Fall cocktails, blush hues. This week, a study in contrasts.

It’s that time of year when the skies start to darken earlier than normal. At 9PM, sunset in the height of summer is just starting to edge its way down the valley that sits squarely across from our stone patio. It’s now mid-fall, and that hour is 5PM, the time ticking towards that point in November when the clocks are turned back and we, for the most part, accept with reluctance that winter is near.

I love the darkness. I love the rain. I love anything that forces me to stay inside and seek cover amongst a treasured set of inanimate objects. Books, magazines, iphone gadgets – ordered yet still unpackaged. Reading, writing, cleaning, procrastinating. Wearing nothing but loungewear.

I love the smell of fall. The whiff of damp leaves that hangs in the cold air when the kids run in from their games outside. I once bought a candle from

Homesick Candles,  each candle smelling like the leaves endemic to the state on the label. More Aēsop than Yankee Candle should you ask, I can’t take those cloying smells. I bought the candle that said “Washington”. I’m not from Washington. I’m not from anywhere close to Washington. But the candle reminded me of this time of year. The hunker. The silence. Somehow, it smells like home.

It’s the season for sturdy stockpots and cast iron cookware. Long-neglected since the early days of spring when the days are still more cool than warm. My pots nearly beckon me to use them, cry out for a damp rag to release them from their silken coats of dust. They speak to me, I know they do. Maybe yours will too if you bend your ear and listen.

In summer it’s hard to cook slowly and methodically. Meals require nothing but a quick sear or a bracing vinaigrette. But, autumn demands it of us.

Including cocktails. Especially cocktails.

I made these beauties a few weeks ago; on a weekend that was just warm enough in the sunshine to make outdoor drinking appealing. The morning had been crisp, the kitchen tiles cool to the touch. We were in the mood for cocktails (before noon, naturally), and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to use my stove to prep them.

And make use of all of the fall flavors. Autumn Glory apples with notes of sweet caramel and cinnamon. Apple pie without the guilt.

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It’s time friends. It took 9 months of coordination, planning, excessive emailing and general indecisiveness to get to this point, but I’m happy to unveil an updated blog design.

Two years ago I began this blog as a means to share my love of food with a broader audience. Though I put many hours of work into the concept behind the site, selecting the original design took several minutes.

I’d hired a freelancer to help me through some nagging technical and design issues, and he offered a quick solution: buy a pre-made theme. Genius.

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But I had one other suggestion for my friend the programmer: find a theme that hides the photography.

Hide it ….Bury it….Make it invisible.

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“I’m making coke.”

I looked down at the counter and saw the mound of granulated sugar that I’d just pulled out of the food processor, which did in fact look like 3 lbs of cocaine.

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“Syrup – like the cola.”

“Huh.”

And that was the extent of the conversation about my kitchen laboratory. Had another day been available for my cutting board delivery, I clearly would have chosen it. A day, perhaps, when it didn’t look like a citrus grove had exploded in my kitchen and when I might not have been confused with the neighborhood drug dealer.

But as was the case, Pete, a furniture craftsman from Brooklyn who’d been working on my cutting board for the past few weeks, was going to be in the area.

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Social media is a bizarre world full of picture posting, “me me me”-ing and so much content that it’s hard to absorb even a fraction of the messages. But, I will say, that if you choose your battles and dedicate your time to one channel, the payoff is great. I’ve gravitated towards Instagram as my channel of choice for a number of reasons – the food community is bar none, inspiration in the form of jaw-droppingly beautiful images is aplenty, and no less important – it serves as a laboratory for future food posts.

I’ve had people ask me how I develop content for the site and the answer is twofold: often a story worth telling pops into my head and I reverse engineer a food connection from that starting point (e.g. “Valentine’s Day and other tragedies“). But I also use Instagram as a way to test the popularity of certain dishes. If I notice that people really love eggs, “Green Shakshuka” will show up on the blog.

Today, the show is all about cocktails, which just so happens to be an Instagram-driven topic. A few months ago I started posting a regular Friday night cocktail, and noticed a trend. Every time I post my Friday night cocktail:

1. I immediately lose followers, which suggests that I’ve somehow attracted a large percentage of a) teetotalers and/or b) people who don’t like to have a good time. So if you would include yourself in one or more of those categories, I’ll clarify: You will see booze on this site. Lots of it. I sometimes mix myself a lunch cocktail and once drank red wine at breakfast. [sneeze]Forbreakfast.
2. Of those who do leave comments, the response is overwhelmingly positive. A few of my favorites:

  • Whoa, check this out! [tags friend]
  • [tags friend] lets get that party on the books!
  • I think I’m in love….shhh don’t tell my husband and my personal favorite:
  • Fååårk det lyder perfekt! (which I imagine to mean “f*** this looks perfect!”….but maybe it’s really “far from perfect!” or “for your diet this is perfect!”
     
    If anyone can answer this question, I’ll send you a Bloody Mary. Or at least a recipe for a Bloody Mary.)

You can see that a lot of friend tagging happens when I post a cocktail picture. I get it; people are excited for the weekend. They’re eager to discuss where the night will start. And this, by the way, makes me incredibly happy. I love knowing that I have some infinitesimally small part in kick-starting people’s weekends. Where they take it from there (raging hangover, walk of shame in fishnets and a borrowed boyfriend T.) is up to them.

I also find this second point interesting because I never get the same kind of reaction with my food pics. It’s not that my food images are unloved, it’s just that people are far more vocal when meals are posted in liquid form.

Which…suggests one thing: People aren’t making fancy cocktails at home.

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Am I right?

I see a few obstacles in the making of cocktails at home.

Please answer the following questions honestly:

  1. When you’re at a bar and order a Gin & Tonic or a Vodka soda and the bartender asks for your liquor preference, do you panic? Furthermore:
    1. Do you squeak out the word “Belvedere” not sure whether you’ve dropped the name of a gin or vodka brand?
    2. Or do you just casually say “whatever you’ve got on hand”, attempting to seem low key when really your booze game is weak?
  2. Could you spot a jigger out of a bar tools lineup? A muddler? How about a Hawthorne strainer?
  3. Do you have the right barware above your fully-stocked bar? (brandy snifters, champagne flutes, highball glasses, rocks glasses, copper mugs for Moscow mules, etc.?)
  4. Do you even have a bar? (translation: counter that holds at least three bottles of hard alcohol)

 

If your answers were Yes, Yes, Yes, No, No, No then count yourself amongst the majority.

Because mixing a cocktail is intimidating. And if you don’t do it correctly, your drink will be a total failure.

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Some cooks prefer to prepare food as naturally as possible. Pie dough with a food processor? Bread dough with a standing mixer? Not a chance. Isn’t that what your hands are for? To pinch flour and water together, and feel the weight of the ingredients in your hands, just as your ancestors did for millenniums before you?

For better or worse, I am not one of these people. I’m an efficiency junkie and rely heavily on modern day kitchen innovations. I’m an owner of every tool for every need – cherry pitters, avocado slicers, vegetable noodle spiralizers, stovetop smokers, handheld smokers…would you like me to continue? For the record, Julia Child had the very same vices, so if you include yourself in the “technology-dependent” camp, you’re in good company.

With all of this technology talk, you’d probably assume that I was an early adopter of one of the high-tech blenders that flooded the market in recent years.

But I held off, and for good reason.

We had a blender, and a high-priced one at that, courtesy of our wedding registry. Soon after our engagement, I’d walked through Crate and Barrel with a handheld version of a supermarket checkout scanner, price shooting SKUs with eager abandon.

But this was back in 2004 when Vitamix (and its descendents) hadn’t yet captured the hearts and wallets of health fanatics everywhere. The first time that I heard about one of these high-speed blenders was years later through a friend of mine, who waxed poetic about its nutritional benefits. Despite her protestations, I stuck to my old machine, resigning myself to a blender that produced a fine margarita, but would cower if confronted by a raw beet in a dark alley.

The turning point in my newbie juicing career came when I became part of the Instagram community two years ago. And my – what juices and smoothies these vegan, paleo, gluten-free and other health fanatics were making: Vegetables, herbs, fruit, bee pollen, spirulina, and maca powder? XO Jane addressed the issue with the eloquently-titled “Let’s talk about the weird sh*t I put in my blender”.  Clearly, I was behind the times. All the cool kids were doing it; it was high time that I got myself out of the dark ages and invest in a blender that could pulverize a chain link fence along with my daily allotment of frozen berries.

I did my research – Vitamix was the market leader, with a price tag to match. But one that I kept hearing about – Blendtec – was delivering equivalent results with a significantly lower cost.

And it came in red, my favorite color.

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I jumped on the bandwagon, ordered my Blendtec, and opened it with a weepy glint in my eye. And as so often happens with any new purchase, it sat on my shelves, neglected and unloved, for 5 months.

This is a pattern, and – whether you call it technophobic or lack-of-time-aholic – it’s a problem. I’m always giddy to make the purchase on Amazon, and dread the unpacking/setup process.

The issue, by the way, is purchase-agnostic. It could be a cable for my computer, a new backup drive, even a highly-desirable a new flash for my camera. No matter how much I want or need the product in question – if there is any assembly required (defined as something that needs any effort beyond extraction from a box), I hide my little treasure and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m guessing that many share this illness; own up if you’re a member of this unfortunate crowd. Maybe we should form a support group.

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