Archive for the ‘drinks’ Category

A couple weekends ago, we threw a Gnome party to celebrate the coming of spring. Anthony and I did extensive gnomic research and learned that gnomes 1. live in forests 2. are happy-go-lucky vegetarians and 3. like melancholy tales. We thought they sounded just like us.

[Art by Elana Snow.]

We slipped some spring sweetness into beer by adding a dash of lemonade to make radler, a German drink of wheat beer and lemonade. Alongside, we served some forest morsels. First was a bowl of Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad with a box of toothpicks nearby for people to pick their little tree of choice.

It’s a simple recipe that calls for marinating raw broccoli in a toasty dressing of sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and cumin for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours. The results of all that time soften the broccoli until it’s popping with warm, juicy flavors. It’s surprising how good- and popular- this salad was.

We also made Cinnamon Cupcakes with Chile-Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Above is a picture of the cinnamon, ancho chile powder, cayenne, and vanilla extract splattered onto the butter and sugar batter.

They were awesome. The cinnamon cake base was only slightly sweet, just as I like it, and worked perfectly with the spicy and totally intriguing chocolate buttercream. These might be my favorite cupcakes ever.

So, Elana is our artist-in-residence and one of the most wonderful people ever. We met freshman year of college when we were both assigned to the Gildersleeve (…just like Gryffondor) house in AMR II. Elana lived with Malka and I lived downstairs with a vegan girl.

Long story short, I liked cheese and needed someone to eat it with, so our friendship bloomed. E and I lived together junior and senior year which was maybe the loveliest time ever. Anyway, Anthony and I spend way too much time discussing how much we appreciate Elana, and then he had the great idea to ask her to draw decorations for our party.

She was busy all week and had to be in NH the day before our party but brought a bag of markers on the train to make the posters. She said, “I was on the train and I started to draw gnomes. But plain and simple gnome drawings just bored me to tears. I kept looking at their cute little wise gnome faces and thought ‘I wonder which issues are important to gnomes. If a gnome were to run for president, what would his platform be?’ And then I became completely obsessed with the idea of a gnome election. It really took off from there.”

These posters have a permanent place on the wall above our couch. Thanks, Elana!


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That’s the Bramble from Little Branch, a charming underground speakeasy in the West Village. Behind a solitary, unobtrusive door lingering on an unsuspecting corner are steps that lead to a warmly lit room whose grooved ceilings, dust yellow walls and gently clinking glasses envelop you in old world enchantment. Slip into a high-backed booth in view of the stately piano and sip on specialty cocktails, precise combinations constructed by “mixologists” who take an alcohol and wrap it in layers of tasty sophistication. I tend to stay away from trendy, chic places because they make me feel uncomfortable but Little Branch’s unassuming glamor and inventive libations are delicious respites from a routine night out on the town.

Little Branch is located on an unsuspecting corner at 22 7th Avenue S, New York, NY.

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I visited Balt’amour last weekend to spend time with three close friends from college. Lisa, Malka, and Elana picked me up from the always cheerful Baltimore Travel Plaza.


We drove directly to Nacho Mama’s in Canton where we started sipping on these not-so-lethal hubcap margaritas. I’ve had many a discussion with friends about how the drinks in Baltimore are, for some reason, delightfully less deleterious than the ones in New York. I can drink without the fear of a terrible hangover the next day. Of course, Baltimore’s prices are kinder, too- these hubcap margaritas were $10 each, and we split that four ways.


Nacho Mama’s menu is expansive but I prefer to stick with the nachos- tried and true, with proper cheese to beans to veggies proportions. The jalapeños were actually fiery. My friends ordered quesidillas that were overstuffed, with the tortillas baked to a dry crisp. Not exactly appetizing but with such a large plate of nachos, who needed more food?


The next day we headed to Hampden’s roomy but odd Dogwood Cafe for lunch. We walked down a ramp to enter the large underground dining room and I felt as though I were entering a dungeon. The tables, lighting, and artwork were pretty fancy, yet, something seemed off. We sat next door to the kitchen and while the main dining room is perfectly presentable, I stared at the stretch of uncarpeted, shabby floor leading into the kitchen. I know it was a weird fixation, but that patch of floor was starkly different from the methodically decorated dining room and I started wondering why they hadn’t taken care of the floor everywhere and what this stretch of floor could portend about the kitchen beyond.


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On Saturday night, Anthony and I threw our Bermuda Sleighbell Groundhog Day party. Bermuda Sleighbell refers to a drink recipe in which Jamaican ginger beer is mixed with whiskey or rum. The combination- warm, spicy, sweet, but above all, refreshing, was our drink of choice for this party. My favorite was the ginger beer mixed with the $4 champagne from the store around the corner. $4 champagne, when mixed with other, tastier beverages, is not that bad.


As for the food, we were quite ambitious, as usual. We wanted to make one baked good, and fortunately, I found these instructions for Groundhog Day Cupcakes, which I used as I guide to make the shining stars of the evening. They look slightly evil, but also pretty cute, so they fit in well with the mischief-merry mood of the party. I’ll post my decorating instructions below.


And finally, this picture illustrates our attempts at making the jerk sauce that we used to marinate vegetables before we roasted them, for our jerk-roasted vegetables side dish. We found a recipe for jerk sauce here, and after doubling it, followed it religiously. (Missing labels in the picture: thyme, black pepper, lime, rum; this picture was taken before we added those ingredients.) Of course, it was INSANELY spicy, just incredibly, painfully, spicy. And we had a whole blender full of it. So we bought some yogurt and mixed spoonfuls of the sauce into a much larger proportion of yogurt, and added some oil, and salt, and then used that sauce to marinate sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and regular potatoes. Once we toned down the insane heat, the sauce was pretty delicious; with so many scallions, it was bound to be good. I would recommend NOT doubling the recipe, perhaps adding a little oil to the ingredients before blending, and then mixing the blended paste with yogurt, because the paste will still be spicy. But if you store the paste in a separate container, and mix small quantities with yogurt when needed, you’ve got yourself a handy supply of very good marinade.


Elana and Janki’s instructions on how to make Groundhog Day Cupcakes, adapted from here. You can use any type of cupcake (chocolate, vanilla, coconut…) as your base, but it should taste good with the coconut filled Almond Joys.


• Baked cupcake
• Almond Joy candy
• White frosting
• White jelly beans
• Chocolate sprinkes
• Watermelon slice candy
• Chocolate chips

Cut out a piece of cake from the center of a baked cupcake. Set the Almond Joy upright in the hole, then spread white frosting on the cupcake.


For the groundhog’s eyes, cut a white jelly bean in half, use frosting to stick the pieces in place on the groundhog’s face, and then make pupils by sticking one chocolate sprinkle in the center of each halved jelly bean. For the nose, either cut a tiny triangle from a watermelon slice candy (which is difficult) or cut pink jelly beans in half, which is easier and works just as well. For the ears and cheeks, stick chocolate chips on with frosting. Sprinkle chocolate sprinkles around the partially emerged groundhog for dirt. After showing off your creation, eat, but beware of probable sugar highs. These cupcakes are extremely sweet.


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The food at Cactus Club is abysmal. I would say it’s bordering on inedible. The chips and salsa were fine, and the only things I ate. But the $9 guacamole was clearly prepared hours before and then refrigerated until it was brought to our table, and the “Big Dig,” a supposedly “layered” dip, was soupy, gloopy, and nasty. The beans were bad but the cheese in particular looked like sticky yellow slime and had a really unpleasant twang in its taste.


But of course, we didn’t go for the food- we went for the drinks and its convenient location (it was New Year’s Eve). These Cactus Bowls or whatever, are enormous, and strong margaritas. We shared one between 4 people. At $18, that’s not a bad deal, but the food is so gross that I don’t think I’d go there again, even for a sweet drink deal.

Atmosphere: nothing really, drunk people, large space.

Guacamole: $9; Big Dig: $11; huge margaritas: $18
Cactus Club is at 939 Boylston Street, Boston, MA. (617) 236-0200

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[sublimely sexy]

Ciabatta, toasted, insides scooped out, filled with 2 egg yolks and fontina cheese, baked, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with black pepper and salt. Cooked, sliced asparagus forms a crown for this gem of a dish. The truffle smells and tastes so good, especially when blended with runny egg. The black pepper is accents the salty cheese and earthy truffle, and the crusty bread is the perfect edible bowl. Asparagus provides the relief from the intense decadence that is ‘ino’s Truffled Egg Toast with its bright, mildy sweet flavor.

Truffled Egg Toast: $8
ino is at 21 Bedford Street, between Houston and Downing, New York, NY. (212) 989-5769.

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A while ago, I spent a rainy morning in Queens at Omonia Cafe sipping a luxurious coffee mixed with mysterious spirits. The cafe is being renovated, so while there are numerous chairs outside, there is no indoor seating, and the waitress comes out from the depths of construction to take orders. I ordered the house coffee- the Cafe Omonia- and shortly after, a fierce rain fell out of the sky.


For forty-five minutes, I watched drenched people running for safety, while I sat outside, dry under the cover of Omonia’s roof, warmed by the mysterious concoction in my hands.

Omonia Cafe also serves cake, which I didn’t really like, but it looks pretty good (the Napoleon is pictured above). It is at 32-20 Broadway, Astoria, NY.

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