Forbidden Island in Alameda is a great tiki bar. It’s an amazing bar. It’s an award-winning bar.
And they took my favorite drink off the menu.
We took some friends there in January, and their menus had been re-printed. I browsed through to find my favorite and found that it was gone, gone, gone!
It was the In Vino Veritas, and it was the best.
Not to worry, I’d already figured out how to make it at home! The menu had described it as a mix of rum, red wine syrup, citrus, and allspice. I could do that.
(But the cocktail is still on the website? I couldn’t have missed it, I scoured that menu. But it was also dimly-lit, and we’d also just split a Virgin Sacrifice, sooo…)
Step 1: Acquire allspice.
Not as easy as you’d think! I couldn’t find it at any local stores (didn’t know what it was, would have to special order it, sold out and didn’t plan to re-stock), so I had to order it online and cough up the extra cash for shipping. I threw in a bottle of Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka, just to make the purchase worth my time.
Step 2: Make red wine syrup.
Red wine syrup is extremely easy to make. It’s simple syrup, with wine instead of water. Simple!
Step 3: Guess at the rest of the ingredients.
There was some trial and error. What did they mean by “citrus”? A splash of lime? Lemon? It took a few tries, but eventually we figured it out:
In Vino Veritas Maxime (“In Wine, There is Truth, Mostly”) — from Forbidden Island, Alameda
- 1 shot dark rum
- 1 shot red wine syrup
- 1/2 shot allspice
- top off with orange juice
And there it is! Mostly. It’s not an exact replica, but it’s close enough that my memory of the original can’t tell much of a difference.
I’ve been enjoying allspice so much, I tried recreating a few other cocktails from local restaurants:
Santo Spirito Magis et Minus (“Holy Spirit, More or Less”) — from Boot and Shoe Service, Oakland
- 1 shot rum
- 1/2 shot allspice
- splash of simple syrup
- splash of lime
- top with tonic
The original is also served with a sprig of mint. When I asked the server if he could leave off the mint, he started in with the whole “That really changes the flavor of the cocktail…” spiel. Dude, it’s a garnish. I hate mint and love everything else in this cocktail. I just didn’t want to pick it off and waste food.
Angry Russian Mule, Probably — from Build, Berkeley
- 1 shot vodka
- 1/2 shot allspice
- dash of bitters
- splash of lime
- top with tonic
- sprinkle with ground clove
Yum! Sadly, the allspice didn’t make it through winter. The last was used in a rum/apple cider/ginger beer punch over the holidays.
You saw a peek of the apartment all dressed up for Halloween (more photos on Flickr), and I really wish I had taken more of our Christmas decor. Because I am all about the mini trees. I am not even joking.
So many that I ran out of space in front of the fireplace!
And then of course Sean’s mother gave me two more, which I’m saving for next year.
We’ve decided to order a tree next Christmas — a big white retro one! I will have to show constraint and not put out all the mini trees. Unless I want to make a Christmas forest. Hmm…
Back to the rest of the apartment. I took inspiration from this idea on Oh Happy Day and my continuing tree obsession to make these lovely hanging decorations.
The best part is that they stack up neatly and can be re-used next year!
My favorite decoration was, yes, another tree. But bear with me here, because this was really sweet.
It’s a photo tree! I picked up this fabric from IKEA last year. We stapled the top to a large dowel, and attached that to our bare dining room wall (not bare anymore — stay tuned for that post!). We put it up after Thanksgiving and added photos any time someone came over. By the end of the month, the tree was full!
When it was time to take it down, I gave many of the pictures back to people. Then we rolled up the tree and stuck it in the closet until next year!
The camera we used, if you’re wondering, is an Instax Mini 25. Why did I pick this over other Fujifilm/Instamax cameras? Because it has a little mirror next to the lens, for selfies!
We had quite a spread for our holiday party, but I was especially proud of my food wreath. I didn’t even get the chance to take a picture of it before it get being devoured.
Yes, I got the idea from Pinterest, and yes, there weren’t even any real instructions! I gotta brag about this one, it looks just like the original, AND it was very yummy.
All in all a very fun and festive party. You can check out more pics of my holidays on Flickr.
I got a juicer for my birthday! I’ve been interested in trying out having juices for breakfast & lunch.
Our regular meal plan, you see, is incredibly boring. Lunch during the week is chicken and mixed veggies. The chicken is just boiled and cubed, and we rotate through various sauces that we’ll pour a tablespoon of on top — curry, jalapeno jelly, pesto, peanut sauce, etc. The veggies are usually broccoli, green beans, peas, corn, etc. We buy them frozen and just dump them into the container with the hot chicken. By lunchtime, the chicken’s cooled off anyways, and the frozen food is still frozen. It all heats up uniformly in the microwave. And if you’re crying out, “But why not cook your veg fresh??” you may want to consider the opinion that frozen veg may actually have more nurtients. In truth we do it out of convenience and to save time in the mornings.
And dinner is usually more of the same — protein and vegetables. Fun times! Weekends we have more carbs and sugars, but nothing too crazy. We’re in Girl Scout Cookie season, here, so I’m going to cut myself some slack.
We chose the Breville Compact, due to its size and price. It works great! Though I think my favorite feature is the little foam blocker on the pitcher, it really helps pour out just the juice.
I started by playing around with just a sweet juice in the mornings, combining carrots, oranges, apples, sweet potatoes, and beets — using any 3 out of those 5. Both oranges and apples are what sweeten it, so I wouldn’t recommend using a lot of both in one batch.
The above juice was my very first creation — a “carrot cake” juice.
- 4 carrots
- 2 apples
- 1 1/2 sweet potato
- dash of cinnamon on top
Delicious! And just a little bit creamy.
But now I’m moving on to green juices. A little less palatable, honestly, but I’m working on it. I’ve adjusted to my regular bland diet, I’m sure I can adapt to a liquid salad.
Easing into it, this is a good beet juice recipe:
- 4 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 beet
- 3 handfuls spinach
I found that the spinach didn’t yield a lot of juice. I’ve experimented with when to put it in, and first seems to be the best option. And it if makes too much pulp, empty that out before putting in the rest. Beets and carrots also make a lot of pulp, despite all the juice that comes out.
After combing through dozens of recipes online, I’ve come to discover that they’re mostly all variations on the same key ingredients: cucumber, celery, leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, etc), lemon, and sometimes ginger. More than 2-3 stalks of celery will add a strong peppery taste, so many recipes also throw in an apple or two to sweeten it. Some people recommend Stevia or Splenda, but I’m hesitant to add artificial sweeteners.
Packed for work: kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apples, and lemon.
Things I need to consider: This is actually going to have more carbs than the very minimal intake that I’m used to, and also more fructose. I’ll have to stick with green juices and avoid too much fruit. Plus I’m losing out on the fiber, so dinner will feature more salads and roughage than steamed veg. Weekends will have to be a bit more regimented as well, with fewer indulgences.
So we’ll see how it goes. If I decide to keep going, I may ramp up to a 7-day juice diet. You know, for fun science. In the mean time, I have plenty more recipes on my Pinterest board.
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the Swedish Sandwich Cake. I was looking for an excuse to try it out, and while it may seem out-of-context to bring a Swedish dish to a 4th of July party, I did it anyways. Because, guys, sandwich cake.
There wasn’t one particular recipe that I followed. I definitely got the feeling that it was a “use whatever’s lying around” type of recipe.
Step 1: Get some bread. If you’re in Sweden, I guess it’s easier to get unsliced loaves. In my case I went to the Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, which I have no complaints about because their bread is delicious. But it was about twice the length of what I’d been imagining.
Step 2: I trimmed off the crust a bit, also to make the top flat. Slice the loaf into layers.
Step 3: Start slathering on your fillings.
Layer one for me was a tuna pate with sliced cucumbers. (Note to self — get a mandolin slicer! Would have preferred if they were cut ultra-thin.)
Layer two: garlic aioli, smoked salmon, sweet mustard, and garlic slaw. The slaw didn’t have any dressing in it, on account of the aioli and mustard already present in this layer. Next time, I might add a light dressing, but nothing creamy.
Step 4: Wrap it up and chill overnight. Not entirely necessary, but I knew I’d be rushed for time on the 4th. Also, if you give it some time, the bread soaks up the spreads a bit, which in my opinion is a good thing. If you’d prefer drier bread, don’t let it spend the night in your fridge.
Step 5: The next morning was time to ice and decorate!
For the “icing,” I mixed aioli and mashed avocado. Most of the recipes I’d seen had iced with straight mayo, or mayo and cream cheese, which ew. I was not down with that so much. The avocado icing definitely added more flavor, but put a definite “eat by” date on it, since it would oxidize and discolor over the course of the day. Of course, if I had gone with the mayo, that would have sat out for a while too. So, pros and cons.
I topped it with sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese, cocktail shrimp, and radishes. A lot of the toppings on other cakes look amaaaazing (including big leaves of lettuce on the sides), but I wanted to make sure it would slice cleanly.
And it did! Here’s a shot of the inside. It was delicate to slice — the best method was to press the face of your plate against the side of the cake, slice gently with a bread knife, and then your piece plopped right over.
The next time I make it (how could there not be a next time), I’m going to have 3 fillings. The bread was definitely thick, and too dry for my liking. I’d also like to put a beet slaw in there, or maybe have an icing colored with beet juice. Also, the fillings could have been thicker. Or wetter. And maybe with an additional type of cheese.
More of everything, is what I’m saying. Next time, more of everything.
I found you in the back of the cupboard. My roommate said you must have belonged to a previous roommate. You were abandoned. You needed a home.
I knew then that I would be a daily coffee drinker.
Or tea. Tea’s cool too.
Your lid was hard plastic. It sealed perfectly. You never dripped. You had a thin ring of soft padding on your base, so you’d wouldn’t clink or clack or clunk when set down. You wouldn’t slip or topple.
A tumbler that would never tumble.
You didn’t have a flippy top, or a clicky top. You had a sippy top. Not for a toddler, but for an adult. For me.
You weren’t suitable for carrying in a bag or taking in the car. You weren’t made for that. You were made to live on a desk, to go no farther than the staff kitchen. To always be held by human hands.
A travel mug that would never travel.
You didn’t have a handle. You warmed my fingers with every touch, never burning, always gentle.
Pick up, sip, put down.
Your brushed stainless steel never showed scratches. I didn’t have to be over-cautious. You could take it.
And around your middle, worn down by my grip and those before me, was your logo, embossed on the hard plastic sleeve (that wasn’t removable; why should it be?). Almost impossible to read, so casual, nonchalant, unassuming:
Oh, Pinterest. You always have recipes that look so good in theory. Like the cinnamon roll pie crust.
I wanted to try my hand at an apple pie for Christmas 2012. Because I’d actually never made one. And after the pecan pie cheesecake, I felt some pressure to deliver another amazing pie.
This one, not so much.
Not that it was a bad pie. The filling was great. It was the crust that didn’t deliver.
Basically, you take your regular pie crust, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, roll it up, slice it into rounds, and then press those into the pan.
I mean, it looks pretty cool.
And it baked fine. But I couldn’t taste much of a difference. Maybe it’s because the added rolling and slicing overworked the crust? Maybe I should have done more cinnamon sugar? It tasted like a regular crust, on a regular apple pie, which was well-executed (imho) but not the “Omg Pinterest you win again!” type of pie I was hoping for.
I wonder what would happen if you used actual cinnamon roll dough. Like, the ready-made kind. Would it puff up weird and displace the filling? Things to consider. Perhaps not to try, but definitely to consider.
In Thanksgiving 2012, I stumbled upon a recipe for pecan pie cheesecake.
We traditionally have two pies at Thanksgiving: pecan pie for dad, and pumpkin pie for the rest of us. I can’t eat pecan pie ever since I helped make it once; all that sugar sludge is unappetizing. The rest of the family likes it, but not as much as the pumpkin.
So, the pecan pie cheesecake. I found this recipe, and thought — hey! Here’s a way to have a little bit of pecan pie goodness, but not be a sludge pie!
It’s essentially a cheesecake with a little pecan pie slipped in the middle.
You guys, it was so good. It was just the right amount of everything. The texture of the pecan layer really complemented the cheesecake.
I didn’t make it again in 2013 because I wanted to try something different, but the family still talks about it. The Year of the Pecan Pie Cheesecake. Perhaps it will make its glorious return in 2014!