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Archive for October 12, 2012

ENTERTAINING: Toys & Food

Today we received this photo of a 1,100-pound car. But it can’t be driven: It’s a cake. Really.

The life-size baked race car was created by the Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman, for a NASCAR promotion at Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR star Kasey Kahne unveiled his new No.5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet alongside the life-size replica baked by Goldman and his team at Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes.

The cake car took five full-time Charm City Cakes designers and decorators more than two weeks of engineering, fabrication, carving and decoration.

The cake was fully equipped with actual spinning wheels and smoke (from a fog machine). More than 80 company logos were reproduced using layered gum paste—a painstaking task. Goldman calls it his “best cake ever.” The price was not revealed (but we’d sure love to know!).

 

Bring a fork: This car’s a cake. Photo courtesy Time Warner Cable.

 

We love cake. Although we were far from North Carolina at the time, we had just as good an invitation: to TOY Restaurant and The Oyster Bar at the Hotel Gansevoort in New York City’s Meatpacking District.

The area used to hold New York City’s meat packers, where beef, lamb and pork sides were broken down into retail and foodservice cuts. Today, the old red brick buildings have been turned into very chic and trendy shops and restaurants—gleaming expanses of glass windows brighteni up the old buildings and reflect the old cobblestone streets.

 

Use your toys as serving pieces. Photo courtesy TOY Restaurant | New York City.

 

The Hotel Gansevoort is a new edifice, with amenities that include 360° panoramic views of New York City, sunsets over the Hudson River and an Exhale mind/body spa.

But our favorite amenities are Toy restaurant and the expansive (for New York) outdoor dining spaces that wrap around the north and west sides of the hotel.

TOY is a “multi-sensory, stimulating fantasy playground, designed to thrill and entertain.” The cavernous space is dramatic day or night.

The Oyster Bar, a smaller room next door to the main restaurant, is our pet spot: Oysters are one of our passions. We dined outdoors on a balmy October night, enjoying Kumamotos, Pacific and Virginica oysters so fresh, they needed no garnish (the different types of oysters).

But in TOY restaurant, we had our own racing car, this one filled with ice and Champagne.

While you can’t recreate the Duff Goldman cake at home, you certainly can repurpose toys, as they do at TOY:

Pack cars and wagons with ice and Champagne bottles, white wine, soft drinks or beer. Serve sushi or other nibbles on large toy sailboats. Look at your other toys and decide how to incorporate them into your party.

If that old Radio Flyer needs a coat of paint, consider a color that matches your decor (or keep it Nostalgic Red).

Many oysters later from The Oyster Bar, sushi from TOY and three glass of Prosecco on the terrace, we felt as if we’d had a mini vacation. Let someone else enjoy the Exhale Mind and Body Spa. We’re headed back to TOY and The Oyster Bar.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

Love garbanzo beans (a.k.a. ceci and chickpeas)? Most of us have only seen these legumes canned or dried.

But you can buy fresh garbanzo beans* from specialty produce purveyors year-round. It’s an altogether different eating experience.

Each nutty green bean is enveloped in a thin, papery skin. To enjoy fresh garbanzos, simply sauté, steam or boil the beans with the skin on. Then squeeze each bean out of its wrapper, just as with edamame.

As with canned and dried beans, fresh garbanzos can be mashed into dip, tossed into a salad and made into falafel and hummus.

But first eat the fresh garbanzos plain, like edamame, as a snack or in a green salad. You’ll be charmed by the flavor.

Get some fresh garbanzo beans for yourself, send some to your favorite garbanzo bean lover. The clam shell pack can be stored for 7-10 days in the produce crisper.

 

The real (fresh) deal: fresh garbanzo
beans (chickpeas). Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 

Californians may be able to find the Garden Green Garbanzos brand in local markets, fresh-frozen. Or, order by phone from our favorite specialty produce purveyor, Melissas.com: 800-588-0151 (currently, there is no online ordering because of price fluctuations).

GARBANZO BEAN NUTRITION

Garbanzos are high in calories, but they are all good calories. The beans are an excellent source of protein and cholesterol-lowering fiber. Their high level of insoluble fiber helps to prevent digestive disorders such as diverticulosis and IBS. Garbanzo bean group participants had better blood fat regulation—including lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides—than the group that consumed dietary fiber from another source.

Garbanzos are an excellent source of folate (vitamin B9) and contain the antioxidant vitamins A & C along along with other good-for-you phytonutrients. Low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, garbanzos are a heart-healthy food.

Whole Foods Market reports a recent study where participants reported more satisfaction with their diet when garbanzo beans were included. They consumed fewer processed food snacks and less food overall.

*There are two main varieties of garbanzos. Desi are small, angular and variegated in color and were probably the original chickpea cultivated. Today, the predominant variety is the kabuli, a large beaked pea.

 

Fresh chickpeas. Photo by Khalid Mahmood |
Wikimedia.

 

HOW THE CHICKPEA GOT ITS NAME

Call it Bengal gram, ceci bean, chana, garbanzo bean or sanagalu: The chickpea is one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains have been found in the Middle East that date back 7,500 years.

“Chickpea” evolved from the Latin cicer, which happens to be the same root as the Roman name Cicero. The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, “Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tonge.” By the mid-18th century, ciche peas became chick-peas.

The word “garbanzo” is a bit more obscure. It is first noted in English in the 17th century, as “calavance,” perhaps from the Old Spanish algarroba. There is also a possible Basque word parent, garbantzu, a compound of garau, seed and antzu, dry.

In ancient Greece, chickpeas (called erébinthos) were consumed raw when young and eaten as a staple food, as well as a dessert. (Today, halua, chickpeas in a sugar base that has some resemblance to peanut brittle, is a popular sweet dish in Bangladesh.)

The Romans roasted garbanzos as a snack and cooked them into a broth. Many centuries later, in 18th-century Europe, roasted chickpeas were ground and brewed as a coffee substitute.

We recommend the more conventional uses.

Check out the different types of beans and legumes in our Bean Glossary.

  

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