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Blackberry Chicken

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a fantastic article in which a writer for Vice’s food site invited a French sommelier to test out some wines that are blatantly and shamelessly targeted at women. The results are exactly what you think they would be, as the tasting notes from both Perrine Prieur (the sommelier) and Gray Chapman (the writer) are hysterical. Prieur has no qualms in declaring one red “like a bad tank that hasn’t been cleaned, that they’re just throwing shit into,” while Chapman slayed me with several quips that I won’t spoil for you here.

It might seem like an easy premise for a bunch of laughs–ooo, the fancy French sommelier doesn’t like mass-produced wine–but it’s pretty clear that Prieur came to this experiment with an extremely open mind and was just crestfallen every time the alleged varietal was revealed to her. More importantly, she made a point of showing Chapman several wines in her own shop that were less expensive and more complex than any of the ones that were part of the taste test, and that’s the reason why Prieur has rocketed onto my list of favorite lady sommeliers along with Gretchen Thomas of the Barteca restaurant group.*

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Cured Beef with Watercress Salad from Hawksmoor at Home

I’m not sure what it was that made me think making salt-cured beef in the fridge was a perfect idea for a chilly January weekend, but all I do know is that when I took out our copy of Hawksmoor at Home one Thursday morning before breakfast and I flipped open to that page, my stomach growled. Audibly. It also seemed so simple and the flavors so perfect to this time of year, since you grate up quite a bit of celery root and throw in some rosemary springs to meld with the salt and brown sugar–I mean, it was practically begging me to give it a try. Michael was sold on it pretty quickly, so over lunch I went out in search of ingredients and was able to place a lovely, just-over-one-pound piece of tenderloin into the cure and then into the fridge and I could feel very pleased that half of my Saturday dinner prep was well underway.
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The Hermès Madeleine

We’ve been in Baltimore for a month as of yesterday, and while there are adjustments to make like finding new food and wine stores and getting accustomed to driving around in a real city, overall the move has been a very positive one. We were mostly unpacked by the time New Year’s rolled around largely thanks to Michael going through box after box during his time off work, and even now we just have to figure out where to hang and/or place the remaining pictures we have stashed around the apartment.

(We also have to get used to living in a city with an actual football team again, and moreover living not that far from the stadium. We were spared the brunt of the excitement this year but I imagine next fall we won’t be making many plans to venture out on Sundays unless it’s to places we can walk.)

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Spanish-style gintonic

Don’t let the passing of Labor Day fool you: summer is most definitely still in session through most of September and we’re about to experience the warmest temperatures we’ve had all season this week, so I have no problem promoting a refreshing, summertime beverage despite it being past the acceptable date to wear white. Besides, in just over a week we’re going to Spain, and specifically going back to Barcelona and Caldetas/Caldes d’Estrac, and while I am naturally planning many ways to eat our faces off I’m also really looking forward to indulging in a few gintonics while we’re there too. Unlike here where at most places a G&T is simply some gin, tonic water from a beverage gun and maybe a wedge or wheel of lime, but in Spain it is most definitely a cocktail

Typically served in wine goblets instead of highballs, they also tend to be made with the little single-serving bottles of tonic water rather than stuff from the aforementioned beverage gun, and good, bottled tonic water is something special. As Danny Castellano noted in the episode “The Desert” of The Mindy Project, “tonic water’s tonic water, okay? It’s refreshing, it’s crisp. It’s the tiniest bit sweet.” A good gintonic lets that part of tonic water shine, and the addition of juniper berries and wheels of lemon and lime just make the tonic all the more flavorful.

If you need further proof that the Spanish gintonic surpasses all other versions of the drink, just see the delightful standoff that took place some time ago between Mario Batali and José Andrés on Twitter:

I think José Andrés won the gintonic-off.

This is a recipe for a very simple but highly flavorful version of the G&T, and it’s worth finding a container of juniper berries in addition to a little four-pack of good tonic water (Fever Tree is delicious) to while away the remaining weeks of summer, and to embrace those rare and overly-warm autumn days. As it always does, winter is coming–let’s all take a step back to enjoy the warmth.

Gintonic, Spanish-style

makes 1 cocktail, adapted slightly from Made in Spain by José Andrés

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 200 mL bottle Fever Tree tonic water, either Indian or Mediterranean style (Michael prefers Indian-style, while I love the  Mediterranean)
  • 1-2 leaves lemon verbena (optional but awesome)
  • 3-4 juniper berries, slightly crushed
  • 1 lemon wheel
  • 1 lime wheel

In a large goblet or wine glass, combine gin with tonic water and ice and add garnishes as desired. Serve immediately.

For added effect, aerate the tonic water by pouring down the spiraled handle of a bar spoon or from a great height.

 

Blackberry-Rosé Sangria

If you’re a wise person, you have declared this summer as the season of rosé (and hopefully caftan) season, much like myself, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to switch things up…and that’s when you introduce rosé sangria into your life. The idea for this came about when Boqueria  (a fabulous tapas mini-chain in New York and elsewhere) posted a recipe for a blackberry-centric sangria, and while I loved the ingredient list the actual recipe seemedd a bit…involved. So I borrowed some ingredients from their recipe and put my simpler spin on it and Michael has declared this to be the best sangria he’s had all summer.

Naturally, I need to share this with you. You should make it immediately, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Blackberry-Rosé Sangria

Blackberry-Rosé Sangria

makes 4-5 glasses of sangria (approximately)

  • 1 bottle rosé
  • 6 oz blackberries, rinsed
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cachaça
  • 3-4 sprigs mint
  • Splash of St. Germain
  • 1 TBSP of lemon verbena simple syrup (recipe here)

Take about half of the blackberries (especially any that may be softer) and muddle them in the bottom of a pitcher. Add the remainder of the ingredients to the pitcher, stir well to combine, and chill for at least two hours prior to serving.

Shrimp and Orange Salad with Arugula and Fennel

It’s not even August and apparently stores are stocking their shelves for Hallow-freaking-ween. I’m very much aware that holiday creep is a huge thing in retail (back-to-school seems to go back on the shelves around the Fourth) but especially after the winter so many of us had to endure this year, well, cheering on the arrival of the season of inevitable misery seems abominably cruel. It’s not like this summer has been particularly arduous here in the Northeast—we’ve had some periods of hot and/or humid weather, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far: a day or two of intense humidity have beckoned a cold front blowing through almost immediately thereafter, and otherwise we’ve had pretty pleasant weather. There have been many a weekend afternoon spent on the local beaches, and even an evening or two listening to the rain while we sit on our balcony.

In short, I’m doing everything I can to appreciate the summer while it’s here, and I will be loath to give it up because gauzy clothes and cool drinks are superior to woolly socks, fun-size candies and hot toddies, no matter what anyone says. Read More

Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

New Year’s Eve is my favorite food holiday, full stop. We don’t have to follow any specific food traditions, and instead we can make a number of small bites that follow whatever whims we may have in mind that particular year. In reality, the only rules that we do have around the holiday are simple:

  • No leaving the apartment, even to do this same thing at someone else’s house, because that never ends well.
  • Loungey clothes are necessary, if not required.
  • Games will be played
  • Wine, especially bubbly wines, will be consumed.

When our friend W asked what our plans were, I explained that we were pretty rigid on the not-leaving-the-apartment thing (seriously, the last time we tried to do this on New Year’s Eve, I ended up with a stomach virus) but that they were welcome to join us. As soon as she said that they would love to come, out came the cookbooks to brainstorm some ideas on what to make. I may have also put the El Bulli episode of No Reservations on while I browsed, and ultimately came up with more ideas for this dinner than I did for the dinners I was supposed to be planning for…because that’s how things tend to go.

Besides: a meal of this scale requires several days of brainstorming, and I ended up finding some fine meals to have on Sunday and Monday shortly thereafter. So there, husband. Read More

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