I compartmentalize my life season by season. Let me explain. Baseball rules the summer. There are few things I love more in life than kicking back on a hot summer day, cocktail in hand, and a ballgame on the radio (yes, I still listen to the radio). But come autumn, things shift ’round these parts. This easy going, radio listening, mild mannered baseball fan, morphs into a foul mouthed, TV shouting, football fanatic. Okay, so I might be exaggerating . . . slightly. As you know I’m a 49ers fan, and despite their performance on the field this year, I’ve still really been enjoying the playoffs. Plus, we’re hosting the Big Game this year, so the whole Bay Area is abuzz. We usually get together at my parents’ house on Sunday. My mom cooks hot wings, and my dad makes his legendary nachos, while I sip cocktails and keep the couch warm. However, this year my parents are out of town (was it something I said?), so it’s up to me to get the party started. It doesn’t take much to create the perfect game day spread. Just a few refillable platters of your favorite food, and of course . . . Hangar 1 Straight Vodka + cocktails!!
Speaking of seasons, this week’s cocktail is winter in a glass. You see, winter isn’t all doom and gloom. Winter is fresh and bright. Winter is citrus season! And there’s one citrus I’d yet to feature on the blog. That’s right, pomelo! Pomelos look like large grapefruits, but they’re actually sweeter, and milder in flavor. Plus, check out that giant pith! Given their subtle flavor, I wanted complimentary ingredients that would still let the pomelo shine through. Like elderflower, vermouth, and Hangar 1 Straight Vodka. The resulting cocktail is intricate, balanced, fresh, and screams winter! I don’t think Sunday will be the last day you’ll catch me sipping these bad boys. Which is good, since we’re currently in the midst of basketball season. Being the Bay Area kid that I am, the Warriors don’t just attract my attention, they demand it.
I had been dying to check out Juhu Beach Club ever since it caught my eye on Anthony Bourdain’s Bay Area episode of “Parts Unknown”. Chef Preeti Mistry’s Indian street food restaurant in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood was by far my favorite part of the show. I mean, you can only watch Bourdain rolling around on a mat practicing jiu jitsu for so long. Am I right?! So when I had the chance to swing by JBC for a boozy lunch with Leslie, I was sure to bring my appetite. The spicy chicken wings served in a sticky vindaloo glaze were a thing of beauty. The pavs (slider-sized sandwiches) were recklessly delicious. And the bhel salad (served in a jar) was overflowing, quite literally, with a diversity of textures and flavors. In addition, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their cocktails, which all utilize many of the kitchen’s savory ingredients – like rum, mango, lime and cranberry chutney. Or my favorite, bourbon and hot chai . . . gah, so good!!
As you may know, I’ve recently finished a huge house renovation. We bought the house last year, thinking the renovations wouldn’t be too extensive. Of course, it all ended up being . . . extensive. But I have to say, all that work was worth it. Naturally, the kitchen is my favorite room and I love spending time in this one bright corner of the kitchen (where these photos were taken). On the weekend mornings, I love making a shot of espresso on my Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo in my bright little corner. One of my new years “resolutions” was to slow down, and there’s something really satisfying and meditative about taking the time to enjoy an espresso in this bright corner of the kitchen. Another one of my goals this year is to go back to Mexico. I’ve been dying to go back to Oaxaca since I first went almost 9 years ago and it suddenly occurred to me that I should just go and stop making excuses! This champurrado recipe was inspired by Mexico and mornings with my Nespresso and if this is the first time you’ve heard of champurrado, I hope this post will pique your interest and that you’ll give this classic Mexican drink a try. Champurrado is a chocolate atole. An atole is a masa-based drink that is flavored with spices and anything from fruits to nuts. Masa is a corn flour that is made from dried corn kernels that have been soaked in limewater and then ground. It’s the same stuff used to make corn tortillas and tamales and you can get it in just about any market or online. The masa not only thickens the champurrado but it also gives the drink a flavor that is reminiscent of cereal. Think of a champurrado as your ordinary hot chocolate but with an even better thick and smooth texture. I’ve spiced this drink with the standard champurrado spices like vanilla, star anise and cinnamon and because I love the combination of espresso and chocolate, I added a shot of the Altissio espresso made with my Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo. The Altissio is a full-bodied espresso with hints of smooth cereal notes and pairs really well with the cereal flavors of the champurrado.Experience a cup above with this espresso chocolate champurrado!
About a year ago, I was tucked away in the corner of a food blogging event when two women approached me and introduced themselves. There must be some mistake, I thought. Why would these two happy, professional, seemingly well-adjusted women want to talk to some scruffy old guy? Plus, can’t they see I’m hiding in the corner?! Well, I’m so glad they did. You see, the two women were Sarah and Alanna, and they’re now two of my favorite people on the planet! In the past year we’ve shared countless laughs, a few cries, and even made ice cream floats. In addition, while I was busy sitting on the couch, Alanna wrote/photographed a book, and Sarah is . . . you guessed it, she’s having a baby!! Sarah affectionately calls her baby-to-be Cheese Baby, so when Alanna brought up the idea of a virtual baby shower, we knew we had to cheese it up! Meanwhile, Audrey and I had been tinkering with a cheese puff recipe evocative of our childhood. There’s a restaurant and bakery here in Berkeley called Fat Apples, and they make the most deliciously fluffy little sweet cheese puffs. We were searching for something similar, and after some trial and error, I think we nailed it. The rough puff pastry dough is divine – layers upon layers of buttery magic, perfect for a cheese baby girl!! Be sure to check out the links below for other #cheesebabyshower goodness.
My latest obsession is everything spice. I had some left over from a bagel experiment and started putting it on eggs. Mind. Blown. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t discovered this earlier. The everything spice is so crunchy, flavorful and salty that it’s pretty much great on everything. You can put it on some toast with cream cheese and lox or avocado toast. Make a batch of it, keep it with your other salts and seasoning and have fun with it!
The most challenging aspect of entertaining is being able to coordinate all the details right so that when your friends arrive, the table is already set, the cocktails are being served, the food is ready to come out of the kitchen hot, and you’re unoccupied enough to actually entertain your guests. This is why I’ve gotten wise to the idea of taking appropriate shortcuts where I can, especially when it comes to planning a weekday dinner party. Setting the table the night before and utilizing foliage you already have as decor, like branches clippings and fruit in place of flowers, leaves you enough time to prepare your meal. Adding small, spontaneous touches like tying herbs to individual loaves of bread and dressing the table with an abundance of candles makes a huge impression with little to no effort. And simply heating up a few of Bertolli‘s many delicious, authentic Italian skillet meals over the stove, just minutes before dinnertime, means your guests will be delightfully satisfied and you won’t have to miss out on all the table side fun. After all, you are the host! Check out how our midweek, Tuscan-themed dinner party came together with the help of Bertolli. Hopefully, it will inspire you to Mangia!