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!