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Archive for the ‘beverages’ Category

This one came about in a very self-serving way. Over the holiday weekend, I got together with a few friends for a socially distanced bbq/gathering type of thing. It was hot as blazes so we opted to drink vodka lemonades in tall glasses with lots of ice. To make it simple, our host had bought premixed lemonade in jugs and here lies the problem. Premixed lemonade is fine as is but as soon as you add anything too it, the flavor weakens resulting in a vaguely lemon flavored drink. I greatly enjoy a sparkling lemonade cocktail kind of thing and adding vodka and club soda to a premixed lemonade just throws the whole thing off. Much discussion ensued and we came to the conclusion that you’re just better off in that case having a vodka soda with a twist, which is an entirely different thing. These are the trivial matters that consumed our conversation that afternoon. This can be better, we all agreed. I can make this better, we all agreed.

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Sitting at a traffic light not long ago, I looked up and saw something I hadn’t thought of in years: Orange Julius. Those frothy whipped orange drinks were a large part of my teenage years due to the enormous amount of time I spent at the local mall. I haven’t seen them in a while. Where have they been? According to a little web research, Orange Julius started in the late 1920s and thanks to an acquisition by Dairy Queen, seems to be making a resurgence of late.

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I left the photoshoot with bags of leftover groceries. Cheese, milk, nuts, cottage cheese, flowers and fruit. Oh god, the fruit. When you’re professionally shooting a product for advertising, everything needs to look good. Damn near perfect actually so you buy pounds of apples to find that one pretty, quintessential apple or multiple types of pumpkin seeds (raw, roasted, salted, large, small) because you just don’t know which one will look best until you see it. God forbid an imperfection of some sort, say a bruise or an off-color, draws the eye away from the product you’re trying to highlight. While the resulting photos are beautiful, there’s always a lot of food leftover at the end of a shoot. This is how I ended up with 3 packs of strawberries, 2 of raspberries, 2 of blackberries, 2 whole pineapples, 4 peaches, 2 dozen apples, a bag of lemons and limes and 4 mangos. And that was just the fruit.

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We’ve reached that point of the summer where gardens are exploding. I came back from several weeks out of the country and my sweet little plot in a community garden had grown to Amazonian proportions due to a rainy June and generous fertilizing. My cute tomato plants were 6 feet tall and growing in every direction like gangly, awkward teenagers. And like teenagers, they needed some firm guidance and a bit of discipline. The sugar snaps had wound their invasive tendrils into damn near everything and needed to be redirected. And the herbs, oh god the herbs. They were enormous unruly bushes, candidates for a topiary or bonsai artist perhaps. I went in with a pair of shears and aggressively pruned those suckers. Aggressively. I tamed those beasts.

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So lemonade versus limeade. I think in most cases, when given the choice, most people would choose lemonade. Which is a shame because limeade is pretty fantastic. In fact, I actually prefer it. Why can’t you regularly order vodka limeades or lime-y Arnold Palmers? Why isn’t there lime Italian ice? Or is there? It always seems to center around lemon. Limocello? Is that thing? I think, perhaps out of habit, we defer to lemon when a juicy lime can be used. Now that prices seem to be back to normal – I just bought 10 for $1 – I say let’s jump on that bandwagon for a while.

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Sometimes, I get myself into a bind. Every week at the farmers markets I walk in with a plan. I set a budget, I know exactly what I need to buy and I set off with determination. Within 30 seconds that plan is usually shot to hell. Something over here catches my eye. Something over there catches me by surprise. A particularly lovely pastry cries out to me. A gorgeous bouquet just needs to be on my entry table. I stumble to my car with my heavy load, vowing to do better next week. But I know. I know.

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Never much of a coffee drinker, I’ve always gravitated toward tea usually unsweetened glasses of ice tea, what we called “Sun Tea” growing up, or a piping hot cup with a spoonful of honey to ease a sore throat or a bad mood.  When “chai lattes” became popular at trendy coffeehouses, I discovered something that I very much enjoyed.  While everyone else was ordering coffees with made-up size names, I would defiantly order a “large” Chai Latte and the sweet spiciness made me happy.  That is, until I went to India and had a sort of chai epiphany.  I was embarrassed that I actually liked the hastily concocted “lattes” made with a boxed concentrate back home.  This, now this, was something else entirely.

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Another New Year’s Eve is upon us. Where did the year go? Am I the only one that’s surprised by this? “Time flies” doesn’t even begin to cover this but in the meantime, I plan on ringing in the New Year in a fun proper fashion. Some friends and I are attending a Roaring Twenties party tonight and are dressing up like gangsters. This being Chicago, I think we’ve got it in the bag. Beforehand, everyone is meeting at my place for some tasty snacks and cocktails. And I’ve got a special one planned. Ginger Kir Royales.

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Last week at the farmers market, I piled a big thick stack of beautiful rhubarb into my bag and on the drive home, thought about what to do with it.  Pies, crumbles, crisps, jams … yes, but.  But what?  What else is there?  I toyed with the idea of sorbet for about 3 seconds but there’s absolutely zero room in my freezer for the stupid ice cream machine canister these days.  I’ll make a pie, sure, but not this week.  I was still thinking about it as I trudged up the stairs.  What to do.  What to do.  Then I saw the lime green cover of a recent cookbook acquisition on my coffee table and remembered a recipe that caught my eye – Rhubarb Syrup – and the drinks that followed.  Perfect.  We have a winner.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve always gotten a kick out of this one. In grade school you had to wear green or get pinched.  I’m not sure where that tradition came from but you can be sure I was always wearing green.  Later, it was cheap green beer and quite a lot of it. Could there be anything more disgusting? Later on, as our income levels rose ever so slightly it was beautiful foamy pints of Guinness.  Ah, there is nothing better.  If lucky, the barman would form a clover in the creamy head on top.  To this day, I’m tickled when this happens. A properly poured pint of Guinness is a lovely thing and certainly cause for celebration.

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