Friday, November 9th, 2012

Things To Drink This Fall: Apple Brandy Cocktails

You could argue that the brown-liquor renaissance of recent years has been a reaction to the vodka-drenched Pucker-corrupted cocktail decade that preceded it, which experienced its nadir in the hideous appletini. But in the tail end of apple season, with plenty of good cider available, I wanted to renew the apple "martini" (I succumb to the troubling but widespread practice of categorizing mixed drinks by glass) and unlock its long-betrayed potential. While bourbon may spring to mind as the obvious way to achieve this, I realized that, in fact, brandy was the key here, and I had a chance to resist the bourbon hegemony that has crowded out brandy from [...]


An Easy (And Even Easier!) Cassoulet

As we settle into the long, cold, dark days that come with the final slog through winter, we—your pals from The Awl and The Hairpin—will be bringing you some of our favorite casserole recipes (and crockery recommendations). But these won’t be just any old casseroles! No, no, that won't do at all. These are fancy casseroles—or at least, not-gross ones.

Cassoulet is not the most prepossessing dish. To serve a guest a bowl of it is to serve a gloopy brown mess. It's also mostly beans, hardly renowned as addictive. Yet when word got out recently that I’d be making cassoulet, a number of friends suddenly, and [...]


Cooking Valentine's Dinner With A Kick From Champagne

What makes Champagne so romantic? It may simply be that the form of intoxication associated with bubbles is uniquely titillating. Giddiness rather than wooziness. Champagne, the region, is at the 49th parallel, the same latitude as Vancouver’s, the northernmost extent of wine production. It may be that there is some sympathy between the grapes and us, owing to their endurance of the chilly and damp climate of northeast France and our own resolve to face down the February gloom with at least one evening of candle-lighted intimacy.

You could easily choose a Mediterranean wine for Valentine’s Day and fantasize an escape to the Riviera. But I for one prefer [...]


The No-Tears, No-Panic Thanksgiving Countdown Guide: The Final Week

You guys, I couldn’t be prouder if I were a den mother ironing some gold arrow points on your scouting uniforms. You can head into the final seven days before Thanksgiving with your heads held high. When you get released from work early next Wednesday, you won’t be rushing to the grocery store. Instead, you’ll have time for an extended happy hour or to pick up your visitors from the airport, because your shopping is done, the sheets are pressed and dinner is waiting in the slow cooker. But even though you are in an advanced state of preparation, with little additional planning left to do, don’t yet retire [...]


The No-Tears, No-Panic Thanksgiving Countdown Guide: Week 2

Even if you didn’t finish all last week’s assignments, you have reason to be proud of yourself. You’ve started—if only mentally—getting ready for the high hosting day. As you face down these final 14 days until then, periodically repeat these affirmations:

• I am not a procrastinator. I am organized. I am both confident and relaxed, because I have a solid plan and a clean house. • I give thanks for Thanksgiving. I am Thanksgiving personified. I am Squanto and Miles Standish rolled into one efficient thanks-giving machine. • The grocery store is an oasis of inner peace. Standing in line is not a frustrating waste of time, but [...]


Cooking With Rum, The American Spirit

The slide into winter, with woodsmoke curling in the air and the last vivid leaves clinging to the branches, doesn’t necessarily evoke the usual menu of rum cocktails. The mai tai, the daiquiri, the hurricane—they each want a fruit garnish and a tiny parasol. Yet on the cusp of our annual remembrance of the nonviolent collaboration between European settlers and American natives, rum is in fact the perfect commemorative liquor.

When the New World turned out to be devoid of commodities, the colonists turned to tobacco and sugar (brilliant!) to make their stakes worthwhile. Remember the “Rum Triangle?” It was the delightfully efficient trade circuit whose corners were sugar, [...]


The No-Tears, No-Panic Thanksgiving Countdown Guide: Week 1

Out of compulsion, obligation or your own neurotic drive, you are hosting Thanksgiving this year. You know you have the experience and talent to pull it off, but you also know that the complexity of it—and your own high standards of performance—can sneak up on you, making the final hours before Thanksgiving dinner a tear-streaked melodrama of anxiety and disappointment.

So if you want to succeed without losing a finger, your sanity, or the weak familial bonds you still have, we need to start right away. For the next three weeks, your hand in mine, we are going to head into Thanksgiving with grace and confidence, getting enough [...]


The Dr. Phil-You-With-Horror-O'-Lantern

The jack-o'-lantern traces its origins to the Dark Ages’ British Isles, where once upon a time, as oral histories convey, they were carved from turnips, illuminated with swamp gas and held aloft to protest the excesses of the financial elite. In sophisticated neighborhoods, the jack-o'-lantern has evolved into a tool for clever parents to send amusing political jokes to one another and to demonstrate their artisanal bona fides. The puking pumpkin simply won’t suffice anymore. A range of genius o'-lantern alternatives exists, but these mostly work indoors only. I’m going to show you how to design and carve a spirited jack-o'-lantern for your stoop that will shock and [...]


I'm OK, Tequila's OK For Breakfast

Because I live in a college town, the back-to-school season gives me one awful flashback after another. The sidewalks are a cringe-worthy pageant of undergraduates reenacting the libidinous idiocy of my own youth. It’s not unlike re-reading the middle chapters of Brideshead Revisited each fall, if Waugh had added in sorority girls. Though autumn may evoke spiced cider to the innocent of heart, to me it's the season of the margarita—the season of puking on a bouncer and getting kicked off public transit late on a Sunday (yes, Sunday) night. Over the past 15 years, I have gradually reclaimed my ability to have a healthy, adult friendship with tequila, [...]


Bourbon: The Best Food Since/With Bacon

How have you been celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month? Probably by drinking a lot of whiskey, plus the usual parades, fireworks, sending roses to all the people you threw up on, etc. So although this weekend is the final weekend of Bourbon Month, I want to show you how to make bourbon an even more integral part of your life all year long. No longer should you feel limited by the amount of bourbon you can drink, because you can also be eating it in every meal, including breakfast. Tie on your apron, here comes a bunch of ideas!


Cheap, Cheerful Flowers For Your Next Party

Autumn is here. It's time to finish that Campari and buy a bottle of Calvados for a new round of cocktails. Cookout weather is ending, and dinner-party season beginning—now is when cut flowers become most needed! But what if you only have time (or budget) to pick up a bouquet from the grocery store? You've surely stood in front of those refrigerator cases, sarcophagi of pastel tissue paper, baby's breath and disappointment, your Martha Stewart fantasy shattered.

Steel yourself, dreamer! From this unpromising sight, you are going to make floral alchemy happen. For less than $20—maybe even less than $10—along with patience, some advice and the contents [...]


The Ultimate, Fabulous Guide to Deviled Eggs

From left to right: Miss Grandma's Backyard (Potato Salad Egg with Apricot Fizz); Mademoiselle Alsace-Lorraine (Creamy, Lemony Egg with Reisling-Plum-Rosemary Punch); Miss Soul Custardy (Vanilla Custard and Chocolate Egg in Phyllo with Peach-Cayenne Coffee Frappe); Senorita El Trionfo de la Revolucion (Chicken Liver and Havana Club Egg served with Barbadian Rum); Miss Piggie (Egg with Jowl, Side and Belly Bacon served with Mint Julep); Jury Award Winner: Miss Spicy German (Red Curry, Sweet Chili, and Spicy Chili Eggs with Home Brewed Double Wheat Ale).

There's no activity that can't be improved with a little competition. Down South, where I live, sporting activities are eschewed all summer. Instead we [...]