This weekend we hosted an 18 person slumber party at our house, friends flung back into our orbit from New Orleans and New York, Washington, Richmond and Los Angeles, all to come see us and the horse races, to toast champagne, try their hand at moonshine, eat fried chicken and enjoy the glorious southern spring in all of its almost-unbelievable beauty. The air was crisp, the sky was clear, the horses were swift, and the company was excellent. What more could a girl ask for? Oh yeah, for the day to end with 30 people singing and playing music around the campfire.
This Saturday was Thomas Jefferson’s 270th birthday, so naturally, we went to celebrate it at his house. Monticello is smaller than you might imagine, a mansion on a hill, sure, but gentle in its proportions, the elegant, perfectly appointed rooms small by current American standards. My love affair with TJ has been long and generally University-of-Virginia-Statute-of-Religious-Freedom-Declaration-of-Independence based, but (especially in light of my recent bent of homemaking, garden digging, and general musings on having things just the way I want them) his house really had me in a swoon. A parlor full of antlers, bones, and special weighted clocks, a bedside hothouse with tuberose and gardenia, maps and feathers and natural specimens, a dumbwaiter hidden in a fireplace specifically for bringing wine from cellar to table? Mr. Jefferson, you are my kind of guy. And Albemarle County was in her effortless spring splendor, you can see why the man picked this spot, his little mountain, Monticello. Happy Birthday.
Carrie came over last night and we had what might be the last glasses of red wine of the season. Now, New York hasn’t exactly been cooperating with this season business- winter was a mere turkish delight’s worth of chill and March has come on like a liger, tricking the crocuses and then making them cry. My mourning for red wine and whiskey is almost more symbolic than anything else, a wish for the warmth I know/hope is coming. To that effect, I think maybe instead of looking back on the end of the season, I’ll look forward. To late sun and backyards and flowy striped dresses with bare legs. And for that I need to raise my glass with something fresh, light, champagney, and not too silly. Perfect timing for Meags sending me this early-spring-perfect concoction, the cherub’s cup. Added bonus: you can fix it in batches in a big pitcher, alleviating muddle fatigue, and allowing for that “breezy effortless hostess” thing that’s so very hard to capture. Oh this? Just whipped it up.
1/4 cup sliced strawberries + more for garnish
1/2 cup St. Germain
1 cup Hendrick’s gin
1/3 cup lemon juice (this is NOT exact, so you can adjust)
~1.5 bottles dry sparkling wine (enough to fill your pitcher 3/4 of the way)
:: Muddle your strawberries with a bit of the St. Germain (it’s easier to muddle if you’re working with a small volume)
:: Pour the muddled berries and all the hard alcohol into a large pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice and the sparkling wine and taste to make sure you like the proportions. You can make a bit more of the St. Germain + gin mix and add it in if you like. Add additional sliced berries to the top for a pretty finish, or slice a slice on the diagonal and perch it on the rim of the champagne flute.
:: Put on pink lipstick, something cottony, maybe a silk scarf, and tiptoe through the tulips.
It should get to 55 today, let’s cross our fingers and our legs at the ankle and pray for 60. Happy weekend.
Cherub’s Cup Recipe/image from new fave (and serious sister-in-cocktails) Heart of Light.
This plant in my apartment:
image from here (seriously ET is the best, I cried).
I love this from Aled Lewis. Usually I feel like the bunny, but sometimes I feel like the fox. Today is one of those days. Watch out, Spring Saturday Night!
ps. bought a satchel of newcomer Momofuku Milk compost cookies from the flea for Njoki’s birthday, fulfilling my duty/destiny to see and be seen wearing funny shoes/glasses (baby/dog optional).
THE VEGETABLE SOUP MATRIX: You choose the green bean and the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. Take the red lentil, you stay in Wonderland, and get shown what the rabbit’s eating down deep in its hole. This divine little article explores the recipe-less free-wheeling cousins of bisque. Just like I like alphabetizing my condiments and labeling my leotards, the idea of pushing a vast category of wild foodstuffs into Four Simple designations (CREAMY, EARTHY, HEARTY, BROTHY) is like a Punnet Square of sustainable eating on the cheap. We’d better get (pepper) cracking if we’re going to make any of these delicious bottom-of-the-barrell greenmarket scrapers before we’re back to rhubarb and tomatoes. I will gladly celebrate the end of butternut squash, kill the kale, and im-peach the beet, all with toasted baguettes and crème fraîche.
Ahh, it’s been one of those weekends. This week justified doing absolutely nothing* all day Saturday and then deciding, oh hell, let’s do absolutely nothing again today. Well… no matter how busy my week was, if I’m not going to go see (what looks like the most amazing) Norman Rockwell photography exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum or Snape/Shine at BAM or all the myriad things one should do on a rainy day off in Brooklyn. I always feel at least the need to fluff around my apartment and feather it a little bit. Enter: my favorite recipe- which I have never named and is simply: Almond Cake. It is SO ridiculously easy, but ends up quite special and sophisticated.
I like this recipe so much (and make it so frequently) that instead of living with the rest of the recipes, I transcribed it onto the back of the awesome Alpine Accordion Band postcard I got in the Hague and it lives on the fridge, edges curling with repeated Kirschings, in easy in-case-of-reference reach:
Almond Cake (for company or solitude celebrations)**
1 cup almonds, raw
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 stick butter (softened, cut up)
1 tsp. Kirsch (if you have)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
powdered sugar (in truth, optional… but just you wait!)
- Oven to 350 degrees please.
- Place almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in food processor, pulverize.
- Add eggs, butter, kirsch and blend thoroughly.
- Add flour and baking powder, mix until just blended.
- butter/oil/pam/crisco/lard/whatever and flour pan (standard cake pan, torte pan, whatever)
- Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth.
(at this point Sweetheart comes in dripping wet in the middle of it– heading from teaching a children’s music class in Chelsea on his way to Bed-Stuy to lead a rock band of eight year olds– bearing champagne and bacon. le swoon.)
- enlist sweetheart’s help to lick spatula and everything with even a smidge of almond mixture on it clean (optional, encouraged…if you are afraid of raw eggs, then… I am very sorry for you. Egg nog, Southsides, Hollandaise, all other -aises, and sweet batters are some of the best treats around).
- Put un-cake in oven for 30-45 minutes until it turns golden brown and becomes cake.
- Let cool completely, then run a fine knife around the edge and invert on a plate. There is a surprisingly good little drawing of how to do this on my recipe card:
NOW- you are effectively done. BUT- if you’d like to take it a step further, then the easiest and most lovely thing to do next is to decorate it with a powdered sugar relief. Again, if you like making cheap things look expensive (like I do) and easy things look impressive (me too) then this is the kind of next level thing you’ll love.
Cut whatever you’d like out of plain paper– if you are artistically inclined you can get totally crazy, but simple shapes work just as well***– I chose a rainstorm-brings-spring-blooms thing because it’s so wet and nasty out today, but it must be paving the way for crocuses and daffodils like.any.second. Place your cutouts on your lovely almond cake:
Then dust a light sprinkling of powdered sugar over the cutouts using a fine sieve or flour sifter if you’re super fancy:
Then carefully take off the paper cutouts (I used tweezers for this one because the flower stems were as bendy as real flower stems and I didn’t want to color inside the lines by accident).
This is the perfect way to make “a rainy day where you could have gone to see Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts but decided to nap” into “a triumph of home and sweetness, and now let’s have people over to eat it for dessert”.
* Saturday I actually spent in the thrall of a Colum McCann book… I loved his newest and “supported my local bookstore” by buying this one and recommend devoting a Saturday to it wholeheartedly. Lovely and bittersweet and occasionally staggeringly beautiful. Slivovitz and words that taste like wheat and sky.
**The recipe calls for a large food processor, but until Sweetheart’s mama gave us a “Robot Culinaire” for Christmas/Hannukah/New Years, I made it just fine on multiple occasions without (chop the almonds fine fine fine and melt and stir the butter, instead of cubing it- no prob).
*** Other cakes we’ve made in the past month include:
If you make one Please send in a picture (we’ll keep adding on!).
I went to SoHo for a rare mid-day appointment and when I stepped out of the subway I was immediately hit with a fashion-shoot-worthy bluster of wind blowing my coat open and lifting my scarf around like something out of Avedon (see above). I felt oh-so-fashionable in a vintage houndstooth in-the-style-of-Chanel, big gold baubles, bigger sunglasses, my favorite pumps, and- per my resolution- a big, bright, silk, scarf. Only when I arrived at my appointment did I realize that TWO buttons had popped off my coat (one into my purse, file under: bizarre, fortuitous). My coat was LITERALLY telling me it was time to start wearing less, taking more off… in the meantime (until it rises above 40) what am I to do!? More scarves.
Am enamored with this look from Glamourai and fully realize that I am essentially one whole year late on this. Trend-cycling or something. Right? Regardless, isn’t her little fox simply divine? And, as you know, I like nothing more than showing my bra.
While we wait eagerly for spring, here’s a reminder of what adventures feel like.
image courtesy of Jennifer Evans and the divine Still Developing project in support of polaroid film.