DOTW: Cabaret

Posted by Cameron on 04.20.07 7:05 AM

cabaret [c] AEC 2007 ** all rights reserved“What a party.”

I figured that we were in for a good time when we hosted Mixology Monday: how can you go wrong with champagne and fun-loving crew of cocktailian bloggers? But there’s no way that I could have prepared for this bash.

The place was the kind of mess that only a spectacular party leaves behind. Bottles of champagne stacked three deep on the kitchen counter. The compost bin overflowed with squeezed fruit and zested lemons and limes.

I shambled through the house, stumbling across glassware, napkins, and hazy flashes from the night before. I remembered a woman musing on the best cocktail for an Aquarian. An intricate lesson in granita manufacture. A heated debate over the qualities of rye. A dessicated pile of yellow strips reminds me of the impromptu peel-carving contest.

“Oh hell. It’s Thursday. ” Anita wandered into the kitchen. “That party lasted all week. I don’t know what I’m going to tell the office. And what are we going to post for Drink of the Week?”

“There has to be something here we can use,” I said, pawing through the regiment of half-empty liquor bottles standing guard on the counter: bourbon, brandy, gin, vanilla Cognac, homemade infusions, syrups. “What about this?” I waggled the bottle of Benedictine that we’d purchased to make the Pegu Club version of the Prince of Wales.

“Hang on.” Anita dove into the Web and came up with a recipe: gin, vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. We mixed it up and clinked glasses. “L’Chaim,” I said, “Funny thing, isn’t it?”

A smile touched her lips. “Yes,” she said. “It’s a Cabaret.”

1 oz. gin
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
1/4 oz. Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Drink of the Week, entertaining, recipes


DOTW: Eggnog

Posted by Anita on 12.08.06 7:49 AM

eggnog (c)2006 AECThe Spirit World’s hosting this month’s edition of MxMo, with the theme of “cocktails for a festive occasion” — holiday-themed drinks that, ideally, can be made in bulk, ahead of time, and that guests can pour themselves.

This one’s easy: I love eggnog, and I don’t even mind the stuff that comes in a carton at the megamart. When winter rolls around, I keep a quart on hand in the fridge, and it makes a good option (minus the strengthening shot of booze, of course) for those mornings when I don’t have time for real breakfast.

The custardy eggnog below is a variation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. It’s a little more complicated than a standard eggnog where you simply whisk everything together, but it yields a more luscious drink… and one that’s a lot less prone to grossing out your guests than eggnogs that use raw eggs (and leave slimy dregs in your glass).

I’ve halved the original recipe, which made 12 exceedingly rich servings. (I like eggnog, but not with every meal for a week…) Even so, the recipe is still good for a small crowd; feel free to double it, should your guest list require.

MxMo10-FestiveVelvet Eggnog
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup + 1T granulated sugar
pinch table salt
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup spiced rum or brandy
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, plus extra for garnish

Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir in the milk gradually, blending well. Turn the heat to low and stir contantly until custard thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon, approximately 25 minutes.

Pour the custard through a fine seive into a large bowl. Cool to room temperature by stirring gently, preferably over a cold-water bath. Stir in the booze and other seasonings. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Before serving, fold the whipped cream into the custard mixture. Serve, garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and grated nutmeg.

Makes six 1/2-cup servings.

Note: Feel free to make this recipe ahead for parties — the eggnog keeps in a well-chilled fridge for up to 3 days, and the flavors improve with time.

Drink of the Week, drinks, entertaining, holidays & occasions, Mixology Monday, other blogs, recipes


The “no-recipe” club

Posted by Anita on 10.27.06 10:33 PM

apple cake (c) 2006 aecNot quite five years ago, my mom and dad retired to Henderson, just outside Las Vegas. Their neighborhood — a megasized age-restricted community — is one of those places where you can get hopelessly lost among all the similar-looking houses as you whiz past the golf course, the gigantic rec center, the three-story waterfall… You’re miles from the nearest grocery store or restaurant, or anything else other than a few thousand houses that look pretty much like your own.

But — as much as it’s the kind of development where I’d never choose to live — it’s a pretty cool place in one important respect. Since all the houses in their section were built to order around the same time, everybody moved in pretty much at the same time. Many of my parents’ neighbors had left behind friends and relatives in their old hometowns, and were anxious to make new friends.

My mom found her place among a great group of ladies who live on her street and beyond. They moved to Henderson from all over the country (and, originally, all over the world), so there’s a nice assortment of interests and personalities. In various combinations, they shop together, line-dance together, play Pickleball together.

One of the other things that Mom and her friends like to do is cook, so they formed a Recipe Exchange Club: They each take turns hosting a potluck, and everyone brings their dish’s recipe to share. Or, at least that was the original idea… apparently nobody’s brought recipes since the first “meeting”, because they all cook dishes that they know by heart. It’s evolved into an excuse for a casual meal together where the women sit in the dining room and talk about mahjong and their part-time jobs, and the men sit outside on the porch, admiring the view of The Strip in the distance and talking about poker and football.

Mom and I were in charge of dessert for tonight’s gathering. Since most of Mom’s friends aren’t big dessert-eating types, we decided that something fruity, and not too sweet, would fit the bill. Mom tinkered with a recipe she found on All Recipes, and came up with a great dessert that I bet also makes a tasty coffee cake.

After the amazing spread of dishes these ladies made, I wasn’t sure that any of us would have room for cake. But we sat and talked after dinner, and — lo and behold — everyone found space for a slice.

Caramel-Apple Cake
4 apples – peeled, cored and diced (approx. 4 cups)
1 T sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup apple juice
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt or angel-food cake pan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the apples with the 1T sugar and the spices; set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugars with oil, applesauce, juice, vanilla and eggs. Beat at high speed until smooth. Fold in flour mixture, then add in chopped walnuts and apples.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Serve slices with homemade caramel sauce.

baking, dessert, entertaining, family, recipes, Vegas
1 Comment »


One for Koko

Posted by Cameron on 10.24.06 7:25 PM

wineI don’t think that I can keep up with the Queen of Hearts’ six impossible things before breakfast, but this past Saturday I had two new experiences.

Our friend Craig’s dog Koko passed away recently. The official statement read that Koko succumbed to age and infirmity, but insiders whisper that a pack of squirrels in sunglasses was seen hurriedly leaving the grounds on the sad day. Of course, squirrels do pretty much everything hurriedly, but that’s whispering insiders for you.

At any rate, we were honored to be among a small group of friends asked to gather to celebrate Koko’s life. Given Craig’s fondness for wine, I figured that there would be a bottle or two open, but I was completely unprepared for the that table that he had laid. A long-time fan and collector of Karl Lawrence wines, Craig set out an uninterrupted string of Cabernet Sauvignon that started in 1991 and ran all the way up through 2003.

It was the vertical to end all verticals–I have never seen anything like it before in my life. The wine was identifiably all of the same provenance, but it changed from year to year. Some of the changes were due to differences in mix or grape, but as we moved to ever-younger wines, the tannic spine disappeared behind a layer of fruit. It was like watching a movie of someone aging, run in reverse. It was a marvelously poetic way to celebrate the course of a life.

At last, someone raised their glass and called for a toast to Koko. We rattled the trees with our homage, and I’ll add my own here: To man’s best friend, and to family.

drinks, entertaining, family, wine & bubbly


Another busy week

Posted by Anita on 10.19.06 7:36 AM

cauliflower (c)2006 AECAck, I hate it when I look up and realize that (a) it’s almost the weekend and (b) I haven’t written anything since the previous weekend. Chalk it up to a busy week, I suppose.

Which is not to say that we haven’t been cooking — and eating — quite a lot. Saturday we did our usual trek to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in the morning. Although the light wasn’t as gorgeous as it was the week before, there were still plenty of gorgeous specimens to photograph… many of which you’ll see in the week’s menus.

Saturday evening, we roasted a little chicken from Hoffman, which made us realize — duh! — that yes, Virgina, there is a huge difference between these coddled birds and even the Rosies and Rockys at Whole Paycheck. Just like the pork and beef from Prather, I’d much rather spend the same money to have a little of this kind of chicken than a lot of the commercial stuff. Anyway, sermon over…

I’d also bought a bagful of broccoli di ciccio and turned it into a tasty side dish with orecchiete and sauteed chickpeas. For such a simple recipe, it was incredibly satisfying — and even better the next day for lunch, with some of the leftover chicken meat shredded into it.

The next morning, I got up early and baked a Red Velvet cake from the Lee Bros. cookbook, in preparation for a dinner that evening with friends. Just like every other recipe I’ve tried from that book, it required a bit of interpolation to make it work, but the end result was pretty good… and definitely red! I realized in the process that I hadn’t done much baking at all, in a very long time. That’s going to change — I really miss it!

There’s nothing we like better than puttering around the house, tidying and cooking and getting things ready for a dinner party. In this case, an impromptu meal with our friends Sean and DPaul, who we hadn’t seen for dinner in far too long. They’d spent the afternoon putting up a truckload of preserves, so by the time they hit our living room, they were well ready for a drink… and to sit down!

We drank our Manhattans and ate a plate of radishes with Irish butter and fleur de sel, and listened enviously to their tales of pear butter and other seasonal spreads. Ah, another thing I haven’t done this year — not even a batch of pickles. Sigh.

Dinner was a salad of marinated roasted beets served with bleu cheese crumbles and rosemary-roasted walnuts; the Zuni Cafe cookbook’s mock porchetta — our old standby — with roasted teeeensy potatoes and chunks of fennel; and, of course, that Red Velvet cake.

Monday night brought a soup-and-sandwich supper: The triumphant return of the cauliflower and Stilton soup from a Soup of the Fortnight of yore, paired with BAT (bacon, avocado, and tomato) sandwiches. Yum! So much fun to take good bacon — this time from Prather Ranch — and pair it with pain de mie and one of the last superripe heirloom tomatoes of the season.

And then Tuesday, we ate a very simple dinner of chorizo tacos and soupy beans. Man, those Fatted Calf boys know how to make tasty sausage — I think theirs is even better than my own! Paired with Rancho Gordo ojo de cabro beans and fresh-masa tortillas, I can’t imagine a better quick-weeknight dinner. Or breakfast! We smashed up some of the beans, tossed in some leftover chorizo, doused it all with good salsa roja, and stirred in some of RG’s chips, and sprinkled with queso… chilaquiles on a weekday, be still my beating heart!

More food later… must go pay the bills.

baking, cookbooks, entertaining, farmers markets, meat, Mexican, shopping, Soup o' the Fortnight


DOTW: Spicy Sangria

Posted by Anita on 09.01.06 6:02 AM

spicy sangria (c)2006 AECFlashback: Just as spring ended, we garnished this sangria with pears and citrus for our garden-warming party. It seems only fitting that we bid adíos to summer with a peachy version.

Both the syrup and the fruit need to be made up ahead of time, so this is a perfect recipe to start today with an eye toward the long holiday weekend.

This recipe is based on Katie Loeb’s version.

Mixology Monday tag

Spicy Sangria
750ml bottle of neutral red wine
4oz orange liqueur, preferrably Cointreau
4oz brandy — we use E&J XO
4oz spiced simple syrup (recipe follows)
chopped fruit macerated in additional brandy and/or liqueur
club soda or sparkling water

Make the simple syrup the night before you plan to drink the sangria. If using hardy fruit — such as citrus, apples or pears — macerate the fruit overnight as well; summer fruits like peaches and berries only need a few minutes’ soaking time or they’ll turn to mush.The morning you plan to serve the sangria, mix the alcohols and syrup, and adjust for sweetness and booziness. Chill thoroughly until ready to serve.

Place LOTS of ice in a glass, and add some of the boozy fruit. Nearly fill the glass with sangria — leaving about an inch of head room — and then top with a glug of club soda.

Spiced Simple Syrup
2-3 sticks of Mexican canela (or 1 stick regular cinnamon)
4 full pieces star anise
1-1/2 tsp. cloves
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
one pint of 1:1 simple syrup

Boil the spices in the syrup for 5 minutes, then cool overnight. Strain, then use as desired.

Drink of the Week, drinks, entertaining, food boards, Mixology Monday, recipes, wine & bubbly
1 Comment »


Workin’ for the weekend

Posted by Anita on 08.21.06 4:55 PM

heirloom tomato salad (c)2006 AECBoy, did we have a blast this weekend… so much so that I’ve been too beat to blog.

Saturday found us in the usual place: Breakfast at Primavera — ack! no chilaquiles? I suppose migas are close enough — then a long wander around the Farmers’ Market. Highlights included taste-testing about a gazillion peaches (oooo… Frog Hollow didn’t make the cut), looking far and wide for the best heirloom tomatoes, having an excuse to splurge on burrata at Cowgirl, discovering the previously mentioned tri-tip of luv at Prather, and scooping up the weekly bag of gloriously bacony avocados from Brokaw … mmm, mm!

Back south again with a stop at In-N-Out Burger en route to Target and the Colma BevMo for their big Grand Reopening sale (had to use that $10-off-$40 coupon!). Then back home, for a bit of prep cut short by realizing that we’d forgotten a few things… Off to Noe Valley on a “bourbon and bouquets” run, stopping at French Tulip — where we ran into Sean, quelle surprise — for hydrangeas and such, then on to Urban Cellars for a shockingly overpriced bottle of Knob Creek.

Whew. No wonder I’m tired… that sounds exhausting. But at the time, it felt like a nice and leisurely preparation for the dinner party we hosted on Saturday evening, jokingly (but accurately) called “bounty of the market, plus cheese”.

As our guests arrived, we started with a round of Currier cocktails on the back deck, accompanied by gorgonzola-and-peach bruschetta from the Ferry Building cookbook. Moving to the table, we paired a surprisingly affordable Yalumba ‘Y Series’ viognier with a salad of heirloom tomatoes, rosemary salt, burrata, and toasted pain-de-mie breadcrumbs (photo, above).

For the main course… there goes that tri-tip again, offered with a side of our friend Wendy’s luxurious penne-and-cheese, the winner of a recent mac-n-cheese cookoff among our old Seattle crew, and a Galante Vineyards Carmel Valley cabernet. (We won’t talk about the haricots verts that we forgot to serve… oops.)

Dessert was easy but good: We stole a page from our friends Russ & Nick’s dessert tricks, sweetening mascarpone with honey… which we then drizzled over Ciao Bella grapefruit-Campari sorbetto, topped with a few perfect raspberries. Then coffee in the living room, served with a platter of kumquats and shortbread, and another of madeleines and macarons from Miette, and some Recchiuti fleur de sel caramels.

Hard to imagine we had the strength to get up the morning after such a glorious evening, but shopping waits for no woman! Another early stop at JoAnn’s en route to Toys ‘R’ Us — our niece is on her West Coast tour and must have Dora! — then home for a quick nap before the family arrived. Thank goodness we have an appreciative audience for our leftover mac and cheese.

breakfast, cooking, dessert, entertaining, farmers markets, food boards, Noe Valley, shopping, wine & bubbly


Eat meat manifesto

Posted by Cameron on 08.21.06 11:35 AM

Tri-tip (c)2006 AECDon Carne is the gangster name of my good friend and sometime bandmate; the “Don” is an honorific. He sports a sticker on his car that says “Animals are tasty.” Every now and then he catches a hand-wringing PETA zombie in the act of trying to peel the sticker off. Hilarity inevitably ensues.

The Don also likes to say, “You don’t make friends with salad,” which is why we all froze in shock when he told us that he was planning to marry a vegetarian. However, such is the power of his meat fu that his lovely bride is now a fan of hamburgers and cheerfully experiments with all but the gooshiest animal parts.

I feel like I’ve been channeling Don Carne recently. This weekend we had some friends over for a small dinner party and I grilled a slab of Prather tri-tip slathered with a paste made up of roughly equal amounts of garlic powder, pepper, and salt brought together with olive oil. Sear, and then roast on indirect heat until done. Wow, wow, wow. I can’t wait to do it again.

Right now, I’ve got some beef ribs sozzling in a dry rub in the fridge, and they’re destined for the grill tonight. Yabba dabba doo, baby!

cooking, entertaining, meat


Open House menu

Posted by Anita on 10.23.05 5:59 PM

From our housewarming open house — alas, no photos, as we were busy entertaining.

  • antipasto platter: marinated peppers, artichoke hearts, bocconcini, cured meats, olives
  • sesame crackers with fromage d’affinois and blood-orange marmalade
  • manchego-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon
  • Vietnamese summer rolls
  • Mini ‘BLTs’: pain de mie, avocado, bacon, tomato-bourbon jam
  • Coronation chicken-salad tea sandwiches with whipped cream cheese on walnut bread (open-face)
  • tomato/fontina/roasted garlic tartlets
  • camembert with walnut-pear filling and basalmic syrup
  • phyllo triangles: mushroom and feta, and rosemary ham with halloumi cheese
  • red curry chicken wings
  • croustade cups filled with honey-cirtus ricotta and a raspberry
  • French-style apple tart