Hello everyone! I have read about some food bloggers’ spouses who not only don’t read their blogs but are not even supportive of them. It is hard for me to imagine. Randy has been an enthusiastic supporter, reader, and sounding board for this blog every since I started it back in May of 2008. He brags about me and has used me as an example in numerous presentations for his job.
Randy is not a cook. His “bachelor dinner”, what he mostly ate before he met me, is rice, tuna, salsa, and cheese. He still likes to eat that when I am going out for an event, but I have to make the rice because he does not know how to make it and I refuse to have Uncle Ben’s minute rice in the house. BUT. Randy is a tremendous host and he pours a mean cocktail. He also sets an absolutely beautiful table and likes to do things like polish the silver. We are a good team.
He thought it might be a good idea to post about a cocktail now and then, since he makes them so well and they are a most welcome addition to our parties. So, for the first time on this blog, is Randy in his own words.
(Don’t forget to enter to win an adorable apron here.)
One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving (other than the sauerkraut) is the anticipation of the familiar, i.e., the traditions. I have lived a pretty itinerant life which included, at one point, having 13 addresses in 11 years. And in the 20 years after college, I never lived in one city/area place for more than 3 years. So to live in one house in one city for the past 4 years is a new personal best or it could mean that it is time to pack our bags and find a new locale. . . . kidding!
Throughout this time the two things that rooted me were Thanksgiving and Christmas. No matter what corner of the globe I was in, I would always try to make it home for at least one of these dinners. We served the same meal on the same china using the same silver and had the same conversations. And I would not have it any other way. This was home for me.
One of the traditions I remember was our Wootton Holiday Party. For years afterwards friends from the neighborhood would tell me that they loved coming because my parents always served real tenderloin (amongst other things). And whilst I remember the tenderloin, what I really remember was how much time/effort/energy it took to prepare the house for the party and then clean up afterwards. It seemed like we were preparing for days. The anxiety would build as party time got closer. We would bump into each other physically and emotionally as we all tried to get things ready. And then, there would be a final mad dash as the five of us rushed to put on our nicest clothes and our best “host”/”hostess” smile. And that was just the beginning. We would spend 4-5 hours hosting and then another day (at least) of clean up. Was it worth it? Certainly!
One thing I remember from these parties was “the bar”. My dad does not drink anymore; however, you could not tell from the bar he built for these parties. It would take over the entire round family dinner table and include all sorts of liquor, beer, wine, soft drinks and ice chests full of ice. From a relatively young age this became one of my chores and I loved trying to arrange all the bottles. Should I match colors, sizes, type of liquor. And although I HATED having to clean every single wine, hi-ball, cocktail, old-fashion, and collins glassware, I loved the effect of all the glass surrounding the bottles like attendants in waiting.
In hindsight, it seems like such a 1970’s thing. I mean how often do people really pour themselves a mixed drink these days at a party? It seems that today’s standard is wine and beer—which is fine. However–at our house–when we entertain, I need to “break out the bar”. (Remind one day to tell you all the story of the most expensive scotch I ever poured. . . really has nothing to do with the scotch.)
Dana, graciously, lets me take over an entire end of the island to build the bar. And she usually asks me if I am really going to bring out all the liquor again.
“Do you remember the last time someone drank Campari?”
“Do we really need 3 types of bitters?”
“Isn’t one bourbon enough and why would people care to try Scotch from Japan or India?”
I just like to create options. What would happen if someone wanted a drink that I could not make?? Maybes this is a similar anxiety to what Dana feels about not having enough food.
And so the “bar” is one of the traditions I have brought from my family and the “drink” is one that Dana brought from her family. It has been the tradition for 35 years that when Dana and her family have Christmas dinner at their friends’ house they start with a Champagne Cocktail. Not a bad way to get things going if you were to ask me. So we have started our own cocktail tradition where we pick a drink ahead of time, get to try it a couple of times to make sure that we get the mix just right and then serve it to people as they arrive. This year, Dana found the Autumn Orchard from Bon Appetit.
Starting with the classic Sidecar cocktail (brandy, Cointreau, lemon juice) Ted Kilgore wanted to infuse the flavors of fall (apple, pear, fig, cinnamon, and clove). He created a mix of Calvcados, Cognac, pear liqueur, Cointreau and adds a few dashes of spice-forward bitters and fresh lime juice. As he describes it: “The first sip gives you hints of spice on top of fresh fruit, followed by tart lime and clove, and, as the cocktail warms slightly, baked fruit flavors dominate,” I could not agree more. The only other thing I would add is “watch out. . . this thing has martini potency.”
So do you all have a favorite drink for this time of year?? I may start my own section for Dana’s blog on cocktails.
- 1/4 cup Cognac (such as Camus VS)
- 1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
- 2 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur
- 2 tablespoons pear liqueur (such as Rothman and Winter or Mathilde)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- Ice cubes
- 2 lime slices
- Mix first 6 ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice. Cover and shake vigorously 20 times. Strain between 2 coupe glasses. Float lime slices on top and serve.