Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

From the NY Times

strawberrytiramisu.jpg

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?

Read article...

paso102007a.jpg People are always asking me what I'm going to do with my wine education. Most of them assume I'm going to become a sommelier or a winemaker because those are the most well-known choices. In reality, neither is an option because both require more time and hard work than I'm willing to give to indulge my love of wine. I'd rather drink wine than serve it and with so many other people taking the trouble to make it, there's no reason I have to.

That being said, learning about the process, in limited doses, is quite fascinating to me. To that end, the founding members of the Studio City branch of the Friends of Cass Winery (an unofficial, nascent organization made up of me, my husband and our friend Sam) volunteered to help bottle their upcoming 2006 releases of Grenache and Mourvedre in the ever-growing Paso Robles area. We weren't sure what we were in for, except we knew it would be a bit of work and probably quite fun given the natures of the winery's owners. 

Read more ...

vanillateaI'm a tea drinker and I love experimenting with it as an ingredient. I make hot chocolate with tea and use tea to smoke chicken. But I have to admit, I only heard the term cambric to describe tea made with milk, such as chai, at an event recently at the T-We Tea Shop hosted by the California Milk Processor Board. It's an old fashioned term for a combination of tea, milk and sugar often served to children. But that doesn't mean you can't make it into something enticing for adults.

The certified tea specialist and proprietor Christopher Coccagna made a number of wonderful drinks for Winter with tea and milk. Some of the drinks had alcohol in them and others didn't. Some used herbal teas and some used black teas. Some will definitely perk you up while others are perfect as a relaxing nightcap. There's really something for everyone, even kids and teetotalers. Check out the recipes for all kinds of luscious tea and milk drinks including Vanilla Mint Cambric, Lavender London Fog Latte and White Russian Caravan at GotMilk.

Read more ...

sneeze.jpg Anyone who has known me longer than he’s willing to admit will tell you that there’s one grim subject that haunts my waking hours, a capricious and terrible bitch that lurks constantly on the outer ridges of my consciousness, ready to leap to the fore at the sound of a sniffle. What provokes such cathexis, you ask?  It’s the state of my perpetually fucked sinus cavities.1   I’ll avoid the details, just know pollen is my nemesis, Kleenex abound, etc.  Electric conversation really, sure to win many admirers.

The logical response to these histrionics should be, “go see a doctor, son.”  But you see, the thing is, I already have an allergist and an ENT and to whatever extent they’ve helped—and they’ve helped a lot—I still don’t breathe right.2  So I started seeing a Chinese physician whose holistic approach relies largely on acupuncture and healthy eating.  My allergies, I was told, would be much less of a noticeable intrusion if the following things were cut back on/removed from my diet: red meats, dairy products, wheat, potatoes, sugar, caffeine, everything created for human enjoyment. 

Read more ...

From the Huffington Post

holiday-cocktails.jpgThere are bartenders who make a living mixing cocktails, and baristas whose wages are earned behind espresso machines. There are high-concept tea masters, sommeliers, and soda jerks, too. At home we are never expected to be any of these, but when guests arrive for your holiday parties some simple instruction might be helpful. After all, there's a week's worth of celebrating still to be done.

I tend to restrict drinks at my dinner parties to champagne and wine and perhaps one great cocktail. I suggest you try all the ideas here, or create your own, but choose only one as your "house special." "What you don't need," says wine writer Anthony Dias Blue, "is people sidling up to your bar expecting a Singapore Sling or a mai tai," or both!

I know a thing or two about drinks. At age 16, I was a bartender, illegally, at the Olde London Fishery in Queens, New York. I was tall for my age and looked the part. Next, I had the ultimate pleasure of helping create two of New York's most spectacular bars -- the Rainbow Promenade at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, where Sleepless in Seattle was shot, and the Greatest Bar on Earth on the 106th floor of the now legendary Windows on the World. A great drink is always remembered.

Read article...