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booze

The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Kitty Hosts The Holidays

It’s 6 a.m. Kitty cannot remember the last time she was up this early, but today her nerves and excitement will not let her sleep. She reaches over and turns on the clock radio.

“Heaven,” Kitty says to herself. She squeals with excitement: “This day could not have a better start, Bing Crosby on the radio singing White Christmas!”

After a minute or two of snuggling Max the cat, Kitty jumps out of bed, grabs her silk chiffon peach-colored robe, and heads into the bathroom.

“Now, what to do first?” Kitty wrings her hands as she looks at herself in the mirror. “There is just so much to do!”

This is the first time that Kitty will be hosting Stan’s friends. At first she was terrified of the ladies. They all seemed too polished and were considerably older. They seemed to know how to do everything: cook, bake, host, decorate, dress. It was very intimidating. And when Stan said he would ask about hosting the annual Christmas party at their house, and he came home and said the group agreed, she was bowled over. The ladies had been so nice to her since she and Stan got engaged, yet still her nerves were already working on her. Luckily, at the last bridge game, the ladies suggested that each would bring a special holiday dish. They said that it is what they had done every year, so Kitty certainly didn’t want to mess with tradition. And boy was she ever grateful, since cooking was not exactly Kitty’s forte. She had been wildly studying the latest cook books, but nothing seemed to stick. But she had a plan, fingers crossed.

She chews her lip with nervousness as she takes inventory of her face. She could hear her mother’s voice in her head: “Kitty, stop chewing your lip!” She groans and heads downstairs.

So, first things first. Since she has a few hours until her appointment at the beauty parlor, Kitty decides to have a cup of coffee and survey the house. She could still detect a hint of fresh paint smell and hopes that no one will notice. She and Stan had only moved into the new house a few weeks ago after they returned from their elopement in Acapulco.

But the wallpaper did look splendid; it was so modern and chic. Thank goodness her mother offered up her interior designer as a wedding gift. He was somewhat famous in Chicago and she thought his work was just the bees knees. The ladies were sure to be impressed.

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The color choices, she was assured, were the absolute latest and most popular: the soft robin’s egg blues with chestnut browns and the gorgeous creams and silvers for the second floor hall and bedrooms. They were just perfect, Kitty thought. And on the first floor, the rich wood paneling, kelly greens, and red carpeting were just so luxurious.

“Okay now, I must remember how to use this new Coffeemate thing,” Kitty says to herself, coming out of her reverie. She was so excited when she received it as a wedding gift from her aunt. Kitty surveys the kitchen and dining area, happy that she had decided to go with copper and yellow as her colors of choice here. Mr. French assured her that copper was going to be the next big trend in color and that Kitty would be the very first in her neighborhood to have it. The copper handles and hinges on her ranch style cabinetry were just divine. Kitty had also decided on a country motif for her kitchen, which she thought was so romantic. After growing up in a penthouse apartment in Chicago her whole life, she thought the country look was just so darling.

The best decision she thought she made as she surveyed her new kitchen were her kitchen counter tops: canary yellow with silver boomerang shapes. “Just splendid,” she thinks. They were the most gorgeous countertops in all of Illinois, surely.

Kitty walks over to the nice bay window with banquet seat in the kitchen which Stan had chosen to add. As Kitty floats down to it and sips her coffee, she looks outside and watches the snowflakes begin to fall, thinking that this addition was just perfect for the house. Now she knows it will be the perfect night: fresh snowfall for her Christmas party, how wonderful.

Oh heavens, look at the time! Kitty rushes off down the hall to the living room to give it a quick survey. The Christmas tree is beautiful and the buffet table is already set up, thanks to Stan. She will have to add more garland to the fireplace mantle and some more candles, but everything looks perfect.

Kitty quickly dresses, feeds the cat, throws on her coat, hat, and gloves, and heads out the door. She mustn’t be late for the beauty parlor! She booked just enough time for her setting, makeup, and nails. Miss Beverly, who owns the premier beauty parlor in Bridge Grove, is very difficult to get an appointment with. Nancy Gold recommended her and said there was just no one else that she would trust her hair to. And by the looks of Nancy, Kitty would trust her with just about any advice on fashion; she was certain that Nancy must have been a model before she married Chip. Kitty was so impressed that she ended up choosing the date of the party only after she confirmed an appointment with Miss Beverly.

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As Kitty backs her cherry red Bel Air out of the driveway, she sees another lot on her street that is beginning construction. There were already six new ranch homes built on Meadow Lane. She is eager to meet new neighbors. So far, most of the neighbors that Kitty had met were mostly single men who were avid golfers and lived in the city during the week. It can be a bit lonely, so she hopes for a young couple or a family to move in and liven up the neighborhood.

Half and hour later, Kitty is sitting in the beauty parlor with her hands dipped in nail solution and Miss Beverly circling to size up her hair.

“So, it’s a Christmas party at your home, you zay?” Miss Beverly asks.

“Yes,” says Kitty.

“And you will be wearing ze emerald green satin cocktail dress, yes?”

Kitty nods, holding her breath.

“Zen ze only thing to do is ze bob and flip. Zis will make you look more mature.”

Kitty exhales, feeling like she just passed a test.

Within seconds, Miss Beverly’s assistants are buzzing around Kitty with curlers, powders, polishes, and creams. A few hours later, Kitty’s look is complete. Miss Beverly spins Kitty’s chair around to face the mirror. She takes one look and squeals with delight! Her hair is a perfect bouffant bob with the bottom edges flipped into a half curl. The height elongates her neck so elegantly. And her makeup is just gorgeous. Miss Beverly chose emerald eye shadow to match Kitty’s dress and a deep red for her lips and nails. “How very festive!” Kitty thinks happily.

The girls carefully wrap Kitty’s hairdo in a scarf, she pays the bill, and is off. After stops at the butcher and flower shop, Kitty arrives back home with a little less than two hours to get everything prepared. Within minutes, Stan arrives home with ice and a few extra bottles of scotch that he thinks might be good to have on hand. The butcher arrives to drop off the liverworst pate, tar-tar, vienna sausages in bbq sauce, and a pimento loaf, and the florist finishes setting up the poinsettias that Kitty had ordered.

Kitty catches Stan staring at the food items the butcher has delivered, looking perplexed.

“Why, Stan, is there something wrong?” she asks him.

“Ah, no, my darling, it’s just that this all looks so, er, so professional?” Stan says with hesitation.

“Goodness, they will know, won’t they? The ladies will take one look at this food and know that I didn’t make it. Oh no, this is going to be a disaster, isn’t it?” Kitty exclaims while wringing her hands.

“Now dear, calm down. The food looks beautiful and you are gorgeous! No one will notice. Everything will be just fine.” Stan kisses Kitty on her forehead and heads over to the bar.

Kitty nervously takes the food from the butcher out of the boxes and adds some finishing touches: Ritz crackers for the pate, melba toast for the tar-tar, and some fresh parsley for the pimento loaf, just like in the cookbooks.

Kitty catches a glimpse of the front yard as she walks into the living room to set out the new boomerang-shaped ashtrays and carton of cigarettes. It sure is snowing out there, looking so beautiful. She stands at the window for a while, smiling as she hears “Suzy Snowflake” by Rosemary Clooney cooing from the hi fi. She giggles a bit and then realizes that she does not have much time left to get dressed. She runs into the bedroom nearly knocking over the poinsettia in the hallway, hearing Stan yell to her from the kitchen: “Slow down dear, there is plenty of time!” She mumbles something back about men having no idea what it takes for a woman to get dressed.

Kitty unwraps her dress, such a beautiful shade of emerald, from the box. She takes out her girdle, stockings, dress, pumps, jewelry, shalamar, and poinsettia broach. “Perfect!” she exclaims as she views herself in the mirror, all put together. “Just perfect!”

As she arrives in the living room, she sees Stan sitting on the couch, reading the paper.

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“Now, let me have a look at my beautiful bride,” he says, ignoring her frantic pleas. “Wow, what a stunner! How did I get so darn lucky?”

He plants a kiss on her cheek, making her giggle.

“Hey, the gals just love ya,” he says. “Everything is going to be great! Look at this beautiful home I had built for ya. There’s nothin’ to worry about, dear, nothin at all.”

He sits back down with his paper and Kitty just laughs. “Men,” she says, shaking her head.

The door bell rings just as Kitty is lighting the last candle. She may have overdone it with the candles as she sees Stan’s reaction as he walks towards the door. Oh well, too late now.

She rushes to his side to greet their first guests, John and Vicky Pool. Stan chuckles when he sees that it’s them who has arrived first.

Vicky is wearing the most interesting pink coat with a pink sable hat, pink gloves, and pink pumps. She arrives with a casserole of franks and beans and a pitcher of her famous iced tea. Now that was one inside joke Kitty does know about. Oh my, her tea is just awful.

Stan gives John and Vicky the grand tour as Kitty lays out the casserole on the buffet table. She can hear John talking to Stan as they approach the living room. “We will have to get you a pool in that backyard this summer there, Stan. And who better to get you a great deal on a pool than the man named Pool?” John laughs and laughs, patting Stan on the back. Kitty chuckles to herself.

As the guests continue arriving, the buffet table fills up fast, the bed is piling high with coats and hats, and the smoke is wafting through the house. Kitty hopes that everyone is enjoying themselves so far.

Gladys, Kitty was told by Stan, is always the life of the party and it seems that she is in fine form tonight. The minute she arrived, everyone gathered around her and Jack as they told the latest story about their recent trip to Florida. She certainly knew how to work a room. Kitty so admired her.

Gladys is wearing a beautiful silver wiggle dress with a short cropped matching jacket. Her red hair is piled high in a beautiful coif, and the contrast of her hair against the silver shimmering material is stunning. Kitty thinks that Gladys looks like a movie star.

Last to arrive is Nancy and Chip. Vicky Pool had forewarned Kitty that Nancy is always fashionably late, so by no means should she pass out any hors d’oeuvres until Nancy and Chip make their entrance.

And what an entrance it is! Nancy has really outdone herself this time. She is a vision in powder blue chiffon with a floor length pleated gown gather at the bodice, with the most beautiful gold rhinestone star-shaped broach. The train elegantly dusts the floor, extending all the way up to the neckline. And her hair, what a piece of artistry, gorgeous curls swept up just like Lucille Ball’s.

Just then Kitty hears Gladys announce that her famous egg nog is ready and asks who wants a glass.

Kitty loves egg nog, and boy is Gladys’ delicious. Stan calls everyone to the bar and raises his glass for a toast. Kitty stands next to him and looks around the room. With the low lights and soft candle glow, the Christmas tree just looks magnificent with all of its colors and tinsel.

“Thank you, dear friends, for joining us tonight,” Stan says as he holds his glass high. “And to my new bride, Kitty, may this be just one of many happy Christmases together. And that means a lot, coming from a Jewish guy!” The crowd roars with laughter. “Cheers, everyone!”

All of the ladies rush over to Kitty to tell her how much they love her dress and hair, and oh that eyeshadow!

Soon after everyone heads to the buffet. What a beautiful feast it is! There’s liver pate, deviled ham, lobster newburg spread, sardine and bacon rolls, pimento pinwheels, mushroom loaf, chicken ala king, and a wonderful array of desserts.

Carla whispers to Gladys to meet her in the kitchen and they both stealthily slip away from the other ladies. Carla opens the napkin in her hand and gestures to Gladys to look at it.

“Is that a wrapper?” asks Gladys.

“Yes, it was under the entire liverworst” Carla says.

“Oh my, poor dear! Vicki found plastic wrap under the tar tar and quickly slipped it out before anyone else noticed, she told me,” says Gladys.

“We have to do something. We can’t let this poor lamb suffer and we certainly don’t need to be ingesting paper and plastic! She’s one of us now doll; we’ve got to help her out,” says Gladys. They nonchalantly head back to the group to mingle.

As the ladies eat and talk, Gladys realizes it is just the girls standing around, so she asks Kitty which dishes from the buffet table are hers. Kitty admits it’s the liverworst from the butcher. After a moment of silence, Gladys glances around the room and finally says: “Say, Kitty, you can’t cook a lick, can you?”

Kitty laughs with relief and says: “No, not a lick.”

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All the ladies laugh and take their turns hugging her. Susan says that she will teach Kitty to bake and the ladies nod in definite agreement. “Susan is the best baker among us, for sure,” says Carla Benson.

“And Carla should be the one to teach you casseroles. I swear every time there is a gathering you have whipped up some new delightful concoction,” says Gladys.

“Oh, and I would be happy to help you as well. Everyone always loves my roast,” claims Mary Peterson.

“My, yes, the best roast in Bridgegrove,” says Nancy. “I’m still trying to perfect the recipe.”

“I would be happy to give you my ambrosia and summer salad recipes, Kitty. Everyone always enjoys those dishes when I bring them to our gatherings,” says Vicky. “Oh, and my iced tea, naturally. I might be persuaded to share that recipe with you.”

The ladies all shoot each other a glance and try not to burst out laughing.

“No, Vicky, we wouldn’t want you to give away your trade secret,” says Nancy, as the ladies nod and sigh in relief.

“Well, there you go, doll,” Gladys remarks to Kitty. “And say, you realize you deprived us ladies of a wedding to dress for, right?”

Everyone chuckles and Kitty blushes. “I’m so sorry, girls. With the differences in Stan and my religions, we just thought it would be much easier for our families. I couldn’t bear either of us having to tell our families we had to convert,” Kitty responds.

“Oh my, I didn’t even think of that,” says Mary. “You are absolutely right, dear. Very smart.”

“Ladies, I have the best idea,” Nancy cries. “Kitty, you must let us throw you a proper wedding shower this spring!”

“Oh yes! What fun! How swell!” All the ladies exclaim to each other.

Kitty beams with joy. “I would love that! Thank you so much!”

“Leave it to us,” Nancy says. “Gladys, we have planning to do,” elbowing Gladys gently. The two exchange an excited look.

“Sorry to interrupt, girls, but may I steal my bride away for a spin across the room?” Stan asks as he reaches out his hand to Kitty.

Kitty smiles from ear to ear as she follows Stan across the room.

Within minutes, everyone is slow dancing to the sounds of Pat Boone. The snow is falling gently on the bushes outside the living room window. Gladys tiptoes around the room in stocking feet, handing out champagne. “Oh, my, I almost forgot the champagne,” Kitty thinks to herself.

Kitty is so happy, she lays her head on Stan’s shoulder and thinks about all of the compliments the ladies gave her on the party and her home decor. She feels such pride. Maybe entertaining isn’t so difficult after all.


Cooking Stories

I Was Dating The Food And We Were In Love.

Somewhere in my twenties while living in a broom closet in the not-so-nice part of San Francisco with two other girls and barely getting by, I was friends with a gal who had a thing for chefs. She was very attractive and very charming, but just didn’t seem to like a guy for longer than 2-3 weeks. Our group used to put imaginative expiration dates on the foreheads of her suitors. Lucky for me, she always wanted a wing man for the first few dates with these fellas. Usually it was a double date situation, and sometimes, even though I was the third wheel, I tell ya, I didn’t mind a bit, because we ate. And I mean, WE ATE!

Poor me was being dragged to some of the newest and hottest food spots in the city as a third wheel! So, if I didn’t have my own dates, well, that was okay; I was dating the food and we were in love.

One of her suitors, a really excellent guy, took us to what he called “his friend’s joint.” This joint was no joint, and his friend, well, if he isn’t a celebrity chef by now, I’d be surprised. This guy was incredible. He sent out chef plate after chef plate and each one was more impressive than the last. I was young and poor at the time so I ate everything that was put in front of me.

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The dish that stuck with me that night was his rendition of French toast. It was sort of like a cross between French toast and kind of a Tiramisu. Imagine a thick slice of brioche soaked in Amaretto and Cointreau, pan fried and then topped with marscapone, ricotta, lemon juice, and paper thin tangerine slices. It was a knock-your-socks-and-pants off type of dish. Just the socks was not enough; clothes from the whole bottom half of your body, knocked right off!

I did not get the whole recipe. He wouldn’t give away his secrets, but if I guessed an ingredient, he would confirm if I was correct. There were some other spices and elements in the dish that I could not place. It was very complex and my pallet wasn’t educated enough yet. But what I identified I loved and wanted to try to replicate.

Many failed attempts later, I finally got a result that was a great balance of flavors. It was not nearly as good as his, but good enough to call a yummy dish. And thus I opened the door to what would be my wide world of trying to soak everything in booze before I cooked it.

Sometimes this was successful, much by happy accident, and sometimes it went right in the garbage never to be spoken of again.

One day, I woke up craving a Bloody Mary. I didn’t have the money to go out to brunch and sadly did not have all of the ingredients needed to make one at home, so I decided I would settle on a brunch Martini and whip up a grilled cheese.

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As I began prepping my grilled cheese (throwing it in the oven on broil for a few minutes after having cooked it halfway in the pan), all of a sudden a huge splash of vodka soaked my bread, pissing me off. We all know you can’t start a grilled cheese with wet soggy bread. Then I thought: “Wait a minute….What if you can?”

So I decided to try it! Hell, I had an entire loaf of bread and was willing to sacrifice a few shots of vodka. The result was amazing, totally unexpected, and absolutely delicious!

Here is my happy accident:

2 slices of your favorite bread. Make sure it’s a thick bread that can stand up to being soaked
1 shot of a nice quality vodka
1 tbs of real whipped butter (hey, I never said it was a diet dish)
2 slices of a nice meaty ripe tomato
1/2 tsp of horseradish
1 pinch of celery salt
1 pinch of garlic salt
2 slices of your cheese of choice. My favorite cheese with this dish is a nice provolone or muenster
(If you are feeling really fancy, throw in a few sliced olives)

Toast your bread slices to a light to medium darkness.
Soak each slice in a shallow dish of vodka for a few seconds on each side.
Slather each slice with horseradish and butter.
Sprinkle celery & garlic salt on both slices.
Place slices in a hot pan side by side.
Add cheese slice to each piece of bread.
Cover pan with lid on med-high heat for 3-4 minutes until cheese begins to melt.
Remove pan from stove.
Add tomatoes on top of each bread slice.
Place pieces together into a sandwich and place in the oven on bottom rack to broil for 2-3 minutes until top of bread is golden brown. Flip over and repeat.
Remove, let cool so you don’t burn your tongue out of your mouth, and enjoy!

Note:
*You are not allowed to use Velveeta cheese! Somehow I will know, and I will find you and I will make you wear a stupid hat and sit in the corner and then I will take pictures of you and post it on the internet.
*I would stay away from the sharper cheeses due to the vodka; stick with a mild, buttery cheese.

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To get creative with this sandwich, basically think of anything and everything that you could put in a Bloody Mary and add that inside this delicious grilled cheese.

I hope you find it as dreamy as I do.

The moral of the story is: cook with booze. Cook everything with booze! It’s always better.

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