Cooking Up a Fancy New Year 2023

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This year we rang in the New Year with delicious food and an intimate two person party.

Nine hour Burgundy Mushrooms are absolutely delicious!  But they do really take nine hours.  Six hours of simmering with a lid on and three more with the lid off.  The new Mauviel christmas pot (my best present by far) was perfect for the job.

We also roasted a chicken and veggies in the new pink pot using one of Romey’s recipes.  Likewise delicious.

This was “first dinner.”  The coup de grace was still to come.

Mr Skaggs paid a visit while the cooking proceeded and we had a couple of Seelbach cocktails (take care of the time warp!).  We’re pretty sure that’s why we accidentally fell asleep before midnight.  LOL.

This was a fancy pants Seelbach iteration with veuve clicquot champagne and blanton’s bourbon.  Absolutely fantastic.



And then it was time to cook up blinis for the caviar. We went to the “gold plated groceries” store for the fixins.  Crème fraîche for the win.  So delicious.

Incidentally, these were fried to perfection in another new pan.

This special meal called for a vintage bottle of pink veuve clicqot.

We attempted to watch Fight Club (which I had never seen) , but we fell asleep just before the end (and just before midnight).  We blame the Seelbachs.

The leftover champagne and blinis made a great first breakfast of 2023.

Happy New Year to all.

Xmas 2023

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The adult kids were in town from their far flung new homes (Josie in Berlin and Eli in Indiana), xmas music was on constant rotation in the living room, we had a surprise visit from a four year old, petisa was baked, a beast was roasted, the Sydney opera house was constructed, and the christmooses showed up in IU Cogsci gear.  Warm and cozy and Christmas-y.

The xmas eve eve bar spread.  Beer cheese for the win!

A little mouse visited on xmas eve and kept us up all night.  Romey reads the Moomin book as all the animals listen in.

Petisa goes best with veuve clicquot.

Christmas morning before the deluge.

One very excited granddaughter.  She graciously jumped up and down after opening each present.

Heels by the bar.

The roast beast, carved by me, not the grinch.

Roast Beef in the Wolf

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The Viking gave out after 17 years.  Ridiculously, it took a year to replace.  Something about supply chain this.  Yadda yadda.  So, no more Vikings for me.  Instead, a Wolf.

The difference is night and day.  So much better!

The shiny oven gets broken in with a roast beast.  For recipe details see this entry.

The little one is ready.

Romey does the Julienne.

The beast!

Yorkshire resting.

Yorkshire under the beef.

In the drippings.

Pan gravy with the remaining drippings.

Beef resting


The crowd is restless and the kitchen smells great.

And then some broth from the bones.




Summer Solstice 2022

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We’ll start in the middle, with a video of the lighting of the summer solstice bonfire of 2022.  The weather was absolutely perfect and the crowd friendly and warm.  Every year the size of the fire seems to come as a surprise.

This year the weather was so cool that a dip in the river was not in the cards.

Rewinding a day, Aubrey provided another great iteration of the smoked salmon Messerhead feast helping to set the FOOD stage.  Speaking of FOOD, Chef Michael was down from Chicago with Astro.  That means we were spoiled rotten on the food front for days on end.

Salmon feast table

Any solstice that starts with caviar is destined for greatness.


Prepping for late night tacos

It seems that Chef Michael can’t cook for less than 700.  But that’s OK.  We just need to make the solstice party seven times bigger.  Pork shoulder in the firepit by the shrine.

We had a mid-day break to tour Eli’s fantastic art show at the Barns of Rose Hill.  The show continues through July 2nd.

Then it was time for the pre-game Negroni.

And we were officially underway.  Esther and Cora presided over the opening.

The sufferin bastard made an appearance

After an outstanding potluck feast, replete with fresh flowers, it was time for one quick song (thanks guitar week fellers) and FIRE.

By far the cutest thing at this solstice iteration was the jumping of the gun by Brantley the marshmallow boy.  The fire was still a bit young.  But that did not deter Brantley.

The fire burned for two days.  In fact, it is still smoking as I write this.

Thank goodness for Alec, David, and Gina.  We had a few hours of music by the bonfire.

Rumor has it that absinthe hour stretched from 3am-6am.

The next day happened fast.

Morning after breakfast

The chef outdid himself three times.

Party cleanup was a breeze with Aubrey in charge.  The weather cooperated the entire weekend.

What is left of this fire?


Are there coals down there?


Fresh veggies from the Berryville farmer’s market (thanks to Chilly Hollow Farm)

While the

veggies roast, we hang by the fire.

Donkey Hodie says “sup homey?”

Astro has the best home


The garden


Roast veggies


OMG more food

Even moonshine is in a food coma.

What do you do with recd currants?

You make a fresh tart.  Then mezcal straight from Mexico City?!  Yup.

Morning never arrived for some of the mezcal participants.

And then a visit from Iulie.



Lets Make Eggnog

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Fresh eggnog is really good come solstice time.  I’ve made a number of batches over the years, but this recipe is my favorite.  This came from an article by Derek Brown of DC bartending fame.  Apparently it is called “Baltimore Eggnog.”

Testing the eggnog before the guests arrive

2 dozen fresh eggs from the girls, separated
1 750-mL bottle VSOP cognac
16 ounces Mt Gay Eclipse
1.5 pounds powdered sugar
3 quarts (96 ounces) whole milk, chilled
1 quart (32 ounces) heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored.While continuing to beat, add the cognac, rum, sugar, milk, heavy cream and salt.

24 fresh yolks from the girls in the palace (absolutely fresh eggs from free range hens make a very big difference)


All ingredients but the whites mixed with an electric mixer

2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and nutmeg until they form stiff peaks.

3. Fold the whites into the yolk mixture.Serve in punch cups.

The final product in cyn’s punch bowl chilling in the fridge

Will keep, tightly sealed and refrigerated, for up to one month.

Take a sunset walk while the eggnog sets

Decorate the tree, and do some dancing.

Bare and the Paparazzi

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No food for this guy

Bergen has its first Michelin star restaurant, called Bare.  We finagled our way in and had an incredible 14 course meal.  Always go to fancy pants dinners with really fun friends.  We laughed as much as we ate.

Course 1 (this was a pre-dinner bar treat)


The paparazzi have arrived


Course 2 (also in the bar)


Course 3 came in a beautiful dish. Each was different.


Course 4 was lil tacos (still in the bar)

Finally, we moved into the dining room.  BTW, a hint about having a meal like this. say YES to all possibilities (like the caviar course and the wine pairing option).  Always YES.

Starting the meal


Cider and a fist


Course 5 (sea urchin) with the cider


Our first wine (blanc de blanc) with the caviar


The incredible caviar course (number 6). very creamy.


Were we happy?


Course 7 wine: sauvignon blanc


Course 7 was calamari (which I usually don’t eat)


More paparazzi

The bread arrives


Now the paparazzi are out of control!


Wine for the crab


Course 8: alaskan crab with barley


Wine from Santa Barbara 


Course 9: king crab and parsnip



You will like the wine!




Course 10: lamb and mushroom


wine from Italy


Course 11: reindeer


sweet wine


Course 12 into the sweets (with blue cheese topping). Wow.


Course 13, a tart little number


wine (a “white amarone”)


Course 14 finished the evening


grappa in the bar (coffee for some)


the empties




Post Covid Summer Solstice 2021


Well, some things happened.  My life situation was utterly rebooted.  There was a pandemic.  Two solstice parties went by in miniature.  There was no blogging.  That kind of thing.


But we remember how to get back on the horse!  Yes we do.  So get up there and ride.

Solstice Fire Summer 2021

One of the secret traditions of the summer solstice has always been the Lisa Messerhead inspired salmon feast (implemented by Aubrey).  Of course that happened.

The salmon spread


But that was soon a memory, and the party began into the green and cicadas.

Soon the tables were full of great food, the keg was tapped, people played in the Shenandoah, and the party found itself in full swing.

Just like old times.  Except everyone in attendance was vaccinated against Covid-19.  The few friends who were not vaccinated were not allowed to come (though we still love them).  At this point in the global pandemic if you’re in the United States and you’re not vaccinated you are a pox on the public.  Don’t be an asshole. We’ll hold off on the usual herd of kids until they are no longer vectors, etc.

Anyway, the food was super delicious. And there was lots of it.

Home made by Ale and Eli


People gonna eat up


The imposter dog!


Yes, we’re having fun

Just before the lighting, Jackie, Eli, and Ale read some poetry focused on black identity in honor of Juneteenth.

Jackie reads a poem or two

And then it was time!  The bonfire was lit!

2021 Summer Solstice Fire


Mr prepared guy serves as a fire mirror



Romey attends her first actual size solstice


The people

Of course there was music.  It went on all night and even when the rain started in slow around 11:30.  But then a DELUGE.

The progeny carried one of the tents over the music pod as we shifted inside.  The last embers of the party extinguished around 4:30.

Thanks to all who came.

Remember the before times, but carry on!

Amer Picon Experiment 3

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We’re there I think. Our third shot at homemade Amer Picon is in the jar. Next comes siphoning.

This time we adjusted the recipe only slightly with the addition of some bark infusion. Hopefully that will not kill us.

The key to all this is make sure the oranges are green and burn the heck out of the caramel.


Strain the infusions (three this time)

Mix in a big old jar.

Looking good. Once the material settles, we’ll extract our Picon. We need a centrifuge!

Thanks to Christa for the raw materials and the inspiration!

Marco. BOILO!


This is how a tradition is born. First a seemingly innocuous cocktail article. Then edition one. Then fun. And here we go down the slippery slope to BOILO.

Step 0. Gather ingredients.

The makings of BOILO

What is that fancy ass ginger beer doing in there? And mace from Grenada?! Yeesh.

Step 1. Combine and boil down for 30 minutes or so.

Boil the BOILO

Step 2. What are we missing?

No really, what are we missing??!

Step 3. Eureka.

Step 4. Let the BOILO steep overnight (or 5 hours, whichever is longer)

Final product steeps

Now we are ready for the solstice! Yes we are.

Burn, baby, burn. Solstice fire 2017.

Roast Beast and Yorkshire Pudding

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Rare roast beef with Yorkshire pudding is one of my very favorite meals of all time. Heck, we’ll even have it for no apparent reason! Happy today day! Here are a few tricks to making a delicious beast.

Yorkshire pudding though incredibly simple ingredients-wise takes a couple of tricks. Trick 1: Start with warm ingredients and beat them to frothy. Cold eggs and milk will not work properly. Once the batter is beaten, refrigerate for at least an hour covered. (This allows the flour to do its gluten thing with the egg.) Remove from the fridge just about when you put the beef in so that there is time for the batter to slowly warm. Trick 2: cook it under the beast.

On the beef front, start with a standing rib roast. Don’t get it tied, rolled, or cut from the bone. The ribs provide lots of flavor.

Season the beast simply with an entire head of garlic, peeled with cloves sometimes cut lengthwise then inserted into the beef with a paring knife and a finger. Liberally apply lots of pepper and some salt.

Pop it in an oven preheated to 550. Immediately turn it down to 350. Plan to cook the beast 17 minutes per pound and no more.

Beef roasting at 350 (about 90 minutes in)

Beef roasting at 350 (about 90 minutes in)

Before adding the Yorkshire batter, turn the oven up to 400 and beat the batter to froth one more time. Remove some of the drippings below the beef to make gravy with (put into cast iron skillet). Add half a stick of butter under the roast to compensate. Then pour the batter around the beef.

The batter will rise if all is well.

Yorkshire on the rise under the beef

Yorkshire on the rise under the beef

Remove the beef on time, and check the temperature. Let the beef rest for 15 minutes.

Finished cooking and now resting. Rest your beef before carving!

Finished cooking and now resting. Rest your beef before carving!

Yorkshire with beast removed.  The drippings are ultra delicious.

Yorkshire with beast removed. The drippings are ultra delicious.

Serve to family and friends with a nice Cab.


Et voilà.