No green food coloring was used in the making of this drink.
I have never been one for fruity, over-sweet cocktails. I like my bourbon neat, and I’ve never found a margarita mix that I could tolerate. I think this process started in college. While most of my friends were getting carded every time they ordered a Sex on the Beach or a Long Island Iced Tea, baby-face me got away with ordering a vodka tonic with a twist of lime almost every time. From an early age, I was well on the path to becoming a cocktail snob.
My husband jokes that I like manlier beers than he does. It’s true – give me a stout, and I’m a happy girl. But I’m game to try any kind of cocktail. It either needs to be the kind of refreshing drink that you crave when it’s 90 degrees out like Watermelon Gin Fizzes or a Route 69 Cherry Limeade. If it’s not something that’s going to cool me down, it needs to have an intriguing element to it like lavender (Kid Curry Cocktail) or basil (Peach Basil Sangria)
The McLynchburg Lemonade is not one of those cocktails. At all. And yet, I still adore every single sweet, fruity gulp of it.
I had my first Lynchburg Lemonade at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This place is amazing. It looks like a Sandals Beach Resort, a hideously huge McMansion, Pigeon Forge and a botanical garden all got together for an orgy, and 9 months later this hotel was born. As a child I occasionally went to brunches there with my parent and participated in Easter Egg hunts, so I have a soft place in my heart for it. Is it tacky? You better believe it. But it’s tacky in such a refined way that you actually feel posh when you stay there. Its presence almost makes up for the fact that they ripped apart my beloved Opryland Theme Park and turned it into a steroid infused mockery of an outlet mall. The Opryland hotel has also provided me with the sweet, sweet image of Sarah Palin giving a speech standing in front of a podium that had “GAYLORD” posted in big letters across it.
The first time I took my husband to Nashville, I told him he had to experience the Opryland Hotel. It was too glorious to be missed. I brought him to the restaurant in the Cascades Atrium because it was where I had my first Lynchburg Lemonade. I have no idea if this still goes on, but at one point there was a nightly light and water show there. A man dressed in white would play a gigantic white piano in what had to have been an homage to Liberace. That show was another formative step towards my love for all things camp.
We each ordered a Lynchburg Lemonade. We sat there looking at the pulsating fountains and tropical trees all around us. And then my husband turned to me and said “Not bad. I bet we could make this better. This tastes like a mix.” I looked deeply into his eyes and said “Let it be done.”
As soon as we got home we made them ourselves, and they were better. Every once in a while we’d make and drink them, usually while sitting on our upper porch that we like to call “The Veranda” when we’re feeling fancy.
The topic of Lynchburg Lemonades can be very controversial. Some things in the South are sacrosanct and should not be changed, but there is no way in hell I would ever buy a container of sweet & sour mix. So we make our own sweet and sour mix (it’s very similar to this recipe), and we sometimes change it up with a more natural lemon-lime soda than Sprite. You may do these things as well, but here’s the “real” recipe for a Lynchburg Lemonade.
One hot August day we decided a Lynchburg Lemonade was in order, but there was no Jack Daniels to be found. The only whiskey we had was a bottle of Bushmills Irish whiskey. We defiled that whiskey, and we defiled it hard. Into the Lynchburg Lemonade it went, and it was delicious. We decided to name that drink a McLynchburg Lemonade, because O’Lynchburg Lemonade didn’t sound as dumb.
So we created a new holiday ritual in our home. Every St. Patrick’s Day we go to a fine purveyor of spirits in our fair city. Every St. Patrick’s Day we ask them what kind of moderately-priced Irish Whiskey they recommend. And every St. Patrick’s Day we enjoy the look of horror that spreads across that person’s face when we tell them what we’re going to do with it.
Have a gloriously fun St. Patrick’s Day everyone. And for the love of all that is holy, stay away from the green beer.
2 part Irish Whiskey
2 part sweet and sour mix
2 part triple sec
8 parts Sprite or lemon-lime soda
Add ice and give it a good stir. If you’re feeling all Sandra Lee and want to garnish it up, stick some lemon slices and cherries on the edge or in the drink.
The Oscars are this Sunday. I know there are many people that delight in the glamour, the splendor and the honor that winning an award brings to the actors, actresses, directors and producers in the movie business.
But I hope you all know me well enough to know that what I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to drink cocktails, eat fattening food and snark on the whole ridiculous charade of the event. What better way to do that than with a drinking game? And let’s all make sure to drunk-tweet using #oscarsnark.
You can choose some of these options or all of them (make sure you don’t have to go into work the next day). You can make bingo cards with the various choices. I’ve made sure to list some tasty snacks to help you soak up the booze.
Now on to the drinking game options. Luckily, I have a lot of friends who still delight in drinking games. Those delightful boozehounds helped me immensely. Here are the rules:
Drink every time someone gets played off the stage by the orchestra while giving their speech.
Each time you see Anne Hathaway cry, drink.
Take a drink if someone copies Sally Field’s ‘You like me’ speech.
If Sally Field gives that speech, finish your drink.
Drink when you get the first glimpse of John Travolta’s hideous toupée.
Drink every time the camera cuts from Ben Affleck to Jennifer Lopez to Jennifer Garner.
Each time the camera cuts to anyone from the entity I like to refer to as JenniJustPittAngel, drink.
Take a drink each time Joan River’s face moves. Expect to not be taking a lot of drinks for this.
Drink every time Nicole Kidman’s face moves.
Take a celebratory drink if Keith Urban is spotted, because the highlights in his hair are a work of art and should be celebrated as such.
Whenever a guy flubs a designers name (Except for Versace), drink.
Drink each time Ryan Seacrest mentions his “girlfriend” Julianne Hough in his effort to appear heterosexual.
Every time the camera cuts to Joaquin Phoenix, and he is sulking, drink.
If a British actor gets an award and is too important to show up to claim it, drink.
Take a drink each time a side boob or underboob is sighted.
Take two drinks if butt cleavage shows up.
If Jon Hamm shows up and is obviously letting the python in his pants go commando again, all the ladies should toast to it and finish their drink.
Drink each time the mani-cam is used. (I did not know this existed and I wish it had stayed that way.)
When the camera pans to Taylor Swift, drink.
If Zooey Deschanel wears a twee manic pixie dream girl dress, drink while adorably spinning in a circle.
Every time the camera pans to Daniel Day Lewis and he looks “not impressed”, drink.
If you’re a seasoned drinker, each time someone uses the word amazing to describe a script, another actor, or anyone else involved in movie making, drink.
Drink each time Seth McFarlane makes an off-color joke, and the camera pans to the subject of said joke.
Roll your eyes and drink anytime someone makes a reference to their “craft”.
If Helena Bonham Carter wears some outrageously crazy dress that just makes you happy, toast her crazy ass and drink.
Each time the camera cuts to Tom Cruise, and he is grinning manically, drink.
If Bjork shows up in an outfit that tops the Swan costume, you have to eat the worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle.
If anyone pronounces Versace like Ver-sayce, turn the TV off and immediately do 5 shots of whatever bottle of booze is closest. There’s no way anything else at the Oscars can top that.
I do want to warn you that this is the first year that the Academy is using an electronic voting system. Get ready for hanging chads, or make sure you’re prepared for a 6 hour show that consists of only a Guy Fawkes mask on your TV screen.
And I am posting this for no other reason than it’s awesome:
Please tell me that I’m not the only one here in Knoxville that gets panicky now whenever a thunderstorm heads our way? My childhood fears have crept back recently and I find myself getting anxious whenever there are storms. But luckily, I think I’ve found the charm that seems to warn them off. Gin. I’m in the process of testing this theory but anecedotal proof is conclusive in my book. So much so that I now store a bottle of gin in the cellar so that I can do my part to warn off the ugliness. You’re welcome Knoxville.
So, I have a bit of a severe thunderstorm/tornado phobia. When I was very young, a tornado took part of the roof of our house off when we lived in Nashville. Then I had a babysitter who would freak the heck out whenever there was a storm and she transferred her irrational fear to me. My mom couldn’t understand why I started running around, acting like Chicken Little every time there was a storm. Then she found out that my babysitter would have a panic attack anytime a storm approached. She’d also tape the shades to the windows because….well, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was an ancient Southern ritual that was supposed to charm away storms? Or she was crazypants. Babysitters of the world? Please don’t do this. You’ll make the eccentric little knee biters in your care even weirder than they already were. So this is where my unhealthy fear of thunderstorms first appeared.
Then we moved to Wisconsin where one of the main pastimes is obsessing about the weather. And then recounting any disastrous weather events in explicit detail, ad nauseum. I lived outside of Milwaukee for seven years and while I still don’t know where the town of Barneveld is, to this day, I can still tell the tale of the killer tornado that destroyed the town.
But when I moved to East Tennessee, I was given a little bit of breathing room. Knoxville is protected by what my husband and I refer to as “The Forcefield of the Awesomeness That is Knox Vegas”. I’m sure there’s a technical term for it but ours is snazzier. Think of it as kind of like that forcefield that protected the Death Star, just without all the peskiness of those annoying Rebel Alliance people trying to destroy it. Horrible storms that pummel the Cumberland Plateau strangely break up before they hit our fair city and for someone that turns into a quivering mass of jelly before a severe thunderstorm or tornado threat, I’m grateful for that. Sure, every once in a while a nasty storm hits us but we usually get fair warning.
Until this spring. Two days before killer storms ripped across Alabama, on a Monday, a storm blew out of nowhere in Knoxville. One minute it was your typical thunderstorm, the next minute you couldn’t see five feet in front of you and my husband was yelling “Get into the cellar now!” This storm involved several microbursts that took out trees all over Knoxville, and many old ones in our neighborhood. We lost several large limbs off the beautiful old maple in our front yard. A large patch of shingles were ripped off of our roof. We discovered this hole in the roof when our bedroom light fixture filled with water and poured it all over the floor. Two windows were smashed out and water was forced through the front door and all the windows on two sides of our house. The storm hit at 5pm, we had a roofer on the phone by 6pm and the next day our roof was fixed just as our power was restored.
This was just in the knick of time because that Wednesday we were hit again. Unfortunately, we knew they were going to be bad because of the news coming out of Alabama about the tornadoes. Between waves of storms, we ran out to Chandlers and picked up fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and fried okra. Right before the more severe storms rolled in, I asked my husband to check the weather radar again. I must have sounded a bit tense (or the fact that I was almost levitating off the couch while I chewed my nails down to stubs) because he turned to me and said “I’ll be glad to. Let me get your a drink first.”
Yes, at one point to be on the safe side, we did go down to the the cellar when a torndado warning hit a little too close to home. But aside from the rattle of hail on the outside cellar door, we emerged remarkable unscathed. And I shakily emerged from the cellar with a death grip on my empty drink glass.
Late June, we had another series of severe storms roll in. I was watching my sister while my parents vacationed in Prague when the first one hit on Tuesday. What started out as a remarkably unassuming storm, quickly developed into another storm where we could barely see past our front porch. A large crashing boom sounded and I shoved my sister into our inner bathroom as she asked me over and over again “Sissy, are we going to die?”. We emerged after this storm to find one of the two trees that shade us from the afternoon sun, lying on the ground after having taken out another tree on the way down. I did not have gin in my hand when this storm hit so I’m pretty sure I caused our tree’s death. That’s a lot of guilt to deal with so I’ve been trying to make sure gin is always close at hand. You know, because I want to keep the trees safe.
Now I have no problem with swigging gin out of the bottle but I understand that some of you aren’t as refined as I am. For all you dainty people, I give you the Watermelon Gin Fizz.
I had a watermelon that went a little past its prime. It still tasted great but the texture got a little grainy. I pushed it through a seive and saved the juice. This was the delicious result.
Watermelon Gin Fizz Serves 1
Juice of one lime
2 tsp sugar
1 oz gin
1/2 cup watermelon juice
1/2 cup tonic or soda water
Mix together. Serve over ice. At first sign of storm, drink one and wait 30 minutes. If the storm doesn’t go away, drink another.
The cool kids might be in Atlanta (every time a BlogHer Food attendee refers to it as Hawt-Lanta, God kills a kitten) this weekend for BlogHer Food but the fool kids (AKA The Most Awesome Sauce Drunks in the Universe) will be partying it up at home, with only our bitter tears and our loneliness to keep us company.
Last year, I discovered the BlogHer Food Pity Party community the day before the conference. This year, I was more prepared. Besides making a hairshirt, there are a few things that you can do to make your Pity Party experience even fuller. Let me guide you.
First off, you really need to make sure you’re in the right mindset. I suggest listening to this song repeatedly.
Since the world is going to end during BlogHer Food, get prepped by listening to this:
Follow this up by listening to Ke$he. Because she sucks and so do you.
The only way to show those foodies at BlogHer Food that you don’t need them is to outdo them at their own game. Make your most elegant dish and serve it with a very fine wine. Let me make a pictorial menu suggestion:
You’re going to want to be comfortable, yet professional looking while BHFPP11 is going on. You’ll never have a better chance to make a good impression so dress sharp. As a guide, here’s what I wore last year:
Crafting is never amiss when it comes to BHFPP11. I’ve been hard at work on my project.
Beverages are a very integral part of BHFPP11. Sure, you could slum it with a boring margarita or martini but why not get fancy pants about it? Show all those BlogHer Food attendees you don’t need them and the buckets of awesome sauce swag they’re about to get because you’ve got fancy-schmancy drinks. Don’t you and your liver deserve it?
Enter the Kid Curry. I first had one of these at Knox Public House. This is my favorite bar in Knoxville. Every Thursday they have an artisanal cocktail and Laura, the owner, created this drink for one of those Thursdays. Lavender syrup, lemon juice and my favorite bourbon, Buffalo Trace, come together into a magical elixir that takes the pain away.
This is the kind of drink you start out BHFPP11 with. This is a drink that says that you’re cool and sophisticated. This is a drink that says “Hey – I could totally go to BlogHer Food if I wanted to. I choose not to.”
After three or four of these drinks, you’ll be able to convince yourself that when the world ends on Saturday you’d much rather be at home, dressed in baggy sweats with Cheeto stains, finishing off leftover Chinese food than living it up at the after parties at BlogHer Food.
After five or six of these drinks, you’ll be convinced that your genius idea to put out a couple pairs of shoes and clothes in the yard on Saturday will totally fool your neighbors into believing that you got raptured up while they were left behind. And that kind of brilliance took the act of missing BlogHer Food in order to come to fruition.
It’s later on when all your hopes and dreams have died that you start cracking into the Cardbordeaux and MadDog. The only cocktail mixing you’ll need to do with these babies is letting your bitter, bitter tears fall into the glass.
2.5 ox Buffalo Trace
1 oz lavender syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake all items together in a cocktail shaker with a little ice. Strain and serve.
1 cup water
1/4 cup lavender blossoms (I used fresh blossoms, use 2-3 tablespoons dried)
2 cups sugar
Bring water and lavender blossoms to a boil. Stir in sugar and remove from heat once it’s fully dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate for three days. Strain lavender out. You can use the syrup immediately but I like it best once it’s steeped a little.
We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators in our house. It’s not that we don’t celebrate it but Marcus and I don’t usually make a big deal out of it. A lot of that is intentional – I’m not really fond of the crass commercialism that fuels this holiday. We usually get one another cards and sometimes we exchange small gifts. One memorable Valentine’s Day I decorated his car is a most embarrassing manner. (Hint – it involved giant granny panties.) Sometimes I went the DIY route.
(Needless to say, Marcus has held on to this for a while. I also wanted to note the disclaimer that this coupon could only be redeemed at the store of Kristina)
But big presents, flowers and expensive chocolates? That’s not us even if we had the money. Which we don’t because we spent it on Valentine’s Night dinner.
The Valentine’s day feasts that Marcus and I make usually involve at least a bottle of wine. A fresh loaf of bread, preferably homemade is always in attendance and usually the entire thing is eaten over the course of the evening. Dinner tends to be a bacchanalian affair, involving large quantities of cheese and at least one kind of cured meat. Good olives are a must and if we have any left, we always eat my marinated sun-dried tomatoes. If there’s arugula in the garden, I make a simple vinaigrette and serve it as a bruschetta topping. By this point, we’ve usually finished the bottle of wine and the preparation of dinner flies by in an alcohol-infused haze involving half the dishes in our kitchen. It always is the best meal we’ve ever made that can never possibly be replicated again. Dessert is usually more wine along with the chocolate bars I bought as an ingredient for a luxurious chocolate dessert that requires too much fine motor control to attempt. Sometime we whip the heavy cream and dip the chocolate into that. If it seems like it might be too dangerous to involve power tools in this process, we just dip them in peanut butter. Then we act out the “You put peanut butter on my chocolate/You put chocolate in my peanut butter skit”. Then we drink more wine.
For breakfast the next morning, we have hangovers and Advil. Seriously – you can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day better than this.
Except for the fact that I’m getting old as dirt. And drinking copious amounts of wine doesn’t make me feel any younger. In fact, the older I get, the worse I feel after a night of even moderate drinking which is depressing as hell.
My pants also don’t fit which is wholly unrelated to the amounts of bread and wine I consume, I’m sure. It’s really hard to bring the sexy back when you’re lying on your bed, sucking your gut in so that you can zip your pants shut. It’s also hard to be sexy when you can’t breathe wearing said pants. Of course my husband’s suggestion is to just quit wearing pants but every time I do this the FedEx and UPS guys that come to the door look at me weird. My neighbors are used to this sort of behavior from me but I’m getting tired of being known as the crazy woman on our block.
Marcus and I are dieting right now because I want to fit in my pants again. For us, the easiest way to do this by following the South Beach Diet which greatly restricts the amount of carbs you can eat during the first two weeks. It’s not Atkins strict but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t cut someone for a slice of bread. In order to keep myself from assaulting random bread-carrying strangers, it’s important that we make delicious South Beach Friendly food. You can’t go wrong with a good steak and shiitake mushrooms – it doesn’t seem like diet food and it always feels like celebratory food to me.
For the record, filets aren’t necessary for this dish – any good steak will do. You also don’t have to use shiitakes. If money is tight, do what we do which is to combine button mushrooms with a few shiitakes. Make sure to drink this with wine. Followed by lots of water and an Advil chaser.
Filet Mignon with a Shiitake, Red Wine & Shallot Sauce Feeds 2 crazy kids in love
Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
Put a 10-inch heavy bottomed pan over medium to medium high heat (We set our temperature right in the middle of those two settings). Add 1/2 tablespoon butter. When butter is bubbly, add shallot to pan. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times, until shallots soften. Add shiitake mushrooms to pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the edges of the shallots and mushrooms start to turn brown. Add broth, wine and soy sauce to pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about ten minutes. Remove this mixture from pan and set aside. Wipe pan out with a paper towel.
Add 1/4 tablespoon butter to pan. Allow it to become bubbly and add filets to pan. Cook for four minutes – once the filets are in the pan, don’t touch them. Flip steaks and cook for four minutes. Remove steaks from pan and keep warm. Add the mushroom sauce mixture back to pan and bring this mixture to a low boil. Stir in the remaining 1/4 tablespoon of butter. Turn heat down to low so that mixture is simmering. Add filets back to pan and cook for 3 minutes (This will give you a filet that is rare to medium-rare. If you want your steak more well done, cook longer. If your filet is not as think, reduce cooking time.)