Gluten Free

Frita Batidos, part 1

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With all the hub-bub over my cookbook giveaway, I thought it might be time for another trip over to Frita Batidos.  Frita’s is owned by Chef Eve Aronoff (who is the author of my cookbook giveaway, if you’ve not heard) and this is her second venture in the Ann Arbor dining scene after her first restaurant eve.  Actually, I believe there is some overlap between the two timelines, if I remember correctly.  But that’s all beside the point — I’m here to eat!!!

Frita Batidos!

She is quick to point out that the food served here is not Cuban food, but rather, it’s what is called “Cuban-inspired” street food.  When describing the basis for this inspiration, Chef Aronoff talks about the times she spent growing up in Miami and being exposed to all the different local cultures.  Of course, this includes the Cuban and Latino communities, but also numerous influences from other migrant populations like Creole and African.  So, Cuban food traditions are just the starting point of where she develops the signature flavors and tastes of Frita Batidos.

Make your selection!

Before we get too far along, let’s look at some of the terminology.  That’s when the menu gets extra handy offering some explanations.  First of all, let’s start with the name of the restaurant.  A frita is a type of Cuban burger which is traditionally made with chorizo, but can be made of fish or black beans.  It’s usually served on top of a soft bun with a side of shoestring fries.  A batido is a tropical milkshake made fresh fruit, crushed ice, and a drop of sweetened milk, with or without rum (yummy Cajeta Batidos!).  But there is a wide selection of other menu items that would be at home in any Cuban restaurant like Cuban sandwiches, plantains, conch fritters, and churros — lovely churros.  Just look at the picture above to see (or go to the website).  What’s also great about the menu is how it’s broken down on the back (it’s also printed on the wall).  There are listings for what’s Vegan and Vegetarian; there are categories for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Garlic-Free items; and there’s a breakdown of flavor profiles.  It’s great for those who may need a little direction and guidance in making their selection.  But then again, I love categorizing and organizing things so it makes perfect sense to me!

Stark, yet comfy. Plus they have their own special blend of coffee!

When you first enter the restaurant, one thing that you’ll probably notice is that it is stark white with various metallic accents from the chairs, menus, lighting, etc.  The storefront is white, the walls are white, the ceiling is white, the floors are white.  The lone pop of color comes from the window-side bar which has a warm wooden tone; there is another bar towards the back.  You’d think all this starkness would lean towards a more sterile, clinical feel, but it really doesn’t.  The exposed brick and wood are among the various textures help add to a feeling of warmth.    Also all the white lets the food really stand out — which is why my everyday plates are simple and all white.  There is an air of informality here, which is helped along by the use of the picnic tables instead of regular tables and chairs.  You could even start up a game of dominoes with your neighbor if you like, which again is a nice touch that is reflective of the Cuban / Latin American cultures.

Nice pop of color from the bar. There's a variety of sauces available, plus there's some dominoes in the bowl that you can play.

Luckily for me, I get there around 11:30 and I beat the lunch rush.  I try to keep things simple and just order a Chorizo Frita (you can get a Frita Loco which includes Muenster cheese, cilantro-lime salsa, tropical coleslaw, and an egg sunny-side-up!).  I also get a Fresh Ginger Lime Juice to accompany it and make myself comfy at the window-side bar so I can look out on this cold, gloomy Michigan day.  Hard to believe it was 85 degrees here a couple of weeks ago!

I told you it was gloomy.

When I get my Ginger-Lime Juice, I was definitely surprised.  This was my first time ordering this and I was taken aback, not just with the flavor but with its presentation.  It was served in a simple plastic baggie with a straw.  This may seem strange to some, but it definitely stays with the street food theme.  If you’ve done any traveling in the Caribbean, or Latin America, or if you’ve watched any travel programs like No Reservations, or even Destination Truth (remember, I’m a nerdy dork) you should be familiar with how this drink is served.  It is very typical of what you can find in markets or being sold by street vendors in that part of the world.  I am very much appreciative of the effort and thought that went into this drink.  The flavor was amazing — just what I needed to brighten this gloomy day!  The flavors of the ginger and lime feel so balanced and refreshing.  I really could drink this all day long!  It reminds me of her Ginger-Lime Martinis, but without the martini part.

Absolutely luv the Fresh Ginger-Lime Juice!

It doesn’t take too long for my Frita to be ready.  Served on a small sheet pan (these would be handy in my bakery), it’s wrapped in paper sitting on top of  a piece of banana leaf.  Again, you have a gamut of textures and flavors here — there’s the soft and creamy brioche, the crispiness of the fries, and the spiciness of the chorizo.  All the different layers all contribute to the really exceptional experience you get when biting into one of these.  The flavors all seem to blend and yet stand out on their own.   The quality of the ingredients is definitely apparent — everything was delicious!

Simple, yet divine!

Unfortunately, I had to cut my lunch date with myself short because the time ran out on my parking meter.  Originally, what I had hoped for was to get a large cohort of folks together so we could all sample a wider array of menu selections and give a better representation of what Frita’s has to offer.  But I guess I’ll just have to make another field trip downtown, by myself or what have you.  It’s not like I need an excuse to eat some great food.  It’s all in the name of research!  And I do have to apologize to the nice folks that sat next to me at the bar.  Sometimes when I have a task on hand (like doing a restaurant review), I have a tendency to be too focused and not be as friendly as I should.  It’s a flaw and I’m working on it 🙂

So, if you ever happen to find yourself in downtown Ann Arbor, stop in to Frita Batidos for a bit.  Have a churro and hang out for a while!  You won’t regret it.

And don’t forget to like me of Facebook (why do I always forget about self-promotion?)

Quick cocktail party appetizers #3 — Gluten-Free Black Forest Cakelets

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The layers are kinda hard to distinguish, but there are four layers of cake and three of filling.

Yes, yes — this isn’t an appetizer; that’s confession #1.  But this is Part 3 of my “series” about a not-so-recent bourbon tasting / cocktail party.  This was my dessert offering and it’s gluten-free!  Confession #2 — this really isn’t a Black Forest Cake.  Actually this is a version of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Feather Bed, which is the background image of my blog.  One variation is that I have a middle layer of cherry preserves — so not a real Black Forest cake.  I do make a mean Black Forest Cake though!  And Black Forest Cake Day is on March 28th (which is my blogiversary in case I didn’t mention it before 🙂  And I think I’ve figured out my blogiversary give-away, but more on that later).  Confession #3 — it’s not exactly quick.  The cake itself bakes in 16 minutes, so that part is quick, but there is a lot of chilling involved, which takes time.

In my opinion, this cake is definitely better presented pre-sliced, as opposed to whole.  If it was whole, it would look like a giant chocolate slab covered with chocolate curls.  Which might not be too bad, if that’s what you’re going for.  But again — just my opinion.  It might be nice to have a giant chocolate block on your table; it could be reminiscent of the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  What a great theme party!!!  Everyone could wear space suits or ape suits, you could use one of those pod things as an entry portal, or maybe make one of those warp-light-tube thingies, and just play the Blue Danube on a loop.  But I digress, here’s what you need:

My ganache was a little bit grainy here. If that happens to you and you want to fix it, just re-melt the ganache and re-chill and re-whip. It's very forgiving. This is from a cake I made a while ago, but it stays truer to the original recipe (sans cherries).

For the cake:  (you will need 2 batches)

  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 c. sugar, plus 2 T.
  • 3/4 t. cream of tartar
  • chocolate curls (for garnish — I used dark, milk, and white chocolate just to add some visual interest)
  • Cherry preserves

1.  Coat a half sheet pan (17 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ x 1″) with shortening and line with parchment with a 2″ overhang.  Spray parchment with baking spray with flour (like Baker’s Joy or something like that).

2.  Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.  Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and allow to heat for about 20 minutes, which should be more than enough time to put together the batter.

3.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl (either in the microwave or over a double boiler).  Allow to cool until still fluid but no longer warm to the touch.

4.  Beat the yolks and 1/4 c. sugar in the bowl of a mixer on high for 5 minutes, until ribbon stage.  Scrape the chocolate into the bowl and mix on medium until fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.  Transfer to another bowl.

5.  In a very clean bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  With the beater off, add the cream of tartar; beat on medium until soft peak stage.  Raise the speed to medium high and gradually add the 2 T. sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

6.  Mix in about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten.  Gently fold in the rest of the meringue and when incorporated, scrape into prepared pan.  Level off with an off-set spatula.

7.  Bake for 16 minutes; until .  In the meantime, prepare the batter for the next cake so it is ready to go when the other cake comes out of the oven.  Cover with a dry towel and allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

8.  Gently remove cakes from the pans using the overhang to lift.  Stack the parchment-lined cakes one on top of the other and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.  This makes the cakes easier to work with.

It's a sea of cake!

For the chocolate whipped ganache:

  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 t. vanilla

1.  In the bowl of a food processor, chop chocolate until very fine.

2.  Scald the cream and with the motor running, gradually add the cream to the chocolate.  Process until smooth, just a couple of seconds.  Chill until cold, either in the fridge or in an ice bath.  Stir while chilling, about every 30 minutes; if using an ice bath you need to stir frequently.  Ideal temp is around 65 degrees F / 20 degrees C.  If it is too cold, it will not aerate well; if it is too warm it will not stiffen.

3.  In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, add the vanilla to the cream and beat on low for about 30 seconds, being careful not to overbeat.

Assemble the cake:

There are a couple of ways that you can do this depending on what you want to do.  You could assemble this on a serving plate and treat it as a regular cake (hold it in place with some frosting and then assemble).  I just kept the bottom section on the parchment, trimmed it after I assembled it, cut it into slices, and then served it.  Rose trims the cakes before assembly; I do it after because I wanted that very very clean edge.  Again, all depends on what you want.

1.  Using a sharp knife, cut the cakes into equal rectangles so that you have four equal layers.  Dislodge the cakes using a long metal spatula.

2.  Spread a layer of the ganache about the same thickness of the cake on top of the first layer.  Top with a second layer of cake.  Spread with a layer of the cherry preserves.  Top with another layer of cake, followed by the ganache, and the final cake layer.

3.  Spread a layer of the ganache on the top of the cake.  I sliced it into servings / cakelets at this point and then covered the tops with the curls.  You could just keep it whole and cover everything with the curls.  Serve!

Be sure to visit my page on Facebook!  You get access to exclusive content!  Jeez, I can’t say that without laughing.  But I do some quick posts, share some links and resources, and share some local events / retailers that may be of some interest to folks.  My bakery has a page as well; stop by there for a quick visit too!