Apr 22, 2010

Let's not, shall we: A word on Entertaining Books

For research purposes, I read more decor-entertaining-advice books than I care to mention. Most of them are forgettable to the point where I wonder if, in fact, I even read them in the first place. And if there's one thing that's true, though, is that I can't stand to read the phrase: "Don't worry, have fun!" I swear it comes up about 30000 times in every book. This is terrible advice, since "having a small and intense panic attack" seems to be part of many would-be-hosts to-do lists.  Having fun is the furthest thing from my mind in that jumpy pre-guest moment where I realize that I have about 2 minutes to get dressed, answer text messages from people who need directions, answer calls about parking, etc etc. And then the cat decides to get stuck behind a dresser. FUN!

Sometimes, though, an author suggests something so far out of left field that I just have to share it with someone. Today, it's this tip from caterer-to-the-stars Lulu Powers, from her book Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers. I will preface this by saying that I actually enjoyed this book, at least from a recipe standpoint. There are at least 15 post-its marking recipes, including one for Chocolate-Caramel Brownies that are not only Bill Clinton-approved, but only use about 5 ingredients (the biggest one being a Devil's Food cake mix). She seems genuinely delightful, naming her doggie Teddy Kennedy, calling afternoon drinks "sneakies", etc.

But here's the tip that threw me:

"For an indoor clambake...buy a bag of sand from a local hardware store or garden center and spread it down the center of a small table like a table runner..."

Just, um, make sure you have a good vacuum and keep the cats far, far away from the table. Lest people start finding bits of "brownies" by their entrees. Say it with me: "Let's not, shall we!"

Apr 15, 2010

New Cocktail: Rose Meets Blanche

Yesterday I picked up not one, but two bizarre ingredients from the grocery store: Rose Water and Orange Flower Water. Why I capitalized those names, I have no idea. It's not like I capitalize Lettuce. Wait, I just did...

Anyway, I can't explain what I was thinking when I blindly shoved the bottles into my shopping basket. It seemed like a life-enhancing thing to buy. Roses, orange blossoms--those are lovely things. It'll be like a garden in my drafty studio! Won't I be fancy?!

As I got home, I thought of all the things I could add it to. Cakes, sorbets, and other things I never ever make. Mostly, I thought I could add a dash of it to an Old-Fashioned or my evening Martini. (again with the capitalization...)

When I opened the bottles, only one thing crossed my mind: Orange water and rose water smell like fairy pee.

I was bothered by the wasteful purchase, until I came up with this cocktail. It's kind of like a margarita, without the Spring Break connotations.

I named it after the two remaining Golden Girls. In it, the rose water cues in on the delicate daintiness of Rose (GET IT?!) while the tequila gives it a decidedly worldly Blanche flair.

Rose Meets Blanche

In a cocktail shaker, combine...

1 1/2 oz. Rosangel Hibiscus-infused tequila (don't look at me like that, it's a tequila that doesn't taste of pennies and that's worth it to me)

3 drops rose water

3 oz grapefruit juice (as the case for the other day, I have lots of grapefruits to use up)

1 tsp. black currant or raspberry syrup

dash lime juice

Shake until frosty, then strain into the fanciest glass you have. For me, it was one that looked like a tulip. A purple one.

Apr 14, 2010

The most glamorous lady ever...

A few weeks ago, I was at a coffee shop in Philadelphia, when I happened to come across THE MOST GLAMOROUS LADY EVER (TM). There she is, above. Can you see her cigarette holder? The bejeweled barrette on the back of her bouffant? The devil-may-care stance?

There was so much glamour that my camera could not handle taking a head-on full photo of her. (Okay, the reality is that I was pretty sure she would tell me to go to hell in the most eloquent and haughty way, the likes of which haven't been seen since Joan Crawford's day.) But can I describe her outfit? Okay. It was a full-length black gown with a long cashmere shawl/cardigan/cape. Three layers of necklaces, two cocktail rings and jawbreaker-sized diamond earrings.

And the biggest eyeglasses ever. Like, Carrie Donovan huge. You don't remember her? You're kidding me...

There. Now imagine that, and you can see why I just *had* to get some sort of photo. I mean, it was all I could do not to ask her to adopt me. She just seemed like she had all sorts of stories, involving bridge games with Truman Capote, Slim Keith and the chimp who played Cheetah in the old Tarzan movies. While Burt Bacharach played in the background. She'd swear alot, drink Rob Roys and own lots of caftans and/or palazzo pants. That's just all in a days' work for THE MOST GLAMOROUS WOMAN IN THE WORLD (TM).

Apr 13, 2010

Spring store windows...

Today a co-worker (responsible for getting props for our photo shoots) said, "You know, it's hard to shop in my spare time, since I spend my day trying to find cobalt blue salt shakers." What she meant is that it can be hard leaving our "Decor Hats" in the office. I know I wear mine, which is more of a Decor beret, during evenings and weekends.

And that's when I get around to doing store windows, like this one for the fabulous cupcake boutique, La Dolce Divas. This theme was...well, Spring. I filled the shop, and windows, with all sorts of flowers. I made about 90% of them, by folding and cutting tissue paper until my fingers were individually cramped. It took about two days before I could properly hold my favorite highball glass.
I'd like to think it was all worth it. Here are some more pics:

Apr 11, 2010

Grapefruit Brulee Cocktail

My North-facing apartment doesn't get too much light. It faces the across-the-street row of brownstones, which is fine for spying on neighbors (not that I'd, ahem, ever do that), but the lack of direct light makes me feel as if I live in a casino. A casino with no jackpot, no disco music, no buffet or sequined outfits. (Can you tell I've never been to a casino?)

Anyway. What I'm trying to say that the indirect light makes things kind of gloomy. And that's when I have a grapefruit. Or, more likely, this grapefruit-based cocktail. It's bright, light and altogether summer-y. It has plenty of Vitamin C, and plenty of rum. Which is handy for fighting both scurvy AND gloominess.

This particular cocktail takes its cues from bruleed grapefruit, which is indeed an actual thing. You see, you're supposed to take a fresh grapefruit (as opposed to an old one), halve it, dip it in brown sugar and pass it under your broiler.

Which would be delicious, if I wasn't terrified of using my broiler.

So we'll go with the next best thing, which is convenient but fancy enough to impress others.

Grapefruit Brulee Cocktail
(serves 1)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (or bottled, I won't tell)
1 to 1 1/2 oz dark rum, depending on your day
1/2 oz brown sugar syrup
dash bitters (optional)

*To make the brown sugar syrup, boil equal parts brown sugar and water together until appropriate syrup-y.

Squeeze 1 large grapefruit over a measuring cup topped with a sieve. Pour the filtered juice into a martini shaker filled with ice, then the rum and syrup. Shake until the shaker is frosty; strain into a glass.