Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Baker Challenge ~ Filbert Gateau With Praline Butter Cream

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will remember I blogged about visiting Chocolatier Jacques Torres' shop in DUMBO, Brooklyn, earlier in the month, where I bought one of his "Big Daddy" dark chocolate bars for a baking project.

Today is the day I can reveal the project! Ta Da!

It is a Filbert Gateau with Praline Butter cream, a Carol Walter recipe from the book "Great Cakes." It was the July Daring Bakers challenge, and I made it as my mother's 86 birthday cake.On July first I joined "Daring Bakers" group of Bloggers after seeing Proud Italian Cook's June Daring Baker challenge of a Rum, Raisin and Ricotta Danish Braid. It looked so delicious, and the idea of more than a thousand bloggers creating the same new recipe challenge every month and displaying it on their blog seemed like a lot of fun!

The July recipe was chosen by Chris of the blog Mele Cotte, and she will have the entire recipe on her blog, plus a "half" version if you would like to make this cake yourself.
The preparations for the Filbert genoise, praline Swiss butter cream filling and chocolate ganache glaze was four pages long when I printed it out, and took many steps and two days to make, but it was delicious and I learned so many new techniques by making it!

I did not have the proper tip to decorate the top as directed, with the leftover butter cream used in the filling, and it was a very hot day when I was decorating the cake so everything was melting slightly, so I wasn't completely satisfied with my initial decoration. I decided to sprinkle some of the leftover praline paste crystals, crushed filberts and some chocolate jimmies on top.

I liked the way this looked as I think it made it appear more festive for use as a birthday cake!

Of course I did not need to use the entire "Big Daddy" bar for the chocolate ganache glaze recipe, but I decided it would be nice to have the chocolate on hand for future baking endeavors.

If you would like to see wonderful versions of this magnificent gateau on other Daring Bakers web sites today check the Daring Bakers blogroll! There is also an open forum for general baking discussions here, but you have to be a member of Daring Bakers in order to register to log in for each month's challenge and discussions regarding it.
If you think you are up to taking the monthly challenge instructions are on the blog as to how to join! Don't delay, as there is only a 24 hour time limit to join evey month for the next month's challenge!
There is even an "Alternative Daring Baking group for gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergy, vegetarians, vegans and bakers who use alternate ingredients due to other health concerns or life styles. "
I hope to see you all doing the August Daring Baker Challenge!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Aprons by "Vee"!

Vee, at one of my favorite blogs, "A Haven For Vee," had her one year blog anniversary on Tuesday, July 22, 2008, and offered to give a beautiful apron she had just hand made in a random draw from someone who commented on her blog that day.

She had her handsome new husband model her creation, which you can see here, and do the random draw.

I was the lucky winner!

I was so excited to hear I was going to soon be receiving an original Vee apron! I love aprons and I have a collection of them, but none that was an original!

Her package arrived yesterday and inside was this very beautifully lavender scented wrapping paper tied with a pretty shear bow.

Inside, wrapped so neatly in tissue paper, was this cheerful red plaid apron!

It also had a lovely note by Vee in the pocket, and shhhhh .... our secret forever, but now I know what the "V" stands for!

Vee, it was your blog anniversary and you celebrated as you always do in your blog, by sharing a part of yourself and being a good friend. Through the days and weeks that added up to a blog year you have been honest, entertaining, informative, inquisitive, sharing, devout, funny, questioning, encouraging, perfect, and imperfect :-)

I feel a sisterhood between us, and it has been wonderful to be your blog friend these past six months that I've been blogging.

Thanks so much for being you, and thank you for this special apron! I will always think of you when I wear it!

So here we are!

Me, and my hubby who is a "V" too, modeling the special apron as we cook dinner!

I'm glad it was made extra large, as you can see we both need it! :-)

Thanks Vee!!

We know this apron will be a favorite!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Madison Square Park, Manhattan

Historic Madison Square Park is the vibrant center of Manhattan's Flatiron District offering flourishing gardens, lush lawns, and cultural programs for all ages. Located on 6.2 acres between 23rd and 26th streets and Fifth and Madison Avenues, the park has become an oasis for those who live and work nearby.

The area known as Madison Square Park has existed as an urban public space since 1686. Named for James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, Madison Square was formally opened as a public park in 1847.

Below is a statue honoring Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America, 1881 - 1885.

A monument to James Glasgow Farragut the first Admiral of the United States Navy. One of his famous battle quotes is ""Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" from the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

In the late 19th century, Madison Square was the focal point of one of Manhattan's most elite neighborhoods. Society's most fashionable residences and hotels, including the luxurious Fifth Avenue Hotel, bordered the park. Novelist Edith Wharton was born to a well-to-do New York family nearby on West 23rd Street. Tycoon Leonard Jerome, the grandfather of Winston Churchill, built the most elaborate mansion alongside the park at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The neighborhood surrounding the park also flourished as a bustling commercial district, home to wonders like Barnum's Hippodrome, the first and second Madison Square Gardens, the daringly narrow Flatiron Building, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building.

A view of the Flatiron Building from the park.

An elegant ornamental fountain was added to the park in 1867.

Soon after the creation of New York City's first Department of Public Parks in 1870, the square was re-landscaped by William Grant with Ignatz Pilat, the department's chief landscape architect and a former assistant to Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park. The park incorporated both formal and pastoral elements with well-defined walkways and open lawns similar to the park plan we know today.

A plaque commemorating a tree from the Virginia estate grounds of President James Madison, planted in 1936 in honor of the first centennial of the naming of Madison Avenue.

A view of the Madison homestead tree.

A reflecting pond. At noontime, portable tables and chairs are placed around this structure so that New Yorkers can enjoy the park and dine outside.

Despite its prominent location and cultural significance, by the 1990s the park had fallen into disrepair. The park's asphalt was cracked and broken, its grassy lawns eroded and sparsely planted. The eight prized monuments were in decay. The historic plan and formal character were overwhelmed by visual clutter. Insufficient lighting and confusing signage gave the park an unsafe and disorienting feeling. The City Parks Foundation took the lead in organizing the Campaign for the New Madison Square Park, the precursor organization to the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The campaign raised six million dollars for the capital renovation of the park, including $2.5 million in private funds from corporate leaders, such as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York Life Insurance Company, Credit Suisse First Boston, Rudin Management, and Union Square Hospitality Group. The Madison Square Park Conservancy has also raised $4 million for a permanent fund to help support the maintenance of the park.

A children's playground is located in the park, and it is well-used by parents, nannies, and babysitters. The park also has an Exploration Station which hosts many free self-guided activities that transform the park into a learning laboratory where children explore through play and discovery. There are five themes: Art in the Park, Science & Nature, Stepping Through Time, Park Patrol, and A Playground Adventure.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 am there are free entertainment events for children, such as storytelling, puppet theater, musical performances, and much more!

A statue of William H. Seward who was a New York State Governor, State Senator, and served as Secretary of State. During his administration, the United States purchased the Alaska Territory from Russia for $7,200,000.00. Derided by critics as "Seward's Folly," this purchase became one of Seward's greatest legacies.

Some of the many pretty flowers are in bloom in the park.

A statue of Roscoe Conkling, a politician from New York who served both as a member of the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party.

The "Eternal Light Flagpole," dedicated on Armistice Day 1923 and restored in 2002, commemorates the return of American soldiers and sailors from World War I.

This is how New Yorkers allow their dogs to run free without leashes. They find a "dog run" such as this one in Madison Square Park.\

A few of the glazed ceramic sculptures by Richard Deacon in the park as part of a temporary display. Enlarge the photo below to more about this artist and his exhibit.

During the summer months, the Madison Square Park Conservancy hosts many free concerts and literary events in the park. In the photo below you can see the stage up and the musicians doing a sound check for that evening's performance by Phoebe Snow.

This is the famous Madison Square Park "Shake Shack" a permanent food stand serving burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine, and more, year-round from 11 AM to 11PM

As part of the ongoing renaissance of the historic park, famous restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group partnered with the Madison Square Park Conservancy to launch Shake Shack in the Summer of 2004. Designed by architecture firm SITE Environmental Design, Shake Shack blends harmoniously with the park and its surroundings. If you want to eat on a budget and enjoy the park atmosphere this is the place to do it!

If you are interested in learning more about historic Madison Square Park and the local neighborhood you can read Miriam Berman's "Madison Square, The Park, and its Celebrated Landmarks."

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flatiron / Gramercy Neighborhoods in Manhattan

(All photos click on to enlarge)

I arrived a little early in Manhattan to meet my daughter and husband at the I Trulli Restaurant I wrote about yesterday, so I did a little walk around the area to take some photos. New York City is comprised of many neighborhoods, and The Flatiron District received its name from the
The Flatiron Building, which when constructed was called the Fuller Building. It was one of the tallest buildings in New York City upon its completion in 1902, and is considered one of Manhattan's first skyscrapers. The building sits on a triangular island block at 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway, anchoring the south end of Madison Square. This triangular plot had been known as the ''Flat Iron,'' hence the nickname given to the skyscraper.

It was designed by the architect Daniel Burrham in the Beaux - Arts style, and it is one of the first buildings constructed with a steel skeleton, which enabled its unusual shape and considerable height for that era. It has beautifully decorated limestone and glazed terra-cotta facade. Some more photos are information about this NYC landmark building can be found here.

Another Beaux-Arts style building is the Appellate Division of The Supreme Court of the State of New York for the First Judical Department. It is located at 27 Madison Avenue and was designed by James Brown Lord from 1900-02.
The front facade on 25th Street, is dominated by an imposing triangular pediment entrance portico, fronted by Triumph of Law by Charles H. Niehaus, and supported by six Corinthian columns. Daniel Chester French's sculpture of "Justice" is on the top cornice.

The Appellate Division, First Department of the New York State Supreme Court was established in 1894 as one of the last of a series of reforms of the judicial system in the later nineteenth century. The right of appeals was extended and this court was to handle them and relieve some of the work load of the State Supreme Court. It hosts over 3,000 appeals and more than 7,000 motions a year, making it one of the busiest appellate courts in the United States. The main work of the Court involves appeals from the Supreme Court, the Surrogate's Court, and the Family Court in New York and Bronx Counties.

There are about 30 figures by 16 well known sculptors representing famous lawgivers like Confucius, Moses, and Justinian that rim the top of the facade.

Frederick Ruckstuhl's sculptures of Force and Wisdom flank the 25th Street entrance portal.

The quote inscrobed on "Force" says: " We must not use FORCE till just laws are defied."

The quote inscribed on "Wisdom" says: Every law not based on WISDOM is a menace to the state."
In 1990, Harriet Fiegenbaum's Memorial to All Victims of the Holocaust was added to the annex. The memorial is a double column of Carrara marble 38 feet high, representing a "crematorium smokestack", carved with flames and the site plan of Auschwitz, modelled from a WWII reconnaissance photo. The inscription reads: "Indifference to Injustice is the Gate to Hell." Click on te photos to enlarge it to see all the detail.

Karl Bitter's sculpture of "Peace" surmounts the Madison Avenue cornice. Some photos of the equally beautiful interior can be seen here.

The Museum of Sex located at 233 Fifth Ave, opened on October 5, 2002 as an institution unlike any other, one wholly dedicated to the exploration of the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality. The Museum is created of a board of advisers comprised of leading experts, activists, academics and artists. The Museum’s advisory board has guided curators and guest curators towards research resources, pertinent collections and exhibition relevant artists. You must be over the age of 18 to enter this museum!

One of the most interesting things to do when visiting New York City is to remember to look up, as some of the most beautiful architecture is vertical!

Here is the Empire State Building touching the clouds.
The golden pyramid top of The New York Life Insurance Company which was built in 1928 by Cass Gilbert, designer of the landmark Woolworth Building, and is a massive 40-story structure.

Below are two views of top of The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, built by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons' in 1909. The office tower is based on the campanile (clock and bell tower) at St. Mark's Church in Venice. Graced with an enormous clock on each of its four sides, the 700-foot structure was the tallest in the city until the completion of the Woolworth Building. ( see my posts about Lower Manhattan to read more about the Woolworth Building)

Some beautiful older residential buildings surrounding Madison Square Park.

Another view of The Metropolitan Insurance Company tower, with a clock face visible.

As I walk across Park Ave South in the photo below I enter the Gramercy or Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan, where the I Trulli restaurant is located.

I still had a few more minutes before our dinner reservation, so I walked over to the famous 69th Regiment Armory building which occupies much of the block bounded by 25th and 26th Streets and Lexington and Park Avenues.

Designed by noted architects Hunt & Hunt in 1904-06 the Sixty-Ninth is a highly special­ized structure built to serve as training and marshaling center for the National Guard. The armory is notable as the home of the Fighting 69th New York City's only official Irish Regiment

On May 6, 1996, the 69th Regiment Armory was entered into listing as a National Historical Landmark.
The major battles of the American Civil War are engraved on either side of the facades which of course caught my eye as I am a Green-Wood Cemetery Civil War Veteran research volunteer in Brooklyn, NY.
The 69th, formed in 1851 by Irish immigrants, is one of the most storied combat units in American military history. It fought in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. To read more about the fascinating history of "The Fighting 69th" Regiment go here.
My next blog post will be about the very beautiful Madison Square Park. I hope you'll join me!