my fair ladyfingers.

So I have to say, I’m getting pretty good at making ladyfingers. Having never made them before this year, I really never gave them much of second thought. In fact, all I knew of these spongy finger-shaped biscuits was that my dad really liked them. I remember them being around the house growing up, because they were one of the few dessert-type items my sweet-toothless dad would consume (see My Dad Hates Cake). It was only once I started going to school that I learned how these fingers o’ ladies were actually made, and of their many uses in classical desserts.

this is not one of them.

So this week, in my class, we made mini desserts (Small Indulgences, people!), one of which was an individual sized tiramisu, complete with ladyfingers.

luck be a lady.

The other was made with a Joconde, which is an almond sponge cake baked in a thin sheet and cut to size, and filled with Bavarian Cream. The end result looked like this:

mango and bavarian cream, baby.

Now, of course I can only get better – that’s why I’m in school – but I have to say that these are in no uncertain terms the best dessert “plates” I’ve done thus far in my baking life. Like Eliza Doolittle, I started off as a layman – a commoner with no plating skills. It was tough at first – I got frustrated decorating plate after plate, only to wipe them clean and start anew time and time again. I too, set a few things on fire as Eliza did, during this tumultuous practice. I was about to throw in the towel on more than one occasion, assuming I’d never make a beautiful plate that looked good enough to eat.

Then one day, the rain in Spain fell mainly on the plain – or plate. Now, I’m not claiming to suddenly be a Picasso of dessert plating, I still have a long way to go. But I did it. I made restaurant caliber dessert art. Of course, I’m not out of the water yet. There is still much practice to be had before I can spend the day at the races without the fear of telling Dover to move his bloomin’ ass. But it will happen. You really can do anything you set your mind to, whether it’s becoming a high-class broad, or plating a high-class dessert.

wouldn't it be lovely?

Small plates.

Some dining trends couldn’t come and go fast enough (i.e., the low-carb diet – why on earth would THAT ever be a good idea??). But some make perfect sense, and the fact that they might actually fall out of vogue someday upsets me. One in particular is the “small plates” dining experience. I LOVE it. I first experienced “tapas” style dining in Amsterdam,  just about 10 years ago. We ordered many things, sampled and shared them all, and it was not only a great way to be exposed to a larger variety of native cuisine, but gosh darn it, it was fun! And when we were done, I didn’t feel like my pants were about to burst. I would say that this was my very first foray into the world of small indulgences.

Flash forward to this past weekend. I went out to dinner at a restaurant in town called Zahav. It was abfab – one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in some time. Definitely moved up into the top three of all time, along with Sagami (where I will be dining later this week) and Le Peep (which I never get to go to anymore, because it’s so far away, sniff sniff).  It was also all small plates. We opted for one of the tasting menus, which started us off with hummus (my fave food in the whole world) and salatim, which was like a tower of mini salads.

salatim: tower of power.

They were all fresh and unique, and there were no leftovers when we were finished. Even our entrees were small family-style plates, and to top off the edible exquisiteness, were perfectly sized small indulgence-worthy desserts!!

There was, however, just one problem – apparently it is possible to over-indulge in small indulgences. In this case, it was worth it.

small indulgences at their finest.