Friday, April 29, 2016

Whisk or Wild is the Whimsy

The Slow and Savory Review
Brandy is a big believer in not taking life too seriously.  "Just as brunch should always come as a mix of savory and sweet, so too should the drudgery of responsibility be sprinkled with a coating of whimsy and magic every now and then."  It was this belief that had her a little worried about her dear friend Brocco, who as of late, had been working extremely hard in his lab.  "When was the last time you saw sunlight?" she asked Brocco one day.  "Well, I did visit the vertical farm room this morning to check on the sun lamps," Brocco yawned.  "Real sunlight, dear, from the actual orb in the sky."  "Well, hmm... that's a little more difficult to calculate..."  "That's it, you need a brunch intervention.  Tomorrow morning, you are coming with me to put some fun back into your daily routine."

To get Brocco back into the land of the living, Brandy chose to bring him to Whisk in Ukrainian Village, a charming little spot that serves brunch every morning and burgers in the evening.  Whisk certainly had an eclectic approach to both their menu and their decor, mixing kitschy pieces like cross-stitched mottos, crystal chandeliers, and oil paintings of TV characters to amount to an immediate feeling of warmth and fun.  Though a little small, the spacing between the tables wasn't too bad, allowing servers and patrons to move throughout the room without bumping into each other.  Brandy especially liked the benches for seating outside, as the weekend wait for a table could usually take twenty minutes or more.

"Since today is all about fun, we're going to start with our sweets first," Brandy instructed Brocco once they'd settled in with some coffee.  The sweets side of the menu at Whisk was pretty extensive and it took a fair few minutes for Brandy and Brocco to narrow down the options.  Luckily, everything on that side of the menu could be obtained in as a half sized order, so the two friends decided on two flavors of pancakes: the Oreo Raspberry and the Reese's Cup.  The moment she saw Oreo raspberry was an option, Brandy had to order it, as chocolate and raspberry is one of her favorite flavor combinations, and she was hardly disappointed.  The raspberry added a lovely brightness to each mouthful, while the crumbled cookies put in a bit of texture one would not normally find in a pancake, thus making for a welcome change of pace.  The Reese's pancakes were also nicely balance between the rich chocolate and peanut butter pieces, the mocha marscapone cream, and some slices of banana to round everything out.  Both pancakes had a lovely texture, not being too fluffy or too dense.  "I tell you, the half orders are the way to go!" said Brocco, "I can never finish a plate of decadent pancakes myself, but these are the perfect amount of sweet."

Brocco picked the Buffalo Chicken Hash as his entree, saying that the hot and tangy flavor was one of his favorite things, as it reminded him of summer days and sports watching parties with friends.  The chicken was perfectly spiced and immediately recognizable, bringing a familiar flavor to a familiar dish for truly unique experience.  Brocco especially liked the mix on crunchy potatoes, crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocado along side the chicken and eggs, making every bite slightly different.  "I suppose there is some value in keeping things exciting and a little unexpected.  After all, I never know what I'm going to encounter in the lab, so an unexpected breakfast is a good way to prepare me for the day!  Oh goodness, this buffalo sauce is starting to make my mouth tingle!"

Brandy went for a dish called the David's Special, which was ostensibly a twist on shrimp and grits with bacon, mushrooms, scallions, and a creamy wine sauce.  The cheesy grits at the base were a looser texture than Brandy usually prefers, but combined with the creamy sauce, it made a sort of savory porridge that she quite enjoyed.  The shrimp were nicely cooked and blended well with the sauce and the bits of smoky bacon hidden here and there.  Though the dish tasted delicious, Brandy couldn't help wishing for a bit more pizzazz in the plating, even just a little sprinkling of scallions on the top to liven it up, as it wasn't the prettiest plate she'd ever been presented with.  "With the attention to detail on the pancakes, I just think one little flourish would make this dish go from exceptional to perfect.  After all, in a place so filled with light and laughter, everything they serve should be an utter delight!"

Brocco and Brandy were quite pleased with everything at Whisk, from the friendly and attentive service to the reasonable prices and the high quality of the ingredients.  The food was obviously well thought out and prepared by people who truly cared about giving their customers a good experience, but also wasn't pretentious or over done.  "You were right after all," Brocco said, taking a breath of fresh morning air as they exited the restaurant, "A little levity was just what I needed to refresh my body, mind, and soul."  "That's good to hear," Brandy smiled at him, then took a seat on one of the benches.  "What are you doing?" Brocco asked.  "I'm going back in there," she said, "The wait for a table will give me just the right amount of time I need to digest the first meal and then I'll have the room to try more of those pancakes!"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review
Whisk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tea Time with Brandy: Gluten Free BFree Breads

There are a few things Brandy is picky about.  Tea?  "Nothing but the best will do."  Eggs Benedict?  "There is a formula that needs to be adhered to."  Pancakes?  "Texture is everything."  And like tea, benedicts, and pancakes, Brandy is pretty picky about her bread.  This might be why the proliferation of gluten free bread products has her raising a skeptical eye brow.  "I'm sure they try their best, but can gluten free bread really live up to the classic stuff?  I'm not so sure."

Recently, Brandy was given a chance to try a line of products from BFree Foods, a company not just producing loafs of bread, but a whole range of products meant to keep those who live a gluten free lifestyle from missing out on their favorite foods.  There is not just loaves of bread in the line, there's also dinner roles, wraps, pita pockets, and even bagels, all coming in both classic "white" styles and also "brown" or seeded versions.

The bread was a revelation to Brandy as she made some simple turkey sandwiches with it.  Brandy's previous experiences with gluten free bread has always resulted in grainy, crumbly textures that aren't always up to holding together a large collection of fillings, but the BFree bread was indistinguishable from the usual stuff.  It was dense, soft, and perfect for slathering on copious amounts of mustard and mayo.  Brandy also liked that the slices were long, which when cut in half, made for perfect hand sized halves of sandwich.

The bagels too were a bit of a surprise.  While fresh out of the fridge, they were a bit crumbly, once toasted, they gained a good amount of structure that made them perfect for a simple spread of cream cheese, or as the bookends of a sausage and egg sandwich.

The pitas were a little on the fragile side and were harder to stuff completely full, but they tasted lovely.  Brandy liked filling them with a bit of cheese and veggies for a quick afternoon snack.

The thing that really impressed Brandy and brought her around were the wraps.  Both the plain and the seeded wraps held together extremely well under a barrage of ingredients as Brandy experimented to find the perfect breakfast burrito.  She added things like scrambled eggs, Swiss cheese, sauted spinach, garlic mushrooms, crispy potatoes, and caramelized onions, and wrap after wrap, the burritos held together.  Brandy especially liked the seeded wraps, which were embedded with quinoa and chia seeds for an extra little bit of crunch.

"Alright, I admit that I under estimated the capabilities of what gluten free bread can do," Brandy commented as she looked over her carnival of carbs.  But even though she had been trying a lot of recipes, BFree products were all fairly low in fat, calories, and high in fiber, so she figured that a few more nibbles of a pita bread weren't going to hurt in the long run.

The writers of this blog were provided with products by BFree in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Freds at Barneys or Wham Bam Thank You Mam 

The Slow and Savory Review

Whenever Brandy's good friend Mama Bee comes to town, she feels more determined than ever to impress her with a lavish meal.  "Oh you know me, I like simple things," Mama Bee always admonishes her, "Give me something uncomplicated and I'm happy.  Put lots of honey on it and I'm even happier."  But it has become a matter of personal pride to try and bring new and exciting culinary trends to her friend's attention, so when Mama Bee stopped in for a quick visit in between running her empire of bakeries, Brandy knew she had to come up with something spectacular.

Thinking back to a dinner she had experienced last year at the enchanting Freds on the sixth floor of Barneys of New York in the Gold Coast, Brandy suddenly remembered that the location served what was purported to be a rather grand brunch.  "If what I tried there previously was any indication, I'm sure the dishes will be classic and fresh, which might be just up Mama Bee's alley!"

Not wanting to linger too long looking at any of the outrageously expensive purses and nick nacks on the ground floor of the department store, Brandy and Mama Bee immediately rushed for the elevator and headed up to the restaurant, which had gorgeous views of the Gold Coast.  The dining room was just as Brandy had remembered it, with a slightly old fashioned sense of class, but a less pretentious atmosphere than one might expect.  Mama Bee was especially taken with the fire feature at the back that separated the dining area from the kitchen.

The morning began, of course, with a couple of cocktails.  For Brandy, the Border Crossing and for Mama Bee the Gary's Busey.  Both cocktails had been made with very fresh tasting citrus juices (Brandy's with lime and orange and Mama Bee's with grapefruit and lemon), but both ladies preferred the bold and refreshing Gary's Busey, which reminded Brandy of a Greyhound cocktail.

Mama Bee, a native New Yorker, eyed up the Pastrami Hash for her entree, and was especially delighted to read that the restaurant offered freshly made bagels and (even rarer in Chicago) bialys.  Sadly, when the plate reached the table, Mama Bee's treasured bialy seemed more bagel-ish, but was serviceable.  The hash was very peppery, but the pastrami was tender and perfect.  "Just what I wanted, something not overly complicated," Mama Bee smiled, "But someone needs to explain to them the difference between a bagel and a bialy."

Brandy decided on the Oufes en Cocoette, a baked egg dish served with potato wedges and a side of bacon.  The potatoes had an excellent crunch on the outside while being soft on the inside, more resembling fries than a more traditional house potato.  The eggs were silky, but the true surprise was a dollop of hidden creme fraiche that really helped to liven up the dish.  "I have to say that this tastes quite a bit better than it looks," Brandy commented, "I'm rather surprised that the presentation here isn't a little more finessed, considering how obsessed a place like Barneys usually is with appearances."

Lastly came a shared order of Bread Pudding, which had actually be requested as an appetizer, but the waitress neglected to put in the order.  When the pudding finally did arrive, it seemed a little too crisped on top with an almost blackened edge.  The inside, however, was warm and scrumptious and the addition of some plump raisins ensured each bite was a little more exciting.

Though the service was friendly, Brandy felt a little let down by Freds at Barneys.  The price point seemed high, but expected for such an upscale setting, but the presentation of the dishes simply didn't live up to expectations.  The flavors, however, were good, but nothing revolutionary.  "I know you like things simple and uncomplicated, but there's something to be said for a little more attention to detail and pizzazz," Brandy said to Mama Bee.  "I agree with you there," Mama Bee responded, "But perhaps if we had purchased one of those fancy handbags down stairs before coming up here to dine, we would be spending more time thinking about the money we'd just spent and less about the meal we just ate."

The Short and Sweet Review

Fred's at Barney's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Honey BBQ Chicken and Corn Cakes

"What do we have here?" Brandy wondered as she bent down to picked up a box from her door step.  Brandy had been on a bit of an online shopping spree as of late and she had gotten rather used to random packages appearing, but this one wasn't quite what she had expected.  Was is perhaps the new knitting needles she'd ordered?  Or maybe the Make Your Own Fascinator kit?  Or the microbrewery starter pack?

Inside the package was an assortment of products from New Zealand that Brandy most definitely did not remember ordering.  There were potato chips, a jar of honey, some sea salted caramels, and three bottles of gourmet salts, all from Pacific Resources International, a US distributor bringing healthy and delicious treats from New Zealand to the Colonies for the first time.

The bag of Smoked Paprika Proper Crisps were the first thing to capture Brandy's attention.  The kettle cooked chips had a delightful crunch and a flavor not often seen in the US.  Next she tried a spoonful of the Manuka Honey, which was actually purported to have some health benefits as well as being a lovely sweet treat.  Brandy immediately put some of the honey into her tea (she always has a cup of tea on hand) and then chewed on one of the sea salt caramels, which had also been made with the sweet stuff.  The seasoning bottles were all made with sea salt from the Pacific ocean and obtained not by traditional refining processes, but by solar evaporation for an untainted flavor.  While sipped her honey flavored tea and chewing her honey flavored caramel, Brandy studied a bottle of mesquite BBQ seasoning when inspiration struck and she immediately rushed off to the kitchen to start cooking with this amusing array of ingredients.

The writers of this blog were sent complimentary products in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Honey BBQ Chicken and Corn Cakes

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of hot sauce (optional)
Mesquite Smoked BBQ Salt
about 1/2 lb of sweet corn ( frozen bag or 2 small cans)
1 cup of yellow corn meal
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons of green onions for garnish

Slice the onion and lay the pieces down in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Coat the chicken breast in BBQ salt and lay on top of the onions.  In a small bowl, mix together the honey, ketchup, Worcestershire, and hot sauce (if using), then pour the mixture over the chicken.  Set the slow cooker to high for 4-6 hours, depending on the thickness of your chicken breast.

For the corn cakes, add the corn meal, flour, salt, and sugar to a large bowl and mix until well combined.  Add in the eggs and milk and mix until there are no clumps, then add the corn and cheese and mix until well combined.  Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat and add in enough butter to coat the pan, then place about 1/3 cup of the batter and let brown on one side, about 1-2 minutes, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Once the chicken is done cooking, shred the meat with a fork.  To serve, place corn cakes on a plate and top with chicken meat and onions, then sprinkle on fresh green onions.  Serves 6-8

Friday, April 15, 2016

Earls Kitchen or Competitive Eating

The Slow and Savory Review

As you may know Brandy has slowly been making her way through the restaurants Bunny scouted for her back at the end of last year.  At first, she'd felt a little insulted that Bunny had gone on some culinary adventures without her, but then she began to see the benefits of having an advanced report.  "I never thought about it before, but there is something to be said for strategizing one's meal," Brandy reasoned as she went over Bunny's notes, "Understanding what I'm in for and what I should look for maximizes my eating time.  I suppose that's why people read these blog thingies in the first place."

Picking from the array of restaurants Bunny had previewed, Brandy settled on Earls Kitchen and Bar as her next brunch location.  She liked the look of the eclectic menu and decor quite a bit, but it was the cocktail menu that was the clincher, so she decided to asked along Starr from Chicago Foodie Girl for a second opinion.

Much as Bunny had said, the inside of Earls was chic and whimsical with an eye towards celebrating Chicago's traditional of blues and jazz music.  Brandy especially loved the three dimensional mural at the back of the room that was made from trumpets.  The seating was open and varied with high tables, booths, low tables, and even an enclosed fire pit on the patio.

The first order of business was to decide which of Earls' whimsical drinks would be the beverage of choice for the morning.  Starr already had her sites set on the Bee's Knees, a fruity gin cocktail served in an adorable honey bear shaped jar.  Meanwhile, Brandy went with the Marilyn Monroe, which was flavored with passion fruit and vanilla vodka, which Brandy found to be a decadent and oh so sweet combination.  The second round consisted on two Lemon Meringue cocktails, which tasted and looked so much like their namesake dessert that they even came with a bruleed meringue top.  "Oh, now this is dangerous," Brandy commented after a single sip, "A drink this decadent and delicious should really come with several warning labels attached to it!"

As they were enjoying their drinks, a couple of complimentary cranberry muffins, warm from the oven, were delivered to the table, which Brandy very much liked.  "I do so love a little bread service at brunch," she said, "That little boost in carbs is perfect for powering one through the rest of the meal."

To balance out the mainly sweet drinks, Brandy and Starr chose Leroy's Crispy Ribs and and an order of Truffle Fries to start things off.  The fries were pretty standard, well spiced with salt and pepper, and nicely thin, but the truffle sauce on the side was the obvious focus.  The ribs actually did come with a warning, as the waitress explained that not everyone liked their unique preparation, but that those who did were fanatics for the dish.  Right away, it was obvious these were no ordinary ribs, more resembling something like pork rinds.  Each little piece contained about a bite full of tender meat with a crunchy deep fried exterior that had been coated in coarse salt and pepper for an extra punch of seasoning.  "I can see why these might be an acquired taste for some," Brandy mused, "And even I am not normally a fan of eating meat off the bone.  But I rather enjoy them.  Such a lovely little bar snack, perfect for munching on while watching a game."

Breakfast proper then began with two dishes; the Steak and Eggs and the Sausage and Mushroom Hash.  The hash came with a generous amount of sausage, which did indeed pack just the right amount of spicy punch, but Brandy was a little disappointed that the mushrooms got lost in the mix.  Still, the dish was surprisingly light, especially with the addition of avocado, and the hollandais that covered it was absolutely buttery and delectable.  The Steak and Eggs, however, was a real show stopper.  "Steak and eggs is one of my favorite brunch dishes," Brandy told Starr, "And I can safely say this might be the most well thought out way I've ever had it."  The generous amount of skirt steak that came on the dish was certainly a bonus, but the real joy came from a sweet and smokey hit of bacon jam on top of some toasted sourdough and a bit of wilted spinach.

By that point, the ladies had been at Earls so long that they had completely bypassed brunch and had gone straight into lunch territory, so Starr suggested they check out one of the signature burgers, the Royale (with cheese, of course).  The burger came loaded with more bacon jam, plus beer infused cheese, crisp pickles, and caramelized onions on a soft brioche bun.  "I never suspected that a Canadian restaurant could so perfectly construct the ideal American burger!" Brandy exclaimed.  Even the sweet potato fries on the side were a delight, though Brandy was slightly disappointed that there was no poutine to be had on the menu.

Finally ending their day of indulgence, Brandy and Starr headed back out into the real world once more.  Bunny's preparation had certainly given them a fighting chance going in, but the extremely friendly and knowledgeable service was also a great help in the thick of things.  "I don't want to alarm you, Brandy, but I think we forgot to order dessert," Starr said as they were finally getting ready to leave.  "Oh goodness!" Brandy exclaimed, "And Bunny even made a point about the sticky toffee pudding!  That's it, sit back down and order another round of drinks.  We're staying here until dinner service starts."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review
Earls Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 8, 2016

Chez Moi or Quel Suprise

The Slow and Savory Review

Though Brandy is unquestionably the expert on brunch, there has always been one part of her studies that has been impossible to progress at.  "I can tell you anything you want to know about chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast, or mimosas," Brandy admits, "But Bloody Mary's have never been my cup of tea, so to speak."  She has tried several times to enjoy the traditional breakfast cocktail and has come close to finding some she found palatable, but there has never been a Bloody Mary she wanted to drink a whole cup of in all her years of brunching.

Her friend Hawk, who is a bit of a perfectionist, was disturbed by this blank space on her score sheet.  "You can't call yourself a brunch expert when you can't talk about where your favorite Bloody Mary is!" he explained to her one day, "I am making it my personal mission to find a Bloody Mary you like so that you have at least one in your Rolodex."  After a lot of research, Hawk found a candidate he felt fairly certain about on Chez Moi's new brunch menu.

Chez Moi in Lincoln Park is the current residence of Chef Dominique Tougne, who created one of Brandy's favorite brunch destinations of yore, Bistro 110.  The adorable spot was very much decorated with old world charm in mind, having lots of dramatic woods, Gothic art, and wrought iron, but without being too heavy or oppressive.  Brandy especially loved the high ceilings and crystal chandeliers that added a touch of classic coziness.

To warm up before she dove into the Bloody Mary, Brandy first tried the Royale Mimosa.  This particular iteration of her favored brunch cocktail was soft, sweet, and less acidic than a traditional mimosa with an extraordinary floral note from the use of orange liqueur.  After that came the moment of truth.  Brandy had the bar tender prepare a small portion of the dreaded Bloody Mary, just in case she didn't care for it, but right away she could tell that this one was something different.  "The trick with this Bloody is that it's made with a French onion soup base," Hawk proudly told her, and Brandy had to admit that she was intrigued.  The over all flavor was less tomatoey, but definitely savory, with a good salty kick, and came garnished with a blue cheese stuffed olive and a hunk of beef pate.  "Oh my goodness," Brandy exclaimed, "I don't want to alarm you, but I think I may actually finish this whole glass!  Well done, my friend, you've achieved the impossible and found me a Bloody Mary I actually enjoy!"

Now with a taste for onion soup, Brandy placed an order for the classic French bistro dish to start off her meal.  This version was spot on with a generous amount of melty cheese on top and a rich, complex soup underneath.  Brandy especially liked that this version incorporated several different types of onions, which added to the deep flavor.

Hawk, satisfied that he had accomplished his goal, settled in for the simple Omelette Au Fromage with ham.  The texture of the eggs was lovely, not being too dense or fluffy, and the proportion of cheese and salty ham was just right.  Hawk also appreciated that his side dish was a nice light salad, where as if it had been the more often seen home fries or house potatoes, it would have taken away from the classic bistro feel.

Brandy chose the Quiche Lorraine, remembering how she had adored the quiche she had at Bistro 110 so long ago.  Needless to say, she was not disappointed.  This quiche was still the silkiest, smoothest, most decadent quiche she'd ever tasted with a wafer thin, buttery crust and an intense smokey flavor from the bacon.  "Oh, I have missed this quiche!" Brandy sighed, "If I wasn't sure this thing was full of enough cream to stop a marathon runner's heart, I'd be eating this every day for the rest of my life."

Finishing off the meal with something sweet, Brandy and Hawk split an order of Pan Perdu, a lovely take on a French toast made with pan fried brioche and a raspberry coulis.  The toast was eggy and soft with the perfect custardy consistency, while the raspberry sauce and fresh fruit added a much needed brightness to hover the dish right over the line of breakfast and dessert.  Hawk especially couldn't resist scooping up the sauce on its own and savoring its flavor.

"Well, I thought it couldn't be done.  I'm not even sure that I believe it myself.  But you managed to find a Bloody Mary I could literally drink gallons of," Brandy smiled at her friend.  As if this monumental discovery wasn't enough, the friendly service, reasonable prices, and extraordinarily flavorful food gave Brandy plenty of reasons to return to Chez Moi.  "You know, I'm still not entirely convinced I enjoyed that Bloody Mary as much as I first thought I did," Brandy said, eyeing her empty glass, "I might have to have another one.  Just to make sure.  For scientific purposes."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Chez Moi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tea Time with Brandy: Berry Lemonade Crepe Cake with Nielsen Massey

Brandy spent the last weekend in doors, refusing to go outside.  "Have you seen what is happening out there?" she said in fright, "It's the bloody end of the world!  It's supposed to be spring, and yet its snowing one minute and 80 degrees the next!  How on earth is one supposed to prepare for that?"

Wanting to create some spring time in her own home, Brandy began going through her cabinets until she spotted a bottle of Neilsen-Massey Lemon Extract and was immediately inspired to use her favorite brand of flavorings to create a tea time masterpiece.  "I remember once having an unusual cake called a Mille, which was layers and layers of crepes with tasty filings.  I wonder if I could somehow give that classic tea time treat a spring time twist!"

She tried a few different versions of her brainstorm and each one turned out more delicious than the last, so Brandy has here decided to share her refined recipe!  Make sure to stop by our Instagram page for a special giveaway that will help you recreate this treat at home.

Neilsen-Massey provided the writers of this blog with products in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Berry Lemonade Crepe Cake

For the Crepes:
3 cups of whole milk
6 eggs
6 tablespoons of melted butter (plus extra for cooking the crepes)
7 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/12 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of Nielsen-Massey Lemon Extract
(optional) 1-2 drops of yellow food coloring

For the pastry cream:
2 cups of whole milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
4 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste
4 tablespoons of heavy cream, whipped

For the berry filling:
1 pound of fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries work well)
1/4-1/3 cup of sugar, depending on the natural sweetness of the berries
about 1/2 cup of cornstarch (will depend on the water content of the berries)

To make the berry filling: Place all of the clean berries into a medium sized sauce pan and add the sugar.  Turn the heat to medium and cook about five minutes or until the berries begin to release their juices.  Puree the berries with a stick blender until smooth and cook to reduce for ten minutes.  Slowly begin to whisk in the cornstarch a tablespoon at a time to make sure there are no clumps.  Keep adding cornstarch until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Take off the heat and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the pastry cream filling: Heat milk in a medium sauce pan on low heat.  Combine eggs and sugar in a medium bowl, then add the salt, flour, and cornstarch and mix until well combined.  Add the heated milk to the egg mixture one tablespoon at a time and whisk, then transfer the entire mixture back into the sauce pan and turn the heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes while continuing to stir.  Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and add the vanilla bean paste, then set aside to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, add in the whipped cream and gently fold to combine.  Add the mixture into a pastry bag (or a large plastic storage bag) and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make the crepes: In a large bowl, combine the milk and butter, then add the eggs, sugar, and salt and stir to combine.  Whisk in the flour until there are little to no lumps in the batter.  Heat a large non stick frying pan to medium high heat, then add in a small amount of butter.  Add a little less than 1/4 cup of batter into the frying pan (may need to be adjusted to the size of your pan) and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin, even layer.  Cook the crepe until the edges are slightly browned, then flip and cook for about a minute, then remove from the pan.  This recipe should yield 15-20 crepes.

To assemble the cake: In a spring form pan roughly the same size as your frying pan, lay down a single crepe, then pipe a medium thin layer of pastry cream.  Add a second crepe and a second layer of pastry cream, then press gently to even out the layers.  Add a medium thick layer of berry filling and then another crepe and press again.  Continue adding crepes and filling in this manner: crepe, pastry cream, crepe, pastry cream, berry filling, crepe, and continue to press down between layers to keep the cake even.  Once all the crepes have been used up, refrigerate the cake for at least on hour to allow it to set.  Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream if desired.  Makes 8-12 servings.