Who would have thought a little circular dessert could change my life? I certainly didn’t expect that a little pastry concocted in my tiny kitchen would turn out to be the most memorable thing I’ve ever made, but it did.
My Hummingbird Cake Doughnuts recipe was the winner of the Fisher Nuts My Fresh Twist Recipe Contest for 2014!
I took this contest very seriously. Of course, whenever I cook something, I take it very seriously, that’s just me and you all know that.
The prize was a trip to New York City to meet Alex Guarnaschelli in her Midtown restaurant, Butter. To me, that represented a dream that couldn’t possibly come true, but I had to give it my all.
It was also very important to me to honor the Fisher Nuts products because I’ve used them in my cooking since the start and it was important to me to represent them well.
I spent weeks planning out five recipes that I felt would highlight the natural, wonderful taste of Fisher Nuts and I spent an entire Sunday from sun up until sun down, creating and photographing those recipes.
In my opinion, classics are classic for a reason. They stand the test of time because they are genuinely good and loved by those who keep them alive. Hummingbird cake is one of those recipes. I thought putting a modern twist on it and transforming it into a doughnut while keeping true to it’s classic flavors was something that just needed to be done.
Not one of them survived the night in my kitchen, they were inhaled almost before the glaze dried, so I considered that a good omen.
When I got the call from the awesome people at Fisher Nuts, it was all I could do not to cry. I’m not usually speechless, but I think I temporarily forgot who and where I was.
Like most people who cook, creating recipes and making good food for people is an intimate process for me. Food is personal, an endeavor of creativity, an undertaking of risks, and most of all, a representation of myself and my experiences. It is something I don’t take lightly, and those of you who know me are laughing right now because you know what an understatement that is!
My only regret about cooking is that I didn’t find it earlier in my life. However, that’s also the beauty of it. Anyone can learn the love of food and the art of cooking at any age. If you work very hard at it, develop it, take risks, and are willing to fail at times, you may find out you are actually good at it. Food always welcomes a newbie. You just have to be willing to burn things, over season, under season, have a few soufflés fall, tolerate the collapse of a cake without crying, have a thing or two disappoint you, and refuse to give up. It turns out that food is the perfect artistic medium for a an impossibly determined soul.
I took Mason with me to New York to meet Alex. He thought this was pretty cool.
Butter is located on 45th Street in Manhattan between 5th and 6th Avenue. When you walk in you descend down some wooden stairs and can see the restaurant open up below you. It’s center is comprised of a curved ceiling with a mural on the back wall. Alex says in her book that it reminds her of a giant butter dish. There are tables all around the sides of that, the walls are covered in dark wood, and there is an impressive bar in the center. The décor reminded me of industrial meets upscale lounge. It was modern, yet classic. Striking, yet handsome.
Mason and I sat at our table, both of our sets of eyes as big as the saucers they served our bread on. We couldn’t believe where we were and who was going to come out to talk to us. We were just saying that to each other when I heard this very familiar velvety voice say, “are you the winner?”
There she stood. I know I haven’t ever been more star struck in my life. She was in her black chef’s jacket, her thick dark hair pulled back into a pony tail. She has really tiny delicate hands. I just kept thinking of all the things those hands have created. She looked exactly like she does on TV, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Our appetizer came to the table and she looked at me and said, “you really know how to order”. It was the special of the night, a pasta dish with a rich cheesy sauce, garnished with white truffles. I am not describing it adequately, so I’ll just say it was damn good! She actually cut it and served it to us. I just kept thinking, “Alex Guarnaschelli is serving my food!?!” She was completely gracious about signing the copy of her book I brought with me and taking pictures with us. We asked her about being on Chopped and about her daughter and growing up in New York. She was very personable, she just oozes confidence, knows her business, and you can easily see why she’s a star.
She introduced us to her head chef. She told me that she and her staff made my recipe and that she picked it herself. She told me that her daughter doesn’t really like doughnuts but she gave her stamp of approval. I think she knew the gift she was giving me when she told me that.
If you had told me a year ago that Alex Guarnaschelli was going to be making my food and have her daughter and staff taste it, I would have never believed it. I still can’t believe it!
It was an experience I’ll never forget. I was just fascinated about eating the foods she’d dreamed up and created. I had the most tender filet of beef with a rich mushroom sauce and the smoothest most buttery mashed potatoes. I know the skill it takes to make a steak like that, it was literally the texture of butter. I don’t know how it ‘s done, but I know it isn’t easy. Mason had a pork chop on a bed of escarole and some macaroni and cheese gnocchi. The kid ate every single bite.
We finished up with some really great coffee they brought us in a French Press and some raspberry filled beignets.
We had a great trip and it was wonderful to have time to bond with Mason and share that experience with him. He’s getting older and pretty soon he won’t want to stay in a hotel room with his mom. But this weekend we got to explore the big city together and we’ll always have that memory together.
Thank you Fisher Nuts for the incredible opportunity. Alex says she loves your company and that it isn’t just a regular collaboration. I thought you might want to know that!
If any of you out there are wondering about entering the contest next year, stop wondering and start thinking of recipes! You could be the next winner and it’s so worth it!
The recipe for my Hummingbird Cake Doughnuts is in the printable below. I hope you make and enjoy them. They go great with a cup of coffee.