Friday, September 18, 2009

5:00 Fridays

One of my blogosphere friends graciously created a birthday cocktail pour moi. If Gina lived in my neck of the woods I'd be hanging out on a barstool at her kitchen island all day long. I can just see her putzing around the kitchen whipping up goodies to munch on, pouring the never ending flow of wine, and I'd be drooling over her serving ware from her jaunts around the world. We'd chat and laugh and get all catty while brushing crumbs from our chins. My daydream also includes Jennifer, who'd be tag teaming in the kitchen with Gina. I'd just wear elastic waist pants and belly up to the breakfast bar.

So here you go, a guest post from Gina!

A gracious thank you to Gina for mustering up the energy to write this post from her sick bed. She's been battling a nasty case of bronchitis, coupled with an allergic reaction to her meds. Cheers to her being on the mend! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!

I have the honor of being the guest blogger for Ilina’s birthday celebration. That in mind, this drink comes with wishes for another great year ahead. Should she wish to hide from her special day, this tasty beverage is certain to erase her memory when combined with laughter, friends, family and a bit of cake!

Three years ago, I met a young gal from Peru named Rosa. We became friends and through that friendship she introduced me to all things Peruvian. While the cuisine is amongst my favorites I must also confess that I have often indulged in the native alcohol -- pisco [prounced PEES-KO]. You should know, I have a soft spot for both Rosa and pisco. These two key instigators blended with my Italian heritage are responsible for this seemingly innocent concoction.

But like all bar drinks, this one must have an interesting story and that story rooted in the origins of pisco.

Pisco- Drinkology 101- facts to impress your friends while under the influence:

  • Pisco is both a city and an important port on the Peruvian coast.
  • The name originates from the Inca word for a bird
  • Pisco is made from a special grape in the Andes Mountains and dates back to the 1500s
  • It is a South American brandy-like liqueur distilled from grapes and is 45% alcohol
  • Both Chile and Peru claim pisco as their national drink and are still fighting over who has sole ownership (Rosa says it is Peru that owns it!)
  • Most common pisco drink is a pisco sour (but that’s a whole ‘nother story!)

In conclusion, pisco is some serious stuff.

Warning to Ilina: Do not let your Little Bird drink the drink named after The Bird – minors should avoid this (and all alcohol) drink but can enjoy the lemon syrup with a bit of 7UP or sparkling water.


Lemon-aid Blur

(2 part liquid K.O.)

Lemon Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

12 strips of lemon zest (approx 2 lemons)


Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (or peel) off of lemons before juicing them as directed in the remainder of the drink recipe (called The Blur- see below).

In small saucepan, on medium-high heat mix together sugar, water and zest. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. Let stand 20 minutes, until cool. Syrup can be refrigerated up to one week – and is also good over berry flavored sorbets.

The Blur

¾ cup lemon simple syrup

¼ cup pisco (or ouzo), chilled

½ cup + 1 TBS fresh lemon juice

4 lemons

6 sprigs basil (or mint for the less adventurous)

ice, crushed


Stir together the simple syrup, pisco (or ouzo), and the fresh lemon juice.

Fill six small glasses with ice, fill to the brim and add a sprig of basil.

Taste This!

I have a copy of Gina's cookbook, and it's a mainstay on my kitchen counter. I have yet to try a recipe that wasn't delicious and looked exactly like it does in the cookbook photo (minus the nice serving ware). To grab a copy of Gina’s book, which is less about traditional Italian dishes and more about brining good flavors to the table with not a lot of work, check out www.bowllicker.com

About Gina:

Gina von Esmarch was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a fourth generation San Franciscan, who’s family has successfully run one of the City’s oldest fine dining restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf — Alioto’s #8, founded in 1925. Gina now lives North of the Golden Gate Bridge with her husband, children and dog. In her free time she enjoys spending time around the table with her family and friends. You can follow her on Twitter: @ginavon

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The day September 17 was just another day on the calendar.

So today's my birthday. Forgive me for being so ho-hum. I'm less enthralled than in years past. Oh, it's not because I'm 41. Come on, you know you wanted to know but were pretending to be too gentlemanly/ladylike to inquire. I'm not one of those women who eschews her birthday and fears laugh lines. I don't have a botox fund or anything. I don't even fall victim to all the Strivectin and Hylexin ads. I don't pay mind to what jiggles and what body parts resemble a certain product in a tub in the grocer's dairy aisle. I don't yet have creaky and achy parts and I'm not counting gray hairs. I certainly don't pine away for my 20s.

Nonetheless, this year, my day is kinda craptastic.

Bird is home sick with pneumonia. Mac Daddy has bolted for some business trip. I have no family around to lend a hand. No one to share the load. No one to spoil me and shower me with attention. I maintain a childlike exuberance when it comes to my birthday. I'm confident it's annoying to everyone around me but I say celebrating a birthday sure beats the alternative. This year, not so much. You see, I love my birthday. Love it. In fact, I love everyone's birthday and make a way bigger deal than Mac Daddy likes. I think he's still miffed that the boys and I flocked him last year. Unlike me, Mac Daddy could care less about his birthday.

I, on the other hand, like to think that only I have a September 17 birthday. Please don't ruin the illusion for me. I like the rose colored world I live in, thank you very much.

But this year, in a week that leaves me sleepless and stressed, tuckered out and settling in, I can't muster up what it takes to celebrate. September 17 is just another day. Getting Deal off to school. Nursing Bird. Cooking dinner. Folding laundry. Sorting through junk mail. Cleaning up stray LEGO pieces. Mediating rifts. Wiping bottoms. Getting dishpan hands.

No one to cook for me. No one to take me out. No one to cut the cake, much less bake it (or buy it, as the case may be). No one to toast my 41 years.

So join me, today, September 17, for the little pity party I'm throwing for myself.

In true Mac Daddy fashion, he left a spread of chocolate croissants and coffee on the kitchen table before he left town. He left a giant slice of my favorite coconut cake from Hayes Barton Dessertery in the fridge. And he even packed Deal's lunch for school. Those little displays of thoughtfulness count eons more than expensive gifts and fancy dinners. Mac Daddy's gestures, waking to my boys running in to wish me happy birthday, the emails, tweets, and Facebook posts, and the sound of my dear friend's children calling me to sing Happy Birthday have already made my pity party a whole lot less pitiful. I'm a thankful birthday girl today.
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