whiskey chocolate balls

Whiskey Chocolate Balls (Inspired by Sleater-Kinney)

THE DISH
Whiskey chocolate balls

THE INSPIRATION
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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Butternut Squash Pancakes and Maple-Goat Cheese Sauce with Pearl and the Beard (Inspired by Bon Iver)

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Pearl and the Beard, performing Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” (get the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here are the butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce I made with the band. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Spiced butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce and candied walnuts (recipe + tons of photos here)

THE INSPIRATION
Within five minutes of Pearl and the Beard (Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles) entering my apartment, I felt like they were old friends. All three of them are bundles of smiles and energy, and they came prepared to make delicious cocktails, which always gets points in my book. I first heard of the band through Dave of Backyard Brunch Sessions and was instantly won over by their simple but creative instrumentation and strong harmonies that often lean more toward cabaret than Americana (though there’s plenty of that, too).

When I asked them to do an installment of BB Songs, they decided to cover Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” from his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago (listen to their gorgeous version of the song here), and they wanted to make “stacks” of pancakes served with goat cheese sauce. From there, I decided on rich butternut squash pancakes and a spread made with goat cheese, maple syrup and yogurt. We topped our stacks with candied walnuts for an extra bit of sweetness — except for Jeremy, who is allergic but still insisted on flirting with danger and stirring them over the stove. Bon Iver’s music, especially For Emma, is a perfect match for the cold — and while we ate these pancakes for dinner, they’d be incredible as a comforting Sunday-morning brunch while holed up in a cabin in the dead of winter. The pancakes are filling, and the sauce — which we spread in between each layer — turns it into a pretty decadent meal. They’re still pretty healthy, though: The sauce is made with goat cheese, maple syrup and Greek yogurt, so there’s plenty of protein and not too much fat. And the butternut squash has got to count for something, right?

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Spiked Orange-Chocolate-Oatmeal Bars (Inspired by Modest Mouse)

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“I drove around for hours, I drove around for days/ I drove around for months and years and never went no place” — Modest Mouse’s “Interstate 8,” from the Interstate 8 EP

THE DISH
Orange oatmeal bars with nuts, chocolate chips and vodka-soaked raisins (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Modest Mouse’s music was made to be blasted in a car with the windows down. It can be spastic, a perfect soundtrack for reckless driving or speeding on the freeway, but it’s also a perfect companion for a cathartic solo drive late at night. Especially in their first two albums, 1996’s This Is A Long Drive For Someone with Nothing to Think About and 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, frontman Isaac Brock drops plenty of references to escaping, sitting in parking lots, and driving — although in many cases it leads nowhere.

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“Out of gas/ Out of road/ Out of car/ I don’t know how I’m going to go and/ I had a drink the other day/ Opinions were like kittens/ I was giving them away” — “Out of Gas,” from The Lonesome Crowded West

I first heard of Modest Mouse when I was away at camp and my friend Jason mentioned in a letter that he and his friends were driving to Ohio from Michigan for one of their shows. I think it was that same summer, when I was 15 and in driver’s ed, and there were at least a couple times that he dropped me off at class. It was right after he had gotten his license, and I remember him accidentally turning the wrong way onto a one-way street… It was good times. It was the following school year that I first actually heard Modest Mouse; Jason performed the song “Bankrupt on Selling” at our talent show (it’s still probably my favorite MM song), and I immediately downloaded everything I could get my hands on. Isaac Brock’s lyrics, especially earlier in their career, are rough and dark, about destruction, sometimes substance abuse and as mentioned earlier, a lot of going in circles and getting nowhere. Maybe it’s not a surprise that my friend had connected so closely with Brock’s songs; Jason took his life a few years ago, and even though we had drifted apart a few years before, this band will always make me think of him. He would’ve been 25 today; kind of a weird coincidence because I’d already had this post planned for this day … but I guess life is funny like that sometimes.

Anyway, about the food, which isn’t all that deep: Between references to being on the road and drinking/general self-destruction, I wanted to make a roadtrip-ready snack with booze in it — that obviously does not involved drinking and driving, in any way. The heat takes out some of the alcohol but leaves a little bit of the taste, although to be honest, I’m not sure if I can actually taste the alcohol or if it’s just the orange flavor. Either way, it works and these are good.

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