A Table of Mothers

Mother’s Day…it is a special day, the one day out of the entire year that is set aside to honor our mothers. Although, we do our best to honor our mothers each and every day…this one particular day is dedicated to it. Whether it be your mother, your grandmother, your stepmother, your aunt, or your mother-in-law as well as someone who has acted as a mother towards you and any other mother that you know; all apply to this sentimental holiday. I thought a lot about who to write about today. And the truth is that I have been surrounded by women for my entire life. I was raised by a single parent and lived with my grandmother, I also have two sisters. My life has been nothing short of always being estrogen filled which houses many crazy and awesome memories.

I have been so blessed with the maternal figures in my life, I remember when I was younger, I used to be babysat along with my baby sister by a neighbor who was always a joy to be around. She’d always play games with us and listen to our dramatic stories of the things that we occurring in our lives as we blurted out whatever kid ramble that was important to us at the time. Alternatively, I remember how my grandmother would allow us to go shopping with her and we would always have a one toy limit. In which we could go to the store and pick out one toy that we really wanted…to be able for it to be purchased to take home with us. My mother would have us meet our grandmother at the train station when she would be on her way home from work. It was only a short distance from home but there was a park/playground that was not too far from it where we would play every day either on the swings or the slide until our grandmother met up with us. Then, we would all walk home together. When I was halfway through college, my sisters and I started having monthly lunches with our aunt. It was a great time to have a good date between our hectic schedule to catch up with each other about the daily happenings of our lives as well as enjoying delicious food together. My late boyfriend’s mom has even taken me under her wing as we talk or see each other all the time and has even taken me out clubbing which was actually a lot of fun besides my initial nervousness. We had a bunch of laughs and drinks. All of these women have greatly impacted my life; they have helped mold me into the person that I am today. I appreciate each and every one of them for being a part of my life and putting up with me as well as my antics. It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of their lives as I navigate this world a little more independently each day. I look to them for guidance, support, and constant love.

a plate of cookies

Image by: Tablespoon

With my aspirations of being a pastry chef, every one of them has encouraged me and stood by me as I continue to pursue my dreams…even as I try to discover what those dreams are. I have given back to them in both big and small gestures…sometimes with something as simple as a dessert. This has been a favorite among them and it is the apple pie cookie. It has a long assembling process but is utterly delicious, it has dulce de leche as well as a cinnamon sugar topping on the crust.

Coffee Break

The summer weather is slowly settling in and we are starting to get a taste of what summer will be like aside from all the pollen that is creating havoc on everyone’s immune system. Every time that I leave home, a cough or a sneeze isn’t too far from occurring but other than that, I am enjoying this beautiful weather…a frequent cool breeze and the amazing feel of being sun-kissed by the warm heat of this weather is getting me a tad bit excited for the summer. It is as if I can already hear the sounds of Mister Softee’s ice cream truck and reminisce of the aromas of the beach as well as the fragrant smell of barbeques…that is what summer is to me. And I am so ready to welcome it. I am stoked for all that comes with summer memories.

Being that City Tech is located in the Downtown Brooklyn area, it is the host to many coffee shops. I love coffee and summer only makes the need for coffee more precedent. If I cannot have my coffee whether hot or iced, I am just not myself in the summer heat. It is sort of like those Snickers’ commercials where they describe that you are not you when you’re hungry…so you can have a Snicker. Yeah, that is me without coffee in the summer. Coffee is one of those things that comfort you…in the winter time, it is nice to have to as a hand warmer and it is great to help warm up your practically frozen body as it melts you from the inside out as well as in the summer, when it cools you from the sweat-pooled days of summer that houses way too many heat waves. Everyone knows based on my previous posts that I have a true love for frozen desserts, whether it be ice cream, sorbet, gelato, or frozen yogurt. I am always psyched to have this category of desserts because I find it to be very delicious. I absolutely love anything frozen. So, regardless of the ever-changing weather switching between summer and spring or your crazy college schedule, if you are ever in the mood for coffee, ice cream, frozen yogurt with an array of topping options, and acai smoothie bowls. Then, I have the perfect place for you.

It is called the Brooklyn Beanery which is located along Court Street literally right across the street from the movie theater which makes for the perfect afternoon place to hang out as it has a café feel integrated within the outlay of the establishment. There is a small and intimate seating area but it sells an assortment of ice cream which is supplied by Hershey’s brand which is breathtakingly delicious as well as frozen yogurt that is on a flavor rotation aside from the traditional flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and original. But there is a huge counter dedicated only to toppings for your frozen yogurt that varies from fresh fruits like blueberries, mangoes, and strawberries to candy like m&m’s, fruity pebbles cereal, mochi, or cheesecake bites. This place also has many prepared coffee selections, it is a small shop which can easily be overlooked but you will not regret stopping in for a treat. The prices are affordable and it usually doesn’t get very busy so there is a place to sit down and get away from the hectic schedule that is life if for only a few minutes.

 

A Bite of Downtown Brooklyn

a stacked burger with fries on a metal pan

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I found myself aimlessly scrolling through the recent photographs that I had captured on my phone and I had stumbled across a bunch of food-themed pictures. I seem to always find myself captivating the delicious beauty and heavenly appearance of food every single time that I go out somewhere to feast on a tasty meal. I cannot help but to photograph these almost life-changing memories. Yes, I am one of those people that will take about a hundred photographs of my food before I viciously consume it and hope that by the time that I am done being a modern day and food version of Stieglitz for my meal that it hasn’t turned up cold at that point.  It is just something about food that just captivates me. It inspires me to see delicious food being displayed in an amazing manner so that it can be visually appealing before it is eaten. A little over a month ago, my family celebrated my older sister’s birthday which I blogged about her birthday cheesecake. It was a really fun and exciting weekend as it was a milestone birthday which is always great to have a celebration for.

 

three fried pasta balls with sauce

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I am slightly obsessed with Downtown Brooklyn and all that this amazing part of Brooklyn has to offer. Whenever there is any event or get-together, I always gravitate toward this particular area as it is of great interest to me. You can literally find whatever you need in Downtown Brooklyn. There are movie theaters, coffee shops, cafes, bookstores, bubble tea spots, fast food restaurants, bakeries, antique shops, pet stores, bars, mom-and-pop restaurants, libraries, supermarkets and much more. I have never left this beautiful area of Brooklyn disappointed. I love it here. It has become a second home to me being that the college is located here so I have spent so much of my time discovering this enriched place. It is very diverse with varying cultures that are established into each place, acting as puzzle pieces in the masterpiece that is Downtown Brooklyn. It is truly a melting pot as it contributes to each culture suitably regardless of the variance along the streets. And you have seen this even in my past blogs when discussing this part of Brooklyn in terms of bubble tea which is Taiwanese and the restaurant, Lantern which offers an array of Thai food.

a burger with a basket of fries

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

So when Sabrina and I were trying to decide on the perfect restaurant to take our older sister, we were a tad bit overwhelmed with the unlimited amount of options to choose from. We were hoping to have a fun evening aside from the full family dinner that had already been planned for her birthday…a sister’s dinner dedicated to just us three, to laugh and eat while enjoying each other’s company. We finally decided on Mooburger which is a restaurant that sells burgers, hot dogs, and an assortment of sides to pair with your meal. The food was absolutely delicious. We started off with an appetizer of mac-n-cheese balls with marinara sauce. It was spectacular comfort food…who knew that mac-n-cheese could get any more delicious when fried in a crispy breadcrumb coating and dipped in a slightly spicy tomato sauce? I sure didn’t but I definitely do now. I would recommend this place for literally any occasion because you don’t really need a good excuse to have great tasting food.

A Letter to You

a sunset overlooking a boardwalk

Image by: Cal

Dear You,

I am writing this letter to you as April is National Letter Writing Month so it’s fitting.I know that you are struggling with piles and piles of homework as you slowly prepare yourself for the upcoming end of the semester with finals. Let me start off by saying thank you for reading. I want you to know that you as my readers, mean the absolute world to me. Having someone reading the words that I carefully pieced together to make a written masterpiece, an art piece…a way to somehow make sense of this crazy puzzle of life.

I can only hope that as you read my posts, no matter which one that it inspires you…that it gives you hope to be better…to always strive for success. I so often in life have wanted to quit on my dreams…to fold my cards in this game of life poker. Life is so unpredictable, the events that occur each day are often unknown or unexpected because nothing in life is ever fully guaranteed. And we must all deal with the cards that we have been dealt. I want to be able to offer hope to all those who have decided to take time out of their days to read my posts. I am optimistic that I can be a symbol of strength to help you through the daily struggles that you may be facing. I have challenged myself to be as honest as possible by sharing my personal journey. I know what it is like to question your self-worth…to frequently ponder what my meaning is in this world. I know how it feels to not fit in and to evoke the sense of being a pariah in all areas of your life

Though I graduated from college, there are a lot of necessary things that college didn’t educate me with and these are just day-to-day instances that readily occur. College doesn’t tell you how to get placed with the right job for you, ways to choose a job, finding a passion that you truly care about and wish to spend your life pursuing, or how to conquer the unforeseen circumstances that life brings you. Life is a difficult thing to persevere through at times, believe me, I can understand that. But upon finding my passion for baking, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose. We all have a purpose in this world and most of the time, we wonder what that purpose is and why our lives are meaningful in this world. We frequently question our value but I knew that I loved to make others happy by way of having a delicious pastry as well as educating others to become bakers themselves. And perhaps, that is my purpose in life…to bring happiness to others by way of my desserts. I enjoy baking so much for a variety of reasons, it is a very fulfilling experience but it has a special value to me. I have baked many desserts for celebrational purposes as well as for recreational fun but either way, it helps me to relax and remain calm from the chaos that is life. It relieves my stress and reminds me of the talents that I have hidden within me regardless of the difficult days that I have endured.

Remember this when you are battling through a rough day, that you are strong…that you have the power within you to be happy and to be successful. No matter what comes your way in this crazy rollercoaster of life, you have the opportunity to write your own story and you are always the hero. No one is as heroic as you in your life story as you are the one seeing the chances that you take and being brave enough to pursue your dreams. If you always dream big and strive to achieve your goals then you are your own hero because you continued to be successful for yourself.

A Sandwich Fit For a…

Spring break is a beautiful time of year, a time when I am somehow able to reconnect with those closest to me by way of necessary breaks from work and school. It is an amazing experience as you can begin to see the buds on the trees and know that blooming season is near. But as they say, April showers bring May flowers, this spring break in particular housed the worst weather as it involved rainy days, a snowstorm, and random bouts of sunny weather. It was an ever-changing forecast but it was still much appreciated to enjoy time spent with the family.

Still, I cannot wait for the vibrantly and colorful flowers to bloom as it is a beautiful sight to capture each year. I’ll admit though that spending time with my family can be a tad bit emotionally taxing as we all have varying personalities that can sometimes clash resulting in a disastrous outing. I was most excited to try some new food ventures and be able to have those momentous memories shared with my loved ones. I love food which isn’t that surprising as I post about something food related every single week in my blog posts but still, I have seen more foodies interested in capturing the most delicious food by way of photographs instead of actually enjoying the eating portion of the experience. However, that is my favorite part. As of late, I have been under a lot of stress and just as you hear of those who emotionally eat or stress eating, I do the exact opposite…I suppose that you call it emotional starving. After a quick google search, I have found that I am the victim of emotional under-eating…hmm, I didn’t know that it had an actual name. Anyway, I have found myself literally eating one meal a day, I know what you’re thinking…that it’s unhealthy and I need to find a better way to handle my stress than skipping meals. But I have been challenging myself to enjoy each meal that I consume to slowly find my way back to my love for food and not just simply for the benefits of eating.

I have no idea as to why I just divulged the innermost occurrences that I struggle with on the day-to-day basis but I wanted to share the details of the most recent restaurant outing that I had which was absolutely and deliciously amazing. Everyone had their own plans and outings besides my mom and I, so we decided to have an excursion of our own. We loaded ourselves into the family van and somehow ended up in Howard Beach. We visited this hidden gem called Sapienza Delicatessen & Restaurant. It is a nice restaurant to just enjoy a quick meal as they have an open concept seating arrangement. We really wanted to try their famous pastrami sandwich as they use the same meats that Katz’s Deli does for a lower price which was unbeknownst to us at that time. The sandwich came with a pickle on the side and the deli also sells an array of beverages, chips, and other snacks to pair with your sandwiches. The sandwich itself was succulent and the meat was extremely moist to the point that it almost melted in your mouth. It was an experience that I had never had before when eating a sandwich but one I will never forget. I hope that you get the chance to try one of these sandwiches at least once in your life, you won’t regret it and I’d definitely recommend the pastrami sandwich.

a sandwich in a food basket

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl

a woman working in a kitchen

Image by: Jeff Rosenberg

Being a woman has been seen as a weakness for years. It is a badge of honor that comes with many exclusions. Personally, I have faced a lot of adversities in my life and unfortunately being a woman was one of them. In this society, women are viewed as weaker than their male counterparts and are usually placed in “easier” job profession. My whole childhood was surrounded by a fellowship of women. I grew up in a household in which my family entirely consisted of women; my mother, my grandmother, and my two sisters. I was always raised to be independent and to not feel the need to accept the opinions of others. This enabled me to create my own goals outside of what was often presented to me by worldly views. So many women have paved a way for the world in which we live in today, one that is not perfect or completely accepting of the roles that women can have in the job force but one that has greatly improved on this subject over the years. In the culinary field alone, we have so many amazing women who have made it possible to normalize the idea of a woman being in the kitchen cooking or baking on a restaurant quality scale, not simply in the confines of her family’s kitchen. Some names range from Julia Childs, Martha Stewart, Pati Jinich, and Lidia Bastianich.

Being in a profession as a pastry chef, it is a career path that is generally chosen by women. There is this unspoken assumption in the culinary and confectionery world that readily explains that culinary because it is more grueling or is often thought to require more effort is a male-dominated occupation while confectionary is for women since it requires precision, intricacy, and elegance. I do not believe in the power of gender roles as it can be too overwhelming in trying to deeply read into what society views as what is acceptable based on gender. Everyone should be able to do as they please and follow their dreams according to their own goals and dreams not directly stemming from the society’s point of gender norms.

a cake covered in rainbow sprinkles

Image by: Butter & Scotch

There is a bar and bakery hybrid restaurant located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that is centered around women empowerment. Butter & Scotch is an establishment that is own and operated by women. Though the staff isn’t all women, it does evoke a sense of female leadership as the owners of this bar/bakery are women in a profession of bartending and baking that combines the occupation of pastry arts that is more female-dominated by gender norms and the career of bartending that is more androcentric. It has all the fun of ordering a slice of cake or pie while also offering the opportunity to enjoy an alcoholic beverage to accompany the amazing selection of desserts. This one of a kind restaurant also donates one dollar from each cocktail to Planned Parenthood to benefit women’s health. It is truly a haven for the empowerment of women and to change the view of the restaurant world in terms of a woman’s place in it. So I say a toast to all the women out there, and a Happy Women’s History Month!

 

 

 

A Birthday Slice of Cheesecake

a birthday balloon in the sky

Image by: Becca

Family…it is the one thing in this world that we are born into or given in this world. But along the way we are allowed to choose our families by the people that we naturally connect with as well as the people who readily understand us. We are essentially given two families in the world, the ones that we are naturally a part of and the one that we create for ourselves…the one that we choose. Regardless of this, it is always important to be family-oriented…in terms of spending time with the people that you love and those that love you. It is something truly special about creating memories with loved ones because these are times that will be cherished forever. There are events and specific times in life that we want to share with other people such as anniversaries, sporting events, birthdays, et cetera. This past weekend was my older sister’s birthday and my family spent most of the time planning out the festivities that we would indulge in to celebrate this special birthday.

We were so torn on what activities to partake in for the entire family to enjoy as well as the birthday girl. My family rarely has time where we can all get together as a whole to spend time together but for big events such as graduations or birthdays, we somehow manage to find a way to compromise busy schedules in order to be available for the events. Still, we had a fun-filled weekend of going to the movies, visiting a local bakery for dessert, opening birthday presents, playing glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, and going to dinner as a family.

My older sister, Amanda, absolutely loves cheesecake so it is almost a tradition to treat her to a visit to Cheesecake Factory in order to celebrate her birthday accordingly. But that is not always the case as we almost always seem to have some time of car trouble around the time of her birthday that prevents us from being able to travel to Long Island to her favorite restaurant. This year, thankfully, our family car was operating greatly which gave us the opportunity to throw her the best birthday possible.

an individual cheesecake on a decorated plate with fruit

Image by: Reggie Lam

There are many versions of cheesecake, both sweet and savory. But there are many variations of cheesecakes, the French cheesecake that usually uses  Neufchâtel cheese which is creamier and tarty as well as the Italian cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese or mascarpone cheese which results in a drier texture of cheesecake. But my all-time favorite, as well as my older sister, is the New York-style cheesecake which uses sour cream in the batter which has a tangy but rich texture and flavor which is absolutely delicious. Cheesecake has become such a centrical part of celebrating her birthday and I hope that it was just as special this year.

Born to Stand Out

a colorful vegetarian dish

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I’m assuming here, but I believe that everyone at some stage of their lives has felt like an outsider or been bullied because they were different. The word, “normal,” is tantalizing as it is, represents something that society views as a standard or status quo. The truth is that everyone’s aspect of what is normal varies from person to person. It can be very difficult to truly pinpoint the characteristics of what normality is in a human form. I am sure that as you are reading this that something has come to mind…a groundbreaking moment in your life where you felt like a pariah, a defining moment of your life where you realized that you are different from everyone else. Sure, there are times when we all fit in…such as being in college, where every single person that you encounter is seeking the same educational experience as you regardless of personal matters.

Do you remember the difficult moments in life when you felt as if your entire world was destroyed because you didn’t fit in…no matter how hard you tried, you just didn’t belong? Or the times that your parent would say something empowering to you in order to encourage that you are special…that being different is the most unique and special thing about you? I have never had either one of my parents be that driving force in reinforcing my self-esteem. They never readily saw the struggles that I faced or offered any support through the instances where I relied on them the most. I have never felt that I belonged anywhere…a place I once called home was simply a location of residence and nothing more. I have been ridiculed so often in my life that I have no recollection of where I felt that I fit in. I was the epitome of being different. And, at the age of ten, I realized it. I was a rarity…there were not a lot of other ten year olds-at least none that I knew- that were homeschooled, multiracial vegetarians who was being raised by an overly strict single parent (but was still allowed to have a dyed streak of bright pink hair) in a purely matriarch household.

a bowl of ice cream and cookies

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

I suppose what I am trying to say is everyone is special…each person is one of a kind. You were born to stand out. For so much of my life, I attempted to distance myself from going against the social norms but I am beginning to understand the value of simply being me. I want so badly to be successful in this world…in my life…in the lives of those that I have become a part of so heavily. I want to stand out…I want to be recognized for the differences that I possess from others. I utilize my familiarity of being different to help me be a better baker and pastry chef. And it helped me especially in situations where my uniqueness was celebrated. I remember when I took a lab course for my major of hospitality management which was The Art of Vegetarian Cuisine…it was amazing to realize that though my life may have been very different than my peers, I could still be accepted by way of the knowledge that it has given me along the way. Unlike many of my peers, I was able to directly understand the class as well as the vast variety of ingredients being used as it reminded me of my childhood. As a chef, it evoked my expansive palate by way of the culinary experiences that I’ve been lucky enough to have despite being different.

Finding Myself

cake with fondant flowers and butterflies

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Writing has become my safe haven…a place where I can emote and be completely honest by utilizing the words that I could never say aloud out of fear or anxiety. This is my fourth year working for OpenLab’s The Buzz. I am so honored to still have this platform…this opportunity…this venue to publicly talk to students by way of the internet. When I first started writing for The Buzz, my theme was anything food related. This would differ from food news, food innovations, new technology for food, new food machinery, or any interesting recipes. Being that my major as a student at City Tech was hospitality management and my area of focus was pastry arts, I was drawn to discuss any food topics because I wanted the fuel the City Tech society with a love for food that I had already developed.

a cake with gold shards of cookies

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

This semester is going to be a bit different, in terms of my theme for my future posts as I want to still discuss food but I want to allow my writing to be more raw, candid, and personal by way of my own struggles. I want my writing to mean something more than just informational; I want it to be relatable. I would love for my writing to speak to people, for my voice to be heard through unspoken words…to help others by my own personal journey through life. I figure that every college student is struggling in some way in their lives, and so I want my posts on The Buzz to reflect those issues, to allow students to not feel alone in their woes. My entire life was academics; I literally forgot what life was like before school had taken over it. I could not remember my life in simpler days without the hassle of classes, homework assignments, group projects, exams, quizzes, midterms, and finals. My life was encompassed by the academic world…I felt as if my worth as a person solely relied on final grades and grade point averages.

superhero themed cupcakes

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I was, a new college graduate who had no idea what to do with her life now. I had no clue what my next step would be. I was so accustomed to attending school that I almost didn’t know how to be self-sufficient without it. It was heartbreaking and devastating. I had thought I knew all along what I wanted, but when I finished, I didn’t know what career to pursue. And honestly, I still don’t. So much has changed in my life during my collegiate years and I am finding it difficult to rekindle my focus onto my future, which includes my career. But, in the meantime, I have been trying to hone my skills in my love for pastry arts. I have made quite a few cakes and other desserts for a combination of friends or family members to become a better pastry chef. And it has allowed me to find my passion within this amazing career that I had somewhat lost after graduation. Each day, I am closer to finding myself…finding myself for a career role…finding myself without academics involved…finding myself as just a human being.

flower vase cake

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

A Birthday Made for Heaven

Birthdays are an amazing celebration. They are the special days that occur during the year in which we celebrate and acknowledge the lives of our loved ones by way of cake, balloons, and other party favors or public outings. Birthdays are the established born days…they are how love is created, how relationships begin, and how memories are made; all thanks to the birth of that special person. Whether it’s your mother, your father, your child, or your sibling, everyone deserves this appreciation for the place that they hold in someone’s life, especially on their birthday. This past weekend was my boyfriend’s birthday who, unfortunately, passed away exactly a year and a half ago from osteosarcoma which is an aggressive form of bone cancer. Losing him was the most difficult thing that I have ever endured in my life by far. He was my love, he was my everything, and he stole my heart with that smile of his. I miss him greatly each and every day. But he is always with me in my heart, I see him everywhere in this world that he has left behind. I see him in the whistle of the wind, in the shape of the clouds, and in a mesmerizing sunset. The picture below is actually a photograph that I captured while overlooking Coney Island. If you look closely, it looks as if it is an angel with huge wings, soaring horizontally.

a sunset with clouds

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

One of his favorite places was Coney Island. He was still pretty young when he passed away, but he always had this mentality of being a kid at heart. To this day, I have never met someone who loved cartoons or McDonald’s chicken nuggets and fries as much as he did. He was such a huge fan of Coney Island, though…he loved the amusement park and all of its thrilling rides. He enjoyed the serenity of the beach and the view that you could observe of the sun setting with the sand and water as the backdrop. He would be so excited to see the fireworks there as they lit up the entire sky with bursts of vivid colors. He especially liked the food; he’d always get fries from Nathan’s, as well as a hot dog on occasion. But he would almost always buy a root beer. He loved those; it was his favorite flavor of soda and it was mine too.

the awning of Coney Island Brewery

Image by: Mike Carey

We would always share our root beers with each other whenever we had one. And, even when he got sick, here I was, spoiling him without his mother’s knowledge with root beer. I wanted to dedicate this post to him. I visited the Coney Island Brewery last summer and I would definitely recommend going to this amazing place. It was an admirable experience; the brewery offers free tours and sells beer pints, beer flights, as well as the company’s merchandise apparel. I, of course, decided to try one of the hard sodas which are essentially an alcoholic version of soda…a soda pop for adults. The root beer flavor was stunning and made for a great ode to my boyfriend.

a bottle beside a plastic cup of root beer

Image by: The Sampler

So I say, cheers to my handsome guy for his second birthday in heaven. I love you so much.