I was so excited when Niki of Big City Cooking agreed to be on the Tour because, as silly as this will sound, I wanted to talk about the black background color of her blog. That’s weird, I know.
But it’s just so unique compared to what you normally see in blogs. The dark color gives such a different vibe when you visit the site… Like you’re hanging out in an underground restaurant or at night at an outside cafe. It just makes me feel like I’m in the big city for some reason. Couple that with beautiful photos that are sometimes taken outside (like this one here) and this blog just has a cool vibe to it.
So without further ado, I’d like to welcome you to our March Tour de Food Blogs stop: Big City Cooking!
Niki created Big City Cooking in June of 2008 because she was looking for a challenge in the kitchen. Niki says she wanted to try new recipes and techniques while experimenting with different ingredients. She definitely challenged me with this month’s Tour recipes. I cooked with new ingredients and tried new techniques which I am excited to share with you in upcoming posts.
One of the coolest things about Niki is that she is enrolled in Culinary School and has aspirations of being a personal chef. If you consider this a dream job (as I’m sure many food bloggers do), you probably share some of the same feelings about cooking as this Big City Chef-to-be: “I get excited when I try a new recipe and it is also a huge stress reliever to me. Plus it makes me happy when people enjoy the food I create.” Although many of us will never be able to taste the food Niki creates, we are able to enjoy it by visiting her blog. I consider Niki’s site to be a “back to basics” approach to blogging. Even her favorite cooking tool is basic, her Che’fs Knife: “I am a firm believer that this is the best tool in the kitchen. You can do almost anything with it. It is practically an extension of my hand at this point.” With an easy to use “online cook book” placed on the right sidebar, navigation of this blog is a breeze. And not only does the site have that cool, city vibe I mentioned earlier, it also offers a no-nonsense, basic recipe setup. You won’t find giveaways or contests, group cooking events, or much of anything un-related to food.
What you will find is a compilation of her own recipes alongside adaptations from other blogs, websites, and, occasionally, cookbooks. Niki uses websites like Cooking Light & Allrecipes, but only owns one cookbook, saying “I am not a cookbook person”. This really impresses me because without a cookbook, I’m pretty much lost in the kitchen. That’s what makes Niki’s recipes (in my opinion) unpredictable and unique (see Gingerbread Cookies turned upside down and Shamrock Shake). In fact, Niki encourages readers not to “get too caught up in recipes. Learn basic techniques and go from there.” Despite her culinary education, Niki still considers herself a beginner in the cooking world “because there is just so much to learn!” I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I received Niki’s list of recipes! There were ingredients, flavor combinations and techniques I’ve never attempted. But – I felt like I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned a lot.
Culinary school also contributes to Niki’s unique recipes. She is sometimes given assignments that require her to create a new dish with the inspiration of another recipe or flavor profile. I was really impressed by her Potato and Stuffed Croquettes with Cranberry Sauce that came out of an assignment to prepare a cold dinner. Using the flavors of Thanksgiving, Niki came up with a dish that was creative and new. Another facet of Niki’s blog is her complete meal approach. She recognizes that “many people struggle with what to serve for dinner tonight” and in turn tries to “always give … readers an entire meal… I have a section in each post where I write out what to serve with the featured dish to make it a full meal.” Check out these great examples: Baigan Choka; Bruschetta.
Although it’s clear that Niki is innovative and likes a challenge, she also enjoys classic comfort foods. “I could make mac and cheese in my sleep for sure. It is one of those dishes my husband loves, so I have tried it a million different ways,” she says. And don’t miss her posts featuring Fettuccine Alfredo, Stuffed Shells, Pepper Steak, Apple Pie, and her Mom’s Banana Bread. Another of her mom’s recipes that she loves? Chocolate heath bar biscotti (see pictures). But don’t expect to see that recipe posted anytime soon. Niki says it’s a secret family recipe.
Learning about Niki and Big City Cooking was such a treat for me. I hope you’ll check out her blog and follow along as she works through culinary school on her journey to becoming a Personal Chef. As a final note, I’ll leave you with Niki’s description of her first cooking memory: “I remember my grandmother watching my sisters and [me] in the summers when we were kids and we would cook and bake all day long with her (she also had dreams of becoming a chef herself). And she would pretend we were on a cooking show. She would stand on one side of the island and us girls on the other (standing on chairs of course) … She would ask for help from the ‘audience’ to crack eggs, measure flour, or (my favorite) lick the spatulas!”