So I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You This for a While…

I’m going to elBulli.

After about six years of trying, we were able to get a dinner reservation in November.  I’ll be writing about the meal, obviously, but I’ll also write about getting there, Barcelona and our plans.

Just thought you’d want to know.

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Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

If you haven’t read any of The Hunger Games trilogy yet, I envy you.  This means you can go out to your local bookstore to purchase it and its sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and read all three in one fell swoop.  I don’t normally tell people what I think they should do, but I’m telling you this is what you should do.  I know I should be telling you wait a couple of days and buy Freedom by Jonathan Franzen instead, but who are we kidding?  I’ll read that sucker next year, when it’s in paperback and the waiting list at the library has dwindled.  I’m sorry, Mr. Franzen, I think you have a lovely reading voice and your writing is incredibly clever, but The Hunger Games can’t wait.

Mockingjay picks up a month after Catching Fire‘s cliffhanger ending; protagonist Katniss is living in the believed-obliterated District Thirteen, is coerced into becoming the face of Panem’s revolution, and learns that, as in the Hunger Games, she’s trapped.  Once again, she must figure out not only how she is going to survive, but also how she’s going to ensure the survival of the people she loves.  Devastatingly — and realistically — she doesn’t fully succeed.

And that’s part of the reason why I like Suzanne Collins: the woman is a mercenary.  She slices through her cast of characters, killing them off in what is not at all a flippant way.  Every death serves a purpose, and each one is a surprise.  Actually, the entire storyline is a surprise, and Ms. Collins’ ability to tell a captivating story is undeniably enviable.  You try writing a trilogy that’s both sentimental and graphically gruesome, all the while subtly threading through commentary on warfare, reality television and the media, politics, fashion, family values and sex, and then throw in some of the twistiest plot shifts ever.  When you’re done, get back to me.

In all honesty, I can’t write anything more about Mockingjay aside promising that it’s a ridiculously good read.  It’s just not fair to those who haven’t read it.  There are far too many reviews out there that, in my opinion, give away insane amounts of information.  (Putting the words “spoiler alert” or similar in the text is useless and stupid, by the way.)  So please, stop reading reviews right now — in fact, stop reading this post!  Pick up a copy of the book and read that, and then we can talk.

On Library Books.

I love the library. Growing up, I was the girl whose mother refused to drive in more than once a week. If I had been able to drive at seven — or see over the wheel, or reach the pedals, or drive stick — I would’ve gone down every other day.

Luckily, I don’t live with my mother anymore (though I still don’t know how to drive stick).  I can bring myself to the library as often as I like, and since I’ve gone a little crazy requesting titles that sometimes means a few days in a row.  I’m serious when I say “crazy.”  Let’s put it this way: the last time I went in, the librarian was surprised I was only borrowing five books.

Those five brought my stack of borrowed books up to twenty-three, all of which I lugged up to Maine with me this past week.  My goal was to get through half, and even though I didn’t, I came pretty damn close with eleven (more on those specific titles in a later post).

I’m not taking bets on how fast I’ll be able to read through my stack, but I will tell you that if I feel strongly about any of the titles, you’ll be hearing about it.

Oh, and here’s my new thing with reading: if I’m not captured by the end of the first page, the book goes back.  There’s just too many books out there to read, and sometimes I just have to act like a mercenary.

Got Milk… Punch?

Earlier this year, Keith and I went to New Orleans for a relaxing, boozy sort of trip.  I’m not embarrassed to say I’m not much of a drinker and that I’m a terrible drinking companion in the sense that I can’t hold my liquor reliably, but I will proudly tell you I’m an awesome drinking companion in the sense that I’ll cheer you on and get you home safe.

What’s nice about New Orleans isn’t that there are not only a plethora of friendly cabbies to deliver you to your hotel — though they are very nice and friendly indeed — but that there’s an awesome amount of amazing bartenders to provide you with exactly what you need.

In my case, what I needed on a hot Thursday afternoon was a milk punch.  Chris Hannah at the French 75 told me so, and sent me to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone to get one.  I’ve always been  good at following directions.

Milk punches are fun.  They’re frothy and sweetened by vanilla and there’s no way you can feel bad about drinking one (or two).  A cold milk punch is even nicer when you come home to one on a disgustingly hot and humid night, or the ingredients for one.  It’ll definitely make the day seem a whole lot cooler.

Milk Punch, from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
This recipe only makes one.  I suggest you make more than that.

1 ounce brandy
½ ounce dark rum
2 teaspoons simple syrup*
2 dashes vanilla extract
4 ounces whole milk (though I used skim since that’s what I drink)

  1. Shake the ingredients all together in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a tumble half full of shaved ice.
  3. Grate or shake some nutmeg on top.
* Simple syrup is so, um, simple to make that adding a recipe here really is silly.  Regardless, here we go.  In a small saucepan, bring one cup sugar and one cup water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.  This takes only a few minutes. Then remove the saucepan from the stove and let cool completely.  You can store this in your fridge in a tightly sealed bottle for about three months.