If Once You Have Slept on an Island

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dinner, Food, Food & Drink, Inspiration, Recipes, Savories, Travel

If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.
— Rachel Lyman Field

Eagle Island 1

The first time I stepped foot on Eagle Island, it was so foggy I could only see a few steps in front of me. My boyfriend (now husband) Aaron had been telling me about this island since we met—his most special place, his Disneyland, his Paris. We had traveled by plane, car and boat to get there. I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me, but the moment I stepped foot onto the shore, I understood that I was in a rare and magical place.

Eagle Island 2Eagle Island is only about a mile-and-a-half long by half-a-mile wide, but there are so many self-contained universes. There is a farmhouse in the middle of a big meadow, which is the hub of the island; a forest that has mysterious fairy bowers hidden throughout the trees, which no one lays claim to; an old schoolhouse from the 1800s that has not been touched inside for more than half a century; a small, but beautiful, cemetery; a lighthouse; a tiny post office; and a handful of gasp-inducing beaches so cinematic that they make you want to spontaneously burst into a rousing sea shanty.

Eagle Island 3The quiet splendor of this island rivals any great city I’ve ever been to, but what makes Eagle Island so special is that you feel like it belongs to you. You have to try hard to come in contact with other people here, so you can have the rare experience of not battling crowds, not angling for a better view or a perfect spot on the beach. You can just be still. You can listen to the sounds of insects buzzing. You can smell the ocean and feel the breeze on your skin. It’s not often we can be truly alone in beauty, and the island is restorative in ways other places can never be. The island belongs to you and you belong to it, and it’s a relationship you don’t take lightly. You want to nestle into her and whisper, “Your song is heard. Your people are dear to me, too. I will keep your secrets.”

Eagle Island 4Only a handful of people own cottages on the island, but there are many cottages of all different sizes that are available for rent. There is the Doll House, which is adorably tiny, all the way up to the Hill House, which has six bedrooms. The cottages have a cozy, vintage vibe that you usually only see in magazines meticulously curated by a dozen city people who may never have even been to an island. Treena and Krista are your island hostesses, and their bohemian loveliness is sprinkled over everything.

Eagle Island 5Aaron and I were able to spend a week on Eagle in August and we had, as always, the most wonderful time. The first several days were foggy, but warm, and the mist gave the island a dreamy New England feel. Then the weather changed and everything was sun-dappled and beautiful with seagulls singing in the sky and sailboats gliding through the sea. It’s hard to believe, but on an island with so few people, we had a very active social calendar. We had friends over for dinner, ate fresh lobster caught that day, and ended the evening with a sing-along. On another night, we went to Krista’s cabin for dinner and watched one of the best sunsets I have ever seen. Another night was a surprise cocktail party for Aaron’s moms’ anniversary. We were also invited to a lovely brunch, took long walks followed by long naps, had an impromptu lunch at the farmhouse where Krista whipped up the most delicious pasta with kale picked from the garden, read, and even made a short horror movie. We did everything and nothing and every second was grand.

Eagle Island 6

Several years ago, after visiting the island for more than 25 years, Aaron’s moms built a cottage on the island. Actually, they call it a cabbage—part cabin, part cottage. It’s warm and inviting and filled with laughter and music and has the most glorious view of the ocean. I love to sit out on the deck with the family, talking, drinking wine and watching the sunset. Even as we chat about this or that, we are each in the moment, recognizing the specialness of where we are, knowing how lucky we are to be able to sleep on an island—Eagle Island—and aware that none of us will ever be the same.

Eagle Island 7
KRISTA’S EAGLE ISLAND KALE PASTA

INGREDIENTS
I lb. penne pasta
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
2 bunches kale, cut from the ribs and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup salty, pitted green olives
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
4 Tbsp. (or to taste) Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (you can substitute soy sauce)
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium low heat. Add kale and garlic and sauté until kale is soft, making sure not to brown garlic, about 7-10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium, add cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, red pepper flakes (if using) and Bragg’s Aminos and sauté 5 more minutes, until tomatoes are soft and heated through. Stir in basil and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook penne in lots of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add kale mixture and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and serve. Makes 6 servings.

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Eagle Island

 

If you’d like to rent a cabin on beautiful Eagle Island, please contact Treena and Krista at Eagle Island Rentals.

 

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This Galette Is Plum Delicious

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

Galette 1We at The Swoon Society like to eat and we love making food for friends. I made this fantastic plum galette for a dinner party last Saturday night. A galette is basically an open-faced pie where you pile the ingredients into the center of a pie crust and then fold the edges over the filling and—voilà—a quick, easy dessert that has so much damn rustic charm, your guests suspect you also churn your own butter.

When my husband Aaron proclaimed, “This is your best galette yet,” I knew I needed to share the love. Take it as your own, Swooners, and good luck with that butter churning.

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Galette 2PLUM GALETTE (adapted from Food & Wine magazine)

INGREDIENTS

Pastry:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water

Filling:
¼ cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp ground almonds or almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 ½ lbs plums, halved, pitted and cut into ½ slices
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ jar apricot preserves, slightly warmed

INSTRUCTIONS

Pastry:
Combine the 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ sticks of butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times (resist the urge to pulse more!). Add the ice water and pulse a few more times. You should still see chunks of butter in the dough. Gather dough into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16×18-inch circle about 1/8” thick. Roll dough around a rolling pin and transfer to a large, flat cookie sheet. Chill 30 minutes in the freezer (you can also make the night before, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the refrigerator). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Filling:
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of sugar with the ground almonds and flour and spread over the center of the pastry, leaving 2” around the edge. Arrange the plum slices in a decorative circular pattern, starting at the outside edge, and dot with the 3 small pieces of butter. Sprinkle all but 1 tsp of the 1/3 cup sugar over the plums. Gently fold the 2” edges of the pastry up over the fruit (if dough is too firm, let thaw about 10 minutes until pliable or it will break). Sprinkle the border with the remaining 1 tsp sugar.

Bake the galette on the middle rack in the oven for about an hour. The crust should be nicely browned. If any juice has leaked out onto the baking sheet, slide a knife under the galette to prevent it from sticking. Brush the apricot preserves over the fruit and crust. Let cool to room temperature and serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.

God Save the Cocktail

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits

It seems like every time I turn around there is a new artisan product: artisan cheese, artisan beer, artisan chocolate, even artisan water (really, Whole Foods, with your asparagus water?). One of the most intriguing artisanal products I’ve come across in the past several years has been craft bitters.

God Save the Cocktail 1Back in the days of our parents’ cocktail parties, there was only good old Angostura, but now there are thousands of different craft bitters being made around the world. Bitters started out as medicinal—usually a mixture of spices, roots, bark, seeds, flowers, and fruit peels infused into alcohol. They were used as a digestive aid or as medicine, but eventually were added, by the dash, as a flavoring for cocktails. According to Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas, bitters gained popularity in Colonial America, although there is evidence they were being used in cocktails in England in the early 1700s. The complexity bitters add to a drink is what separates an average cocktail from an inspired work of sipable art—the one where you keep taking little slurps trying to discern all the different layers of flavor that are making your mouth sing, and you feel absolutely justified spending $16 on the dang thing.

God Save the Cocktail 2When I first started noticing this onslaught of bitters, I wanted to try them all…lavender, tangerine, cardamom, celery…but soon there were so many, even my fetishy delight at all the little apothecary bottles was replaced with an overwhelming sense of panic: How will I track down all the other special ingredients in these recipes? Do I know enough people who will come over and try these varied and complicated drinks? Do I really need a muddler? Will I need to start dressing in only pre-prohibition clothing and seek out friends with handlebar mustaches? Dizzy with all these quandaries, I gave up and stuck to my go-to bitter-infused cocktail—the dependably delicious Manhattan—put on some Cab Calloway and called it a day.

Recently, I read a blurb in a magazine about bitters from a company called Cocktail Punk, whose goal is to “create compelling accents for the modern cocktail…simple yet devious. They are perfect in classic cocktails but were really designed for the cocktails that haven’t been invented yet.” I liked their renegade spirit and their chubby dropper bottles with their simple labels—elegant, but with a Vivienne Westwood snark. I promptly ordered*:

God Save the Cocktail 3CHERRY BITTERS – A cherry bomb, targeted directly at (your) Manhattan. Vibrant cherry, a hint of vanilla, and subtle spice complements the oak flavors in dark spirits, but the flavor profile is simple enough to use wherever a touch of cherry is needed. You’ll never need a barspoon of syrup from the Luxardo jar again.

SMOKED ORANGE BITTERS – Smoked Orange is the new black. Orange zest is cold-smoked with alderwood, and the result is smoky but not overly intense; a finishing touch of mint adds interest. Built for and absolutely killer in tequila and mezcal drinks, but there are also unexpected and wonderful effects in combination with darker spirits.

MORNING GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS – Zesty grapefruit flavors, but with a pronounced aromatic backbone and a touch of juniper. Inspired by an eccentric uncle who enjoyed the old Southern habit of a breakfast grapefruit half with sugar and bitters added. A seasonal bitters made only in peak grapefruit season.

God Save the Cocktail 4I received the Cocktail Punk bitters in the mail, happily opening the box to reveal my prize. I quickly got to work on making a Manhattan with the Cherry bitters. They were right, I didn’t need any Luxardo syrup to achieve a perfectly balanced cherry kick. I did, however, enjoy a few Luxardo cherries thrown in along with a twist of orange. Heaven. I tried the Smoked Orange bitters in an Aperol Sour and received a satisfying amount of praise from Kirsten and Aaron (Aperol is an Italian bitter orange aperitivo similar to Campari). I will be making these on the regular. Finally, I tried the Morning Grapefruit bitters in a simple Greyhound. I quote the first Sharknado when I say, “’Nuff said!”

I’m looking forward to inventing some of my own cocktails using Cocktail Punk’s bitters. And I might trade in the Cab Calloway for some Clash or Fear. I still don’t have any friends with handlebar mustaches, but I have plenty of friends who like punk, so I’m not bitter.

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God Save the Cocktail 5CLASSIC MANHATTAN

¾ oz sweet vermouth
2 ½ oz bourbon
few dashes of Cocktail Punk Cherry bitters
Several Luxardo cherries
1 twist of orange peel

Place cherries in a chilled cocktail glass. Stir together vermouth, bourbon and bitters with ice in a mixing glass until cold, trying not to bruise the spirits. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub edge of the orange peel over rim and twist over the drink to release the oils, discard. Makes 1 drink.

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God Save the Cocktail 6APEROL SOUR

1 ¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup (recipe below)
few dashes Cocktail Punk Smoked Orange bitters

SIMPLE SYRUP

2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar

Simmer sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 1 cup.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

God Save the Cocktail 7.
GREYHOUND

1 ½ oz gin (or vodka)
5 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
few dashes Cocktail Punk Morning Grapefruit bitters
1 twist of grapefruit peel

Pour ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice and stir to combine ingredients. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel. Makes 1 drink.

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Cocktail Punk

 

The book Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Aperol can be found at BevMo and most liquor stores. You can purchase Luxardo cherries from Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

*Descriptions of bitters from the Cocktail Punk website.

Nice Bundts

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Sweets

In our health- and weight-obsessed culture, I find it amusing how often people feel the need to tell me about the desserts that don’t tempt them. Either they’ll mention that they have no desire for sweets—in which case I know immediately that we can never be friends—or they’ll say, “I like ice cream, but I couldn’t care less about cookies.” Or, “I love fruit desserts, but I can walk away from chocolate.” (Also not a candidate for friendship.) The one I hear most often is, “I have no interest in cake,” to which I respond, “Hello? Frosting.”

Nice Bundts 1Notwithstanding the whipped cream version (a betrayal!)*, I swoon over frosting. Vanilla buttercream on lemon cake, cream cheese frosting on carrot cake, chocolate ganache on anything—yes, please! Judging by the mountains I’ve seen atop bakery cupcakes and the increasing availability of frosting shots, I’m not alone. I have a friend who’s a talented cake decorator. She considered pursuing it as a career when her children were young, but decided to abandon it altogether when her daughter began to demonstrate an unhealthy obsession with frosting. The struggle is real.

A few years ago, a franchise of Nothing Bundt Cakes opened near my house and I began to receive coupons in the mail for a free Bundtlet. While I enjoy a good play on words, I might have chosen a different name for the chain, like Mind if I Bundt In?, A Bundt in the Oven, or the title of this post. I also have a touch of arachnophobia, and the ropes of frosting cascading down the sides of their Bundtlets remind me of nothing so much as the legs of a spider gripping its prey. Eek! Still, I’m not one to turn down a free offer of generously frosted cake, so I set out to redeem my coupon.

Nice Bundts 2There are some gift items for sale in the shop, but when it comes to the baked goods, it’s like the sign says. Kirsti’s guiding principle is: “Do one thing, do it well.” The shop carries only Bundt cakes in various sizes: 8″ and 10″ cakes, Bundtlets (single serving), and Bundtinis (bite-sized). All have the same cream cheese frosting. They come in a handful of flavors, including Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Red Velvet, and Cinnamon Swirl, with a special flavor every couple of months, but that’s as complicated as things get. I handed over my coupon and departed with my Bundtlet, feeling slightly guilty about getting “Nothing” for nothing.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have felt remorse, because it was clearly a well-thought-out plot to take my money. One bite of their signature frosting and I knew I was in trouble. The cake itself was quite good, baked to perfection and super m-word (I am forbidden from actually using that word on this blog, due to my co-swooner’s extreme aversion), but let’s be honest: cake is just a delivery system for frosting, and this frosting is superbly balanced in every way—soft and creamy, rich and buttery, sweet and tangy. I am gainfully employed and this shop is one mile from my house. You do the math (i.e. addition of pounds, subtraction of dollars).

Nice Bundts 3I regularly enjoy half a Bundtlet with my afternoon tea. The frosting-to-cake ratio is extremely satisfying, particularly if you let the cake reach room temperature so that the frosting becomes smooth and spreadable. Kirsti likes to offer a tray of Bundtinis on the dessert table when she’s having a party. Convenient and portable in their sturdy paper cups, they are just the right sweet bite to carry around as you mix and mingle. For my birthday a couple of years ago, I decided to invite people over for dessert, at which I served a 10″ Bundt cake. It was the best turnout I’ve had in years.

Visit the Nothing Bundt Cakes website to find a location near you and pop in for a sample. You can also follow them on Facebook or sign up on their website to receive updates about special promotions and coupons. Over time, this can save you a Bundtle—and that’s the icing on the cake.

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Nothing Bundt Cakes

 

*There are few things I can get more whipped up about than whipped cream frosting. If I don’t feel the grease on my lips, it isn’t frosting!

 

Bliss and Vinegar

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks, Starters, Sweets
Bliss and Vinegar 1

Traditional Style Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Sutter Buttes Olive Oil Co.

As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but a friend recently introduced me to one brand of vinegar that might just lure the flies away from the honey pot. Mika is a true foodie, so when she tells me she’s discovered a culinary treasure, I pay attention. On a trip to Northern California, she visited Sutter Buttes Olive Oil Co. and, though they are known for their olive oil (natch), Mika fell hard for their Traditional Style Aged Balsamic Vinegar. Having lived in Italy twice, she knows a swoon-worthy balsamic when she tastes one.

Bliss and Vinegar 2Balsamic vinegar (which contains no balsam and is not, strictly speaking, vinegar) has been produced in Italy for centuries, but it’s become so ubiquitous in recent years that many people don’t realize they are actually consuming a cheap imitation. That bargain bottle you scored at the market is probably inexpensive wine vinegar tarted up to look like the real thing. True balsamic vinegar comes only from Modena or Reggio Emilia in Italy, is aged anywhere from 12-100 years, and can be valued at hundreds of dollars a bottle.

Bliss and Vinegar 3Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a true Italian balsamic vinegar. Sutter Buttes imports theirs from Modena and it is thick, sweet, and delicious. Barrel-aged up to 18 years, it has the glossy color and silky texture of a balsamic reduction, with just enough tang and acidity to complement savory dishes. In addition to the classic combo of olive oil and vinegar as a dip for bread, it can be used in salad dressings, drizzled over fruit and cheese, or—my personal favorite—spooned over vanilla ice cream.

Sutter Buttes sells a variety of flavored balsamic vinegars, from Peach and Fig to Espresso and Vanilla, but I’m a purist. I favor the singular personality of their Traditional version. Whatever your preference, with such a diversity of choices at an exceptional price, you’ll soon be full of bliss and vinegar. Buon appetito!

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Sutter Buttes Traditional Style Aged Balsamic Vinegar

 

Violet Liqueur – The Bitter Truth Is Sweet

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes, Spirits, Travel
Violet Liqueur 1

Swooning over the ice cream in Provence.

When Kirsten and I were in the South of France several years ago, we both had the same defining food moment. We were in Les Baux and ordered violet ice cream from a perfect shop on a perfect cobblestone street. We had tasted rose ice cream before, and on the previous day in Aix-en-Provence we had tried lavender ice cream for the first time. But the moment the first glorious spoonful of violet ice cream hit our lips, we truly and completely swooned. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby defends Millicent at school (awesomely played by Melissa Sue Anderson). She kisses him in thanks and fireworks go off in his head and he is happily dazed by the experience. France is, of course, one of the best places on earth…the food, the wine, the country…but my greatest memory of that trip was the singular, purple-hued cup of violet ice cream. Both Kirsten and I agreed that it was the greatest thing we had ever tasted. Loving food the way we do, that is saying something. Our violet obsession had begun.

When we got back to the States, we spent years trying to find a violet extract that would allow us to relive that violet-infused moment, but, despite spending a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of money on violet flavorings, we haven’t been able to replicate that firework-inducing moment of bliss, particularly when it comes to cocktails.Violet Liqueur 2

I always love using floral flavors in cocktails. When St. Germain, the celebrated elderflower liqueur came out, I was over the moon with delight. When Shakers released rose-flavored vodka, I was making vodka tonics several times a week (it is sadly not available anymore). I have purchased about four different violet liqueurs, but none really had that true violet scent and flavor (although some of the bottles are super dreamy). And then I stumbled on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. The moment I read about it, I felt panic that I might not be able to find it, but Hi-Time Wine Cellars shipped it to me within three days of my order.

The first thing I noticed about it was the deeply purple color. My other violet liqueurs are varying shades of purple, but none has the color the website describes as “reminiscent of a full moon reflected on a river in the twilight.” That is some damn poetry! I opened the bottle and the scent brought me right back to that cobblestone street in Les Baux. I needed to mix this with some stuff and pour it into a fancy coup, stat!

Violet Liqueur 3My friend Melissa was coming over that weekend and I decided to make the classic Aviation cocktail. The first thing I noticed was the incredible color—it was like a goth dream. The second thing I noticed was that it smelled just like violets! Some floral flavorings can be so sickeningly sweet and overpowering, but this was just right. And then the taste…all I can say is—fireworks. Melissa doesn’t drink very often, but I think she enjoyed her fancy cocktail. I ended up having two drinks (it would have been a crime to let that boozy goodness go to waste) and floated in a delicious violet haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I guess we’ll never know if Bobby Brady would have seen fireworks if he tried The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. I’m sure Alice or maybe cousin Oliver would have saved him from the degenerate horror of underage drinking. But I bet that Greg would have dug it, surreptitiously sipping from Mrs. Brady’s martini glass in his fringed vest up in his groovy attic room, maybe even with a few of those cigarettes he was so fond of. Queue the laugh track while I pour myself another…Violet Liqueur 4

AVIATION COCKTAIL (courtesy of The Bitter Truth)

2 oz dry gin
¾ oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
⅓ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

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The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

 

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur can be purchased from Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Maraschino liqueur and dry gin are available at BevMo and most liquor stores.

 

All Hail Queen Victoria!

Author: Kirsten K., Literature, Magazines, Nostalgia

Victoria 1Tomorrow we say goodbye to spring and usher in the lazy months of summer. Every year, as we straddle these two seasons, I think of the Spring/Summer 1987 issue of Victoria magazine, the one that started it all.

I first encountered Victoria in the fall of 1987 when my mother passed on an issue that a friend had given her. I immediately swooned over the elegant fonts, feminine design, and dreamy photographs by Japanese photographer Toshi Otsuki. When I discovered that this was the second issue of the magazine, I quickly ordered a copy of the premier issue. I had no idea then that this was the beginning of an enduring romance.

Victoria 2The magazine’s mission statement could be summed up in a single line within the pages of that first issue: “A Return to Loveliness”. The editors stated that, “We have looked to the graceful, gracious days of the Victorian era as inspiration for Victoria—for that was the elegant time that brought loveliness to everyday American life.” As a modern-day American girl whose heart was in 19th-century England, I was hooked.

The magazine went from being published twice the first year, to seasonally, to bi-monthly, and finally to monthly in the fall of 1989. The first four issues said Good Housekeeping’s Victoria on the cover, but by the fifth issue it was simply called Victoria. On the cover of the May 1998 issue, the word “Bliss” appeared above the name and has continued to be used in the magazine and on special issues to this day.

Victoria 3Over the years, I have struggled to describe Victoria and how it makes me feel when I read it, but this one word—bliss—sums it up. It’s difficult to categorize the magazine: a mix of fashion and beauty, home and garden, cooking and entertaining, travel, literature, enterprising women, and so much more. There is such a wealth and variety of features in each slim issue that I can savor it over days or even weeks, instead of mere hours.

There have been three Editors-in-Chief of Victoria, each with her own personal style. Under the direction of founding editor Nancy Lindemeyer, Victoria was shamelessly feminine and romantic. When Peggy Kennedy took over with the November 2000 issue, the magazine took on a cleaner, more streamlined look and started featuring longer, in-depth articles on weightier topics. During her tenure, there was an unfortunate redesign of the logo and layout that didn’t seem too popular with readers (myself included), but the content was excellent.

Victoria 4By this time, Victoria had seen me through my difficult college years and was a beloved and constant friend, so I was horrified to discover in 2003 that the publisher, Hearst Corporation, had suddenly and inexplicably shuttered the magazine. After years of badgering Kirsti to subscribe, I’d finally decided to give her a gift subscription when I was told that the June 2003 issue would be Victoria’s last. Without any advance warning for the editors, there would be no farewell issue, no thank you to the loyal readers, no look back at 16 years of loveliness and bliss.

I was devastated. Victoria had been my port in the storm of modern life. Whatever ugliness I witnessed on the news or in the streets could be wiped away by a few minutes spent within the genteel beauty of its pages. I felt as though someone close to me had died.Victoria 5

In the ensuing years, I would regularly flip through my collection of back issues, but I lamented the fact that there would never be another new issue of Victoria. However, unbeknownst to me, there was someone else who felt as I did, and she was in a position to do something about it.

Victoria 6In the summer of 2007, I received a postcard in the mail with the words I never expected to read: Victoria was coming back! Phyllis Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman Media (which publishes Southern Lady magazine, among other titles), had been a huge fan of Victoria and took on the task of bringing it back to life, becoming the third and current Editor-in-Chief. In a true return to loveliness, Victoria resumed publication with the November/December 2007 issue. All was once again right in my world.

Victoria 7The magazine took a little while to regain its footing and become the Victoria I’d known and loved, but after almost eight years, it remains a familiar oasis of loveliness and bliss. The reincarnated Victoria has continued the traditions of a yearly Writer-in-Residence and Artist-in-Residence, as well as annual British- and French-themed issues and one devoted to women entrepreneurs. It is published bi-monthly, but there are special issues seasonally, such as Gardens of Bliss and Holiday Bliss—plenty to provide me with a regular dose of beauty and peace amid the chaos of a rapidly-changing world.

I swoon in my appreciation of Phyllis and all of the editors and contributors who have worked together over the years to deliver the gift of Victoria to its readers (they are Staff Worthy Of Our Notice). I hope you’ll discover the wonders of this magazine for yourself and join me in saying, “All hail Queen Victoria!”

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Victoria Magazine

 

Victoria is available on newsstands and in digital format for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Android devices. The first 208 issues of the magazine (from 1987-2012) can be found on the Victoria Complete Collection DVD, which features two searchable DVD-ROMs that are compatible with both Windows and Mac.

A Bouquet of Tea Roses

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea

Rose Tea 1I don’t remember exactly how I was first introduced to Davidson’s teas, but the moment I first tasted one of their rose varieties, I knew I would never forget it. I initially purchased their Valentine Tea to serve to a group of friends on Valentine’s Day. Like Kirsti, I love anything rose-flavored, so the thought of sipping “rich organic Indian white tea, sprinkled with lovely organic scarlet roses and lightly scented with fragrant rose oil” caused me to swoon with anticipation.

It is rare when something exceeds your expectations, but this tea was everything I’d hoped for and more. I could smell the sweet scent of roses before I’d even opened the bag, and the tea itself was beautiful with its profusion of dried rose petals. I watched each guest inhale the perfumed steam rising from her teacup, then sigh in pleasure after taking a sip. Befitting the occasion, everyone fell in love with this tea.

Afterwards, I sat with the Davidson’s catalog and compiled a wish list. I quickly discovered that they offer two other rose-flavored varieties: Jasmine Rose green tea and Rose Congou black tea. Rose Tea 2Since jasmine is one of my favorites, I ordered the Jasmine Rose, while Kirsti asked me to get her a pound of the Rose Congou (which she shared, good friend that she is). Both contain the same aromatic rose oil and dried rose petals as the Valentine Tea, while each has its own individual character.

The Valentine Tea is perfect for those times when I prefer a lighter tea without a lot of caffeine. I enjoy the Jasmine Rose in the afternoons, when the green tea provides a little pick-me-up and the blend of jasmine and roses reminds me of strolling through a sun-warmed garden. The Rose Congou is my choice in the morning when I want to start the day with a more intense, eye-opening brew. All three teas are organic and taste wonderful iced.

Spring may be here with summer on its heels, but you can enjoy a bouquet of tea roses at any time of year with this tempting trio. Pinkies up!

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Davidson’s Organic Valentine Tea
Davidson’s Organic Jasmine Rose Tea
Davidson’s Organic Rose Congou Tea

 

 

La Brie en Rose

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks, Starters, Sweets

There are some universally acknowledged foods that go together: chocolate and peanut butter, strawberries and champagne, French fries and ketchup, brie and rose petal jam. Haven’t tried brie and rose petal jam, you say? Well, ma chère, let me school you, because this taste sensation is going to change your life.

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Homemade rose cupcake

If you haven’t noticed yet, I am partial to anything rose flavored. I had my first encounter many years ago at the famous Hollywood ice cream shop Mashti Malone’s. The moment I tasted their rosewater ice cream, I was forever hooked on anything rose. I bought some rose extract and started adding it to frosting, cocktails, ice cream…my husband wasn’t thrilled, but I was! Rose, rose, rose! And more rose!

One day, I stepped into a local Armenian market in my neighborhood. I love finding treasures in tiny ethnic markets; you always find something delicious that you never heard of. La Brie En Rose 2When I saw the rose petal jam on the shelf, I honestly did swoon with delight. There were a few different types. Some were very light-colored with nearly transparent petals that floated inside the jar like clouds. Some were bright pink and thick. And others were somewhere in the middle. I bought one of each.

Once I got the jars of jam home, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I tried some on toast, but it was way too sweet and, even though the rose flavor was balanced and floral, toast was not the right foil. I tried making rose macarons, and used the rose petal jam as the filling. They tasted amazing, but the jam oozed out of them, making a rose-flavored mess.

La Brie En Rose 3Around this time, fig jam and quince paste was all the rage on a cheese platter. One day, as I was preparing my same old platter, the brainstorm hit. The moment I had my first cracker, brie, and jam bite, I knew I had found appetizer nirvana. The sweetness of the jam complemented the creamy richness of the cheese perfectly. Add the crunch of a cracker to that and, mon Dieu, you will be hearing angels singing Edith Piaf and your mouth with will be swirling with a bouquet of delicate and buttery flavors. You will have no other choice but to repeat this process again and again until all the jam and cheese are gone.

Rose petal jam is now a frequent guest on my cheese platters. I would put it on every platter, but I feel bad for my poor husband, who wishes I were obsessed with peanut butter or hot sauce instead. It also makes a great hostess gift. I prefer the darker jams, as they seem to have a more intense rose flavor, but you really can’t go wrong.

Give your heart and soul to me, o’ rose petal jam, and life will always be la vie en rose.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Rose Petal Jam

 

You can find many different brands of rose petal jam at Amazon.

 

Fig Hash or The Proper Way To Eat An Appetizer, In Society

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks, Starters, Sweets

Fig Hash 1The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that there is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled, four-petalled flower.

Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth on the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

(From Figs by D.H. Lawrence)

Figs are mysterious. A black teardrop with a dirty secret. Little orbs with a musty aroma and a strange but lovely flavor. They are the sex bomb of the fruit world. They also happen to be my secret weapon when I have a summer party.

We used to live in a house with a big fig tree. Our first year there, I was so excited to see the little green nubs appear early in the spring and watch them grow for many months until, around the end of July, the tree exploded with black, heavy, ripe fruit. In the span of a few days I had dozens of figs in the kitchen and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Even though I loved cooking and baking, I had never eaten a raw fig. I was intimidated, but excited to
fig-ure it out. (See what I did there?)

Fig Hash 2One day, Kirsten and a few other friends were coming over for a late afternoon hang out. I was going to cut up a few figs and put them on a cheese platter, but there were so many of them. I ended up quartering a bunch of those little beauties, putting them on a plate, crumbling blue cheese on top, drizzling honey over and topping them with some chopped pistachios. Fig hash was born! It was a huge hit. People would invite me over and then sheepishly ask if I could bring fig hash. Or, when I had friends over and the fig hash came out they would say, “Ohhh, we were hoping you were making that!” When we moved, we passed the recipe on to the new owners as sort of a legacy.

Fig Hash 3A platter of fig hash is not a dainty plate of crudité. It’s more like a gorgeous, sexy mess of sticky deliciousness. You could pass appetizer plates and forks and dish it up, but we normally open a bottle of rosé or sauvignon blanc, sit outside and dig in with our hands like savages.

When we moved into our new house a year ago, one of the first things we did was plant a fig tree. Just a few days ago, we got our first ripe fig. I could eat it in the proper way, splitting it in four, delicately tasting its glittering, rosy honey. But I think I will put my mouth on the crack and take out the flesh in one bite, the vulgar way.


FIG HASH

2 baskets of fresh figs (green or black, about 12-15 figs)
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Honey (about 2 TBSP)
2 TBSP roasted unsalted pistachios, chopped

Quarter the figs and put them on a platter. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the figs, drizzle with honey and top with the pistachios. Eat properly or vulgarly – your choice.