January 22, 2012

New Old Fashioned

I love a theme for a million reasons. A theme keeps a party creative, detailed and there's a guide to the whole thing for both food & decor. For my friend Kara's birthday last weekend, all she wanted 'good food.' Makes my job a little trickier. Where to start with ideas? I get bored making the same things over and over again so I wanted to mix things up, while finding balance with a few tried and true favorites. Winter is the season with the least amount of inspiration at the markets so I have to go elsewhere for my sources. I devour food magazines and tend to over order at restaurants to taste as many new ideas as possible. Plus I have my go-to cookbooks--Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Wildwood, the Canal series--that I'm always rereading because a previously dismissed recipe, can suddenly seem like the best dish on earth (latest favorite: Off the Menu). Then, when I'm especially unsure of what to make, I start browsing the websites of the best restaurants with rotating, seasonal menus: The Tasting Room, Le Pigeon, Girl and the Goat, Chez Panisse & Olympic Provisions. Here I always find exciting flavor combinations and little twists that make food new again. You don't need to always reinvent the wheel, but keeping it fresh is what keeps me engaged and excited to cook. I thrive on the little rush of, 'how is this going to turn out?' And, then, of course, on the thrill of sharing a newly discovered, tasty bite with happy eaters. Despite all of the chatter about inspiration, I'll admit that Greg's cocktails outshone my spread. Using Fee Brother's cherry bitters, instead of marachinos, in the Old Fashioneds was a delicious game changer. Plus, infusing the tequila with the serranos overnight made for the perfect kick in his herbacious margarita. Good food, good drink & good people made for a happy birthday celebration (250 balloons didn't hurt).
The Menu


vodka ginger sour
sobieski vodka, meyer lemon & blood orange house sour, ginger beer

serrano margarita
el jimador silver tequila, lime, basil, serrano pepers

new old fashioned
four roses bourbon, fee brothers cherry bitters, cara cara peel


chevre and blood orange & black pepper marmalade on endive

shitake, leek, ricotta & thyme tart

kale caesar salad cups

teriyaki brussel sprouts skewered with kimchi

curried toasted chickpeas

jalapeno pickled haricot vert

dunked grilled cheese with grafton sharp white cheddar
in roasted red pepper & tomato soup

fig jam, duck prosciutto & mint crostini

apple smoked bacon wrapped dates

pork tenderloin, quacamole, queso fresco & sriracha/lime crema on corn tortilla

lamb meatballs with harissa & tzatziki

rib-eye, horseradish mayo, arugula and crushed salt & pepper potato chips on crostini


vanilla on vanilla birthday cake

January 16, 2012

2012 Golden Globes: Bridesmaids Robbed!!

Shouldn't the winner of 'Best Comedy' go to the movie that warranted the most laughs? That being my humble opinion, I'm outraged that Bridesmaids didn't win at last night's Golden Globes. In fact, I themed my whole Golden Globes viewing menu around the sure-to-be classic. I'm saving my ideas for the other films for my favorite party of the year: my Oscar viewing party. But the Globes were the perfect chance to honor the film I fear might not make it on the Oscar's 'Best Picture' nominations list. We started with mini hoagie bites; if you don't remember Melissa McCarthy's use of a hoagie in the closing credits, RENT IT! Next, caipirinhas and a Brazilian plate to honor Kirsten Wig's ill choice in restaurants (which led to the film's infamous gross-out scene). And since Annie owned the bakery Cake Baby, there were plenty of dessert references to recreate. It was just Greg and I, so I stuck to single servings: cream puffs (Office Nathan's favorite), a lone cupcake (I couldn't quite compete with Annie's inspired treat), carrot cake (Annie's attempt to get Nathan's forgiveness) and broken up heart shaped cookies with chocolate fondue (Annie's chocolate fountain breakdown). I can't wait for January 24th when this year's Oscar nominations come out...fingers crossed for Bridesmaids. Should it make the list, I'll need to get my hands on some butterflies for decor!
The Menu

brazilian caipirinha

hoagie bites with salami, ham & cheddar

brazillian plate: sliced rib-eye, collard greens, black beans, plantains & rice with chimichurri sauce

cream puffs

vanilla/vanilla cupcake

carrot cake

broken heart shaped cookies with chocolate fondue

January 9, 2012

Downton Abbey Viewing Party: A High Tea

Not since Sex and the City, have I been as taken with a show as I am with Downton Abbey. I love the interweavings of the 'upstairs' and 'downstairs', the greatly nuanced characters, and, of course, am obsessed with the elaborateness and care that goes into each of their fancy dinner parties. To celebrate the start of the second season, I hosted a high tea to view last season's finale, so that we were all up to speed (I die for that garden party!). I made a tea sandwich and a dessert to fit the personalities of each Crawley sister. Lady Sybil, the highly spirited, youngest, is the family's forward thinking feminist. For her, I made curried egg salad on wheat--really in homage to her fabulous harem pants from Season 1. Spiced carrot cake followed suit for her spicier ways. Salmon gravlax sandwiches embodied the unlikeable Lady Edith's fishy ways. Similarly, a lemon-almond tea cake is a perfect match for her sour puss attitude. My favorite, Lady Mary, with her gorgeous beaded gowns, got my favorite tea sandwich: the classic watercress & cucumber (she happens to be as cool as one). And since she is the fanciest, imported chocolate--something special cooks of the day would order--fit the bill. Their American mother received a nod with a turkey and cranberry sandwich on mini orange muffins. If you're not on the Downton Abbey train, hop on; it's delicious television. Next time: a downstairs affair.
The Menu

assorted tea & champagne

tea sandwiches

cucumber & watercress on white bread
curried on salad on wheat
gravlax, cream cheese, dill & capers on pumpernickel
turkey, cranberry & arugula on orange muffins


lemon almond tea cake
spiced carrot cake
dark chocolate