I did not want to like Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches. I had ordered it on Amazon without really reading much about it. When it came and I read the blurb in the back I realized that it was a vampire love story. I thought uh oh, this is just some Twilight rip off and I should just return it. But I didn't, I decided to give it a try, and man am I glad I did. As soon as I was 10 pages in the book had sunk its teeth into me (cheesy pun alert) and I could not put it down. Is this book a little over the top cheesy in the romance department? Yeah, it is, but it so fun I did not care. The book documents a love story between a modern day witch and vampire. Harkness creates a world where witches, vampires and daemons are real and live amongst us regular ol' humans. The witch and vampire at the center of the book are Diana Bishop - a witch and scientific historian who comes from a prominent old witch family (her ancestor was tried in Salem) and Matthew de Clermont, a very, very old vampire who is a preeminent scientist and from an old prominent vampire family. What we have here people is a classic Romeo and Juliet story. Vampires and witches are not supposed to mix, and when Diana and Matthew get together all hell breaks loose. I'll tell you more about it, and this earl grey pot de creme with blood orange compote after the jump.
I had intended, in light of Mardi Gras, to do a whole New Orleans week. It was supposed to start with this cocktail, the Sazerac, and then move on to some other classic New Orleans dishes. Unfortunately, this week ran away from me and I didn't make gumbo, king cake or etouffes. Sorry! But at the end of week I did throw together this Sazerac, and let me tell you, at the end of this week I needed a cocktail like this - one that will knock.you.out. The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans and contains nothing but alcohol, no juices or sodas to dilute it. I thought it would be too strong for me, but it is really nice. Something to sip slowly. I think this Sazerac was really helped along by the wonderful Rye Whiskey I used - from Bulleit. I chose it solely based on its hipster name and pretty packaging. Lucky for me, it is a buttery mellow Rye and I can't wait to use it in more cocktails. The recipe after the jump.
Tessa Hadley's The London Train was a perfect palate cleanser after the heaviness (in a good way) of Jacob de Zoet. That is not to say that the book is light - it certainly isn't. But it is simple in that the book is about the inner lives of two characters who are in their own ways facing a bit of a mid-life crisis. The first part of the book is about Paul and the second half about Cora, and we don't learn the connection between these two until Cora's part of the book. Both characters use the London train as a way to escape their lives - but they use it opposite directions. Cora uses the train to travel from her home (and husband) in London to Cardiff, where she grew up in Wales. Paul uses the train to escape his rural Wales home (and wife and children) to travel to London. Both of these characters are lost, and the book explores how they work through this and try to get on with their lives. It is a book filled with the small details of every day life, and through those details create a rich depiction of two people's struggle to be happy. At some point in the book, one of the characters mentions cheesecake. That dear reader, is all it took to inspire me to make this cheesecake - it really does not have much to do with the book! Rather, I have wanted to make it for years - it is a recipe for "London Cheesecake" from Nigella Lawson's fabulous How to be a Domestic Goddess. What you may not be able to tell from my photograph is that above the yellow rich cheesecake is a thin layer of pure white - it is that layer which earned this cake the label "London" - it is a layer of lightly sweetened sour cream. Needless to say, the cake is heaven.
I am sorry it has been so long since I have done a book review here, it has taken me an unusually longtime to get through David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. This is a result of the fact that it is a challenging book that really requires full attention to move through it, and because when I was on vacation for a week I didn't read at all (which is unusual for me). As soon as I picked up the book however, I got excited about possible dishes to make, since the book is about Dejima, a Dutch trading outpost in Nagasaki, Japan, in the 1800's. So I thought I could do some wacky Japanese/Dutch mash-up. In the end I decided to a famous sponge cake from Nagasaki called Castella or Kasutera, which is actually a Portuguese sponge cake. The cake was recommended to me by my friend Emma who used to live in Japan and is an expert in all things East Asian (thanks, Em!) and reports that this cake is associated closely with Nagasaki. I added some matcha green tea powder to bring that east/west vibe. The cake, although seemingly simple, is a little complicated to make, so it paired well with the book which was also a bit complicated. More about the cake and the book after the jump.
Here is a fun little cocktail to share with your special someone or with yourself on valentines day. It is a whopper so it is sure to ease your inhibitions or ease your pain! Although I am not a big fan of a fancy dinner out on Valentine's Day - you inevitably feel like a sucker with an overly expensive pre-fixe and harried and rushed service. But, even though I consider myself a thoroughly modern and independent woman, I must admit I am a sucker for flowers and chocolates - these are things, no matter how cliche and hokey, I like to get on Valentines Day (hint, hint, partner in crime out there reading this). Anyhoo, this cherry margarita with a chocolate rim is the perfect cocktail for V-day whether you are alone, with friends, or with a date. Enjoy!
Just a couple more food or drink only posts before my next book review of A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Both getting through the book and having time to make the recipe have delayed me, so I promise back to a book post very soon. In the interim, here are some flavor bombs for your dinner - Turkey Teriyaki meatballs. I threw these together on a recent weeknight easily and they turned out to be pretty amazing. They could obviously also work as an appetizer/snack, and in fact I originally envisioned making these for that big football game last week. But, I didn't get my act together in time to do it, so instead they turned into a special dinner. The recipe after the jump.
When I started doing cocktails on the blog a few months ago, I certainly didn't intend to make any cheesy blue drinks. Don't get me wrong, I like cheesy blue or green or red drinks in certain circumstances - when I am someplace hot with palm trees and sand, but they are not something I would normally make at home. That said, I couldn't let this week pass without some tribute to my New England Patriots. I know, I know, they are the most hated team in football - a coach that allegedly cheated, a quarterback that promotes Uggs, and kinda obnoxious star tight end. But the real reason everyone hates them of course if that they are champions and they win a lot. As a New Englander I am a loyal fan of the team that started the trend of bringing championships back to Boston! If you are routing for the other team on Sunday, fear not, you may have noticed that this drink would also work for you Giants fans, because conveniently, the Giants' colors are also red white and blue. So if you are looking for a fun cocktail for your Superbowl party, this one is perfect, no matter what team you are routing for. It will require you to purchase some cheesy blue liqueur, but come on, we all know those cheesy blue liqueurs taste really really good. The recipe after the jump.
Sorry to have not posted in a while, I was away on a little vacation to Whistler, B.C. It was wonderful to be away and outside everyday. I am still a bit of a beginner when it comes to skiing, so it was an invigorating few days trying to overcome some of my (irrational?) fears on the mountain. Luckily Whistler has a great, active village with loads of good restaurants so I was able to unwind at the end of the day with some nice food and drink(s)! I made these little pineapple upside down cakes a couple of weeks before I left, when Pineapples were on sale at whole foods. I combined a couple of recipes - Martha Stewart's and the recipe in the Joy of Cooking to come up with these little mini cakes. I used a jumbo muffin pan to make these. With the fresh pineapple they turned out beautifully - sweet but not so sweet that your teeth ache. The recipe after the jump.