, but from every recipe I've seen online, this is really a bastardization (though a tasty one). The real Dobos Torte (or Dobosh Torte) appears to be a traditional Hungarian cake with layers and chocolate, but the similarities to this one end there. In fact, this thing barely deserves to be called homemade. As impressive as it looks, it's just frozen pound cake, chocolate chips, sour cream, and vanilla. That's it. The hardest part is in the assembly.

I would be curious to try making this cake with updated ingredients: high-quality artisanal chocolate, organic sour cream, and vanilla bean. Maybe homemade pound cake, too. But, would it be the same? And can you cut a home-made pound cake as thinly as you can the industrial version? I doubt it.

Dobos Torte

1 frozen pound cake
2 cups sour cream
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cocoa powder for dusting

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler and let cool slightly. Fold the chocolate, the vanilla, and the sour cream together, and then use a whisk to blend the mixture completely.

Slice the pound cake into thin layers (seven above). One at a time, frost each layer with the chocolate and sour cream mixture and stack. To complete the cake, you can frost the top of the topmost layer or all sides, as I have done above. Finally, to cover up any glitches, I dusted the finished cake with cocoa powder. Note that there will be plenty of leftover frosting, especially if you only fill the layers and frost the top (for which 1 cup of chocolate and 1 cup of sour cream would suffice). Chill and serve sliced.




I'll be a guest on the "Taste of Boston" show on Boston radio station WRKO (AM 680) tonight during the 8:00 p.m. hour. You can hear the show live on the radio, streamed online, and via podcast.


Agenda: March 29 to April 4

1. Shad Bake, Savoy restaurant is serving a special four course menu featuring shad and shad roe through Sunday, April 9, Savoy, 70 Prince Street. $55/person or $75/person for dinner paired wines (212.219.8570).

2. The Meatrix II: Revolting, the sequel to The Meatrix, the Webby-award winning animated short about factory farming, will hold its premiere on Wednesday, March 29, 6:00 p/m. to 7:00 p.m., at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery. Free (212.614.0505).

3. Uncorking History: Champagne, Punch and other Luscious Libations in 19th Century New York, Professor David Wondrich, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, will discuss champagne and cocktail history, including a tasting, Thursday, March 30, 6:30 p.m., at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, 421 East 61st Street. $18/person, reservations recommended (212.838.6878).

4. Spices and the Medieval Culinary Aesthetic, the Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY) will present a discussion by Paul Freedman, Chairman of the History Department at Yale, on spices in medieval cooking, Tuesday, April 3, 7:30 p.m. reception, 8:00 p.m. lecture, at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park. CHNY members/$25, guests/$35 (212.334.1061).

5. Schools and Food: Innovation, Opportunity and Wellness, the Baum Forum and the Department of Continuing Education and Public Programs at The Graduate Center (CUNY) will present a series of panels and workshops on improving food in the schools, Saturday, April 1, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at he Graduate Center (CUNY), 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. $35/person, including lunch (212.817.8215).

6. Edible Landscaping, the New York Botanical Garden will present a course on gardening fruit- and vegetable-bearing plants on Saturday, April 1, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills. $50/person (718.817.8747).

7. Wine Dinner, as part of a series of Monday night wine dinners, The Biltmore Room will present a five-course dinner paired with wines from the estate of Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, a wine appellation in France's northern Rhône Valley, Monday, April 3, 7:00 p.m., at The Biltmore Room, 290 Eighth Avenue. $165/person, excluding tax and gratuity (212.807.0111).

8. Dine in Brooklyn, participating Brooklyn restaurants will serve three course meals for $20.06, Monday, April 3, through Tuesday, April 11.


Sunday Supper (Not) at Lucques


Back in January, when we took a brief, hastily planned visit to Los Angeles, we tried in earnest to secure a last-minute reservation at Suzanne Goin's much lauded Lucques. Unfortunately, it was fully booked (as was newish The Hungry Cat, where Goin's husband David Lentz is chef). Double whammy!

When we returned home, I licked my wounds by cooking from Ms. Goin's new cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques (a gift from my mother-in-law). If I couldn't eat in the restaurant, at least I could try to get a taste through making one of her recipes. Right?

The book is comprised of a series of menus for six that would provide plenty of inspiration for a well-planned dinner party -- well-planned because many of the recipes require quite a bit of preparation and forethought. The short ribs, for example, look amazing, but required more preparation time than I could muster. What's more, dinner parties aren't currently on our agenda, so I hunkered down to look for a recipe adaptable for just the two of us (Anya's happily subsisting on breast milk for the time being).

The menus are separated into four sections organized around each of the seasons. Each chapter opens with a rundown on the chef's favorite ingredients of the season, followed by the recipes. Where some cookbooks can be frustrating in their lack of organization beyond ingredient (meat, fish, pasta), the seasonal division makes it easy to focus in on just a handful of recipes that smartly take advantage of the season's bounty.

My first line of attack was to look for a winter recipe. Skimming past the more complicated one, I leafed through the book until I found what must be the easiest recipe in Ms. Goin's winter: Chicken paillards coated with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano and brown butter. She calls it a "retro classic  . . . Parmesan meets chicken Milanese meets fried chicken." And it is excellent -- crunchy coated chicken cutlets doused with lemony caper brown butter, along with a side of escarole.

As winter has now turned into spring (and the weather is just starting to catch up with the change of seasons), I'm looking forward to revisiting the book again for new, seasonal inspiration. Next winter, I'll make those short ribs.

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Agenda: 3/22 to 3/28

1. Ultimate Belgian Tasting, Ale Street News, the Belgian Consulate, and Petite Abeille restaurants will present a tasting of more than 100 Belgian beers, Friday, March 24, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., at the Chelsea Art Museum, 556 W. 22nd St. $87/person, tickets are limited (800.351.9100).

2. Van Gogh's Kitchen: An Exploration with Food, Absinthe, and Wine, Alexandra Leaf, author of Van Gogh’s Table at the Auberge Ravoux, will lead a course and discussion of the signature dishes served at Auberge Ravoux, Vincent van Gogh’s last home, Saturday, March 25, 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., at the Institute of Culinary Education, 50 West 23rd Street. $120/person, including copy of the book (212.847.0700).

3. Grillin' on the Bay, Sponsored by Rub BBQ and sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society, this one-day grilling event bill itself as "the first BBQ contest ever to be held in New York City," Saturday, March 25, East 18th Street and Avenue Z, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn (Corner of East 18th Street and Avenue Z) (917.763.5062).

4. Tea: Tasting & History, food historian Francine Segan will lead a tasting of teas and discuss tea culture, history, and ceremony, Tuesday, March 28, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. $25/person (212.415.5500).


Agenda: 3/15 to 3/21

1. Sublimely Seasonal, Gabrielle Hamilton, owner and executive chef of Prune, will give a cooking lesson as part of the "Sublimely Seasonal" series of courses at the De Gustibus Cooking School, Wednesday, March 15, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at Macy's Herald Square, 151 West 34th Street, 8th floor. $85/person (212.439.1714).

2. Food of the Gods, Organic Academics will present a course on cooking with Cacao, Saturday, March 18, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at The Plant, 25 Jay Street, DUMBO. $65/person (718.722.7541).

3. Great Cooking in Small Kitchens, Justin Spring, author of The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook, will discuss how to maximize space and increase efficiency in even the tiniest of kitchens, Tuesday, Mar 21, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Makor, Steinhardt Building, 35 West 67th Street. $16/person (212.415.5500).

4. Cheese Basics, Fromager Waldemar Albrecht, manager of the cheese counter at Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, will lead a discussion and tasting of cheeses paired with wine, Tuesday, March 21, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Artisanal Premium Cheese Center, 500 West 37th Street, 2nd Floor. $75/person (877.797.1200).


Sweetest Way to Travel Back in Time


2006cIce cream has an uncanny ability to transport one across the dimensions of space and time. A scoop of fresh gelato at Il Laboratorio del Gelato might whisk you away to Florence, while a taste of frozen custard at the Shake Shack may, ever so briefly, have you thinking you’ve landed in St. Louis. And then there are those places that work like time machines, taking you back instantly to a lost era. Jahn’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant in Richmond Hill, Queens, is one of those places. (Another, for the record, is Eddie’s Sweet Shop in nearby Forest Hills).

Jahn's Hillside Avenue location, which opened in 1923, is the last remaining branch of a small chain of ice cream parlors founded in the Bronx, at 138th Street and Alexander Avenue, by "Papa Jahn" in 1897. Step inside Jahn’s today and, save for some wear around the edges, the place looks nearly as it must have more than 80 years ago. Red booths and carved wood inhabit the darkened space, which feels more like a bar than any modern ice cream operation (or faux retro ice creamery for that matter). The room is illuminated only by amber sconces and stained glass fixtures advertising old-school soda brands like Moxie.

The menu is filled with original artwork and ephemera, including an egg cream how-to and this loving ode to "The Romance of Soda Water": Youth as it sips its first glass, experiences sensations which, like the first sensation of love cannot be forgotten, but are cherished to the last.

There are "Tummy Ticklers" -- sundaes small and large -- with titles and captions like "The Tree" ("This one grows in Jahn’s not in Brooklyn"), "A Shissel" ("If you can’t eat it – use it for washing"), and the "Brooklyn Kibbitzer" ("Shut up and eat"). The showstopper, of course, is "The Kitchen Sink," the shop's signature giant dessert. The mother of all sundaes serves eight for the sum of $42.65.

In an age when we are witnessing the some of New York's most indelible food institutions close up shop (R.I.P. 2nd Avenue Deli), Jahn’s soldiers on as the living ghost of New York's ice cream parlors past. The ice cream at Jahn's may not be the world's finest, but it's the sweetest way to travel back in time.

Jahn’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant, 117-03 Hillside Avenue, Richmond Hill, New York (718.847.2800).

For more information about the 2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards, visit tasteEverything. In 2005, The Food Section presented the award for Best Thing to Happen to Rice Since Sake to Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale.


Agenda: 3/8 to 3/14

1. The World Chocolate Tasting: An International Chocolate Extravaganza, Alexandra Leaf will moderate a discussion and tasting of chocolates (paired with wine) led by Kee Ling Tong, owner of Kee’s Chocolates; Martine Leventer, owner of Martine’s Chocolates; Joan Coukos, proprietor of Chocolate Moderne; and Clay Gordon, founder of the New World Chocolate Society, on Wednesday, March 8, 8:00 p.m., at the 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. $45/person (212.415.5500).

2. Adventures in the Global Kitchen: Evolution of Taste, the American Museum of Natural History will present an evening exploring the evolution of taste and smell with Lionel Tiger, Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University; food writer Harold McGee; Vanina Leschziner, Rutgers University; and chef Bill Yosses, Josephs Citarella restaurant, who will present a tasting of sweet and savory dishes, on Thursday, March 9, 7:00 p.m., at the Wallach Orientation Center, fourth floor, American Museum of Natural History, 79th Street at Central Park West. $15/person (212.769.5315).

3. Back of the House, The Fall Café will hold an opening for an exhibition of photographs of restaurant kitchens by photographer Michael Harlan Turkell. The opening night event, sponsored by Red Hook's Sixpoint Craft Ales, will take place on Friday, March 10, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at The Fall Café, 307 Smith Street, Brooklyn (718.403.0230). The exhibition continues through April 20.

4. Keeping It Fresh! City Gardeners Grow Food, the 25th Annual "Making Brooklyn Bloom" event at Brooklyn Botanic Garden includes a series of workshops on growing fruits and vegetables in an urban environment, Saturday, March 11, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Palm House, 1000 Washington Avenue. Registration, which is required for the workshops, takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (718.623.7200).

5. Six Course Chocolate Tasting, the dinner series Foodie will present a menu of dishes featuring chocolate and cocoa, Sunday, March 12, 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., at Ave NYC, 15 West 28th Street, Suite 10B. $100/person (RSVP to [email protected]).

6. Fish on Friday: How Fish Eating Changed History, the Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY) will present a lecture by Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of North America, on the symbolism of fish in early Christianity and the diets of monastic communities, the history of fish preservation, and changes in how fish has been cooked since ancient Rome, Monday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. (6:30 p.m. reception), at the South Street Seaport Museum, Melville Gallery, 213 Water Street. $25/CHNY members, $35/guests (212.334.1061).


Street Fare: Amsterdam Edition


Late Bird Gets the Worm


TFS reader Suzanne snaps this fuzzy photo of Trader Joe's signage going up this a.m.:

"hastily snapped this picture with my handy cameraphone (what did we do before cellphones??) while riding the crosstown 14D. admittedly, i was a little late for work, but if i'd been on time, i wouldn't have caught this sign going up! looks like Trader Joe's will be open any day now!"

Any day now? Special prize for photos of Frank Bruni stopping in to feed his sun-dried tomato spread addiction.