Wanderlust

Karen Chile Blog- back up

My love for exotic places and luxury stays are a part of my breaking away from the day-to-day chaos of running restaurants.  It’s in those travels that I find myself most open to soaking in inspiration from my surroundings – whether that be the culture of my destination, the architecture, the colors, or the cuisine.  I rarely come away from these trips without several new desserts and ideas to better my business and I always come home feeling creatively rejuvenated.

My most recent adventure was to Chile and Argentina this spring with my family. Here are some of the moments and memories that left me feeling inspired.

  1. The stunning architecture truly captivated us throughout our trip. Pictured here is the entry to the winery, Vina VIK where there is also a gorgeous hotel that we stayed at in Millahue, Chile.
  2. Wine is one of my favorite indulgences, especially when traveling abroad. Here we are tasting incredible Malbecs and blends at Giminez Riili in Mendoza, Argentina.
  3. The rich, chocolate-coated, hand-made ice cream bars are available in 30+ flavors at Emporio La Rosa in Santiago. Of course we had to taste test – our research depended on it! Our favorite was Dulce de Leche.
  4. The lush vineyards were perfect to stroll through. I even had the opportunity to pick grapes at the Vines of Mendoza in Argentina.
  5. Late morning walks on the beach burn off last night’s indulgences, clear the mind, and put things into perspective – Punta de Lobos in Chile.
  6. From all of the inspiration and South American flavors, I developed my newest dessert creation – El Gaucho. A decadent combination of goat cheese mousse and dulce de leche surrounded by chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache, and crunchy chocolate pearls.

Cheers!

Karen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Chocolate, Extraordinary Desserts, Mendoza, New Desserts, Pastry, Travel, Wine, Wine and Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Class That Takes the Cake – Kitchen Secrets with Karen

If you live in San Diego, you know Extraordinary Desserts as an iconic part of the city’s culinary scene. For more than two decades, Karen Krasne has created stunning desserts and pastries, gilded and gorgeous with her signature gold leaf and fresh flower decorations. Classically trained and constantly creating, Karen has long been considered one of the best in the biz and the lines of customers out the door any night of the week at both of the Extraordinary Desserts locations are proof positive of the draw her desserts have.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Karen and her fantastic team for nearly two and a half years as her publicist. I often get the inside scoop on “what’s new,” get spoiled with samples at our meetings, and get to work with media and influencers to further visibility for Karen and the Extraordinary Desserts brand.

While my professional expertise with Extraordinary Desserts has expanded over the years, it is very safe to say that my personal experience with baking has not. Admittedly, I tend to take more of a “working mom picking up store bought cookies approach” to things as opposed to a “from scratch” one.

I’m the person who LOVES to watch all types Food Network shows, yet could count the number of things I’ve actually made on one hand.

So, when Karen told me she was resurrecting her popular Kitchen Secrets with Karen cooking class and invited me to attend, I jumped at the chance, eager to have a kitchen-side seat and hopefully pick up some tips to get me motivated.

After arriving at the Little Italy location and enjoying a lovely glass of wine to start the evening, our intimate group of eight was escorted into the kitchen where all the magic happens. Seated around a large stainless steel prep table, Karen and her dynamic duo of assistants welcomed us and got right to work. Looking around the table, I could tell I was in the presence of some serious home bakers. They were there to pick up all the knowledge Karen was about to drop and I wondered if they could tell I was out of my league.

First up – Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. As Karen expertly sliced fresh croissants, explained the nuances of selecting the right bitterness of chocolate, and taught us a nifty trick for drying vanilla beans, notes were being scribbled furiously. As the massive bread pudding was being assembled, the addition of the secret ingredient elicited some serious ooohs and aaaahs – Karen’s Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies. SAY WHAT?! This recipe is basically my version of HEAVEN.

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Next on the agenda were the gorgeous Devonshire Pavlovas.  Perfect meringue nests filled with mixed berries and velvety Devonshire cream.

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After Karen prepared the ingredients and explained each step in detail, including a demonstration of how she transforms egg whites into perfectly glossy meringue, we got to try our hand at making the nests for the Pavlovas.

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Not bad for a first timer!

Then, the piece de resistance – getting to assemble our own Pavlovas as our delicious party favor, complete with fresh flowers and gold leaf, of course.

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I must say, as a complete novice, I was pretty pleased not only with how my Pavlova turned out, but that I left the class feeling a new level of confidence, ready to add some more sophisticated baking recipes to my (very limited) repertoire.  Who knows? Maybe that decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding will make an appearance on my holiday table!

If you are interested in taking a Kitchen Secrets class with Karen, 2017 will bring new dates and new recipes to experience! Follow Extraordinary Desserts on Instagram for the latest class updates: @extraordinary_desserts and online at http://www.extraordinarydesserts.com.

Posted in Chocolate, Extraordinary Desserts, Pastry, Pastry Making Class, Wine and Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karen’s Picks: Hello, Summer Wines!

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As much as I love sweet indulgences, I adore wine—and the long summer nights are an ideal time to sip and savor some of my favorite finds.

1. Sommariva di Conegliano Prosecco Brut NV – Italy:
I love the bubbles, complexity and overall value of this Prosecco.  It feels like I’m having a great Champagne.

2. Sangria Blanco:
Our refreshing homemade white wine sangria from Extraordinary Desserts includes white grape juice, fresh oranges, kiwis and limes. It is served in a carafe for 2, which is perfect for sharing on a hot, summer date night out.

3. Bodega Garzon Albarino 2014 – Uruguay:
From one of my favorite vacation spots, this wine has bright citrus with tropical notes and great acidity. You don’t need much more than a glass and an opener to enjoy this super priced South American beauty.

4. Wild Thing Rendezvous Rose 2014 by Carol Shelton – Mendocino, CA:
This wine is produced from wild yeasts found on organically grown grapes. Rich, cranberry colored rose that is dry and refreshing with strawberry and watermelon aromas and a hint of pink grapefruit. Perfect for a beach rendezvous.

5. Chateau Miraval Rose 2015 – Cote de Provence, France:
Soft blush color that is bright with raspberries, peaches and white flowers. True romance in a bottle. Nothing less expected from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Provence vineyard.

6. Magnolia Pinot Noir 2014 by Krutz Family Cellars – Sonoma Coast, CA:
I love this red wine because of its earthy, spicy and balanced silky tannins. Some juice of red fruit and plum with coffee over a long finish.  Enjoy with or without food, and it is spectacular with cheese.

Cheers!

Karen

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Karen’s 8 “Must Do’s” on Oahu

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Everyone dreams about the perfect Hawaiian vacation. And bliss is everywhere on these magical islands, but my ideal vacation to Hawaii isn’t just about surf and sand. Our favorite island is Oahu and I’ve discovered the eight most alluring things to create a truly special Hawaiian escape.

  1. Start your day at Diamond Head. This famous location is ideal for inspirational exercise. You can feel the power of the island, either swimming in the cove, running the trail head or walking along the paths. Insider tip: Spend the morning burning calories and then head to Kapiʻolani Community College farmers’ market (Saturdays 7:30AM-11AM an Tuesday 4-7PM) for the best bites of the island from various local purveyors. 4303 Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu.
  2. Banán Food Truck. This organic banana based dessert food truck is my pick for a healthy island not-too-sweet, satisfying treat. The Spirulina bowl features bananas blended with spirulina in a carved –out papaya bowl topped with granola. It’s the Hawaiian spin on Acai. 3212 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu.
  3. Shangri-La. Heiress Doris Duke’s custom mansion is home to an extensive Islamic art collection and truly breathtaking. The oasis on the other side of Diamond Head sits above the waves and is a unique outing for anyone who loves art and design. Tours can be arranged through the Honolulu Museum of Art. 4055 Papu Cir, Honolulu.
  4. Azure. This delicious seafood restaurant is the ultimate date night location. Dine al fresco overlooking Waikiki from cabanas on the sand that feel like you’ve been transported to Greece or Morocco. Leave the kiddos at home and enjoy the upscale vibe. 2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu.
  5. Kaiwa. This teppan and sushi restaurant is a stunning teppanyaki bar with unusual combinations and authentic Japanese cuisine. Don’t be surprised if most of the guests are Japanese, it is that level of authentic. We love to sit in the leather comfy chairs at the large teppanyaki tables while watching the chefs create their amazing dishes. 226 Lewers St, Honolulu.
  6. Le Flowers. This tiny little flower shop has hundreds of leis and fresh flowers. It’s a must-stop on Oahu for celebrations, from birthdays to weddings, even just to celebrate your island time. A true locals destination, the shop is open to the public and has the most exquisite selection of leis. 2567 S King St # B, Honolulu.
  7. Nitrogenie: A specialty ice cream shop to cool off during your island adventure. All the ice cream is made from the magic of liquid nitrogen. The flavors are always rotating, but my favorite is the Lemon Meringue Pie, which is deconstructed: Lemon Curd ice cream, with a biscuit and toasted meringue on top. Ala Moana, Honolulu.
  8. Kahuku Farms. The perfect road trip stop along the North Shore serving warm banana bread that my daughter asks about even when we aren’t in Hawaii! The warm banana bread comes drizzled with caramel sauce and honey. It’s a must, but so is a passion fruit smoothie or their coconut ice cream. 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku.

Hawaii is about discover and enchantment and hopefully with these eight must dos, I’ve inspired your next trip.

Aloha, Karen

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Hello Chocolate, I Love You

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With the holidays upon us, chocolate is admittedly on my mind. Well, maybe it always is. I love to get out to gourmet food shops and patisseries to see what ideas pop in my head from tasting and experiencing what is going on in the world of sweets.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the things currently feeding my chocolate obsession:

  1. Valrhona Chocolate Class

I recently took a 3-day seminar at the L’Ecole Valrhona Brooklyn cooking school. I came away totally inspired from working with pastry chefs from around the world with ideas for chocolate creations that are going to blow your mind and your diet. I perfected the Big Chocolate Cake and our new Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream.

2) Chocolate Manjari Bûche de Noel

This cheesecake filled bûche puts a smile on my face. It is so chocolate, so cheesecake, so crunchy, and so smooth and dreamy. We have really stepped up our game with a contemporary take on this classic French Christmas dessert. Cheers!

3) Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

A combination of melt-in-your-mouth Valrhona chocolates with a caramelized butter flavor and crispy texture, you literally can’t eat just one of these cookies. You’ll need to buy 2, because you won’t want to share.

4) OMG Candy Bar

Morsels of luxury in this chocolate bar I bumped into in SF’s Ferry Building.  It’s made with crispy hazelnut praline and sea salt caramel with caramelized Rice Krispies enrobed in 64% dark chocolate, and it’s a perfect stocking-stuffer.

5) Theo Chocolate Book

Seattle based Theo chocolate is North America’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory.  This 75-recipe book also tells the story of the company and its mouth-watering photos are sure to inspire you in the kitchen.

6) Chocolate Inspired Jewelry

Girls of all ages are going “ga-ga” over our dessert inspired jewelry from France.  Les Delices d’ Emilie hand makes everything from éclairs and chocolate bars to Oreo Cookies and macaroons. Necklaces and earrings so enticing, you’ll want to buy them for the chocolate lovers in your life.

7) Extraordinary Desserts Baker’s Chocolates

A line of Valrhona chocolates and baking sugars to amp up your holiday baking or to give as a gift.

Wishing you a delicious and peaceful holiday season!

-Karen

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Paris = Love

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Paris is positively romantic, but it’s not just a city for lovers. It’s where you can fall in love with everything from food to design. Our recent trip to Paris inspired me to pick my loves, including places to dine, shop and a few special items that you can now find at Extraordinary Desserts.

  1. After spending the morning browsing on Rue Cherche Midi, a charmingly chic shopping street, the ideal lunch can be found at Cuisine de Bar. The sandwiches are all opened faced, grilled on Poilane bread. This is the place that inspired our paninis!
  1. Brasserie Thoumieux, is a truly special spot for dinner. It appears to be a beautiful traditional brasserie, but once you step in to dine you realize it is all of that, and much more. Very hip and fashionable, but with a more contemporary menu.
  1. A temple of gorgeous gourmet foods, an epicurean paradise, La Grande Epecerie is my pick for a favorite spot “not to miss.” Located in the Bon Marche Department Store, there are dazzling displays of produce, baked goods, desserts, cheeses, wines, savory foods, bottled condiments…the list goes on and on. Bring your extra bag to stock up on treats to bring home.
  1. I can never leave Paris without being inspired to create something magical for Extraordinary Desserts. Look for these two Paris inspired desserts on your next visit.

L’Envie des Fraises is a strawberry tart updated with a new shape, a triangle. The triangle mold is new for bakers in Europe.

Chocolate dipped espresso shortbreads, like a buttery crunchy mocha!

  1. At our Little Italy location the merchandise items are often inspired from my travels and Paris provided some fantastic goodies including: books I love, jewelry being made for us in the South of France, and pocket books I found in France.
  1. Luxurious teas are a staple at Extraordinary Desserts and this one I found in France, Macaroon tea (almond meringue flavored after the confection) from Mariage Freres, is stunning to display and to sip.

Au revoir for now!

Karen

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Every girl deserves a trip to France

Every girl deserves a trip to France….especially my daughter. She got to ride her momma’s ride and now she understands why I love and need to go back as often as possible. It’s about finding out what’s happening in food, drink, design, and pastry, of course.

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Merci, indeed.

Merci, indeed.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

Cake waiting in our room at Hotel Thoumeiux.

We started in Paris where no trip is complete without checking in on the masters of pastry.

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Line out the door at Pierre Herme

Pierre Herme window display

Pierre Herme window display

Keep the day light- start with lemon.

Move into pistachio.

Move into pistachio.

Pastry Crawl from master to master.

Sebastian Gaudard serves incredible pastry and tea near the Lourve.

Sebastian Gaudard is a must.

I said it was incredible.

Start with a little cream.

Finish off with chocolate.

Finish off with chocolate.

Fauchon makes everything - from creative pastry to twists on traditional baked goods.

Still cutting-edge, Fauchon is delicious and prestigious.

Croissants with additional flavors - pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Flavored croissants – pistachio, strawberry and chocolate.

Creative Fauchon pastry - Sahara's favorite.

Sahara’s favorite.

Little gems at Patisserie des Reves.

OMG!

One of the best Saint Honore’s in Paris.

One day, you’re eating an eclaire…..

....the next day, you're sitting on one to rest your weary feet.

….the next day, you’re sitting on one.

Thomieux baked goods are worth sharing.

Thoumieux baked goods are worth sharing.

You have to save room for his cakes.

You have to save room for his cakes.

Because there is plenty of trouble to get into. Choose your mousse.

At Chapon, grab a scoop of mousse.

A girl cannot live on pastry alone…she needs love.

Love is everywhere.

Love is everywhere.

Ours is locked on a bridge with countless others.

Ours is sealed on a bridge.

She needs food and drink at cafes.

Cafe La Flore

Cafe de Flore

And a girl needs yoga.

Finding peace and calm...

Finding peace and calm.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

Joan of Arc was a warrior.

She needs to escape the city and head South.

Always on the go.

Always on the go.

In search of a new bag.

Hitting the marche in search of a new bag…

To put delicious, fresh food into.

…to fit goat cheese stuffed peppers into.

Keeping an eye out for Saint Christians.

Pastry creme with caramelized almonds.

Oh so good!

Oh so good!

Gorgeous little roads of Provence.

Gorgeous little roads of Provence

Lead to gorgeous discoveries like these almond trees.

lead to discoveries like these almond trees

Pastry inspired jewelry.

and pastry inspired jewelry that

You will be seeing these soon in our stores.

you will be seeing soon in our restaurants.

A girl needs nice places to stay.

A girl needs nice places to stay

and amazing wines to drink.

and amazing wines to drink

To get back on the road.

to get back on the road

in search of another regional pastry

in search of another regional pastry

to enjoy.

to enjoy.

Truly blessed to live a life doing what I love.

Thank you
xo
Karen

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