Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce...

and a few pointers on how not to act if you happen to run into Mark Wahlberg. 

I'll start with the Mark Wahlberg tips. A couple of months ago a friend and I went to New Orleans for the week-end to celebrate her birthday. We had decided that on her birthday, which fell on a Sunday, we'd go all out for dinner. We wanted a great fine dining experience, which is pretty easy to do in The Big Easy. Several people had recommended Restaurant August, one of chef John Besh's New Orleans restaurants. Although we called fairly early on in the week, the only times they had open for reservations were either at 6:00 pm or at after 9:00 pm. Even though it was earlier than we really wanted, we decided to take the 6:00 reservation. We figured we'd do Sunday brunch, shop, sight-see, and by 6:00pm maybe we'd be hungry again. We had a fantastic brunch at Brennan's, where I had ordered the baked apple and cream. (this is how the baked apple fits into this tale!) It was delicious and I've wanted to try to recreate them ever since. I could have just had that apple and been perfectly happy but of course I'd ordered the 3 course brunch and my apple was followed by Eggs Benedict and a flambeed crepe. Delicious, but enough to send you into a food coma!

Anyway 6:00 pm rolls around and it's time for dinner. We arrive at August (which is beautiful inside!) and there are only a couple other tables seated. We don't care, we're here to celebrate and enjoy some great food. We were so busy drooling over the menu that neither one of us had paid much attention to the people around us. When our waiter came back with our drinks, he whispered, "You know who that is, don't you?" as he nodded his head toward the table in the back corner. I had glanced over there when we first walked in but didn't really look at the people. I just saw two guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts. My only thought had been, "Who wears an old gray t-shirt to a nice restaurant?" Well apparently Mark Wahlberg, that's who! And for the record, he looks darn good in it too. As far as I'm concerned he should wear that t-shirt all the time, or better yet no shirt at all!

About that time Mark (I feel he won't mind me using his first name. ha ha) and his friend get up to leave. They graciously thank the wait staff, take a picture with the table right beside them, and get ready to walk out of the restaurant. In order for them to leave they have to pass RIGHT BY our table. I whisper to my friend, that I'm going to stop him because it's her birthday. We both were all giggly, like teenagers at this point.

(Insert "How Not to Act" tips here)

1. As Mark Wahlberg approaches, do NOT raise you hand like you are in 3rd grade.

I don't know what happened here I just saw my hand go up in the air. I quickly recovered and dropped my hand back into my lap. I don't think he noticed, or maybe he thought I wanted the waiter...or possibly he wondered why that idiot just raised her hand in a restaurant...

2. Do not just say "Excuse me Mr. Wahlberg, but it's my friend's birthday tonight and....ummm...hee hee, ummm.

Say something intelligent, like congrats on the Oscar nomination for The Fighter, or I loved you in The Fighter, or something, ANYTHING! Well maybe not anything. "Can I touch your abs?", probably would not have been appropriate either.

3. After you've stopped him, giggled like tweens, at least ask if you can take a picture with him with the camera that's sitting right there on the table.

Nope didn't do that either. Although he was super nice, especially when we just sat there looking at him with our big doe eyes. I had seen that flash of, Oh crap, I just wanted to leave, look on his face when I stopped him and I lost my nerve, as well as, apparently, my ability to speak.

I hope you find these tips helpful if you run into Mark Wahlberg in the future.

Oh and Mark Wahlberg was not the only celeb we saw there that night. While I was in the bathroom, Gordon Ramsey came in. He also walked RIGHT BY our table, and my friend said hello. I missed it and had to settle for looking at him from across the room. There was no way that I was going to speak to him. I didn't want to be called a "donkey" or "fat mouthed cow". I realize that's just a character he plays for ratings, but I wasn't about to risk it!

I have to say that even without the celebrity sightings, it was a superb dining experience. The food was fantastic, every bite was more delicious than the last. Each dish was done with precision and the attention given to even the tiniest details was impressive. As amazing as the food was, the service was even better, which is saying a lot. They treated us like we were the celebrities, even offered us a tour of the kitchen, which was too cool. John Besh was not in that night, but we met his chef de cuisine Michael Gulotta. If you get a chance to go to Restaurant August, take it. You may not meet Mark Wahlberg, but you will have an amazing dining experience.

These baked apples are really delicious. When I got home from New Orleans, I looked for a recipe for baked apples like the one I had at Brennan's. I found this one on Saveur's (one of my favorite magazines) website. While it's not exactly what I had at Brennan's, it's just as good!

Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce
printable recipe
Source:Saveur in Issue #123  recipe is based on one in Emily Luchetti’s Four-Star Desserts (Harper Collins, 1996).
slightly adapted 

For the baked apples:
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp. unsalted butter,
at room temperature
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
6 firm Fuji apples, stemmed and cored

For the caramel sauce:
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup raisins
2 tbsp. dark rum
1/4 cup pecans, toasted, for garnish
Make the baked apples: Heat oven to 325°. Combine sugar, syrup, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cut 1⁄4" from bottom of apples so that they sit flat; transfer apples to a 9" x 13" baking pan. Fill hollow cores with reserved sugar–syrup mixture. Cover apples with foil; bake until tender, about 50 minutes.( Mine took longer than 50 minutes to get really soft.)

Put raisins into a small bowl, add rum and let soak while making the caramel sauce.
Heat sugar and 1⁄2 cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, without stirring, until amber colored and a candy thermometer inserted into syrup reads 330˚, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let cool slightly. Add cream (caramel will bubble up slightly). Stir in raisins and rum; set aside. Serve apples with caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and ice cream, if desired.

If I ever meet Mark Wahlberg again, maybe I'll just offer him a baked good!


bellini valli said...

I have only seen a few celebrities in my life. Notice I don't say "met" since I never had the nerve to go up to them. Both were from M.A.S.H. Radar and Klinger. I also saw Mohammed Ali in the airport. All that aside I love baked apples!!!!

Julia said...

I never run into celebrities, ever! Well, once I saw Kobe Bryant and I immediately called my husband b/c I was so excited to actually see someone famous.
His response: RUN!
The caramel apples look soooo good, oozing with caramel, drool!

MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College said...

I got SO giddy reading this. I loved him in the Fighter (so hot....mmm) hahaha I saw Lindsey Vonn (the olympic skier) in the Salt Lake Airport one time. That's the only celebrity I have ever seen.

Those apples look amazing.

grace said...

what a great read. :) got to eat john besh's food and see mark wahlberg in person--SO jealous.

bunkycooks said...

This was so funny! We heard that Wahlberg was in town while we were there, but did not see him. However, we did see Bruce Willis at Emeril's and had a similar experience with one of the chefs telling us not to look over and see Bruce Willis (yeah, right!). We stared a bit on our way out, but thankfully, I did not trip or do something totally stupid.

BTW, we had lunch at August and it was fabulous!

Courtney said...

Yum! These apples look to die for! Perfect for the "springy" weather! Thank you!

girls who like to gorge said...

Thanks for this recipe! I've been wanting to try baked apples for a lonnnng time! xxxx