Come and play with us…

You are the cocktailer. You have always been the cocktailer.

You are the cocktailer. You have always been the cocktailer.

“It’s February. The winter holidays are long over, the lights are coming down, and the dark is creeping in. It’s time to invite some friends over for a night of bright, lighthearted fun – quick, before the metaphorical winter closes in around you and snows you into the labyrinthian hotel of your heart.” – All Play and No Work

Today on The Toast, my menu – complete with recipes! – for a terrifyingly easy The Shining viewing party.

Come and play with us forever… and ever… and ever…

that’s just my face

We join this conversation in progress:

The Fella: Is there anything I can do to help?
Elsa: Naw, I’m fine, just trying to write [thing], get it sorted out in my head. There’s no way to help.
The Fella: Would some chocolate help?
Elsa: … yeeeeeeEEEEEESSSSS. [as he walks to the kitchen] Was I making an “I wish I had chocolate” face? Do I have an “I wish I had chocolate” face? … is that just my face?
The Fella: Your face has elements of that in it, yes.

standing order

The Fella often surprises me with a pint of ice cream. About as often, he picks one up at my specific request. (Somewhat less often, he picks one up even though I specifically asked him not to. Why would I ask him not to? Because I don’t always want it, but I will always eat it.)

Since the corner store rotates flavors randomly, there’s no point requesting a specific flavor. Still, The Fella knows what kind to get me: Chocolate with stuff in, or stuff with chocolate in.

Or pistachio.

We’ve had the “or pistachio!” conversation at least three times now, and here’s how that goes, more or less, every time:

Elsa: Or pistachio!
The Fella: [stops tying his shoes, looks up at me in disbelief] … really?
E: Yes.
E: It’s my favorite, but they almost never have it. If they ever have it, I get it. If they ever have it, get it. EVER.
TF: How did I not know this? It’s like I don’t even know you!*

*This last sentence only occurred in the first iteration of this conversation, which suggests to me that subconsciously he does recall it, or he would face the same vivid surprise and apparent horror each time.

This weekend, we had another round of the same conversation, at which time I altered the standing order. From now on, the standing order: chocolate with stuff in or stuff with chocolate in, or pistachio. Even if I have specifically requested “no ice cream,” if they have pistachio, get pistachio. “Pistachio rescinds all other orders.”


For me, a perfect dessert is a careful contradiction, a balance of textures and tastes, of sweet and salty and an undertone of something tart or bitter.

And sometimes you can hit that balance by happy accident. That’s what happened here. As a finishing touch for our recent Sandwich Party, I tried another blogger’s recipe for chocolate sandwich cookies. The flavors sounded promising, but something in it rang alarm bells for me.

And rightly so. My dough didn’t come together as promised — or at all — so I had to improvise. A little melted butter here, a little extra flour there, and a rest in the fridge did wonders. Thanks to instinct and accident, I ended up with a winner of a recipe, one that I know I’ll make again and again. (And then laziness, inattention, and a power outage delayed my posting. But you have it now, my sweeties, and I have the accidental recipe archived here for many future occasions, so let’s count our blessings.)

I love this cookie. I call them “fauxreos,” but they deliver so much more than an Oreo: more chocolate punch, with a rich, almost bitter undertone, more crispy crunch and creamy lushness. The crispy chocolate wafers are deeply, darkly chocolatey and faintly sweet, with a slightly salty edge that makes them the perfect foil to the rich sweet filling. The assembly process is a bit of a chore, but when you bite into the first cookie, you’ll know it’s worth every moment. Continue reading

many happy returns

You know, I can turn down a piece of cake.*

(I mean, in theory I can; it seems well within the universe of possibilities. I don’t recall that I ever have turned down cake, but that’s a different question.)

But my neighborhood grocery/delicatessen has hit upon a remarkably effective marketing scheme that renders me powerless to resist their cake. In the bakery case next to the carrot cake, the chocolate cake, the cheesecakes and brownies and other moderately tempting slices, they display a few pieces of cake frosted as Birthday Cake.

Oh. The humanity.

It’s plain old dark chocolate cake with vanilla-esque frosting, a thick slick coat of frosting as white as snow, as white as virtue, as white as shortening and corn syrup and confectioner’s sugar can make it. This fatty white canvas is bedecked with swags of Windex-blue scalloped edges and punctuated with leaves and fat frosting roses, sometimes yellow, sometimes pink.

It is Birthday Cake. I cannot resist it. I keep buying it. When I examine this logically, I admit to myself that my sweet tooth would be better satisfied with a candy bar or an orange or a cookie or or or.

But this has nothing to do with logic. It’s Birthday Cake. I want Birthday Cake.
They are geniuses.

an inescapable conclusion

Yesterday, Gaoo had us over for our wedding cake tasting. The Fella and I sat in her pretty front room, the sun warming our backs. We paged through her albums of gorgeous cakes and batted around ideas the way kittens bat around colorful balls of yarn, all while we ate dainty slices of cake and tiny chocolate cups filled with frosting off a delicate floral porcelain plate.

(Gaoo’s an artist and a genius, incidentally. I already knew that in an abstract way, but I understood it viscerally last week when she glanced at my preliminary sketch and immediately added a whole new dimension that blew my mind.)

As I ran errands after the tasting, I discovered that a local housewares boutique sells the exact jars I wanted for our (non-floral, non-perishable) centerpieces. The owner, who knows me by sight, generously offered a ridiculously sweet deal on a dozen. (Buy local, kids!) Her offer changed “Hey, that’s a great idea! Now how can I do it cheaper?” to “Hey, that’s a great idea! Let’s do it!” So, more than four months before the wedding, we already have our very simple table decor lined up.

invitdryingAnd we finished the invitations!

The completion of these first few gewgaws and trinkets nudges me toward an inescapable conclusion: holy cats, we’re having a wedding. That must mean we’re getting married.


And Yippee!

A few more details remain, of course. For example, we haven’t settled on a first dance song. So far, we’ve eliminated:
Yakkety Sax
The Final Countdown
– The Futurama remix of Rocketship.
So, three songs down, eleventy billion to go.

engagement zombies

I couldn’t let another day go by without acknowledging our very first engagement gift, which Gaoo and niece A. delivered wrapped in silvery-white wedding paper months and months ago.

We’re considering using two of the figures as caketoppers, if only our hoity-toity fancypants boutique baker will tolerate such foolishness. I’m thinking she will, since she gave ’em to us.

Yup. Awesome.

update: The Fella and I originally toyed with the idea of having a zombie graveyard cake as our wedding cake. As I envisioned it, this would be quite simple: an embellished sheetcake, its frosting punctuated with headstones (tuiles sunk into the cake itself) and disturbed graves (crumbled chocolate cookies or cake crumbs) and zombie figures staggering here and there. When I vaguely mentioned our zombie-cake daydreams to Gaoo, our wedding cake maker extraordinaire, she immediately suggested something grander and spookier. Though we’ve now settled on a different design, that moment made me realize once again the difference between a dilettante (me!) and an artist (that would be Gaoo).

One week down


No, I didn’t make any resolutions, I’m done with that fruitless endeavor, however, I have been eating a gluten-free diet for the past week. It’s more an experiment than anything–I want to see if it makes a difference in my energy levels and in a way it has. I go for a brisk walk every other day and by the third day of the experiment I didn’t know if my legs would carry me home. I had to lay down at least twice that day just to make it through (but it was also extremely hot and I don’t own an A/C.) The past few days when walking though I’ve felt like sprinting and this evening I even broke into a fast trot for a minute. My energy may be perking up a wee bit.

The gluten-free experiment doesn’t mean finding a replacement for grains. I’m following the 5 veg and 2 fruit guideline (although I only manage 1 fruit at the moment) and eating just a small amount of rice or potatoes if I need a side. I suppose soon I’ll try a few rice pastas, but I like the idea of minimally processed foods, corn chips always being the exception. Right now I’m making my way through a packaged gluten-free cookie and I can really do without it. In fact, from now on I’ll indulge in a small block of dark chocolate instead. I saw a cook book today for $55 and decided it was totally unnecessary, this has been pretty simple so far. I keep putting off making that polenta Elsa told me about, but it’s on the list.

Ah, we did have dinner at friends’ this weekend and they decided on pizza. I bought some gluten-free wraps and made my own mini-pizza. It was perfect because I’m a thin crust kinda gal anyway. I used just a small amount of spiced tomato paste and a thin layer of cheese so as not to make it too soggy. Mine was probably the best.
The down side: JM just started brewing his own beer at home and I can’t have any! Maybe in three weeks when it’s ready I’ll treat myself to one and see how it affects me. Also, we’re having a house warming this weekend and I’m torn making things I can’t eat. Most of it I can and those few things I’d like to try, but won’t, will be okay as well. I’m specifically thinking about these corny dogs from Homesick Texan.