On the night she is finally well

They celebrate their last night sans kids
with cocktails
on the deck.

 applejack rabbits

applejack rabbits

It is a humidity-free night, a breeze whispers past their shoulders and through their hair, a full moon hangs low and pregnant in a clear sky. The heady, earthy scent of newly laid mulch is subtle and lovely.

 tonight's moon

tonight's moon

Inexplicably, but also because it makes complete sense, chicken stock simmers on the stove, liquid amber redolent of leeks and celery and a happy bird. The bones leave each other, the skin slips, the broth is golden; never having boiled, it is not cloudy. 

A pizza sizzles on the grill, another round of cocktails boogie with icy cubes in a silver shaker. They show their age by dancing madly, wildly, happily, freely to the Summer of '69 and You Shook Me All Night Long stations on Pandora.

Fat Bottomed Girls, Jessie's Girl, Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Right Now, Dream On, Paradise City, Your Love, House of the Rising Sun scream from the speakers; anthems for two who came of age in the 80s, that time of awful hair, leg-warmers and great music. 

Their cat watches with gimlet eyes. What does he think? He flicks his tail imperiously, knowing he is beloved.

They dance and twist and spin and breathe heavily; they are not in their twenties anymore. They are glad. 

Their boys are coming home tomorrow, and they can't wait to wrap their arms around their tan little bodies but they will also miss this sort of time. 

The Mamas and the Papas sing about the leaves turning brown and winter's days. The Stones paint it black, the cocktails are drunk, the stock starts to cool, tired bodies take to the couch, the cat joins, purring. 

40 in forty: the import of good knives

If you cook anything ever, my greatest advice is to invest in high-quality, sharp knives and keep them that way

Not only are sharp knives infinitely more effective than dull ones, they're also much more fun to work with and a great deal safer. A clean cut made by a finely whetted blade will heal more quickly and neatly than will a jagged wound made by a toothless steel. I've been to the ER two or three times with deeply slivered fingers; once I got stitches, once the skin glue, and I have no discernible scars to show. Fantastic!

A honed blade slicing briskly through a silky green zucchini or the thick rind of a vivid orange never fails to delight me. It is efficient, quiet until the cutting board stops the forward motion with a pleasing thud. Cut, thud, begin anew.

You might recall this lengthy post Tom and I co-wrote a few years back. He is the knife sharpener in our home, keeping stones at the ready for both German and Japanese knives whose blades are honed at different angles. We have several Wusthofs, 3 or 4 Globals, and now, thanks to my friend, Mary, a fabulous Kamata (a generations-old Tokyo store that sells fabulous knives that are sharp as get-out).

Because I still feel low today, I decided to take an hour and do just what I wanted. What I wanted to do was make a gorgeous vin pamplemousse that my friend Ginger recently made and posted on Instagram. I think she based her recipe on Heidi Swanson's, and Heidi rarely misses (really never!), so I knew it'd be fab.

Vin pamplemousse is basically a fortified grapefruit wine made with rosé, vodka, sugar and grapefruit. Ginger (and Heidi) use a variety of citrus which, as you might know, is having a wonderful season right now. Mandarins, blood oranges, ruby reds, gold nuggets, Meyers...it is citrus heaven at Whole Foods, and I love citrus. I omitted the vanilla bean G and H use but otherwise followed Ginger's instructions to a T.

I thought, during all my chopping, about what a pleasure it was to be able to ignore my malaise by being able to easily slice gloriously even rounds of beautiful, pungent fruit. I considered how much I love a crisp, cool glass of Lillet pamplemousse on warm spring and summer evenings, and how much better a homemade version might taste.

 all the citrus

all the citrus

 a Cara Cara orange

a Cara Cara orange

The methodical, productive, simple act of cleaning and slicing and layering many beautiful pieces into a more beautiful whole was a welcome reprieve from an otherwise busy, demanding day. So often, those feelings of creation and focus, contemplation and peace are why I cook and miss the kitchen when I'm away for too long.

Sharp knives make every bit of those experiences better.

 ready for sugar, vodka and rosé

ready for sugar, vodka and rosé

A conversation with mixologist, Ted Kilgore

If you read Em-i-lis with any regularity, you probably know that I love a good cocktail. I am thrilled by the resurgence of classic punches, the popularity of shrubs and the flourishing of modern speakeasies dedicated to lovingly crafted cocktails. I adore the pomp and circumstance of it all- the smooth bar top, dim lighting, tinkling crystal, giant spheres and blocks of ice, rows of elegant labels, special glassware, and little dropper bottles full of tinctures to add a final twist. I have learned to love bourbon.

As such, it was with an enthused "Yes!" that I accepted the offer to interview Ted Kilgore, owner and beverage director at Planter's House in St. Louis, MO. A quick glimpse at Planter's home page alone assures me that it's a joint I would love to find my way to. In the best way, it reminds me of The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co in Philly and Sotto here in DC. 

Ted has been mixing for seventeen years, and we talked about how easy it actually is to make your own infusions, liquors and so forth at home. The canner in me loved hearing about this because Ted talked about his handmade ingredients in terms of putting up seasonal ingredients for use and pleasure later in the year. That's precisely why I make so much jam all year long; to save for the future something that in its fresh form doesn't last too long. 

Right now, Ted is thinking autumnally: apples, cranberries, oranges and spice. Below I'll share the recipe for his Fall Flavors Vodka, a simple concoction you can make at home, as well as for his Holiday Highball which utilizes that vodka. You could also add it to champagne or even club soda for a light aperitivo.

I like to make festive, seasonal drinks for holiday parties and also think a homemade liquor would make a terrific gift!!

In addition to Planter's House, Ted contributes a great deal to Everclear's website, Make It Your Own, which contains an enormous number of DIY recipes that will definitely add some awesome chutzpah to your home bar. I am definitely planning to try a few.

Fall Flavors Vodka

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 3/4 cup copped Red Delicious apple
  • 3/4 cup chopped cranberries
  • 2 allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 ounces Everclear 
  • 10 ounces filtered water
  • 4 ounces simple syrup (a 1:1 water:sugar ratio)

Instructions:

In a food processor or with a knife, chop the cranberries and apples. In a jar or other lidded vessel, combine the chopped fruit, allspice berries, cloves, cinnamon stick and Everclear. Give it all a good shake, and let steep for 24 hours.

After steeping, pour the mixture through a fine sieve and discard all solids. To what remains add the water and simple syrup, and transfer to a 24-ounce bottle, or to smaller bottles that add up to the same volume.

Store at room temperature. This will last at least six months. Your finished product will be roughly 80 proof.

Holiday Highball

Ingredients:

  •  ounces Fall Flavors vodka
  • club soda
  • 1 slice of Red Delicious apple
  • 1 slice of Granny Smith apple

Instructions:

Combine the vodka  and club soda in a highball glass. Stir briefly, add ice, and garnish with apple slices.