Archive for April, 2012

There’s something in the air – maybe Cinco de Mayo excitement?

Two different people living on opposite sides of the country sent me emails about Margarita Cupcakes.  Coincidence? Maybe, if you believe in coincidence. What I’m sure of is that as of today margagogo went from having obligated friends, alert readers and maybe even a fan to having National Correspondents.

My sister-in-law (AKA West Coast Bureau Chief) sent me a picture of a sign in her Seattle local – Cupcake Royale – offering up a May 4th Margarita Cupcake tasting.

My good friend (AKA CT Editorial Director) sent me a Margarita Cupcake recipe with this note:  “Can you even stand it?  This makes me hungry and thirsty all at the same time!!”

No, I can’t even stand it. This is just so amazing!  Fate, or Cinco de Mayo excitement or my newly appointed editorial board demands Margarita Cupcakes. The recipe below, as submitted by the CT Editorial Director is from Chic Style Modern. It’s written by Ashley a Chic Style Modern contributing editor and it’s from 2011 –  I’m sure it’s as tasty today as it was then.

Cupcake Royale - Will the Cupcake of the Month be the Margarita Cupcake?

Margarita Cupcakes
9 ounces Margarita Mix
3 ounces tequila
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
3 large egg whites
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon lime zest

Lime Buttercream Icing:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons lime juice, fresh
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime zest

If you’re in the Seattle area, please go check out Cupcake Royale.  Not only is their tag line, “Keeping it Royale” funny, but I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a cupcake or two and they’re yummy. And if you’re in a kitchen and so inclined, whip up a batch of Margarita Cupcakes and let me know how they are. (Just be sure to visit Chic Style Modern for the full instructions.)

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The thought, “margagogo needs a food stylist” is going to pop into your head when you see this picture.

Margarita Ice Cream

But if you taste Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream, you’ll forget how bad this picture looks. Your thoughts will run more along the lines of “Wow”, “Yum”, and “Holy Margarita Cow this stuff is great.”

Then you’ll add it to your Cinco de Mayo menu.

It’s easy to make – making me a fan of both the ice cream and the chef.

First the chef: Nigella Lawson puts great pictures in her books. Yes, I like to see pictures before I decide what I’m going to cook. It helps me to know what I’m aiming for.  And I’m a fan because when she says a recipe’s easy, it is. With my limited cooking skills I’ve been able to repeat her results and wow my friends.

Now the Ice Cream: When I made Margarita Ice Cream for dessert on New Year’s Eve, I got raves from my guests. Some of them aren’t margarita drinkers, some don’t really like sweets and the crazier ones don’t really crave ice cream and one isn’t a drinker at all.  Yet, everyone loved Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

Margarita + Ice Cream = Cinco de Mayo, Summer and Celebration!

Holy Margarita Cow – This Stuff is Great!

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I confess.

I’ve cheated on Tequila … with Pisco.

It started when I visited Peru.  I was in month three of a seven month journey through Central and South America when I got on a local bus out of Lima, Peru heading south down the Pan-American highway.

This part of the Peruvian cost is barren. The ground is beige, the ocean is grey and the low cloud ceiling weighs heavily on everything below. I felt a little lost when I got out of the bus in Pisco and stepped into the sleepy, dusty landscape so I strolled into a town bar for some company. I asked the bartender to make me his favorite drink and watched, filled with white-hot horror as he mixed raw egg whites into my drink. (Raw egg violates one of my many, many food rules.) But the drink was frothy, the bartender hopeful, I was an adventurer – and the Pisco Sour was awesome!

I discovered the national spirit of Peru.

I’ve noticed Pisco popping up on drink menus with more and more frequency so I can’t be the only one who’s discovered the spirit. To get the scoop, I went to the experts on Twitter and asked their opinion of Pisco.

Here are the results:

Drink Think @DrinkThink is a Pisco fan and believes Pisco’s popularity is on the rise because quality product is now readily available. Drink Think brings craft spirits to the North West so they must know what they’re talking about. You can find Drink Think here.

Imbiber @notjustabarkeep is, among other things, a fellow insomniac and a bartender at Saxon+Parole. And he’s a fan of Pisco. He suggests a classic Pisco Punch or Pisco Sour and says to make sure you get Chuncho Bitters for the Sour. Please go visit Imbiber at Saxon+Parole – with a Twitter handle like Imbiber, you know he’s going to make you a great drink.

Chaim Dauermann @notclam (AKA Lifesaver) was passionate and eloquent in his response. He said inclusion of Pisco on a bar menu “…is extremely appropriate for any menu looking to pay respect to the history of cocktails.” Pisco is one of his favorite spirits. I know first hand that Chaim can make you a great drink. He’ll be  at Demi Monde NYC when it opens next month!

Warren Bobrow @WarrenBobrow1 is also a Pisco fan. He sent me a great article he wrote for Foodista where interviewed Johnny Schuler, a master Pisco maker. This article will make you hungry and thirsty and catch the next flight to Peru. Please remember to check out Warren’s site: cocktailwhisperer

Brian Petro @Creat_Daily is a Pisco fan and says, “I have had quite a few Pisco Sours, and I love the lightness of them. I have been looking for the right one.”  Well, Brian, it’s good thing you’re a margagogo follower because ….

Greg Harned @craftcocktails was kind enough to share a recipe for an awesome cocktail: Yuzu Pisco. Greg Harned and portlandcraftcocktails.com is dedicated to the craft of the cocktail so I think Greg knows of what he writes.

The Hooch Life @TheHoochLife  says “Yes, Pisco is definitely growing in popularity. Bartenders are making new twists on traditional drinks with it. A must for bars!” Please check out thehoochlife.com to learn what, how and where to drink – I mean who among us doesn’t need to know all that?!

Even The New York Times is on top of the trend with this article from their travel section.

Ofrenda NYC @Ofrenda_NYC is the only responder who isn’t on the Pisco bandwagon. Ofrenda says the Pisco fad will pass. That’s ok. I’d hate for anything to distract them from making great margaritas. Check out Ofrenda online here: ofrendanyc

Pisco wasn’t the only treasure I found on the coast of Peru. After leaving the city of Pisco, I visited Ica, then Nazca and the Nazca lines. The lines, dug into the earth by ancient people depict a range of things from a condor to a monkey to a person to purposefully designed lines and circles. There are lots of theories on why the designs were made. I like to think they were a gift to whoever was above to see them. And on this day, giddy from surviving raw egg, I climbed into a 4-seat plane and flew over this great gift. The grainy pictures below are my snaps of the lines as the pilot flew back and forth, dipping the wings right and left so we could get a good view.

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines



To all the experts who participated in the Pisco Poll – Thank You! I’m sorry for the delay in sharing the results. I hate it when work gets in the way of writing my drinking blog.

COMING SOON: NYC Peruvian restaurant and more margaritas in Maine!

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We made a plan riddled with risk: Margaritas and dinner at a brand new spot before a 2+ hour play performed in entirely in Polish.

For a night at the theater, the adventure quotient was high.

New restaurants sometimes have service and kitchen kinks so you don’t know what you’re in for. Drink and food before a very long play can make a sleepy, bladder heavy, uncomfortable disaster and this night was particularly tricky. We were we were off to see Festen (The Celebration) at St. Ann’s Warehouse, brought to the U.S. by Polish theater maker Grzegorz Jarzyna and performed in Polish with English subtitles (projected on the back stage wall). And the topper –  first act alone runs 1 hour and 45 minutes.

But don’t worry!  Risk averted.  Reward reaped.

Gran Electrica, the new authentic Mexican in DUMBO is AWESOME! The space is airy, fresh and inviting. (Check out gothamist for a write-up and great pictures.) The service is impeccable. And, the food? The food is so good we ordered more despite the time crunch of the curtain. We had Taco Dorado, deep-fried tortilla wrapped potato with creme and shredded lettuce, which sounds bland but is anything but. We tried the pork shoulder and brisket tacos (yum) and the best taco by far – tile fish with cabbage and avocado.

And the margarita was perfect.

Seriously Awesome Margarita!

Seriously Awesome Margarita!

I’d love to give you their advice so we’d all learn what to look for in a good drink but as of this time, Gran Electrica hasn’t answered my twitter query. (I forgive them because I’m sure they’re busy making taco magic.)

So please go to Gran Electrica (5 Front Street, DUMBO).  Just don’t go too much because then I won’t be able to get a table.

And go to Festen at St. Ann’s Warehouse. The 1 hour 45 minute first act flew by (well, mostly). I saw this company perform Macbeth (also at St. Ann’s) so I was ready for the quirks and twists in the production. It was curious and interesting and the story itself is rife with risk (and pain and dull horror) and though I don’t know if I liked it, I know I’ll think about it. To me, that’s a strong measure. But if you’re going to go, go quick. Festen’s limited run ends Sunday, April 29. And for that matter, St. Ann’s Warehouse, in its current location, is on a limited run. They close at season end and will be moving to a new space.

So go.  Enjoy a risky night of food and theater.  You’ll be glad you did.

COMING SOON – PISCO (including Twitter poll results)

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I have a blog block. I haven’t written a post in a week.

I’m mentally heavy and struggling to step over weighty thoughts.

First:  Why do restaurants in Chicago O’Hare, one of the worlds busiest airports, start closing at 9PM when the airport is still mobbed with people?

Second:  Why when you need it most, like when sitting in O’Hare for the second layover in a day, is it impossible to get a good margarita?

These questions are my mental warm up since they’re easy. The answer to the first question is I don’t know but I can send some targeted tweets or plan for my next late night O’Hare visit by carrying several flasks, in a clear zip-loc, all under 3 ounces. The answer to my second question is super simple:  See the first question.

I’m feeling limber now so here I go with the tougher stuff.

When you’re balancing on a razor’s edge, what is the thing that determines if you’re cut free or just cut? When is youthful bravado the stuff of legends that you retell years later with friends, topping each other and upping the risk as you share the time you jumped off a cliff or fell out of a tree or drove drunk or any number of low-judgement high-jinx sort of things. Living to tell this stuff  give us bragging rights because we own the moment. For a second, we controlled fate. But what’s funny on reflection and adrenaline pumping in the moment it works, is maddening and saddening and heart breaking when it doesn’t. A second of poor judgement can prove how little control we have. And it makes we wonder what separates the lucky from the not.

I traveled this week to attend services for a friend’s son who died in a terrible accident.  The tragedy and my friend’s pain leave me feeling helpless, curious for answers and eager to take back control.

Which I guess puts me back to handling the easy questions like where to get a great margarita.

So thank you for letting me share. I’m off to do field research in Brooklyn and toast my friend and her dear son and wish for everyone the chance to reflect on that one time ….



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There are lots of reasons to love Easter.  On the religious calendar, it’s a biggie!

It’s the unofficial start of spring.

Its spokesperson is a bunny.

I love Easter for the food.

When I was in college, I celebrated many Easters at a friend’s house. Her entire extended family,  maybe 6,000 – 7,000 people, came too and they always had enough food to feed a million.

My friend’s house is where I learned about giant family celebrations. My extended family is spread across the country and even when we’re all together we can fit around the average dining room table. What we lack  in numbers we make up for in banter, humor and noise but my friend’s family had all the noise-makers plus staggering numbers. At Easter they filled up two floors of the house and overflowed into the backyard.

They had history, patterns, expectations and customs and were happy to teach me important life lessons about family and food.

I learned how to make garlic bread. (Do NOT slice the Italian bread horizontally and season the pieces individually before toasting. The experts will make fun of you). I discovered that what I grew up calling “spaghetti sauce” is actually called “gravy”. I learned that dinner is never over when you think it is because after the handmade ravioli and torta there will be chicken cutlets and ham and maybe roast beef and dessert and there’s no shame in taking a break from the food (as long as you come back) or unbuttoning your jeans at the table. Seasoned veterans wear pants with elastic waist bands.

And I learned about kissing.

The social, “hello” type of kiss that is. I grew up waving “hello” not kissing “hello”. The “hello” kiss was reserved for Grandmother level people who slipped me a twenty mid-embrace. So when I arrived at my first Easter with a deer-in-the-headlights, fight or flight sort of expression on my face as I looked at the receiving line waiting for me at the front door, my friend’s Brother-in-law gave me rules to live by: “When you eat, you kiss.”

If you know when you show up that you’re going to eat, you kiss on your way in and on the way out. If you stop by on an errand you don’t have to kiss – unless you decided to stay and have food and then you must kiss good-bye.

My first thought was that I may never eat again.

But I got used to it and now embrace the hello kiss in any combination (hello, goodbye, the kiss with a hug, the double cheek hello kiss). I love all of it. And I still love the giant, elastic waist band recommended, Easter meal. So this year, one meal and one restaurant wasn’t enough. We went for two of each.

Cookshop Traditional and Blood Orange Marg - Peeps are at it again

Colicchio Marg - Food Styling by Peeps

The first stop was the Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons. The space is beautiful. It’s modern and homey and the light filtering through the windows, and the floor to ceiling wine rack, warms the air. The doughnut holes with toffee sauce were so good we wanted to order more but couldn’t. The kitchen had closed to switch over from brunch to dinner and our server hadn’t come around to let us know and see if we wanted anything else.

On to the margarita. The Peeps liked it more than I did. To test @WarrenBobrow1’s recommendation, I asked to nix the triple sec. They substituted Cointreau and it made a BIG difference.  (They didn’t have Milagro – winner of the tequila poll).

With a closed kitchen and Peeps drinks, a decision was needed. And that decision was to head to Cookshop.

Cookshop is also a beautiful space. The light streams in through the western exposure and bounces off the yellow block walls. The room is full of plants and modern touches and all around is a pretty happy place. We tested out a Traditional Margarita and the Blood Orange-Habanero Margarita and we give them high marks. And Marcello, who was tending bar and is also the mixologist behind the menu is a pretty nice guy. (When you go, say Hi – you don’t have to kiss him – and tell him margagogo sent you.)

Cookshop delivered another important treat (besides the giant basket of candy sitting on the bar for anyone to take) they had french fries on the menu. For @mscharlies, finding these fries was like finding water in the desert. She’d given up fried food up for Lent and at Cookshop, in the moment, Lent was officially over.

I was smart enough to wear a dress and leggings on Sunday so my leggings expanded with my stomach and my dress hid the expansion.  I’m grateful I learned the art of a big meal early in life and grateful to my friend and her family for all they taught me.  And always and endlessly grateful for the double Easter meal.

Thank you Easter Bunny!

Oh, and the Peeps were out of control! More pics for people who like that sort of thing.

Courtesy of @mscharlies

Courtesy of @mscharlies

Happy Easter!

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I was lucky enough to be treated to a perfect Maine summer day in March, courtesy of global warming, and I made the best of it.

My luck started when the car rental company gave me a convertible. A brand new, fancy blue convertible. Then more luck when summer struck. It was 81 degrees, sunny and perfect.

I picked up a friend and we drove down Route 1, top down, sunscreen on, radio up. And we ended up at Robinson’s Wharf in Boothbay Harbor. Robinson’s is a bustling restaurant and fish market in high season but on this lucky warm March day, it was open, empty and catering to locals. We got a table and ordered margaritas.

Margaritas at Robinsons!

Who doesn’t love a margarita served in a pint glass? Really, I didn’t think the Pabst Blue Ribbon glass boded well for margarita quality. I was expecting mix abuse when I took my first draw on the straw. But the taste that hit my tongue wasn’t sickly sweet or too tart. It was refreshing. A great drink for this lucky faux summer day. I did blow the happy hour price by agreeing to Patron when the server suggested it. He was nice and I let him up sell me even though I’m not a believer in the power of Patron. But I am a believer in the power of a lucky sunny day in Maine.

There’s more in Boothbay than margaritas. If you go (and you should) try candlepin bowling at Romar Bowling Lanes. The pins are tall and willowy. The bowling ball is the size of a softball. And the lanes have been in this spot for more than fifty years. There is also great ice cream, a harbor, fishing trips, puffin tours and endless charm.

Maine perks way up in the summer. A lot of businesses are seasonal and even though the flowers were bursting and the sun shining, some of the best places weren’t open yet. A visit during the summer season promises more services but also more people. I guess you’ll just have to go more than once.

(I planned to review El Camino in Brunswick, Maine in this post but it was closed during my visit. It isn’t a seasonal business but it was closed on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yes, a restaurant closed for a weekend. That’s Maine for you. Part of its charm is that Mainers manage their own time table and motivate to their own beat. So next time, El Camino!)



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