All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
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OK – I will apologize up front for the lame photos of the chili chocolate cake. I hope the photos of my Montecito trip make up for it a tiny bit.
This chili chocolate cake is just stupid easy & really dense – like a flourless cake – despite the fact that it is flour-based. I stole the recipe from Bake-aholic.com (their version & photo below)
and just used my Fireball frosting from the Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes I made the same day I made this cake.
My cake seemed far more dense than their appears but it was rather yummy.
Here is their recipe for
Chili & Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 T cinnamon
- 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup oil
- 1 cup buttermilk (you know I never plan ahead…1 T of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup…add milk to the 1 cup mark. let sit 5 minutes to curdle)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup hot hot water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 13″x9″ baking pan with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, sugar, soda, cinnamon and cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp cayenne…you can adjust when the batter is all combined). Add in oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Stir gently. Add hot water. Pour into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4-6 T milk
Beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, add vanilla and cinnamon. Add milk and beat until you attain your desired consistency (I generally start with 4 T [1/4 cup] then add 1 T at a time). Frost cooled cake. (This frosting is also delicious on graham crackers.)
This weekend marked my second anniversary with the badass, Miles Miller. I had an available dog sitter so we took the opportunity & escaped for a night to Montecito. Montecito is the wealthy town just south of Santa Barbara. I used to go there all the time & have a few favorite spots but I hadn’t been in over a decade – so – returning to those old favorite haunts had a distinct element of risk. Not every restaurant can maintain its quality for twenty years. Since I chose the destinations – all the responsibility was on my shoulders and I was a bit nervous. But one place I was fairly certain would have maintained its allure is the Four Seasons Biltmore up there on the beach. Unable to afford to actually stay there – I decided we could certainly afford to lunch there – so that was our first stop.
We sauntered into the hotel around noon & went to their restaurant there – Bella Vista.
“Are you joining us for brunch?”
I looked at Miles who shrugged and then answered, “I don’t see why not.”
But I could see why not. I am not a brunch fan & I am especially not a brunch buffet fan. Omelette bars & tables of pastries are of no interest to me – not to mention that most buffets are excessively littered with meat options. Not only am I not a meat eater but, recently, I decided to stop eating seafood (because of the radiation they are finding in it from Fukishima – read HERE). WTF else is there on a buffet for me?
But, we committed & I decided to make the best of it. The bottomless champagne promised to take the edge off whatever disappointment lay ahead for me. And look how pretty the joynt is.
I tried to console myself with the thought that a high end buffet would, at least, have lots of options that would please my nearly purely carnivorous boyfriend. I sipped champagne. I looked around. I thought, “This does not suck.” Because it didn’t – no matter what I ended up eating. And look at how cute Miles is!
Then I wandered into the buffet room. It was truly a wonderland of options. The Biltmore does not fuck around & this buffet proved to be the finest I had ever seen. Sure, there was bacon & sausage & homemade hash & rare lamb chops & prime rib & steak salad & chicken salad and, really, every meat option you can imagine and there was a wall lined with every variety of sweet thing on Earth. There was the requisite omelette bar & the bagels & lox & all the other things you might expect. Initially, I loaded a pile of mashed potatoes on my plate, still determined to go vegetarian – until I lifted the lid on the shrimp & grits. Oh fuck. I adore grits & radiation cancer or not – I was going to have some of that shrimpy goodness. As I spooned a bit on my plate – I spied huge hunks of lobster in the grits, too. It was about then that I apparently went into some kind of seafood-frenzy black-out. Photos of my first plate reveal these selections:
Mashed potatoes, seafood grits, CAVIAR (I could live on caviar) with all the traditional accoutrements, two oysters & a shrimp.
My return to the buffet resulted in this selection:
That, if you cannot tell, is a small selection of sushi, a tiny piece of smoked salmon, oysters, a shrimp & a SCANDALOUS portion of caviar that, as you might observe, I tried to obscure beneath the little bowl of soy sauce & wasabi. There are eight blini there so that gives you some idea of the greed I exhibited. I could have just stood there at the buffet & smeared it all over my face as I scraped the entire quantity offered into my mouth with a cupped palm – whilst growling at anybody unwise enough to approach me. But that seemed rather classless so I just took about an entire ounce of the black gold and the desired extras (egg & creme fraiche etc) and rejoined Miles at our table & grunted, “This does NOT SUCK” repeatedly as I swilled the free-flowing champagne & licked caviar from my fingers.
Sometimes I’m not safe in public. God bless Miles for loving me.
Properly sated – we braced for the bill. Miles guessed the cost would be high & guessed $50 each. I feared it would be closer to $125 each. Or more. After all – there was BOTTOMLESS CAVIAR & the champagne was not sweet & gross and it, too, was bottomless. I think Miles threw up in his mouth a bit when the bill turned out to be just under $200 with tip but I knew we had dodged a bullet. And I still had caviar running down my chin like a goatee – so I was good with it all.
So – I dragged him across the street to the beach. Here is a peek at that loveliness.
So – we checked into the hotel – the Montecito Inn – and clicked on the fireplace.
Ah, romance. A bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub & a stint watching Crib’s Most Expensive Homes & it was time to get back to the eating & drinking.
A single cocktail next door at Lucky’s
and it was time to go to one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – Pane e Vino. The pressure was kind of off me by the time we got there because lunch had been such a success but I still sweated it out a bit until Miles declared his bolognese with spinach noodles to be delightful. He hadn’t been as pleased with a similar dish the night before at LA’s Bottega Louie – so I really was worried. My homemade pasta with mushrooms was insane. Hard to photograph but not hard to shovel into my face.
The ride back & forth, by the way, was provided by the AWESOME Uber service. Uber is a car service that you summon with an app on your phone. You simply provide a credit card to them when you sign up & all the fees & tips etc are handled that way. No cash. And the drivers (for UberX – the least expensive of their three car options) drive their own car. Cheaper & easier than a taxi service & you can request a fare estimate before pulling the trigger & calling for an Uber pick up. I recommend it VERY highly. And here is a little discount for your first ride.
Use my Uber promo code, 4hmyy, and get $10 off your first Uber ride.
Before we went to bed, I received this pathetic image of my two sons – huddled in despair because of my absence. They can really work up a pity party when they are motivated. Silly kids.
The next day before we headed home to reunited with the doggies – we stopped at Cava in Montecito. It was a gorgeous day & we sat outside on the patio. We nibbled on chips & salsa.
Miles ordered a beer & fajitas.
I got a huge portion of guacamole, a Bloody Mary & (back on the seafood wagon) – the chile relleno.
All were delicious though the chile relleno, as you can see, was served as almost a soup. I have never seen it served that way before but it was very tasty.
And that, as they say, was that.
Try both the Chili Chocolate cake & try Montecito when you can. And save up for that GD brunch buffet. You could not possibly regret it!
If Los Angeles is your destination – the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills has a great dining spot, too. Culina! Check out my CRAZY experience there – HERE.