Any book that gives you an excuse to make frozen custard, must be good, right? Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures is mostly set in glamorous (and not so glamorous) Hollywood, but at its heart and start it is a story about a girl from Door County, Wisconsin - where frozen custard is a summertime staple. The novel tells the story of the improbable rise to stardom of Elsa Emerson, a young girl from Wisconsin. Elsa has the theater in her blood - her parents run a summer theater in rural Wisconsin. But it is a family tragedy that propels her determination to escape Wisconsin and make it in Hollywood - her drive to succeed is not just for herself, but for her family. Elsa spends her first years in Hollywood as a young wife and mother, never really making it in the Hollywood studio system. She finally makes it when she meets a man who convinces her to shed "Elsa" and transform into Laura, the glamorous Hollywood starlet. The book spans 40+ years of Elsa/Laura's life and career, and the ups and down that come with it.
Until this one, I have never had a mint julep I enjoyed. That doesn't make sense, since I really love bourbon, but I have not had a tasty mint julep. As often happens with cocktails, a bad experience once can sometimes put you off a certain drink or type of liquor forever (or at least for a while). I recall a very bad mint julep my senior year in college, made by a friend from Kentucky (no offense, P!) - a medicine tasting drink that made me shiver a bit after I took a sip. To some extent, that was all it took for me to pretty much swear off juleps for a while. I have partaken a bit in recent years, since bourbon has been so in vogue, juleps turn up on a lot of menus. What I have found is that the crushed ice that is part of the drink is overdone a bit, and so I feel like I am drinking a bourbon snow cone. A purist will not like this blackberry mint julep, but it is far and away the best julep I have ever had. I really like the technique too - pureeing the fruit and mint together then straining to a syrup. This is something I will play with with other fruit and herb combinations - as summer approaches the possibilities are endless. While I am a late for an derby day party you may have thrown, this drink is a keeper for the spring no matter what the occasion.