It’s a new year, a fresh beginning and it’s going to be noisy. With 7.5 billion people hanging out on Planet Earth, why are we surprised? Here’s a thought. Let’s bring joy and wonder into each day, making it sparkle. Let’s laugh louder and more often. Let’s try on Happiness until it fits. What we know for sure is Life’s overwhelming, difficult and sometimes sad. Let’s face it, our tank’s gotta be full to be grownups!
Every January I rethink this blog. Another year: Go or No. This began as a vehicle for me to re-build a life. Whether single by choice, divorce or death, I realized many others were making that same journey. Call it brazen or desperate, I decided it might be helpful to them and for me to tell my story, wins, fails and draws. The stars were aligned when I stumbled onto the French Fridays with Dorie group and began blogging. That was February, 2011.
Although I’ve put together a Lifestyle that is mine, it’s quite another to live it successfully. That’s true for all of us, male/female, single /married. What I know for sure is every aspect of Life is knowing ‘when to hold ‘em, fold ‘em, walk away or run.’* Writing this blog with all it entails has become part of who I am. Thanks to all of you for making that so. Let’s muddle through another year together. OK?
YEAR 2019 – MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
One way to win the resolutions game every year is to not make any ….. which I don’t. My only 2018 goals were to Read More (#ilovetoread), to Learn Something Everyday (#learningisfun) and to finish up my Presidential Library visits. (Done.)
During the past 7 single years, despite detours, ups and downs, I found the right stuff to set life right for me. No ideas were original but I needed to find, glean and pull together what worked. The constant I carry with me is to manage and worry about what I can control. Why let your happiness be controlled by something you can’t? I thrive, and always have, on goals, plans and projects. Lists and calendars are my buddies. “She was Organized” will be carved on my tombstone.
It’s never too late to reclaim your time and set up boundaries. At any age your mental health, physical fitness and diet requires attention. Everything you invest into your bank (your body) will reap rewards now and later. Get enough sleep. Trust me on that. Friends and family are golden. Stick with those who support, encourage and lift you up. Here’s a tip. Meet and make friends who are younger than you. While it’s fashionable to bash the Millennials and Gen Z’s, I live with them, work with them and listen to them. I’m the better for it.
We’re gonna do this … for another year.
TANGERINE-CHAMPAGNE SORBET by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
3 cups fresh tangerine juice from about 4 pounds of tangerines (I used tangerine juice available at Trader Joe’s and other markets.)
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 cup Champagne, or other sparkling wine
In a large saucepan over low heat, warm ½ cup of the tangerine juice with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 ½ cups of tangerine juice. Add the Champagne or sparkling wine. Transfer to another container and chill thoroughly.
Freeze in your ice cream maker about 20 minutes according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Put in another container and place in freezer.
Note: This sorbet will not freeze as hard as other sorbets because of the alcohol in the Champagne. However, it will make it more scoop-able once fully frozen.
*The title of this blogpost includes a Homophone, a type of homonym with words that sounds alike but have different meanings and different spellings.
As a kid growing up in Iowa, I knew three cheeses: Velveeta, Maytag blue and Swiss. My Mom always kept a 16-ounce block of Kraft’s processed cheese in the fridge. In Newton, located 140 miles from my home town of Manchester, Maytag Dairy Farms with its herd of prize-winning Holstein cows was producing a phenomenal blue cheese. And, my Great Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse who lived in Belmont, Wisconsin, used to send us a wheel of locally-made Swiss cheese every Christmas.
While I cannot remember when I last purchased Kraft’s “Liquid Gold,” many Americans still do. Think Macaroni & Cheese. In any given 12-week period, approximately one-third of us eat it. Not surprisingly, half are children. Remember in the 70’s when Velveeta and RO*TEL linked up? The result: Queso Dip. Link to the recipe from Food Network.
Called a Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz), this Italian cocktail and a decked-out cheese board belong together. Recipe at end of the post.
Maytag’s “Lonely Repairman” left Newton in 2007 when the Whirlpool company bought their appliance business. Although the farm still produces its iconic cheese, since leaving Iowa and for no good reason, I don’t buy Maytag’s Blue. And sadly, after my Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse died, so did my desire for a 2# wheel of Swiss.
In anticipation of National Voter Registration Day on September 25th, I’m just making sure these shoes are made for canvassing. For the last year my friend, Donna Grauer, has been involved in voter registration efforts in our 3-county area. She is also a USFS volunteer ranger, a Master Naturalist specializing in geology and a mentor with the Roaring Fork pre-collegiate program. (In truth, she is a crazy person!)
When I was in Paris last winter I lived a few doors away from cheesemonger Laurent Dubois’ flagship location. Dubois holds the prestigious and hard-won designation Meilleur Ouvrier (Best Craftsman) de France for his talent. Until I took a food tour through my arrondissement, the historic Marais district, I wasn’t brave enough to step through the door. Distinguished for his Comtés, small production chèvres and Pyrenées bribes, he also ages cheeses in caves below his shop and offers outrageous in-house specialties. After visiting Dubois during the tour I occasionally stopped by. Still, it was overwhelming in variety and intimidating to choose.
Hard at work in the French Cheese Tasting Workshop which I took last winter, offered by Paris by Mouth.
That’s why I enrolled in a French Cheese Tasting Workshop offered by Paris by Mouth to learn about cheeses, taste 10 varieties, and wash them down with 5 different wines and a never-ending bounty of baguettes. Of the many tours, walks, and workshops I did in Paris, my day with Jennifer, the Big Cheese, and seven classmates was the best.
To build the cheese board pictured above, I first started with the cheeses: Marin French Cheese, Brie Triple Crème (top); Point Reyes Toma Cheese (left); and, Rogue Creamery Organic Smokey Oregon Blue, with honey. All three were 2018 award winners at the American Cheese Society’s competition this year.
However, it was what she said to we 5 Americans after class that made the biggest impression. “You know,” she said,“they are making very good artisan cheeses in America now. Really good.”
I decided to find out.
#fromagefriday, Cheese Board for One
After choosing your cheeses, just begin building the board. More is better!
Sometimes when you know what you like and like what you know, it becomes a rut. When selecting cheese, I’m a bore. More days than not, I eat solo. And, while that’s never boring to me, I’m always eager to add a spark, to make meal time grater!
Why not, every so often, put together a cheese board for myself featuring 1-2 unfamiliar but well-considered cheeses – firm, semisoft, soft, fresh or blue-veined. And give that board a boost by adding fresh or dried fruit, cured meats, nuts, seeds, spreads, pickled and marinated foods, breads, crackers, a chocolate or two. Even better, pull out and include leftovers, odds and ends shoved to the back of your fridge and pantry.
The board on the Left is a perfect size for one or two people. With the board on the right, just go wild.
To my mind, food should be celebrated and eating it, an occasion. The process of building this board was as delightful as eating it. Whether a cheese board for one or teatime spread for 6 or holiday sugar treats for 25, the possibilities are endless. Choose your base, pick a theme, create a feast and make pretty. Need ideas? Look for Platters and Boards, Beautiful Casual Spreads for Every Occasion at your local library. The authors Shelley Westerhausen and Wyatt Worcel move the creative entertainment bar up a notch or two.
APEROL SPRITZ RECIPE:
Main alcohol: Prosecco
Ingredients: 2 oz Prosecco, 1 1/4 oz Aperol, Splash of Soda water
Preparation: Build into glass over ice, garnish and serve.
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice
Standard garnish: Orange Wedge
Drink ware: Old Fashioned glass
Cappuccino with a chausson aux pommes and pain au chocolat at Au Petit Versailles, called one of the top ten bakeries in Paris
GOODBYE, COMFORT ZONE…..
Last Saturday morning I stopped by a currency bureau to exchange my US $$$ for Euros. Having been in Paris only 3 days, I prepped for the conversation needed for this transaction. As I stepped to the window, I did my spiel en français, and felt quite pleased with my performance. The young man behind the counter smiled…bigly.
“C’est vrai,” I asked. He nodded his head. He understood.
“I guess you know I’m American, huh?”
The first carousel appeared in France in the second half of the 19th century and quickly became very popular with the Parisians. Today there are at least 20 and one is in my neighborhood. There is also a carousel museum.
Lenôtre has a shop on Rue Saint Antoine. For Easter they are featuring a collection of Les Tortues (turtles). I think this photo of my taking a photo of “Tortue Surfeuse” is fun.
Friday at the Picasso Museum I flipped to English when questioning a guard about an upcoming exhibition. “It’s alright,” he said. “I like to practice my English.”
“Petite fille sautant à la corde”, an assembly of found objects and scraps by Picasso
I’ve shopped so often at Monoprix, the major retail store on my block, clerks already understand my fractured French. For my first Paris meal at Au Bouquet St. Paul’s, I ordered Magret de canard aux figues et miel and, voilà, quack, quack. However, anything revolving around food and drink albeit unpolished, pas de problème. I’ll get there, my friends. Time is on my side.
I pass this gentleman every day. He seems formidable.
THE JOY IS in the JOURNEY, NOT at the JOURNEY’S END
During the past six years I have learned to be comfortable traveling alone. If you make a wrong choice on a solo trip, you fix it without feeling guilty for ruining someone else’s day. In my six years of going solo I’ve never met a problem I couldn’t resolve into a better solution. In my opinion, traveling alone makes you braver. Inspiration kickstarts creativity, expanding your mind. Dealing successfully with the unknown gives you courage. You learn to trust your instinct.
However, as many of you understand like I do, life can turn on a dime. For now, at least, I am privileged and somewhat in a hurry to be able to push boundaries. If not now, when? This 6 weeks in Paris is all about that.
Throughout Paris, if you notice or look carefully, there are small “art” objects stuck to walls of buildings and monuments. Mysterious artists such as Jeff Aerosol, Nemo, Space Invader, Philippe Gerard and Underground Paris create these pieces. John Hamon just posts his photo! It’s fun to be on the lookout for these.
Last Tuesday morning I boarded the Aspen to Chicago flight, beginning a six-week adventure into the Unknown Zone. By Wednesday morning I was unlocking the door to my tiny studio apartment in Le Marais. Unpack. Shop. Explore. Jet lag be damned. My apartment is modest, adequate and within my budget. (Yes, I have one.) It’s safe, quiet and I have already bonded with all 240 square feet.
What is fabulous, of course, is the location, Rue Saint Antoine, a street dating from the 16th century. Directly across from my apartment is the gorgeous 17th century Saint Paul-Saint Louis church, a magnificent blend of French/Italian Baroque architecture. The 170’ July Column of Place de la Bastille, dedicated to the 1830’s Revolution, anchors one end of the area. Christian Vabret’s charming corner bakery/restaurant, Au Petit Versailles du Marais, the other. Since it opens at 7am, who doesn’t need an early morning croissant and cappuccino?
Standing by my building’s doorway I spot boulangeries (5), a fromagerie, dozens of cafes and bistros, chocolatiers (5), Monoprix, grocery stores, fishmongers, flower shops, wine/Foie Gras shops, a bookstore and more. Much more.
It’s been a happy beginning.
Bonne nuit de Paris.
“Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.” Steve Martin
It’s time to take up arms. If Influenza A H3N2 heads your way, Just Say No.
Shot or Not is the question. (Still time.) Vaccination is a personal decision. Our family always takes the needle because Michael, who was a doctor, said so. He also said, “There’s no simple surgery, just simple surgeons,” and “If it’s a foreign object it belongs in a jar.” He also said, “Never buy a second house until you’ve sold the first.” But, I digress…..
Easily found Vitamin C-filled fruits for your smoothies: strawberry, lemon, guava, kiwi, grapefruit, lime, cantaloupe, orange, pineapple and papaya.
Seriously, readers, this is a particularly virulent monster. Ironically it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1918 global influenza pandemic that killed between 50 to 100 million victims. The Center for Disease Control is warning us that babies and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Curiosity led me to check what CDC meant by “elderly.”
If you’re sick, stay home. Do a puzzle. Amateur geologist Donna Grauer finds a project for her down time.
Here’s a shocker. I am, uh, elderly. And, if you’re over 65 you are also. Indignities aside, tinker with your winter’s lifestyle habits to protect yourself and those you love. To encourage healthier eating, here’s a delicious hack to consuming more fruits and vegetables. Colorado food blogger/author Tieghan Gerard created this Immune Boosting Winter Smoothie which she says is “jam packed with vitamin C and plenty of nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.”
I know, I know. These roses are over. The leaves are brittle. But I thought they were quite lovely. Another week, perhaps?
In the early 70’s as a single mother raising two girls, I won a generous Gannett Fellowship which helped bankroll my graduate degree at Iowa State. The University offered me an instructorship, structuring it to include health insurance. I also worked 2 days a week as an assistant magazine editor in nearby Des Moines, 36 miles from Ames. I loved my editorial work.
One day while working in Des Moines, a young woman walked into our office. Her travel agency had erroneously ticketed my boss’s flight plans. He was angry. She went into his office and, when leaving, was visibly upset. As she headed out the door, he walked into the front office and said loudly, “There goes further justification why men should be paid more than women.”
She was humiliated. I didn’t say a word in her defense. (Brave Mary, huh?) No one did. Please understand my male boss was a good guy and well-respected in the community. But he didn’t think twice about that statement. I, on the other hand, never forgot it. Despite the fact that I desperately needed that job, I needed to walk away. During my Iunch break that day I began looking for another job and soon was working elsewhere.
This week’s Time’s cover to honor the one-year anniversary of the world-wide women’s march.
When I asked my over-65 women friends if they’d suffered some level of verbal abuse in the workplace, most said yes and worse. Although, like me, they don’t ever revisit or discuss those painful workplace encounters it remains part of our fabric and armor. That’s why we find these #TimesUp revelations so distressing. For the past 40 years we’ve been consciously trying to level the playing field. #NotEnough
Although International Women’s Day is more celebrated worldwide than in the United States, I usually gather female friends for dinner.
Have our efforts counted for anything? More importantly, will this present-day crusade move the needle? “It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it,” says presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “But it feels like something is happening, a fervor, an excitement, an optimism.”
The March 3, 1913 National American Woman Suffrage Association parade in New York City.
As a reminder just how long women have struggled for equality, consider this: “The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1920, giving the right to vote to women took 72 years and required 56 referendum campaigns, 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to write women’s suffrage into state constitutions, 480 drives to get state legislatures to hold those referendums (5 referendum campaigns in South Dakota alone), 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include women’s suffrage planks and 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include women’s suffrage planks in their platforms.”
1 cup frozen mango chunks
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 small raw cooked or red beet, chopped (I used canned beets)
1 cup frozen Antioxidant Blend of Strawberries, Dark Sweetened Cherries, Pomegranate Seeds and Raspberries (OR) 1 cup of any mix of these frozen fruits
1 orange, blood orange, or grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 Tbs honey
1. In a blender, combine the mango, lemon juice, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, orange juice and honey. Blend until completely smooth, adding more honey if needed to sweeten. Pour into a tall (frosted) glass.
2. Rinse the blender out. Combine the beet, raw or cooked, “red” fruits, orange, and pomegranate juice. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding more pomegranate juice if needed to reach your desired consistency.
3. Pour over the mango mixture and stir gently to swirl. Top with toasted seeds or chopped toasted walnuts, if desired. Enjoy!
This morning Ardyth initiated me into the corp at the new 210-acre Wetlands Park Nature Preserve in Henderson. She and her husband volunteer here like I do in Aspen. Our chores are identical.
I first met Karen Kribs, above, fifteen years ago when we joined our mutual friend, Nancy Alciatore, for a month of immersion study at the Institut de Français located on the Côte d’Azur in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Nancy, fluent in French, tested into the Advancé 1 class. Karen and I, both neophytes, were placed in Intermediate 2, a notch above Débutant 1.
Since that time I’ve learned there’s much to admire about Karen. She’s a successful developer and Realtor. Formidable at the bridge table, she competes nationally. An adventurous explorer, Karen’s traveled the world with her late husband, Jim, who was a pilot for SAUDIA. When we lived in Nevada and our Aspen condo, for rental purposes, needed a total face-lift, it was Karen who stepped in to volunteer and turned it into the beautiful space I enjoy today.
While all this is laudable, IMO, nothing compares with her awesome ability to mix the perfect Cosmopolitan cocktail en français. During our last week at the Institut, everyone was required to present a 10-15 minute exposé followed by a 10-minute Q&A in French. As a novice, it is difficult to string French words together for 15 excruciating minutes and make sense. What’s even worse is hearing classmates ask questions in their garbled French that you must answer in yours.
Since Karen knew I was planning an exposé about Aspen and not wanting to rain on my parade, she struggled to hone in on a topic. On the day of her presentation, however, she waltzed into class with enough paraphernalia to stock a home bar! As she set up shop, our instructor, Jean-Pierre, was too shocked to remember the school’s no-liquor rule.
Having some fun with our resident bona fide francophile, Cathy O’Connell, (L) and Liz Adams, who will be biking with her husband in France this fall.
She preceded to teach en francais, with style and joie de vivre, how to make a Cosmo. Whether she was squeezing a lime or unscrewing the vodka bottle’s cap, she’d utter two or three sentences, then raise and wave her arm while exclaiming, “Voila!” (Move aside Dale Carnegie.) Midway through the presentation, about the 7-minute mark, she pulled out a pre-made pitcher of drinks and poured us a round. By the time she’d finished and yelled her 14th “Voila”, we were on our second pour and filled with our own brand of joie de vivre.
“What was best about my exposé,” she later remembered, “was that no one was in any condition to ask questions!”
Earlier this summer I spotted Stonewall Kitchen’s Pomegranate Cosmopolitan Mix at our local market. Re-visiting a nice memory, I dropped some off for Karen. Last week she suggested we get together with two of our francophile-leaning friends to mix up the brew. We “paired” the pomegranate cosmos with ribs from the Hickory House, finished off with my very light Yogurt-Peach Semifreddo, an Italian classic of eggs, sugar and cream (yogurt).
COOK-THE-BOOK FRIDAYS – Caviar D’Aubergines
Chef Glenn Smith shared with birthday gal Linda Stein and me a few of his cooking tricks during a wonderful celebration at The Cooking School of Aspen. More about the CSA in my next post.
If your farmers markets are like mine, each purveyor has glossy, dark purple eggplants, piled high and calling your name. This week’s recipe choice from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen is Eggplant Caviar, a kissin’ cousin to baba ganoush or moutaba. But, as David says, ‘eggplant caviar is easier to make, less rich, a smoky tasting eggplant purée with a squirt of fresh lemon, some garlic, and a bit of heat from a sprinkling of bright-red chili powder.’
For the French, Caviar D’Aubergines is a popular appetizer served on toasts. Use it also as a dip with veggies or chips. By adding sliced cherry tomatoes, it also becomes a salad, side dish or main course topping. I made a sandwich with sliced cucumbers, homegrown lettuce, sliced swiss cheese and a healthy spread of eggplant caviar with tomatoes. Can’t express how delicious. I shared this with Wendy Weaver, my vegetarian friend who is following a strict diet while training to climb Kilimanjaro next month. Passed muster.
Still flavorful but another option – add sliced cherry tomatoes.
Hoping you also are enjoying this last breath of summer with friends, fellowship and good food.
Thanks to Eskie’s daughter, Wendy, I spent a glorious evening with these two wonderful women, formerly of Des Moines, who I inherited when I married Michael thirty-one years ago. L to R: Me with Eskie Engman Shepard and Kay Bucksbaum
YOGURT-PEACH SEMIFREDDO, Anna Stockwell, Epicurious, June 2015
2 ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted, sliced
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Special Equipment: 8 1/2×4 1/2″ loaf pan
1. Line 8 1/2×4 1/2″ loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on all sides.
2. Cook peaches and 1/4 cup sugar in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until peaches are softened and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Let cool.
3. Whisk egg whites, salt, and remaining 1 cup sugar in a medium heatproof bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2–4 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg mixture until tripled in volume, glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk yogurt and lemon juice in a large bowl, then stir in mint. Gently fold in egg white mixture until combined.
5. Transfer half of the yogurt mixture to prepared pan; smooth surface. Swirl half of the peach mixture into yogurt layer with a spoon, then repeat with remaining yogurt and peach mixtures. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to seal and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.
the first layer of semifreddo – 1/2 full
6. Unwrap semifreddo, carefully run a sharp knife around all sides and, using plastic overhang, gently lift from pan. Invert semifreddo onto a cutting board, remove plastic wrap, and let sit at least 3-5 minutes to soften. Slice into 6 even slices, about 1 1/2″ thick. Transfer to plates and serve.
Semifreddo can be frozen for up to 3 days.
2 globe eggplants, 21/2 lbs.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for preparing the pan
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if necessary
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
11/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika or smoked chili powder
freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, or basil
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush with olive oil and sprinkle it with a bit of salt.
2. Poke each eggplant a few times with a sharp knife and rest them over a gas flame on the stovetop, or a grill, turning them infrequently with tongs until they’re charred on the outside and feel soft and wilted. Depending on how smoky you want them, roast them for five to ten minutes.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut the stems off the eggplants and split in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down on the oiled baking sheet.
4. Bake the eggplants until the flesh is thoroughly cooked, which should take about twenty minutes, but may vary.
(TIP: If you don’t have a gas or outdoor grill, you can make this by just oven-roasting the eggplant for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally until they’re completely soft and wilted.)
5. Remove the eggplants from oven and once cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and scrape the pulp from the skins into the bowl of a food processor. (You can also scrape them into a bowl, and mash them by hand with a fork.)
6. Add the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and chili pepper or paprika powder.
7. Pulse the food processor a few times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the herbs and pulse a few more times.
8. Taste, and add additional salt, lemon, or other seasonings, as desired.
9. To serve, spoon into a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour a bit of olive oil in the middle and sprinkle with chili or paprika powder or some chopped fresh herbs. Crisp toasts, crackers, or pita triangles are good accompaniments.
Storage: Eggplant caviar can be kept refrigerated for up to four days.
Cook-the-Book-Fridays is an international group cooking it’s way virtually through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen Cookbook. Visit our link here.
Who’s to say you can’t begin lunch with hot chocolate? Longtime locals and friends, Jessica Salet and Katherine Koch, had never tasted the Nell’s hot chocolate.
The world of a food blogger is occasionally challenging. Sardine rillettes? Maybe not. David Lebovitz’s Seaweed Sablés? Sticking with Snickerdoodles. Mimi’s Oxtail-Macaroni Gratin? I’m a lumberman’s daughter and partial to Babe.
Sometimes, however, sacrifices must be made. In the spirit of the upcoming holidays and our approaching winter, stress-minimizer comfort drinks are required. This week I’ve nailed down the only two you’ll need: The Little Nell’s Hot Chocolate, called the Best in America by Travel & Leisure magazine and the Original Irish Coffee recipe compliments of barman Dara Cruise of Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Now, Readers, who could better put the Irish in the coffee than an Irishman?
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE CREAM AND COFFEE LIVE TOGETHER BUT SEPARATELY – NO SMALL TRICK!
Realizing I will endure any travail and tribulation for LightsOnBright, I’ve navigated between an early morning hyperglycemia stupor and an evening boozy haze for the past week. Being tagged as the “Best Ever” is akin to “George Washington Slept Here” but, in the end, the Nell’s hot chocolate does lovingly caress your taste buds. Mmmmm Since the only Irish coffee drinks I’ve ever tasted were topped with Reddi-wip, I wanted to do better. I turned to the Irish who didn’t disappoint.
THE LITTLE NELL’S “AMERICA’S BEST HOT CHOCOLATE”. THE SWIRLY, TWIRLY CUP & SAUCER ARE BY VILLEROY & BOCH.
ASPEN’S LITTLE NELL’S HOT CHOCOLATE
Travel & Leisure Magazine calls it “America’s Best Hot Chocolate.”“Best Hot Chocolate Ever,” says Buzzfeed. This cup of deliciousness lives three blocks from me at The Little Nell, a ski-in/ski-out hotel located on Aspen Mountain at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola. I had never tasted this drink but last week’s full-on snowstorm became an opportunity to sip.
Tuesday morning Luky Seymour, Membership Director of the Aspen Mountain Club, and I met at element47, the hotel’s restaurant. We were soon joined by Pastry Chef Curtis Cameron whose responsibility it is to maintain this “Best in America” designation. “We serve this hot chocolate every day, all day, all year long,” he said, “but in the winter it’s especially popular. We average making upwards of 200 cups a day.”
WE MET LUKY IN 1986, SOON AFTER MICHAEL AND I WERE MARRIED, AND HAVE BEEN FRIENDS SINCE THEN. LUKY, ALWAYS A GOOD SPORT, WAS ONLY THINKING OF THE CALORIE COUNT OF EACH SIP.
The Chef and his crew create the concoction in 20 gallon increments. “If we’re hosting a special event, we sometimes meet the guests getting off the gondola with a cup of this,” he adds. “The secret is to use pure cocoa which is bitter and rich.”
Although Cameron says the home cook can choose the dark chocolate and cocoa powder of choice, he prefers Valrhona which can be purchased here. Truthfully, Readers, I don’t love or even crave chocolate but I found this to be delicious and restorative. All that dark chocolate, perhaps? And, let’s not forget the two light-as-a-feather marshmallows sitting on the saucer. Step aside, Campfire marshmallows. You’re done.
How do you spell R-E-S-T-R-A-I-N-T? Calories – 472. Cost – $12 a cup.
PASTRY CHEF CURTIS CAMERON OF ELEMENT47, LITTLE NELL HOTEL, ASPEN, COLORADO
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE
Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups:
alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. Alex Levine
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE, Photo Courtesy of The Four Seasons, Dublin, Ireland
Although my Irish Coffee experience is limited, I diligently plied the Web this week to raise my bar. First, choose among the many good Irish Whiskeys: Bushmills 16, Redbreast, Yellow Spot, Green Spot, and Jameson 18, for example. The coffee must be fresh, high quality and steaming hot. The slightly whipped heavy cream must be very cold. Therefore, when the cold cream is poured gently over the hot coffee, it will hang out on top and not infiltrate the coffee.
MISE EN PLACE, INGREDIENTS FOR AN IRSH COFFEE, IN DISARRAY. (Note: Please understand it’s been 5 evenings of Irish Whiskey. )
Although I stumbled and bumbled through numerous tasting trials, I finally settled on, what I consider, the best I can offer any home cook. My hot chocolate and Chef Cameron’s drink taste remarkably alike. (Minus the accompanying cloudy pillows, I’m afraid.) ) And, if I were an Irishman, which I am not, I would want my Irish Coffee to taste exactly as I made it.
“Irish whiskey is the comfortable clothing, the familiar friend, the comfort food of whiskey. You don’t have to work at it, you just enjoy it.” Lew Bryson
MY VERSION OF CHEF CAMERON’S DRINK WITHOUT, SADLY, THE HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS.
LITTLE NELL’S HOT CHOCOLATE shared by Pastry Chef Curtis Cameron, element47, Little Nell Hotel
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Valrhona Dutch process cocoa powder (or, your choice)
1.5 ounce Valrhona P125, an 80% dark chocolate (or, your choice)
Pinch of salt
1. Bring the half-and-half to boil, and whisk in sugar. Bring back to a boil. Whisk in cocoa powder, chocolate, and salt.
2. Top with whipped cream which has just begun to thicken. Add chocolate bar shavings to the top.
3. Variations: marshmallows, chocolate chips or a peppermint stick.
4. Supersize the chocolate with a sidecar of Amaretto, Bailey’s, Frangelico, Kahlua or your favorite coffee liqueur.
MISE EN PLACE FOR MY HOT CHOCOLATE
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE courtesy of Barman Dara Cruise, Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin Ireland
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 jigger Irish whiskey (1 1/2 ounces or 3 tablespoons)
Heavy whipping cream, slightly whipped
1. Fill footed mug or a mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty.
2. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full.
3. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Irish whiskey.
4. Top with a collar of the whipped heavy cream by pouring gently over back of spoon. Serve hot.
5. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if you wish.
TIPS: Be sure that your coffee is hot and your slightly whipped cream is cold. Hold a cold tablespoon over the cup of coffee and pour the slightly whipped cream over it and into the container.