Spectacular Spectacular Cocktail:
Every Halloween, my sister, my father, and I get together for something that has come to be known as the “¡¡¡Shitty Phillips Halloween Spectacular Spectacular!!!” It’s our annual Halloween party and it’s almost always a failure. Either the food is bad or the film is dreadful or the conversation doesn’t flow properly. It’s just a mess, but it is a tradition. My table setting was delightful this year:
and I would not have been ashamed to invite Martha Stewart over to dine with us. My chocolate cake was a bit ugly, but delicious. The apple tart was absolutely stunning. The real triumph of the party, though, was the cocktail. Jessica and I started out with these lemon fizz things that I like. I found the recipe on some British pub cocktail website. I’ve since forgotten the proper proportions, but I shake 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup, and 2 ounces gin in a cocktail shaker and slurp. It’s delicious. We decided to start experimenting and pouring stuff into an antique cocktail shaker I found in my grandmother’s basement before she croaked. It has windows cut into the side of that show different drink recipes. We were most inspired by one called the Bronx, which has a lot of orange juice in it. We went a bit crazy and concocted something delicious. The next day I did a few trials and wrote down a recipe that best simulated the cocktail. I’ve named it the Spectacular Spectacular. There’s quite a bit in there, but it’s SO good and so worth it. In a cocktail shaker, shake: 2 ounces orange juice, 1.5 ounces gin, 1 ounce peach schnapps, .75 ounces sweet vermouth, .5 ounces lemon juice, .5 ounces simple syrup, .25 ounces raspberry syrup. Strain and serve with ice. ENJOY!
Have I written about beet salads before? Surely I have. But, no matter. I could write glorious descriptions about my love for beet salads until the sun explodes. I never thought I would be the kind of person who would eat a beet. I never thought that I would be the kind of person who would eat a salad, either, but here we are. Becoming a vegetarian will do all kinds of amazing things for your palate. Last night I made the most delicious salad, but let’s go back to the beginning of my fascination with this root vegetable. For Father’s Day a few years ago, I took my dad to one of the nicer restaurants in Des Moines, Proof. It has a more daring menu than most places and we both like trying oddities, so this was the perfect place for us. For my first course, I had a beet salad, and I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t know if I’d like it. I didn’t even know what a beet was, really. But, the salad arrived — one of those whimsical things made of foam and micro-greens — and I hesitatingly took a forkful. The arugula was divine, but my mouth exploded with delight when I tasted the beet. The flavor was intensely rich and earthy and I was profoundly changed for the better. Beets became my everything. Pickled beets. Roasted beets. Beet chips. Beet marshmallows. All the beets. I LOVE THEM. Last night, I rounded up the remnants of my salad garden — a freeze had killed most of them off — and I assembled what was truly an extraordinary salad with feta and an obscene number of pecans. My mouth was so happy. I’m drooling at the memory.
I’m not going to write anything about this. Just look and you will understand my love:
You all understand.
Bialetti Moka Pot:
I can’t remember when I first heard about stovetop espresso makers. It was soon after my return from my glorious life in France where I had first learned to love coffee. I wasn’t ready to invest in a professional machine, and I certainly didn’t want a drip thing. David Lebovitz had a picture of a Moka pot on his website, and I thought that might be delightful. So, when I finally found one at a kitchen supply store in the Mall of America, I bought it and was instantly annoyed. It took me basically a year to figure out exactly how much coffee and what kind of coffee to put in there and to season the blasted thing, but now I’m good. Last night, I made some of the best coffee I’ve had all year. It was better than that Nile piss I had at the Winter Palace in Egypt this summer and it was worlds better than that acidic garbage the Parisians call espresso — I’ve learned a lot. Iceland had fabulous coffee, though, which impressed me. I wish I had been fonder of Iceland. It’s so close, so I suppose I could reasonably go back for a long weekend or something. Back to coffee. I love that little Moka pot. When I was living in Los Angeles, I bought an even smaller one for my apartment, and I take it with me on my travels so that I will always be sure to have a good cup of coffee. You should get one, too, reader. They’re small and reasonably priced and so awfully chic sitting on your stovetop.
I have surely written about my unending and eternal love for Ina Garten before. And I’ve surely written about it frequently and often. I am ever more enamored of the Barefoot Contessa, and I must rhapsodize about her. For those of you not in the know, Ina Garten is one of the modern embodiments of perfection. She is chic, has a bob, has buckets of cash, lives in the Hamptons with a barn that is nicer than most mansions, her husband is adorable and RICH, she spends her day drinking wine and making food with her gay friends, she has a show that is a hundred times better than anything else on the Food Network, she pops the collars of her chambray shirts, she has a stunning apartment in Paris, she only uses good olive oil, and she is a New York Times best selling author. She is also my queen. Martha Stewart is the supreme deity, god-like in my mind, but Ina is more like an earthbound goddess — the daughter of god in this instance. Like how Jesus was the son of god. If there was a holy spirit, that’d be Julia Child. She’s dead and all. Anyway, Ina has the most beautiful and perfect life and I aspire to be like her. I want to have a gorgeous house on the beach and an apartment in Paris. I want my husband to take me to Napa and rent me a house that’s even better than the one on the beach. I want to invite all my casual acquaintances over for unnecessary dinner parties and show them (without saying a word) how much better I am than them. I love her so much. Yesterday’s episode reignited my ardor when she made the most luxurious dog biscuits and talked about how she tested the recipes on a lineup of canine friends. Then she sipped heartily of a blood orange cosmopolitan and sighed wistfully at her greatness. The credits rolled as she gracefully nibbled on a jalapeño-cheddar biscuit that she had just whipped up. She is the personification of perfection. As I was editing this post, I watched an episode where she was in Paris and wandering around the market that was two seconds from my apartment. Then, she and Jeffrey went for a picnic on the Seine. That was all lovely and made me sentimental, but when the both of them sat at the Café de Flore and sipped champagne with such contentment…I lost my mind a little.
They have got it all. I love Ina. I want to have a life like hers.
The political process is one that I am constantly intrigued and annoyed by. On the one hand, I oftentimes feel that government and politics and all that nonsense is just a bunch of garbage that fails to make a real difference. Then, I think about all the political aspirations I sometimes find within myself and sigh. I think I would enjoy being a senator or governor. It would surely be stressful, but if you could actually accomplish things to make the world a little better, that’d surely be worth it. Anyway, I’m off topic. Yesterday was the Midterm Elections, and I voted, as I always do, with an absentee ballot. I don’t think there’s anything quite so American or elegant as casting a ballot at your mahogany dining room table whilst sipping a cocktail. That’s how I vote, at least. I recommend it. I am appalled by the number of people who don’t bother to vote. Still, I can understand somewhat. If the only way that I could vote was by waiting in line with a bunch of peasants, I surely wouldn’t bother myself to do it, either. Do people not know about absentee voting? It’s delightful. You simply send in a request and the ballot comes to you! You fill it out, mail it back, and feel prideful as Lady Liberty smiles down on you, Uncle Sam pats you on the back, and Michelle Obama offers to work in your garden. So, before the next election, make sure that you send in a ballot request form and then vote at your leisure. Truly this is the civilized way. In the future, I assume we’ll be able to vote from our phones, but in the mean time, this is as close as we can get. VOTE!
Dunkin’ Donut Munchkins:
Y’all remember how passionate I am about donuts. I talk about it all the damn time. I LOVE THEM. DONUTS ARE MY LIFE! I blame them for the fifteen pounds I’ve gained. Stupid donuts. Delicious donuts; I can’t stay mad at you. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, but I love any donut. There is a shop in Des Moines that opened up a few years ago and it was the weirdest place. They have strange names for all their coffee sizes, and I think they speak their own language. The guy at the checkout said something to me, repeatedly, but I never understood. I eventually nodded and paid and sat down where I discovered that there were USB outlets at each table. What a wonderful world the future is! Anyway, this has nothing to do with my discussion of their Munchkins. Yesterday at work in the Teachers’ Lounge, there was a box of chocolate Munchkins. These are donut holes and I didn’t expect them to change my life quite so dramatically. THEY WERE PHENOMENAL. I wanted to collapse right then on the spot, but I didn’t want to spill hot coffee all over me, so I fought the urge. You know, they might not have actually been as good as I remembered, but I just really love donuts. I don’t recall ever having a bad donut. I think they’re all wonderful angels from heaven. Maybe I’ll make my own this weekend??? OH MY GOD, I TOTALLY SHOULD.
Daylight Saving’s Time:
I write about this every year but I DO NOT CARE. My opinion on this stupidity never changes a whit. I mean, it’s nice at the beginning because you wake up feeling extra rested and it seems that the day is going on forever and ever and you’ve never been more productive in all your life. Then it gets dark at five o’clock in the afternoon and you no longer care about how refreshed you are. You just want there to be more time to work in the garden or go for a walk after work, but then it’s so freaking cold that you wouldn’t bother yourself with either of these activities anyway. So, you decide you might go walk on the treadmill, but by the time you make it to your home gym, you’ve lost all of your enthusiasm, so you just lay on the treadmill’s belt with your cat laying on your chest and you stare off into space for an hour or so. Maybe this is just me? I hate this time of year and I can’t wait for the glorious return of spring. I’m going to try to be my perkiest, but I’m not making any promises.
To Do Lists:
I have cursed myself. A few years ago, I decided I wasn’t making good usage of my time. I thought that I was just letting the world pass me by and for the most part I was right. I started making rather extensive lists of tasks I wanted to accomplish. They included everything from exercise to washing the dishes to trimming my nails to painting a wall to calling the White House. All of this is true. As time goes on, the list becomes longer and longer and even longer and it’s to the point that it’s overwhelming. I work more at home than I do at work. When I don’t accomplish everything on my list, and I so rarely do, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. I don’t have a moment to relax and I’ve stressed myself out terribly. I need to find a way to accomplish things at home without this overwhelming urgency I’ve put on it. I don’t enjoy it. I just don’t want to be one of those horrible stagnant people that sit on their couch all afternoon. I don’t want to be boring. I don’t want to be an underachiever. I just need to find some middle range, I suppose.
You all know how much that I love beets from my previous missives about the delightful vegetables. There’s nothing better than beets. Well, actually, there are a lot of things better than beets, but beets are pretty great. I didn’t have enough greens to make a salad with the rest of the bunch I had in my refrigerator, so I looked on Martha Stewart’s website. She has never led me astray. Well, occasionally. I don’t blame her, of course, Martha is perfection, just as much as Ina Garten. I blame her staff! Anyway, I found a recipe for beet pasta, and once I had wiped all the saliva that had spilled forth from my iPad, I immediately decided to make it for dinner. WHAT A MESS! I have made homemade pasta many times in the past, but this recipe was not well done. It was far too moist, so I had to knead in over a cup of additional flour just to make the stuff usable. It stretched horrifically as I passed it through my pasta roller. Eventually, hours later, I finished the rolling and cutting and started cooking the lovely purple strands. They were really gorgeous and turned a lovely pink color. I tossed the pasta with caramelized onions, too much butter, cream, garlic, feta, and thinly sliced beets. It was absolutely lovely and I decided to gild the lily — that’s one of Martha’s favorite expressions — by adding gold foil. In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The beet pasta didn’t taste of beets at all and the pasta wasn’t that fabulous. I’ll stick to my old recipe. Still, I felt like the world’s most elegant bitch as I ate gold for dinner.