Deep Glamour's week of food ends with a guest post from The Liquid Muse*. A well-made cocktail is a touch of luxury at any time, and taking the time to master the basics pays off handsomely at happy hour.
When creating a new drink recipe – with or without alcohol, I take to the kitchen. Chopping fruits and muddling herbs can be messy business, so it’s good to have a sink handy. Not to mention a fridge stocked with fresh, organic produce, and a stovetop for cooking up a batch of simple syrup.
What is simple syrup, you ask? Well, I’m glad you did because it is an integral ingredient in many cocktails. It is a sweetening agent. Simple syrup is essentially ‘sugar water.’ Some people make their simple syrups with a 1:1 ratio (1 part sugar to 1 part water). Personally, I prefer a 2:1 ratio (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) because the syrup is a little thicker and gives the drink a bit more texture. Just remember to go easy on the quantity you use – more than 1 ounce is usually too much!
Basic instructions to make simple syrup:
Dissolve 2 cups of sugar into 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once bubbling, reduce heat, let simmer for a couple of minutes. Then cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator.
Now, here is the fun thing about creating syrups – it is really easy to get creative and bring extra flavor and pizzazz to your cocktails by sprucing up the syrup. For example, make ginger-infused simple syrup by following the recipe above, but add a 1” long piece of peeled fresh ginger for extra zing. Want to make rose-infused simple syrup? Go to a Middle Eastern market or gourmet store and buy potable rose water. Use that instead of plain water in the simple syrup recipe, and voila – a lovely smelling and tasting addition to a champagne cocktail or vodka martini.
Take things one-step further and brew some fresh herbal tea… peppermint, for example. Now use 1/2 cup of that with 1 cup of sugar and your Mint Julep can have an extra “je ne sais crois” on Derby Day. Fruit flavored herbal teas (lemon, orange, raspberry) are interesting to experiment with, too.
Recently, I’ve started on wine syrups. Yep, the result of 1/2 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 cup of sugar had magical results in one of my latest cocktail creations. (Check The Liquid Muse in April to see a DIY video of that drink called the Ginger Sun.) My next forays in oenological adventures will be with Chardonnay and Moscatel varietals.
The point I’m trying to make is that a great cocktail can only be as interesting as what you put in it. So put on your thinking cap and have fun. The cocktail hour can start at any time of the day, in any room of the house – particularly the kitchen – and render sweet satisfaction.
*Who is The Liquid Muse? With over 17 years of experience in the hospitality industry, lifestyle writer and mixologist Natalie Bovis-Nelsen keeps an eye on drink trends around the world. She designs signature cocktails for celebrity-studded events, teaches cocktail classes around the U.S. and has shaken-and-stirred audiences on TV and radio shows. Natalie consults for beverage companies, and is a pioneer in bringing high-end mixology philosophies to nonalcoholic cocktails, too.
Cleopatra was said to dissolve pearls in wine to make a tonic for her complexion, which seems a bit extreme. What if the pearl didn't completely dissolve? Did she chew the crunchy bits?
The modern version, Glowelle from Nestle, contains antioxidants, vitamins, and botanical & fruit extracts, is easy to digest, and helps delay aging by hydrating the skin. Two flavors are offered--Natural Pomegranate Lychee and Natural Raspberry Jasmine.
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Deep Glamour asked food scholar/bon vivant Charles Perry about the good old days, when peacock on the menu was the sure sign of a glamorous meal. He's making his blog debut here.
What’s a luxury ingredient? Something there’s not much of, for starters. Ancient Roman epicures went for ingredients that required a lot of animals to be offed, such as larks’ tongues and sows’ wombs (which were stuffed like sausages). Black truffles have even more luxury value today than they had before WWI, because the fighting destroyed a lot of oak forests where the truffle flourished.
But human beings have small minds and mean to use them, so they have always counterfeited the expensive stuff. In medieval Baghdad, the ingredient that was always in short supply was marrow, so there were recipes on how to fake it if you didn’t have enough marrow bones for your party (here’s the secret: brains or spleen mixed with kidney fat, cooked together in a tube to give it the right shape). Today, we don’t care at all about marrow, unless we’re having osso buco.
In medieval Europe, the aristos claimed a monopoly on wild game and ferociously punished any ordinary person who poached one of the duke’s deer. So game acquired aristocratic connotations there, and European cookbooks still give recipes for pork dressed to mimic wild boar and imitation venison made from beef.
These days, particularly in areas without a long growing season, the great luxury ingredient is “fresh, local, organic” produce. Watch for it to be faked too. In John Brunner’s 1972 dystopic novel The Sheep Look Up, the company with a monopoly on all the organic produce in the world is damningly discovered to be putting fake worm holes in fruits and vegetables so people will think they’re organic.
Real insect damage. That's going to be next truffles.
Perry left the LAT in May 2008, is working on his latest book, Partying Like It's 1399, and was interviewed by Superchef.
Kit Pollard, long time reader, first time guest blogger, contributes to DG's Week of Food.
When Don Draper takes his wife and clients to dinner, it’s cocktail attire at Lutece, shorthand for glamour in 1960s New York. Dinner at Lutece was all mousseline of pike in lobster cream sauce and beef Wellington – heavy, fancy, heady, certainly French – and nothing you would try at home.
So what’s today’s equivalent? When the big clients come calling, or the Don Draper of today (does he exist?) needs to placate a ladyfriend, which hotspot is on speed dial? Is it Momofuku Ko, a place creative but so small that a reservation is next to impossible? A four-star powerhouse helmed by somebody so famous his name gets the Madonna treatment? (Think Daniel, Jean-Georges, Morimoto.) Or is it most impressive to make the trek out to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where “fresh, clean, local, American flavors” (TM Top Chef “cheftestants”) are so fresh and clean and local that they’re culled from the farm on the property?
These are the places that represent the new American restaurant ideals. As diverse as they are, they’ve got at least one thing in common: it’s unlikely that their customers are polished to the standards of Betty and Don Draper or the maitre’d at Lutece in 1963. These days, it seems like jeans are de rigeur for dinner at even the poshest places. In Baltimore, where I live, there are only two restaurants left that require men to wear jackets. Neither one is the kind of place you’d take a date you wanted to impress – unless, of course, that date was your grandmother. In which case, she’d probably be very impressed, indeed.
So what is the new definition of restaurant glamour? Does “glamour” even still exist in the restaurant world or did Kitchen Confidential ruin it by revealing the profane man behind the curtain?
Call me optimistic, but I think the glamorous meal is still within reach. It might have evolved a little since 1963 (and believe me, I mourn the passing of the Betty Draper wardrobe), but maybe the food has taken center stage over the attire worn while eating it. Much like an haute couture gown, food that is aspirational (think a tasting menu at Per Se, a private table at the Inn at Little Washington, or a culinary adventure at El Bulli) is the new definition of culinary glamour.
That said, even the most fabulous food has become more democratic over the past decade. It might still take 18 months to get a reservation at The French Laundry, where the prices are not for the faint of pocketbook, but the food’s been demystified. You can always buy the book and make it at home.
And these days it really is all about the food. Décor, service, the notion of a celebrity behind the grill (or at least behind the concept) – they add to the experience, of course. But as foodie culture has exploded, so has the idea that the food comes first. The most fabulous food these days is creative and “authentic” all at once.
Sure, it’s nice to get a great see-and-be-seen table, but you’re more likely to impress your clients with your stories of tapas bar-hopping in San Sebastien than with your pull at the hostess stand. Food today gets glamorous when the story behind it is full of history and people and, hopefully, a little drama.
Last week, Kate and I emailed a little about food and glamour. She said to me, “Remember when caviar was glamorous? And now it’s marrow bones.” The definition of culinary glamour has evolved from mother-of-pearl spoons daintily dishing up the food of Russian royalty to imitating early man, lustily, and probably messily, digging marrow out of the bones.
Betty Draper’s chiffon and silk wouldn’t have stood a chance against the pleasures of marrow…luckily, my trusty Seven jeans do.
Observing this year's Oscar entrances, the WaPost's Amy Argetsinger writes that the red-carpet arrivals have become more central to stars' identities than the performances those arrivals supposedly honor:
"So the ritual of arriving somewhere -- of lighting up a place with their sheer presence, all that tragically underused charisma -- that's the performance these days."
Advertising imagery confirms her observation. Here are two ads that invite us to picture ourselves as stars. They show us pretty people in fine clothes but, above all, they suggest that we imagine ourselves as arriving some place special and being photographed as we do. The glamour of contemporary celebrity appeals less to the longing for beauty or riches--this isn't the Depression, no matter what the papers say--than to the desire for admiration, adulation, and love: the yearning to be recognized as important. Wouldn’t it be great to be like that?
Deep Glamour's favoring a food-themed week, and to kick it off, we've subjected mystery blogger, The Foodinista, to our questions.
DG: How and when and why did chefs become glamorous? Didn't they used to be faintly comic--like Chef Boyardee?
TF: I would argue that Chef Boyardee has a certain chic about him. He can pull off a toque like nobody's business. But probably Julia Child started the ball rolling by bringing French fare into our homes in the 60s. From there, I would say the Food Network took it to the next level, turning chefs like Mario into gods. I have no other explanation for the popularity of Crocs in this country.
DG: Are some foods inherently more glamourous than others, or is it all in presentation?
TF: It depends on your definition of glamour. Caviar is an obvious association with "glamour" simply because it is expensive and rare. I love caviar. But I also think a perfectly roasted chicken at a dinner party makes much more of a statement about good taste, and there are few things as elegant as a simple glass bowl filled with lemons. Aesthetically speaking, I'll take farmers markets over Fendi any day.
DG: Has all the emphasis in media on professional cooking intimidated home cooks?
TF: My prediction is that we're about to see a backlash to the celebrity chef phenomenon. I think we've stopped caring, or at least I have. We're much more interested in neighborhood restaurants where the chef is actually in there cooking honest, unpretentious, beautiful food. And it's the kind of food we're cooking at home now more than ever—much more focused on ingredients than showmanship. I would argue this shift away from fussy food wrought with laborious technique has empowered the home chef. We realize now that we don't have to spend five hours cooking in order to have people over to dinner. In fact, all the better if one is able to prepare a fast, easy and satisfying meal and spend time chatting with friends and family instead of hiding behind the scenes fretting over a sauce.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Or what makes someone or something glamorous?
Glamour is an inherent quality that makes someone or something more attractive.
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Charlotte Gainsbourg.
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?Glamour is a necessary luxury.
4) Favorite glamorous movie?Darling.
5) What was your most glamorous moment?I'd love to say something romantic about sailing into the harbor at Portofino, but in reality I was on a tourist ferry not a yacht, so let's go with the first time I met Tom Ford—such a snapshot in time, which now seems so frivolous and far away during this very real recession. It was one of those magical L.A. evenings in the garden behind the Chateau. He commented on a white linen Chanel camelia I had pinned to an old denim jacket. We were at party for Stella McCartney, sipping vodka cocktails, and I was a huge fan of Ford's at the time. Patrick McMullan was snapping photos. Everyone looked gorgeous, and the lighting was perfect. It was such a great party.
6) Favorite glamorous object ?A string of pearls my parents gave me for my 16th birthday. I love to wear them with t-shirts.
7) Most glamorous place? The balcony of a lakefront suite at the Villa d'Este during a thunderstorm on Lake Como, where my husband and I spent our honeymoon. We ended up in a hot tub with Michael Bolton, which sort of dulled the patina.
8) Most glamorous job? Michelle Obama's.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't?
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized? Nancy Silverton. You will find her on any given night at Mozza—manning the pizza oven or the mozzarella bar—dressed to the nines in Marni, blood red lipstick and a simple apron. She somehow remains graceful under any amount of pressure.
11)Can glamour survive? People will always want to see a prettier version of themselves, which is why, for better or worse, we look to glossies and celluloid for escape instead of in the mirror. Conversely, reality television makes us feel better about looking in the mirror after having leafed through the latest issue of Vogue. It's a balancing act.
12) Is glamour something you're born with? Grace is something you're born with, and it certainly lends authenticity to glamour in a way that oversized sunglasses cannot.
1)Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Cate Blanchett 2)Paris or Venice? Paris for fashion/Venice Ghetto for food 3) New York or Los Angeles? Los Angeles 4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Grace 5)Tokyo or Kyoto? Kyoto 6) Boots or stilettos? Stilettos 7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Deco 8) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Aston Martin 9) Armani or Versace? Neither 10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? DV 11) Champagne or single malt? Champagne 1960s or 1980s? 60s Diamonds or pearls? Pearls Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Kate Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Sean Connery
With the Oscars this Sunday, I thought Dallas photographer Mark Oristano's work might get you in the mood for the old glamour of yesteryear, when studios matched stars up on the red carpet and picked out their Oscar gowns. Believe it or not, there was a time before the professional freelance stylist.
"Stylists are a relatively new phenomenon in fashion. Orginally, stylists worked as fashon editors, dressing-- or "styling"-- models for fashon shoots for magazines or catalogs. But as the number of formal affairs exploded in the 1990s, from the Oscars and a few premieres to an avalanche of paparazzi-line red-carpet events, stylists saw the birth of a new niche: dressing celebrities. Stylists went freelance and starting signing up movie, television and music stars."
But Thomas goes further, explaining the timeline of the once and future stylist.
In the 1950s, following the advent of television and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the Hollywood Anti-Trust Case that forced studios to sell off their theatre chains, the industry suffered a financial slump and changed the way business was done. Actors and technical staff--including costumers--were gradually released from their studio contracts; many costume departments were shut down. To make matters worse, films began to take on a more realistic tone, with actors in more everyday, normal clothes--no ermine-trimmed peignoirs or sequin siren gowns required. By the mid-1960s, movie costume designers were nearly an extinct breed...
With no more Edith Head or Helen Rose or Jean Louis to provide glamorous wardrobes gratis, stars were forced to shop themselves for premieres and award shows, including the Oscars.
So at Oscar time, as Thomas writes, stars criss-crossed Rodeo Drive looking for their gowns. "The problem was most stars didn't have cultivated taste and they didn't have the studio costumers to guide them anymore."
Then, disastrously, the stars decided that they could design their own outfits. See: Demi Moore in bike shorts and a gold capey-skirty thing in 1989 and Kim Basinger in 1990 in her futuristic a-bomb gown (also see 1989, when Jodie Foster wears a baby-blue prom dress with a giant butt-bow, plucked from a Milan shop window).
Enter Armani, who decides he wants stars wearing his clothes. After seeing poor Jodie Foster in her taffeta, Armani's director of entertainment industry communications, Wanda McDaniel, contacted Foster and offered to dress her in Armani for the 1990 ceremony when she'd be presenting. McDaniel also dressed Michelle Pfeiffer that year and, writes Thomas:
The next morning Women's Wear Daily ran the headline: "The Agony and the Ecstasy." Under it were two pictures: Kim Basinger in a freakish self-designed one-sleeved white number, and luminous Pfeiffer in her understated, utterly tasteful Armani... Women's Wear Daily dubbed it the Armani Awards...more important, it gave Americans a glamour they could actually imagine wearing.
Ah, but back to Oristano. His clients want the studio-conceived glamour, the kind that Edith Head could whip up and immortalize in a Hitchcock film, so he's got his own stylist on call to give his clients make-up treatment and costume consultations.
Says the photographer, "I've always been a huge fan of the photos of George Hurrell, the photographer who set the pace in the 30's and 40's in Hollywood.
I've also studied with Michael Grecco, who is one of the top portrait photographers working today. He got me interested in using the same kind of 'hot' lights that Hurrell used. I just kept fooling around until I got it right."
John Singer Sargent famously described a portrait as a " likeness with something funny about the mouth". Today's NYT has a piece about people and their portraits, and judging by the examples shown, these subjects would have been lucky if the mouth was the only funny thing.
Don Bachardy is shown with his scary clown version of actress Natalie Schafer, best known as Mrs. Thruston Howell III or Lovey on Gillian's Island. Since she's dead, who knows if she she liked the portrait or not--but as Bachardy's got it, her heirs might not crazy about it. Bachardy's a real artist, with a real point of view, and if you're looking to be immortalized and flattered, he might not be your best choice.
I'm guessing that those who chose to be painted by gazillionairess Margie Perenchio must have hoped that they'd look well, perhaps better than in real life. She painted Salma Hayek (and produced Frida), and I can only hope Hayek was polite about it. Look at that right hand--it's the size of a small dog.
Perenchio charges $12,000 for a portrait, but graciously allowed Les Moonves to make a donation to a charity instead. She worked from a photograph for her rendition of Moonves and his wife, Julie Chen. If this was my portrait, I'd hang it at Goodwill.
Mentioned but not shown is the work of Maxine Smith, who like Perechino is married to a media mogul.There's a lot of Matisse there, but real heart as well.
Also not shown, which is a real pity, is a portrait of George Hamilton by Ralph Wolfe Cowan. Now, that's a portrait.
Recently, I've had my own portrait done. My daughter captured me in a characteristic pose. Look how cleverly she avoided the whole question of the mouth.