Category Archives: Drink

Girls’ Night out in the ‘Ville

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the friendship of Jayne and Gretchen, but I’m glad that after what — eight years — they still want to hang out with me.

We met at a former employer of mine, where they were, and are, stars, and where,for the first time of my life, I found a job where I felt out of my depth in a couple of important ways. It wasn’t all my fault (trust me!) but the mysteries of the payroll taxes, different in all fifty states, was something I came to undertrained and mystified.

Having my life’s work and happiness dependent on the quarterly accounting schedule was something I didn’t take to like a Canada goose to the man-made ponds of our office campus. Gretchen and Jayne helped me with the nuts and bolts of W2s, 1099s, and county taxes in Indiana, but more than that — we clicked. I’m older than either of them, and we’re different, each of us, in all kinds of ways. But we’re more alike than we’re different, we rejoice in our victories, have kids to be proud of, husbands to joke (very kindly) about, and sympathy for the professional and health mountains and valleys.

Best of all: I know that if I ask for advice, I’ll get it: frank, thoughtful and loving. No, strike that! Best of all is the laughter.

Erase any concept of Girls’ Night Out involving Cosmos and Manilos. We met at the Towne Tap, a Warrenville fixture dating back to the fifties. It’s a tiny, friendly wood-paneled roadhouse with a Cheers vibe. It shares a building with Al’s Pizza, another ‘Ville fixture, and the businesses have a symbiotic relationship. A drinker at the Tap walks next door to Al’s, orders a pie, gives his name, and Al’s will deliver it to your table at the Tap.

I’d like to thank Gretchen — another girl from the ‘Ville — for suggesting the Tap, because in all my years of residence, I’d never bought a beer there. That’s time wasted. I’m a big time pizza snob, because I think our home-made version is at least as good as Mozza’s. But! Al’s makes a damn fine thin crust pizza.

We didn’t party into the wee hours: a couple of brews apiece, a pizza, two hours. But when I’m hanging with these two amazing women , even when the conversation turns sad, I’m happy. I’m lucky.



Filed under Drink, Food, The 'Ville, Twenty bucks, Worth it anyway

It’s a Corker!

I’ll just say it flat out: I Iove screw top wine bottles. No corkscrew? No problem. No wine stopper? No problem. Expense to have your cellar full of decades old Romanee-Conti  recorked every fifteen years or so? By some French artisan you’ve flow in first class on Air France? Zero.

Not that we have such a swanky cellar — in fact you’ll be lucky to find three bottles lurking around in various levels of fullness. But geez, trying to recork a bottle is such a pain in it! It doesn’t matter how hard I force. Chipping away at a cork with a pairing knife simply ensures that I’ll need to use a tea strainer to remove chips when when I pour the next glass.I’ve never dared lay a recorked bottle on its side in the fridge, for fear of dribbling onto the english muffins.

A screw top bottle fixes all that. Problem is: where I live the selection of drinkable wine that come with a screw top bottle fits on a space at the liquor store the size of a postcard. This wasn’t true in Canada — all through January the Liquor Control Board of Ontario supplied me with very drinkable plonk in recloseable bottles.

Thank heavens I returned home to this gadget, yet another cool thingie my daughter introduced me to last time I was in LA. I picked up three @ $1.95 apiece at Surfas in Culver City. I stole the pic from the Crate and Barrel site because it seems my camera has gone walkies. (Yes, C&B sells it for a buck ninety five too.)

Nuts, I can’ t upload the photo so check out the link:

And read the glowing reviews! I believe they’re all five stars. I give it six stars — talk about cheap and cheerful!


Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Drink, Home, How Cool is That?

Apron of the Day: Summer Cocktails

Get out your cocktail shakers and your green plastic lime squeezer from the supermercado.

I love these prints, which suggest limeade in the early ’70s and Pina Coladas in the fifties. Or, perhaps, margaritas right now, while your skirt steak sizzles on the grill and you grate cheese and slice avocados in the kitchen.










I like the graphic pow of the apron, full length. A better photographer would have provided more pow.












This print makes me happy — the colors, the detail , that mixologist vibe. I figured rickrack on the pocket was historically mandatory.









I think the model needs a tiki drink. Smile, already!











Pulling those two fabrics from my stash and mating them made me smile all afternoon; I take my inspiration from fabric designers everywhere. Dang, I wish I had some limes in the house!

(If you’re interested in buying this apron, shoot me an email.)


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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Drink, Needlework

Party Party!

We threw two parties during our stay in Ottawa, and as I’ve given up on a chronological account of our doings in the Great North Strong and Free, I’ve decided to show you a virtual good time, and introduce you to more fam and friends.

Daddy had a  Bon Voyage party in the works when we arrived: our old and dear friend Betty was doing the Generous Grandmother thing and taking her granddaughter Alison MacKay to London for a week. I’ve known Betty since I was three years old and grew up with her daughters Catherine and Elizabeth. (Catherine and her husband Ian are Alison’s parents.) Elizabeth is married to Michael, and they decided to tag along, to spend time with Michael’s mother, who lives there, and do a swing of the northern cathedral towns, heavy on York. Alison was a no-show because she had a science project to finish up.

Daddy was doing some minor fussing about a decorating theme, and whack job that I am I said “Oh boy! Have I got an idea! I’ll make garlands of tiny paper airplanes!” Any opportunity to fold paper, right? So I spent a day and a half making 86 planes from foil wrapping paper then — and this is the tedious bit — sewing them individually to form garlands.  They looked pretty if I do say so myself. In the entrance to the dining room:

On a wooden statue we call Gian Carlo: He’s almost five feet tall and used to stand on a stairway in Harrods.

Now let me make the introductions. Here’s Betty, the guest of honor, being pinned with a corsage:

Lou, Elizabeth and Michael:

Cathy and Ian:

Daddy bought five fabulous ribs of beef for the occasion, and told Lou: “You have only one job today: cook that roast perfectly.” No pressure, huh? He did, of course:

The second affaire was Thanksgiving dinner — for non-Canadians, Thanksgiving in the Land of Ice and Snow is held in early October. The leaves are nearing the coloric peak, and it’s great to get a couple of months between the Turkey Holidays instead of just one, as we do here. My brother Ian, his ever-bubbly wife Hilary and their son Miles drove up from Montreal. The food is familiar to every American, and as I love it all, it was no labor to stuff the bird and cook up the cranberries. (Ed. note: Yes, half the men mentioned in this post are named Ian.)

The Junior McArthurs:

Ian, whose appearance and mannerisms more and more resemble Bruce Willis’s, owns a catering company with Hilary. Miles , my only nephew (or niece) on the McArthur side is one of my fave peeps in the whole wide world. He’s in his first year at nursing school.

My sister Julia is a fun-lover and a party animal. She’s eternal sunshine in a world of many  low pressure systems.

Two pretty birds in one shot! Hilary’s hazelnut torte was divine.

With so many willing hands around, the cooking and cleaning up for both parties was a snap. The noise level could get pretty high, but I bet you wouldn’t have cared. I wish you all could have attended both nights.


Filed under Drink, Food, History, Holidays, Home, Travel

Walk, Talk and Party Like an Egyptian

We’re home at last after alarums and excursions with Homeland Security and my green card. That’s another story, long and expensive: I’ve so much to recount about our Ottawa visit that I’ve decided to work backwards from our stay in Toronto last night with my cousin Cort, his fabulous partner Susan, and his daughter, my first cousin once removed 7th grade  Lauren Margaret.

Cort is some kinda gee whiz financial guy in Toronto, Susan is a brilliant interior designer, and Lauren is a pretty, sharp kid. We stayed at their house in TO last night on the homeward drive, and that house on Glen Drive should be in Relais et Chateaux. Susan designed it, and Cort made his cooking bones in college as a line cook at The Keg. His poussins rolled, his wine cellar rocked, and much, much fam business transpired which I won’t relate, because….you know.

Cort and Susan throw a big Halloween party every couple of years, with a theme. It’s King Tut this year. Cort has made a papier mache masterpiece — yeah, Cort and I have a lot in common beyond a passion for food and wine. Check this out:

Can you freakin’ believe this masterpiece, crafted from wine boxes, newsprint, a cheap mask and some paint? Or this mask, from a  a balaklava and some papier mache?

(Note Viking six-burner in the background.)

We were having so much fun that I forgot to take pix of the poussins. But a big cousinly thank you to Cort and Susan for last night, and I have much more to report.

(Can you believe that sarcophagus?!!!!!)


Filed under Drink, Food, Free, Home, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Paper, papier mache King Tut, Travel

Cocktail Umbrellas: Carpe Diem

If there’s one thing I don’t need is five hundred cocktail parasols. I don’t operate a Tiki Bar. My cocktail preferences run to martinis , which aren’t traditionally decorated with much more frivolous than an olive or  twist — or in my favorite version, the Gibson, a cocktail onion. My ex-bartender husband agrees that they belong in festive cocktails sweet and fruity enough to invite over-quick consumption, and he maintains that the parasol serves as a cheerful warning to slow down, Conchita. Or Margarita –a few years I got into mild trouble with some ungarnished Bacardis.

I take out my  box of(now) 463 cocktail umbrellas just to marvel at them.

Their construction is identical to a full-sized parasol, which blows me away. I try to imagine the factory in China that produces them. I can’t imagine the machinery and workers required to turn out enough of these babies to hang over the rim of mai tais ’round the world. I especially can’t imagine my job description as Twister of minuscule elastic bands around cocktail parasols.

Talk about your cheery, frivolous object!  I do remember they were dead cheap — a buck fifty? — or I wouldn’t have bought them. I can’t remember where I bought them, but it was at a restaurant supply store in either Atlanta or Culver City. It was one  my life’s happiest impulse purchases, a box of tiny articulated paper brollies — they toil not, neither do they spin or even loll over a Singapore sling.

I decorated a batch of cupcakes with a few of them, and they were darn cute. I may have included them in some kind of springtime “tablescape.” I sent my sister-in-law Patty home with a few — she likes a Pina Colada. But mostly the box sits in the tall Shaker cabinet along with spices and cake decorating stuff, waiting for me to pull it out and coo over my baby brollies. So seize the day — if you see something so beguiling, cheap and cheerful walk it straight up to the cash register.

And if you want to talk among yourselves, pick a date, and show up on my doorstep burdened with rum, coconut milk, grenadine, limes and maraschino cherries I can break out my umbrellas and a pupu platter.


Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Drink, How Cool is That?, Paper

Kir Royale: A Tale of Two Birthdays

I had a lovely birthday yesterday – flowers from my father and sisters, cards, Facebook greetings, emails from buddies, a phone call from my daughter with the news that my present is in the mail. For his part, my husband has volunteered to take me to the local swanky greenhouse for a spending spree on some annuals to fill in the midsummer blanks in my garden, and he turned out a swell Bun Thit Bo Xao for dinner – aka a Rice Noodle Bowl with Beef.

But the fizz in the evening came with bubbles, as it often does, via the bathtub, blown through a plastic gizmo, or my favorite bubble delivery system: a cold bottle of something. Last night it was an inexpensive (but French) blanc de blancs, tinted a mysterious hue by a tiny splash of crème de cassis: a Kir Royale.

Fizz and black currants:two of my favorite things. My fondness for the bubbly shouldn’t need explanation — if it does I mourn for you. Black currants aren’t the fruit fave of the U.S.A. , but they can kick the ass of all those supermarket staples: navel oranges,  strawberries, kiwis, Red Delicious apples — the usual sickly suspects.   Black currants and their deeply delicious byproducts — sirops, creme de cassis, fruit jellies and jam — aren’t exotic or unusual in Europe or even Canada. We need a Black Currant Council here in the States!

That “deeply”  I used before “delicious” wasn’t lame alliteration, though I have a soft spot for lame alliteration. Black currants are all about deep: the color, the flavor, the scent. I suspect they’re bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C, but if they had the food value of Cheetos  I’d still love them. ( Yum —Cheetos! )

Creme de cassis is almost black, sweet, intense and 44 proof. I used up the last of the best cassis I’ve ever tasted last night, cassis I bought from the man who made it, two years ago on my birthday.

Oh, that I could buy a bottle here. I tasted a sample straight from the hands of its maker, a charming French Canadian farmer in the village of St. Pierre on L’Ile D’Orleans, a locovore and gastronomic wonderland about fifteen minutes north of Quebec City. We were there because my fairy godfather, who’s my real father, gave us two nights in the Chateau Frontenac Hotel for my birthday and Quebec City’s 400th anniversaire. Quebec City may be the most beautiful city in North America, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Back to the farmer in St. Pierre, one of L’Ile D’Orlean’s six enchanted villages.

I could see his black currant bushes where his farm started to slide into the mighty St. Lawrence River. He also did a nice line of his own raspberry and strawberry liqueurs and sirops. Down the road we found the pate lady, the confit duck man, (with actual ducks running to meet our car)the cheese maker, the boulangere, (Who said “Quel bon Papa!” when I told her of Daddy’s gift) and farmstand after farmstand of berries that looked plucked from a medieval tapestry.

The whole island’s magic: eighteenth century churches and houses, every view a river or mountain view, parish graveyards where the stones list the same twenty-odd family names from 1735 to yesterday.

Don’t take my word for it: before the French got there the native Hurons called it The Enchantress.

I bought a new bottle of creme de cassis today because I think I’m going to hook up again with my old boyfriend Kir this summer — he slipped away from my life when I was in my early twenties. But I know for a fact that it’s not going to be as good as it was two years ago with that gentilhomme in St. Pierre.


Filed under Drink, History, Holidays, Into the Mystic, Travel, Twenty bucks