As we get ready for a new year, reflection is inevitable. Of course every year brings some ups and downs, but those of us over here at S&C are an optimistic bunch. We don’t have too many regrets. After all, we’ve got a lot to be happy about — great family, good friends, our health, not too much economic misfortune. Not to mention, this blog. As we say goodbye to 2008, we leave you with a list of our favorites.
S&C 2008 Favorites
- Favorite shoes: Riding boots – so many colors, so many styles. You can wear them with skinny jeans and tights. Ms. S&C picked up a pair of really great patent leather ones and a pair of really, really cheap ones. And, there are at least two more she’d like to have.
- Favorite cocktail: Black pepper gin rickey – gin has become Ms. S&C’s spirit of choice, and she can’t get over the combo of gin, lime and black pepper in this drink. Message to Central: please put it back on the menu sometime in the new year.
- Favorite S&C-made cocktail: Punches – Ms. S&C likes fixing cocktails for her friends, but a crowd of peeps can be intimidating and a ton of work. Her sangrias and punches have been a life-saver. And, she loves that they are so seasonal.
- Favorite cocktail blog: Since starting this whole blogging thing, the guys over at Scofflaws Den have been an inspiration. They are always up the latest cocktail trends, and they definitely know their way around the best bars in DC.
- Favorite fashion blog: another DC local, fashion is spinach is vintage-y, yet modern. We adore her personal style, and are super happy that she’s joined Fashion Washington.
- Favorite cocktail trend: speakeasy-style cocktail bars – Hummingbird to Mars came and went during 2008, but fortunately, The Gibson has popped up as the new primo spot for innovative drinks and atmosphere. Another trend that was a close second: election-themed cocktails, and we expect those to be revived, oh, sometime around Jan. 20.
- Favorite fashion trend: recession chic – while we do not dig the recession, we love the it-is-cool-to-be-cheap revolution, and we love bargains.
S&C wants to know: What are your 2008 favorites? Shoes, cocktails, or other — share a comment below!
Just like her Christmas shopping, Ms. S&C is behind on the Top Chef recap/drink pairing. But, there’s not another new episode for two weeks, so I guess we’re okay.
Episode six, or the holiday episode filmed in the summer, brought Martha Stewart as guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge. Pray tell, why was mega-star-Martha only around for the Quickfire, and we got Rocco for a full hour?
Anyhoo, Martha came to the kitchen to judge the cheftestants one-pot-wonders. The challenge was to cook an excellent meal using only one pot. Some cheftestants took this one pot thing literally and cooked all ingredients together in one pot. Some took it figuratively and cooked ingredients separately and washed the pot in between. I was expecting Martha to scoff at the figurative group and be totally unforgiving for their lack of imagination. Not the case. Everyone was full of holiday spirit this week. While she praised Hosea’s true one-pot paella, she crowned Ariane the winner with her cauliflower puree and herb rubbed filet.
The Elimination Challenge had the cheftestants catering a holiday cocktail party for amfAR, using the 12 Days of Christmas for inspiration. Yes, that meant someone had to turn “eleven lords a leaping” and “nine ladies dancing” into fancy appetizers. Things took a dramatic yet uplifting turn when the refrigerator malfunction had all the cheftestants scrambling to save Hosea and Radhika’s lost ingredients. Coincidentally, Hosea and Radhika ended up in the top three. But, in short, the judges thought that the food stunk in general. And the bottom three were so bad, they couldn’t choose one to send home. Or, that holiday spirit thing allowed them to give the losers a break. It turns out that pulling off Christmas in July, for a celebrity charity gig, is tough for aspiring Top Chefs.
Hosea ended up winning with his pipers piping smoked pork loin with chipotle mashed potatoes, braised cabbage and apple jus. After having cooked a braised pork shoulder awhile back, with caramelized onions and chopped apples, I served my dish with a bottle of cider. I think cider would be a good pairing for the smoked pork as well. Tart and crisp, cider can be a delicious beverage, particularly during those warmer months. I personally like Woodchuck’s 802 Dark and Dry because it is dark and dry, and the sweetness is toned down a bit. Cider Jack is pretty good too, for a lighter option.
Break out the punch bowls! S&C has two great holiday drinks for you. Our friends LC and CA hosted their annual gift exchange party over the weekend. LC served the delicious champagne punch she makes every year. I think it is a family recipe. It is bubbly and festive and everybody loves it. If you don’t make it for the Christmas holiday, it would be perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash.
LC’s Family Punch
- 2 bottles of champagne
- 1 bottle of white wine
- 8 oz. apricot brandy
- 8 oz. triple sec
- 1 liter club soda
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl. Add block of ice. For less potency, half the amounts of brandy and triple sec. (As the night goes on and you continue to refill the punch bowl, halving is not a bad idea.)
After attending the Holiday Cocktails seminar, I was inspired to make homemade eggnog for LC’s party. Eggnog is quite easy, as long as you have an electric mixer. And by mixing the ingredients one by one, it ensures that they are well blended. This recipe is an adaptation of several I’ve seen. I didn’t add cognac or brandy (a spirit found in most recipes), mostly because I didn’t want it to be too boozy. I also added more vanilla extract and spices to make it more indulgent and dessert-like. I think the final product was a perfect accompaniment to chocolate pound cake and the other fine desserts served at the party. It is also a fine substitute for cream and sugar in your coffee.
- Dozen eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon clove
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
- 4 cups heavy whipping cream
- 5 cups milk
- 2 cups dark rum (I used Gosling’s Black Seal)
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add sugar, continue beating. Add vanilla, clove, nutmeg, continue beating. Add heavy cream, little at a time, continue beating. Add milk, little at a time, continue beating. Chill for 1-2 hours. Before serving, add rum and mix well. Garnish with nutmeg. For less indulgence, substitute some of the heavy cream with milk.
S&C Wishes You Happy Holidays and Best in 2009!
Mr. and Ms. S&C recently took a short trip to Philadelphia. We visited the city of brotherly love to catch the Neil Young and Wilco concert at the old Spectrum arena. Before the show (which was awesome), the mister and missus stopped off at two places that couldn’t be more different. Our first stop was Midtown II, the quintessential dive bar. It is a 24-hour, greasy-spoon type of place, that’s dirt cheap, and where you’re not too far removed from the grittier side of Philly. And, it has a jukebox. I love bars with jukeboxes. It is also the type of place that doesn’t serve a garnish in your gin and tonic. Mr. S&C is usually the one to seek out these bars, and I’m so glad he does. While I don’t get the off-the-charts inventive cocktail, I get a strong cocktail. And, I get a lot of atmosphere.
After a few drinks at Midtown II, we headed to its antithesis, Continental. Continental is an upscale diner plus martini bar. It has an extensive cocktail menu, and it is place where the beautiful people go. While the people are not nearly as interesting, we had a great bartender and really good drinks. I started off with a Side Car, a classic I’m loving right now. Then, I had a Pimm’s Cup with champagne. Mr. S&C had a refreshing Tom Collins and a martini with a blue cheese stuffed olive.
Side Car (circa 1922)
- Lemon juice
- Served with a sugar rimmed glass
Pimm’s Cup (circa 1823)
- Pimm’s no. 1
- Ginger Ale
- Slice of cucumber
Tom Collins (circa 1902)
- Lemon juice
- Simple syrup
- Topped with club soda
- Zyr vodka
- Blue cheese stuffed olive
The remainder of the trip had nothing to do with shoes and cocktails, but it was a great time, so I’ll share it nonetheless. The next morning, we headed to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast and a little gift shopping. It is must-see attraction when you’re in Philly. It is an extraordinary farmer’s market with fresh produce, baked goods, meats, crafts, etc. Lots of Amish specialties and ethnic vendors too. Next, we went to the Rodin Museum, which holds his largest collection outside of the Paris museum. I never get tired of looking at the Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais, and was able to see a new sculpture, The Martyr – all so haunting and tragic. Rodin was a genius.
We saved our grocery shopping until we got to the Italian Market in South Philly, where I picked up ingredients for lasagna: fresh pasta, fresh mozzerella, Sicilian sausage — everything needed for the best lasagna I’ve ever made. Then, we capped off our trip with an authentic Philly Cheesesteak at Pat’s.
A lot was accomplished in the 24 hours we were there. And, I would go back to every single stop next time.
In the fifth episode of Top Chef, the cheftestants are teamed up to cook for Gail Simmons‘ very own bridal shower. Gail’s friend, and Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine, Dana Cowin is guest judge.
The episode starts, as always, with the Quickfire Challenge. I think most fans of Top Chef really like the reoccurring taste-test challenge, where the chefs have to guess the name of ingredients in a blind taste-test. This time the challenge was some kind-of disjointed head-to-head thing that I personally didn’t like as much. Anyway, Hosea wins and gets immunity so you know he’s around for another week.
The Elimination Challenge is Gail’s bridal shower, where the cheftestants draw knives for the something Old, something New, something Borrowed, and something Blue teams. The “old” team cooks classic foods such as tomato carpaccio and terrine. The “new” team cooks a disastrous assemble-it-yourself not-sushi-sushi. The “borrowed” team borrows the Indian heritage of a fellow cheftestant (Radhika), and the “blue” team uses the deep blue ocean for inspiration. No big surprise that the “new” team is crucified and it is Danny who gets sent home. He may have been okay if he didn’t insist it was a great dish after hearing everyone destroy it. The winners are team “borrowed,” and Ariane was the surprise champion. Jamie was overconfident and therefore totally pissed because the dish was her idea, her concept, her secret ingredient (vadouvan), and she was team leader. While I think she could have been a bit more gracious, she did get screwed.
The winning dish was lamb marinated in french and curry spices, served over vadouvan carrot puree, and kale. While Ms. S&C prefers red wine with lamb, she just doesn’t love it with Indian spices. She’s open to it, but has never found the right match. Please send her suggestions if you have ‘em. Instead, she may choose an Alsatian white wine (Pinot Gris or Riesling) for the pairing. Sweet, but dry, she thinks it compliments the complex Indian flavors nicely.
PS – Fabio update: We are still swooning. How about the high praise he bestowed on Tom Colicchio, in his charming broken English? “Tom come in the room make me nervous. Colicchio for me is like if you are the priest and there is the pope in the room.” Yeah, he’s adorable.
Have friends and family that you still need to shop for? Don’t know what to buy for your work gift exchange? Gift-giving has gotten oddly competitive and so out of hand, it is now an exhausting chore to give gifts. You stress about spending too little, or too much, and then there’s the fear of your recipient going home saying, “What am I going to do with this?” Gifts do require some thought and some amount of time and/or money. But, Ms. S&C is here to help with some holiday gift ideas that should please a few and not bust your budget.
- The eco-friendly — pick up some organic fair-trade coffee, a coffee mug (I like these whimsical ones from Anthroplogie), plus a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Crème for good measure.
- The wine pairing — there are plenty of great things to accompany a good bottle of wine. (Don’t know what wine to choose? Go to a wine store and they’ll be happy to make recommendations – just point them in the direction of red, white, dry, etc.) Combine the wine with some fancy cheese, or another gourmet food item that compliments the flavors. (Cheesetique is my favorite local cheese shop, and they are always great about helping navigate their large selections.)
- The guy’s night out — combine a six-pack of his favorite beer (Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is a great choice this time of the year), a deck of cards, and a set of poker chips.
- The straight-up boozer — you can find plenty of add-ons to go with his/her favorite spirit: fancy olives for the gin drinker, or a cigar for the gent that likes Scotch.
- The pampering — there’s got to be a lady in your life that deserves some pampering. Pick up a spa gift certificate, (SpaFinder.com gift certificates are accepted at a ton of salons across the country), and make it a pedicure package with nail polish and some luxurious foot cream (I love any of the lavender stuff over at L’Occitane).
S&C wants to know: Have other shoes and cocktails gift ideas? Share your suggestions below!
This has been a busy week for Ms. S&C. She recuperated from her birthday celebration, attended the Holiday Cocktails seminar, organized by the Museum of the American Cocktail (details and recipes coming soon!), and now she’s getting ready for a quick trip to Philadelphia (let her know if you have any bar/cocktail lounge recommendations!).
While she works on her S&C gift ideas and holiday drinks, here are some blogtastic posts from her blogroll friends.
- Check out what Ms. Spinach calls the Cutest.Shoes.Ever, from Kate Spade. Yes, please, indeed! That cobalt blue is stunning. Kate also has a fantastic matching clutch.
- Ms. Dekan DC has a countdown clock to Free Shipping Day. Still need to buy a few holiday gifts? On Thursday, December 18, many of our favorite retailers will have free shipping offers, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
- Metrocurean highlighted the “lunch crush” deal happening over at Penn Quarter’s Proof. It is only offered in the bar and lounge; nevertheless, a $12 lunch (entrée and a glass of wine) in this neighborhood is for the recession-friendly budget.
- Up.All.Night. A Jigger of Blog announced that the D.C. Council approved legislation allowing bars, nightclubs and restaurants in the District, to serve alcohol until 5 a.m., from January 17-20, for Inauguration festivities. Good thing I have Inauguration Day off.