Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pepperoni soup + peanut butter Rice Krispie treats

I joined Melanie for lunch a couple of Fridays ago, doing my small part to 'assist' with her latest food review project for the local weekly: a round-up of Austin soups. (Coming out soon! Will post a link here.)

We met at the swank, still-new-to-me Second Bar + Kitchen for their pepperoni soup, which touts San Marzano tomatoes, along with mozzarella and garlic croutons. (The "croutons" were extremely generous in size, and the perfect vehicle for hoisting spoonfuls of this chunky splendidness into my mouth.)

I don't know what I was expecting from a $6 pepperoni soup -- some watery tomato goop with sliced rounds of oily pepperoni floating about -- but this "Why has no one done this before?" treat tastes just like pizza in a bowl, good pizza, right down to the lovely cap of melted, oozing cheese. The pepperoni pieces were cube-shaped, and while they were tasty, I'd suggest the folks at Second call up the folks at Enoteca and ask what kind of pork product they're putting on their Calabrese pizza. *That* stuff is the best version of pepperoni I've ever had. (Pictures of that pizza coming in future post.)

Melanie and I decided to skip an actual lunch portion (we'd shared an order of blistered shishito peppers prior to the soup), and we went straight to dessert. We split the chocolate brioche bread pudding and the peanut butter rice krispie treats, topped with a smooth layer of semi-salted peanut brittle.

The bread pudding was solid. But the peanut butter rice krispie bites? Those were Last Meal material. At $2.50 for two "bites", I'd happily buy 5 orders, take them home, and eat them all alone when no one else was looking. I'm sad we didn't take a picture of these little treats, but this just means I'll have to go back. And soon.

2012: The Year of the Cheesecake?

We stayed in Austin for our last childless New Year's Eve together, and for perhaps the first time in my life, I rang in the new year with only one other person (my husband). A couple of minutes til midnight, we paused our movie to step outside, check out the neighborhood fireworks and kiss on our front porch. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Earlier in the evening, we'd gone to two separate NYE parties, and we prepared to have a couple of friends over as midnight approached. Sick kids and busy schedules got in the way, and only Melanie stopped by for a bit to say hello and share some of the cheesecake I'd made that afternoon.

The cheesecake was inspired by Mike's friend Jen, who posted on Facebook before the new year that she was making her annual eggnog cheesecake.* Intrigued, I went to Google and found a few recipes. I picked this one -- probably because it was less involved than others, and I had nearly every ingredient at home, save the two whopping pounds of cream cheese, gingersnap cookies and eggnog. (I nabbed the last bag of gingersnap cookies at our neighborhood Target, a sure sign that I was meant to make this cake.)

This was my first cheesecake ever, not counting the no-bake crap I made in my twenties and perhaps one or two fuzzy attempts (also in my twenties) with a springform pan that I accidentally left in the home of an ex.

So I'm counting this as my first, and I'm happy to say I was pleased with the results. A couple of minor lessons were learned, but overall, there's little I'd change. I hope to make another one in the coming weeks ... before the baby comes, or maybe while on maternity leave as I try finding ways to kill time during my three months off. I'm sure to have tons of energy and endless hours to just putter around the house, bake cheesecakes, and watch The Wire from start to finish.**

The best thing about this cheesecake was that it lasted three days and was shared with exactly one dozen friends over the course of those three days. (I was so delighted when Jodi asked me where we'd purchased it! And even after she tasted it, she seemed impressed it was homemade.)

It was so much fun to share this massive hunk o' cake with so many. It felt like a Hannukah miracle, this giant cheesecake that lasted for days. But it's probably because you really don't need much of this at all. It's sweet and creamy ... but oh so dense.

After Mike and I sent Melanie home with a slice for her hubby on New Year's Eve, we had two more rounds of friends visit us for cheesecake and coffee in the first two days of the new year.

Sitting around our dining table in the middle of the day as friends came in and out, making fresh batches of coffee in the French Press, not looking at the clock or playing with my iPhone or thinking about to-do lists ... well, it was the absolute perfect start to our 2012. If we're lucky, the rest of the year will feel just as cozy and sweet.

*I can see why this cheesecake is an annual tradition for Jen!