Monday, June 29, 2009

Champagne Cocktails

Champagne cocktails are not only a classic, they're easy to make. All you need is sparkling wine (Champagne for preference!), sugar cubes, and bitters (I use Angostura, the only easy one to find these days).

Champagne Cocktail

Put a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne glass or flute; dash on 3+ drops of bitters. Tilt glass and fill slowly with cold Champagne.

Voila. The traditional garnish is a twist of lemon peel, but in a bar you're more likely to get a maraschino cherry.

There are a number of cocktails that include Champagne as an ingredient--the French 75 is my favorite--but this one is the classic.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New York

We went into the City yesterday for lunch and a show. And we had a miracle; we didn't get washed off the streets.

Lunch at Sardi's was grand. It opened in 1921 and it's still going strong. We had a very good meal (and cocktails), and had a long conversation with the man sitting in the next booth seat, all about Broadway and Angela Lansbury and the theatre in general. I haven't been there in 15 years or more, but I can still recommend it.

"Blithe" was at the Schubert, just across the street. It was one of the better productions I've seen. I know the play well; I've played both Ruth and Elvira, and done costuming as well.

Rupert Everett played Charles, Christine Ebersole played Elvira, and Angela Lansbury was Madame Arcati. Miss Lansbury stole the show (she's entitled), but the rest of the cast was excellent. The set was elegant and bang on target (right out of the script, which oddly, I've not seen before) and costuming was good too.

It's closing next month (July) on the 19th. If you're a fan of high comedy, Coward, or period productions, I recommend it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An 80s Flashback

And a sad one.

Some day! Today both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died. I wasn't a huge fan of either, but poor Miss Fawcett; she had an awful run with cancer.

And I did love the "Thriller" album. I won't ever forget coming home to see the video on MTV!

Tempus fugit. What a reminder.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pink Gin

If you drink too many of these, you'll probably see pink elephants, but you'll have a pleasant journey.

Pink Gin

Angostura bitters
clean ice

For every jigger of gin, shake 1-5 drops of bitters into a shaker with clean ice. Shake briefly or stir, and strain out into a cocktail glass.

Some recipes for a pink gin only require that the final glass be rinsed with bitters, but I prefer to have the flavors mingled more completely.

*My favorite for a Pink Gin is Hendricks Gin. It melds perfectly with the bitters to leave a very faint, almost cinnamon aftertaste.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie Picks: Cagney (again)

Lady Killer is another great pre-Code film with Cagney. 1933 brought out another bad-boy-goes-good tale from Warner Brothers.

James Cagney plays a grifter named Dan Quigley who goes on the run with his gang and moll (Mae Clarke, she of the grapefruit scene in Public Enemy), only to find out one of them poisons her against him; when he gets pinched the gang runs off with his money so he can't make an easy bail.

He wallows in his sorrows a while once let out, and a movie director sees him, scruffy and dirty, as the perfect bit player for a prison break scene. With Dan Quigley's genius for manipulating a situation--and some genuine talent--he becomes a star.

The gang comes back, of course...and away we go! Another slam-bang finish, courtesy of the redhead from New York. This film is perfect old Hollywood entertainment. Go find a copy, make a barrel of buttered popcorn, and dig in.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mondays are for Cocktails

I suppose it should be Friday. But who wants to wait until Friday? Not me!

I'll start off with a classic (re-interpreted).



Now, this is for an extra, extra dry Martini. (A Martini, not a glass of cold gin.)
...for every jigger of gin, add about 1/4 tsp. of dry vermouth to a shaker full of clean, dry ice.

Shake (or stir) briskly for about 15 seconds.

Pour out into a proper cocktail glass. A modern glass (too big, your drink will be lukewarm before you've finished it...unless you really ARE a lush) will hold three jiggers worth. A vintage (pre-1970) cocktail glass will hold a generous one.

Pour the rest into a thermos or put it into a pitcher (which should then go into the freezer).

Garnish (if you like) with an olive (plain ol' stuffed-with-pimento or otherwise) or a twist of lemon zest. To be honest, I vary it. My favorite olive is a pitted garlic and lemon marinated olive stuffed with good bleu cheese.

*something good, please; this recipe will not disguise the bathtub variety; I like Hendricks, Miller's, Tanqueray 10 or Plymouth.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Movie Picks: Cagney in Picture Snatcher

It's probably dull reading day-to-day accounts of the not so rich and famous. Isn't it?

So I will try to drag out something interesting on a regular basis. The Yarn Harlot says Tuesdays are for spinning. In that case, I'll say that Sundays are for movies. I like movie blogs and read a few of the ones that concentrate on old films. (This does not mean 1980s. Think the films your grandparents...or THEIR parents...watched in the cinemas.)

My personal favorites are usually screwball comedy or at least pre-Code, and if it's got elements of both, so much the better.

Accordingly, I'd like to mention Picture Snatcher, with James Cagney and Ralph Bellamy. 1933.

It's a film about an ex-con (Cagney) who has already decided he wants to go straight. He heads to the editor who encouraged him in his dreams of becoming a journalist (this is Bellamy's role), and the games begin.

This one is a good ride. There are some serious and even ugly moments in the film--1933 was a great year for fashion, but not a good time for the common man or woman, especially in the sordid world of this flick. Cagney uses his lightning reflexes and reactions for laughs and to pull you in further. There's even a Mae Clark type scene with an old girlfriend who doesn't want to be the ex.

The girl of his dreams, of course, is the daughter of a cop from the prison. Not just any cop, either; this one filled him full of lead and sent him up the river.

Bellamy gets to play a lush, Cagney gets to mug, and honestly, you're not sure until the very end just what the end will be. I have it on DVD and recommend it wholeheartedly if you're a Cagney or pre-Code fan. It's a helluva good outing for Ralph Bellamy, too.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Too Quiet Now, or, We Had Great Houseguests

Friends of ours came in for a visit from Sunday afternoon to late this morning. They live in the San Francisco area, but were here to wrap up the sale and packing up of his dad's house, go to a family wedding and see usual, they weren't around long enough.

They're also vintage fiends. T is a terrifically talented dressmaker and designer, and J always looks like the perfectly turned out banker in a 1930s screwball comedy. Having them around is a delight.

We started off by absorbing almost too many Manhattans, and gossiping, and showing off the house. (Finished up with a bottle of champagne!)

Monday we drove down to Newport. It was the most perfect weather; mid 70s, sunny, and a slight breeze. No yachting voyage, I'm sorry to say, but we did drive around and take a good look at many of the mansions and take the Cliff Walk for a while. We began, though, with lunch at the White Horse Tavern.

It's been in continuous operation since 1673, and we had great fun lunching there. Everyone else had seafood, and although I started with oysters, I had goat cheese and dried fruit compote (called a salad on the menu). We had cocktails, and my husband and I split a small piece of cheesecake; very good New York style, with a port wine sauce.

I also managed to find a knitting / needlework shop, at 555 Thames Street, called Knitting Needles.

It's a small place, and friendly. I picked up a kit and some Persian wool. We also found a couple of thrift shops. There was a needlepoint kit for a pillow, which I will make to give to my mother-in-law for Christmas, and some crochet thread.

We came back and had a good dinner and then watched a James Cagney film on DVD, called Picture Snatcher. It's a good pre-Code film. Ralph Bellamy is the second lead, and he gets to play a non-Bellamy role, for a change--a newspaper editor who's on the booze. The DVD had some nice extras. A cartoon, a fabulously bad short, and a newsreel.

Late this morning we sent them off (in the rain!) to PA. They'll be flying back to the West Coast from there. But they had French toast, bacon, and coffee under their belts and a boxed lunch (including dachshund cookies).

Friday, June 05, 2009

Advantages to the Vintage Lifestyle (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)

There are quite a few...the charmed old man who tells you that you look just as his mother did as she was getting ready to paint the town red with his dad; the dance partner who tells you about his aunt, who worked in the airplane factory; the wonderful things people pass on from Great-Auntie Muriel's estate, "because you'll appreciate it". Those are all lovely.

Here's another: my hairdresser just offered to trade services. She'll do my hair for free next time if I'll show her the mysteries of a set with rag curlers. It's a wonderful offer.

I've been going to her salon for a few years now. Not often, because I tend to color and cut my own hair most of the time, and having had very long hair at one point (knee length) I grew up regarding salons as a luxury, not a necessity. But she always does a gorgeous job on cuts, colors, and blow-outs. Sets and putting hair up aren't really her thing, but she's growing her own hair out now, and has found that she wants to experiment a bit.

It's flattering and really nice of her. She even suggested we do this on a Sunday, so we've got lots of time for it.

Chalk up another advantage to eccentricity!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Home Improvement

...but no pictorial proof. (It's in the camera, though, really it is!)

The upstairs bathroom is done, curtains and all, and we have landscaped the front garden.

Last year's back-breaking clearing was worth every minute, even in the pouring rain. After that nothing seemed difficult. It took us two days to do the basics. Now, around a small rectangular lawn bordered by limestone we have forsythia, holly, peonies, marigolds, alyssum, bleeding hearts and clematis. The rose bushes are doing well, though it's unlikely they'll bloom this year, and I've planted seeds for pinks, zinnias, poppies, and two kinds of summer bulbs.

I also dug up the square in the sidewalk in front of the next-door abandoned lot and put in more bulbs, surrounding them with stones and blue annuals (don't remember what they're called, but they look very festive there).

Our neighbors across the street are thrilled. Yesterday, one of them compared us favorably with the original owner, a town councilman, and his wife. We felt really good about that. This house was waiting for us to rescue it, and we're well on the way.

Now we just need to paint indoors and finish the guest room. For the outside, (barring the awful, still-paved back yard), DH needs to finish the columns and paint them. I need to scrape and paint the front door, and we'll probably remove the screen door. Also, I'll be spraying the shutters we found last year (dark green, same color for the door) and we'll hang those.

I'd also like to get some stone planters for the front steps, and the steps themselves need some repair. The awful poured concrete next to them...we're not sure when we'll be able to get to that. But we will, I hope, in the next couple of years.