Empire Diner

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Almost eighty years ago, Empire Diner made its debut, but more recently, it was reopened, revamped, and about damn time I went. So, I was off to Chelsea for brunch to check it out. 

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As a genuine boxcar diner, it made me a bit nostalgic of the late Relish Diner in Williamsburg, one of my old favorite spots (RIP). Inside, the aesthetic is clean, crisp and modern, but still pays homage to the old school diner vibe. 

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Everything on the menu sounded amazing, but I had to start with the Bruleed Grapefruit (toasted brioche and cinnamon cream cheese). I’ve had a grapefruit brulee before, but this one was a bit different. Both delicious, but this one had a bit of a different play on it, incorporating the brioche and cinnamon cream cheese. I really loved this, the different flavors and textures compliment each other so wonderfully. The tartness of the grapefruit is offset from the crisp, sweetness of the sugar, the savory, buttery brioche, which is pretty unreal, and the creaminess of the cinnamon cream cheese.

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Then, for my entree I had to go for the Buttermilk Pancakes (fluffy pancakes, maple syrup, blueberry compote). Man alive, these were some incredible pancakes. They were light, pillowy, but still rich in flavor, and the blueberry compote was totally clutch. You can taste the simple freshness and flavor of the blueberries, unlike some of these overly sugared, artificially flavored versions at your run-of-the-mill diner. Pour some maple syrup on this bad boy, and you’ve got a slam dunk, right into my stomach. 

The Shorts:
Name: Empire Diner
Location: 210 Tenth Avenue, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Absolutely. The atmosphere is awesome, the food is delicious and the service was excellent. 
Would I recommend it? For sure, you won’t be disappointed. It’s also located right by the High Line, so, go have a great meal and take a stroll to then think about how awesome your meal was. 

Red Velvet Cake Bon Bons

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I don’t really like Valentine’s Day, but I do love desserts. So, here’s a beyond simple recipe to make some fancy looking Valentine’s treats. Cakes and pies are always nice, but these are great because they’re simple to transport and you can give them to your sweetie, bring some into work, to friends, or, give V-Day the middle finger and eat them all yourself (go, you!).

I’m a fan of scratch baking, but, sometimes you just need to simplify your life. So I’ve come up with ways to cut corners without compromising taste or presentation. No one has to know (shhhh).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box of Red Velvet boxed cake mix (if for some reason you can’t find that, get regular vanilla and some red food coloring-you can add cocoa powder for the flavor if you want)
  • 12 oz can of Seltzer/soda water (this replaces the eggs and butter/oil that the cake mix calls for, trust me, it works like magic! Plus, it cuts out the extra calories…so you can eat more bon bons!)
  • 1 container of Cream Cheese Frosting (or any other Buttercream or Vanilla flavor you prefer)
  • 1 container of microwaveable chocolate dipping sauce (I used Baker’s brand)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch pans and set those aside. Then, go ahead and put the cake mix into a bowl and add the can (or 12 oz) of Seltzer. Mix that up and then pour into the cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes. 

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Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes. Then, take the cake out and crumble it with your hands into a bowl. If the cake is slightly doughy when you’re doing this, that’s good, no need to bake longer. 

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Next, take about 2 spoon-fulls of the frosting and add that into the cake crumble. Using your hands, work that altogether until it’s like a big ball of Play-Doh. 

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Using about 1 tbs of the mixture, roll it into balls and line them up on a tray lined with parchment or wax paper. 

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Then, microwave up your cup of chocolate according to the directions on the container (if you can’t find this, get some regular baking chocolate and microwave in a micro-safe cup instead and heat in intervals of 20 seconds, stirring along the way to not over-heat the chocolate). Pop each cake ball into the cup one at a time, fish it out with a fork to let the excess chocolate drip off, and place back on the lined tray.

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If you want to get a bit more decorative, take some white chocolate, melt that up, and drizzle over your new bon bons by dipping a fork into the chocolate and drizzling it back and forth on top.

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If you’re an overachiever, add some red food coloring to the white chocolate and go back over the bon bons with the pink chocolate.

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Pop the tray into the freezer for a couple minutes to set the chocolate so it hardens up to take cleanly off of the paper lining. Store them in a sealed container until they’re read to be eaten. And there you have it, Red Velvet Cake Bon Bons!  

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Recipe-friendly version: Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box of Red Velvet boxed cake mix (if for some reason you can’t find that, get regular vanilla and some red food coloring-you can add cocoa powder for the flavor if you want)
  • 12 oz can of Seltzer/soda water (this replaces the eggs and butter/oil that the cake mix calls for, trust me, it works like magic! Plus, it cuts out the extra calories…so you can eat more bon bons!)
  • 1 container of Cream Cheese Frosting (or any other Buttercream or Vanilla flavor you prefer)
  • 1 container of microwaveable chocolate dipping sauce (I used Baker’s brand)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch pans and set those aside. Then, go ahead and put the cake mix into a bowl and add the can (or 12 oz) of Seltzer. Mix that up and then pour into the cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes. Then, take the cake out and crumble it with your hands into a bowl. If the cake is slightly doughy when you’re doing this, that’s good, no need to bake longer. Next, take about 2 spoon-fulls of the frosting and add that into the cake crumble. Using your hands, work that altogether until it’s like a big ball of Play-Doh. Using about 1 tbs of the mixture, roll it into balls and line them up on a tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Then, microwave up your cup of chocolate according to the directions on the container (if you can’t find this, get some regular baking chocolate and microwave in a micro-safe cup instead and heat in intervals of 20 seconds, stirring along the way to not over-heat the chocolate). Pop each cake ball into the cup one at a time, fish it out with a fork to let the excess chocolate drip off, and place back on the lined tray. If you want to get a bit more decorative, take some white chocolate, melt that up, and drizzle over your new bon bons by dipping a fork into the chocolate and drizzling it back and forth on top. If you’re an overachiever, add some red food coloring to the white chocolate and go back over the bon bons with the pink chocolate. Pop the tray into the freezer for a couple minutes to set the chocolate so it hardens up to take cleanly off of the paper lining. Store them in a sealed container until they’re read to be eaten. And there you have it, Red Velvet Cake Bon Bons!