Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Roommate Is Ruining My Life

Dear Bashionista,

I've been reading your blog and I am in love with all the different party themes! There is nothing more I'd like to do than embark on a bashionista career of my own. The problem is, my roommate hates parties. What do I do?

Lynn S.



Dear Lynn,

Find a new apartment.

I'm only partly kidding. The party-throwing way of life requires a pretty magical set of circumstances; a space big enough to entertain in, with rent that's low enough that you can actually afford to entertain, roommates who don't mind having strangers in their house until all hours of the night, and neighbors who don't tend to call the police.

That being said, living with people is all about compromise, not all about your roommate always getting her way. Here are some suggestions for navigating that conversation.

1) Neutralize her objections

Sit your roommate down and say, Hey, I was thinking that I'd really like to throw a party next month. I know you're not really a fan of having a bunch of people over, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it go smoothly for you.

Maybe your roommate hates having people over late at night when she's trying to sleep - consider hosting a barbecue or other afternoon event. Maybe last time people came over they ate her food, drank her booze, broke her things and let her cat escape. Offer to hide her things and find someone who's willing to cat-sit. Maybe she just despises having the house a mess. Tell her that obviously the clean-up before and after will be your responsibility, and come up with a reasonable deadline for that to happen - that night before you go to bed? Not reasonable. By noon the following day? Quite possible.

2) Scale it back

Is it the size or the frequency of parties that drives your roommate crazy? If your ragers have been getting out of hand, consider having small, intimate gatherings of no more than 10 people once a month. Is your house feeling like a transient hotel? Offer to cut down on the constant comings and goings, and in return propose having four big events a year.

3) Make your roommate disappear

No, not the Cosa Nostra way, though that might be tempting. If your roommate is an obsessive-compulsive xenophobe who refuses to budge on having people over, tell her, Look. I really want to have a birthday party and I can't afford to rent someplace else. I promise to take care of everything, hide the breakables, buy all the food, do all the dishes within 24 hours and take Mr. Mewington to my mother's house. But if you're going to be miserable the whole time, maybe we could plan it for a weekend you're going to be out of town? Or a night when you wouldn't mind sleeping away?

If your roommate is so heartless and inflexible that she won't grant you your one birthday wish, you have my blessing to break the lease, and leave with all of your belongings under cover of night.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Throw Down: Superhero Masquerade

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . a really nerdy excuse for a party.

This is a fun party to throw if your friends are supernerds with great senses of humor. It also doesn't hurt if you have friends who look awesome in shiny, skintight clothing.

Here's everything you need to know about throwing your own superpowered masquerade party. Click here for a Superhero playlist, and click here for a photogallery of costume ideas!

Decor

Sceptor swizzle-stick not recommended.
Mylar, mylar, mylar. Get some! It's cheap. Alternatively, you could find strips of shiny fabric like the one I used to jazz up my bar. Any full-size craft store should carry some. If you have extra time on your hands some POW! cutouts, a la Batman, could look great. But you don't have to go too crazy; the real decorations will be the outfits your friends are walking around in.


Videos
I'm a big fan of having movies on in the background on mute. For this party, I would choose movies that are instantly recognizable and fun to look at. Movies like Superman, The Dark Knight, and The Incredibles.

Costumes
Encourage your guests to come as an established superhero, or one of their own design. Half the fun will be seeing what people come up with. Some of your guests won't have the time or the inclination to throw a costume together - so you might let people know that it's fine if they want to come as their alter-ego, and dress in their most mild-mannered disguise. This is the kind of party where you are going to want to create a photo gallery. If you feel like going all out, consider having a few props for your non-costumed friends to adorn themselves in for their photo shoots. Craft stores carry adhesive letters for proudly slapping on someone's chest. Masks can be cheaply had at party stores, as can thick Clark Kent glasses. You might also want to invest in a cape and a well-appointed ray gun.

Sample Menu
You don't want anything too messy that will muss up carefully constructed costumes, and you shouldn't underestimate how tricky it is to eat wearing elbow-length gloves. Here are three suggestions for finger food, followed by two recipes if you feel inclined to set up a superbuffet.


Featured Cocktail: Jell-o Shots . . . because superheroes are too busy saving the planet to stand around nursing a cocktail.
Take a large, 6oz package of Jell-o and add it to 2 cups of boiling water. Stir until fully dissolved, then add 3/4 cup of cold water, and 1 1/4 cups of vodka. Pour the cooling mixture into tiny, dentist-size paper cups, shot glasses, or ice cube trays.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet Irene Playlist

So Hurricane Irene hit this past Sunday afternoon - right smack in the middle of my CD Mix Swap. Instead of party planning, I spent most of the weekend hurricane planning . . . which isn't all that different from party planning in that I did a lot of food and beer shopping. However, since this was my very first hurricane, I wanted to be extra prepared. Cooler: Filled with ice. Bathtub: Filled with water. Every pitcher in the house: Also filled with water. Backyard and porch furniture, including grill, garbage pails and my burgeoning herb garden: now in basement. I was set! I also went a little overboard and created little emergency pods under four tables - Just In Case windows blew out and we'd need to shelter from flying glass, we could huddle under metal folding tables or wood coffee tables, all covered with heavy blankets folded underneath the table legs, and stocked with comfortable bedding. Apparently I have seen too many Michael Bay movies. But still, I felt better knowing I had my grown-up table forts at the ready.

To my surprise, nine people dragged themselves over! We swapped CDs and munched on peanut butter popcorn. I got Kristopher Moreau's CD in the swap, and as promised, he will be TheBashionista's very first guest DJ! His mix, Sweet Irene, is downloadable on iTunes.

Here's the tracklist:
1. Set Fire to the Rain/ADELE
2. Electrical Storm/U2
3. Famous Blue Raincoat/Jonathan Coulton
4. Rock You Like a Hurricane/Scorpions
5. Walk on the Water/David Byrne
6. Raining in My Heart/Graham Nash
7. Flood/Jars of Clay
8. Rainy Days and Mondays/The Carpenters
9. Hurricane/Panic! At the Disco
10. All Up the Seething Coast/The Mountain Goats
11. After the Storm/Mumford & Sons
12. Sweet Irene the Disco Queen/Christine Lavin
13. Fury of the Storm/Dragonforce
14. Dark Water/Tiger City
15. Hurricane/Something Corporate
16. Talula/Tori Amos
17. Emotional Weather Report/Tom Waits

Friday, August 26, 2011

Viva La Persistence Playlist

This is the link to a mix for my cousin Lauren, pretty much the toughest, loveliest person I've ever met. It's a mix about moving to New Orleans - the reckless American spirit of wanderlust, mixed with the sweet sadness of closing the book on your coming of age story. There are songs for peeling out of 24-hour liquor stores, and songs for leaning against the doorframe of your new apartment, spacious in its emptiness, pregnant with possibility.

This mix is also the one I'll be swapping at the upcoming (hurricane-infested) CD Mix Swap - I hope it goes to a good home! I stole my boyfriend's trick of bookending the mix with unlikely covers of awesome songs.

Here's the tracklist:
1. When Doves Cry/Be Good Tanyas
2. Angel/Fleetwood Mac
3. Viva La Persistence/Kimya Dawson
4. American Music/Violent Femmes
5. Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine/White Stripes
6. Take Off Your Shirt/Bibio
7. Heart in Your Heartbreak/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
8. Vacation/The Go-Go's
9. Goodbye/Asobi Seksu
10. Collarbone/Fujiyat Miyagi
11. Boute/Au
12. The Moment You Said Yes/Soltero
13. Duet/Rachael Yamagata
14. Modern Drift/Efterklang
15. Ha Ha/Emiliana Torrini
16. Heaven/Brandi Carlile

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ruby's Roasted Roots

And the grand prize winner of the Iron Chef Competition is: Susan Rubin! Here's her award-winning recipe:

Enjoy a trip to a local farm stand and collect some of your favorite root vegetables -- mine are sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, and fingerling potatoes, but you can try rutabagas, onions, and turnips as well. For Battle Squash, I added butternut squash.

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Peel and chop veggies into small cubes.

3. Arrange veggies on baking tray or in large oven-safe casserole dish (as long as it's large enough to spread 'em into one layer) and and drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil. Toss to coat veggies evenly.

4. Sprinkle with salt and spices. Sage and/or rosemary work really well. I topped mine off with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

5. Roast, uncovered, for approx. 30-40* minutes, until veggies are tender and browning nicely on the outside. Sugars of the root veggies will begin to caramelize. Be sure to stir and turn vegetables occasionally as they cook.

*Cooking time depends on size of veggie cubes -- keep checking progress.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Throw Down: CD Mix Swap

There are few simple pleasures as satisfying as a hand-crafted music mix. I pity the lonely copyright lawyer who has never experienced the joy of music swapping at the start of a new relationship, or the excitement of designing a cover at midnight on Christmas Eve for his brilliant stocking-stuffer compilation. 

If you and your friends love sharing new music, you can throw a CD Swap party in a snap. Your guests will show up with one CD and go home with another. It's like a key party . . . for your ears.

Here's a Bashionista playlist you can download and swap at your next event, and here is our first downloadable playlist by a guest DJ!
Getting Started

This party works best with no more than a dozen people - more than that and swapping can get unwieldy. As your guests arrive, have them display their CDs so people can decide which ones they most want. Right before the actual swap, gather the group together and read through the tracklists aloud. Then . . . SWAP!

The Yankee Swap 

I've been throwing an annual swap for the past 6 years, but I'm not the only one to come up with this idea. A friend of mine has a holiday party every year where 10 people make 10 CDs each, distribute them around the room, and then everyone gets to spend the holidays on a fantastical 12-hour musical journey.

The only trouble with this plan is that you need to know exactly how many people are coming well in advance of partytime - this is tough if you have friends who like to play things fast and loose. The solution I've come up with is the Yankee Swap.

Called "Dirty Santa" in the south, this swap allows you to ride the wheel of fortune and steal mercilessly from your friends or co-workers, as the case may be.

To get the swap rolling, simply write numbers on slips of paper, and have guests draw them out of a hat. #1 gets first pick. #2 gets to pick a new CD - OR he gets to steal the CD from #1, and hand #1 the CD he's holding. And so on, until all your guests have chosen their selections. The very last person to pick is #1, who has the opportunity to steal from absolutely anyone.

Suggested Menu

Keep things informal, delicious, and most importantly, hand-held! If you want to be a bit cheeky, make or buy some Chex Mix. Also consider:


Featured Cocktail: Strawberry Daiquiri
Stick with the mix theme and drag out your blender. All you need for this drink is 2 oz spiced rum, 4 oz sour mix, 6 oz frozen strawberries, and 2 cups of crushed ice. Give it a whirl and enjoy! Makes two lip-smacking daiquiries.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Liz's Butternut Squash Risotto with a Lake of Pesto

It just so happens that I was the fan favorite in the Iron Chef competition! (For the winning recipe selected by our judges, click here). I will now share my risotto recipe with the world. Pretty much everything I know about risotto I learned from Maxine Clark's Risotto, which I recommend to anyone who wants to euphorically put on 20 pounds. For this recipe, I combined three of hers and made some substitutions of my own. Here we go:

First the pesto:
2 big garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 cups fresh basil leaves
cup light-tasting olive oil (this makes a more liquified pesto - reduce to 2/3 cup if you prefer a paste)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt & pepper, to taste

Throw it all in a blender and give it a whirl.

Now the risotto:

6 cups hot chicken broth (you can also subsitute vegetable broth)
stick unsalted butter
large onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 lb. fresh butternut squash, peeled and finely choppped
2 1/3 cups arborio rice
2 cups grated fontina cheese
sea salt & pepper, to taste

Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, melt HALF the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook gently for 10 minutes until soft, golden and translucent but not browned. Stir in the chopped jalapenos and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped squash and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until it begins to soften slightly. Stir in the rice to coat with the butter and vegetables. Cook for a few minutes to toast the grains.

Begin adding the broth, one large ladle at a time, stirring gently until each ladle has almost been absorbed by the rice. The risotto should be kept at a bare simmer throughout cooking, so don't let the rice dry out - add more broth as necessary. Continue until the rice is tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm and the squash is beginning to disintegrate (This should take about 15-20 minutes).

Taste the rice, season generously with salt & pepper, then stir in the rest of the butter and the fontina until it's all melted. Cover, let rest for a couple of minutes, then serve. If plating individually, float a lake of pesto in the center of each serving.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Easy Street Playlist

Here's a classy little playlist that would be perfect for your next Iron Chef competition. It's a nice heaping dish of Americana, ranging from big band to indie rock, folk music, roots music, surfer rock, and old showgirl standards. How do they all fit on one plate? It's all about the presentation.

This mix is just right for driving down the highway towards a canoe trip with your dad, or for kicking back in a rocking chair with some lemonade.  

Here's the tracklist:
1. Begin the Beguine/Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
2. Everybody Loves My Baby/Clarence Williams' Hot Five
3. Dinah/Bing Crosby
4. Born to Hum/Erin McKeown
5. Go/The Innocence Mission
6. Bustin' Surfboards/The Tornadoes
7. Sheila/Tommy Roe
8. Second Hand News/The Greencards
9. Don't Look Back/She & Him
10. Amarillo/Emmylou Harris
11. The Death of Me/Johnny Cash & Levon Helm
12. Country Baptizing/Gram Parsons
13. Ain't No Grave/Crooked Stills
14. War on War/Wilco
15. Upside Down/Jack Johnson
16. Same in Any Language/My Morning Jacket
17. Harp for my Sweetheart/Archie Bronson
18. First Flute Song/Joseph Fire Crow
19. Sweet Betsy from Pike/Bobby Horton
20. The Tennessee Waltz/Patti Page
21. Rum and Coca-Cola/The Andrews Sisters
22. Bye Bye Blackbird/The McGuire Sisters

Thursday, August 18, 2011

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Parties need dips. Isn't that some sort of rule? I didn't make it up. I'm pretty sure it's the law. The law of good parties: dips. The dancing kind, the "in the pool" kind, and, of course, the "chips and" kind.

Of dip.

It's easy to buy a jar of orange(ish) queso or a packet of seasoning to mix into some sour cream, but can't we agree that route is just a little bit tired? I mean, no disrespect to Tostito's or anything like that, but I think it's time the standard bowl of chips and salsa said uncle. How about homemade pita chips? Maybe with a creamy edamame dip?

Making your own, homemade chips and dip is not just easy and delicious, it also makes you look badass in the kitchen. Which, let's be honest, is a good thing to look.


These crunchy baked pita chips pair perfectly with the smooth, garlicky green edamame dip, and I promise, no one will mind taking a siesta from the salsa.



Crunchy Baked Pita Chips and Creamy Garlic Edamame Dip

*Note: Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix made up of dried herbs, sesame seeds, salt and sumac. You can find it in specialty shops or else you can mix up your own.
Ingredients:
For pita chips:
  • 8 small whole wheat pita breads
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons za’atar*
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • big pinch of sea salt
  • big pinch of ground black pepper
For edamame dip:
  • 2 cups cooked edamame, removed from the pod (I like the frozen bags of shelled edamame, plus extra for garnish, if you like)
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for finishing
  • big pinch of salt
  • big pinch of ground black pepper
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil and spices and mix to combine. Cut the pita breads into wedges (1 small pita bread should yield 8 wedges), and dip each wedge into the oil & spice mixture until fully coated. Place pita wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet or two. Bake the pita wedges in a hot oven for about 7 minutes (or until lightly browned), and then use tongs to flip each wedge, and cook for another 7 minutes, until chips are brown and crispy. Remove the chips from the oven and let cool.
To make the edamame dip, toss the edamame beans, mascarpone, garlic, salt and pepper, and a splash or two of olive oil into a food processor or blender. Blitz on high until chunky but starting to combine. Drizzle in more olive oil, a little at a time, as you continue to blend, stopping when the mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste the dip and adjust the seasonings – feel free to add more garlic, salt or pepper as necessary. Serve with homemade pita chips.
Makes about 3 cups of edamame dip and roughly 64 pita chips.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Wish My REAL Friends Were Here


I can't believe nobody's here yet!
. . . well, except for you guys.
Dear Bashionista,

Let's say that invitations have gone out for a party you're planning and people have started RSVPing. But then you find out that one of your favorite people on the guest list can't make it that night. Is it wrong to make up an excuse and switch the date?

Susan D

This is actually a pretty lousy thing to do and I'll tell you why: A host shouldn't play favorites. Nobody wants to think of themselves as party filler.

The people who are willing to carve time out of their busy schedules to show up at your house - these are the people to favor. Messaging your guests and saying, hey, it looks like this new date will work better for most people! is really pretty insulting to the people who can no longer make it. 

Ok, but what if we're talking about my favorite FAVORITE person? I really can't switch the date? 

Not ALL of your friends
will be this excited about
making Steampunk costumes -
plan accordingly.

The time to play favorites is *before* the invites go out. Throwing a party with the sole purpose of impressing that girl you've been crushing on? By all means, do a little recon work and find a date that works for her. Planning an event that you know half a dozen of your friends will totally geek out about? Sure - put out feelers ahead of time, and let them know you're going to be completely democratic about picking the date.

But if plans change, and your long-lost best friend had to change her flight and will be missing the social event of the century . . . well, that's a wicked shame, but the two of you can make amazing plans together to make up for it - and you won't have to alienate the rest of your friends by switching things on them.

Wait, what if I stick with the date and it looks like hardly anybody can make it??

Now we're having a party.

Here's the thing: All it takes to make it a party is you and one other person with smiles on your faces.

If you invited 50 and only 5 can make it, message your loyal followers and gently downgrade their expectations. Hey guys! Just wanted to let you know Saturday is looking impossible for a lot of people. But we'll still be here having a chill, fun time - I'm so glad you can make it! Sadie's still bringing her lemon squares and they're like crack. See you then!

There is not a party host alive who has not been disappointed by low turnout at some point. Don't take it personally, and don't take it out on your guests. Roll that disappointment into a little ball and smother it in buttercream - tell yourself this is for the best! You are now hosting an intimate gathering where you'll actually have time to enjoy yourself. And when in doubt, your party can always morph into a Game Night.

But what if something actually *does* come up and I have to change the date?

Here, timing is everything. More than once I have sent out an evite and immediately gotten a response from someone saying, Ack! I was about to send out MY evite for the same day!! Can you change it? In that case, I'd consider changing the date only if I hadn't heard back from anyone else. If I had heard back positively from even one person, I'd sooner changed the *time* - I'd hold a pre-party at my house, and then we'd all hop over to party #2.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Throw Down: Iron Chef Competition


Our squash centerpiece
Recently at TheBashionista, I have been giving you ideas for cooking-themed parties - the Chili Cook-Off and the Mac & Cheese Bake-Off. Today is the third part in this little trilogy of deliciousness: The Iron Chef Competition.

The beauty of Iron Cheffing it, is that *you* get to choose your favorite ingredient of all time and have people compete for the chance to blow your mind. It's like the party equivalent of robbing a bank and then getting marry the banker's daughter.

When party host extraordinaire and Food Network enthusiast Eleza Kort threw her Iron Chef party, the secret ingredient was: Squash. We feasted on squash salad, two versions of stuffed squash, squash & lentils, squash curry, squash risotto, roasted root vegetables and pumpkin mini muffins. (Check out the winning recipe here and the fan favorite here!) Not in love with the mighty gourd? Let me stress that your secret ingredient can be ANYTHING. Cheddar cheese! Apples! Rice! Garlic! Bacon! Eggs! Avocado! Mexican Chocolate! Just pick something you know you won't get sick of.

Here's how Eleza Kort broke it down for us:
  • As chairwoman, Eleza kept the whole show rolling. She selected three judges and one photographer. She got firm confirmations from her 8 contestants, and *insisted* that if we didn't show up on time, we'd have to light ourselves on fire. She also helped the judges tally their scores.
  • 24 hours before "showtime," the secret ingredient was emailed to everyone.
  • Contestants had to make an original dish at home, warm it on site, plate three servings for the judges, and then serve the rest potluck-style to the other contestants.
  • Each contestant presented her dish, explaining the thought process behind it.
  • Judges took notes on taste, creativity and presentation, then were sequestered until they were ready to announce the winner.

Pumpkin mini-muffins

Prizes
In true Iron Chef style, only one person walked away as the winner (plus one fan favorite). The prize was a big floppy chef's hat. Feel free to get creative with your own prizes - a trophy item the winner could hang in his kitchen, a garlic press or a ladle, an apron, a box of fancy chocolates, etc.. Whatever you choose, present it with a flourish, as you bestow eternal gloating rights on your victor.

Featured Cocktail: Prosecco and St. Germain
The perfect cocktail for your evening will depend on the secret ingredient you choose - but it's hard to go wrong with this one. The bubbles sweetly cleanse your palette between each course, and the delicate flavor of the liquor will sharpen your senses. Simply pour a glass of Prosecco and add 1/2 to 1 oz of St. Germain, to taste.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joanie's Award-Winning Mac & Cheese


Just, gorgeous.
And the award for greatest mac & cheese on the planet goes to . . . Joanie Tobin!

Here's the recipe - try to be first in line when this comes out of the oven, because it's likely to cause a stampede:

Apple Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:
2 cups of pretzels
an apple or two
2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups apple cider
4 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 1/2 cups Extra Sharp Cabot White Cheddar, divided
1 cup Gruyere, divided
4 cups medium shell pasta
3-4 Qts water for pasta

Smash up a bunch of pretzels into crumbs using the bottom of a glass.

Peel, core, and thinly slice an apple or two.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk, cream and apple cider until hot.

While milk mixture is heating, melt butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbling, add flour. Cook, stirring for 1 minute, to create a roux.

Pour hot milk mixture slowly into skillet with flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking over medium heat until sauce bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp. salt, the rest of the seasonings, 2 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup gruyere. Set aside.

Fill a large saucepan with 3 to 4 Qts water and remaining 2 Tbsp. salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook slightly less than what the package calls for (about 5 minutes). Pasta should be slightly underdone. Pour pasta into colander and rinse under cold water, draining well.

Stir pasta into cheese sauce and transfer to casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cup of cheddar and 1/2 cup of gruyere over pasta, lay the apple pieces flat, and spread pretzel crumbs on top to cover. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Get ready to field marriage proposals.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Honey, Hi Playlist

Here's an upbeat playlist designed to accompany your next high-class Mac & Cheese Bake Off. Also perfect for romantic, sunny car rides, or walking along the Esplanade.

Here's the tracklist:

1. Dance, Dance, Dance/Lykke Li
2. Home/Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
3. Ride a White Horse/Goldfrapp
4. Situation/Yaz
5. Tenderness/General Public
6. The Light from Your Mac/The Rakes
7. Best of Jill Hives/Guided by Voices
8. Oxford Comma/Vampire Weekend
9. Two Weeks/Grizzly Bear
10. Mykonos/Fleet Foxes
11. Winter Song/Sarah Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
12. Honey Hi/Fleetwood Mac
13. With Whom to Dance/The Magnetic Fields
14. Saturday/Yo La Tengo
15. The President is Dead/Okkervil River
16. Funky Nassau Pt. 1/The Beginning of the End

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Roasted Corn Smothered in Aioli

Heat and humidity getting you down? Read on as Cara Valla, sous chef at San Franciso's Chiaroscurro tells you her favorite way to cope:

As we sweat through the searing heat of the August sun, let's enjoy the incredible flavors that this season so thoughtfully lends us. First things first: make friends with someone who has a grill. The grill is needed to roast your corn to perfection, and the friend is to keep you from feedbagging all this corn yourself. You will be tempted!

Ingredients
6 ears of corn
1/2 cup to 1 cup aioli, to taste (recipe below)
1 Tbsp paprika (or the smoked pepper powder of your choosing - espellette is also great)
1 cup cotija cheese, crumbled (This is a Mexican cheese that resembles dried feta in texture. If you
        can't find cotija, you can substitute parmesan or feta.)
2 limes, cut into wedges

Preheat your grill to medium high. Husk corn and place directly on grill. Turn the corn periodically to get a good, dark color, but don't let it burn! And BE CAREFUL - when the corn gets hot the kernals have a tendancy to pop!

While the corn is grilling, place aioli, paprika and cheese in a large bowl. When the corn is ready, toss in the bowl to coat. Serve with lime wedges, napkins and dental floss! You will never want to eat plain corn-on-the-cob again.

Aioli
Aioli is basically a mayonnaise with garlic added, although I like it infinitely more than any mayo I have ever met. This recipe is simple enough but if you are in a time crunch, you can always spruce up regular mayo with fresh or roasted garlic and a little lemon juice. Also, if you are in love with aioli like I am, feel free to double this recipe - then you won't have to ration it over the corn so much.

2 garlic cloves
pinch of salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup oil (The flavor of the oil will really come through in an aioli, so use one with a mild flavor,
     such as extra virgin olive oil.)

Mince your garlic with the edge of a heavy knife, then add a litle salt and use the side of the blade to mush it up.

In food processor, add the lemon juice to the egg yolk, and then drizzle in oil, allowing it to emulsify and begin to resemble mayonnaise. (This can also be done by hand with a great deal of patience. Either way, if the mixture starts to separate, STOP adding oil, and continue stirring until it comes back together.)

Finish by adding in your minced garlic and salting to taste.

Death by Chocolates

Dear Bashionista,

Here's a cautionary tale that you should pass on to your readers. Once upon a time, I was working for a catering company and we were hired for a child's 6th birthday party. One woman brought in a big, beautiful posterboard with fanciful designs and chocolates stuck to it for the kids to eat. How nice! Less nice is that she used straight pins to fasten the chocolates. I found this out when a mom came up to me holding a piece of chocolate with a needle sticking out and saying, "Is this how it's supposed to be?"

Um, yeah. Needles in chocolates?? That's supposed to be an urban myth! Let's keep it that way.

This public service announcement has been brought to you by,
Susan D



Thanks, Susan!

If you or someone you know is looking to wow a room full of children *without* murdering them, there are a couple of FDA-approved ways to attach goodies to the backdrop of your choosing. I can only assume this incident happened before the show Ace of Cakes was televised, because now it's fairly common knowledge that you can use edible glue for all your fancy-dessert needs. In fact, if you have running water, you are one ingredient away from making your own clear, edible glue at home.

Alternatively, if for some reason you have a craving to attach wrapped candy or little toys to posterboard, some sticky-back velcro will do you right.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Throw Down: Mac & Cheese Bake-Off


History will bear me out - we are truly living in the gilded age of mac & cheese. A mere quarter of a century ago, mac & cheez was served with squeezable velveeta on top, unless it came from the eponymous mac-and-cheese box, with the dehydrated cheese powder my mother warned me not to inhale for fear of the dreaded Cheese-Lung.

Today you can go into just about any pub and find savory mac & cheese delights on the bar menu. Or you can walk into an upscale bar and order a bowl of mac & cheese mixed with truffle oil and bacon, wearing a little lattice-work parmesan hat.

In times like these, there's only one thing to be done: throw a Mac & Cheese Bake-Off. The set-up is easy, and before you know it, your friends will be competing to see who can make mac & cheese that is so good you want to marry it. Join us on Monday, and we'll reveal the award-winning recipe!


We are wearing our judgin' stars so you know who to bribe.

As in any cooking competition, the first thing you need to do is select your judging panel. You'll need an odd number, and you'll need to pick people who have no dietary restrictions, are lactose avengers, have strong opinions about food, and aren't dying to make their own batch of mac & cheese. It won't be easy, but the future of your bake-off depends on this.


Liz Laneri, esteemed author of the blog LaLizEats Mac n Cheese and Lobster Rolls, recently threw her own Mac-Off. These were her rules:

  • Everyone who attends and isn't judging MUST provide a mac n cheese dish. I don't care for freeloaders.
  • It has to be made ahead of time, BUT you can re-heat it at my place.
  • It doesn't have to be real cheese - vegan dishes count!
  • Feel free to adjust the mac n cheese in a box, BUT you'll have to be creative and add or change the recipe, 'cause we can't just have a bunch of Annie's or Kraft dishes laying around.
  • No microwaved/frozen mac n cheese offereings (e.g. Stouffers).
  • Can't be leftovers from a restaurant or supermarket.
Set-up
You'll need a banquet table for the mac & cheese, possibly a second table if you're serving any sides or cocktails, and lots of chairs. If you have any hot plates or can beg or borrow some, do so! Mac & cheese loses its heat pretty quickly, and unless you're ruthless about the start time of your event, all the prompt people with their room-temperature mac will be at a serious disadvantage. Provide index cards so you can number the dishes, and contestants can list the main ingredients (so people with dietary restrictions know what's off limits). Provide slips of paper and a drop box so contestants can vote for the fan favorite. Provide ballots for your judges with plenty of space for notes. You'll also need a place to sequester the judges, so they can eat and cast judgement in peace. Be a true party hero and spring for a box of Lactaid - if it saves even one of your friends from violent indigestion, it's worth it.

Prizes
Keep things interesting! Liz Laneri gave out prizes from Crate & Barrel for her winners - a gift certificate for first place, and measuring spoons for second & third. You also might consider a nice cheese grater, a cutting board or set of cheese knives, a gift certificate to your favorite mac & cheeserie (and if that doesn't exist, it SHOULD), or burned copies of the Bashionista Mac & Cheeseworthy playlist.
Side Dishes
It may seem insane to provide any additional food, as your table will be groaning under the weight of all that melted cheese. But if you've got vegans or vegetarians coming, their options may be limited, and if there are people who have a small threshold for dairy, consider these delicious palette-cleansing options:

Baby carrots & hummus
Pretzels & mustard
Pigs-in-a-blanket
Strawberries dipped in sour cream, then brown sugar

Featured Mocktail: Hugh's Mulled Apple Cider

Pour 2 Qts apple cider into a stockpot. Add a dash of nutmeg, 1 tsp whole cloves, 1 tsp allspice, 3 cinnamon sticks and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Place a clove-studded orange slice in each mug, then ladle in the cider. Guests can spike their own with a little spiced rum, bourbon, or applejack.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beer-brined Chili Dogs

So you've thrown a successful Chili Cook-off . . . and now your fridge is crammed with leftovers. What to do??

If you're a genius like Joey Arbeely, then naturally you will make some day-after chili dogs that will have your neighbors gnashing their teeth in envy. Just follow this simple recipe - all you need is a crockpot, and you will be able to brine your dogs in beer. Oh yeah.

Ingredients:
One package quality hot dogs
3 bottles of your favorite beer (alternatively, hard or soft apple cider works really well)
One cup brown sugar
One vidalia onion
One block of cheddar, shredded
Leftover chili (better if it's a little more juicy than stewey)
One package hot dog buns

Here's what you do:
Get out your crockpot and use a nifty slow-cooker liner for it. Pour beer into the crockpot, add the brown sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add hot dogs and make sure they're covered with the fluid mixture (thankfully beer comes in six-packs, so you can add more if necessary). Cook your dogs on low for 2-3 hours, giving them a quick stir every 30 minutes or so.

In the meantime, dice up a vidalia onion and shred your cheese. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Right before it's time to start serving up your dogs, heat up the chili in a saucepan, and warm the buns in the oven, being careful not to toast them.

Set out the onion, the cheddar, the dogs, the buns and the chili, and people can assemble their own masterpieces. I recommend putting the cheese UNDER the piping-hot chili so it melts, and then top with some nice crunchy onions.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zach's Award-winning Chili

And the winner of Joey Arbeely's chili cook-off is . . . Zach Minton!

Here's his killer chili recipe - this will yield about a gallon of chili bliss:

One large onion, chopped
One heaping tsp of minced garlic
Pinch of coarse-ground black pepper
Pinch of kosher sea salt
Chili powder to taste
1 lb. ground turkey or ground beef
One poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes, with juice (if you're looking for more kick, get the
     kind that comes with diced jalapenos
2 cans of light red kidney beans, with juice
One can of sweet corn, drained
One jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Sauté chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil with black pepper and salt and a dash of chili powder. After the onions and garlic are sautéed add the ground turkey/beef with the chopped-up poblano pepper.  As the meat is browning add additional chili powder to taste, and stir occasionally to insure proper mixing. 

When the meat has browned, add the tomatoes, beans and corn and mix thoroughly. Keep adding chili powder to taste as you add more ingredients.  Then add sliced jalapeno pepper to mixture. Add the cinnamon last – it packs a punch at first, but mellows out after cooking. 

Keep the chili on low heat for around 2 to 3 hours or until it has reached the consistency of your dreams.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ole! Playlist

Click here for the Ole! playlist - designed for your next chili cook-off. It ranges from sultry deliciousness to fiery rock - and in between, the dance rhythms are perfect for flitting about in your kitchen looking for your potholder. These are songs to switch on when you're prettying yourself up for going out, and songs to crank when your best friend shows up with a case of Negro Modelo. Happy weekend!

Here's the tracklist:

1)The Floating Bed/Elliot Goldenthal
2) Esa Noche/Cafe Tacuba
3) Sotarlo/Claudia Gomez
4) Voce/Cyl Fargeney & Norma Bengell
5) Suavecito/Malo
6) The Call/Cantoma
7) Me Gustas Tu/Manu Chao
8) El Conejo/Los Cojolites
9) De Camino a la Vereda/Buena Vista Social Club
10) Para Ti Nengon/Hilario Duran
11) Barcelona Nights/Ottmar Liebert
12) Pistolero/Juno Reactor
13) No Quiero Nada Mas/Sancti Spiritus
14) Jogando Capoiera/Beatfanatic
15) Matador/Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Popsicles + Whisky = Party

So I don't know if you've noticed, but, occasionally, summertime is hot. I'm talking sticky haired, sweaty-socked, jean-shorts-must-be-peeled-off hot. Thanks a lot, August.

You know what's not hot? Being at a crowded party with sticky hair, sweaty socks, and jean shorts that are stuck to your legs (not that I know from experience. Psh. I'm just saying).

It turns out, I happen to have a remedy for sweltering summertime jean-short-wearing parties, and it's called homemade popsicles.


What's that you say? Popsicles are for kids? Oho. O-HO! When's the last time you gave a child a peach popsicle with whiskey in it?

Yeah. I said whiskey. That's what I thought.

Make these. If you have a blender or food processor, these take mere minutes to put together. They're sweet and creamy and chilly, not to mention the loveliest shade of peach. So make some simple syrup and invest in a few popsicle sticks. You'll be the coolest host on the block.



Whiskeyed Peach Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 ripe peaches
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (nonfat or regular)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • a handful of fresh ginger, cut into small pieces (it's okay to leave it unpeeled)
  • 3 tablespoons whiskey
Directions:

First, make a ginger simple syrup: Combine the water, sugar, and ginger in a small pot over a high flame. Once the mixture boils, turn off the heat and let the ginger steep in the cooling syrup for a half hour. Strain the ginger from the syrup and place the syrup in the fridge to cool. (Note: if possible, do this step ahead of time - it really speeds up the popsicle-making process. Simple syrup will last weeks in the refrigerator).

Cut the peaches, working around the pit, into wedges (no need for nice, even pieces... if the peaches start to fall apart, that's fine). Then, peel the skin from each wedge. (If this is too difficult because the peaches are too ripe, don't worry about it. A bit of peach skin never hurt anyone. Or any popsicles, for that matter.)

Put the peach pieces into a food processor with the yogurt, lemon juice, whiskey, and about 3/4 cup of simple syrup (more if the peaches are under ripe, less if they're super sweet). Pulse until well-mixed.

Pour the mixture into small plastic cups (I used 3 ounce plastic solo cups. It's nice to know that solo cups have a place in my life, even after college.) and put the cups in the freezer to chill. After an hour of chilling time, stick one popsicle stick into each cup, and put the cups back in the freezer. Let the popsicles chill overnight to fully harden. When you want to eat one, run the plastic cup under a bit of hot water to loosen popsicle, and the pop should twist right out. Enjoy with good weather and a bunch of free time.

Makes about 15 small (3-ounce) popsicles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Slow Boat to Drunktown

Dear Bashionista,

I used to work on a party cruise ship waiting tables, delivering drinks, and doing a little dance number as the ship left port. One night the ship was rented out by a group that was . . . less than classy. The guys were thugged out, and plenty of the ladies were sporting long acrylic nail extensions and leopard-print spandex mini-dresses. They all shared one thing in common - the all-American desire to get their money's worth at the open bar.

By the end of hour two, I was surrounded by people who were drunker than the drunkest drunkards I had ever seen. I made the mistake of going to the bathroom, and ladies were puking into every available recepticle - including little wastebaskets and SINKS. Back out in the bar area, I saw a girl walk towards the bar, fall on her ass, and then continue CRAWLING towards the bar where she hauled herself up the bar stools and demanded another drink.

When the bartenders tried cutting people off, the organizer of this little pleasure cruise started shouting about how he had paid for an open bar and how he would demand his money back. Oh, give me a break.

There was a massive sheet cake on display at the end of the buffet line. I was walking across the room when I noticed an enormous woman stumbling toward it. She was . . . top heavy to say the least. I froze to the spot as I watched her fight her staggering zigzag to home in on the cake. Aaaand at the last second she tripped and face planted right into it. For a moment, people froze in horror. And then, this woman came up for air, wiped the cake from her face, and threw a wad of it at a girl on the buffet line.

FOOD FIGHT!!!!

Suddenly everyone in the room is throwing food at everyone else, servers are ducking behind their trays and running for the exits, my manager is standing next to the bar, weeping. Do you have any idea how long it takes to reroute a party ship and bring it back to port? An eternity as far as I'm concerned. But in reality, we dumped about 100 ridiculously drunk and cake-smeared party-goers in the empty parking lot about an hour and a half before their limos were scheduled to come back. As we worked to clear the wreckage, and my manager kept wailing about how there was no way our cleaning service could get the cake out of the carpet before tomorrow's lunchtime cruise, we could see our angry evicted passengers stumbling around the parking lot, looking like zombies who had eaten the customers of a large bakery.

My question is, What in God's name could we have done to prevent this?
Susan D

Dear Susan,

The no-fun answer is that it's the bartender's responsibility to cut people off before they drink themselves into the walking dead. But if you as a server suddenly realize you are in a room where nobody has their sea legs, get between them and the cake, and start rowing the boat to shore.

The Bashionista

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Throw-Down: Chili Cook-Off

What's better than sitting down to a steaming-hot, juicy bowl of chili? Not having to cook it yourself. Here's all you need to know about throwing a chili cook-off - I'll even tell you what to do with the leftovers.

Chili is fairly simple and quick to make, but the variations are endless - and it is amazing how passionately people will defend the proper amount of cilantro and the precise handling of the beef. The competition may get a little heated, but when friends compete to make the best chili, everyone wins.

The first thing you need to do is select your judging panel. You'll need an odd number, and you'll need to pick people who have no dietary restrictions, have strong opinions about food, and aren't dying to make their own batch of chili. It won't be easy, but the future of your cook-off depends on this.

Set-up

You'll need a big banquet table for the chili, and another table for condiments, sides, and beverages. You'll need a way to label each chili by number (not by name - anonymity is key). You can provide slips of paper for the contestants and a drop box so that they can vote for the fan favorite. Ballots for the judges can be more elaborate, so they can take notes. You'll also need a place to sequester the judges - contestants can chow down in chairs around the chili room, but the judges should eat at a table far enough away for comments like "This chili tastes like it came out of a diaper" won't be overheard.

Prizes
Give the people something worth fighting for! Grand High Cook-Off Wizard, Joey Arbeely, recently gave out Starbucks gift certificates and chili ladles for the winners in the categories of Fire Alarm, Best Vegetarian Chili, and Originality. Or you might consider gift certificates to your favorite Mexican restaurant, bottles of your favorite hot sauce, margarita rim-salters, or burned copies of the Bashionista Ole! playlist .

Condiments & Sides
Your condiment bar should include sour cream, loads of grated cheddar cheese, chopped onions, chopped cilantro, hot sauces, lime juice, and tortilla chips. There will be PLENTY of food for meat eaters, but look out for your vegetarian friends and make sure they don't go home hungry. Consider throwing together a simple green salad, Spanish rice, refried beans, and Molly's ever-popular Peach-Basil Guacamole.

Featured Cocktail: Limeade Margarita
Combine 6 oz Frozen Limeade Concentrate, 6 oz water, 4 oz tequila, and 2 oz of triple sec. Place a small plastic container on the bar with an inch of salt in it for salting the rims of glasses, and add slices of lime as a garnish. Makes one refreshing pitcher of margaritas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I hate Urban Myth. And democracy.

Let me tell you something I learned at Game Night: Urban Myth is a terrible game. I learned this because at the start of Game Night, I put it to a vote; which game should we play? By a small margin, the vote went to those in favor of removing the shrink-wrap and cracking open a brand new game. As I feared, this game was TERRIBLE. But horror of horrors, the person who finally won this game - and therefore got to choose what we played next - decided that now that we knew how the game worked, naturally we should play it AGAIN.

As it turns out, our first game lasted only about 20 minutes. This, we learned is a fluke. Our next game lasted about an hour and a half, and had me begging for people to cheat so we could get it over with more quickly.

"What's so bad about Urban Myth" you ask? To put it nicely, Urban Myth is a game designed by lonely and frustrated nerds to prove once and for all, their sad and mighty nerd superiority. Players are asked questions and it is their tedious job to guess which is Truth and which is Myth, occasionally gaining letters which will help them end the tortuous agony of this game, but only when the stars align, and their marker is on a spot containing a letter they actually need at the time.

Here is a sample question: Did Nero fiddle while Rome burned? [Tick tock, tick tock]

The answer: No. While he was playing a musical instrument while Rome burned, it could not have been a fiddle because fiddles weren't invented yet.

In nerdspeak:

Technicaleeee Nero could not have been playing a fiddle while Rome burned as it was invented in 900 A.D. Only a FOOL would confuse a classical lyre for a fiddle - I mean, a bowed fiddle MAYBEEEEE, but Nero was dead 750 years before the first bow was constructed. Puh-hoy-hoy!

Democracy is a tough row to hoe, people.