Monthly Archives

February 2015

Cocktail Recipes

Drink Like A 1940’s Socialite

Ah, the Margarita, one of the most bastardized drinks on the planet.

When you can find pre-mixed cocktails in plastic bottles, you know the drink is ruined. I am personally not a lover (or even liker) of tequila, honestly. My father used to call it “Ta-Kill-Ya,” and for me, he was almost right. We all have our tequila barfing stories and mine is just like most others, I’m sure, but I will spare you the details.

There really weren’t many opportunities for me to learn to love or appreciate tequila as a cocktail spirit. My only knowledge of it was serving up Jose Cuervo at Chi Chi’s in my late teens, or begrudgingly doing shots and praying the salt wouldn’t run out. That was how it was until I traveled to Mexico.

It was sometime in the mid 1990’s. A few girlfriends and I took a trip from San Francisco via LA to Cabo San Lucas; this was right before it became “Cabo,” aka Obnoxious-Spring-Break-American-Asshole-Takeover.

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We were staying in a really nice hotel, because one of the gals had a boyfriend in high places or something. Who cares? Anyway, there was a really nice bar in the hotel, and the bartender was native to the area, and as it turns out, a very talented mixologist. One of the first questions he asked us when we sat down were what type of alcohol we usually drank and what our favorite scents were. I was really blown away and very intrigued by this question. At the time, I was very into rum and my favorite scent was either Gardenia or Orange Blossom; I couldn’t decide. I sarcastically mentioned that my drink better not be a Margarita.

Well, he smiled and went to work, quickly chopping, muddling, dashing and splashing all sorts of things into his cocktail shakers. I was focused on his bartending skills while my friends were a little more interested in his flirty commentary. I fully expected him to present us with some wild, exotic, never-before-seen concoction.

When he was finished, each one of us was presented with a beautiful, vibrantly-colored cocktail with gorgeous floral and fruit garnishes. We all asked what they were and he said: “Just take a sip and then I will tell you.” So we did. Mine was familiar, but I couldn’t place the flavors exactly. It was absolutely amazing.

Then I asked what my drink was, and he replied: “Margarita, senorita!” I almost slapped him in his stupid, attractive, nice, talented face. “Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I asked. After the shock subsided, I took another sip. I didn’t want to be rude. Maybe I was just imagining how delicious it was. Nope, it was, in fact, delicious. But how could this be?

I finally asked him what the heck kind of Margarita that was, told him that I had never tasted anything like it, and I really didn’t even like tequila. He replied: “This is a Gold Margarita, made properly with fresh ingredients and a true Mexican hand.” After begging and flirting as much as I could, he finally told me what he put in it. Ever since that night, it’s the only tequila drink I will consume and it’s the only way I will make Margaritas. I found out sometime later that Margaritas are not even really a cocktail of choice in Mexico for locals. Clearly, this bartender had a mission to teach us silly Americans how to appreciate tequila properly.

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So, first a quick word about the history of the Margarita, which is a much debated topic. No one really knows who or when the Margarita was invented! I have read many accounts of purported claims of Margarita inventions, but most agree, as do I, that it is highly unlikely a person of Mexican descent actually created this cocktail. You can choose to believe it was named for Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino). I mean, who wouldn’t name anything and everything for this stunning lady?

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One of the most prevalent stories I decided I liked is the story of an American socialite of the 1940’s named Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames. A Dallas, Texas native, she was known for throwing lavish parties at her Acapulco holiday home and credited herself with creating the drink in 1948. Among her well-connected guests was Tommy Hilton, who eventually added the drink to the bar menu at his hotel chain. And there you have it. Thanks a lot, lady!

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So, seriously, if you do not love tequila, but you want to be cool like all the other kids and drink a Margarita, drink it like this.  Here is my recipe:

  • 3 Jiggers Reposado Tequila (Dos Lunas is a really nice choice and well priced; a quality tequila is absolutely necessary)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Cointreau
  • 2 Teaspoons Partida Agave Syrup
  • 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice (sweet & sour mix is just forbidden, and plain gross!)
  • 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeeze Orange Juice (this is a key ingredient)

Shake well with ice. Put some muscle into it! Then wet the rim of a wide rim cocktail glass.
Pour some coarse Kosher salt onto a small plate, tip the glass upside down, and turn like a screw to coat the rim with salt.

Strain and pour the Margarita into your salted glass, and garnish with a fresh lime and fresh orange wheel.

If you don’t have too many, I can almost promise there won’t be any barfing stories to follow this cocktail.

Enjoy!
xox
Sailor


Cooking Stories

My Love Letter To Cheese

Oh cheese, how I adore thee, golden succulent wave of heaven.

Okay, enough of that; I am no poet.

But seriously, cheese is an addiction, I am convinced, at least for myself.  It is absolutely, unequivocally, my vice.

My love affair with cheese is very complex. I happen to be a non meat-eater, but I do eat fish. I will cook and prepare meat dishes for my family and friends as long as they meet certain ethical standards, such as being humanely raised on organic ingredients, and if they’re from local sources, even better. I’m telling you all of this for a reason, so don’t think me now some hippie-fied holier-than-thou, plant-based, pretentious, cuckoo bird. I promise, I’m not. I don’t think I am, am I? No, no, I’m not.

In my late teens and early twenties as I was coming into the sphere of my own set of morals and ethics, I tried to go Vegan. In theory, it seemed so easy: eggs, yeah I can handle that. Milk, never liked it, no problem; I did soy at the time anyway. Hmm, bread, okay that’s a tough one. Pizza crust! Oh, crap. Ice cream, oh my. Cheese… Wait, cheese?! No cheese?! I couldn’t, I just couldn’t!

So my Vegan phase lasted about a month. And what did me in? What was the ultimate temptation? The damn cheese! I remember it like it was yesterday.

Picture this. I am at a friend’s house where everyone is eating pizza, and I am angrily enjoying my salad. Someone brings out the effin’ mozzarella sticks. Oh yeah, that’s right, some jerk had the nerve to order mozzarella sticks! And then some other jerk had the nerve to bite into the gooey, warm, awesome, stringy heaven like it was a flippin’ commercial for mozzarella cheese.

That was it! I just couldn’t take it anymore. I believe I enjoyed about 6 or 7 of that jerk’s mozzarella sticks. Showed them, right?

From them on, I decided that I would do my best when possible to just eat responsibly and try to be conscious of where my food came from.

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Sailor – 0

So began my ultimate love affair with cheese, and I gave in without guilt to this mistress.

I have a very open mind about cheese. I would try just about any, even the stinky stuff. What I couldn’t seem to appreciate was cheese that came from a jar, box, or can. I just couldn’t.

I stumbled into my first foray with this type of cheese at the home of my friend’s grandmother. She was without a doubt stuck in the decade of her young twenties. Imagine Peg Bundy, just a lot older and with enough money to “Peg Bundy” up the entire house, but in early 60’s decor.

She was having a cocktail and cards party that night for her and her new beau’s friends, which was to be a very swanky, stylish affair. We were tasked with removing the plastic from all of the furniture, dusting the jeweled fruit and everything in the “white room” (you know, that room in the house where no one is ever allowed to go in, with powder blue carpet, all white furniture, and gold and white floral wallpaper. Oh yeah, baby!), and helping with the hors-d’oeuvres.

She pulled out a ton of trays for us to layer with doilies and then the food came out. Every single food item came from a jar, a box, or a can, I kid you not.

And then she asked me to take over the cheese and crackers. She handed me a can… A CAN! What? What the hell was this? Cheese in a can? I had never seen or heard of such a thing. I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or terrified (I was a little of both).

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So, there I was spraying this very orange cheese-like stuff onto an entire box of Ritz crackers. The entire time I was trying to decide if I should try one. The smell was very strange, but it was cheese, and I love cheese. It had to be good. It’s cheese, right?!

Nope, it wasn’t good. In fact, it was very, very bad. Very bad.

However, that did not end my cheese addiction. It just made me more careful, and spend more time smelling cheese before tasting it.

Many years later, I found myself in France. I was so excited to really “do” cheese. And I did, I really did. I don’t think I pooped for a month!

The best cheese experience I had was in the south of France. I was staying in a very tiny, remote village in the mountains. The villa we were in did not even have electricity or running water.

One afternoon, we were driving back from the little town and passed a very picturesque farm with a sign near the road that read “Cheese and Honey.” This was less than a year after the whole Foot and Mouth outbreak had ended, so many farms were devastated by the disease and worse, the media mania that had come with it. I was told that usually in these villages’ farms, no one really advertised like that, sticking mainly to the markets.

I begged my friend to drive up to the farmhouse and we did. A very elderly but robust Frenchman met us at the end of the drive with a huge, welcoming smile. My friend told him I was American and a huge cheese lover. The man’s smile really went from ear to ear. He was so excited to have us there.

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I asked him everything I could think of with my friend as translator. Before we followed him to the barn, I asked him to tell us about the treatment of his animals. I was overjoyed when he explained how he felt about his livestock. He told us they were like his children, and the happier and more comfortable they were, the better the cheese was. He explained that his survival was based solely on them, and that in fact, they were the bosses; he worked for them.

I just loved his approach and view, and I found him to be very genuine.

He took us through his cheese barn and explained what was on all of the shelves. There was cow cheese, sheep’s milk, and goat cheeses. He prepared a selection for us to try and brought out a few bottles of wine (of course). And it was probably the best cheese I have ever tasted in my entire life. So fresh, like a fresh I had never experience before. Pure bliss.

We left with an entire box of cheese blocks, and there was another month I didn’t poop.

This experience really solidified my love for cheese and opened up a whole new appreciation for many different types.

It’s amazing when one thinks of cheese as an environment. Do you want to prepare a meal that is grassy with lots of sunshine, warm breezes, and earthiness? Okay, then use this cheese. Do you want to prepare a meal that is very rustic, very rich, with lots of heavy rain, the smell of fresh soil and minerals? Okay, then use that cheese.

I often think back on my friend’s grandmother when I am hunkering down on some amazing cheese. What if I could replace all of her canned and boxed cheese that night with my selection of cheeses? Well, let’s pretend I can, and here is what I would have done:

  • Her Recipe – Pimento cheese spread on Ritz crackers.
  • My Recipe – Riccotta cheese and green olive tapenade on cracked pepper crackers.
  • Her Recipe – Velveeta and salsa on Triscuits.
  • My Recipe – Cotija cheese and mango salsa on baked tortilla triangles.
  • Her Recipe – Spray cheese and Spam on Ritz crackers.
  • My Recipe – Southwest chicken salad and jack cheese on crostini.
  • Her Recipe – Ambrosia salad with cottage cheese on graham crackers.
  • My Recipe – Marscapone, thin-sliced mandarin orange and pineapple, topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and honey on a graham cracker.

It’s amazing what an experience like spray cheese does to you. I still remember what she served that night!

Now, when serving these yummy treats to your guests at your next soiree, please be sure to incorporate leopard print somewhere in your outfit and do not forget your red lipstick!

xox Sailor


Vintage Collecting

My Vintage Radios

I have fond memories of sitting on the shag carpet next to my grandmother’s Hi Fi stereo cabinet in upstate NY, listening to the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” with the wonderful crackles and hisses of the vinyl spinning ’round and ’round.

There was a painting of an autumn tree-lined road above the Hi Fi that I just thought was a masterpiece, one of the most beautiful scenes ever painted. I was 5, after all.

This scene repeated itself every time I went up there for a visit. The records may have changed through the years, but the stereo was a beacon of excitement among the sea of shag and sometimes childhood boredom on rainy days.

It wasn’t just the music; it was the stereo itself. I just thought it was so amazingly clever that this piece of furniture held the stereo and records; and to close it, you just had to slide the handy dandy cabinet door. Amazing! What a feat!

This fascination with radios and stereos would continue throughout my life. As a matter of fact, I now own a very similar Hi Fi stereo cabinet, thanks to Mark’s grandparents.

In the 80’s, my obsession turned into taking radios apart and putting them back together. My mother had given me an old stereo at some point she thought one of the speakers may had been broken and probably didn’t work anymore. Well, I was so desperate to have more than just my little tape player for my own source of music that I was going to figure out how to fix it, and by golly, I did! I have no idea how, so don’t ask or assume I am some technical wizard.

So, when I was all grown up, perusing through antique shops or garage sales, my eye was always drawn to old radios, especially ones from the 20’s and 30’s. No, wait, especially radios from the 40’s and 50’s. Okay, well, all of them.

I think I am drawn to these old radios because there was so much thought put into the design. They weren’t just additions to other entertainment in the home or portable pieces of equipment that could be easily replaced in a few years. They were the centerpieces of family entertainment until televisions were prevalent in every household, which really wasn’t until the late 50’s/early 60’s. These marvels had to look beautiful, like something that you wanted to be the centerpiece of or at least a stylish addition to the living room.

So, I give you my vintage radios, each one a different and unique personality with a unique back story (that I made up in my head)…

Esther – Circa 1930’s Philco Radio with bakelite knobs

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She is from Chicago. She belonged to a very wealthy and fancy family. She sat in the corner of the room with a beautiful Tiffany lamp on top, next to the fireplace. She often played the big hits of the 1930’s during the family’s very fancy cocktail parties. Sadly, the patriarch of the family was arrested for tax evasion and a possible connection to the mob. She ran like hell (Esther has also now survived a fire at my Pinup Studio; we are so glad she is safe)!

Chet – Circa 1958 Orthophonic Hi Fi RCA Victor

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He is from Manhattan. He lived in a swanky, cool pad on the Upper West Side. He belonged to a couple of newlyweds, the husband a writer and the wife an artist. They had many swanky, hip parties in their very Mid Century Modern apartment. Chet’s legs can be removed to be a tabletop stereo for those warmer months when the party can move outdoors onto the balcony. Chet’s owners got divorced in the early 70’s over an argument about the new kitchen color scheme: avocado green or mustard yellow. The ex-wife got Chet in the divorce, and just for spite, she sold him at a garage sale when she got remarried to Bob.

Betty – Circa 1965 Motorola FM Tube Radio

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She is from Indiana. She sat on the dresser of a suburban housewife’s bedroom just outside of Indianapolis. She would play tunes such as “Downtown” by Petula Clark and “Help Me, Rhonda” by The Beach Boys while styling her hair and applying her makeup at her nearby vanity table. Betty’s owner stayed loyal to her until the early 1980’s when her daughter forced her to move into a condo in a senior community and modernize her decor. Betty was then donated to a church sale.

Peggy – Circa 1957 Princess Pink Airline Clock Radio

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She is from Georgia. She lived in the kitchen of a family of four who loved the beach and boating. Peggy wished she could join the family on their regular water skiing outings in their 1955 Chris Craft. Peggy would play upbeat happy tunes for the family during breakfast, soap operas for the lady of the house while cleaning, and songs like “The Twist” by Chubby Checker when the parents were away and the teens were hosting after-school get- togethers. Peggy was replaced by a portable radio and tape player when the parents retired and purchased a houseboat to live on. Peggy hitchhiked north to find new digs.

These are just a few of my precious radios. More can been seen in Retrocentric photos in the vintage kitchen and retro living room!

xox

Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

It’s Tax Season, Hand Me A Drink!

You are either someone who is usually prepared in life or you are a procrastinator. Perhaps you have already filed your taxes and spent your return on an amazing pair of shoes or a snappy new tie.

However, if you own a business or property, had a move or maybe a divorce, or bought or sold a house, you may wait until the very last minute to file your taxes. In either case, my friend, you need a drink to celebrate or cope with the pain.

Well, I have the perfect cocktail for you called The Income Tax Cocktail. True story.

The Income Tax Cocktail is actually the Bronx Cocktail (not to be confused with the Brooklyn Cocktail; we take our burroughs very seriously), with a couple dashes of bitters added.

As we have discussed previously, I like to alter every recipe I come across. So, here is my version of this quick and easy little ditty that is sure to please a crowd, or keep one from jumping out a window when the tax bill arrives.

  • 1 1/2 jiggers of Organic Prairie Gin
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet Vermouth (I know, crazy right? Trust me…)
  • 1 jigger of Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 jigger of Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a vintage cocktail glass
  • Many recipes suggest to garnish with an orange wheel. When using my vintage goblets, I prefer rind corkscrews or no garnish at all as they over- take the delicate glass, so I would suggest to garnish based on your glass of choice.

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And voila, there you have it, a refreshing simple-to-make but complex-to-taste vintage cocktail! So, please drink one per day until April 15th. Doctor’s orders!

Enjoy.

xox

Sailor


Cooking Stories

Booze and Ever Lovin Pasta Sauce

I love to cook with booze. No, you don’t understand… I LOVE to cook with booze! It all started with sauce, or pasta sauce, as Americans call it.

I first learned to make sauce from Maria, a friend of my grandmother’s. She was from Italy (I am not sure what region) and came to the States as a young girl. She was a fabulous cook and made everything look so easy. One afternoon, I showed interest in the inner workings of her sauce. She seemed pretty excited and began to show me from start to finish how she made her beloved sauce. I was not yet 21, so when she pulled out a giant bottle of red wine, I got very excited. She told me: “There is no sauce without red wine.” I was so in!

I worked hard throughout my early twenties to replicate her sauce and was told by her a few years after the initial lesson that I had nailed it. I am not sure to this day if she was being nice or if she truly meant it, but everyone would lap it up nonetheless.

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Many years later, I dated a guy whose mother hailed from Bologna, Italy. She and I bonded quickly over food. She was incredible, a chef quality cook. She had a really high-end approach to very rustic cuisine back when that wasn’t a ‘thing.’ I loved being in the kitchen with her and by then I could hold my own. Almost every Italian dish I cook today, I have her to thank. Thank you, Angela!!!

When I finally made it to Italy a few years later, I quickly recognized firsthand the differences between the regions when it came to sauce. One very important difference? The booze. I was taught to use red wine, port wine, and sherry, each adding a very important and complex flavor profile to the sauce. And with the difference in booze, there followed the difference in the type of tomatoes and how they were prepared prior to the sauce. Were they sun dried? Were they all Roma? Or were they all Caprese an inch away from rotting into dust? The difference in the tomato matched the difference in the booze, which also matched the difference in the viscosity of the sauce.

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Is it Marinara, A Puttanesca, A Ragu, or maybe an Arrabbiata? It really all depended on the region and, of course, the region depended on the booze (Yes, I am completely skewing the history and regional appreciation for Italian Pasta Sauce, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want!).

So the next time you begin a recipe, as you are beginning your base for a sauce or soup, be sure to add booze! Replace a small portion of oil or water in the recipe and play! You won’t be disappointed!

Next Up… Sailor’s Vodka Soaked Grilled Cheese

xox Sailor


Cooking Stories

How I Learned To Cook

Since I am starting at the beginning, or well, near the beginning, I’ll tell you a little bit about how I learned to cook.

I always assumed most people had a really nice mom who wore an apron and on Sundays, that really nice mom would say to her daughter: “Sweetie, let’s bake and cook together.” Said daughter would learn how to properly crack an egg, separate the egg white, learn about folding verses mixing, you get the drift.

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Now I did learn specific things from my great grandmother in reference to making certain Greek dishes, but she was more of the type of grandmother who didn’t want me to work. She wanted to do it and I don’t think she understood that I was actually interested. She was so humble about her mad skills, she really thought it was nothing.

So in my mother’s house, there was not a whole lot of teaching or passing down of technique. Most of my learning came from getting up at the crack of dawn while everyone was sleeping and making strange food concoctions while watching a whole lot of cooking shows on PBS. For you youngens, PBS in the 70’s and 80’s was our Food Network.

My favorite TV cook was Jeff Smith of the Frugal Gourmet. I would get so excited every time his show was on. A few times I tried to convey my excitement to my friends. Big mistake! My cool status took a nose dive. What 10 year old in the 80’s watched some old guy cooking on TV? Umm, me!

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And that is how it all began. I actually owe a lot to Jeff Smith, now that I think about it. The first thing I ever attempted to cook that I learned from watching him was Baked Elephant Garlic. Sounds so simple, but to a 10 year old, hell no!

First of all, what the hell is elephant garlic? As an adult, there aren’t many possibilities of what it could be, but as a kid, there were so many.  So I asked my mom when she woke up and she told me it was just really large bulbs of garlic. “Okay,” I thought, “that makes sense.” And later that day, she actually bought some for me.

So the next morning while everyone was sleeping, I started my foray into this dish with the recipe committed to memory:

Remove the husk from the garlic bulb, brush with olive oil, bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, remove from oven, open shell and spread on a nice crustini. (Wait, what is a crustini? Sounds like crust, must be bread, okay I’ll make toast.)  Sprinkle with a little salt and bon appetite!

It was a success! I loved it, and so did my mom. Hey, I cooked something fancy! Woo hoo!

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Not all of my early attempts were as successful, though. There was the time that I tried a microwave quiche from a cookbook I found on a kitchen shelf. It professed that you could make anything in the microwave and it would be amazing. They lied, or I sucked at it. The result was a runny omelet-like odd substance. I tasted it, then threw away the evidence.

A family favorite story is the time I tried to substitute spaghetti sauce with a can of Manwich when I was living with my dad. He was an actual chef, as a matter of fact, and even co-wrote a cookbook called How To Garnish.

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It was my turn to cook dinner. I was a teenager, had better things to do and the cupboards weren’t very well stocked. I saw a box of spaghetti. Bingo, I thought I’d whip up a nice salad and we’d be good to go. I threw the spaghetti in the water, opened the cupboard to grab the sauce, and oh crap. No sauce, NO SAUCE!  “Okay,” I thought. “Think! Think! What else could I use? Manwhich? Hmm, I’ve never had it, but it looks close enough. How bad could it be?”

So I put it all together, tasted a tiny bite, and it was totally gross. Crap crap crap. More parmesan, more salt, some oregano made it better, right? Not really. I chose butter and cheese for my spaghetti. No way was I eating that Manwich stuff.

I put the meal on the table. My brother had already witnessed my madness and decided on butter and cheese as well. Our dad sat down, looked at the dish, smelled it, tasted it and… ate the entire thing! After he was finished, he got up and said: “By the way, what the hell was that?” Haha he knew it was gross but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Poor guy.

But experimenting brings amazing results more often than not, and it’s really how I learned to cook: bake and infuse. Just pick your balls up off the floor and try it! You can always throw it away if it sucks.

xox

Sailor


Cooking Stories

The Greek In Me

I was born into a Greek family. You’ve seen that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, right? Yes, it’s true, except that was the Hollywood version. It’s even worse, or more amazing. Sometimes, I am not sure which, it’s either good crazy or just plain crazy, being in a Greek American family.

For years I have been hosting Pinup Workshops at the Retro Pinup Studio that I founded many years ago. These workshops center on why women are drawn to the retro era, specifically the WWII era.

Somehow the discussion would always come around to my family, specifically the most prominent women in my childhood: my mother and maternal grandmother. If any of the gals in the Workshop knew me, they would always ask me to tell stories about them. Laughs would ensue, and I would think: “Am I making this shit up?” No, I am not! And then I would laugh even harder at myself.

So, being Greek for me means that life centers around food. From the moment I wake up in the morning I am planning…OK, obsessing over… my meals for the day. If I am having people over, any type of gathering, there must be food. Even if someone stops by (Who the hell just stops by? I don’t know but it could happen), I must offer them food. I have officially turned into my great grandmother!

Just imagine a table that somehow seats about 25 people in a small brownstone in  Astoria Queens, NY. The volume is at about 10, the table can barely fit the plates you are supposed to pile the food on, there will be yelling, arguing, laughing, crying, eating, drinking, yelling, arguing, laughing, and then possibly dancing, all at the table. This is a typical Greek get together.

familymeal1Many of you from other Mediterranean countries may be saying: “Pssha, that’s totally normal for us too, you don’t have the market cornered on that.” And I would say: “Oh yes we do! We have more crying, more laughing, more dancing and… the food is different.” There is something very special about Greek cuisine, especially the cuisine I grew up with.

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Greek cuisine has held onto its roots ferociously. You can find elements of African, European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern spices and dishes. As a matter of fact, my maternal grandmother was from a part of Greece that is now Turkey.  She used to make a dish that is almost exactly like Istamboli, a staple dish for Persians.

Not only did we hold onto our roots in our cuisine, but we seem to have held onto the practice of freshness. We don’t just use fresh ingredients, but fresh flavors, as well. We are not ones for making heavy dishes; we leave that to the French and Italians. Our flavors burst with sunshine, the salty Mediterranean sea, fresh greens dotted around the coastline, and mouth-watering coastal creatures. You can literally taste the beauty of Greece in our dishes.

And most importantly, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, especially in the kitchen. Yes, we are descendants of gods and goddesses, of course, but we can’t help that. I learned at a young age never to take oneself seriously when cooking. “Smile when you cook” is what my great grandmother used to say. And I have potent memories of my great grandfather in the kitchen around holidays tying up the chicken for what we called “Orange Chicken & Rice,” nothing to do with the fruit, just the color.

I paint a beautiful picture, don’t I? You must be thinking: “Wow, your grandmother and mom must have been amazing cooks, as well.” You would be wrong, my friends. Very, very wrong.

My grandmother never really learned to cook until I was in my late teens, early twenties. My mother, oh man, nope, just nope. As a matter of fact, there is a classic story of a night at the dinner table. It was my mother, my little sister who was about 4, and me. Our mother put a pot of egg noodles on the table along with the Country Crock and said: “Let’s eat!” My sister stared at the table, put her hands on her hips, and said in her little Elmer Fud voice: “This is dinner?” We peed our pants we laughed so hard. It’s pretty bad when the 4 year-old expresses her discontent at the lack of selections on the table.

So after that, I started to take over. My mother had a few dishes she was really good at, but you could only eat those so much and you had to be in the mood. But what she did love to do was eat! She was a “professional” eater. And she had a nose! We called it “The Nose,” and I would find out as a young adult that I inherited this nose, and it’s a curse, believe me. She would smell everything before she put it in her mouth, and if it smelled and tasted bad, someone had to confirm that she was correct. It had to be a joint effort of grossness.

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She still has an amazing pallet, and I would like to think that I inherited that, as well. So that is the origin of my obsession and passion for food and cooking. My mom loved that I was interested, curious, and capable of cooking at a very young age, and I think her nose helped me hone my craft.

You will hear many more stories about these women in my life and family dinners from my childhood.

xox

Sailor


Vintage Collecting

My Little Brownie

I have an obsession with vintage Brownie cameras. It started when I was a little girl and found one in my great grandmother’s basement. I asked what the little box was and when I found out it was a camera, I swooned with excitement.

The camera no longer worked and I was ushered out of the basement to watch cartoons or something, but I never forgot about that little Brownie.

Years later as I was strolling through a thrift store looking for pieces to a Halloween costume, what should I spy on a shelf next to some mustard colored 1970’s crockery? Yup, a Brownie! Eek!

Now I have my own collection.  Last count I think had about 10, along with some other various types of vintage cameras, but the Brownie still has a most special place in my heart. Particularly the Hawkeye Brownie which is featured here.

Brownie

This beauty was designed by a brilliant man named Arthur H. Crapsey. I guess you would have to be brilliant if you had a name like Crapsey. Aurther H. designed many of the popular Kodak cameras in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s.

The Hawkeye was introduced in May of 1949 and discontinued in July of 1961. Its body is moulded bakelite. I fall in love with just about anything made of bakelite!

I have this dream that one day I will be sitting in a Country Time Lemonade commercial, you know the one, with the tire swing next to the pond and the golden sun shining above. I’ll be sitting on a picnic blanket and pull my little Hawkeye Brownie out of my picnic basket, and take the most beautiful photos of birds flying and the sun shining through the trees.

Then later I will realize that I can’t find a place locally that still develops film and oops, I forgot to use film in the first place, and I can’t remember which site on the internet has the right 120 film that I need. And well, there goes my perfect little Country Time dream.

So my cameras sit on the shelves collecting dust. But that’s okay, they bring me a little peace of bakelite joy every time I walk by them!

Note to self: Find 120 film, take some actual photos with one of the damned Brownies, get them developed, scan them, put them online and impress the bobby socks off of everyone.

xox

Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

The French 75, Ooh La La

This delicious cocktail is literally heaven in a glass. Okay, well maybe not literally, but pretty friggin close.

I recently had a French themed dinner party, for which I chose the French 75 as our aperitif. Of course since I can never be satisfied with a regular old recipe, I had to play with and be all mad scientist about it. Usually I will test out a few trial runs by myself so that I don’t poison my guests, or at least start the night out with the fancy flavor of vomit on their palettes. That happened once.

This night, however, I wasn’t feeling my usual self and had taken on a rather large 4 course menu with many complex elements, so I decided to wing it. Screw it if they don’t like it, it’s booze, what the hell can go so wrong with booze? I know, the vomit thing.

Anyway, I searched out a few recipes in one of my favorite resources, an amazing little cocktail book ‘Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails’ suggested by some dear friends and given to me by the wonderful man in my life.

And there it was: the French 75. The photo looked splendid, and the drink sounded very clean and refreshing, perfect to prepare the pallet for my meal.

The story goes that this lovely cocktail is named after the French 75-mm gun, model of 1897. This bit of heavy artillery was the mainstay weapon of WWI, and its recoil system made for soft, smooth operation. It was really the first technical weaponry advance of the twentieth century, and its use continued into WWII.

This cocktail was very popular in the US at the famed Stork Club in New York, my absolute dream club! Too bad it closed 10 years before I was born. But just imagine sitting in the Stork Club, sipping on a French 75 while a bedazzled singer croons soft ballads in the background.

So I decided it’s bad ass and smooth. I like it, done deal!

photo

To my surprise, the simple recipe reads like this; 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sugar or 1 teaspoon of simple syrup and champagne to fill the glass.

Hmmm, that’s it? That’s all? It sounded so easy and boring, there is no way that was it.

So I said ‘screw it’ and decided to mess with it. I had time for just 1 test run and I didn’t want to be passed out on the floor with my crinoline over my head before the guests arrived.

Here is the Sailor version of the French 75:

  • 2 ounces of basil infused gin ( my fav gin at the moment is this organic Prairie gin)
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon of homemade simple syrup from organic raw sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of apricot brandy
  • pink champagne to fill the glass (I usually prefer vintage goblets, but for this I chose a flute)
  • garnish with a lemon rind twist rolled in raw sugar

And voila! It was superb.

So there you have it, my ooh la la for the evening. Try it at your next cocktail party or dinner and let me know what you think.

xox

Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

I Love Bourbon

So I thought it would be nice to carve out a little cottage in a dark, dusty corner of the internet; a place for me to stack my recipes, throw down my cocktail concoctions, hang my photos, display some of my beloved vintage items from my vast collection, and pin notes about my favorite re-purposing designs.

And here we are! What better way to start filling up my little cottage than with my favorite spirit, bourbon. And my favorite bourbon at the moment is Bulleit: flavorful, complex and priced really well.

Bourbon not only makes amazing Old Fashioned’s (my favorite cocktail), but it is one of my favorite go-to ingredients when cooking and baking. Bourbon Apple Pie, yes please! Bourbon French Toast, oh yeah! Bourbon soaked peach preserves, yes M’am!

There is definitely a bit of a mad scientist somewhere inside my crazy noggin. I love to mix unusual and complex flavors with a little bit of praying, and it usually turns out pretty yummy. And when it doesn’t, well, just have another cocktail!

Each summer I grab as many fresh cherries as I can (always organic), grab a stack of my trusty little mason jars, stuff those puppies in tight, and pour in as much bourbon as I can fit. If I can get a hold of tobacco leaves, I might just sprinkle in a tiny bit. And I always prep one jar to be a kit for my favorite cocktail: just add 1 orange’s full rind and a spoonful of sugar. It’s a fabulous way to mix an amazing Old Fashioned!

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After a few weeks (or even a few months, really), the cherries will be deliciously spicy and the kick is pretty fun.  Spirit infusing is so much fun and the possibilities are endless, I will definitely pin more of my little crazy infusion recipes here in the future.

Enjoy and cheers!

xox

Sailor