Category Archives: Party! Party!

In defense of the Noble Drunk

An oldie, but a goodie. Just to put you in the proper frame of mind for the upcoming season of joy.

Kitchen Slattern

Yesterday, while toughing out 20 minutes of enforced motionlessness as I iced my elbow, I ran across an old favorite from movieland, and it got me to thinking. Now, how I developed golfer’s elbow remains a mystery as I don’t play. You may be thinking it could be due to the repetitive strain of lifting glasses of wine, bottles of beer or cases of what have you; however, it has afflicted my left elbow, which is not my drinking lifiting elbow, but that’s a story for another day.

As I said, I was sitting with the elbow swaddled in an ice pack with some time to kill, so I snapped on the tube and was thrilled to stumble upon one of my all time favorite movies featuring one of my all time favorite actors. And since I’m slinging the term around, it was My Favorite Year with none other than…

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The Holiday Cookie Swap: You’re kidding me, right?

Recipe: Date Crumbles

In the latest missive from Martha, the Darth Vader of domesticity offers up a bunch of recipes especially for holiday cookie swaps. Putting aside the question of who in her right mind would invite Martha to a cookie party (“How quaint! A chocolate chip cookie!  Here, do sample one of my Roasted Pecan, Marzipan and Sea Salt 100% Cocoa Dream Bars. They’re the ones packaged in my homemade Fabergé eggs and sprinkled with edible gold dust!”), let us for a moment focus on the strange notion of a cookie swapping party.

As I understand it, these things require everyone to bring about 50 dozen homemade cookies, festively packaged for the holiday and suitable for gift giving. Attendees then go home with 50 dozen assorted cookies to light up their holiday season and blow out the springs on yet another bathroom scale. Now, I myself have never been invited to one of these dream festivals, nor have I ever considered the possibility of throwing one, even in the midst of a weeklong holiday eggnog bender celebration, but I have it on good authority that these shindigs are fairly common and many people actually enjoy them. Mysterious, isn’t it? So let’s break it down.

Babs and Mandy via http://pyxurz.blogspot.com

Cookie party? Great idea, Babs! Count us in!
I’m guessing of course, but I’d wager this is how it usually starts. A couple of ex-sorority sisters are sitting at the table in a tastefully appointed, 800 square-foot kitchen sipping cinnamon-dusted, decaf, fat-free lattes and tossing around crazy ideas to really pep up the holiday season, when one of them recalls reading about a holiday cookie swapping party in, where else, Martha Stewart Living. This of course is the family-friendly, great-room version of the panelled-basement, Mateus-swilling, wife swapping parties of yesteryear. These days, however, instead of swinging, mom, dad, the kids and the nanny happily mingle while participating in a mid-afternoon sugar orgy and bake-off with alpha status on the cul de sac as first prize. (“OMG, Sally did NOT bring those disgusting Snickerdoodles again?! Last year I gave ours to the cleaning lady, and it was the last time we ever saw her. Just saying…”)

Why would anyone do this during the holidays?
I don’t know about you, but by the second week in December I am red-lining the stress meter. My house is cluttered with decorations and blinking lights that turn a garden variety hangover into a never-ending hallucinogenic nightmare; I have cuts on the soles of my feet from stepping on broken ornament shards; I’ve already gained five pounds from eating the entire, extra large fruitcake I made the day after Thanksgiving; and my credit cards are smoking. At this point I long for three things: clear surfaces, a stomach pump and a double martini after breakfast. Seems to me a holiday vodka swapping party would actually make sense at a time like this. How come nobody throws those?

Courtesy frockon.com

What’s the party dress code? The holiday sweater, of course!
If you’re actually going to put in an appearance at one of these binges, you’ll be expected to show up in the Christmas classic, on which you will certainly not want to squander precious gift dollars. So, if you don’t have a novelty sweater of your own (and I sincerely hope you don’t), borrow a Rudolph cardigan, preferably with jingle bells, from Aunt Marge or Chester, that goofy second cousin on your father’s side who keeps a spotless house, is the first to arrive at every family reunion (with his mother) and never fails to remind you that he’s “missing your Christmas card” on December 2nd.

In my opinion, if you’re going to throw a bash during the holiday season, you really should make it formal, but there’s just no way to pull off a black tie cookie party. With the annual request for evening attire, the old man’s mildewy tuxedo gets aired and stretched, and the ladies have a perfectly good excuse to nip into Lord and Taylor for fashionable party shoes, a cocktail dress that will be worn only once, and the Spanxx that are necessary to zip it, but which also require the victim to pee through the trap door in the crotch while hovering over the toilet bowl, because there is no way you’re ever going to get a garment with that much torque back up once you’ve pulled it down and released a cascade of fruitcake-infused gut flab back into the wild, even for the few seconds it takes to have a squeak. You cannot get this kind of merriment while upholstered in Mom jeans and a turtleneck.

What’s on the drinks cart?
Why milk, cider, coffee and tea of course, silly! How this passes for a party in any universe is beyond me. Enough said.

Don’t forget the straw!

Here’s what a “cookie party” at my house would look like:
Me still in my pajamas at seven pm, slumped against the kitchen counter, drinking directly from the bottle of Bushmills I keep under the sink (for emergencies) with half a bowl of cookie dough already working its way from my stomach to my ass. Smoke is rolling out of the oven where the final batch of cookies I need to meet my party “quota” is incinerating (This batch is for YOU, Babs.), and the Wing Hua delivery man is laying on the doorbell waiting for payment on the fifth consecutive dinner delivery of the week. Happy freakin’ holidays.

Nonetheless, since we’re on the subject, and I’m thinking about cookies, I’m going to break my no-more-cooking rule just this once to offer up the recipe for the Slattern’s best cookie, the date crumble. Not only is it festive and delicious, but it also contains dates (iron!) and oatmeal (fiber!), which in my book qualifies this as health food. As an added bonus, these cookies are baked en masse in a pan then cut into bars, thereby saving the baker the aggravation of multiple batches. So if you must attend one of these godawful events, at least you can shine. Just make sure to bring the Slattern’s friend along for company if you want to have any fun at all.

Date Crumbles
(They freeze beautifully, btw)

Date Filling
3 cups pitted dates, chopped (1 lb)
1 cup water
1/3 cup white sugar
Juice of ½ lemon

Crumble
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cool unsalted butter (somewhere between refrigerator and room temp, no margarine or Crisco!)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups oats (you can use quick cooking oats, but I use old fashioned ones for more texture)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 400°.

In a saucepan, combine the filling ingredients and cook over low heat about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened and kind of pasty with chunks. Cool for about 5 minutes.

In large bowl (preferably of an electric mixer, otherwise this bit is exhausting), stir brown sugar and butter together, then add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and mix until crumbly.

Press half of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of pan to form a crust. Spread with filling. Top with remaining crumb mixture and press down lightly.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool 5 minutes in the pan. Run a knife along the edge of the pan, otherwise you’ll have trouble extracting the bars after they cool. Cut into squares or diamonds or rectangles, whichever feels most festive to you.

What’s that? Your sweet tooth is calling? Might as well indulge your masochistic tendencies here, then.

Chocolate crinkles
Bar cookies
Molasses crinkles
The science of the chocolate chip cookie

How to have a better picnic: Get servants

From my email box and courtesy marthastewart.com

Once again I have sought a way to break through my now chronic writer’s block, and once again Martha has delivered, this time not a mimsy little hand drill, but a great big motherfucker of a sledgehammer to blast through the creative dam. In the form of this:

How to Have a Better Picnic

As you might have guessed, Martha thinks crafting vastly improves the al fresco dining experience. I, however, beg to differ. So let’s just take this apart, shall we?

In the above image of picnic bliss — as well as all the others in the feature article — we see lovely refreshments in pristine natural settings where comfy pillows, tasteful linens, frosty beverages and delicious treats await the arrival of well-heeled, scrupulously upholstered guests for a glass of perfectly chilled rosé accompanied by lighthearted, yet penetrating discussions of  the great books, the events of the day, and Martha’s supreme wonderfulness. Heaven on a beach.

Here’s what we don’t see:

  • The army of cooks, sommeliers and stylists who provisioned the picnic over the course of three long, hellish working days
  • The legions of domestic staff who humped all the aforementioned picnic accoutrements and food across approximately six miles of burning sand to a properly secluded spot on the beach
  • The team of photographers, gophers and fluffers (for the pillows, people) required to get the one perfect snapshot of the perfect beach party setting
  • Bugs
  • The raging inferno of citronella candles necessary in any outdoor situation that entails humans and food
  • Whiny kids who don’t want cucumber sandwiches for lunch, and even if they did, wouldn’t eat them because they’d be full of sand
  • Sunburned adults being driven to madness by mosquito bites, the horror of appearing in a social situation in swimwear, and the insufferable domestic drill sergeant at the center of their party universe
  • The exhausted host and hostess throwing this shindig who have already had about six knock-down drag-out fights in the run-up to it and are well on their way to getting absolutely blind drunk, disappearing behind a dune with someone other than their spouse and eventually filing for divorce.

I hate picnics.

Quite simply, there is not enough vodka in the world to make a picnic — or any outdoor dining event — worth your while, especially if you have to hand paint the picnic basket, waterproof the blanket, make special cocktail glass flowers and create a collapsible dog bowl to do it. This kind of event requires staff, people. And pharmaceuticals, which can be carefully blended for each party guest’s particular emotional needs, then distributed in colorful origami baskets that have been personalized with decorative name tags! Now that’s crafting with a purpose.

Party favors, and the raw material for positive social interaction.
Courtesy disaboom.com

Guilty Pleasures: Spring party mix

According to the forecasters, today in New York, the mercury will climb to 90 degrees (Farenheit, not Celsius for my Euro friends — fear not). The lilacs are blooming, the grill is up and running and the rum is flowing like water through the proverbial desert of my life. In short, folks, I’m in the mood for a party.

Some of you may recall an earlier foray into the party mix arena that we took at Christmas. I was somewhat surprised that my readers had any interest at all in the subject of what to fill the speakers with, though a good party mix is crucial to a festive evening, and essential if you’re hoping to stretch the evening well into the next day. In my opinion, it’s not a party until someone dons the lampshade, strips naked or frugs on the dining table. If one intrepid guest takes on all three at once, well, he’s probably a close relative of mine, and I’d hope others would join in the spirit of the moment and eventually call me to the ER. I realize not everyone keeps a stomach pump on hand, though for the life of me I don’t know why. Ours is right next to its pal the fire extinguisher, and I’d be lying if I said we frequently used one without the other, especially around the holidays. So there you go.

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Rum Punch Part 2: Recipe for the passionate island tart

The ultimate sarong courtesy ww2incolor.com

As my regular readers may recall, I recently spent a little vacation time in the Bahamas, where I was treated to the first class bartending services of Sammy at the Cocodimama Hotel, for better or, on at least one evening, for worse.

Bad tourist behavior notwithstanding, the man gets up to some serious mixology and Mr. Slattern and I were delighted to make regular use of his sevices. We tried all manner of rum drinks, which used all manner of flavored rums. My personal favorite was the Bahama Mama. Now, Sammy makes a Bahama Mama without the aid of passionfruit juice and confines himself to white rum and coconut rum, and if you want to follow the original recipe just skip the dark rum and passionfruit juice and double up on the orange juice in the tarted up version of the recipe below.

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