The Summer Crutch (A Cock-Tale)

On Saturday I returned from an end-of-summer mid-Atlantic vacation. I spent the first few days in Baltimore catching up with friends; playing a boozy 18 holes of mini golf; and dining obscenely well on roadside barbecue, high-end sushi, whole lobster, and an excess of bone marrow prepared on the grill.

This was followed by a delightful week in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where I rented a house with a handful of friends. We spent our days sunning, swimming, reading, dozing, and biking. Evenings were reserved for grilling, the occasional amusement park foray, and cocktailing. One of my housemates takes her adult beverages quite seriously and came equipped to prepare about 20 different classic cocktails for which I would have gladly (and, in many cases, already had) forked over $14 a pop. Among my favorites were the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Enzoni.

Image

Image

It was a truly blissful week. Between the sun, the surf, and the endless stream of cocktails, I was almost able to forget about the nagging pain in my right ankle.

A week before leaving town, I had taken a nasty spill. I wish I had a better story. But the reality is that it was early in the morning, I was distracted, and I was wearing platform heels. My full cup of coffee splattered across the pavement just in time for my hair to land in it. When I pulled myself together enough to stand, I had a bloody knee, a rather sore ankle, and a busy day ahead of me. So I hobbled to the subway.

Image

The next week was a blur of rest, ice, compression, elevation, and grant writing. My ankle didn’t look so good but, after a couple of days, an ace bandage and a limping gait got me where I needed to go. I hauled my overstuffed suitcase down to Baltimore on the bus. I played the aforementioned mini golf. I taught a five-year-old with bouncy curls how to cha-cha. I took a few late night bike rides down to the state park. I stumbled through sand. I doggie paddled. I drove a bumper car.

Around the two-week mark, my limp was just about gone and the bruising had migrated to just below my toes. But I still didn’t feel comfortable without a brace. And then there were those strange intermittent stabbing pains I was starting to notice. I told myself that, if it wasn’t better by Labor Day, I would seek medical care.

Yesterday was my first day back in the office. I spent the morning sifting through my email. Around lunchtime I walked up to the urgent care center on 14th Street. I explained that I had fallen and hurt my ankle, was pretty sure it was a sprain, but thought it best to have an x-ray just in case. The attending doctor was nice and seemed willing to humor me. Three x-rays and less than 15 minutes later, she walked back into the exam room and told me that I had, in fact, broken my ankle. It is hard to say who was more surprised.

Before I knew it, she had outfitted me with a neon peach temporary cast, a set of crutches, and instructions to follow up with an orthopedist. Less than an hour after entering the urgent care center, I left. Only this time I couldn’t walk. I gingerly crutched my way to the curb and flagged down a cab to take me back the six blocks I had just walked with almost no difficulty.

ImageBy the time I made it home and up the two flights of stairs last night, I was feeling rather sorry for myself. Clearly I was deserving of a cocktail. But these damn crutches make everything a challenge.

The Summer Crutch

  1. Position yourself in the dead center of your kitchen and prop your crutches carefully against the kitchen counter. (If they fall, it is a royal pain in the ass to retrieve them.)
  2. Take two hops toward the refrigerator and pull an ice cube tray out of the freezer, praying that the one you can reach is not empty.
  3. Hop back to the kitchen counter and fill one of the jelly jars that you compulsively hoard with as much ice as it will hold. Consider refilling the tray and returning it to the freezer before realizing that this is an impossibility.
  4. Pour a generous shot of the Buffalo Trace bourbon left from vacation into the jar. Contemplate your current situation and add a little more.
  5. Hop back to the refrigerator and grab the black cherry juice generously left by your cat sitter.
  6. Hop back to the counter and fill the rest of the jelly jar with the juice. Give it a swirl with your finger and taste.
  7. Attempt to add your homemade grapefruit bitters, but discover that the cap is on far too tight. Add a couple dashes each of the orange and rhubarb bitters or whatever else you can reach without standing on the kitchen stool (also an impossibility though, now that you think of it, it may come in handy when you attempt to shower).
  8. Screw the lid on tight and stuff your cocktail into the pocket of your caftan. (A caftan with pockets has got to be one of the best inventions ever.)
  9. Crutch your way to the couch, gingerly drop down, and retrieve your freshly shaken cocktail.

The Summer Crutch is mean to be slugged directly out of the jar while staring ruefully at your cast. I do not have a photo of this refreshing beverage, as I forgot to put my phone in my other caftan pocket and there was no way I was getting up again until absolutely necessary.

Is It Spring Yet?

Despite having lived in New York for more than two decades, I am newly disappointed each March to discover that it is still winter. School, work, and a chronic lack of sunshine conspired to make this past week quite challenging. By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready for some relaxation in the form of a specialty cocktail.

Is It Spring Yet?

  1. Add a shot (or more if you’ve had as rough week as I’ve had) of white rum and two to three times as much mango nectar to a rocks glass.
  2. Use a microplane or the fine holes of a cheese grater to grate some fresh ginger into your glass and give it a stir. (Your index finger works fine.)
  3. Pour some Prosecco or another dry sparkling wine on top, add a squeeze of lime, and plop in a large ice-cube.

This cocktail pairs beautifully with takeout Indian food and your sister and brother-in-law’s HBO on Demand while your nephew slumbers in the next room.

Is It Spring Yet goes down so easy that you might find yourself feeling less than stellar the next day. Fortunately, there’s a cure for that, and the ingredients can all be found at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket – even in early March.

Not Yet Spring Breakfast

  1. Get your ass out of the house. Be sure to take gloves; it’s still cold. Seriously.
  2. Grab some coffee on the way to the farmers market. (If you failed to bring gloves, this will help.)
  3. Pick up some fresh Madura Farms shitaake mushrooms, an organic whole wheat sourdough miche from Bread Alone, a hunk of Cato Corner Farm Farmstead Cheeses’ Dairyere and, if you don’t have some stashed in the fridge, a shallot and some eggs.
  4. Head home, remove your pants. In that order.
  5. Add half a tablespoon of unsalted butter to a small skillet over medium heat. Once the foaming has subsided, add a finely minced shallot and sauté for a few minutes. Sprinkle a little thyme over the top and then add halved or quartered mushrooms. Stir occasionally, allowing your mushrooms to brown. At some point, add salt and pepper.
  6. Lay thin slices of cheese atop sliced bread and broil until bubbly and browned.
  7. Turn the heat under your pan down a tad, slide the mushrooms onto a plate, add a little more butter and fry an egg. A bit of water and a lid will help cook the white while preserving the runny yolk. 
  8. Assemble the components as you see fit, grind a little pepper over the top, and enjoy.

Image

Potluck Progressive

I am lucky to live in a beautiful coop populated by some truly fantastic people. Last night my neighbors got together for a progressive potluck dinner.

My apartment was off-limits owing to an unfortunate leak, so Matt and Ryan graciously hosted the first course. The last month of weekly CSA shares had included more radishes than I could reasonably consume. Last weekend, in a desperate bid to keep them from going bad, I pickled the radishes. I’ve been eating them in breakfast tacos, as a garnish for Anasazi bean soup, and straight from the jar. For our potluck, I served the pickled radishes–along with French bread, baby Brussels sprouts, Macoun apple slices, and steamed new potatoes–with an Appenzeler and Fontina fondue.

The pickled radishes made a second appearance in a round–or, um, three rounds–of Gibsons. A Gibson is a vodka martini with a cocktail onion in place of an olive or a twist. I went with one part dry vermouth to four parts vodka, stirred with ice, strained into coupe glasses, and garnished with a pickled radish. The key is to use a good quality vermouth, which is a whole different animal from the $4 a bottle stuff. In this case, Dolin did the trick.

Next up was Matt and Ryan’s butternut squash and broccoli rabe lasagna. The arugula and radish salad with a lemon dressing provided the perfect counterpoint to the lasagna’s luscious nutmeg-infused bechamel.

At this point, we transitioned to red wine.

From here the party really got moving as we filed downstairs for a delightful spread of Indian street food and, of course, more wine. Praveen has promised to give me some lessons, so hopefully I can report back on what we ate in more detail at a later date. Suffice it to say that the dishes were fresh, delicately seasoned, and made all of our go-to Indian takeout spots seem sad by comparison.

The final stop was Chris and Rich’s newly renovated apartment on the top floor of the building next door. Chris had gamely agreed to take on dessert. But first there was champagne and a demonstration of the snazzy new induction cooktop, which brought a pot of water to a boil in about two minutes.

Dessert consisted of poached pears with crème fraîche and walnuts, some truly decadent English cheeses, and port. I have hazy memories of some more red wine and perhaps a high-end chocolate bar.

It goes without saying that this morning was a little rough, but it was well worth it.

Independence Eve Cocktail

The Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year.  I’m throwing an 800-person fundraiser on Saturday, so there will be no extra long weekend for me.  Come to think of it, there will be no weekend at all.  And it’s hot.  Really hot.  This calls for a cocktail.

I’m not a big fan of sweet drinks.  Now bitter, that I like.  A few weeks ago, I attended a bitters making class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is just a few blocks from my house.  We toured the Edible Gardens, got some tips on how to infuse our simple syrup, and shared a lovely ginger, lime, cilantro and gin concoction.  We each went home with a bitters base of our own making.  I opted for grapefruit peel, dried lemon peel, lovage, cardamom and violets.  Last night I completed the last of the surprising number of steps necessary to finish my bitters.

Independence Eve Cocktail

Fill a highball glass with ice and add a shot or so of gin.  Add half a shot of Campari and a couple of shots of grapefruit juice.  Pour seltzer to the top and add a few drops of grapefruit or other citrus bitters.  If you’re lazy like me, just poke the top ice cube to mix things up a bit. 

This cocktail is best enjoyed in your underwear sitting near an open window.

Image