A blackberry ginger fizz is a great cocktail for using up your late summer blackberry haul. Add ginger beer and elderflower and enjoy!
There are times in every person’s life when you have to make the hard decisions. When you find yourself at a crossroad. Do you turn left or right? Recently I was faced with one of those decisions. My own personal King Solomon’s choice, except if the baby was a blackberry. A lovely little blackberry.
Here’s how it began. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, unseasonably a little chilly but nice enough for a stroll. Matt and I headed to the Beacon Farmer’s Market, where we often buy our produce supplies for the week.
We usually get there on the early side, a half an hour or so after they open, but this particular Sunday we dragged our feet a little. We were tired, you see. I won’t bore you with the details but we’re in the process of trying to buy our first house and the stress of it had begun to take its toll. For the last month or so, pretty much every night, one or the other of us (sometimes both) will leap out of bed at 3:30 in the morning, convinced beyond all reason that this whole thing is a HUGE mistake.
Or that house we love? A MONEY PIT!
Or there is NO WAY a bank will actually give us a loan. Do they KNOW how bad our jokes are? [Matt is on the phone with the bank right now – apparently, they do.]
So we were tired and slow and showed up at the market late, after the majority of the stalls had been picked clean. Corn? Sold out by noon. Eggplants? All gone. Sungold tomatoes? Don’t make me laugh.
Hello gang! Ready for some French toast?
I do like to think of us as a gang, by the way: we, the writers of this madcap screed, and you, our wonderful readers.
Not a particularly effectual gang, I have to admit, not a gang to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, et cetera, I certainly wouldn’t rob a bank together, no offense, I’m sure many of you have excellent heist skills.
But just as in the best gangs, I have little nicknames for you all. There’s “Lefty”, the stalwart pastry expert we all called “Righty” before her tragic incident with the Microplane. There’s “Twitcher”, who we trust with our lives but who wouldn’t necessarily be the best pick for delicate knife work . There’s Freckles, Charlie Boy, Other Dave. Oh, and we can’t forget JoJo the Dog-Faced Girl. I think you all know who you are.
We may not ever rob a bank, or do a crime, or engage in hijinks, fol-de-rol or devilry – we may never be Ocean’s Eleven – but I do see us all, one of these days, perhaps in ten or twenty years, looking back fondly at these, the early, funny days of “Nerds with Knives”. A reunion meal, if you will, perhaps a celebratory brunch of some kind. I see us downing fine Bloody Marys, Mimosas, or French Blondes, and tucking into plates of thick, delicious french toast.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent several formative years during your childhood camping, tying knots, and fiddling with your woggle – no sniggering, now, Twitchy – actually, you know, do check out that link, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “woggle” used IN CAPS to such an extent on one website. They have a woggle collection made up from woggles all over the world – right, Freckles, get out, you’re just disrupting the gang, there’s nothing remotely funny about the word “woggle”. Close the door behind you please. All the way. Thank you.
Back when Matt and I lived in Brooklyn (a.k.a. before we moved to Beacon, went insane and thought it would be wise for two freelancers to try and buy a house), we occasionally went to a lovely little restaurant called Buttermilk Channel. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they inspired our Spiced Pickled Grapes recipe (and I talk about the place constantly to anyone who will listen). It’s not a “fancy” restaurant, but everything is prepared with care and with an eye towards seasonality, including their cocktails. It was through their inventive menu that I began to expand my cocktail palate beyond gin and tonics and margaritas (though I still love both, of course. I’m not a monster).
For me, cocktail perfection is all about balance. I like a little sweetness, but not so much that I feel like I’m sipping dessert. (Matt, an unapologetic prom-drinker, doesn’t always agree with me on that). [Camera swish pans around to reveal Matt drinking Baileys straight from the bottle, a milky dribble glistening on his chin. “You knew what I was when you married me”, he says quietly.]
I want to taste a little kick of alcohol but I don’t want to shake my head a like a teenager chugging Southern Comfort out of a paper bag after every sip.
After extensive (ahem…) research, I have come to believe that fresh grapefruit juice is the best mixer of all time.
Is it just me or has this been a weird summer? It has, right? I feel like it took me until late June to even dig through my closet to find a pair of sandals. Then it got really hot for maybe twenty minutes, and now it’s chilly again.
Matt and I were sitting on the deck last night, the sun was setting through the trees, making the leaves shimmer and glow as though lit from inside. Soon the white wood boards on the side of the house turned a deep golden pink. It was incredibly lovely. I was tempted to grab my camera but I decided just to enjoy the moment. Just experience it, you know? So we sat there, drinking a glass of rosé, a sleepy pup* at our feet, just enjoying the quiet. Matt looked at me and I looked at him.
“I’m freezing”, I said.
“Bloody hell, me too. Let’s go inside”, he said.
So we made dinner and watched an episode of “Utopia“, season 2 (highly recommended).
(*Here’s a picture of Arya looking longingly at a hot dog).
An easy and elegant appetizer of roasted figs stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in Serrano ham. Finished with fresh thyme, a drizzle of honey, and a few toasted almonds.
I know, I know, you’re thinking,”Emily, when did you become a member of the Royal Family cos, gurl, you fancy!” (I apologize for making you sound like a 1970’s sit-com character, but it was required for comedy purposes. You should see the wig I’m imagining on you).
Yes, it’s true that these beauties would be perfect alongside a glass of Champagne at an elegant cocktail party. But, truth be told, they’d be equally delightful with a (not terribly expensive) glass of rosé while sitting on the back deck. Guess which way we had them? (If you guessed “directly off the baking tray, standing in the kitchen with a dog and two cats staring at us”, you would be correct).
As fancy as they look, these are incredibly easy to make. On the preparing-for-a-party difficulty scale, they fall slightly above “pour potato chips into bowl” and well below “make homemade dip”. The hardest part is finding fresh figs, which isn’t very hard when they’re in season. If your figs are very ripe, you don’t even really need to roast them (but I find the combination of a warm, jammy fig, oozy sharp cheese, and salty ham to be irresistible).
If you’re making them for a party. you could prep them up to a day ahead and just roast them a few minutes before you want to serve them.