Posts Tagged ‘party’

a terribly auspicious occasion

With less than 24 hours to go, it’s time for me to admit, with some embarrassment, that I am one of those royal wedding watchers. My name is Natalie, and if I have not sat down and watched every obnoxious TV special on the couple — “William and Kate,” that objectively horrible Lifetime movie, not to be confused with TLC’s “William and Kate: A Royal Love Story,” “Wild About Prince Harry,” “Charles and Di: Once Upon A Time,” and on and on — well, I have probably flipped through them with some passing interest.

Apparently, the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton have created much more a frenzy stateside than in England (confirm, anyone?) and on the heels of this realization there’s been a sudden, slightly belated series of articles questioning whether Americans really, actually care about the wedding — or if the constant media coverage has created the illusion of interest where none would have otherwise existed.

To be honest, I find this recent angle of newspaper articles and cable news shows highly irritating. They’re acting a bit above it all, aren’t they? Every time Anderson Cooper or whoever reads a bit about the royal wedding, it’s with both a smirk (“This isn’t real news, our viewers are so silly to care about it”) and wide-eyed ignorance (“Maybe the designer is Vera Wang? Yes, that’s the only designer I know”). Well, listen, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, and friends: You’ve sent all your anchors to London. The jig is up. You clearly care, so stop acting like you don’t.

I, on the other hand, am not trying to out-snob the royals, the way some TV reporters seem intent on doing. The earliest televised wedding coverage starts at 2:00 (our time, Central Time, everyone take a deep breath) with MSNBC. CNN and Good Morning America and the rest, total slugs, don’t begin until an hour later. While I am definitely not crazed enough to get up at two in the morning to watch the madness (that’s what four in the morning is for), I will be celebrating in British style when, um, I do get up.

There will be a proper cup of Earl Gray. There will be oat and maple scones, simply because there’s a couple unbaked and frozen rounds just waiting to be baked off for such an auspicious occasion. Since it will be such an early hour, allowing time for second breakfasts, there will probably be cream scones, too, and maybe something wild like strawberry-rosemary scones. We won’t have the traditional English breakfast sides like black pudding, grilled tomatoes, and baked beans, but fried eggs… and sausage… and marmalade and toast, here we come. Silly? Well, perhaps. I admit it. But embrace it!

Are you watching the royal wedding?


last night’s snack

I want s’more.

kir and apps party

Billy and I have worked out a foolproof system for post-party, tag-team clean-up. In fact, I’ve been hesitant to share it with you all, as it’s so great. I’ve been holding out on you, can you believe it? But today I’m feeling generous. Our hard-won, infallible system is:

Step 1. Saran-wrap and refrigerate any salvageable leftovers.

Step 2. Go to bed.


  • Not having pets
  • Or critter infestations of any sort
  • An empty dishwasher waiting the next morning
  • A certain carefree attitude, specializing in the ne’er-do-well and champagne yawns
  • A comfy bed never hurt, either

Messes and soapsuds are much easier to face the following morning.

I promise.

You need to put at least eight hours’ sleep in-between

Clean up


Shaping lamb sliders, proofing slider buns, assembling caprese picks, caramelizing onions and quartering figs for a tart, making pizza sauce and dough and assembling a pizza, baking croutons, tossing a salad, marinating and broiling shrimp, oven-drying tomatoes, roasting red peppers, whirling together a romesco sauce, dicing tomatoes and cucumbers for Greek salsa, simmering blackberry-lemonade syrup, and making sheets of ice.

You just do.

(You should also give up on taking in-focus pictures of the lovely food, because it gets dark so early and who has time to set up the tripod when the guests are arriving in ten minutes and you haven’t put on make-up and the sliders are cold and oh no there’s not enough dressing? Reader: just trust me, it was lovely.)

But there’s always a frenzy ten minutes before showtime, and our friends are so nice that they don’t care if we’re still banging trays in the oven when they show up. (At least, I don’t think they care. I believe that the don’t care.) I love flouncing around the kitchen, and I love living with someone who’ll clean the house, chop together the Greek salsa, thread basil leaves on toothpicks, and make the margherita pizza (not margarita pizza, like I just wrote) by himself.

Try the wrap-fridge-sleep technique on your next after party!

ketchup [catch up] from france; or, this blog still exists!

Oh man, friends. What a rough couple weeks, bloggly-speaking. As predicted, beret-wearing and croissant-eating took up entire days, leaving absolutely no time for blog-writing, which is a shame, because now that I’m back stateside, I’m going to spend the next couple entries making you very hungry, rather than spreading it out organically. Sorry. Anyway, on with it!

A very late arrival followed a very late departure into a very rainy Paris, and we very gratefully settled into my friend Mathilde’s cozy and quirky apartment in the seventh arrondissement, which featured such merveilles as: wifi, hot showers, fresh bread and nutella, and of course a friendly face. Our first dinner, appropriately, was at Le Relais d’Entrecote. By the by, this should be everyone’s first dinner in Paris. It’s easy: they only (ONLY) serve steak-frites, so the only decision you need make is how you would like your meat cooked. It’s delicious — and they even refill your plate with a second helping of meat slices, thinly sliced golden fries, and the crucial, wowzer mustard sauce. And it’s quintessentially French, and isn’t that why you came to Paris?

The next day, valiantly defying jetlag, we woke up earlyish and hightailed it to Hertz. First off, the rental car — a 2010 Diesel Volkswagen Golf — came out of the garage with only seven kilometers on it. Brand new! Second of all, we drove from Paris to Bretagne, a little over five hours, and can I tell you, we only used half a tank? And when it started to rain, the windshield wipers turned on automatically and adjusted themselves to the level of rain? This car is the greatest. Everyone should own this car. The drive was pretty fun, too. French radio stations are ridiculous. One (Sky Rock?) came back from commercial with the clearly enunciated, IN ENGLISH phrase, “F*CKING. GOOD. REMIX.” That is allowed?

We got to my aunt and uncle’s house that evening and fell upon an enormous heap of langoustines, a tagine, cheese, bien sur, and fruit salad. The following day, the entire family came over and we ATE. And DRANK. For the entire day. More startling yet: in the garden!, because it was a beautiful, brightly sunny afternoon, in defiance of stereotype and my own expectations. We even tanned a little! I think Billy was in awe of the sheer volume of food, all topped off by three desserts (fraisier, apple tarte, chocolate mousse), but we both tucked in enthusiastically.

No sooner had everyone left around five than it was time to leave for dinner — luckily, preceded by a long walk in the one-time artists’ colony of Pont Aven. We had a wonderful meal of galettes/crepes (savory “crepes” are, properly, made with buckwheat flour and called galettes; “crepe” actually refers to only dessert ones) and hard cider on the ocean. We rolled into bed several hours later, wishing for about three more stomachs and five more days here.

Luckily, we still had a week left for Paris…

kir royales and valentines

Time, friends! It passes. And here we are, already at mid February and as far as you know I have spent the month alternately binging on and shunning pancakes, and cleverly chatting up elementary algebra exercises. Which is only half true. The other thing I’ve been doing is waiting for the barrister’s ball. Law prom, in other words, complete with corsages and zillions of couples poses — but despite the implicit corniness in twenty-somethings going to a school dance, it was actually awesome.

And since it’s prom, there has to be a pre-prom, so on Friday evening Billy and I had eight more kiddos over for cheese, hummus, flatbread, assorted nibbles and, of course, champagne. Kir royales, actually, which is champagne with a dabble of creme de cassis flavoring —  and proved a tremendous hit with the lawyer-to-be crowd. To the uninitiated: we’re coming for you. We even took group shots, with every imaginable subdivision of guests!

We feasted for the next hour or so at Formosa, the sushi spot on the Ped Mall downtown. Billy and I enjoyed their fruity martinis with dragon rolls, California rolls, and the afore-written-about Tuna Tataki and Tropical Rainforest. Mmmm. And then, of course the prom part!

Well, we didn’t actually stay that long. The ballroom at the Sheraton downtown was nice, if not particularly festive looking, and I actually quite liked the DJ. But four hours of three-inch heels and cocktails had made enough of a dent in my energy that we went home, pumpkin-like, by midnight. And the next morning . . .

. . . some roses winged their way to our front door! So at nine am, I was padding downstairs in slippers and robe to sign for this big surprise. (Valentine’s Day/weekend must be a nice time to work delivery at a florist. Everyone is very nice to you.)

That night Billy and I went to the ever-wonderful Devotay for dinner. Like most restaurants in town, they offered a Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu, but we still had to get an order of paella. When it’s warm enough, I have very real ambitions of replicating it on the grill (I’ve seen Bobby Flay do it! Doesn’t that mean I can, too?), but until then, I’m happy as a clam to stick with Devotay’s version every single time.

On the real Vday we went to Linn Street Cafe, and you know I’d love to tell you about that. But right now I have to go eat my chocolate.


Everywhere I turn, people are happy, nay, ecstatic, that the aughts are over. Just in time for us to pin a name to it. Paul Krugman’s retrospective may be the grumpiest I’ve found to date, with the proclamation that, “It was a decade in which nothing good happened.” Nothing good happened! New York Magazine has been a little kinder, a little more balanced, justifiably pointing out that, “If, at the start of this decade, somebody had told us that New York would shortly be attacked, leaving thousands dead and the city’s two tallest buildings a smoldering pile, leading to two wars in distant lands against a mostly unseen enemy, and that the economy would later collapse under the weight of bad debt, driving the local unemployment rate north of 10 percent and pulverizing three of the five largest Wall Street firms, well, we might have asked if there was a fast-forward button we could press.” And well, yes, that’s hard to argue with. Also, can my fast-forward button include skipping things like anthrax, crocs, and this guy?

But with everyone beating up on the wee little aughts (the new millenium ages zero through nine! it’s just a baby!), I’m sticking by ’em for a couple reasons. So, off the top of my head and in no particular order, here’s my “Despite Everything” list of thanks:

  1. Graduating three times in one decade, from middle school (shut up, it counts) to high school to college. Even if I only wore a cap and gown for one of them, the aughts still bestowed mounds of educational generosity on me — and almost all my friends.
  2. Google (not a verb ten years ago!), iThings, Facebook, blogs, etc. Which have forever changed our dinner table conundrums from “Go check in the World Book” to “Go Google it,” resulting in greater speed, accuracy, and multiplicity of opinion. I know grouches out there who find it terribly fashionable to explain that such hyper-connectivity is making us more isolated. But I can tell you what my seventh-grade best friend studied in college, and I haven’t seen her in eight years. And spare me the “hyper-awareness does not equal intimacy!” spiel, because the thing is, I can call OR write OR text her. Whenever I want. Can you? Of course not, Grouch, you still think a tweet is just a bird call.
  3. Thank you locavores. Even though I make fun of you, even though I haven’t read Omnivore’s Dilemma, and even though it’s a fairly elitist movement complete with stupid things like celebrity butchers, which indeed suggests that our culture hasn’t achieved gastronomic balance at all, but simply replaced its mindless consumption of Big Macs and blood bananas with an entitled fetish for organic swiss chard and single-origin coffee beans — STILL. It’s cool people care about where their foods come from. For the world’s ecology, for the local economy, for personal health and for taste’s sake, it matters. And how cool that we’re starting to care.
  4. Thank you Obama for (pay attention, dear reader) conclusively proving that my generation isn’t passive, bored, boring, disconnected, apolitical, and, in short, doesn’t suck. Which is something many grouches have felt terribly fashionable proclaiming for the last ten years. Can middle-aged white men stop using the Times editorial page to hand down judgments like, “Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall,” please? Your arguments are just that: old-fashioned. And you’re only convincing yourself.
  5. Harry Potter, the death of bell bottom jeans (again), the burgeoning availability of cheap travel, Jurassic Park on something hardier than VHS tapes, and the fact that I have aged ten years away from listening exclusively to boy bands and bubblegum pop.

Thank you, aughts, and hello, twenty-teens, a brave new world that will hopefully contain as much messy, delicious fun as its first night.

What are some of your aught thanks?

the district’s new italian; also, ciao 2009

About week ago, my molto raffinata and enviably employed friend Ali suggested we have dinner at Bibiana, a new (!!!) Italian restaurant at H and 12th. “New (!!!)” because even though I’ve left the DC area for more cosmopolitan stomping grounds, I can still feel in-the-know gastronomically (if not geographically) when I come back, thanks to Ali and a few other college friends who winged south to DC for jobs. Also, to rekindle their appreciation of linear, grid cities like New York; none of these traffic circles and state avenues and other wretched city planning decisions. (Full disclosure: I got lost — twice — on the way to Bibiana. We also may or may not have spent the first glass of wine roundly abusing a city that can allow 1100 New York Avenue to exist in two different quadrants.)

Luckily for all involved, Bibiana is a treat. The restaurant itself is a low-lit, contemporary-minimalist space that emits sophistication, rather than jovial warmth. Not that it’s a cold, uninviting place — just don’t come hoping to discover your new neighborhood trattoria. This Italian is both authentic and a bit high-brow. If you can get beyond that (and you should), then start off with an order of meltingly sweet cipollini onions touched with agro dolce sauce.

The pasta dish above is their bucatini (hollow spaghetti! who knew?) tossed with guanciale, red onion, red chili, and pecorino. It was fascinating. Spicy in a way that pasta dishes usually aren’t, even arrabiata sauce, which at least is familiarly tomato-based. This was just oiled, al dente strands of bucatini with wedges of sauteed red onions and pig’s cheek bacon, dusted with cheese and tastily hot. Ali’s fish dish (sea bass??) was also quite nice, but tasted a bit too smoky. Is that bacon? Might be time to dial back the obvious enthusiasm for smoked pig.

And dessert — what a creation! We split their immediately intriuging butternut squash cheesecake (with pistachio crust and an amaretto anglaise, if you please!). The squash gave it a wonderfully rich flavor, not at all vegetable-y, and the cake itself was light, light, light. I’m not at all sure how one would recreate such a confection at home — and if we could, what would be the point of restaurants?

Oh what’s that you say, this is New Year’s Eve, too? Well it’s a dreadful, frigid, and soggy night here, but won’t that make the champagne all the brighter! Happiest to all, near and far.