Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Beet Goes On

Another favorite winter pastime is bi-weekly trips to DeKalb Farmers Market, just outside Atlanta.

Notoriously cold inside the market, I layer a light sweater over another light sweater, followed by a comfy lightweight coat and fuzzy gloves.

I know one of you is shaking your head saying, "dummy, it's good for the vegetables and other perishables" but I have to wonder if it isn't a little sadistic entertainment for the office personnel-hovering high above the veggies-in their warm, cozy offices.

Whatever. . .

Last trip I was totally outwitted, peeling off layer after layer . . . on with the gloves-off with the gloves. The management had turned the heat up! I think they were having fun with the shoppers!

No worries, I'm hardcore and over the years have adapted by packing an extra change of clothes-stuffing them in the 99 cent recycle bags-which are never in use for their intended purpose.

If we have another freeze like last week I swear I'm wearing my fleece robe over my clothes! It won't be pretty but I will "make" my groceries!

I especially enjoy having lunch while shopping. The daily offerings hint of exotic, far away places-lots of curries, and spicy aromatic meats. Curried goat is my favorite. Not too big of a meat eater, I take just enough to mingle a little with spicy Afghanistan rice and fragrant orange and ginger beets. I top everything with the tastiest sesame dressing, a little hummus and sour cream, walnuts and ooh, yummy!

I am a hopeless foodie!

You know, I can't imagine a winter vacation boasting warm, toasty fires or an exotic cruise to Alaska to watch whales frolicking in the icy waters. Boy, but let me get wind of a new, exciting market and I will brave the arctic tundra in all my layered glory!

Ya'll stay warm!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Italian Chestnuts and Blood Orange Apertif

As a "spring/summer personality, I have always dreaded the thought of dreary winters filled with dark days and cold nights. Living in Georgia I can almost certainly count on a weird mix of mild, moderately cold or severe winters.

Rather than complain I have adapted to the odd winters and look forward to my winter rituals of warm, fragrant baths and lovely evenings in my wonderful kitchen recreating many favorite Italian dishes while enjoying a glass of Tuscan super-red wine.

A chilly evening can be magically warmed by a serving of roasted Italian chestnuts tossed with fragrant garlic oil and a light sprinkling of kosher salt. The evening is further transformed with the addition of a Blood Orange and Brandy Apertif.

I choose a beautiful, faceted crystal hi-ball, something special that reflects the intense garnet reds of the blood orange as they swirl into the coppery browns of the orange brandy. With a tiny silver spoon I ladle one delicate teaspoon of sugar and wait for the gentle fizz from the addition of soda water. Ah! Sweet success!

The chestnuts are cleaned and scored with an "X". I toss them with the fragrant oil flavored by sweet garlic until each chestnut glistens. Finally, the chestnuts are placed in the oven to roast and I wait for the house to fill with the aroma and memories of Italy!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Mad Scientist

Honeybell Orange Brandy Apertif

Picture this . . . it’s a strangely dark night, fog blankets the ground near “area 51” (that’s my house number). Strange gurgling burps followed by violent hisses erupt from tiny colorful vials filled with strange liquids.

That’s a “teeny” exaggeration. It’s really a little more mundane than that and the test tubes are really dirty dishes waiting on my my husband. I’m just settin’ a little mood, here!

Creating recipes and cocktails is one of my great passions. I am often asked how the process begins and I never have a quick answer. I can get pretty excited when I talk about things I love. (See picture)

To tell the story I have to share my history.

Way back before I ever hosted Home At Last! I was a bartender in New Orleans. My experience and knowledge of cocktails helped land me some pretty cool high-paying jobs in the best places frequented by locals.

My enthusiasm for the art of making and developing cocktails recipes has expanded over the years to include making some of my own liqueurs and flavored syrups to enhance new recipes.

My first batch of homemade Limoncello proved a great success, so much so, that I keep the batches going through-out the year. A pretty decanter filled with sunny Limoncello, prettily-adorned with bottle jewelry, makes a GREAT gift. You can find the recipe on my website at http://www.homeatlast.net/limoncello.php .

The ritualistic stages of the process are all equally enjoyable to me. I carefully skin the Meyers Lemons with my favorite Italian chocolate peeler; a gift from my son and his wife. I create a delicately-flavored simple syrup from the juice of the lemons and add it at just the precise time to enhance the fiery lemon vodka. The peels are carefully strained from the liquid to enhance the clarity and drinkability of the Limoncello and so it goes. . . .

But then a sad thing happened . . . the beautiful lemons mysteriously disappeared, replaced by scrawny, blemished orbs masquerading as fruit. I won’t say I wasn’t panicked! A young tradition was dying way before its time. But I didn’t give up; what would I be without the hunt!

Finally, some interesting newcomers appeared, at the market! Australian Honeybell Oranges. “Look at me, pick me!” they whispered! Hmmm. . . .there were other worries (Again, I’ll point you to the picture.) Did I have enough vodka, could we ever drink all this? It didn’t matter. I filled my basket with the finest candidates and rushed home to search my bar for vodka. Instead I found a lonely decanter filled with golden brandy. Fire up the laboratory! Where’s my apron?

And so my new Honeybell Orange Brandy was born. Rosy tints of blush liquid underscored with a delicate hint of raspberry! It has been a delightful discovery. It’s perfect in my Strawberries Romanoff, exquisite with Paromi Coconut Almond Tea and blissful in a refreshing pre-dinner Apertif with mulled Blood Orange and soda water. "It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely!"

Paromi Teas

Friday, January 2, 2009


Happy New Year!

Whew! I don't know about the rest of you, but I am unusually thankful to see 2009 arrive!

It has been such a hard year for many of us. I'm sure we all want to move on to a more positive time in our lives. 2008 brought many blessings into my life but they were all somewhat bittersweet with the absence of my friend and sister, Char' Fontane. Like so many other precious women, Char' succumbed to breast cancer in 2007.

I made it through my second Christmas without Char'. It wasn't as bad as the first year after her passing-but I can only hope that the years will get easier as time passes. Sadly, there were no new Christmas antlers added to my extensive collection, there was no excited "girl" chatter about the perfect gift for someone on our Christmas lists, there were no mystery boxes on my doorstep, each filled with gifts carefully chosen for me and there was no candled-filled evenings in celebration of family and friendship!

I loved to shop for my friend knowing she cherished and displayed each gift with love! Her delight during the Christmas season was a true celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ! She marveled with childlike wonder at the gifts that had been bestowed upon her life because Her Savior had died for her.

I am fortunate to have so many beautiful memories of our holidays together! We shot lots of footage of our time together-there were photos-all the usual things. Char made beautiful memory books of our friendship and time spent together. She never missed an opportunity to tell me how much I meant to her and how deeply she loved me. She was able to communicate her sisterly love through a beautifully written card, a silly phone message, a laughter-filled dinner out with our husbands or a book that might bring inspiration and comfort through the words on the pages.

Char brought a unique perspective to my life experience.

She was a talented actress-starring in her own television series, Joe and Valerie in the late 70's. She guest-starred on Barnaby Jones numerous times and was cast as a hooker in the popular mini-series Pearl. Char' was born in Hollywood to parents, Tony Fontane and Kerry Vaughn, in 1952. Tony Fontane, a wildly popular singer was at the height of his career when he suffered a nearly fatal car accident. After a long-recovery Tony devoted his life and career to Jesus. He enjoyed the sweetest success as a popular Gospel singer and remained devoted until his death

Tony Fontane's life and great career provided endless inspiration to his daughter. Char' followed in her father's footsteps; starring in a Broadway production of Grease in the mid 70's. She worked with other popular singers and actors of the period and told wonderfully rich stories of the good times she enjoyed while living in NYC.

So, this year, 2009, I am in celebration of my great friend and sister, Char' Fontane! I love and miss you! Char' Fontane 1952-2007