Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

I'm just going to come straight out and say that on the cheesy barometer, monogrammed glassware ranks somewhat high in goo. But you know what? Whatever. Because when you're desperate to find that perfect gift for the person that has ev-er-ree-thing, this fits the frickin' bill.

Monogram the initial of your friend's last name, your friend's pet's name, your friend's twitter handle. It really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, he or she will be genuinely thrilled to receive these classic Champagne glasses (set of four) from Williams-Sonoma for a marvelous $59.00.

P.S. Ignore the drab photo. In real life it's way more sparkly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easy Entertaining: Spinach & Chicken Souffle

When it comes to entertaining, I look for recipes that are not too complex, easy to prep, and delightfully aesthetic when served. This recipe, a variation on Giada's, takes about 30 minutes to prepare and make, and then an hour to bake. The aroma in the kitchen five minutes after the souffle goes into the oven is fantastic and the taste is equally wonderful

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then grease a souffle dish generously with butter. Set aside.

Step One: In a sauce pan, melt half a stick of butter and mix with 1/4 cup of flour. Once it is well blended together add 1 & 1/2 cups of milk and continue to whisk until all the lumps are gone.

Step Two: Add to the mixture 2 cups of cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, 2 pounds of cooked, shredded chicken, three slices of white bread chopped into one-inch cubes, 6 egg yolks (save the whites), and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Step Three: Beat the six egg whites until firm with little peaks, then fold into the spinach and chicken mixture.

Step Four: Pour the mixture into the souffle dish and bake about an hour, until golden brown.

Serves 6 (or 4 really hungry people)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #18: Champagne Opening Etiquette

  • During the entire process of opening a Champagne bottle, keep the cork pointed away from small children, crystal chandeliers, and your own eyeballs.
  • Use a clean napkin, dish towel, or paper towel to gently coax the cork from the bottle. It will help to catch the cork as it attempts to catapult across the atmosphere and also to soak up any unexpected bubbly overflow.
  • Do not use your bare hands to yank the cork out and never ever use your thighs to clamp the bottle steady.
  • Tip the glass to a 60* as pour the Champagne in to help prevent overflow.
  • Put the Champagne on ice and refill glasses frequently

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Productive Surfless Saturday

The warm weather is here again and the collective giddiness that surfaces around my neighborhood during a summer day in November is contagious. Even at the crack of dawn people were out walking, running, gardening, and of course surfing.

When I pulled back into our garage it was that last group of early risers that inspired me to finally tackle a project I'd put off forever: relocating a surfboard. Storing it with the others in the rafters after hitting the waves only to take it down again every two weeks is just silliness.

I tied my hair up, located the 5/16 drill bit, charged up the Makita, dusted off the hooks I bought ages ago for this assignment, and got to work. It took ten minutes. I didn't even break one speck of sweat. But that's okay because that project led to another which led to another which went on and on until I realized lunch time had come and gone. Finally around 2:00 I threw together a sandwich and with a nice cold beer enjoyed the results of my wave of productivity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Winning Thanksgiving Hostess Gifts

If you're not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and you didn't contribute something to the spread, you sure as hell better not show up empty handed. Here are five suggested hostess gifts to pick up on the drive over, and a little insurance that you'll get invited back again next year.

Hula O Maui Sparkling Pineapple Wine This delicious sparkling wine is a delightful aperitif or post-dinner cleanup reward. Made from 100% Maui pineapples the taste is light and refreshing and not at all syrupy sweet. And the bottle is so cute that your friends and family will be forced to say nice things even if they hate it.

Clear Creek Distillery Kirschwasser (Cherry Brandy) Where there's apple pie and pumpkin pie, there's vanilla ice cream. After you've appropriately ooo'd and awww'd over those traditional non-alcoholic desserts, try pouring cherry brandy over a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. The flavor of the brandy's sweet cherries boasts an "almond nose" and the combination of it all together is divine. So go ahead and give yourself one more reason to stuff your face.

Patron XO Cafe One of my favorite activities after the Thanksgiving meal is the group Scrabble game or Thursday's crossword puzzle. It always involves a rich cup of coffee with heavy cream, sugar, and a little sumpin' sumpin'. Try adding this coffee liqueur and let the games begin.

Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch After you've presented this bottle to the hostess prepare to catch her as she jubilantly leaps into the air and straddles your torso. This rich, golden single malt is laced with peat-smoke and an absolute treat for those who appreciate complex layers of flavor. For that annoying aunt who announces that scotch is "gross," try waving the bottle cap under her nose and watch her beg for mercy.

Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy Best served chilled, this eau de vie de poire will perk up your pallet just when you think you never want to eat or drink again in your life. Cozy up to the fire, share what you're grateful for, and toast the end of Prohibition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Manners Rule #18: Tip on the Original, Not the Discount

Attention Bar & Restaurant Patrons,

When you receive a round on the house, or use a gift certificate, or flash your frequent drinker card, and your bill becomes lower than it should have been without the freebie/promo/discount you lucked out on, do not slight the bartender or server. Yes, your meal was free or cheap but that does not mean that the person making your night out enjoyable deserves any less. 

Look at the total of the amount owed before that number shrunk down and pony up on that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Stylist's Trunk Show (and Cocktail Party!)

Cocktail parties are hard enough to pass up but when it includes jewelry, I'll be the first to RSVP. My friend Shannon just launched her business as an independent stylist for Stella & Dot, a fun and fashionable jewelry, handbag, and tote line. To introduce the newest collection to all her friends she threw a Saturday night cocktail party in the comfort of her beautiful Los Angeles home.

Her event was my first peek at the brand, and I was definitely impressed. The jewelry is delicate without looking fragile, and dressy without needing a ball gown to justify wearing it out of your closet.  I'm hoping that I wasn't the only one who strickly bought for um...herself.

Earlier in the day I helped Shannon prepare the cocktail she'd be serving: cranberry juice and vodka with a fresh mint simple syrup. She wanted something festive for the evening but also uncomplicated enough to serve without needing a bartender. As the hostess slash stylist, she would have more urgent issues than empty martini glasses. We polished up a beautiful beverage jar and positioned the cocktail in a central location. Drinking while shopping was never easier.

If the empty jar was any sign of the evening's success, Shannon's trunk show was a hit. Gorgeous jewelry paired with lovely libations is simply a winning combination.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Video Post: Creative Cocktails from Australia

The itinerary to your Australian vacation cannot be properly planned without first taking a quick trip to Australia's Best Bars and Nightclubs website. Simply click on the cities you'll be visiting and discover the hottest bar, restaurant, live music, and DJ scene available.

For a peek at what some of the Australian mixologists are shaking up, take a look at this short video, courtesy of Barsand, and let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Starring...The Kitchen

Patch Crew Amanda and Stephan
I understood the perspective of a crazy stage mom while preparing my kitchen for a little film crew from AOL's Patch. My starlet needed to be well-prepared, glowing, and flawless. I'm positive that I put less attention into my appearance than hers since I spent over an hour restocking the wine racks, polishing the appliances, prepping the drink ingredients, and moving the bouquet of flowers around and around and around. For all I know my blouse was inside out but at least my kitchen looked good.

Patch Editor Amanda Salem arrived with her cameraman and they quickly set up shop. After some lighting adjustments and relocating the flowers  (I knew I picked a bad spot), we began filming. Amanda was an excellent bartender-in-training, taking direction very well and helping to create cocktails for the holidays: a Cranberry Mint Whiskey and an Apple Pie Martini.

The day was gone before I knew it, though that's just how it goes when you spend half of it making drinks and discussing the art of mixology. Cheers to bartending.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

Add this modern, stemless wine glass to your collection and upgrade the sophistication of your bar. Fellow tweeter @jjjmmmlll111 brought this website to our attention and we are forever indebted.  The Willows gifts are classy, high quality, and refreshingly unique. We guarantee you'll fall in love with more than a few of their items (and think you may become a fan of their blog). It's a perfect little online store for all your holiday shopping.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 Ways to Feign Comfort at the Bar...When You're Alone

You're waiting at the bar alone. Your date is late or your friend is lost or your roommate sucks and ditched you. For many the bar is an intimidating place when solo but it really shouldn't be. Here are a few simple tricks and tips for redirecting your discomfort:

Own That Bar Stool Although you may feel like people are looking at you and thinking, "poor, lonely, sad girl," it's quite the opposite. The poor, lonely, sad girl sits in her car until she sees her friend arrive, or hides behind her phone in the foyer. The self-confident, contented woman sits at the bar and owns her bar stool. People will look at you and think "self-assured," "comfortable," even "sexy." So work it, girl.

Order a Drink No, not water, honey. That's for that girl who sits in her car. Wine, beer, bourbon...something. If you're super out of your element ask for a drink that comes with a straw to keep your hands busy (think mixed drink). Don't shred the cocktail napkin or contort the straw. Just enjoy your independence and check out the scenery. And if you dare, make eye contact with someone.

Study the Bar Menu Check out the snacks, the drink specialties, the prices, the typography, the font size, whatever. It's something to do and still way better then turning to your security blanket, AKA, your stupid phone.

Chat to the Bartender As long as she isn't drowning in drink orders, she'd love to keep you company. You can ask her about the best drink she makes, what the restaurant is known for, or her wine recommendations. The best bartenders are the best gabbers.

Strike Up a Conversation Nothing will make you feel more comfortable and less alone than a conversation with a complete stranger. The entire point of a bar is to interact with other people. So go for it. Talk about the weather, your drink, last night's break-up, your shoe doesn't matter. It's not an 18-hour flight to Sydney. Relax. There are like 100 exit strategies if you get stuck with a whack-o.

My advice of course is to choose all of the above. What many people don't realize is that the bar is actually the best seat in the house. Even if your friend does eventually arrive, stay put. Maybe you've finally found your spot.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

High Stakes Competition

When I'm presented with a challenge, even a challenge that involves glue sticks, small paper squares, tape, and wine bottles, I rise to the occasion.  So when someone recently inquired whether I'd be participating in the Jordan Winery photo competition, my response was, "damn straight I am." Until that moment I hadn't even heard about the contest but being slightly competitive (understatement), I wanted in.

The competition ends November 30th and I'm determined win it. All you professional photographers, photo stagers, and photoshop wizards might as well just give up now, because I have strategically planned out my photo, organized my supplies, and even selected a caption. You heard me people. A caption.

My only fear is that I've dreamt up such an overly-ambitions, labor-intensive, elaborate display that it may turn out like that horrific science project I created in seventh grade. It was the solar system made of paper mache covered balloons that looked so different in my head. Will my vision be realized this time?

I'll start assembling the arrangement this weekend to meet my deadline. Of course, I am predicting a few obstacles and may require moral support or a few extra hands or even some additional bottles of Jordan (cab please) to really pull this off. So get ready to rally. And to cut, tape, glue, and drink wine.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

{pages} and Whiskey Punch

Thank you to everyone who joined us last night at Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach. We loved seeing friends and family and meeting so many new people. Leave it to a small (beautiful) independent bookstore to bring us all together.

Several of you were interested in the recipe for the whiskey cocktail we served. Here are the ingredients:

Whiskey Cranberry Mint
2 ounces Moonshine Clear Corn Whiskey
1 ounce organic sweet and sour
1 ounce organic cranberry juice
1 tablespoon mint simple syrup (mint, sugar, water)
Garnish with a cranberry and mint leaf

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Steps to Planning a Book Signing

This evening we will have our book signing in a real bookstore instead of a bar. A beautiful, independently owned bookstore (by three women!), tucked in the heart of Manhattan Beach.

Because we've produced a cocktail book, we decided that we must serve cocktails at our event...not just the ol' wine and cheese deal (though we will have a plethora of that too). This adds a layer of planning since this is, once again, a bookstore, and not a bar.

Personally making drinks for the crowd was ruled out after my live-on-television experiences. When I've got my bartending hat on, I'll swing drinks. When I've got my author hat on, chopping, muddling, mixing and straining just doesn't go with my outfit.

We've planned a really fun evening for tonight, and here are the steps that went into it:
  • Wrote the book. Duh.
  • Got it published. Think 3 years. 
  • Spread the news to the world via the blog, twitter, facebook, and press releases
  • Relied on the creativity of PR wizards like @gypsywing and @reganaphillips to reach a bigger audience.
  • Developed relationships with the bookstores that carry our book and suggested putting together a book signing and/or a reading (who can say no when YOU offer to do all the work?).
  • Picked a date and a convenient time for fans and for the book store owners. 
  • Sent out pingg and facebook invitations to everyone we knew. Or at least liked.
  • Planned out the logistics of the night, like when I'd read, sign, and drink. 
  • Assigned someone to take photos and videos. (OK that position is still open. Mom? Dad?)
  • Worked out the drink we'd be serving. Something fall-y, something strong-ish, something easy enough for guests to make at home.
  • Decided how to handle selling out of books when thousands and thousands of people come to buy  multiple copies.
  • Designed two original drinks with printed recipes for the guests (the Apple Pie Martini and the Pumpkin Daiquiri).
  • Planned what to wear. I still have no idea what to wear but if I put it into a bullet point I know I'm a step closer to figuring it out.
Come to Pages tonight if you are in Manhattan Beach! We've love to see you.

Jocelyn & Jordan

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sisters in Business: A Proven Partnership

About one year ago, when Jocelyn and I realized that our book was actually going to be published the following summer, we decided that we wouldn't stop with the manuscript. We just knew that our bartending and home mixology guide would find a following and that our readers would be interested in more than a paperback (the business of cocktails has quite a captive audience).

Last December, during our 4-hour rainy car trip to Palm Desert, we mapped out our business plan. Within a year, we'd aim to launch a book, a t-shirt line, sell party invitations and cocktail products, and even debut another book. So far, not only is everything (miraculously) going to plan, the entire process has been a blast. I suspect that it has a lot to do with the sister thing.

Our partnership started a long time ago. Really at the birth of my little sis. Together we've built tree houses, designed masking tape shoe collections, shared a bathroom during high school, and stayed close during the college years when we were in different parts of the country, and sometimes the world.

I've heard that not every family can be in business together. Communication problems, creativity struggles, and power trips ruin relationships. Lucky for us, we worked most of our issues out in the sand box.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

THIS Girl's HOT PICK of the WEEK

Don't get wrapped up in the stirred versus shaken debate. What you need to be concerned with is silver.

Drink your martini in luxury with Tiffany & Co.'s. gorgeous set of silver sports-themed cocktail picks. For $275 these 3.25" long garnish skewers will add additional value to that evening libation you've already deemed priceless, and appreciate the value of your make-shift home bar (AKA cupboard). Perfect for the dad, brother, grandpa who has everything and even more perfect for the man who has nothing. Get your holiday shopping on early and let the televised sporting events begin.