Dessert For Dummies


I’m having a dinner party and want to impress my guests with my killer dessert skills (and not have to hide the Entenmann’s boxes). So I called up John Cheng and begged him to give me the easiest recipe he could think of.

Panna Cotta:

1 quart heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (split in half)
4 sheets of gelatin (bloomed in cold water)

Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape buy cheap viagra online out the seeds with a knife, then add the seeds and pod to a saucepan with the heavy cream. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Discard the vanilla pod.

Bloom gelatin sheets by placing them in cold water (doesn’t matter how much–just make sure they’re completely immersed). According to John, you’ll know when they’ve bloomed, i.e. go soft. Squeeze out the excess water.

Add sheets to hot cream to dissolve, pour it into 6 or 8 ramekins and refrigerate until they’re set. It’s seriously that easy.

A few extra hints from John:

You can also use champagne glasses to hold the panna cotta. (Sounds pretty.) And feel free to be creative–add whatever you want to the recipe…berries, chocolate, alcohol, passion puree…whatever floats your boat!

Time to get cooking. Thanks John!


Ask John Cheng

I, along with many, many people I know, loathe baking…simply for the fact that I suck at it. It’s not that I don’t like sweets–I do–it’s just that I like not feeling pathetic even more. I asked John Cheng, pastry consultant for North Square about common misconceptions novice bakers have…and any advice he could give us.

First of all–and this made me very, very happy–John thinks that internet and magazine recipe photos are false advertising. That mouth-watering chocolate drug viagra raspberry layer cake that you try to duplicate from the pages of Food & Wine? Accept the fact that nothing even remotely that beautiful is ever going to make it onto your plate. It may taste okay, but it will inevitably look like the cover girl cake’s homely, lop-sided sister.

Back in the day, John worked for Good Housekeeping and had copied some of their test recipes and not once did they come out looking like the photo.

“Even I could not make mine look like theirs (and I am a professional). Not once.”

Lesson #2: Oven temperatures vary from oven to oven. Fledgling pastry chefs need to get to know their oven and adjust baking times accordingly. It may take a couple of burnt pies or flattened souffles, but once you get the hang of your appliance, making the perfect tart shell should be a snap.

Lesson #3: Use your noggin. Cheng believes that common sense is one of a chef’s most important tools. If you think something is not quite right, don’t do it that way. If your batter looks too thick, well, it probably is!

If anyone has any questions for the pastry king, pass them along. Thanks for the advice, John!


Meet John Cheng

If you’re as crazy about North Square’s chocolate mousse cake or butterscotch creme brulee as I am, you’ll agree that John Cheng deserves a round of online viagra uk applause. John has been the consulting pastry chef for the restaurant for over four years and is the brains behind all those sugary delights. I caught up with him when he was in his car and while we were able to speak only briefly–his phone battery was on it’s last gasp–I was able to toss a few getting-to-know-you questions at the man behind the key lime pie.

I always wonder why people choose their professions and asked John how he came to bake. “It’s a long story,” he said. The short version is that when he was growing up, it was the only job he could find in a restaurant. “The passion came later. You could say that it chose me.”

But in the end: “I actually love what I do. I know it sounds corny, but I love what I do. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make things better.” Doesn’t sound corny to me. Not at all.

When I queried him on what his favorite dessert is, he said, “I can’t believe you just asked me that question. Everybody asks me that question!”

I know John, but hey–if you met Keith Richards, wouldn’t you ask what his favorite album was? Turns out that pastry chefs are always the hit of the party and are constantly prodded to talk shop. We agreed that someone who is a mechanic is not usually egged on to talk about oil changes over cocktails, but a pastry chef, yeah–people inevitably want the goods. “Even more than that, women–only women–ask me to make me a cake for them.”

Uh-oh. Time to skip my next question and move on.

I confessed that I have a fear of baking, pretty much because I suck at it, and tend to stick to Nestle’s toll house in the tube. How can I loosen up and bake pretty, yummy things from scratch to impress family and friends?

“Have a glass of wine before you start.” (Sound advice, for sure.) “And no matter how bad, you can always eat your product.” True that–I figure that chocolate mess is better than no chocolate at all.

The phone was about to go kaput, so we wrapped it up with promises from John that he would happily provide recipes and answer any questions we would have in the future.

So readers, please feel free to ask anything you like. John is there for all your (and my) dessert-related needs!

Have a great weekend!




Dinner For Two


Chef Yoel Cruz and consulting pastry chef John Cheng have revealed their Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu. Feast your real viagra eyes and tummies buy cialis online on this:

For the first course, there is a choice of:

malpeque, yaquina and wellfleet

seaweed salad and thai coconut curry sauce

ricotta & manchego cheese, orzo, roasted tomato & basil sauce

Next, you can select one of these:

grilled shrimp, crispy potatoes

peppers, crab meat, cumin foam

hubbard squash, gala apples, manchego cheese, roasted pumpkin seeds, cider vinaigrette

roasted beets, goat cheese, honey spiced pecans, blue cheese dressing

avocado, ginger crudo vegetables, lemon-lime vinaigrette

roasted butternut squash, apple & celery salad, grand marnier sauce

Put down your fork for a minute before moving on to one of the following entrees:

grilled vidalia onion, steak cut fries, spicy mustard, bourbon au jus

sautéed shiitake mushrooms, pea greens, soba noodles, kumquat & tamarind sauce

swiss chard, herb späzle and roasted beet au jus

brussels sprouts with bacon, potato leek galette, rosemary au jus

rice noodles, vegetables, thai curry, lemon grass broth

baby vegetables in saffron broth, red bliss potatoes, tomato aïoli

And, of course, you can’t forget dessert. There’s a choice of pumpkin cheesecake, key lime pie, mocha bread pudding, butterscotch creme brulee or a red velvet chocolate heart for two. (Personally, I would order the latter and pray to God that my partner was full, but that’s just me.)

Four courses for $55 per person…a seriously great deal on one of the biggest dining out nights of the year! Call 212-254-1200 now for your reservations…or click on the “Feed Me” button above.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!


Restaurant Week, Part Deux

I’ve already posted about Chef Yoel’s first menu for Restaurant Week, but he’s switching it up. Here’s a bit of what the chef has got in store for the next phase of the promotion–January 17th and 18th.

For lunch, diners get a choice of wild mushroom soup, marinated grilled shrimp buying viagra now and winter vegetable salad for appetizers. Entrees are

either grilled scallops, Cobb salad or braised lamb quesadilla. Dessert is a choice of mocha bread pudding, warm Granny Smith apple and cranberry crumble or chocolate cream pie.  All for 25 bucks.

The dinner selections make me, and my stomach, ridiculously happy. Again Yoel has wild mushroom soup for an app…or arugula salad or grilled quail. (Special note: the quail is insanely good.)

Entrees will be braised short ribs, seared monkfish or pan roasted free range chicken breast.

Desserts include the chocolate cream pie, plus butterscotch creme brulee and pumpkin cheesecake.

Make your reservations now, people! And get the quail. Seriously.







It's Fall Dessert Time!

The latest dessert menu has debuted this week at North Square, so here’s what you need to do.  Leave your apartment.  (Ben & Jerry will both be waiting when you return.  I promise you.  They’re patient.)  Hop on the subway, walk down the street, hail a cab, whatever…just hightail it to North Square to sample Consulting Pastry Chef John Cheng‘s newest desserts:

Butterscotch creme brulee with poached pear and a fleur de sel cookie:

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Warm mocha bread pudding with Kahlua sabayon, candied orange and fior de latte ice cream:

 Peanut butter and banana semi freddo with hazelnut crunch and caramelized bananas:

Plus pumpkin cheesecake with a walnut crust, dried fruit compote and spicy caramel sauce. Warm vegan, gluten-free Granny Smith apple and cranberry crumble with walnuts and dairy free ice cream.

And yes, yes…the chocolate mousse cake is still here.

And guess what?  None of our desserts is more than 100 calories! Not one!

Okay, I lied.  But they’re really, really good.  Worth the extra time at the gym good.  Come on in and check

them out!