Sesame-Honey Granola Bowl (Inspired by Julie Doiron)

THE DISH
Sesame granola with Greek yogurt, apples and Morello cherries (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
At the end of the summer, I found myself in a long-distance relationship with my “one who got away” (because I’m the kind of totally-sappy hopeless romantic who would refer to a past could’ve-been-love as “the one who got away”). We were on opposite sides of the country and hadn’t even seen each other in going on three years, but it wasn’t long before I’d happily devoted much of my time and most of my energy into Making It Work through Skype, letters, phone calls, etc. — until this week when it ended and left me feeling like I’d been socked in the stomach a bunch of times. Canadian singer/songwriter Julie Doiron is great at writing songs that feel like that, especially on her 1999 album Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars. In “In This Dark” she sings, “Every time things go so well/ I think of all the things that have gone this wrong/ Timing’s never been worse” and in “The Second Time,” “Reckless restless feeling I’m unsure/ Trusting anybody anymore/ And sometimes when I am so unsure/ What difference, anyway.” I love that she doesn’t hold back in putting her entire heart and life into her relationships, however tumultuous they might be, which comes through even in her songs that aren’t quite so dark. Her 2009 album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, has some of the same — in “Heavy Snow” she sings, “Oh, heavy heart, forgive me/ Make me feel like it’s all okay/ Living through the night and living through the day” — but it’s also home to plenty of happier moments in songs that are so simple, but they can put my best moods over the top. The playful opener “The Life of Dreams” starts, “I’m living the life of dreams/ I’m living the life of dreams/ With good people all around me/ I’m living the life of dreams” and the closing track goes, “Every day, every night I tell myself in this beautiful light/ That I’m glad to be alive.” So, here I am, somewhere on the low-ish side of Doiron’s spectrum, but looking up. As my boss so eloquently said to me over IM yesterday: “New years, new beginnings, etc. Fish, sea.” (Really, guys, I’ll be fine.)

As for the food, it’s a recreation of a breakfast I had a couple of times on my last visit (at this Chicago coffee shop). Overall, it’s a filling, comforting breakfast that doesn’t feel too heavy; the sour cherries, tart granny smith apples and tartness of Greek yogurt are pretty much how I feel right now, but the sweetness from the granola is a reminder that things certainly will get better, and hopefully soon.

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The Good Winter Cocktail (Created by Pearl and the Beard)


Photos by Dominick Mastrangelo

THE DRINK
The “Good Winter,” created by Jocelyn Mackenzie of Pearl and the Beard

THE INSPIRATION
I’m going to save my words on the amazing Brooklyn trio Pearl and the Beard for a later post, as they are next up in the BB Songs series and I’ve got plenty to say about them — and an incredible recipe to share — for that…but when they came to my apartment to cook with me last month, they brought with them the ingredients for this delicious cocktail, which Jocelyn made up on the spot.

She says the drink is unassuming, but it has a Christmasy kind of feeling: “It’s a little soothing because white wine is kinda comforting, and ’cause it’s not too much of a weird flavor, but the St. Germaine is elderflower liquor, so it gives it a little sweetness. But then the bitters and the ginger give it a spicy taste,” she explains. “I was going for winter dessert and what I had in our liquor cabinet, so that’s what happened.”

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ETB’s Favorite Music of 2011

I have mixed feelings about end-of-the-year lists: I enjoy reading them, mostly because I’m curious about what records friends and other critics enjoyed throughout the year, and I love that they help me catch up on music I missed or didn’t spend enough time with (because I obviously have listened to every single record that was released in 2011…).

What I have a hard time with is the argument of who made the “best” record. That’s not to say I refuse to participate in the list-making at work — I certainly suggested certain albums should be higher or lower on our list — but it can get a little ridiculous. When I make my own year-end list, it’s just my personal favorites: I don’t mean it to say that one album is definitively better than another in terms of music, lyrics, whatever, or that my picks are better than everything else that came out during the year, but this was the music I connected with, what I listened to the most and what had the biggest effect on me.

Also, because I do use other people’s lists to catch up on what I’ve missed, that means there might be music that came out this year that I’m just now starting to fall in love with (see: Kurt Vile). And if we’re talking about my favorite musical discoveries of the year, there are quite a few artists whose music I heard for the first time in 2011, but they haven’t released anything recently (Patty Griffin, everything Mark Kozelek, Kathleen Edwards — the latter has already made one of my favorites of 2012). And if you ask me in a few months what my favorite 2011 records were, my response might be a little different than the following list. But for now, these were my favorites; my top 10 are in an order that could easy change over and over again, and then a bunch of others I loved listed alphabetically.

ALSO: Here is a mix of 27 songs I really liked this year — from many of these bands — for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy!

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Michigan Mitten Gingerbread Cookies (Inspired by Rosie Thomas)

THE DISH
Mitten/Michigan-shaped gingerbread cookies

THE INSPIRATION
Whenever someone introduces a new friend to the circle of crazy kids I usually hang out with in New York, they’re amazed at how many of us are from Michigan. There are a lot of us — and even though we all bolted out of there right after graduating college, we certainly take pride in our mitten-shaped state. Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas, who is from Livonia, Michigan (a Detroit suburb not far from my hometown), and has done a bunch of stuff with Sufjan Stevens, is featured in a documentary called All the Way from Michigan Not Mars (which I, admittedly, haven’t seen), and there’s a record that accompanies it, which I think is also known as These Friends of Mine … I’m not really sure. Anyway, this record has become my holiday-season soundtrack this year. It’s not Christmas music (though Thomas did release a Christmas album), but she sings simple, earnest songs about winter in New York that make me want to stay inside and uh, bake more cookies. (For the record, I’ve made already seven varieties of cookies and a handful of other treats so far this season)

A couple songs, “Much Farther to Go” and “All the Way to New York City,” particularly hit home for me, though maybe a little outside the context they were written in: The chorus of “Much Farther” goes, “I have much farther to go/ Everything is new and unpredictable,” and in the latter, there’s a line about staring at the reflections in subway windows and thinking about “how much New York has changed us.” They make me think about everything that’s happened in the time since my friends and I have moved here (gradually migrating since fall 2009): Most importantly, we’ve all gotten big-kid jobs, become more confident in who we are and have learned more about what we want in life. I guess that’s to say we’ve grown up a bit? And we’ve all faced our fair share of challenges in figuring that stuff out, but it’s been so much easier knowing that we’re all here sharing those experiences together, looking back on where we started and where we came from, and making big plans for what’s next, even though we actually have no idea what that’s going to be. And I can tell you that a huge part of why I’m not afraid to set seemingly-ridiculous goals and follow through with them is because I’m surrounded by people who do the same thing; they motivate me to push myself and make things happen. That goes for all of these guys, not only the Michigan folks, but they’re where it started.

Like most people, when it comes to the holiday season, family, tradition, and being around people I love are important to me. Every year in Michigan, my dad has a holiday party he calls his Dinner for Homeless Gentiles and Wayward Jews — really just a big party — and last year I adopted it and started throwing my own in Brooklyn. I did it partially to keep up the tradition and carry on my dad’s legacy, and of course also because it’s an excuse to throw a party and get people together. So, because the tradition started in Michigan, because my roots are there, and because my connection to people from my state has made such a huge impact on my life in New York, last year I bought a mitten-shaped cookie cutter and turned my gingerbread mittens into Michigans, with a tiny heart near where Detroit is. And to keep up the tradition, I made them again this year, and will probably continue to do so as long as I keep having this party. They’re not directly inspired by Rosie Thomas, but her music is a pretty perfect picture of where they (and I) came from — all the way from Michigan (not Mars).

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Peppermint Meringue Cookies (Inspired by the White Stripes)

THE DISH
Red-striped peppermint meringue cookies

THE INSPIRATION
I first had the idea for this post when the White Stripes broke up near the beginning of this year. My friend Zak — who is mostly responsible for getting me into them when we were in high school — came over and we attempted (and failed) at meringues, and also failed at another kind of cookie, all of this while blasting the band’s music. I revisited the meringues over the weekend and failed, yet again (though this time my new friend Larissa had the brilliant idea to add corn starch and turn it into a flat pavlova-type thing, which was delicious despite not being what we wanted it to be). I tried on Monday for a third time, and they still didn’t come out exactly as planned but, for the most part they worked and they’re delicious. Let’s call them a happy accident.

There are a million possibilities for food based on the White Stripes (“Apple Blossom,” “Little Cream Soda,” “Ball and Biscuit,” to name a few), and this certainly isn’t the best, nor will it probably be the last on this site — but it’s inspired by the song “Sugar Never Tasted So Good,” as most of what’s in them is sugar (and egg whites), and of course the red swirls are for the band’s red and white everything, which is perfect for the holiday season.

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