For reasons having to do with the fact that I had no idea how much work it would be and that I would have had no idea what else to get my friend Julie for her 40th birthday, I baked 100 cupcakes last week for Julie's milestone party. Yes, you read that right: cupcakes. In my own defense, the idea started as a cake but evolved into cupcakes as the guest list grew like kudzu in Georgia (which means relentlessly). Thankfully I had the privilege of baking these cupcakes in the expansive Scuola kitchen at Mozza, which basically looks like the marble-topped kitchen of a really rich person who insisted on the best of everything—only this kitchen actually gets used. I made two types of cupcakes: a very basic chocolate cake with boiled sugar white icing that was the closest thing I could get to a Ding Dong, which I adore, without the spiral design on top (I'm not that good with a pastry bag). And carrot cake because that's what the birthday girl wanted, and what bday girl wants, bday girl gets. ...

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I'm writing the cookbook for the L.A. resto phenom, Mozza (Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Mozza 2Go), and included in that is what seems to be no-end-in-sight job of testing the recipes. The executive chef, Matt Molina, Nancy Silverton, who owns the joint (along with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich), and I wrote Nancy's last book, Twist of the Wrist together. And it's safe to say that we are all complete freaks about publishing recipes that can be followed by anyone with a decent command of the language the book is printed in, and successfully executed at home by anyone with opposable thumbs. (No offense, Rufus.) Each dish that I or one of my trusty testers cooks has to be tasted and approved by either Nancy or Matt, judged not just by whether or not they work, but by whether the results are Mozza-esque. It is tons of work and the kitchen in my 1920's Spanish style rental is seeing more mileage than it likely has since the frozen dinner was invented. But I love it. I feel like Will ...

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I was at 3 square, the restaurant/bakery on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach over the weekend when I noticed a word on a menu that I didn't recognize, schlag. People I'm eating with often ask me about culinary terms on menus, and most of the time I'm able to help them. I know from coulis and saba, and I know enough of the current buzzwords like "Berkshire" in front of pork, that I am always surprised when I am surprised, which I was with schlag at 3 Square.  Naturally I came home and looked it up and found that schlag means, simply, "whipped cream." I like that the Swiss (I think) German owner decided to use his native term for it. Plus, it sure made the dessert—a lemon pound cake sliced and served with strawberries and... you guessed it—seem fancier. The irony is that just the day before, I'd had a burger party for my dad (who is really my step-dad, which only matters if you are under the correct impression that my dad is dead), and served my family the exact same dessert. I felt slightly ...

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