Saturday, June 30, 2012

THIS GIRL'S Basic Bar Bites: Chicken with Bourbon Peach Butter

Recipe: Grilled Chicken with Bourbon-Peach Butter
Source: Cooking Light Ultimate Chicken Cookbook
Tinkered With: No
Start-2-Finish Time: 6 hours
Deliciousness: 2/5 Stars

If you love sweet sauces, then this recipe is for you. For me it was missing even a hint of bourbon, and the butter was too much like peach jam. You must also bake the bourbon-peach butter for two hours, which means that this is a you-better-plan-ahead-meal, which is fine as long as the dish is incredible.

4 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup bourbon (don't use the good stuff on this one)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large chicken breasts

In a saucepan, bring the peaches, lemon juice, and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes, then add the brown sugar and bourbon. Mix for a few minutes and pour into a food processor to puree. Pour the puree into a baking dish and bake at 250 for two hours.

Prepare the chicken with some salt and pepper, and grill until cooked through. Serve with the bourbon-peach butter on top or on the side for dipping.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Weeknight Wine Party with ZinZig

Wednesday night my neighbors and I gathered together for an evening of amazing wine, gourmet cheese, and a game of ZinZig. I have one fabulous group of girlfriends who are ready to rally at a moment's notice, even at 8:00 PM on a school night.

We made ourselves comfortable in the living room and moments into playing the game, the power went out in our entire area, making our mountainous neighborhood crazy dark. But that wasn't going to deter 6 wine fanatics from completing a competitive game of wine trivia. I busted out every candle I could find because the show must go on.

At 1:30 in the morning we finally called it quits, no closer to finishing the game than when we started. I have two theories to this. The first is that ZinZig is designed to be enjoyed, just like a good glass of wine is. It's not about winning in two minutes, or even two hours. It's about learning, savoring, and enjoying.

My second theory is that the trivia questions are so interesting that they sparked all sorts of digressions. By the time we finally refocused on the task at hand, we had killed another bottle of wine and covered the most random topics imaginable, even for neighbor besties.

All said, the game is cleverly designed and very entertaining. It can be played safely with the lights on or dangerously by candlelight. Just be sure to stock up on your favorite vino and prepare snacks that will sustain your friends possibly till daylight. Or until the power comes back on. Whichever happens first.

Buy your own ZinZig game here!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Cocktails : A Simple Mezcal Mix

During the summer I often find myself as a spontaneous hostess. Neighbors will come by for a late afternoon swim, my sister and I will end up working well into the evening, or my husband will call ahead to say we have some last minute dinner guests.

The mezcal mix is one of the drinks I always fall back on because it's very simple to put together, but tastes sophisticated enough to make me feel like I've worked a little harder than I really have. It will seriously take you seconds to put together.

Use your favorite brands or try these two which I've recently fallen in love with.

Simple Mezcal Mix
2 ounces Zignum Mezcal Reposado
1/2 ounce Manderine Napoleon
Squeeze of two lime wedges

Directions Mix these ingredients gently together in a shaker with ice, then pour over ice in a rocks glass.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

THIS GIRL's Hot Pick of the WEEK: Govino Glasses

Everything you need to know about this glass is in the name: Govino: Go Anywhere Wine Glass. Completely shatterproof, it's beyond perfect for your next pool party, roof-top fiesta, or lakeside picnic because it's made out of plastic and has a groovy little indentation for your thumb to insure the perfect grip.

Ironically, no grip is needed as these vessels do nothing but bounce when dropped on a brick patio surface. Yes, I tested them. It was fun.

Stock up your own bar with these flexible wine glasses or plan ahead for the next hostess gift. My tag line for these glasses would be, "Nothing Can Go Wrong."

Govino Wine Glasses
Retail: $12.95- $14.95

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

THIS GIRL'S Basic Bar Bites: Guacamole

When it comes to the perfect appetizer, guacamole may be it. Served with some salted tortilla chips and a good Margarita, it's a dish that's appropriate for the most casual or sophisticated gathering.

This recipe was passed along to me from my mom, who grew up in Wisconsin but moved to San Diego in her 20s. She and my father quickly fell in love with the south-of-the-border food scene in their neighborhood and regularly incorporated it into their cooking. 

Ingredients (serves 6)
6 avocados
1 small onion
1 ounce jalapeno juice
1 squeeze lemon wedge
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tomato

In a bowl, grate the onion down to your finger tips. Add the lemon and jalapeno juice, and salt. Mix well, then add the pitted avocados. Mash to your desired consistency, then stir in finely chopped tomatoes. Mix again and add more salt as needed. 

Let us know how you like it and or send us a photo and recipe for your favorite guacamole dish!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Written by Guest Writer Lauren Wallace

Serving alcohol at a baby shower can be a delicate matter.  Approval from the mommy-to-be is a must, and if she would prefer to forgo the booze, think about crafting one of these.  BUT, if Momma is down, then go for it!  

Your primary concern is going to be keeping it classy.  Nothing ruins the baby shower vibe like bottles upon bottles of liquor, and you don’t want your guest of honor to feel like an outsider at her own shower.  Keeping this in mind, I recommend a signature cocktail, served in an eye-catching vessel.  

I created the following Bourbon Peach Punch for the last baby shower I hosted, and it was a hit.  It was gorgeous in my mother’s vintage punch bowl, dressed up with fresh fruit and lemon-ice cubes.  Make sure to select a cocktail that is not too stiff (we don’t want Grandma stumbling out the door), and choose something that complements your menu and overall aesthetic.  The last thing to remember when choosing a drinks menu for a baby shower is to be sure to have equally special non-alcoholic options available.  Italian sodas are a fun option, and you certainly can’t go wrong with classic iced tea or lemonade.  This will allow everyone to feel that they are equally involved in the celebration, regardless of their choice to imbibe.

Bourbon Peach Punch
1 ½ cup bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark)
1 ½ cup peach juice (Trader Joe’s Dixie Peach is delish)
1 cup ginger ale
Fresh sliced peaches and lemons
Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl or beverage dispenser and stir.  Garnish with fresh fruit, ice cubes, and mint sprigs.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Angel's Envy Bourbon Drink

Angel's Nectar
2 ounces Angel's Envy bourbon
1 tablespoon organic agave syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ginger juice
Ginger peel to marinate and garnish

Mix this drink well and chill with an ice cube or two. It's perfect for a night when you want to sip something for a while. Beware because it's strong, but you'll get used to it with every sip.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wedding Drinks for Today's BevMo Twitter Party!

Remember to join in today between 12:00 and 1:00 PST as @BevMo and I (@GirlWalksIn2Bar) discuss the best tips for your wedding reception! Here are a few drinks to start:

Blushing Bride
2 ounces Voli Vodka
2 ounces MIXT All Natural Pomegranate Martini
Splash orange liqueur
Squeeze of lemon

Mix ingredients together and strain over ice.

Oh Happy Day
1 ounce Pimms
1 ounce Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 ounce orange blossom water

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a martini glass.

Chat with you soon!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Upcoming Events: BevMo Twitter Party This Wednesday

If you're planning a wedding then you know that decisions about the bar have a big impact on the quality of your event. Is an open bar a must? How many spirits should be served and how do you plan for just the right amount? Should brands be considered? Are you considering a custom cocktail for your wedding?

Tune in with me (@GirlWalksIn2Bar) and @BevMo on Twitter this Wednesday, June 20th, between 12:00 & 1:00 PST and get the answers to these important questions as well as the Top 10 Tips for your reception. Use #BevMoWeddings and have a chance to win a BevMo gift card to kick off your wedding shopping. See you there!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

La Costa Resort: San Diego

One of the best Bloody Marys I've had to date was poolside at La Costa Resort in San Diego. It was so perfectly made that once I finished it, I left my book, my sunshine, and even my flip-flops to find the bartender who crafted it (I'm weird like that). He was proud to share his recipe and very disappointed that I wouldn't agree to another one. But I assured him that I'd sing his praises to anyone who'd listen (or read).

But I wasn't at the pool the whole time. No, no. Smothering my skin with baby oil at 17 while life guarding at the local pool means my sun time is limited (I'm just not comfortable with the idea of a facelift at 40). I also hit up the indoor Blue Fire bar for a few glasses of Layer Cake Cab and the Diversions Lounge (the stupidest name ever for a lobby bar) for some Knob Creek. And stop judging me for how many bars I visited. This job is not as easy as all you people think.

The pools are amazing with water slides and water play areas for the youngsters, the hospitality is downright superb (though I prefer a staff that incessantly says mahalo), the golf course just looks like it would be amazing if I knew anything about what amazing golf courses look like, and I found $3 in the hallway.

So there you have it. This is one awesome place to vacation.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Non-Fiction Friday: Bad Bar Design = A Downer

Working in this bar would piss me off too. Seriously. Look at it. Going to work every day means going to battle with a 4x4x4x4 shelving unit in the middle of your office.

I sat down at the corner of the bar and scanned the menu for a Caesar salad. It didn't exist. But because it was a four-star hotel known for its outstanding service, I thought I'd ask the host who was standing right behind me if he could work some magic (don't call me's romaine and croutons people). Turns out the host was the manager and magic was his job. "Just ask the bartender to order one for you. It won't be a problem."

Well, it was. I waited patiently on my bar stool  to place my salad-to-go order and of course order some bourbon. Did I say patiently waited? Well that was nice of me because when a bar is practically empty, 5 minutes is a long time to wait to even be acknowledged. But then again, when you have to navigate around a 4-sided liquor display to make each drink and greet each customer, it takes time. Hell, I may have even been in his blind spot.

When the bartender finally did come over to ask what I wanted (as if it was the most painful thing he had ever done in his life) I did what the manager told me to do and ordered the salad.

Me: "I'd like to order a little Caesar salad please?"
Bartender: "We can't do that."
Me: (super nicely) "Oh, well the manager said you could? And could I get a bourbon neat please?"
Bartender: "Well we don't have a button for that."
Me: "A...I'm sorry, did you say a button?"
Bartender: "On the computer."
Me: "Oh. You don't have a button to order the salad. (not so super nicely) Did I mention that the manager said you could?"

If the rubber floor mats weren't two inches thick I surely would have heard stomping as he stormed out of the bar and over to the manager. The conversation that I was straining my neck to hear was brief but loaded with angry gesticulation. Within seconds the bartender was back in the bar, standing over the computer with the manager and I could swear I heard button every other word.

Moments later the manager announced to no one in particular, "I made you a button and put the order in." I don't think Mr. Bartender liked that or maybe I was just reading into his decision to give me my check before my bourbon. A first.

Eventually I got my stupid Caesar salad which was one of the worst I've ever had which is either what I deserved for ordering a non-button item or proof of the pull the bartender had with the kitchen.

But I really don't blame the bartender. I'm blame his working conditions. I mean, seriously. I'd be upset too.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

THIS GIRL'S Basic Bar Bites

Recipe: Chicken Spaghetti
Source: Cooking Light Ultimate Chicken Cookbook
Tinkered With: Yes
Start-2-Finish Time: 1.5 hours
Deliciousness: 5/5 Stars

For the first recipe in our new Basic Bar Bites series, this is no quickie. But you can save on the actual cooking time by making the sauce early and heating it later in a sauce pan while the pasta is cooking.

Serve little portions of the pasta as an appetizer or heap it on for a main course. Mushroom fans will love the flavor and pea haters won't even notice they're there. I'd recommend doubling this recipe if you want any leftovers for yourself, because this meal went fast.

1 pound uncooked spaghetti
2 teaspoons salt (half for boiling water, half for food)
2 tablespoons organic olive oil (for boiling water and sauce pan)
2 packages organic chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
3 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 cups) chicken broth
1.5 cups 2% milk
4 ounces organic American cheese slices
3 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Step 1: Chop up chicken into bite size pieces, pat with salt and pepper, and cook in the olive oil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Step 2: In the same pan, melt the butter and add the mushrooms and garlic until slightly browned, then the flour, stirring constantly.
Step 3: Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the American and cream cheese, stirring until melted. Then add the Gruyere, chicken, peas, and chives.
Step 4: Cook the pasta, drain it, and mix it into the sauce until the noodles are coated.
Step 5: Transfer the mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs. Put the dish under the broiler for a few minutes until the bread crumbs are browned.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ginger Drop Cocktail

Ginger Drop
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce homemade sweet and sour
1/2 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce ginger juice
Sugared rim

Mix ingredients together and shake hard with ice. Strain into a martini glass and serve.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Bar Review: West in the Hotel Angeleno

The expression tossed around town when this old Holiday Inn was transformed into a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel was "pig with lipstick." Located smack next to one of LA's busiest transportation arteries and forever tied to the infamous polyhedron shape, it was hard to imagine it as much else. But based on the pool area, lobby, and bar, this upscale lodging challenges its reputation.

Drink Damage: Jalapeno infused Margarita $12

Foodie Notes: The lobster hot dog was full of promise the but the dry, Little League quality bun was an unfortunate distraction. The quesadilla however, loaded with guacamole, sour cream, and fresh tomatoes, was perfect.

Interior Swag: I haven't seen any of the rooms but the views from the top-floor bar is well worth the inconvenience of getting there. Perched right above the relentless 12-lane 405 and just below the splendid aesthetic of the Getty, West Bar has spectacular views of the North, South, East, and of course West. If you can't get a seat at the 20-stool bar there are plenty of comfortable booths, benches, and tables for your party.

Go-Back-Again-Ness: The view alone will bring me back. And then there are the those pulled pork nachos I still need to try...

West Bar
Hotel Angeleno
170 N Church Lane
Los Angeles, CA 90049

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Upcoming Events: American Museum of Natural History

Photo by James Carrier
June 13th at 6:30 PM the American Museum of Natural History in New York will host their Adventures in the Global Kitchen series on the Arthur Ross Terrace.

Rum expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry will guide guests through the history of the American tiki culture, and lead them to a tasting of delicious rum-based cocktails.

Brush up on your favorite summer drink recipes and plan your next Luau! Buy your tickets here.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mixology 101: Mint Simple Syrup

Of all the simple syrups you'll make, this one lends itself the best to an abundance of cocktails. Add it to bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin...virtually every spirit, and you've got the beginnings of a great drink.

1 container or 2 cups of organic mint leaves
2 cups of water
1.5 cups of organic sugar

Clean the mint leaves and combine them with the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low flame.
Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the flame and let the liquid simmer for 15-45 minutes. The leaves will begin to shrink and the liquid will start to turn green.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain through a filter to catch the mint leaf pieces. Set on the counter to cool or refrigerate. Tightly sealed and refrigerated, this simple syrup will last 3-5 days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

THIS GIRL'S Pick of the WEEK: HOST Deluxe Aerator

In my quest to find simpler ways to allow my hard-earned evening glass of wine to breathe, I've discovered HOST's Deluxe Aerator and Pourer distributed by True Fabrications. The aesthetics and sophistication of a crystal decanter is unquestionably a lovely addition to the dinner table but largely impractical on a day-to-day basis.

HOST's sleek and sturdy aerator, which fits into most wine bottles (I've now used it with over two dozen bottles and only one wine neck was too small),  opens up and releases the flavor of your wine in seconds. But what I love most about this product is the different "levels" at which you can choose to aerate: a subtle tilt of the wrist exposes the wine to a softer flow of air, a medium tilt invites a stronger rush, and a high tilt brings on a gust of air for those wines with high tannin levels.

The design is simple and functional and will become a permanent fixture of your wine collection.

HOST Deluxe Aerator
Retail Price: $25.00

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mango Tango Mocktail with Plum Organics

For you ladies planning a baby shower, or you gents who get the evil eye from your pregnant wife every time you pour yourself a cocktail, this drink will make all parties happy. Try this same recipe with different fruit purees and sugar flavors, and when you're ready for the hard stuff, VODKA!

Mango Tango
2 ounces Pear Mango Plum Organics mix
2 ounces organic sparkling water
1/2 ounce mint simple syrup
Garnish with fresh mint leaves and sugar sprinkles

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 Saveur Magazine Blog Awards party

Winners and finalists for Saveur Magazine's annual Best Food Blog Awards convened in New York City on Thursday night to celebrate great culinary writing, food photography, cooking videos, and recipes. This group of bloggers and a smattering of photographers, journalists, and actors crammed into the test kitchen to feast on the delicious food of Bellagio's chef Roy Ellamar which he rapidly served over the counter to a ravenous crowd.

It was a thrill to meet so many writers and put faces to the blogs I've started reading since the nominations were announced at the end of March. With their big personalities and quick-witted humor, everyone lived up to the reputation of their blog. It was great to witness the collective passion in the room for the art behind cooking and cocktails, demonstrated through animated conversation and repeated trips to the bar.

I had the great fortune to create the signature drink for the evening which my sister named Citrus Saveur. You may not have been lucky enough to have it served to you from Bellagio's star mixologist Diane, but it's an easy recipe to recreate at home.

Citrus Saveur
2 ounces clear corn whiskey (I vote for Moonshine)
1 ounce homemade sweet and sour
1 ounce organic grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce mint simple syrup
Mix ingredients together and strain over ice