A couple weeks ago, inspired by my BFF Blake Bailey’s latest bio, Farther and Wilder (boffo WSJ review here), I offered a Tom Collins, gin-lemon-soda. But on retrospect it was only OK—it would be the perfect libation on a hot summer evening, but it was March. Also, I could hardly taste the gin, and what’s the point of that unless you’re drinking the cheap shit? Just to check, I ordered one last weekend at a restaurant and it was so bad I didn’t even finish it (which is not like me, that’s how bad it was—how do you screw up something as simple as that?). But I loved the idea of the heavy lemon. I loved the idea of, every now and then, not being aware of the alcohol in my drink. What does this lead to? Read On »

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There was no other way given everyone’s schedule. We arrived from a relaxing vacay with Mom in West Palm on Monday night, and Donna’s sister, Regina, a professional cake whisperer, arrived first thing the next day ready to work (and teach). I am cake challenged. I’m sweets challenged. My idea of sweets is pictured above. But the subject I’m writing about now, cleverly integrated into the above photo, demands that I address cakes. Thus, despite Regina’s patience, energy, and expertise, each day has for me ended with a feeling of depletion and fatigue, requiring a single end-of-the-day cocktail before I began dinner (which would be followed by more baking—cakes can be, should be, frozen—and/or photography). So I wanted something strong, complex, familiar, and easy at the end of these challenging days, no straining into a Read On »

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Today’s cocktail is in honor of my best friend’s latest biography out this week, Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson. Jackson is all but forgotten but was the toast of Hollywood for a time and a highly regarded novelist, best known for The Lost Weekend. The Wall Street Journal calls Blake Bailey’s book “brilliant and gripping,” which is all the more amazing in that the story is largely about literary failure. The Lost Weekend was until now Jackson’s only enduring legacy, and remembered only because a great movie was made of it. Blake, whom the Daily Beast and his next subject, Philip Roth, both called the best biographer working today, also wrote the award-winning Cheever biography, and his non-award-winning bio of Richard Yates, which was even better than Cheever in my opinion (shows Read On »

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I had a question for my friend and neighbor Lois Baron and her email ended thus: “By the way, Passover is almost here and I am making more schmaltz plus some highpowered horseradish. Hope you have a fabulous Easter. Love the schmaltz lady.” I do love the Schmaltz Lady! She helped educate me in the ways of schmaltz, the glorious rendered chicken fat that makes everything taste better, especially things like these matzo balls, one of the greatest chicken soup garnishes ever! The photos above and below are from our app for iPads (minis too): The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, a short cookbook with twenty recipes for traditional Jewish dishes (kishke, cholent), as well as contemporary recipes putting this great fat to use (savory brioche, vichyssoise) and great photography Read On »

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Having recently delighted in Skyfall with son James, and with a fresh bottle of Lillet on hand, and having never tried this preposterous sounding cocktail with the beguiling name, well, I had to give the Vesper a go. Checking my resources I noticed that one, the very elegant and excellent ratio-oriented book, See Mix Drink, includes a twist of orange rather than the customary lemon twist. I contacted the author, Brian D. Murphy, who explained his rationale via email: “Alessandro, the bartender at the Dukes Hotel in London (where the cocktail originated), replaces the lemon with an orange peel. When I visited there and asked why, he said it pairs much better with the hint of orange in the Lillet Blanc—so well, in fact, that he believes the lemon peel in the original was a mistake. After tasting Read On »

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