Saturday, June 27, 2009
If a girl is lucky, she'll find herself in the company of a nice gentleman. If a girl is very lucky, she'll find herself in the company of a nice gentleman who knows how to mix a good cocktail.
At the moment, I am very lucky.
My nice gentleman shares my love of Negronis, and we both pretty much always have Campari on hand at home. But, since he's oh-so-cool, he goes one step further and keeps a bottle of Aperol in his liquor cabinet as well. Oh, what's that you say? You haven't heard of it? Neither had I, until Mr. Cool came along.
Aperol is similar to Campari in that both are bitter and citrusy. But Aperol has a lovely burnt-orange flavor and is a touch sweeter and brighter than its more popular cousin. I like it for those reasons. Plus, drinking it makes me feel almost as hip as my gentleman friend.
Here's his recipe for a delicious summertime drink. It serves two, of course.
3 oz Plymouth Gin
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
2 oz Aperol
.5 oz Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
Shake with ice and serve up.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I've mentioned before that my father read Ernest Hemingway. What I haven't mentioned is that a drawing of Hemingway's house hangs in our kitchen on the wall behind my dad's chair at the table. And that a copy of every one of Hemingway's books resides on my father's bookshelves. My dad brought my mom to Key West several times, and when the three of us went to Paris a couple of years ago, he spent an entire afternoon alone at Shakespeare and Company. In other words, my dad was a die-hard Hemingway fan.
This is why I always told him that on his next trip to DC we had to go to Bar Pilar. "What's that?," he'd ask. "It's this great bar with good drinks and food, but you will appreciate it because the theme is Hemingway," I would say. In less than two seconds my dad got the connection: "Oh, of course! Because the name of his boat was Pilar. Let's go there next time, Cath."
I am so grateful to be able to write that my father and I did go to Bar Pilar together eventually. It was last June, and we didn't have much time because we were meeting my mom and sister soon for dinner. But that didn't ruin our experience. We sat at the bar, ordered a couple beers and some scallops. I pointed out all the various Hemingway memorabilia to him and we talked about A Moveable Feast, which is my favorite book by my dad's author hero. He loved the place, and I felt happy. I was looking at my dad on the stool next to me, enjoying himself at a hangout I've enjoyed for years. It was just one of those wonderful father/daughter moments. And as it turns out, it was our last drink together, just me and him.
It makes me sad to think about that fact, but somehow the thought brings a little smile to my face because it couldn't be a happier memory: Me, my dad, a couple beers, and a fascinating conversation about books. It was exactly our style.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Here's another thing I adored about my father. He had a taste for good gin but little interest in highbrow hors d'oeuvres. Nope, when it came to snack time, Larry was really only interested in one thing: A fresh bag of Cheetos. My dad kept it real in that way, and I don't think I know anybody else who can strike that sophisticated-yet-slightly-trashy balance quite the way he could. It was marvelous to behold and I cherished this about him.
I can see him now, reading Hemingway on our deck out back behind the kitchen. There's a classy cocktail in one hand, while he turns a page with the other. Next to him is an open bag of Cheetos and maybe a couple of napkins. He reaches into the bag but never loses his place in the paragraph and never acquires an orange-ish tinge on his fingers. How is that possible? Again, marvelous.
Even though I never cared too much for my father's favorite munchie, I would give my left arm to read and share a bag of Cheetos with him now. Of course, my fingertips would turn orange and I'd probably drop my book, but he wouldn't care. He'd just tease me a little and tell me to pass the snacks.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Today my brother James and his wife Justine became parents. Sweet, six-pound Emma was born this morning at 9:15, right about the time I was eating sliced strawberries with a spoon. James called to tell me the news, but he had a hard time talking because he was crying. So then I began to cry, which made us laugh because we fancy ourselves "cool" and here we were, two blubbering messes. But it was a happy kind of crying, and my next bite of strawberries tasted even sweeter when we got off the phone. This is one of those times when life suddenly becomes the most precious thing you know, and all you want to do is hug someone. Or go out partying, but I already did that last night.
Anyway, all day long today I thought about my baby niece, and how, when she's much older, I will tell her that I was happily eating berries the moment she was born. I also thought about what book I should choose as my first to give her, and suddenly my breakfast made sense and that good feeling about life got even stronger.
Blueberries For Sal is Caldecott Medal-winning Robert McCloskey's brilliant tale of a little girl from Maine and her adventures in berry-picking with her mother one day. My mom must have read it to me a thousand times when I was a child, and I never got tired of it. In fact, it remains one of my favorite children's books of all time, and I think all tiny girls should have it read to them at night before bed.
So while little Emma will always remind me of strawberries, I hope one day, when she's much older, that I will remind her of blueberries, and the first book we read together as auntie and niece.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
My dad was not afraid to spend a little money on his favorite girls. He showered my mother--his most favorite girl of all--with presents and love for forty years. And every time he came to DC, he treated me and my sister like queens.
He never hesitated to hail a cab when we could just as easily have walked to our destination. He always bought another round of drinks when our glasses started looking empty. Lunches and breakfasts were often just a tad more extravagant than they needed to be, and he always took us to Hank's.
I can't remember the first time my dad treated us to dinner at Hank's Oyster Bar, but I do recall the look on his face when the friendly waitress welcomed us with a small bowl of goldfish crackers. He lit up like a kid in a candy store. As much as my dad would rave about the beautiful fish and to-die-for lobster rolls at this tiny Dupont Circle restaurant, he was truly crazy for those goldfish crackers. And that mac and cheese. And those fried Ipswich clams that we always asked for (and you have to do the same) even if the menu didn't list them. For my father, a trip to Hank's when he was in town was like a trip to the White House for other people--totally necessary and a huge mistake to miss if you're visiting DC.
Even though it's strange now to go to Hank's without my dad, and sad to know that I'll never eat there with him again, I believe his spirit will live forever in this lovely little eatery. Yes, I think he's still hanging around, maybe near the bar, looking out for me and my mom and my sister, and munching on some goldfish.