Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quoi de neuf, Pussycat?

Where has the time gone?!? I have no idea. But it's summer now, and even though things are gearing up (in my personal life) they are also mellowing out. So, after finding a good rhythm, I am back! What's coming?

More in the Mad Men Cocktail series! Some Fourth of July festivities! Wedding season!

For now, have a gin and tonic and cool off.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Méchant jeune fille

Let's get another thing out of the way: the Dirty Martini is still a Martini. Treat it as such. But it is a different beast; I'd even venture to say that while the Martini is sexy, the Dirty Martini is a little slutty. But in a good way! I'm not going to include a recipe, only because it's the same as a basic Martini with a little something extra. And that something is the briny, slightly salty, always naughty olive juice. As much or as little as you like.

Of course the origins are are unclear, just as with the Classic Martini. What I've always wonder about is the "why?" Consider that the original was a very sweet drink, which was typical at the time (1800's), so why would anyone think to toss in olive juice?! By the end of the century a lot of the sweeter ingredients had been eliminated, leaving a very clean canvas. So I guess the real question at the time was: "Why not?"

Whatever the reasoning, I'm glad someone had the brilliant idea. This is a solid summer drink, so get crackin' and make up a pitcher!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Un livre pour vous!


Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960's America
by - Natasha Vargas-Cooper

One of the most fascinating things about Mad Men is how mired in reality it is. No matter how lush the photography and costumes may be, the show is simply about the day-to-day lives of regular people. No one on the show is a glamorous movie star or controversial political figure. Most of these characters are fairly average middle class working folks.
It was just a different time. The way people spoke to each other and even the smallest chore seems fascinating. Mad Men Unbuttoned peeks behind the curtain and gets into the little things.

The book is broken up into 9 sections, with various essays about each subject.

1. The ads and then men who made them.
This section was really interesting because it not only showed you who Don Draper and company were based on but gives you an idea of how advertising worked back in the day.

2. Style
As a fan of mid-century and Mod fashion, this section is one of my personal favorites. And it goes into both male and female fashion.

3. Working girls
Not hookers, thank you. But women and the careers they had. Stewardesses, secretaries, and housewives - oh my! The best essay has to be the one dedicated to Carla, the Draper's housekeeper/nanny.

4. Sex
There's a little more to it than just sex. Being a single and sexually active young woman. The history of condoms. Being gay and lesbian in a time when homosexuality was thought of as a mental disorder. And so, so much more.

5. Smoking, drinking, drugging
"Puffing While Pregnant" is not only an essay but the name of my new band.

6. Decor
This is a great section because it's so diverse. Essays on Jackie Kennedy, Regency, and Japonisme.

7. Literature
Some very important and culturally relevant books came out during the time Mad Men takes place. These essays cover Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ayn Rand and Frank O'Hara.

8. Movies
Hollywood has always influenced the way we dress and speak, among other things. But there was no greater time than in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The 50's were a glamorous time that gave us many leading me and the "Snow-covered Volcano" Grace Kelly. The 60's birthed the counter-culture movement and a plethora of deep, weepy foreign films.

9.In Progress
Here is the section you'll want to turn to if you have any questions about the social and political changes of the time.

The essays are fairly short but are well-written and concise. Plus, there are a lot of yummy pictures. It's a quick read but an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prenez la boisson et, comme lui!


Let's get the obvious out of the way: JamesBondJamesBondJamesBond. Sir Ian Flemming's infamous spy did drink a sort of martini. But it's not the sort we are going to talk about today. The Martini is the Little Black Dress of the cocktail world: simple, chic and effortless. When well constructed, it can make you feel like a million bucks.

For such a well known beverage, the origin is fuzzy. One story reaches back to the late 1800's in cosmopolitan San Francisco; the Martinez cocktail, served at the Occidental Hotel, may be the grandfather of this drink. Another story suggests the cocktail was named after a bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City, circa 1911. And there's also the possibility that it was simply named after Martini brand Vermouth, which is an ingredient. Nothing too flashy, which seems awfully fitting for this drink.

The drink has, of course, evolved over time. Originally the Martinez consisted of sweet vermouth, sweet gin, maraschino, and bitters; it was served shaken and with a twist of lemon. By the end of the 19th century, the drink was streamlined and consisted of only orange bitters, French vermouth and English gin - stirred and served with an olive.

Ironically, the event that made this drink so popular was Prohibition. Gin was relatively easy to manufacture (illegally). It wasn't until the late 70's - early 80's that the drink fell out of fashion. By then, the Martini was seen as "old fashioned" and was passed over in favor of intricate cocktails or spritzers. The explosion of "-tini" drinks during the mid - 90's helped usher the Martini back into the spotlight. But make no mistake, just because "-tini" is at the end of a cocktail, doesn't mean it has anything to do with a classic Martini. It's usually tacked on because those drinks are often served in cocktail glasses, the traditional vessel of the Martini. Also, they can be kinda gross.

Classic Martini
(recipe by Equire.com)

1 ounce dry Vermouth
4 ounces gin

"Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice. Pour in the dry Vermouth, stir briefly, and strain out (this may be discarded). Add 4 ounces gin. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an olive."

It's simple! The important thing is to have the best ingredients. At the risk of sounding a little too Ina Garten, you want "good" Vermouth and gin. Esquire suggests Noilly Prat Vermouth (and I agree) and Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, or Beefeater gin (I like all of those but Beefeater has been my favorite for a little while now). Try these out and do some of your own taste testing - it's important that you find something that you like.

Normally I talk about variations right about here and I was wrestling with the idea of leaving it be. The Martini is a classic and should be treated as such. But there are a few that Esquire recommends, and I trust those guys. So, we have the Third Degree which has a couple drops of Absinthe in it (I could think of worse ways to chase the Green Fairy) and a cocktail onion for garnish. There's also the Hoffman House; sub Plymouth gin (it's a specific kind of gin, not just a brand) and add a few dashes of orange bittters. And the Hearst, which uses Italian vermouth.

There's one more, which I will get to in the next installment. But for now, go forth and drink!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Panier de Baisers

Right off the bat, let me be honest: I rarely ever wear lipstick. The most make up I wear is restricted to the eyes, but I am a fan.

Lipstick goes back a long way. Mesipotamian women supposedly crushed precious jewels to decorate their lips. Huh, kinda makes Ke$ha seem like less of an asshole.

(Nope. Still an asshole.)

Ancient Egyptians extracted a purple dye from fucus-algin, iodine, and bromine mannite. As you might have already figured out, that wasn't exactly FDA approved. Cleopatra's method involved crushing carmine beetles and ants for a base. On a side note: does anyone else feel weird writing "beetle" instead of "Beatle"? Anyway. But my favorite has to be the use of fish scales to achieve that pearlescenct effect.
It was the Arab Andalusian cosmetologist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi that invented solid lipsticks, as we know them today. It took awhile, but Medieval Europe managed to bring the party down by banning lipstick, since it was an "incarnation of Satan." It was strictly reserved for prostitutes.
Lipstick gained some popularity in 16th century England when Queen Elizabeth I made bright red lips and a stark white face fashionable.

(I do love those redheads)

But that didn't last very long; only wealthy women and actors wore lipstick and by the late 1700's Parliament moved to have marriages annulled if the bride wore any cosmetics before her wedding day. It was Queen Victoria that put the final kibosh on everything - once again, it was only acceptable for prostitutes to wear make up, specifically lipstick. As dumb as all this sounds, keep in mind how dangerous make up was at the time, often loaded with lead and vermilion. So, you know, there's that.
Anyway, the French figured out how to make a cosmetic that wouldn't maim and kill you and make it available to the masses.

Even as late as the 19th century lipstick was still considered inapropriate for day-to-day wear and was found mostly among prostitutes and stage performers. Sarah Berhardt wore it frequently in public, even applying it in public.

(Sarah Bernhardt)

1915 saw the invention of the swivel lipstick tube that we use today; this made the makeup very easy to use, since it didn't require a lipstick brush, which made the product much more popular. The rest is fun and games!

Once the Roaring 20's rolled around, Flappers locked onto lipstick (and other make up). They wore it as a symbol of independence, paving the way for the masses. Usually in dark reds and worn in the popular "Cupid's Bow."

Lipstick was still considered an adult product at this time. Women wore it as an expression of their sexuality and to emulate the glamorous actresses on the silver screen. Elizabeth Arden began exploring more colors, though reds were still very popular. The "Cupid's Bow" was still en vogue but fuller and with flares in the corner - similar to Joan Crawford.

By now lipstick was widely accepted in society, though it would become somewhat scarce during WWII. Teenage girls started wearing lipstick, though they were heavily discouraged. These two factors combined, created the idealized "natural look." Lipstick was painted on to match the natural lip shape (though the top lip was still a little fuller than normal). Two kinds of colors were popular: the first was a "monotone" that supported the natural look and the other was a "contrast" which accented the face.

The natural look remained popular into the mid-century. Pastel, or simply light colored lips, came into day-to-day wear, while red remained a night time staple. Women still looked to actresses for style tips and those actresses were glamor goddesses, like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
Marilyn Monroe Elizabeth Taylor

Interestingly, the Civil Rights movement helped broadened the make up landscape. With more black artists working in mainstream entertainment, make up needed to be created to accommodate them. The Pop Art movement also introduced more elaborate and exciting shades. Many black female singers would wear white or very light lipstick (and eyeshadow), and soon, white girls were following suit.
What many people associate with the 1960's from shows like Mad Men is really much closer to make up from the 1950's. "Mod" make up was something teenagers wore; "older" women, like Joan and Peggy, still wore traditional make up.
The natural look continued to stay popular, especially when the Hippie movement began later in the decade.
Ironically, make up (lipstick in particular) had become so popular and a part of everyday life, that, if a girl didn't wear any of it, she was considered a lesbian or even mentally ill.
Sixties Make up 1960s make up
(every day look and bold Pop Art look)

More and more color was introduced during the disco era, emphasizing the decadence of the time. Though day-to-day wear remained subdued, Woman's Lib gave women the freedom to wear make up however they pleased. In some cases, that meant none at all.
(everyday look and night life Disco look)

Similar to the 1960's, makeup focused almost entirely on the eyes. Later in the decade attention was paid to the mouth. Full, glossy lips in bold, bright colors became popular. On the alternative scene was black lipstick, popular in the Goth and Punk world.

Once Nirvana put the nail in the glam rock coffin, glam make up followed suit. "Heroin Chic" or the grunge look became hugely popular, even making it's way to the runways of Paris and New York. Red and metallic colors were popular shades for the mouth.

There are so many option when it comes to make up and it all starts with what look you want to go with. Emulating a specific decade can be fun, so take a little time and look into a style that you think suits you. Try it for a night out and then slowly work it into your day-to-day wear. If you're not sure how to go about putting together a look, try some video tutorials. And if you want someone to walk you through, in person, check out your local beauty schools or community colleges. They often have salons in those departments and the students and teachers will show you whatever you like. Enjoy!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Achetez-moi Un Verre?


For something that looks and sounds like a fussy-fuserton, the Brandy Alexander is a pretty simple drink. Like most beverages, the Brandy Alexander is part of a family of drinks. The original is The Alexander, a gin-based cocktail - same ingredients, just a different liquor. Then there is the Panama, which uses brandy and white creme de cacao, instead of brown. Beyond that, there are variations on the recipe (I'll talk about those later).

The drink was born in the early 20th century, possibly at a royal wedding. The longest running story is that the cocktail was created at the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood and Viscount Lascelles in London, 1922. All this means is that you're just going to have to hold out your pinky when you drink it.

As with most old school sweet drinks (panty peelers!), the Brandy Alexander found a resurgence in the mid-century and early 1960's. It's an easy drink to knock back and not even realize it's actually your third. Most importantly, it's even easier to make.

The Brandy Alexander
one part Cognac (or any brandy)
one part brown Creme de cacao
one part Half-and-Half or heavy cream (heavy cream, please!)

Shake together in a mixer half filled with ice cubes. Strain into a glass and garnish with nutmeg. Make sure the glass is chilled, duh.

The nutmeg garnish is actually my favorite part. I like nutmeg, so I say the more the merrier. You can dust the drink with grated nutmeg; get a rasp or microplane and grate a fresh nutmeg over the beverage. Really try to use fresh nutmeg here - it makes all the difference. Most grocery stores sell fresh nutmeg in the baking isle and  the container it comes in has quite a bit. It's a good value, especially since you can use nutmeg in all sorts of baking and cooking.
If you want to get fancy, dip the rim of your cocktail glass in some brandy and then dip it in fresh grated nutmeg. Looks wicked cool.

When it comes to variations, there are some stand outs. A Coffee Alexander substitutes coffee liqueur for the gin (which, by the way, is my absolute favorite booze). Blue Alexander's switch blue Curacao for creme de cacao. It's fun but not necessary. You do whatever you want; my philosophy with drinking boils down to: what a man (or woman!) does with his/her drink is between him/her and God.

As I mentioned in the last cocktail post, this is Peggy's favorite drink (though last season she was drinking straight from the hip - Don's protege for sure). It speaks of her: sweet-looking but packs a punch. Panty peeler, yes. Girly drink? Not even close.

"My name is Peggy Olson and I would like to smoke some marijuana"

Next installment, we deal with a classic!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I have a weird thing for blue drinks. The color is so serene, I could just stare into it for hours. It brings to mind tropical beaches and there are worse things I could be thinking of. And typically, they have rum in them. We all know of my love for rum.

Appropriately enough, the Blue Hawaii was created in Hawaii. Specifically, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, Hawaii. Harry Yee (legendary head bar tender at the Hilton) was asked to create a drink that highlighted the blue coloring Curacao liqueur lent to beverages. The original recipe differs from today's popular drink; though the blue color, pineapple wedge, and cocktail umbrella remained. Yee named the drink after Leo Robin's 1937 hit of the same name. Not after the Elvis Presley movie, as is most commonly thought.

Usually, the cocktail is served over ice - which is how I like it. But you will see a blended variation; as I've mentioned before, Tiki cocktails always get a free blended pass. As in all Tiki cocktails, the Blue Hawaii should always be served in a Tiki glass or another whimsical variation. The most "straight-laced" vessel would be a Hurricane Glass (as seen in the picture above).

As mentioned above, this drink usually has rum in it. You may substitute vodka if you prefer, but that liquor has very little flavor and rum is more traditional. Flavored rum and vodka are acceptable and can add a little kick; Malibu Rum is a good one that adds the flavor of coconut without using actual coconut milk or creme, which would change the drink entirely (then it would be a Blue Hawaiian - totally different!). Other substitutes include sweet and sour mix for pineapple juice. You could do that, but, really, why would you?

Blue Hawaii
3/4 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce blue Curacao
3 ounces pineapple juice, unsweetened

Combine all ingredients with ice and stir (in a glass) or shake (in a shaker). Pour into a Hurricane glass with the ice. Suggested garnish: score a wedge of pineapple and a wedge of orange and inert onto the rim of the glass; spear a maraschino with a toothpick or (even better) paper umbrella and attach to the fruit. If you don't want all that, you can just float any of the fruit in the drink.

As with the Bloody Mary, you can find pre-made mixes of this drink but what's the point? This drink is so easy to make. And you can serve it as a punch if you have a big enough party going on; dump a bottle or two of plain or coconut flavored rum, a bottle of blue Curacao, a can of pineapple juice and a bag of ice into a large punch bowl. Give it a stir and maybe float some of the fruit in it and Bob's your uncle.
Ah, yes. Be aware that the pineapple juice make the drink a little more green. It's science!

The only real variation (aside from the vodka for rum) is the Blue Hawaiian. Substitute creme of coconut for the pineapple/sweet and sour mix and you're done. That's it! Oh, and only use rum.

With summer on it's way, this is the perfect drink to get ready for it! Next week we celebrate Peggy Olson's favorite cocktail!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vive La Reine

Bloody Mary

"For all late night roamers and early risers. The celery stalk lends an air of healthy respectability to this potent breakfast drink."
(from the AMC website)

Welcome to the first installment of Mad Men Cocktails. As mentioned in my previous post, the cocktails featured here were popular during the "Mad Men" era and some were even imbibed on the show.The list I am using comes from the Mad Men site on AMCtv.com.

The Bloody Mary is one of my favorite cocktails, any time. Typically enjoyed at Brunch, Bloody Mary's are very nutritious. At least, that's what I like to tell myself. It's also a great hangover cure.

For such a popular cocktail, it's origins are unclear. The first claim goes as far back as 1921; Fernand Petiot was the bartender at New York Bar in Paris, France (the establishment was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway). The second came almost twenty years later by way of actor George Jessel.
There are a variety of inspirations for the drink's name. The most popular, of course, is Bloody Mary herself, Queen Mary I of England. But, during the 1920's, many purported that actress Mary Pickford lent her name. And, finally, a waitress who had the good fortune of working at a Chicago establishment named Bucket of Blood.

The drink, at it's most basic, is tomato juice and vodka. But over time, more and more flavorings were added. While there's no rhyme or reason to the ingredients, there are some staples:
celery salt
black pepper
Tabasco sauce
Worcestershire sauce
lemon or lime juice

The Bloody Mary
(as taught by the New York School of Bartending)
1 oz. to 1 1/2 oz. vodka in a highball glass filled with ice
Fill glass with tomato juice
1 dash of celery salt
1 dash of fresh ground black pepper
1 dash Tabasco sauce
2 - 4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. horseradish (fresh, or bottled - but never creamed)
Dash of lemon or lime juice

May be shaken vigorously or stirred lazily, depending on how severe your hangover happens to be. Traditionally the drink is garnished, simply, with a celery stalk. But, if you're feeling adventurous, try a skewer of olives, pickles, carrots, mushrooms, etc. How about meat or fish? Throw some bacon, shrimp and salami on there. Cheese? Why not. And, in the South, pickled things are popular - such as pickled green beans and pickled asparagus.

If there's no other option, you can buy pre-made mix and add your vodka. But, really, don't do that.

The lovely thing about Bloody Mary's, is that they can be adapted and changed in pretty much any way. Here are a few:
Bloody Fairy - Absinthe replacing the vodka
Bloody Geisha - Sake replacing the vodka
Bloody Margaret - Gin replacing the vodka

Bloody Caesar - Clamato replacing the tomato juice (very popular in Canada)
Bloody Bull - Beef bullion mixed with tomato juice (created in New Orleans)
Bloody Shogun - replacing the horseradish with wasabi

Bloodless Mary - without tomato juice
Crabby Mary - with a dash of Old Bay seasoning
Slutty Mary - garnished with a sausage or with extra vodka

So, this weekend, enjoy a Bloody Mary (or two)! And stay tuned for the next in the series ... if you're an Elvis fan, you are going to love this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Des Petites Choses Qui Restent

 I wanted to pop in just to let you know that I haven't gone anywhere. Last week I started a new job and I'm getting used to the new hours. It's hard to find time to get in some quality time at the gym, as well as sit down to write - and that's why it was a little quiet around here last week. I've put together a schedule that will hopefully get me moving. So far, so good! I've accomplished both today.

But, because of this new schedule, I'm going to have to keep my posting to approximately two articles a week. Maybe more, but rarely ever less. Hopefully I can give you a head's up on Sunday's as to what's coming during the week.

This week introduces a new theme: Mad Men Drink of the Week. This replaces "Ricky the Bartender's" Drink of the Week. Sadly, for the time being, Mr. Bartender will not be contributing to this blog. Every week I will discuss a cocktail that was popular during the time of Mad Men or was even imbibed on the show.

Look for an article on Lipstick and Bloody Mary's. I suppose it's kind of a lady's week!

In the mean time, your homework is to watch "The Kennedys" on Reelz Channel. It is fantastic!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Fashion - Watches

It's time to talk about accessories. I am so sorry.

This week we take a look at watches. Mostly because no one is looking at them much anymore. I like watches, especially pocket watches, but rarely ever wear them. They can be a lovely and useful accessory, a last minute touch, that little ... thing that brightens up an outfit. And it's unisex.

Simply put : a watch is a small portable, timepiece. It is typically worn strapped to the wrist but can be held in the pocket, attached by a chain. You are probably familiar with the terms "wrist watch" and "pocket watch." At it's most basic feature, watches track and display the passage of time but there are a wide range that are capable of showing calendar days, days of the week, etc.

The wrist watch first appeared in the 1900's and was called a "wristlet." They were worn by women and were considered a passing fad. Gentlemen, who wore pocket watches, were quoted as saying "I'd sooner wear a skirt as wear a wrist watch." Well, that could be arranged. This, however, changed in World War I when soldiers found that a pocket watch was highly impractical on the battle field - that's putting mildly. They attached the watch to their wrists with a leather strap. It is also possible that the German Imperial Navy had been following this practice as early as the 1880's, but, whatever, they were the bad guys.

But it took some time for wrist watches to gain popularity in fashion; by the 1950's, men and women alike were wearing them on a day-to-day basis. And beyond that, mechanics and science found a new frontier.
The first watches were mechanical but, over time, the mechanics were replaced, in some cases, by quartz vibrations. Designer watches are often manufactured with springs, which are similar to the old mechanical watches, even though they are less accurate. Basically, they look great but don't run as well as the less expensive quartz watches. Consider this when you are shopping for a watch because it could be a deciding factor in the purchase.

Consider the watch the next time you are looking to accesorize or when you are shopping for something personal. Just remember to look for a watch that will be functional as well as decorative, so you get your money's worth!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Avoir le beurre et le boire, trop!

It's spring now - right? What do I know: I spend all my time chained to the computer. But that's what people are telling me; so it's time to celebrate the right way. Cocktail time! For day to day libations, I highly recommend a light and refreshing Gin and Tonic (which I'll probably discuss in another post) but sometimes you just have to go full tilt. There's nothing like a Grasshopper to bring out the kitsch in your cocktail.

I like this cocktail because it showcases the 1950's and 1960's so perfectly. It's an after dinner drink - so 60's (those people would find any reason to drink). The name is derived from it's green color, which is derived from the creme de menthe. The drink was popularized in the American south, specifically New Orleans.

The cocktail is served straight up, typically in a cocktail glass.

A basic recipe is as follows:

Grasshopper Cocktail

one part Creme de menthe
one part Creme de cacao
one part fresh cream

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass.

Pretty easy, right? You don't need to garnish it but if you wanted to, a sprig of mint or a dash of grated chocolate would be nice.
If you wanted to shake things up a bit, you could try a few of the variations. There's the "Brown Grasshopper", which substitutes coffee brandy for the creme de cacao (most recipes suggest using white creme de menthe in the drink to highlight the brown color); or the "Flying Grasshopper", which has vodka instead of fresh cream; and the "Frozen Grasshopper", which has mint or vanilla ice cream added to it (this makes it more of a dessert cocktail, instead of an after dinner drink) - this drink is blended in an electric blender and is similar to a milkshake.
If you do try the Frozen Grasshopper, it should be served in a larger tall glass - something like a Tom Collins. Garnishes include grated or shaved chocolate and broken Oreo cookies.

Now, what's this about cake? It wouldn't be kitsch if we didn't have a dessert for it! There are a surprising amount of desserts based on cocktails (in fact, one year I made some awesome White Russian cupcakes for an Oscar party I threw - well, there's yet another post) and the Grasshopper is tailor made for that. It's a very spring-y dessert, on account of the mint. Serve with some ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream and you have yourself a fine cap to a meal.

Grasshopper Cake
(from Good Housekeeping)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I rarely ever use margarine, but I kept it because it's old school)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
20 chocolate mints (look for the brand Andes Mints)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" - inch jelly roll pan; line with waxed paper. On another sheet of waxed paper combine flour, cocoa, and salt.
In a large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until just blended. Increase speed to high; beat 3 minutes or until mixture is light and creamy, frequently scraping the bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to low; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined, occasionally scrapping bowl.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on wire rack, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, with a vegetable peeler, shave along the side of each mint (lengthwise) to equal 1/2 cup of chocolate curls. (About half way through the mint will break) Set aside the curls for sprinkling on top of your assembled cake. Chop broken pieces and reserve for filling of the cake (you will have about 1/3 cup of chopped mints).
With small knife, loosen cake sides from waxed paper; invert cake onto a cutting board. Carefully remove waxed paper. With a sharp knife, trim 1/4 of an inch from each side of the cake. Cut cake crosswise into three equal rectangles (about 9 1/2" by 4 1/2" each).
In a medium bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat cream and remaining 1 Tablespoon sugar until stiff peaks form (keep the bowl, cream, and whipping utensils chilled to make this easier). With rubber spatula, gently fold in the reserved chopped mints.
Place one cake rectangle on a serving plate; top with one generous cup of whipped cream mixture and spread evenly. Repeat two times with remaining cake and cream mixture. Sprinkle top with mint chocolate curls. Cover (carefully!) and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Another nice garnish would be a sprig of fresh mint, on each slice served.

Bon apetite!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fashion - Men's Attire

Guys. You have it so good. Women's fashion is in constant flux - which is probably why we are always a little insane. But men's fashion is constant, reliable and adaptable. You have fundamentals that can be accessorized easily. What you need to know is minimal. It just takes a little practice.

Suit Etiquette
Let's cap this adventure off with a quick lesson on how to wear all the garments we've covered. It's no good to have the ingredients if you can't bake the cake.

Buttoning the suit jacket:
Double-breasted: it is acceptable for this jacket to remain buttoned throughout the day.

Single-breasted: because of the cut and draping, it's more comfortable (and looks better) to keep the jacket buttoned when standing and unbuttoned when seated.

If you are wearing a coat that has two or more buttons, the bottom button is usually left undone. A double-breasted coat is the exception. But if you are unsure, a good rule of thumb is to keep the bottom undone.

And there you have it! Now! Go forth and prosper in your fine suits. I'll be waiting for you at the bar; you can buy me a drink - I like gin and tonics.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fashion - Men's Attire

Guys. You have it so good. Women's fashion is in constant flux - which is probably why we are always a little insane. But men's fashion is constant, reliable and adaptable. You have fundamentals that can be accessorized easily. What you need to know is minimal. It just takes a little practice.

Dress Shirts

These are the most commonly worn shirts with suits.

There are a few variations on the shirt collar that you should be aware of:

Spread or Windsor

This the most formal and looks very sharp with tuxedo/shawl collar jackets.


Point collars are very common in day-to-day wear and always look professional.


I'm not the biggest fan of button-down collars. They looks a little too ... "cheap." I hate saying that but it's what I think! Still, a collared shirt is better than a not-collared shirt.

Every shirt has cuffs and the three main types are:


Fastened by one or two buttons, according to taste, the barrel cuff is another member of the day-to-day family.

Double or French 

These are much more formal and are usually worn when attending special events. If you have a wedding or funeral or even a special meeting (i.e, job interview, asking for a raise), these are ideal. There's a little extra length to the cuff so they can be folded back and fastened with a cuff link.


Usually worn with formal evening wear, the single is not common day-to-day wear. It would look a little fussy if you showed up to the office wearing something like this. These are best reserved for a black tie or even white tie affair - such as a formal wedding or the Oscars. It's basically a French cuff without the fold.

Please remember to always iron your dress shirts. All dry cleaners will press your shirts and trousers if you ask them. When wearing a dress shirt, always tuck the hem into your trousers. If a tie is involved (as there should always be) make sure the top button of your collar is buttoned - it looks sloppy if you are also wearing a tie and the button is undone.

Last entry in Men's Week: Suit Etiquette!