Little bites

The cupcake trend has been around for a few years at this point, but it’s one trend I hope will stick around awhile longer. Not only are they cute, but it’s automatic portion control — and for someone like me who loves baked goods a little too much, that’s important.

We made a late afternoon stop at Babycakes in Quincy the other week. We didn’t realize they were about to close until we walked in the door of the cute little shop on Beale Street, a list of daily flavors taunting us from the wall, and discovered  our choices were limited to the three kinds of cupcakes they still had left at that late hour: lemon coconut, vanilla chocolate and chocolate vanilla. We grabbed two of each.

Our favorite of the three was the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting ($1.50) — rich but not too rich, and mine was still moist even after two days in the fridge (incredible control, I tell you — we’re talking heavy cream and real butter in these delights, so I made the decision to not eat them in one sitting. The same was not true of my husband, who ate two as soon as we arrived home and quickly declared his love of the aforementioned chocolate with vanilla frosting cupcake). My love of lemon in baked goods will also bring me to order the lemon coconut again, though if I’d change anything it would be to add a touch more lemon to the cake, but overall a good summer treat.

The offerings do vary from day to day, and you can find that list here. As for me, I will be making a stop this week to pick up a few more cupcakes, including the french toast cupcake (a heavyweight at $2.75), which I’ve heard is supposed to be incredible.

Babycakes
163 Beale St., Quincy
617-773-4458
http://www.babycakesshop.net

Chicago comes to Weymouth

I’ve fallen in love with seafood since moving from Chicagoland to New England in 2003, but as much as I love a good lobster roll (my vote goes to Tony’s on Wollaston Beach), sometimes I just want a hot dog. A good, inexpensive hot dog. However, there just aren’t that many places around Quincy that sell them, or at least promote them with enough gusto to be noticed.

In contrast, as anyone who watches the Travel Channel or Food Network or (gasp!) taken a trip to Chicago knows, the city is serious about its hot dogs. There are even debates on the radio about why ketchup is a no-no. It’s a hot dog, you might be thinking, shaking your head — just throw it together at home. For starters, however, try looking for a poppy seed bun in New England. It doesn’t exist. Think of a lobster roll in plain white sandwich bread — it’ll work, but it’s not really right unless it’s on a toasted bun.

The recent opening of Windy City Eats in Weymouth, however, brings the taste of a Chicago classic to the South Shore. From the choice of Vienna Beef as the hot dog supplier to the steamed poppy seed bun and neon green relish, it’s a true Chicago hot dog. Whether New Englanders will appreciate this, I don’t know, but I hope they’ll give it a shot.

We stopped at Windy City Eats this weekend, inspired by the lovely if windy conditions to have an inexpensive taste of summer. A dietitian’s nightmare, our order consisted of a Chicago hot dog (mustard, relish, onions, tomato, celery salt, sport peppers and a slice of pickle — hold the sport peppers for me); a Maxwell Street Polish (with grilled onions and mustard); a South Side Polish (steamed, with all the ingredients of the traditional Chicago dog plus spicy mustard); a chili cheese dog; and chili cheese fries, plus drinks (water for me, a huge Arizona orange iced tea for him).

Just one hot dog probably would have sufficed, but we were on a fact-finding mission so we ordered more than we might have otherwise. The Chicago dog was what I came for, and it satisfied with its steamed bun and load of toppings that somehow managed by some miracle not to fall off as I ate. However, I’m glad I ignored the fries, which without the chili cheese topping didn’t offer much flavor, as this ensured that there was a little bit of room left in my stomach for the Maxwell. I figured I would take  a few bites to try it and then share it with the dog (sans onion), but that didn’t happen. Poor dog; if it hadn’t been so incredibly good I would have shared more. The sausage  — a Polish has a bit more spice and is larger than a hot dog — had a nicely grilled exterior that offered a bit of a snap, and paired with the grilled onions and spicy mustard this made for a satisfying meal that I just might have to say was even better than my beloved Chicago dog. That said, the South Side Polish might be the answer for those who want a slightly larger meal that has basically the traditional Chicago toppings.

The menu includes another Chicago standard as well in Italian beef, but we decided to save that for another day. The menu does, however, have some New England adaptations: the Bruin dog (dog topped with baked beans) is certainly one of them, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Brazilian dog (mayo, corn and shoestring potatoes), so someone will have to enlighten me if they try it.

407A Middle St.
Weymouth
781-335-0023
http://www.windycity-eats.com/

The 7UP pound cake returns

The June/July edition of Cook’s Country magazine just came in, and I’ve already mentally dog-earred a few pages — most notably a recipe for 7UP pound cake.

I can’t remember the last time I had this cake or who used to make it, but I recall somewhere in my childhood thinking that using 7UP in a cake recipe was “so cool.” I’m thinking it might have made its appearances as a school dessert or at a  family potluck in the 1980s — so with 20 years passing since I last devoured a slice of this pound cake, I suppose it’s fitting that the recipe be classified by Cook’s as a “lost recipe.”

******

7UP Pound Cake

CAKE:
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup 7UP, room temperature (Cook’s notes that Spite, Mountain Dew and ginger ale also work, but not Fresca)
1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 1/4 cups cake flour

GLAZE:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup non-stick tube pan. Process sugar, eggs, 7UP, lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, and salt in food processor until smooth. With machine running, slowly pour in butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to large bowl. Add flour in three additions, whisking until combined.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Gently tap pan on counter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 75-90 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack set inside rimmed baked sheet to cool completely, about 2 hours.

Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice in bowl until smooth. Pour glaze over cooled cake. Let glaze set 10 minutes. Serve. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic and held at room temperature for 3 days.)

Boston Bakes on the South Shore

Raise money for the fight against breast cancer by taking part in the 10th annual Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, May 4 through May 10. More than 150 bakeries and restaurants will offer a dessert, each around $8, of which 100 percent of the proceeds benefit breast cancer research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A complete list of participants is at  bostonbakesforbreastcancer.org.  Local participants include:
Babycakes, 163 Beale St., Quincy, 617-773-4458
Not Your Average Joe’s, 16 Mazzeo Drive, Randolph, 781-961-7200; 111 Pond St., Norwell,  781-616-6160. Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake
PURE Chocolate, 102 Franklin St., Quincy, 617-328-6248. Dessert: Dipped Belgian Chocolate Sandwich Cookie
Scarlet Oak Tavern, 1217 Main St., Hingham, 781-749-8200.
The Bakery at Roche Brothers, Broad Street Campus Plaza, Route 18, Bridgewater,  508-697-5077; 605 Plain St., Marshfield,  781-837-9955; 101 Falls Blvd., Quincy,  617-471-0500;  300 North Main St., Randolph,  781-986-5370. Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Fours, 15 Cottage Ave., Quincy, 617-471-4447.

Cooking demos at Ember

Ember in Marshfield has added cooking demonstrations to its Sunday menu. Executive Chef George Willette III describes it as “like a cooking show, but live,” where 15 can watch the demo in the open kitchen and eat the results. Each class runs 1-4 p.m. and is $60; guests get wine with each course plus recipes. More details at 781-834-9159. The previous classes have all filled up, they tell us, but there’s plenty of room in this weekend’s class, so make the call if you’re interested.

April 26: Green bean and frisee salad with sherry bacon vinaigrette. Dry cranberry and brie spring rolls with St. Andre dipping sauce. Grilled monk fish with lemon thyme couscous and a yellow tomato emulsion. Lemon mascarpone blueberry parfait with pistachio cake.

May 3: Yellow tomato cucumber gazpacho with lemon poached shrimp. Shrimp fresh spring roll, with Thai peanut sauce. Seared filet of beef with herbed potato gratin and smoked tomato emulsion. Chocolate cheesecake banana spring rolls with caramel sauce.

May 17: Louisiana seafood gumbo and crawfish Etouffee. Pan-seared pecan-crusted catfish with scallion cakes and crawfish bisque. Flaming bananas Foster over vanilla cream-filled crepes.

Ember
459 Plain St, Marshfield
781-834-9159

Goodbye, Coriander

You may have seen this recently in the Ledger, but in case you didn’t, we’ll repeat it here: Don’t try to make reservations at Coriander Bistro in Sharon anytime soon. The upscale French restaurant owned by Chef Kevin Crawley has closed its doors after more than seven years. Crawley and his wife, Jill, who were the restaurant’s owners, could not be reached by a Ledger reporter for comment earlier this month.

Weymouth’s sweet spot

There was a charming story published in Thursday’s Ledger by reporter Sue Scheible about Bob’s Muffin and Coffee Shop in Weymouth. The restaurant has been around for more than 50 years and in that time patrons say it has become the heart of the community. Find the story here.

But wait, you say — that’s just like my regular place! Well, let us know about it. Post your story here or e-mail me at ewilliams@ledger.com.