Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

colatura-bottle-blog.jpgWhen you live, breathe, eat and sleep food, it can sometimes be hard to muster excitement. This doesn’t mean I’ve grown weary of food and all it involves, it just means that it takes a little extra or a tiny bit of sumthin’ sumthin’ to really knock my socks off. Not that they need constant knocking off. They don’t. I’m happy with plain most of the time.

The pleasures of food and discovery happen when you least expect it. I can remember a moment 20 years ago when I had my first Meyer lemon and I thought the earth would swallow itself. My mind was expanding with each taste of that glorious citrus and I knew life would never be the same. The same can be said of having Jamon Iberico de bellota, a proper supplì, even Wisconsin cheese curds for the very first time. I can count those moments on one hand.

Last month in Italy I had another one of those moments at dinner. It was a fish dish with a very simple aioli––or so I thought. It turns out that the aioli was made with Colatura, an extremely flavorful Italian condiment made from fish and salt. My eyes must have given my excitement away as our dinner neighbor Fabio looked at me and said “It’s Colatura. There’s Colatura in here.” He explained how it’s made, telling me fish sauce has been used for thousands of years in Italy.

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sangria.pitcherEvery holiday party deserves a little cocktail. Don’t you agree? Using seasonal ingredients to create both savory and sweets is a given. Drinks should share in what the season has to offer and that is exactly why this cocktail will be what we will be toasting with this season.

Two years ago I made Moscow Mules and last year I whipped up Persimmon Mojitos using one of my most favorite seasonal fruit. This year I am all about the Honey Crisp Apple.

If you haven’t eaten one yet, you are truly missing out. It is the one apple, aside from a good Fuji, that I crave. Around 11 a.m. every day, my snack of choice is a honey crisp with a wedge of raw, white cheddar. So satisfying!

Whipping up a cocktail is an effortless task. I don’t drink all that much and when I do come up with something as simple as this I am reminded as to how much easier it is to mix up a drink, unlike a cake or a tart.

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From the NY Times

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I hadn’t thought of making tiramisù since the 1990s when it was all the rage, but in March friends asked me to bring dessert to their party, and it came to mind. Fashionable or not, it’s perfect for a crowd but also foolproof enough to assemble with my toddler daughter underfoot. It was a hit, extremely satisfying in a creamy, trifle-esque kind of way, yet more sophisticated thanks to the espresso and shot of sambuca moistening the layers.

I filed the recipe under “good for hungry hordes,” and planned to fish it out for a weekend away with friends. But as that weekend drew closer, I reconsidered. Baskets of plump, scarlet strawberries had finally appeared at the farmers’ market, and I really wanted to make them the focal point of dessert.

The creamy mascarpone and ladyfinger layers in tiramisù are a natural with strawberries. But the espresso is too overbearing to match well with the sweet fruit. All I had to do was swap out the liquid. It was early evening when all this pondering was going on, so naturally my mind leaped to the coming cocktail hour. What would be a good, boozy pairing with strawberries?

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jones2.jpgWhat could be better than to customize the label on your soda? Well, yeah, world peace, but in the meantime, Jones Soda, which my daughter Lena turned me on to, has done that. Right from the beginning.  In fact, they’ve gotten awards for their unique packaging and constantly changing labels, which are generated and submitted by their customers. Their attitude is clearly expressed by other product lines such as their energy drink: WhoopAss.  This season you can give the gift of Holiday Collectors Packs.  Be “thankful” Thanksgiving is over. They had Turkey and Gravy Flavor.  Look out Bernie Botts. 

 

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