An Enchanted Evening

Left to Right: Dana Cree (pastry chef at Veil and co-author of Tasting Menu), guest of honor Alice Medrich, Lorna Yee (culinary writer and co-owner of Caché dinner club), and Neil Robertson (pastry chef at Canlis)

Dessert maven Alice Medrich, plus three of the city's finest pastry chefs, a little bubbly, something sweet to eat...and one upside down Christmas tree! There was plenty to be excited about.

Nights turn magical when the crowd is just right.

And this night....was like a super nova!

Each time the door opened, I was surprised and delighted to see people I knew! Half way through the evening--with a glass of sparkling rose in one hand...and a plate full of desserts in the other, I realized, "I know more than half the people in this room!" It was as if we had a party...and someone brought Alice.

And of course, conversations turned to food.

The room was buzzing with discussions...everything from...have you tried the East Indian-inspired pizza at CanAm? To book deals and Food Network tapings. (Psst. Between you and me...there are some very interesting projects on the horizon. I'm sworn to secrecy, for now. More on this later.)

For me? The best part...was being able to introduce a few of my favorite people. Over the past couple years, I've met some of the most fascinating people and here they were...all in one room! You can't plan for evenings like this...but sometimes, when you're very all comes together. And since I'm on a mission to unite everyone, I was in heaven! (Molly, have you met Lorna? Nadia, have you met Dana? Becky...this is Rachel, she just got back from Buenos Aries....)

Okay, back to the book...

Pure Dessert is organized by ingredient. As Alice discussed, her goal was to come up with some fun combinations (sour cream ice cream, for example.) Some of the recipes are based on ingredients normally found on the culinary side of life (corn tuiles or kamut pound cake). Whether it's a grain, nut, spice, sugar or these recipes, the key ingredient takes center stage.

What I love about Alice is that she takes us along her journey of discovery. What extracts the flavor from mint leaves better...cold cream or hot cream? To make a really flavorful strawberry ice cream, are cooked or raw strawberries better? I love books that not only feature winning recipes...but this kind of priceless.

Kim Ricketts...and the upside-down Christmas tree

Kim Ricketts Cooks and Books events are too much fun! Not only do you get to rub elbows with the authors (Michael Pollan and Patricia Wells are next), but chefs prepare dishes out of the author's latest book. Last night, they made an array of desserts that were just divine!

Delicious bites from Alice Medrich's book, "Pure Desserts"

After sampling more than a few of these recipes, and hearing what inspired Alice, I look forward to playing with this book. (The brownie recipe alone is worth the price of the book. Ohhh la la!)

So what did we have?

- sour cream ice cream
- very tangy lemon bars
- new bittersweet brownies
- Italian chocolate-almond torte
- bittersweet citrus tart with jasmine cream
- tropical lace cookies
- my gingersnaps
- saffron and cardamom panna cotta

I'm sure I've forgotten a few... 'cause I was busy chit-chatting all night. (Go figure!) But I was especially smitten with the brownies, and the panna cotta flavors were so good...I can't wait to try them in an ice cream.

This morning, as I sipped my coffee and perused the book, I've already marked several recipes I want to try:

- Guinness ice cream
- panforte nero
- flans with raw sugar sauce
- salted peanut butter toffee cookies
- lebni tart

Lorna and her lovely tart