Inspiration, Not Lost in Translation

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For me, in order to be my best creative self and develop desserts that my customers love, I need to allow myself the time to seek inspiration. More often than not, that inspiration comes through travel. Nothing reinvigorates me more than landing in another part of the world, near or far, to reset my creative process.

This summer was a busy one and in between work, prepping for my daughter to start high school, and just life, I was able to carve out 10 days to plan a mother-daughter trip to two of my favorite cities in the world – Tokyo and Kyoto – and they did not disappoint.

The juxtaposition of tradition and modern innovation – from architecture, to fashion, to food – stimulates the senses. Everywhere you go, there is something to explore, delight in, and discover.

Below were some of our favorite stops along the way. I’d love to hear some of your favorite spots in Japan, as I am already dreaming of my next trip and plan to return over and over again.

  1. Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto – This was our home base during our trip and I can honestly say that no detail is overlooked at this location when it comes to inspiring the body and mind. Set in a beautiful location, the hotel has top-notch amenities including a surreal breakfast buffet, sophisticated cocktail program, expansive indoor pool, and gold leaf facials at the spa.
  2. Yakumo Saryo Restaurant, Tokyo – Truly a temple of food. Each course was a combination of pure tradition and WOW factor. The space was stylish and serene, combining a gallery, restaurant, and tea salon.
  3. Pass the Baton, Kyoto – A modern second hand shop that connects the past and present, it was here – on a very hot day – that we found the Holy Grail of Matcha Shave Ice. The hour-long wait was worth it to enjoy this cool treat and explore this unique, Instagram-worthy spot.
  4. Janice Wong – A seven course culinary journey of dessert and drink pairings (cocktails for me!) that left us speechless. A true, next-level sugar feast experience.
  5. Taiyaki (matcha soft serve fish cones) – A traditional sweet street food that are widely available, Taiyaki are fish-shaped waffle cones that can be filled with a variety of different things – our favorite was matcha soft serve ice cream. The combination of the creamy, cool matcha flavor with the spongey sweetness of the Taiyaki was the perfect simple treat and tasted like having pancakes, waffles, and donuts in one perfectly shaped cone.
  6. Aoyama Flower Market Tea House – Designed to give the feeling of a greenhouse where flowers are in bloom and surround you, this magical hidden floral shop is located off of a busy main street and features a lovely menu of salads and drinks served with beautiful flowers. Our favorite was the Flower Parfait with Rose Jelly. Expect a long line to experience this gem.
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Posted in Food, Ice Cream, Iced Matcha, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humanity, Hope, and All of the Above

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Like many people, I find it easy to feel a sense of disbelief when I turn on the news or read about recent tragedies. Whether a natural disaster or crime against humanity, it’s hard not to feel connected to the sadness. What’s important to me now, is to become involved and to help. Reaching out and supporting causes can have a significant impact on those in need.

For the past several months, I’ve been collaborating with Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere to create a cookie for charity. I asked Emily to choose her favorite flavors and from that, the All of the Above cookie was created. It features Dark Valrhona Chocolate as the base, sweetened with chunks of Valrhona White Chocolate, balanced by the just-enough bitter caramelized cocoa nibs, a sprinkle of French sea salt and topped with festive 23 ¾ kt. edible gold leaf

Emily has built Cupcakes and Cashmere into a wildly popular multi-channel fashion, food, beauty, and interior design brand that resonates with women. At Extraordinary Desserts, we are primarily a female-run company, who cater to the tastes of women…and smart men!

Therefore, as two female business owners and mothers of daughters, it was natural that we selected the Global Fund for Women, a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco that advocates for gender equality, standing up for human rights of women and girls as the beneficiary. We are donating 25% of all proceeds from the sales of All of the Above cookies, which are available from now until December 31, 2017 in both Extraordinary Desserts locations and online.

Enjoy the cookies, help women in need, give back, and All of the Above.

 

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Wedding Trends: Chic Styles I’m Loving Now

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Weddings, no matter how big or small, have always held a special place in my heart. I’m inspired by the creative elements each couple chooses to represent their love for each other when planning their wedding. Whether their aesthetic is modern or rustic, over the top or understated, I feel honored to be a part bringing their wedding day dreams to life.

Over the past year, it’s been exciting to see the direction of new wedding trends. A typical “wedding season” doesn’t necessarily exist here in Southern California where the weather permits year-round, outdoor weddings. Popular, visually-driven social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram have opened brides up to endless inspiration and ideas, freeing them from more traditional “rules” when it comes to creating their perfect day. Nowhere is that more true than with the wedding cake.

Second only to the bride when it comes to taking center stage at the wedding, the cake is perhaps the most personal choice of all and needs to be the perfect blend of style and taste.

Just like fashion, wedding cake trends most certainly come and go, but here are some of my recent creations for our brides:

  1. Pearls are big this year both in the fashion world and the wedding industry. Clean and Classic. Love Struck from our Weddings Portfolio is featured.
  2. Behind the scenes. Developing new designs for our new wedding cake collection and styling the photo shoot.
  3. Adding gold accents to a rustic design really elevates a simple design and creates a more luxe look. Perfect for an outdoor evening wedding.
  4. Black and white cakes are also trending. Elegance is featured from our Weddings Portfolio.
  5. Customized cake toppers are fun and chocolate cakes are also chic.  A perfect example of this combination is “I love you to pieces” from our portfolio.
Posted in Extraordinary Cakes, Extraordinary Desserts, Extraordinary Wedding Cakes, wedding cakes, Weddings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ice Cream: All Grown Up

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Cool and creamy, it’s hard to beat really good ice cream as a treat when summer temperatures start heating up. This iconic favorite even has it’s own month dedicated to it (July!). But, gone are the days of ice cream being an afterthought that is only served in scoops or as a sidekick to other desserts.

For me, ice cream has become a launching pad for creative, grown up creations – from sophisticated flavor combinations to boozy floats and decadent vegan options. Here’s a look at some of our newest “I scream-worthy” selections perfect to help you keep your cool:

  1. Each day at Extraordinary Desserts, we hand make small batches of gourmet ice cream and sorbet made with organic milk and the best seasonal ingredients available. Be on the lookout for new flavors debuting throughout the month of July including Blackberry Cheesecake, Caramelized White Chocolate, Roasted Banana Chocolate Chip, Crème Brulee, and Hana Highway – a macadamia inspired spin on Rocky Road. 
  2. Brand new for summer and hard to resist! Meet our new trio of frosty treats including the insanely rich Frozen Hot Chocolate, our Rosé Float, and Matcha Shaved Ice (my personal favorite).
  3. I’ve never met an ice cream sundae that I didn’t like but dietary restrictions kept me from indulging too often. That is, until I created this little gem. Layers of Peruvian dark chocolate fudge, house made vegan vanilla bean ice cream, and a caramelized hazelnut almond praline. All VEGAN. Yes, really.
  4. A true match made in heaven, our boozy Beer Floats are frosty, rich, and feature some of our favorite craft beers perfectly paired with our house made ice cream flavors including Toasted Coconut, Bailey’s, and Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
    Karen
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Wanderlust

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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

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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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