Monthly Archives: February 2009

S&C alerts–red hot fashion and cocktails

Here are some of Ms. S&C’s favorite finds in the worlds of shoes and cocktails.

New York Fashion Week was last week. I’m always a bit overwhelmed and underwhelmed by fashion weeks. There’s always so much coverage, and I never know what to read. Plus, there’s the whole never-in-my-lifetime-will-I-ever-afford-this-so-why-bother aspect. Well, I’m happy to report two things:

  • Fashion Washington covered fashion week via their FW Runway Report blog. It is a great digestible collection of photos, runway reports, backstage stories and fashion commentary. Note to self: need to tone arms and shoulders — lots of one-shoulder looks and fur coming in the fall.oscar-de-la-renta
  • Footwear News also spotlighted designers shoes. Subscription access prevents us from seeing a lot of the styles, but it appears platforms, booties and exotic prints will be popular in the fall. I particularly like the pointy platform booties from Oscar de la Renta.

And speaking of digestible, in last week’s Washington Post Food Section, Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad, shared a very interesting dessert cocktail using chili peppers. The Hot and Cold Whisky cold-whisky-chili-granitaChili Granita is definitely a contender for the S&C test kitchen. You can change the flavor depending on the chili pepper and spirit used. For example–for a smokier flavor, use chipotle peppers and single malt scotch; for something sweeter, use bourbon. The Whisky Chili Granita is described as something that could “wake up” guests after a long dinner. Cheers to that.

posted by Ms. S&C

Citrus Juicing and Ice Chipping

I recently tried out two new tools that are sure to enhance the cocktail concoction experience.

I gave the Black & Decker Citrus Juicer to my dad for Christmas in 2008, after spending over half an hour one evening juicing lemons and limes for his family-sized batch of whiskey sours. I decided to invest in this small, affordable home juicer as a present for dad (and to give my poor hands a break). It’s small enough not to take up too much room in my parents’ limited cabinet space.

We finally whipped it out one Sunday to make a batch of the much-lauded whiskey sours. I must admit, even thdscn09052ough I was the one who bought the juicer in the first place, I was still skeptical that it would produce results good enough to convince me to forgo my hand juicer.

For a $15 purchase, the results were pretty stellar. The way it works is this: you fit the citrus over one of the two plastic reamers (a larger one for oranges & grapefruit, a smaller one for lemons & limes). When you press down, the reamer automatically spins, extracting the juice into the awaiting container. Seconds later, you have a bone-dry citrus rind in one hand and a cup full of juice in the other (up to 34 ounces worth). This particular model also has different settings for no pulp, medium pulp and pulp-a-plenty. Brilliant!

dscn0908The other tool I tried out that might deserve a place on your cocktail cart is the manual ice grinder. It’s basically a plastic container with a sharp metal mouth through which you feed your ice cubes. Depending upon the direction you turn the crank, the result is large ice chips or fine ice slush. Though you have to definitely exert some strong arm power to properly chip the ice, the results are worth the effort for those times when ice cubes are just too inelegant and bulky.

I think the best way to make use of these two finds is a mid-winter cocktail that celebrates them both. The Salty Dog is just the ticket: squeeze your own grapefruit juice, chip your own ice, them mix them both together with some gin and serve in a salted-rim glass.

The Salty Dog
serves one

  • 4-5 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz gin
  • Salt
  • Chipped ice

Chill your cocktail glass in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before preparing the drink. Pour salt (a couple spoonfuls should be plenty) on a square of parchment paper. Dip and roll the edge of the chilled glass in salt. (If the salt has trouble sticking to the glass, try rubbing the glass with a wedge of lime, first.). Pour gin and juice in glass; fill with ice and stir to mix.

Posted by Miss Mojito

Big Easy Showdown

We’re getting close to crowning another Top Chef winner. In the last episode, the cheftestants arrived in New Orleans for a great showdown. The Big Easy’s most famous chef, Emeril, was guest judge. In a surprise twist, previously eliminated contestants Leah, Jamie and Jeff were brought back to compete in the Quickfire Challenge, which featured crawfish as the main ingredient. Emeril was hot-to-trot over Jeff’s crawfish and grits, so he earned a spot in the Elimination Challenge. The Elimination Challenge had the cheftestants cooking two Cajun-Creole influenced dishes and a cocktail!, for guests at a masquerade ball.

The Euro Duo prepared the least favorite dishes. Stefan lazily made gumbo and Fabio didn’t use enough heat. The Europeans apparently can’t make cocktails either because both Fabio’s bell pepper martini and Stefan’s black cherry rum cocktail were much too sweet. Sadly, we had to say arrivederci to our charming Fabio, and again to Jeff. But, we rejoiced when our hometown girl Carla won with her oyster stew, savory beignet and non-alcoholic cranberry lime spritzer. The oyster stew looked amazing and Bravo has made the recipe available.

carla_oyster_stew1

Carla’s Oyster Stew with bacon, potatoes and celery root

As far as a drink pairing, we really, really, really wanted to bring you Jeff’s cucumber mojito. Not only is it a refreshing twist on the cocktail, it was the judges’ favorite, and for crying out loud, we’ve got someone named Miss Mojito around here! We’ll keep an eye out for it, but in the meantime here are two other recipes that look promising, the infused version in particular.

Cucumber Mojitos for a Crowd
recipe appeared in Seattle Times and makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups light rum
  • 1 bunch fresh mint (about 1 ½ cups sprigs)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fresh lime juice
  • Loads of ice for serving
  • 1 bottle (10-ounces) soda water
  • Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine the rum, 1 bunch mint and half of the cucumber slices. Cover and let infuse overnight.
  2. The next day, strain the rum, being sure to press out all the rum! Discard the mint and cucumber. Place the rum in a large pitcher and add the sugar and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining cucumber slices. Right before serving, add the soda water and stir gently.
  3. Serve in glasses filled with ice and garnish with mint.

Cucumber Mojitos
recipe courtesy of myrecipes and makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large)
  • 12 mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 4 mint sprigs
  • 4 cucumber slices
  • 4 lime wedges

Directions:

  1. Place 2 cups water and chopped cucumber in a blender; process until smooth. Strain cucumber mixture through a sieve into a medium bowl; discard solids.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 4 mint leaves in a 2-cup glass measure; crush with a wooden spoon. Add 3 tablespoons rum and about 1/2 cup cucumber mixture; stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in 1/4 cup sparkling water. Place 1/4 cup ice in a 12-ounce glass; pour cucumber mixture over ice. Garnish with 1 mint sprig, 1 cucumber slice, and 1 lime wedge. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

posted by Ms. S&C

We’re live on Oscar night!

The S&C Team are blogging live on Hollywood’s biggest night of the year!

Ms. S&C: Just saw Heidi Klum in a gorgeous one-shoulder red hot number. And matching red satin pumps. Can’t wait to find out who those were. Not sure about the excessive jewelry. Did it even match?

Miss Mojito: So far, I’ve spotted two other ladies in red: best supporting actress nominee Amy Adams picked a drapey, strapless column gown; and Big Love’s Amanda Seyfried’s version features spaghetti straps and a big bow (which she paired with some cage-style, pewter heels). Amanda gets a thumbs-down from me, Amy is thumbs-up.

Ms. S&C: What are you drinking this evening Miss M? I’m at a friend’s six annual Oscar bash and starting with a glass of champagne, naturally.

Miss Mojito: Chianti and a plate of pasta for me!

Wow. Sarah Jessica Parker. I don’t know what to say. When I saw her from the waist up, I swooned over the gold-detailed bodice. But when the camera panned down to the skirt, one might guess that she’s hiding a family of five beneath the layers.  I like drama as much as the next girl, but how is she going to sit down in that thing??

Ms. S&C: The stars from The Wrestler have arrived. Marisa Tomei looks great — love the smokey eyes. Mickey Rourke is true to his rebel self and has opted out of wearing a tux. So sweet that he has a picture of his late Chihuahua around his neck.

Miss Mojito: I definitely hope that Mickey wins best actor, just so we can hear his speech.

Hooray, winter white is ruling the red carpet! Melissa George and D.C.-native Taraji P. Henson both look pretty fantastic in white. Melissa’s look is a bit too lingerie-inspired for my tastes, but Taraji looks like perfection in her tiered, strapless version with a bold statement necklace. And I just spotted Marissa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood both in creamy, origami-pleated dresses. I’m hoping that Anne Hathaway’s paillette-covered, cream-tone gown looks better in person – on camera, it feels a bit dull to me. The verdict is out on Jessica Biel’s white dress – I like the billowy neckline, but the satin is already wrinkling. I think I just caught a glimpse of Penelope Cruz in white, too.

Ms. S&C: A comment from the gallery here — Jessica Biel’s dress looks like she has a large napkin tucked in. Not sure how I feel about all the draping. But yes, all kinds of winter white! Brangelina arrives! Even though Angelina is in a plain black dress, she looks better than ever. I think the curls soften her. And I love the pop of color from the green earrings.

Miss Mojito: All these floor-length gowns are a major source of frustration – where are the shoes?? Tim Gunn just asked Kate Winslet who designed her shoes (Yves St. Laurent), and the camera didn’t even catch a glimpse of them!

Ms. S&C: There really are a lot of red and white gowns this evening. I can’t get over it. I wish Tim Gunn was interviewing more celebrities. And I wish Miley Cyrus and the High School Musical gang weren’t taking up so much air time. Why are they even here? Miley might be wearing the worst dress I’ve ever seen.

Miss Mojito: Did anyone just see Tim Gunn literally chase Brad and Angelina down the runway to tell them how much he loves them? Too funny – Tim is definitely my favorite person on the red carpet tonight.

Wait, I take that back – the entire cast of Slumdog Millionaire might qualify for that distinction. They just gathered for a group interview and I got teary eyed. The kids are too cute for words, Dev Patel is charming and Freida Pinto is simply stunning. I’m a bit torn over her one-sleeve number, but the color and fit are highly flattering.

Ms. S&C: Hugh Jackman, I may want to marry you.

Miss Mojito: I think my favorite line of the night comes from the woman wearing my least favorite outfit. When Whoopi Goldberg, while praising Amy Adam’s role in Doubt, said “It’s not easy being a nun,” I laughed out loud (I’m a closet-fanatic when it comes to Sister Act I and II). But that leopard-print monstrosity of a dress – Whoopi, what were you thinking?

Ms. S&C: Tina Fey and Steve Martin — a winning combo. Tina looks fantastic in her shimmery dress and hair to the side–very 1930s.

On a separate note, I have to give a shout out to the Milk screenwriter who won for Best Original Screenplay–pretty awesome as political acceptance speeches go.

Miss Mojito: I love the mother-daughter duo of Meryl Streep and her daughter, Louisa. They complement each other so well—earthy tones, simple cuts, age appropriate, elegant hair. And I was a big fan of Meryl in Doubt – she makes a very convincing nun.

Ms. S&C: Holy god, my first shoe comment of the night is about the guy who won for Best Cinematography — he is wearing nude colored clogs.  I don’t care if he is Danish, it is wrong.

Mixed comments from the gallery on Natalie Portman’s dress. I kinda like her pink/purple-ish fitted gown. Ditto on the Streep family. So classy.

Ms. S&C: So, we’re about to close up shop for the night. Oh wait, Reese Witherspoon’s dress is a total disappointment. And the blue eye makeup is too much. She’s done so well recently. Halle Berry comes out for the Best Leading Actress presentation, and she’s worth waiting for–she’s looks great. Hooray for Kate Winslet! Anne Hathaway, we love you too, but we know you’ll be back.

That’s it for the S&C Team. Thanks for reading! Share a comment below and tell us who was your Oscar fashion fave and, of course, your fashion knave.


Shocking Tonic Results

Some girlfriends gathered chez moi last weekend for some high school reminiscing, appetizer consuming and cocktail imbibing. We started by sipping prosecco with hibiscus flowers and syrup (which I’ll save for another post). I then proceeded to turn my guests into guinea pigs with my much anticipated tonic testing. The results, I must say, were surprising indeed! But first, let’s meet the contestants.

My hope was to integrate a homemade tonic into my tasting. Todd Thrasher, of Restaurant Eve fame, has a recipe that the Washington Post published a while back, but I had a bit of trouble putting my hands on some of the ingredients, namely quinine powder and citric acid. So, we had to resort to store-bought brands. I picked two brands widely available in grocery stores: Schweppes Diet Tonic and Canada Dry Regular Tonic. My third pick was the Q Tonic, a new discovery I mentioned in a previous post. Made from organic agave nectar instead of sugar, it’s billed as a healthy, superior tonic.

I mixed up three mini-cocktails for each of my friends, using Smirnoff Vodka or Tanqueray Gin and a squeeze of lime. It was a blind tasting (I used Solo cups and labeled the bottom of each with a Sharpee), so our results were completely unbiased.

The results? Three out of four gals picked the diet tonic as their favorite! The Q Tonic samples—which ring in schweppesat a staggering $10 for around 25 ounces—tasted a bit flavorless to our palettes. Comparatively, the diet tonic—a bargain at around $2 for about 33 ounces—had a sweeter flavor that seemed to accentuate the drink’s lime-iness. Needless to say, we felt extremely unsophisticated to discover that the organic, “gourmet” tonic was the least palatable to our taste buds. But I’m not dismissing the Q Tonic all together. I think it might be best suited to really bringing out the flavor of the liquor. A pairing of Q Tonic with the cucumber-infused Hendrick’s gin, for example, or maybe a flavored vodka, might be better suited to bringing out the tonic’s best attributes. But I think you’ll have to give it a try and see for yourself! You can find out where to buy Q Tonic on their Web site.

posted by Miss Mojito

Last supper

We’re down to the final five cheftestants on Top Chef. Last week’s episode was the last one in New York City and included an array of culinary experts. Wylie Dufresne was guest judge during the Quickfire Challenge, which involved one of my favorite proteins – eggs. Come-out-of-no-where-Carla won it with her playful green eggs and ham dish.

Time for the Elimination Challenge, which was billed as the proverbial Last Supper. Each cheftestant drew knives to find out what renowned culinary authority’s favorite dish they were to prepare – as if it were going to be the last dish they would eat. I was pretty surprised at how ordinary the dishes were. I mean, they’re classics, but shrimp scampi and eggs benedict for the last meal of your life — really?

Anyhoo, here’s what was served:

  • First course: Leah undercooks eggs benedict for Wylie Dufresne
  • Second course: Stefan overcooks salmon with spinach and roasted potatoes for Marcus Samuelsson
  • Third course: Hosea under-seasons shrimp scampi with tomatoes provencal for Susan Ungaro
  • Fourth course: Fabio perfectly roasts chicken for the Italian lady, Lidia Bastianich
  • Fifth course: Come-out-of-no-where-Carla almost wins with squab and fresh peas for Jacques Pépin, who may have out-Eric-Ripert-ed Eric Ripert as one of the nicest chefs around.

Carla and Fabio were the faves, with Fabio winning what may have been his first challenge. Stefan’s ego was taken down a notch, but it was Leah who packed her knives.

roast-chicken

liberty-ale

There are a lot of drink options appropriate for Fabio’s roasted chicken dish. Keeping with the theme — if there was only one beer I could choose to be my last one, it would definitely be Anchor Liberty Pale Ale. Aromatic, full of hop flavor and a rich color, Anchor Liberty is a great, great beer.

posted by Ms. S&C

Love is in the air

Happy Valentine’s Day! The theme of love continues over here at S&C. Ms. S&C had two good friends marry a few weeks ago and thought now would be the time to share a few details.

Friends SB and LD were married in a courthouse ceremony, so they spent their wedding day with a small gathering of family and close friends — until an evening reception when many more of us joined them to celebrate. When I saw SB, she was stunning in a Tahari dress. The dress, knee length, had gorgeous silver detailing, a cut-out neckline, and was finished with a belted bow. I so wish there was a picture to share. It was very Jackie O/Audrey Hepburn-esque. SB said a courthouse wedding seemed a bit retro so she went with a vintage late 50s/early 60s look.

Naturally, I wanted to see what shoes she paired. And she really couldn’t have found a better match for the dress. The shoes were beautiful and elegant and had P-E-R-F-E-C-T bow detailing to compliment the belt on the dress. She picked up this ivory pair over at DSW, where there are more color choices. And with a price tag of $49.95, I’m very tempted to get the black ones.

wedding-shoes

SB’s perfect wedding shows with bow detail

Another fun retro-y detail — at the reception, instead of wedding cake, red velvet cupcakes were served. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a better cupcake. The baker has a blog where she shares the recipe, and she comments that “the intense red color of the cake has some sort of hypnotic effect, because people are always delighted just to lay eyes on the cake, and then absolutely smitten when they finally taste it.” Absolutely right, sista.

red-velvet-cupcakes

Delicious red velvet wedding cupcakes

To further celebrate this heart-filled holiday, here’s a romantic cocktail that fits the occasion. It was inspired by the Rose Royce Cocktail, courtesy of OVAL Vodka. One of the original ingredients in the recipe was rose syrup. I subbed St. Germain elderflower liqueur because it of its floral notes and because I already had it in my cabinet. I used grenadine instead of simple syrup so the drink would have a slight pink color. I also didn’t have any fresh thyme, but the rosemary in my garden has survived the winter (and it seemed a better fit, both in name and flavor). All in all, a lovely drink.

The Rose Cocktail
makes one drink

1 oz. Vodka (Oval recommended)
1/3 oz. St. Germain
1/3 oz. Grenadine
2/3 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
½ glass Champagne

Shake all ingredients well over ice and pour into a flute half-filled with champagne. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.