Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

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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bloodorangemattbites.jpgLike many of my seasonal affectations, I’m always delighted when citrus season rolls around for three main reasons:  One: because it means the plump, juicy oranges from my tree will soon be ready and two: meyer meyer meyer meyer meyer meyer lemons, and three: blood oranges. And now that all are here I really don’t know what to do with myself. I’m pretty sure the guys at my farmers’ market are glad I’ve stopped running up to them each week asking the same question over and over again.

Unlike autumnal produce (which always seems so exciting but after about 2 weeks I am ready to move on), I could never ever tire of blood oranges.  I wish I had them year round. And here’s where my craziness really kicks in: I enjoy them just as much for their color as their flavor. Correction: even more so, I think. There’s really nothing else like that color. Crimson with hints of sunshine, pink with a touch of vermillion. And the juice? Such an amazing coral and ruby hue, depending on how the light hits it. I’ve been known to juice several oranges and stare at the pitcher for hours in appreciation of that color I hardly see throughout the year. And trust me, I know my colors.

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From the Huffington Post

hair_color_chart.jpgThey say the eyes are the window to a person's soul, but I disagree. I'm pretty sure it's the hair. Seriously.

For the sake of this article, I'm going to go ahead and admit that I judge people, and I judge them by their hair. I'm not saying everyone does this, I'm saying I do this, and I'll go ahead and tell you why.

You can judge a person on their shoes (Louboutins or Converse?), or what they wear (Armani or Anthropologie?), and that's fine. And hey, you'll probably get somewhere with that, maybe by going a little deeper and analyzing how they wear something: Does she mix Versace with vintage? Are her jeans skinny or flared? And just how flared and how expensively distressed?

All important factors. They might tell you how much money (or credit card debt) she has and if she lives on 73rd or somewhere between Bedford and Lorimer, but what they don't tell you is how much fun she'll be three-beers-deep on a girl's night out. What will? Her hair.

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mark-peel-at-3-twentyChildhood fantasy: Coming home from school on a cold day and having a grilled American cheese sandwich with a bit of tomato soup. Adulthood fantasy: A prosciutto, manchego and mint pesto pear grilled cheese sandwich paired with a glass of Hirsh Pinot Noir. Who says that childhood fantasies are better?

Last Thursday, Peggy and I went to 3 Twenty Wine Lounge, our favorite wine bar, for the return of Campanile's grilled cheese night. Campanile was one of the great Los Angeles restaurants that for many years set the mark for food and style for dining in L.A. It original owners, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, were the foodie "it" couple. Reservations were impossible, food was incredible and the venue, once belonging to Charlie Chaplin, was gorgeous. Sadly, like many great restaurants, it ran its time and recently closed.

Of the many innovations that came from Chefs Peel and Silverton was the elevation of the grilled cheese sandwich to an art form. Many chefs today are making amazing grilled cheese – Celebrity Chef Eric Greenspan having twice won trophies at the international grilled cheese competition – but it was Peel and Silverton who started it all. They introduced a grilled cheese night at Campanile that was packed for years. It was the original. It still is the standard.

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salmonI like bourbon, but not whisky. I know, I know, bourbon IS whisky, but to me there's a big difference. American bourbon is smooth and sweet and has complex flavors that I enjoy in food--warm spices, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, all kinds of fruit, vanilla, coffee, toffee, chocolate, caramel and more. Whisky, is fire water. Though a fan of all whisky, Chef Michael Symon summed it up this way, "drinking whisky should be a massage, not a wax!"

Symon was in San Francisco to talk about bourbon and Knob Creek in particular, an award winning bourbon made in small batches. It's aged in very deeply charred oak barrels, and is bottled at 100 proof. It has a distinctive sweetness and big flavor. Symon told me he like the boldness of it, saying it goes great with the kinds of things he likes to cook. "It's smoky, you can taste the age, like you can with a good salami. It has great depth of flavor, like wine and I appreciate what goes into making it--the 9 year aging process." Bourbon matches Symon's approach to cooking, "Things I like to cook take time and patience like charcuterie. Knob Creek is the charcuterie of the spirit world."

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