Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A classy drink, a trashy cake

When I started this blog I was what you'd call an “enthusiastic” drinker. These days I’m an occasional drinker, which is only a problem when I’ve got my hands on a book as full of seductive cocktails as Donald Link’s Down South. I want to taste them all. I feel blue and headachey just thinking about it. 

But Easter, hosted by my sister, needed a drink and I went straight to Donald Link. I was most tempted by his deer stand old-fashioned, which Link describes as a "wintry cocktail made with local ingredients like Louisiana honey, coffee bitters, and pecans. This drink ends up a tan milky color (like swamp water form the Atchafalaya Basin), and it’s rich and strong. . . “

Wonderfully strange and enticing, but all wrong for April

I went with the St. Edwards No. 1 and it was an excellent, pale, Eastery choice. The recipe: Into a shaker pour 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce St. Germain, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 2 dashes grapefruit bitters. Shake with ice, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with an edible flower. Beautiful, as you can see.

What you can't see is how delicious it was. Donald Link describes this as a “cold, austere” cocktail, which to me sounds like a martini. But where martinis are steely, the St. Edwards No. 1 is delicate, crisp, and floral. These drinks were such a hit that my brother-in-law made a second round. Two drinks on Sunday and all I could think about on Monday was how tired, depressed, and grimy I felt, and how ready to go back to coconut water. 

I also contributed this Food52 s’mores cake to the Easter meal. It was kind of trashy looking and I wasn't bursting with pride when I put the 9x13 pan down on the dining table and struggled to slice through the sticky top layer of bottled marshmallow fluff. It was a big slab of goo, sort of like a s’more, sort of like a deconstructed marshmallow egg, and I wasn’t all that keen on it at first. I might even have apologized. Only the next day did my kids and I start to really fixate on that big slab of leftover goo, as the marshmallow, chocolate pudding, and graham crackers started to melt together. It got better with age. Monday, we all picked at it. Yesterday morning I decided to throw away the last scraps for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who isn't built like a pipe cleaner.

Owen came home and said, “Where’s the leftover marshmallow cake?” 

I know that kid. If I admitted to throwing it away he would wail and accuse me of violating Earth Day. I said, “I ate it.”

He replied waspishly, “Well, I guess it’s time for you to start a diet, now."

I would have been pissed off too. It was one of those desserts you can't get out of your mind. If you do decide to make this cake, the recipe's a little funky. I don't know why you have to put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl if you're not going to melt it in that bowl. Also, I ran out of pudding before I'd coated all the layers. I just quit layering at that point and all was well.  


  1. Soo glad you are reviewing Donald Link. Great choice, and good food! Keep going? Is there any chance we can ever get your new posts via email? I keep checking the web because I love your blog immensely, but am disappointed when there isn't a new post. Just wish they would come to me......

    1. Go to the very bottom on the left. There's an email sign-up. It took me forever to find it myself.

  2. I did make the chicken braised with salami and olives with good results, though I am not a zealot about salami, and you get lots of salami in each bite. (used the standard Molinari salami widely available in the Bay area.) It was not too salty, as I'd worried about. He calls for 4!! bay leaves and I used only one. I had occasion to make it a second time and used pancetta instead; this was also delicious. We ate it over cheesey polenta. A keeper.

    (I hope I am not stealing your thunder by sharing this! As it happens you sold me on the book and I couldn't resist that recipe.)

    1. Stealing my thunder? No, no, no! So you liked the pancetta better than salami? I think I might too. I just made his carbonara with deep-fried poached eggs. Really salty, really good, really tricky to deep fry those eggs without breaking the yolks.

    2. I should say that the original recipe calls for 1-1/4 cups of salami, which is A LOT. When I made it with pancetta I used probably only 1/2 c. So smaller amounts of salami would probably be more to my taste. My arteries hardened just reading the words "carbonara with deep-fried poached eggs" so I will probably just stick with straight-up carbonara, which is already sort of intense. Like you with alcohol, I now look at these dishes of food and see acid reflux. If I could manage to eat mini portions of such things I'd be okay, but who can do that?

  3. Drinking makes me feel that way, too, but I am not often tempted as I get an immediate headache after most alcoholic beverages. That cocktail is beautiful, and the addition of the grapefruit bitters makes it sound very enticing. The cake sounds dangerous if not made for a crowd, so I will be skipping that one!

    1. It's gotten to the point where I look at a glass of wine or a cocktail and see a headache, not pleasure. Reality finally swamped fantasy.

  4. Alcohol makes me immediately ill, so I rarely drink. My father was a raging alcoholic so I am grateful that I was prevented from even thinking of going down that road.

    1. I think you were lucky, too. I wish I'd arrived at this point 10 years ago.

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