Bourbon

Standard

It is a well-established fact that I love booze. Ales? What’s better than a frosty cider on a hot summer day. Gin? I could write prose about gin. Wine? There is decently likelihood that wine gives me hives and I still love it. Got that? I am probably allergic to wine and I still drink it (almost daily). That’s commitment.

But amber spirits? I’ll pass. Scotch and whiskey turn my stomach sour. Brandy and cognac are only good for baking. Rum tastes like bad college memories. And tequila? Oh, tequila. Of tequila we do not speak.

Now, bourbon… she’s a different mistress all together. Bourbon treats me wrong every damn time, and still I love her. Bourbon surprises me and makes me wistful all at once.

If you asked me to name my single favorite cocktail of all time, there’s a good chance I’ll tell you a Milk Punch from the Bourbon House in New Orleans. It’s divine. Be forewarned. If you come with me to NOLA, you will be drinking Milk Punch.

brandy-milk-punch-11-570x368

I love bourbon so much, that, when at a wedding in Louisville, I dragged five totally disinterested girlfriends on a two-hour road trip to the Maker’s Mark estate. Guess who are all fans of bourbon now?

IMG_6270

Like food, the taste of a certain spirit will bring you back places (and, I never want to be taken back to where tequila goes). Bourbon brings me down the bayou. With memories of sitting on the beach in Biloxi, MS, looking at palm trees still bent over from their battle with Katrina. Memories of dancing to slow moving jazz on Frenchman Street. Memories of rocking on a wide Southern porch of a volunteer house, eating strawberries and resting my weary feet.

It brings me back to the amazing group of volunteers that I’ve sweated with in that humid landscape – those that I may have known for only a day, and those who became like sisters. The end of most rigorous days, spent working tirelessly to help a community back to its feet, meant sharing a cool bourbon cocktail and sharing war stories. It’s a special spirit.

If you are now jonesing for a bourbon drink, you’re in luck. This one’s a gem:

The Big Texan Bourbon-and-Grapefruit Cocktail

. 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
. 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
. 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup (see Note)
. 2 basil leaves
. Ice
. 1 grapefruit slice and 1 preserved cherry, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, bourbon, simple syrup and basil. Fill a chilled rocks glass with ice. Add 5 ice cubes to the shaker and shake well. Strain the drink into the ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and cherry.

550546_10151195714074029_2091653862_n

Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/big-texan-bourbon-and-grapefruit-cocktail

Advertisements

Holiday party food that doesn’t take 10 hours to make

Standard

Tis the season. For multitasking. As we speak, I am simultaneously making my grocery list for the holiday meals, ordering some last minute presents, chastising my cat for licking the gifts already under the tree (gross), blogging, and trying to figure out how to eat some food so as not to head off to my pasta-making class with an empty stomach and – at some point – freak out from hunger while rolling linguine.

Earlier this morning, I checked and replied to work and personal email, wrapped a few presents, cuddled with the same offending cat, and made an appointment to have my nails re-done, since all of the above have led to them being chipped and awful. Yesterday, my mom called me and said she hoped she wasn’t waking me. As though I had time for sleep.

I bet a few of you just read that and thought. Yes, that sounds pretty similar to my days right now. It’s such a cliché that the holidays are busy. But, damn. The holidays are busy.

That is, no doubt, what led to the requester of this post to ask for some ideas on party food that doesn’t take 10 hours to make. As well established previously, I am super lazy. I would rarely make something that required more than 30 minutes to make. So, she is in luck… I have a few recipes to share.

Pancetta Crisps With Goat Cheese and Pear – Ok, confession time. This is the single easiest thing I have ever made that people go absolutely bat-shit crazy for. It’s an instant hit and I’d highly recommend it.

Caramelized Onion, Gruyère, and Bacon Spread – Cheese and bacon on bread. You get the idea.

Potato-Gruyère Tartlets – This one is good on lots of fronts. 1) It’s potatoes on dough, which makes it carb-tastic! 2) It only requires a little gruyere, which is a perfect way to use up the leftover bits you have from the recipe above. 3) Puff pastry appears complicated, but it’s NOT! You buy it at the STORE! Anyone out there attempting to make their own puff pastry at this ridiculous time of year, I will slap your pretentious face.

Caramelized Onion Tartlets – You already have the puff pastry, make two kinds of little dealies to put out. Then it looks like you made a bunch of amazing stuff, when really you just repurposed some ingredients.

Scallops in Orange-Butter Sauce – Scallops and shrimp are the best possible things to serve to look fancy-pants but really aren’t. Both are incredibly simple to cook. If you want to ante-up the fancy-pants even more with this recipe, you can substitute bubbles for the white wine.

Saucy Asian Meatballs – Serving meatballs will make your dad happy because it’s traditional and meat-y and he’s barely recovered from you telling him you’re making a roast beef for Christmas dinner instead of turkey which is what your family has done since the dawn of time and you are messing with something that wasn’t broken in the first place. (True story.)

428225_10150577278099029_1322197576_n 425982_10150577164639029_966967814_n  395731_10150577159639029_1212071695_n

So, when typing the above sentences… I made an edit. I originally wrote that I never cook anything that requires more than 30 minutes to make. Never say never.

My all time favorite holiday party dish is Grilled Camembert With Exotic Mushroom Hash. This dish is not especially complex, but it does require multiple steps and special equipment. For the record, it also allows you to light food on fire – for the win!!! Overall, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass. But, it is also divine. And, it will absolutely be on my holiday table this year.

598372_10151257068259029_1699733529_n

West Coast Living versus East Coast Living

Standard

I have thought a lot about this over the last year. When you make a move across country, it’s a natural instinct to compare your life on each coast and how it affects you. Also, everyone (EVERYONE.) will ask you about it, so you better have an answer prepared.

Needless to say, there are many, many comparisons that can be drawn. But, frankly, I think it all boils down to one. The weather is a lot fucking nicer here. I’m sorry, I know this seems trite, but I assure you it is not.

The only snow we expect this year,

The only snow we expect this year,

Let me be clear. It’s sunny and beautiful every day. Well, mostly every day. AND I LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO. Imagine if I lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Santa Barbara. I probably wouldn’t even have this blog. I’d be too busy being too goddamned pleased about the weather.

Here’s the thing. It’s great that the weather is nice and all. But the real importance lies in what the weather brings about.

1)   People are happy. Stinkin’ happy. Smiling-at-you-holding-the-door-at-the-pharmacy-strangers-complimenting-your-shoes-as-they-walk-down-the-street happy. At first, this feels creepy and suspect. And then you realize. Nope. They’re just happy. They’re happy because the sun beams in their face and they can be outside all the time and their kids run in the yard every day and they own dogs that prance down sidewalks that don’t need to be shoveled (ever) and they believe that October 21st is a perfectly valid day to go to the beach. When you move here, one day it will happen to you too. You will find yourself chit-chatting with the cashier at Whole Foods about the new figs in stock, without a care in the world about the line behind you or that you need to make your next work call in 20 minutes. You are now a West Coaster living in constant sunshine. You are happy.

2)   Activities happen outside. All of them. Sure, there are museums and malls and movie theaters on the West Coast. They are empty. Because, why would you stay inside when it is so freaking gorgeous out? I have not had a single conversation about doing something in California that has not involved being in a park, playing at the beach, climbing a mountain, pedaling a bike, sitting on a terrace, or paddling a boat. You know how on the East Coast, you cram every waking second of the summer full of fun and running around doing stuff? Imagine that all year round and you’ve got it.

3)   You eat lots and lots of good stuff all of the time. Ok, maybe this one is a little niche for anyone other than the foodies, but since I am one, this matters to me. The weather makes for a year-round growing season on the West Coast. That means a huge variety of seasonal produce. That means never-ending outdoor markets. That means farm-to-table restaurants with ever-evolving fresh, creative menus. It encourages you to eat what’s local and support West Coast farms, which is awesome.

I adore the East Coast. I always will. And, I totally recognize that – only one year in – I am still in the honeymoon phase with the West Coast. But, so far, I truly love it. Maybe all the sunshine is just affecting my brain.

(Disclaimer… I have also been asked to address the non-food differences between Boston and San Francisco, which I will blog about in a few days. I’ll focus on the specific attributes of the two cities, versus this broader coastal comparison.)

Comfort Foods

Standard

When you think about comfort foods, I think most of us look back on things we remember from childhood. Dishes our moms or dads cooked for us, consumed around a big table with lots of laughter and love. I didn’t have a particularly traditional upbringing, but I do have tons of warm memories of family meals.

We were pretty lean in my house growing up – with two parents generally balancing a job (or two) with night school and four kids (three teenagers and one much younger – me!), both time and money were always short. To combat this, my parents made a lot of “big pot” meals that could extend as a far as possible.

In particular, I remember huge batches of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken soup with rice, chop suey, and homemade macaroni and cheese. Not only were these dishes that could stretch, they were also warm, hearty meals that really filled you up. Which I guess is the essence of comfort food – something that fills the heart, soul, and tummy.

Interestingly, I am too experimental and too little of a traditionalist to remake my parents’ recipes. But, I do love comfort food and I have a whole host of sauces, stews, and baked pastas that I cook all year round (Forget needing it to be cold to make comfort food! Cozy meals are all always welcome in my belly.).

A few of my favorites:

Beef Daube Provencal

301392_10150363291399029_2053708138_n

Chickpea Curry (Redonkulously easy.)

554178_10151950263019029_1733220057_n

Chilaquiles (I always serve mine with scrambled eggs.)

935706_10151571636564029_875437918_n

Egg Salad Sandwiches with Bacon and Sriracha

1146596_10151772493544029_155026123_n

Lamb Ragu with Ricotta and Mint (for extra credit, make your own ricotta! Damn it, no one asked for a post on cheese… making your own is easy!)

179693_10150090614569029_8344374_n

Roast Chicken with Pears, Shallots, and Walnuts (Holy god, this one is good.)

390749_10150464814609029_1511390712_n

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish-Chive Sauce (This is my current plan for Christmas dinner.)

383551_10150777239269029_105478741_n

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta (Amazing.)

66388_447690749028_2846440_n

Spinach, Leek, Mushroom Tart

61129_442166269028_6998534_n

Traditional Yankee Pot Roast (I make Yorkshire pudding with mine, in a nod to the sous-chef’s British roots.)

157071_479556534028_5767386_n

It goes without saying, but the holidays are a great time for comfort food! For those that like to have the weather be just right for these kinds of meals, it’s getting cold. For those that like to gather with friends and family this time of year, these are perfect to serve a big crowd in that they’ll go far and are pleasing dishes. Lastly, for those for whom the holidays mean stress, these foods will do just what the name implies – comfort.