Mango, Peaches & Lime Sangria (Inspired by Frank Ocean)

Well, hello! Yes, I’m still alive! I know it’s been a while — in short, life has gotten in the way of blogging; I moved to a new apartment at the beginning of the month, and I’ve come to terms with the reality that keeping this up is quite challenging! Anyway, everything seems to have calmed down for a minute or two, I’m finally settled in my new Brooklyn ‘hood (Prospect Heights), and I’m excited to finally dive back into this. Going forward, posts might not be as frequent as they used to be, but I’m hoping there at least won’t be another break as long as this last one… So, let’s go:

White sangria with mango, peaches, and lime.

Frank Ocean! Are you a fan? Everyone I know is flipping out over the R&B singer/songwriter’s first proper album channel ORANGE; I am admittedly not very well versed in R&B, so I can’t explain why he is quite the genius everyone says he is (though my coworkers have tried), but yes, I do enjoy the record. channel ORANGE is perfect for summer, and there’s no doubt it will be soundtracking most of your backyard barbeques and trips to the beach. So, I made a beverage that will cool you off and it goes down as smooth as Ocean’s voice. In “Sweet Life” Ocean sings about “mangoes, peaches and limes,” so this is a refreshing white sangria with all those fruits, plus some orange juice for the name of the album, lemon-lime seltzer, and some gin and mint because why not?

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Sweet & salty bourbon blondies

Sweet & Salty Bourbon Blondies + a few songs by supergroups

Sweet & salty bourbon blondies

Blondies loaded with Momofuku chocolate “crumbs,” caramel, and bourbon

I recently participated in my first Tumblr Eat Up, in which a ton of Tumblr-ers are assigned a person somewhere in the country to bake and send treats to. My Eat Up buddy Alexis also lives in New York, and happens to be one of the ladies who started the Eat Up, so I couldn’t bake just any treats and throw in a couple of compost cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar to impress her — I had to do something just a little bit over the top. So I combined three elements from New York foodie staples: Momofuku Milk Bar (chocolate crumbs, which are used in several of their desserts), Baked (caramel and the method used in the Red Hook, Brooklyn, bakery’s famous sweet-and-salty brownies), and a recipe for blondies from the great Smitten Kitchen. I’m pairing them with a few songs from supergroups, since the best ones take great pieces from other projects and combine them into something that’s different, but can sometimes be just as special. These blondies are rich and gooey and possibly one of the most amazing treats to come out of this kitchen.


Wild Flag, “Romance” (from Wild Flag): Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders). Their self-titled debut was my favorite album of 2011 and this is my favorite song from it. Also, this video rules.

Traveling Wilburys, “Handle With Care” (from Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1): Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty. Can you fit more songwriting legends into one album? This is one of those songs that I’d heard all my life but for the longest time didn’t know who wrote it. Glad I got that figured out.

The Dead Weather, “Treat Me Like Your Mother” (from Horehound): Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, solo), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs), Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs). As far as Jack White projects go, The Dead Weather added some fierceness that I think was missing from The Raconteurs, mostly thanks to Alison Mosshart.

The New Pornographers, “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” (from Together): Most notably Carl “A.C.” Newman (Zumpano, solo), Neko Case (solo) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer). Seeing this band live (especially when Case and Bejar are on tour with them, which isn’t all the time) makes me so, so happy.

The Living Sisters, “How Are You Doing?” (from Love to Live): Inara George (the bird and the bee, solo), Eleni Mandell (solo) and Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond). A couple years ago, these three ladies put out out a collection of sweet, harmony-heavy folk songs.

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whiskey chocolate balls

Whiskey Chocolate Balls (Inspired by Sleater-Kinney)

Whiskey chocolate balls

Confession: I was embarrassingly late on listening to Sleater-Kinney. As in, they broke up in 2006 and I didn’t get super into All Hands On The Bad One until about four years later. (I will now cover my eyes so I can’t see your totally disgusted faces shunning me. But don’t worry, I got on that Wild Flag record reeeal quick.) Needless to say, they’re on the long, long list of bands I wish someone had told me about when I was in high school. Anyway, it goes without saying that that album is incredible, and these whiskey balls come from a line in “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun” about “whiskey drinks and chocolate bars.” The first line of the song — “You’re no rock ‘n’ roll fun/ Like a party that’s over before it’s begun” — hits home for me because when my friends and I go out, I tend to be the one who gets tired super early, and I’m frequently hassled about my inability/refusal to take shots. I also don’t like whiskey! (See? Ms. No Rock N’ Roll Fun over here.) However, now I can say that I sometimes like whiskey: when it’s baked in a cake, then turned into little balls of chocolatey, sugary, walnutty goodness (mixed with even a little more whiskey). These were kind of amazing, and they’ll certainly be replacing any future urge to make cake balls: They’re quite similar, but because these babies use sugar and booze to bind the cake crumbs together instead of buttery frosting, they don’t result in obnoxiously greasy hands, and they don’t feel as heavy to eat.

Unrelated to the great S-K: I took these treats to a super-cool event called BAKINGMAKESFRIENDS — which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Lillie from the gorgeous baking blog Butter Me Up Brooklyn, started this shindig, to which you bring baked goods and friends, and hang at a bar to trade treats and meet new people. Lillie made bourbon blondies (obviously we were on the same page), and among my other favorites were chocolate ginger cookies, poppyseed buckwheat cookies (trust me, they were SO good), cardamom baklava, mustard spice cookies… I could go on and on. Anyway, it was lovely and I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Blood orange cupcakes

Vegan Blood Orange Champagne Cupcakes (Inspired by Blood Orange)

Vegan blood orange cupcakes with blood orange champagne buttercream

This one’s pretty simple! Blood Orange is the prolific Dev Hynes (who’s also performed as Lightspeed Champion, and has written and/or produced songs for Solange Knowles, Florence & the Machine and Theophilus London), and last year he put out an awesome dance-rock album Coastal Grooves (think TV on the Radio, Holy Ghost!, ’80s pop). The last song on the record is called “Champagne Coast,” so these cupcakes — which I made for the ETB party last week — are flavored with blood oranges, and the frosting has champagne in it. The actual cupcakes certainly could have champagne in them, too — in fact, the only reason they don’t is because I spaced out and totally forgot about it… (Maybe it was that whole “OMG I have to make a few hundred cupcakes” thing that made me forget…) So, both versions are below.

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ETB Party Recap + Red Wine Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes

Well, you guys are AWESOME. The first-anniversary party on Tuesday night was absolutely perfect. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out — I’m still glowing and totally overwhelmed by all your support, not just this week but for the last year. I especially would like to thank Heather and Jeff Pine Box Rock Shop for letting a total stranger throw a party in their bar; Jocelyn, Jeremy and Emily from Pearl and the Beard for picking the tunes (come hang with me at their show on Feb. 16!); my friend Tony for helping me make 300 tiny cupcakes and keeping me sane; and the amazing Missy Kayko for lending her badass design talents to the event poster. Check out a few photos from the party below, and find the rest on ETB’s Facebook page. (All photos here by Evan Daniels except for top photo and the first two after the cut). The bar recreated Jocelyn’s Good Winter cocktail and it was amazing; and you guys made a pretty decent dent in those cupcakes… but I don’t think the eMusic office was complaining about the leftovers on Wednesday!

I’m also sharing the recipe for the vegan red wine chocolate cinnamon cupcakes I made; recipe at the bottom! (Blood orange cupcake recipe coming later…)

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Q&A: Heather and Jeff Rush from Pine Box Rock Shop

Last summer when I found my current apartment, one of the biggest perks was that I’d soon be living just around the corner from one of my favorite bars, Pine Box Rock Shop. The name and casket theme alone make it pretty cool — the space used to be a coffin factory — but there’s a lot more to it than that. The counters are lined with concert tickets that come from owners Heather and Jeff Rush and a handful of their friends and family. The seasonal drinks are named after bands and songs (they’re currently serving the Yardbird and the Brown-Eyed Girl). And everything served in the bar is vegan, from the house-made Baileys and bloody mary mix (they’re known for their exhaustive bloody mary menu, which include the Sunday Bloody Sunday, My Bloody Valentine and the Dr. Feelgood), to the empanadas provided by Park Slope’s V Spot restaurant. Not to mention they have a months-old concert and event space in the back and a huge, totally affordable drink selection. So when it came to planning ETB’s first-anniversary party (Oh? You haven’t heard I’m having a party next week?), picking the location was a no-brainer.

I chatted with owners Heather and Jeff Rush — a couple of musicians who moved to New York from Seattle in 2003 — about the challenges of keeping a vegan bar, what inspires their cocktails, and where all those concert tickets come from.

Heather: The Yardbird (Kanon organic vodka pickletini with house-made brine, served with a baby Gherkin): Pickletinis have already been a thing, but somebody wanted to try it with our spicy pickle brine so it’s our version with our spicy brine, which actually isn’t even pickle brine, it’s pepper brine. And I’ve been on a British Invasion kick so that’s how it got to be named the Yardbird. The Brown-Eyed Girl (Seagram’s 7 and Cointreau with a splash of apple juice, served on the rocks in a cinnamon/sugar-rimmed glass): It’s a stripped-down version of a Legends cocktail which was developed for Oprah. It’s kind of an homage to my friend who’s in Cuba right now, she’s a big Oprah fan and she’s also a brunette like me so that’s kind of my good-luck wish to her.

Heather: Everybody’s doing super high-end, ’20s-style drinks and I want to do cocktails where a lot of the stuff is not super fussy. They’re fun, they’re fancy, but it’s not so hard that you couldn’t turn around and make this in your own kitchen.

Heather: The most tricky thing was finding a decent vegan wine. Most are usually refined with bone meal or egg white. We wanted to do vegan and local, and we were able to accomplish that with the white wine. The thing with vegan wineries is that they’re usually very young, so it takes a while for a winery to get its feet under it. So there’s no New York vegan red wine right now that I love — there might be some great ones out there, I just don’t know about them. But we managed to get Cycles Gladiator out of California. I’m hoping somebody actually picks up the gauntlet and does it here. I think most of the wineries out on Long Island are white wines anyway, but I think it’s gonna be a while before a really good New York vegan red wine comes out.

Heather: We use Soy Blenders vanilla soymilk, Absolut vanilla, Kahlua and Frangelico. It probably would be less likely to give you a hangover, and it’s not as creamy as Baileys but I think it mixes better for that reason. Baileys has a cloying sweetness and you could probably drink a little more of ours. It’s almost like a mudslide, and we mix it with root beer or Stoli or white Russians.

Heather: Jeff has two big vats, one for the super hot and one for the regular. There are habaneros and ghost peppers, Italian long peppers, dill, rosemary and garlic, and he’ll put two or three cucumbers in just for flavor. Then he slow cooks it for about five hours and lets it cool for two more hours. We’ll go through a gallon of pickle brine in a weekend. It’s crazy.

Jeff: It’s mostly just music I like, music I download, music I own. I just develop playlists out of it. This is one of our afternoon playlists for more mellow times or [we have others for] more crazy-busy times. I just try to put a new selection on there every week or so, so there’s a ton for the bartenders to choose from.

Heather: We had two people who actually became friends of ours that showed up after a Gwar show, like 10 minutes before I was about to pour the resin over the bar. They were covered in Gwar goo and they proudly handed me their Gwar tickets and that was pretty cool. That and my Bumbershoot performer pass [from when my band played the festival] were pretty special.

Jeff: I play some music with some friends of mine and we just started doing it back there recently. It’s been really cool to have the space to do that with. We have to do it during non-business hours, of course, so it’s earlier band practice than I’ve ever had in my life, but we’re all mid-30s now so we’re OK with that.

Drinking Tunes: Winter Beer + Music

(Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden, August 2010)

Here we are, at the fourth (!!) installment of seasonal music and beer pairings! It’s kinda fitting that we’re posting this a little later in the season than usual considering it’s just now starting to feel like winter here in New York and it still hasn’t snowed! Except for that one time in October. WTF? (Let’s be honest, I’m not complaining.)

As usual, I wrote a few words about five songs perfect for winter, and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and (he also has a doughnut blog — yes, a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music, and explained why they work together.

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