I entered Caffé e Vino simply to drop off photographs with my partner Luis Vaz (photographer) for the owner’s wife. Luis introduced me to Giuseppe who then asked us if we wanted a drink… The night was in the bag from there.
Our jackets were taken to coat check, wine was served and appetizers were ordered. Fresh soft bread with tomato spread and water was placed on the table. We ate fried calamari and zucchini and sipped wine.
Since we only stepped in to make a drop, having a full meal was not on my mind. Giuseppe asked us if we wanted to eat…what to do?? Having had a late lunch that day I knew I was not too hungry, but me giving up delicious Italian food is unheard of, never to be uttered aloud. I told him to make a light dish for me. A few minutes later we were met with linguine with Alfredo sauce topped with shrimp. Luis was not too happy because they served us both small plates. I got what I asked for, sorry buddy.
I thought that we were receiving exceptional treatment because my partner knew the owner, but it seemed to be given to all attendees of the restaurant, which is amazing, because we were given a lot of attention. The atmosphere was very warm, exposed brick and candlelight, always perfect for a second date. I say second because you do not want to start off with too much romance on the first date. Don’t scare him/her away just yet.
Back to the pasta which was great, the Alfredo sauce was different, nothing like I had before. It truly tasted homemade.
To end the meal off we were given homemade cheesecake and I opted for more wine instead of a latte. I left with a smile on my face and an overstuffed stomach. No room for complaint. We grabbed our coats and crossed the bridge to attend a party thrown by the Mayor.
If you are looking for a great new restaurant to try, head over to Caffé e Vino in Downtown Brooklyn, right before the Manhattan Bridge at 112 Dekalb Avenue.
Tricia Williams of Food Matters NYC is a culinary nutritionist who has developed a new initiative called the Early Childhood Palate Development Program. This program is designed to metabolically program children on a cellular level to seek out healthy, whole foods. My youngest sibling is 13 and he still hates his vegetables. I wonder if it works on adolescent teens… I will have to see, because the program can start with children as young as six months. Through this program, Williams takes parents through the aisles of the market showcasing the benefits of locally grown, organic, and seasonal foods. She understands that exposing kids to fresh, organic foods will prevent obesity, disease and promote emotional, physical and intellectual health. Let’s pepper Williams with a few questions and better understand this program.
Women’s Mafia: What inspired you to cook?
Tricia Williams: I used to make pasta with my grandma. In my previous life I was a pastry and restaurant chef; now I’m a holistic chef and counselor. My current work with families was inspired by the birth of my first child.
WM: Was healthy eating and proper nutrition always a goal when cooking, or did you secretly put taste and customer satisfaction first, or was it the perfect combination?
TW: Sometimes it was about making food that wasn’t necessary healthy. Later in my career I combined my interest in healthy food with my work. Healthy food should just be perceived as food; often times healthy dishes are unapproachable to the average person, like a raw kale and carrot salad. Coming from a background and having the sensibilities of a traditional chef helped me bridge the gap to make healthy foods approachable, enjoyable, and delicious.
Lucky, lucky me. I was able to taste the delicious banana pudding by Desserts by Tawny Ong, and fell in love. I have had banana pudding before, but hers was superb. Our next TALENT profile features NYC based baker, Tawny Ong. Marcy and I first encountered her sweets at a fundraiser and enjoyed the superior flavors and textures in her little treats – perfect for large or small events.
Tawny only began her business in 2008, but already has an impressive resume. She has catered for Mayor Bloomberg, Merrill Lynch, and recently at a fashion designer launch party in the Hamptons. You know how the Women’s Mafia loves the Hamptons.
Her website features a full menu of desserts and prices. She offers specials, and does custom orders. Tawny has received special praise from Discovery Kids, Buzz International, and now she can add us, Women’s Mafia.
WM: What made you decide to get into baking?
I basically felt lost in my career path. Then one day, I followed this amazing aroma towards a cupcake bakery. I walked in and instantaneously felt better. I looked around and said to myself, “I can do this!”
WM: Who helped you start your own catering business?
One thing I learned is that all you have is your education, willingness, and if you are lucky, to be surrounded by good people. I would have to say it all started with family and friends, and then it kind of blew up from there through word of mouth.
WM: What is your favorite dessert to make?
Good question. I wanted to learn everything about the baking business ground up. So my baking career started out serving customers, to icing cupcakes, to baker, to icing cakes to assistant manager. But, one of my main goals was to one day bake the perfect Red Velvet Cake. I call it the ugly duckling cake. The batter just looks horrible. However, once baked it is so beautiful.
But as Julia Child was taught, there is an art to making even the basic scrambled eggs or in this case a vanilla cake. I take pride in what I do and respect the art of baking and the joy it brings to both me and my clients.
WM: Is there a way for the Women’s Mafia to assist Desserts by Tawny Ong?
Absolutely! Women entrepreneurs supporting other women entrepreneurs? Girl power baby! It is really an honor to be a part of Women’s Mafia. Hopefully your readers will feel inspired, in my case, for other bakers out there to go out and do their thing. They can ask themselves, “why not me?” and believe that they can do it! I personally believe that there is always room for one better one. I went to Babson College #1 entrepreneur school so I love seeing other entrepreneurs succeed.
WM: Do you employ shortcuts in some of your recipes? If yes, tell us one.
I want Desserts by Tawny Ong to be associated with great quality, great service, and reasonable prices. There really are no shortcuts to creating a good product. There are many things that can go wrong to making even just one mini cupcake. You have that one small chance to WOW the customer, therefore, lots of love and care has to be put into each one.
There is a shortcut I know that actually helps ensure better quality which in the baking/cooking world is called Mise En Place, which basically means to prepare your station before you start baking. There is a system you follow in order to minimize your chances of making a mistake.
WM: What was the most exciting event that you catered for?
Each event, big or small is special and an honor for me. I pretty much know all of my clients. 90 percent through referrals and the other 10 percent find me via my website.
If I had to choose one event, it would be catering the desserts at Gracie Mansion for Mayor Bloomberg. It pretty much went like this:
Number of guests 1000
– Number of desserts 250 red velvets, 250 vanilla chocolates, 250 hummingbirds, 300 cups of vanilla icebox cake, and 300 cups of banana pudding.
– Number of minutes it took for those 1000 guest to finish all the desserts and have me realize I should have baked more – 40 minutes.
– Number of pictures and minutes Mayor Bloomberg took that day – 900 pictures with 900 guests in 50 minutes. Touché Mayor. Touché.
– Having the Mayor of NYC give Desserts by Tawny Ong a shout out…Priceless.
Thank you and “Live life one cupcake at a time ladies!”
33 Avenue B between 2nd and 3rd Street
(212) 228-4461 www.poconyc.com
Located in an area of the East Village that I had yet to discover, I felt transported to Old San Juan (sans beaches) when walking into Poco Restaurant. Owned by restaurateur Sara Grizzle (formerly of Redemption Grill and Essex) and with cuisine spearheaded by the Food Network’s award-winning chef, Abe Lopez , Poco is becoming increasingly more well-known and the place to turn to for a “Sunday Funday” brunch. Could it possibly be due to their $20 all-you-can-drink mimosas and 1 entree special? Or the complimentary rounds of delicious shots brought to everyone every hour? Or is it the open-air buzzing energy surrounding everyone? Or tantalizing tapas dishes which I have never encountered before? It’s really difficult to pinpoint just one thing, but something is keeping Poco’s customers there for hours at a time (particularly our group who spent 5 hours there upon our visit).
My main criteria for finding a restaurant that I will return to again and again is that I end up not being able to stop thinking about its food the next day; difficult for someone who thinks about food a lot. Eternal thanks to my lovely friend Clarissa – because of her insistence for our group to stay until 5pm just so we could try the steak lollipops, I now cannot stop thinking about them. Referred to as “arguably one of the greatest things in the history of mankind,” this juicy, marinated skirt steak smothered in manchego cheese and served on skewers had me hooked. Too bad there we could only have a few each! Greedy Larisa wanted to distract her brunchmates so she could steal theirs. Earlier in the day, my brunch entrée choice was the Poco Benedict, a rather new foray for me into the egg world since runny egg yolk is not my bag baby, but my curiosity was piqued by the chorizo listed on the menu. It came served with hollandaise sauce on top and chorizo and was nestled on a bed of fried manchego cheese with a side of greens that had a wonderful sweet citrus-tasting dressing. While I was enjoying this delightful concoction I was also secretly eyeing what my brunch partners were having (a girl can look!). Many opted for the grilled chicken sandwich, which looked so tasty served on grilled bread. Probably one of the greatest things about this brunch was that despite the near-maximum damage done to our tummies and liver, minimal damage was done to our wallets with the $20 special.
One last important thing to note is that one of Poco’s specialties is Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. Although I passed on this for the Poco Benedict, a friend had this the following week at her Sunday Funday and called it “bliss on earth.” I’m not 100% sure I believe her, so looks like someone is going to have to go back to Poco to verify this …