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Entries in Fire Island (2)

Tuesday
Sep222009

Elisa Strauss' Incredible Lobster Cake

What: Birthday Lunch Buffet for 50 Guests
Where: Saltaire, Fire Island

Handmade Sugar Shells and Brown Sugar Sand. Brilliant.This Search takes me back to Fire Island, where I was catering a 50 person lunch buffet. I was very excited to work with my new client, a really sweet and unbelievably talented woman named Elisa Strauss. Elisa owns a bakery in NYC called Confetti Cakes. Her cakes are absolutely ridiculously amazing.

When she was younger, Elisa was interested in textiles and oil paints. She soon turned to designing and sculpting cakes. While working as a Fashion Designer for Ralph Lauren, Elisa was asked to design a cake in the shape of Mr. Lauren's favorite sports car (Bugatti). One thing led to another and Confetti Cakes was born.

Elisa has been written up in a million magazines and has appeared on the Food Network several times. She designs grand, glorious wedding cakes and cakes with themes. Check out the Wine Bottle Cake on the website. She has two really great cookbooks (AMAZON LINK: Confetti Cakes Cookbook, AMAZON LINK: Confetti Cakes Cookbook for Kids) In fact, after the party, she sent me the "Confetti Cakes for Kids" book, which features her recipe for buttercream. Elisa made cupcakes for the party I catered, and the buttercream was the most delightfully fluffy and perfectly buttery buttercream I had ever had. Thanks Elisa!

My food was tasty and the party was a success. You can see the menu and some pictures of the buffet spread at the end of this post. But really, this is not about the lunch I catered. The real highlight of this party was Elisa's cake. This woman is a true artist. The cake was about 2 feet high, a beach pail with a lobster coming out of it. Everything was crafted from sugar, from the tiny shells adorning the base of the pail, to the sand dollars on top of the cupcakes, to the beady black eyes of the lobster. It all looked so REAL. It was flawlessly constructed and airbrushed, a perfect representation. At the base of the pail, dozens of cupcakes sat on top of brown sugar sand littered with beautiful sugar shells. Sugar sand dollars and starfish garnished some of the cupcakes (there were three cupcake flavors: vanilla, chocolate and coconut). The cupcakes in the center spelled out "Happy Birthday Karen" in sugar Scrabble letters, cause Karen loves Scrabble. Can you believe this?

Elisa Strauss' Glorious Lobster Cake Masterpiece. Woah.

Before the party, Elisa stood over the cake, scrutinzing every detail to make sure the cake was absolutely perfect. She was upset because it was hot outside and the sun was melting the sugar. Honestly, it all looked pretty awesome to me, but Elisa carefully, lovingly, moved the lobster's antennae a centimeter to the left, brushed a grain of brown sugar sand from the lobster's sugary back, made sure the sugar starfish was centered just so atop the coconut cupcake.

 

During the party people kept coming into the kitchen and staring at this masterpiece in total awe. Elisa politely accepted their gushing praise, saying modestly "it's what I do!" Maybe it is what she does and it's not such a big deal to her. But for those of us, and by us, I mean myself (and as I write this, I hang my head in shame) who cannot even cut a cake into straight, even layers, or successfully crack an egg without getting a bit of shell in the bowl (yes, yes, it's true! I admit it!), this was really a mind blowing achievement. I was so thrilled to be able to do this party for such an amazing artist. Check out Elisa's own Blog post about the Lobster Cake.

Seems funny to show you pictures of my little heirloom tomato salad after showing you Elisa's creation, but here you go, some catering photos to finish off the post:

 

Buffet Menu

  • Skirt steak with caramelized shallots and Creamed Spinach
  • Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail Sauce--CHECK OUT THE RECIPE
  • Mini Traditional Lobster Rolls
  • Heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella Cheese, basil, Arugula extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar
  • Grilled corn with cilantro lime butter
  • Israeli couscous salad with spinach, artichokes, kalamata olives, Sun Dried tomatoes and Grilled Chicken Breast
  • Potato Salad

Close Up of Some Yummy Little Lobster RollsHeirloom Tomato Salad, Always a Winner

 Lunch Buffet Spread.

 

 

Tuesday
Aug252009

Fire Island End of Summer Sit Down Dinner 

Where: Fire Island, NY
What: Catered Dinner for 10 Guests

Plated Watermelon, feta, tomato Amuse Bouche
This Search took me to Saltaire, Fire Island to cater a 10 person sit down dinner. Fire Island is a tiny strip of land, about 26 miles long, off the coast of Long Island. You take a ferry there that leaves from a town called Bayshore. There are pretty much no stores out there, and no cars. Everyone rides bikes and walks around barefoot and most of the streets are made of wood. It's a very strange, very cool place. And it is a serious challenge cooking there. I have to bring EVERYTHING out by ferry. The one store in the town of Saltaire, where this dinner took place, has a limited selection and it is very expensive. After getting off the ferry, I have to transport all of the food by wagon to the house, which is an amusing site. I don't have a picture of this, so you'll just have to imagine me schelping tons of food in a cute wooden wagon.

Anyway, this dinner was for a new client. It was a laid back meal, with a simple, but sopisticated menu:

* Seared Scallops with Scallions, Corn and Cherry Tomatoes
* Roasted Red Beets with Mache lettuce, goat cheese, Toasted Walnuts and Walnut Vinaigrette
* Filet Mignon with Herbed Shallot Butter, Haricot Verts Truffle Salad and Yukon Gold potato puree.
* Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Every dish came out wonderfully. It was tough cooking in 90 degree weather in an unairconditioned house, but I soldiered through! My favorite part of the dinner was the Amuse Bouche, a "little bite" of food served before the meal. I almost always serve an Amuse before my sit down dinners. It's a great, fun way to kick off a meal. I loved this Amuse because I sort of threw it together at the last minute, based on some fabulous impromptu ingredients I picked up at the Union Square Greenmarket:

* Big red seedless watermelon
* A couple of wrinkly juicy yellow heirloom tomatoes
* Locally made sheep’s milk feta, super salty and packed in olive oil with a handful of dried herbs.

I just so happened to have some fancy Extra Virgin Olive Oil I had picked up the week before (It’s called No 5, Lorenzo—I don’t know, I just liked the bottle). And then there was some of the 50 year old aged Balsamic Vinegar I had brought back with me from a trip to Modena, Italy (home of the best Balsamic Vinegar on the planet). And some flaky fleur de sel, a crack of black pepper…(See recipe)

I know I didn't reinvent the wheel with this dish, but it was still special and definitely earned its place in my ongoing Search for Delicious. Fresh and clean, salty, sweet and tangy. Yum. Check out the picture below:

Close up of my pretty amuse