Tag Archives: cocktails

Clementine Margarita

It is #nationaltacoday so I figured it would be fitting to post a nice margarita to wash down those tacos.  My friend Naz came over this summer with a bag full of her own cocktail kit and shook up a bunch of terrific margaritas for us.  Who doesn’t want a friend like that??  She used tangerine juice but that can be hard to find so I used clementine – they are both delicious.  The sweet tang of the clementine juice is the perfect base for the tequila and she introduced me to Patron Lime Liquor which has a more limey taste then triple sec.  Happy National Taco Day!

Clementine Margarita

  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce Patron Lime Liqour
  • 4 ounces clementine juice
  • ice, salt and lime wedge

Shake the tequila, lime liquor and clementine juice in a cocktail shaker with ice until cold.  Pour over ice, in a salt rimmed glass if you prefer (I like to use spicy salt).

Summertime Strawberry Sangria

One of the very first dinner parties my husband Patrick and I ever hosted was in the backyard of a house he shared with several roommates.  We invited a bunch of friends over and I attempted to be a hostess in a house I didn’t even live in.  It was a roaring success, which I mostly attribute to this sangria.  It’s that kind of drink that sort of sneaks up on you cause it is so easy to drink.  Mind you back then we were making a modified version with vodka in it as well.  Feel free to add some but it should definitely come with a warning label then!  Following that party we realized if we were going to keep our friends standing upright we would need to tweak the recipe given to us by a bartender at the famous Jose Andres restaurant, Jaleo.  So out came the vodka and I subbed mint with basil because I liked the flavor combos better but otherwise it is mostly as Mr. Andres served it.

If you have never used Liquor 43 before, go ahead and grab a bottle – it’s a citrusy liquor that could sub well in lots of cocktails that call for triple sec or orange brandy.  I think it is a bit more delicate and floral and it goes great in this drink.  The strawberries don’t make this overly sweet – they add a hint of flavor but mostly make for a delicious boozy snack you can munch on while drinking the cocktail.

Summertime Strawberry Sangria (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  special sangria at Jaleo
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Liquor 43
  • ice
  • 1 bottle Cava (I used my house sparkling)
  • a couple sprigs of basil

In a large pitcher combine the strawberries, white grape juice and Liquor 43.

You can do this several hours in advance.  When ready to serve top with a couple cups of ice, carefully pour in the sparkling wine and toss in the basil.  Stir to combine and serve.

ACC Parties: A Classy Cocktail Affair

Happy Valentines day!  This post is a perfect fit for today – romance and cocktails.  This party plan is for a classy cocktail party which I threw to celebrate the engagement of our dear friends, Erikka and Michael.  They are such an amazing couple so I wanted to go the extra mile to make this one memorable which meant dressing up, gold everywhere and thoughtful touches.  One tough issue to tackle as a hostess is either guests who you aren’t super familiar with or guests that don’t know each other all that well.  That was the case here, with family and friends coming in from all over so I wanted to keep the mood light while still making it feel special.  My solution – a make it yourself cocktail bar.  The centerpiece of this party certainly gave me some sleepless nights leading up to the date (are people going to think I am a jerk asking them to make their own drinks???) but it was a hit!  It really encouraged mingling and being engaged in the party and also freed up myself and Patrick to make sure everyone was felt taken care of with food etc.

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Pick a couple of classic cocktails that are relatively easy to make – I went with the  classic martini, manhattans, negroni and vesper.  I printed out the recipes and framed them so even a cocktail neophyte could be their own mixologist.  Then set out everything people will need to make the cocktails – the key here is in the luxe touches.  Instead of setting out giant bottles of vodka and gin I put them out in pretty decanters.  You will also need a selection of liqueurs like vermouth for the martinis.  We also had sparkling wine (my favorite house one of course) for those who didn’t want to do the cocktail thing so I set out casis, framboise and St. Germain as good toppers for the bubbly.  Red and wine wine as well as some beer rounded out the bar.

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Ramekins with all the garnishes needed like stuffed olives, maraschino cherries and citrus twists meant it was super easy for guests to customize their drink.

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Real glasses are a must here, plastic just won’t do.  Shop around to find something that fits your style and budget. I went with these martini glasses from World Market, that were perfect because of the slight bend in the glass they also worked for sparkling wine, almost like a coupe.  I couldn’t help myself and got custom made martini glasses for the happy couple.

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I always like to give out favors and for this party they served a purpose as well.  I found these great mini shakers on a restaurant supply site and got one per guest.  People used them to make their cocktails and then got to take them home to remember all the fun we had.  The shakers set out out on the table added even more metallic glamour.

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If people are knocking back cocktails all night you want to make sure the food is substantial.  I kept with the classic theme and did old school appetizers, just classed up a little.  Pigs in a blanket are always a favorite but made with puff pastry and poppy seeds they have way more flavor than the original.

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Who doesn’t love a cheese puff?  Gougeres are amazing french cheese puffs and best of all they can be made in advance, frozen and then reheated right before the party.  These went FAST.

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The chicken salad veronique cups that I posted a couple of weeks ago were a perfect one bite so people didn’t have to mess around with forks or knives.

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Add a very substantial cheese board, bowls of olives and nuts, and some dips (I made the groom’s favorite with crudite) and people will have plenty to nosh on while they mix and mingle.

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I ordered these beautiful napkins from For Your Party – they are my favorite resource for customized items and they always turn out beautiful.

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Finish off the party with something sweet – I did my Individual Tiramisu because they are a sentimental favorite of the couple.  You could always head to your local bakery and get a selection of cookies, brownies etc to make things even easier.

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It was an incredible night for an incredible couple.  But don’t wait for friends to get engaged to throw this party – this would be a great way to break up the winter doldrums by getting dressed up and shaking some cocktails.  Wishing everyone a very happy Valentines day and congratulations Erikka and Michael!!

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A Nautical BBQ

The 4th of July is the perfect time to hang outside with friend and family, especially if you have a great deck like we do.  We are really lucky to have a view of fireworks from ours so usually we just post up on the deck and hang until it gets dark and the show starts.  But you don’t have to wait for 4th of July to roll around to have a lovely and really easy BBQ at your place – this menu is designed so that almost everything is made in advance and can be served at room temperature so you can relax and enjoy your guests.  I decided to go with a nautical theme for the table and even some of the food since it works well for 4th of July.  I also just so happen to have a “boat load” of nautical entertaining gear.

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A party like this screams for disposable serve wear but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style.  I love bamboo plates for this because they are really sturdy, are eco friendly, chic and you don’t feel bad throwing them away.  Paired with cute wooden utensils and a large charcoal napkin your guests won’t even care they don’t have the real stuff.  Always remember when you are outside to think about what may blow away – I used my gorg turtle bottle opener as a paper weight but it did double duty with the beers.  I used lanterns filled with citronella candles to keep the DC bugs at bay and just set out all the dishes in the middle of the table so people could help them selves.  Scroll to the bottom for the sources of all this fun nautical stuff.  On to the menu!

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

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Just posted this Tuesday, this drink is perfect for a BBQ.  Not too potent and so refreshing.  I created a self serve bar by setting out glasses and an ice bucket so people could help themselves.  I love stemless wine glasses for parties because they work as a wine glass, water glass or cocktail glass (also my friends seem less prone to breaking these and Crate and Barrel sells them in 12 packs!).  We also had a bucket with summer beers and some crisp summer whites set up next to the bar.

Open and Serve Snacks

My favorite kind!  The best way to round out a menu is to have some items where you have to do zero work at all.  Since I was already going “overboard” with the nautical theme I even went with nautical snacks.  These Wye River Crabbers are easily available in the Mid Atlantic – I buy them on the Eastern Shore but have seen them in local Harris Tetters – but you could definitely sub goldfish crackers here.  Sandbaggers are these awesome Virginia peanuts that are tossed with salt and fresh black pepper.  Again you can find them locally here in stores but go online and get some if you live elsewhere – they are a revelation.

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Of course I also had to go with Cape Cod Potato chips to make sure New England was represented.  A pretty bowl will class up any snack so make sure to use your best here (ie not disposable) and keep an eye on the levels throughout the party and replenish as needed.

Corn Fritters with Jalapeño Jelly

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These fritters were by far the most popular thing on the table.  The sweet corn is such a good foil to the spicy jelly.  I was nervous about making them in advance but they turned out really well – fry them off earlier in the day and then just reheat in the oven.  Even at room temperature they were delicious.  I topped them with my new obsession, Woodberry Pantry Chile Pepper Jam.  Made in Baltimore with fish peppers that are native to the Mid Atlantic region, it’s pretty spicy but with a nice sweet finish.  You can buy it on line or at Salt and Sundry in DC.

Crab Stuffed Grilled Bell Peppers

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Another really easy make ahead snack set out on a cute whale cutting board.  Crab can be expensive for a crowd but a little goes a long way with this dish.  I grilled the peppers ahead of time and made the filling in advance as well so all I had to do was scoop the crab mixture into the peppers and set them out on this cute whale cutting board my mom got me.  Delish.

Sausage and Peppers

Ok I didn’t take any pics of the main dish of the night – mostly because I was having way too much fun!  Not sure if you all need to know what sausage and peppers look like anyway.  I did a mix of hot and sweet sausages that I just picked up at the grocery store.  I par boiled them for 10 minutes until they cooked through so all the grill master needed to do was throw them on the grill for a couple of minutes to get a nice char on the outside.  I also sauteed up some onions and bell peppers earlier in the day until they were caramelized and soft.  Reheated in a skillet on the grill and with a quick splash of balsamic vinegar they were great piled on top of the sausages in their buns.  You could also sub for regular hot dogs to make life even easier.

Salted Caramel Brownies

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I have to admit – these were not the easiest brownies to make.  When I saw this recipe in the New York Times I immediately printed it out and made it that weekend.  The results were delicious but as you can see from the pic pretty messy!  All the caramel makes them pretty tough to cut but if you have the patience go for it!  If not I think brownies and cookies purchased from your favorite bakery would be a great way to go.  Some fresh strawberries are a great way to decorate the dish and add some fruit to the mix.  Have a great 4th of July – hope you get inspired and whip up some of these dishes!

Easy Peasy Brunch Menu

Since this week is the Patriots bye week our Sunday is wide open.  This doesn’t happen too often in the fall – the perfect excuse to throw an impromptu brunch party.  Having people over for brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain.  It’s pretty inexpensive, there is usually bubbly involved and people can go about their business later in the day.  The key is to have some simple to throw together dishes, that only necessitate a quick run to the store.  Actually you may just have all of this stuff in your pantry already.  For me brunch is about having something salty and something sweet so you don’t have to decide between the two.  Oh and bacon.  Of course bacon.  Add a bubbly drink on top and you will have some very happy friends.

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If it’s nice out doing brunch outdoors is really fun and adds to the festivity of it.  Just because you are outdoors though doesn’t mean should always turn to paper plates and solo cups.  I like to use real linens, footed glasses and sparkly flatware.  I found these amazing gold accented plates at Home Goods that go perfectly with my Izon flatware set from Target.  When the menu is this easy it’s always nice to make extra effort with the presentation.

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Easy Peasy Brunch Menu

Aperol Spritz

This is the easiest pitcher drink you will ever make.  Slice an orange and drop it into a pitcher with some ice.  Top with a whole bottle of Aperol and a whole bottle of bubbly (go ahead and make it with prosecco or cava to save some money).  I like to add about a cup of Lillet Blanc as well, but it’s not necessary.  Done!  This drink is sparkly, citrusy and a little bitter – perfect for cutting through rich food like the frittata and low alcohol enough that you can still run errands after brunch.

Pasta Carbonara Frittata with radicchio and arugula salad

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This frittata is delicious and has all the elements of pasta carbonara.  It is pretty rich (pasta, cream, bacon, eggs…) but the recipe also has a delightful side salad made with bitter greens.  The radicchio and arugula salad tossed with the lemony vinaigrette are the perfect foil to the frittata and side of bacon.  Everything in this menu is about balance and this is the perfect centerpiece.  Prep all the salad ingredients and cook off the pasta before hand so you only have about 10 minutes of actual cooking to do.

Baked Bacon

Baking bacon is so much easier than cooking it in a pan.  You don’t have to doge grease splatters and the bacon comes out nice and crispy and flat.  There was bacon in the frittata but who ever accused a brunch of too much bacon??  Place the bacon on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  This way you can make trays and trays of bacon at one time if you are doing brunch for a crowd.  If you want to bake this off at the same time as the frittata all the better – go ahead and crank the temperature to 425 as indicated for the frittata, and just start checking on the bacon at the 10 minute mark to make sure you don’t burn it.

Nutty’s French Toast

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This post has to be the one I get the most positive feedback on.  These mini french toasts stuffed with nutella are perfect for this easy brunch.  I made them as a psuedo dessert but you could certainly serve them alongside with the frittata.  Good news is they only take a couple of minutes to make so if you do make them at the end you only have to slip away for a few moments.  When you come back with these babies your friends will be smitten!

ACC Travels – Chicago, IL

When Patrick said he was going to take me to Chicago for my birthday I paused for about 3 seconds before I went online and started researching restaurants.  This city has always been a big eating (and drinking) town but recent years have seen a spate of nationally recognized spots opening and thriving.  The minute the plane landed we knew we were somewhere special – the people are incredibly friendly and the city was bursting with colorful flowers everywhere you look.  Perhaps that’s to make up for the 5 months a year its atrocious to live there but at least they have terrific food and drink options to stave off the cold.  The only disappointing meals we had were deep dish pizza and sausages – go figure!  Likely why I usually avoid these tourist dishes (I would never in good conscious recommend someone visiting Boston to get baked beans).  Here are just some of my favorite spots we visited.

Topolobampo – 445 N Clark Street

For me this was a must stop.  Rick Bayless is pretty much the father of Mexican cooking in America.  I have loved watching him talk about his passion for authentic Mexican cooking on TV and I have several of his cookbooks which are just outstanding.  Actually the ONLY jarred salsa I will even consider buying is his Chipolte Salsa (they carry it in most supermarkets so keep a look out).  We basically went directly from the airport to lunch at Topolobampo and what a way to start off the trip.  The list of mezcals and tequila were dizzying but don’t worry if you can’t decide, just get a flight!  They offer a 3 course lunch for only $25 which I am somewhat regretting not doing but we just weren’t hungry enough.  Patrick ordered the Soupa Azteca to start with, and man did he order well.  The broth, poured tableside was like nothing I had ever had before, so rich and layered with flavor.  I had a special appetizer where they cured tomatoes in habaneros.  How does one take a fresh tomato, infuse it with the heat and flavor of one of the hottest peppers around and not lose the flavor of the tomato?  I have no idea but I guess that’s why they pay Rick the big bucks.  Look how beautiful the plate was.

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We both got different quesadillas for our main entrees and they were a far cry from the greasy, overly stuffed and flavorless quesadillas that haunt most bar menus.  Patrick’s had tender braised short ribs, while I went the vegetarian route with squash blossoms and fresh corn.  The service from beginning to end was delightful.  With expectations set super high, this place definitely delivered.  Apologies that I don’t have more photos but I was so taken with the meal and the experience I didn’t really want to ruin it by being “that” person snapping away.  One confusing note – both Topolobampo and the original Frontera Grill also by Bayless share an entrance.  Don’t look like rookies as we did walking around looking for another door!

Berco’s Popcorn – 810 West Armitage Avenue

Owner Matt Bercovitz makes you feel right at home the minute you walk into his gourmet popcorn store.  While sparsely decorated, the focus here is rightly on popcorn which you can order in a variety of flavors.  Matt will let you sample to your heart’s content from flavors like Big Time Butter and Best Carmel Corn Ever.  I know there are more famous popcorn joints in town but we loved the popcorn here and it’s great to support an up and coming young entrepreneur.  They even have a customizable video wall where I got the blog’s first shout out!

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North Pond Restaurant – 2610 North Cannon Drive

This place is special.  Situated on a pond inside Lincoln Park in an arts and crafts building this gem turns out delicious seasonal food to tourists and Chicagoans alike.

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Many suggested it as a brunch spot so that’s what we did and were not disappointed.  It’s a pricey restaurant but the 3 course brunch goes for $34 on Sunday and is worth every penny.  Each plate had just the right amount of food to satisfy but not leave you feeling stuffed.  I also cannot say enough about the wait staff – perfectly trained to be there when you needed something and effortlessly disappear when you didn’t.  The  grilled lamb with squash, shell beans, red onion and grilled apricots was delicious and beautiful.

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They also have a lovely bar with views of the pond so it would be a good place to stop for drinks or dessert if you didn’t want a 3 course brunch.  If you go for the sweets menu I highly recommend the blackberry and peach selection – how pretty is this??

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Parsons Chicken and Fish – 2952 West Armitage Avenue

Fried chicken and negroni slushies??  SOLD!  This charming place is tucked into a pretty residential neighborhood but my research paid off as we looked for a spot to eat after visiting Revolution Brewery (which I highly recommend).  A short walk found us at this retro diner that serves old school classics updated, like pasta salad and pimento toast.  They have a killer back patio and several cocktails served slushy style.

Bub City – 435 North Clark Street

Who knew that some of the best BBQ in the country is found in Chicago?  I am sure many of my Southern friends are howling right now but seriously, this place is beyond delicious.  We stopped in for drinks (the delicious Back Porch Tea with Jack Daniels and sweet tea vodka) and had to return the next night for dinner, the smell was just that good.  Patrick had the fried pickles (no comment) and we shared the chopped brisket and mac and cheese.  I consider myself a mac and cheese snob – I am still creaming about this rich and creamy version.  The brisket was perfectly done and not as greasy as most versions you find.  There is also a pretty vibrant bar scene here and they own a tiki speakeasy around the corner called Three Dots and a Dash that we wanted to try but were honestly way too stuffed to keep going!  What says America more than our stars and stripes depicted in Budweiser cans??

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We had such a great weekend and didn’t even scratch the surface of what the city has to offer.  For non food entertainment I can recommend the Chicago’s First Lady architecture boat tour (how we got the perfect skyline shot featured above) and of course hit Wrigley Park (we caught a no hitter!).  Hard to go wrong in Chicago and I cannot wait to get back there.

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Strawberry Margarita

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How else to celebrate the first Fiesta Friday of August then with a delicious summery margarita?!?  This strawberry marg is nothing like those gross syrupy things that churn round and round in Island Oasis machines.  This is a drink that packs a punch, tempered by sweet fresh strawberry puree.  The inspiration was Patrick buying 2 pounds (pounds!) of strawberries right before we left for Chicago.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to put down all those strawberries so I decided to make a strawberry puree and freeze it in hopes of using it later.  When we returned I thawed the puree and it tasted just as fresh and juicy as when I made it.  The puree is just strawberries and a little bit of sugar thrown into the food processor until smooth.  I added a 1/3 cup of sugar for 2 pounds but really it depends on how sweet your strawberries are to start with.  Add just enough sugar to encourage the strawberries to give up some of their juice and whir away.  It should last in your fridge for a couple of days.  If you don’t finish it all then freeze in a large container if you have a lot of margaritas in mind or several smaller ones so you can pull out the puree whenever you need a summery boost.  This puree would also be terrific over ice cream, swirled in yogurt, or on pancakes or waffles.  Definitely make some before the season is over.

Strawberry Margarita 

  • 2 ounces strawberry puree
  • 3 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 1/2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
  • 2 ounces lime juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice.  Shake until cold and then strain into a cold glass with a salt rim if desired.

Note:  To make the strawberry puree, just process hulled strawberries with a little bit of sugar in the food processor until smooth.  No need to strain out the seeds.  1 pound of strawberries should make about 16 ounces of puree, good for 8 margaritas.

Welcome to a Capitol Contessa! Grab a margarita

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I am so excited to get this thing going – what started as a slightly boozy idea at the Fainting Goat on New Years Day, is finally a published product.  The minute I mentioned I was thinking about doing a blog my husband Patrick told me to take 60 days to conceptualize and 60 days to execute which roughly takes us to today.  I would not have even imagined starting this journey without him and his incredible support.  He will always be my number one guinea pig but I am glad that this forum will give me the opportunity to try out new ideas and recipes on a larger universe. My friend Ben brilliantly pointed out that if one is launching an entertainment blog there should be a party involved!  With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner we decided a fiesta with plenty of margaritas were in order.  I was so glad to have my friends and family to celebrate with me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I tried to keep it pretty simple by grilling tacos and we got super lucky to have a beautiful D.C. spring day.  The cookies, margarita mix, and most of the taco fillings were prepped in advance so all I had to do day of was make the cornbread, guacamole and guacamole salad and have Patrick grill the steak and chicken for tacos.  This kind of party is great for a crowd because everyone can find something they like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Menu

Cornbread by Martha Stewart

Guacamole Salad  by the Barefoot Contessa

Steak and Chicken Soft Tacos

Homemade Guacamole and store-bought salsa

Alfajores Cookies by Fine Cooking

Grate some cheese, chop some onion and plop sour cream into bowls and you officially have a taco bar.  Aided by the dozen or so hot sauces Patrick keeps on hand we had quite the spread and plenty of leftovers for Sunday.

DSC04510 It’s not a party without a cocktail and for this one we went with a household favorite – Spicy Margaritas with Salt Air.  If you have ever been lucky enough to go to Oyamel in D.C. you will be familiar with Jose Andres’ amazing salt air – it’s the perfect solution to getting a salty little touch with each sip of your margarita without ending up with salt crystals all over the front of your shirt.  I was so happy to learn you don’t have to be a gastronomic genius to figure this out – thank you Washingtonian Mag for sharing this with the masses.  I also gave out the tequilla as a favor because you never get too old for goodie bags right?  People just love getting to take a bit of the party back home with them. DSC04513

Spicy Margaritas with Salt Air

– 1 habanero pepper, stemmed and cut in half
– 2 cups silver tequila (or the whole bottle if you want to infuse it all)
– 3 cups freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
– 4 cups water, divided
– 1 tablespoon kosher salt
– 1/2 teaspoon soy lecithin powder (get this at a nutrition store or online, I got mine on amazon)
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 cup triple sec or Grand Marnier (which I prefer)

First you want to infuse the tequila – I suggest go ahead and do the whole bottle as it lasts forever in the fridge and is great to have on hand. If you don’t want to go whole hog just pour out 2 cups which is what you will need for 8 margaritas. Place the cut habanero in the tequila carefully as these little peppers are HOT. I use disposable gloves whenever handling hot peppers so taking out my contacts later doesn’t become a painful event. Let the pepper infuse into the tequila for 3 hours or more depending on how much heat you want (if you want less you could also use a jalapeno instead). At this point you toss the pepper and keep the tequila in the fridge indefinitely for when you want to use it.

For the margaritas first make a simple syrup by combining 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Let cool (this is a good thing to make in advance as well as it lasts forever in the fridge and simple syrup is great in lots of cocktails and iced coffee). Combine the simple syrup, 2 cups of the lime juice, 2 cups of the spicy tequila, and the Grand Marnier in a large pitcher. Stir and taste – if it’s too hot you can add lime juice or water to dilute.

To make the salt air combine 1 cup of the lime juice, 2 cups of the water, the salt and the soy lecithin in a large bowl. Tilt the bowl so the liquid is at the bottom away from you and use an immersion blender until you create a good layer of foam. Pour the margaritas into chilled glasses and top with a scoop of foam. If you run out of foam no worries, just blend again to create more. Enjoy!

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