Honey Lemon Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

I, like everyone else in the known universe, have a cold.

When one has two small children, it is inevitable. Boo has had a runny nose practically nonstop since he began daycare, and Nuni has a nagging cough that seems to be going around Kindergarten. I am the one who wipes the noses, who picks up the grubby toys, who finishes the half eaten food. I am on the receiving end of many hugs, many kisses, and many germs.

Sometimes, in my more bitter moments, I think back to the halcyon days of my childhood. When I was sick, I took to my bed with a mug of my mother’s homemade chicken soup and the admonition to get lots of sleep. Now, I drag myself to the office (because I have to save my sick days for the times when my CHILDREN are sick, natch), fix the chicken soup myself for everyone else to eat, get all the children to bed and then settle in for the night and do dishes (or, you know, write a blog post.) And sleep? I like to joke that I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep since 2006. It’s only sort of a joke.
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Juniper Bush Cocktail and Mixed Berry Shrub

Berry Shrub Cocktail

Dear readers,

I have been neglecting you. Don’t feel special, though. I’ve been neglecting pretty much everyone and everything. It’s not that babies are so demanding. His needs are fairly uncomplicated. Usually a variation of feed me change me hold me. It’s more that we are still working on the concept of delayed gratification (and you know, nighttime) and if he doesn’t get his needs met pretty much instantly, he gets mad. Really mad. And when he starts crying, I get frantic. I pretty much lose all ability to function until he has stopped crying ( which he does pretty quickly when he gets what he wants. ). So anything that requires specific timing, like um, cooking – isn’t really happening much. Sometimes I do manage to cook, but the multistep process of 1) cooking 2) photographing what I’ve cooked 3) uploading photos (never mind editing) and 4) writing about it seems like it’s laughably hard.

Which is not to say I never do it. Look! I made something! It helps that it’s a cocktail, to soothe mama’s jangled nerves (if you want to make it a mocktail, just omit the gin) and there is no timing involved.
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2011 Foodie Resolutions and Hot Milk Punch

Milk Punch

It’s time for celebrating! A year has passed that has had its ups and downs, but now we have a whole new year in which to make mistakes, achieve great things, laugh a lot, love a lot, and cook!

I don’t know if you remember last year’s foodie resolutions, but I’ve been going back to them this year. Shall we review?

1. I’m going to try 3 new foods I’ve never tried before (not 3 new recipes, 3 new FOODs. These are reasonably difficult to find.)

I did this! I had durian custard at a dim sum restaurant last spring, geoduck at , and pandan as part of my Thai Market adventures.

2. I’m going to make the perfect Manhattan.
To the extent this is possible, Check

3. I’m going to make a croquembouche.

Yep. I didn’t take photos though, but this was my mom’s birthday cake this year.

4. I’m going to memorize a recipe for biscuits.
I found a good recipe, but failed to memorize it.

5. I’m going to add at least 3 vegetarian dishes to my regular repertoire.
Check on this. Among more pedestrian fare, I made Jaden’s Garlic Butter noodles, substituting tofu for shrimp, several times.

6. I’m going to cook a meal from at least one cuisine I’ve never attempted.
Well, I didn’t go for a cuisine I’ve never attempted, but I did do a deeper exploration of a cuisine I had cooked from this year.

7. I’m going to shop at ethnic markets.

8. I’m going to cook with seasonal ingredients.
I’m not at 100%, but cherries in December just seem wrong.
9. I’m going to eat a boatload of strawberries.
Of course! This is a gimme.
10. I’m going to make jam.
Not as much as I would like, but I did make This.

So, now for 2011.

1. I will eat food I’ve grown in my garden.
This will take cooperation from Ken, our resident gardener. Santa was kind enough to stuff his stocking with heirloom fruit and vegetable seeds to get us started.

2. I will make my own bacon.

3. I will incorporate more healthy dishes in my repertoire.
I often fall prey to the siren song of bacon, butter and cream. While there’s nothing wrong with these foods, in moderation, sometimes it’s nice to eat something a little lighter.

4. I will cook less, and photograph more.
I want to take the blog not in a new direction, but a more focused one. Rediscover the real purpose of The Domestic Front, if you will. Less time cooking special projects for posting, more time posting about what we really eat.

5. I’m going to shop at farmer’s markets.

I already do this, but nothing wrong with renewing my commitment.

6. I will eat more vegetables.

7. I will bake bread.

I have no plans to take over my family’s bread consumption, but I like the rhythm of it.

8. I will eat ripe tomatoes all summer long.

Eight seems like a good number, doesn’t it? And so I leave you to the last dregs of 2010 with a cocktail recipe for a quieter celebration — hot milk punch. The recipe was given to me by an old friend from my glee club days, who looks dapper in tails and makes a mean cocktail. He’s a true Southern gentleman, through and through. It’s more restrained than eggnog, more festive than hot chocolate, more comforting than a hot toddy. I like this to drink by myself, with a good book, by a roaring fire, on a quiet evening. But the recipe can be expanded, and made into a communal affair.

Happy New Year!

Hot Milk Punch

1 fl. oz. gold rum (I’ve also made this with dark rum, bourbon and rye)
1 fl. oz. calvados (you can substitute brandy or cognac)
2 teaspoons sugar
8 oz. hot milk
pinch of mace, for garnish (can also be served with nutmeg)

Combine all the ingredients into a mug or sturdy glass, and enjoy.

Holiday Cheer — the Perfect Manhattan

Manhattan Cocktail

It’s crunch time for Thanksgiving. You’ve probably planned your menu, done your shopping and begun cooking. All I can offer at this point is courage. Liquid courage. Chances are, at some point this weekend, between the family and the food and the football and the Friday sales, you will need a drink. And chances are, with the Christmas season coming up, you’ll need more than one. And so I present to you that most hallowed of cold season classic cocktails: The Manhattan.

Manhattan Cocktail

I tasted my first Manhattan, appropriately enough, in Manhattan, at a tiny Greenwich Village restaurant, and I was hooked. A little sweet, but not too sweet, a little spicy, with warm herbal notes from the bitters — this cocktail tasted like autumn leaves and fireplaces and tailgating and all of the good things about fall and winter. And you can add to that the glamour quotient of drinking a very classic cocktail — you are never embarrassed by ordering a Manhattan, whether you’re on a date, at a client lunch, at a party with friends or meeting your inlaws for the first time. It’s the little black dress of cocktails.

Manhattan 3

Over the years, I’ve tasted a lot of Manhattans, and I’ve gotten picky enough that I prefer to mix them at home (though if you’re in Los Angeles, Cole’s in Downtown LA has the best classic Manhattan I’ve had in a restaurant in recent memory). I prefer them made with rye whiskey, instead of bourbon (rye is the traditional whiskey for a Manhattan– it’s also more flavorful and spicier, with a finish nicely smoothed by the Vermouth). My favorite rye is Rittenhouse, which has the bonus of being relatively inexpensive, but Piketown, which has a smoother, lighter flavor and is similarly cheap, is a nice alternative. I’ve tried different Vermouths as well — Martini & Rossi is fine, Punt y Mes is good, with a slight bitter edge, but if you can find it, my money is on Vya Vermouth, which has an herbal profile almost more like a fine liqueur than a vermouth. Some people like a “perfect” Manhattan, which has equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, but my personal opinion is that the perfect Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth only. Finish it off with bitters (Angostura, always. I’ve tried orange bitters and they’re just not as good). Many bars serve Manhattans shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass, but I’m a klutz and I like my lowballs, on the rocks.

You can put a maraschino in for garnish, but I prefer amarena cherries in syrup — they are wildly expensive and totally worth it.

Manhattan Cocktail

This may not be the perfect Manhattan, but I’ve come to realize the perfect Manhattan exists only in my mind. This is pretty darn close. When you’re in need of a little extra holiday cheer, mix yourself a Manhattan. And after a few of them, trust me, EVERYTHING will seem perfect.


The Best Manhattan Cocktail-
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (try Rittenhouse or Piketown)
  • 1.25 oz. sweet vermouth (try Vya)
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 amarena cherries
  1. Combine first three ingredients over ice in a lowball glass. Stir gently, and garnish with amarena cherries.