My dear friend, Marissa Rothkopf Bates, who is a gifted journalist, baker, and equipment reviewer, invited us to her house to test a new 'smart' countertop oven that she is reviewing. Together, we made one of my favorite 'butter' cakes, the "Whipped Cream Cake," which is in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This exquisitely soft cake replaces the butter with whipped cream providing both the butterfat and the liquid. It actually contains more butterfat than is present in a basic butter cake. I have been yearning for an oven that is perfectly even top to bottom and front to back and have yet to find one, including the one we were using as an excuse to visit Marissa who lives an hour's drive away. The cake's texture was perfect but it did not brown entirely evenly nor was the top perfectly even. While the cake was cooling, Marissa took us for lunch to one of her favorite restaurants, Villalobos. Chef/owner, Adam Rose, gives an eclectic twist to his Latino tacos. They were served "open-face', using homemade soft tortillas. We enjoyed them topped with an enticing combination of carnitas made with Berkshire pork belly, roasted corn, chipotle morita, and another variety topped with chipotle braised chicken, pork chorizo, potato chips, and onion. Homemade taco chips accompanied chunky guacamole with the most unusual topping I have ever experienced-- fried little cubes of Nuske's slab bacon, jalapeno, and blackened crispy brussel sprouts. For dessert, Marissa insisted that we try the churros served with chocolate dipping sauce, especially when she heard that I had never tasted a churro. Of course I liked it as churros are made cream puff pastry that is with deep fried. We shall return! We next stopped at the Montclair Bread Company. Owner Rachel Crampsey, was a total delight. It turned out that one of the many places where she and apprenticed or worked was Amy's Bread and we both attended a book party there for Amy's book, though at the time we never met. Loving baking bread above all other baked goods, we became instant friends. And Rachel invited me to me to return and fry doughnuts with her. I adore brioche doughnuts and they are very rare to find. Rachel told us the story of how she and her friend were just experimenting with making brioche doughnuts in the early hours one morning and they turned out to be so addictive they ate the entire batch. She put them on the 'menu' and they were an wild success. She says that: The doughnuts encapsulate everything I love in one bite. Rachel has expanded her business to include opening a fish and chips shop next door to her bakery with a clever name, Oh My Cod. Back to Marissa's to enjoy slices of the Whipped Cream Cake with a dollop of non-ultra pasteurized high fat whipped cream (although her son, Oliver, who is the family's most verbal and enthusiastic appreciator of baked goods, seemed convinced that three dollops of whipped cream were the perfect accompaniment. Do I spy a future food writer in the making?).
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