Showing posts with label alcohol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label alcohol. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "You All Grow Up and Leave Me" by Piper Weiss, Served with a Fuzzy Navel Cocktail

Happy Wednesday! I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss, a book that mixes memoir with true crime. Accompanying my review is a Fuzzy Navel, a cocktail from my youth--inspired by a bottle of peach schnapps and the book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

A highly unsettling blend of true crime and coming-of-age memoir—The Stranger Beside Me meets Prep—that presents an intimate and thought-provoking portrait of girlhood within Manhattan’s exclusive prep-school scene in the early 1990s, and a thoughtful meditation on adolescent obsession and the vulnerability of youth.

Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, killed himself after a failed attempt to kidnap one of his teenage students. In the aftermath, authorities discovered that this well-known figure among the Upper East Side tennis crowd was actually a frightening child predator who had built a secret torture chamber—a “Cabin of Horrors”—in his secluded rental in the Adirondacks.
Before the shocking scandal broke, Piper had been thrilled to be one of “Gary’s Girls.” “Grandpa Gary,” as he was known among his students, was different from other adults—he treated Piper like a grown-up, taking her to dinners, engaging in long intimate conversations with her, and sending her special valentines. As reporters swarmed her private community in the wake of Wilensky’s death, Piper learned that her mentor was a predator with a sordid history of child stalking and sexual fetish. But why did she still feel protective of Gary, and why was she disappointed that he hadn’t chosen her?
Now, twenty years later, Piper examines the event as both a teenage eyewitness and a dispassionate investigative reporter, hoping to understand and exorcise the childhood memories that haunt her to this day. Combining research, interviews, and personal records, You All Grow Up and Leave Me explores the psychological manipulation by child predators—their ability to charm their way into seemingly protected worlds—and the far-reaching effects their actions have on those who trust them most.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 10, 2018)

My Review:

I love memoirs and I find true crime fascinating so I immediately wanted to read this book and be on the TLC Book Tour even though I only had a vague recollection of the Gary Wilensky case. I was in my late twenties, across the country, and focused on other things when in 1993, Wilensky attempted to kidnap a seventeen-year-old former tennis student and when he failed, killed himself. I had little in common with New York's Upper East Side teens and their lifestyles and private schools and tennis coaches. Piper Weiss, however, was in the middle of it all, a fourteen-year-old student of "Grandpa Gary" who was confused reconciling that Gary with the friend, mentor, and one of the few "adult allies" in her life. Also confusing for her--both then and today, are her feelings of being let down, that she wasn't the focus of Gary's so-called love. 

You All Grow Up and Leave Me vacillates primarily between 1992-93 and 2014-16 and Weiss paints a picture of growing up on the Upper East Side where many people including Weiss's mother believes is the "safe" part of New York City. With prep schools and privilege and parents focused on getting their children the best help to stand out and be successful, it seems all to easy for Gary Wilensky to insinuate himself into society and become a successful tennis coach. Because of word of mouth and his own marketing skills, no one looked closely at his background and parents gave him access, often too much, to their daughters. It wasn't until his obsession with one of "Gary's Girls" made her uncomfortable that his behavior escalated into dangerous. Piper Weiss does a good job of building Gary's background and history--although I wouldn't have minded more information on him and the actual crime. I found myself pulling up some of the articles the Weiss mentioned to learn more, but really this story is Piper's--at least in this book. 

Piper's story is both relatable and not. While her personality, family, and lifestyle were very different from mine, I think most anyone who is or was a teenage girl has had that feeling of not quite fitting in, being judged--by yourself, your friends, the boys you like, and wanting to be special and to be loved. I found myself at times both wanting to hug her and give her a shake. Both she and Gary Wilensky had (in her case, still has) their obsessions, but his came out in a chilling attempted crime and death by his own hand, while Weiss exorcises her demons by seeking to understand them and writing about them. She writes honestly, often poignantly, sometimes with dark humor, and in a way that is a bit unsettling--the memoir-leaning parts are a bit like looking into a teenager's diary and seeing more than you might have wanted to know. This book won't be for everyone, but I think it could lead to some interesting discussion. I found it unique and compelling and well worth reading. 


Author Notes: Piper Weiss has served as editor in chief at Levo, editorial director for HelloGiggles, and features editor for the New York Daily News and Yahoo. She is the author of the book My Mom, Style Icon and has written for various publications, including Hazlitt, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,, and Refinery29. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Find out more about Piper at her website, and connect with her on Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

You All Grow Up and Leave Me is full of candy and treats, alcohol and restaurant meals. In the nineties it's things like Whatchamacallit candy bars, Diet Coke, Red Vines, Sour Patch Kids and Gummy Bears. There are Mallomars and Sleepytime Tea, Tasti-D-Lite frozen dessert, spray butter, Diet Cokes, Zimas, pizza, and Fuddruckers. There are pigs-in-a-blanket, home-cooked meatloaf, carrots, roast chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and rye toast. Two decades later in present day it's a baba ganoush sandwich, boiling pasta, Genesee and whiskey shots, and Amatrician di tonno. There were popovers with strawberry butter from the Popover Cafe that I thought about replicating, but ultimately it was a bottle of peach schnapps that provided the inspiration for my food (or drink) pairing.  

(p.103) "We sit on the floor facing a lit closet full of wine bottles. There are handles of vodka and gin, a blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire, a bottle of my father's Crown Royal preserved in its velvet bag. Forget those. We go for a dusty brown jug of peach schnapps. I first discovered it years ago when my mother rubbed a schnapps-soaked Q-tip on a sore on my tongue. The taste--syrupy, pungent, buzzy--was everything ice cream had been missing. 

This is my bottle, the one my parents have forgotten about, and we swig from it before returning to my room to stash a mess of clothes in my closet. We take one last look in the mirror, first at ourselves, then at one another.

So at first I was going to make a Sex on the Beach cocktail (vodka, cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and orange juice) as it was mentioned a few pages later in the book but although I could relate to peach schnapps being Piper's introduction to alcohol, I came of age a decade earlier when Fuzzy Navels were popular and a simple, tasty cocktail to make for use underage and new to drinking--just get a hold of a bottle of peach schnapps and a gallon of orange juice and you were set. I decided that my book-related cocktail would have to be a Fuzzy Navel since I don't think I've had one in decades and I happened to have a bottle of peach schnapps leftover from when I got some to add to this Peach Iced Tea. ;-)

There are recipes all over for Fuzzy Navels--many call for equal parts of the orange juice and peach schnapps, but since I was day-drinking yesterday afternoon I went with more orange juice. Usually it goes into a highball glass but I liked the way it looked in my favorite orange fish glass with matching straws.  

Fuzzy Navel 

3 oz Peach Schnapps, or more to taste
6 oz orange juice (I like it pulpy)
orange slice to garnish

Place ice, Peach Schnapps, and orange juice into a cocktail shaker and shake and strain into a highball glass or glass of choice. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy.

Notes/Results: A classic that takes me back to my youth. It's sweet but refreshing with the orange juice. Some people hate pulpy orange juice. I like it and I like how it adds a bit of 'body' to the drink--but you do you and use whatever orange juice and amount of schnapps you like. Yesterday was vacillating between rainy and sunny here and this drink makes me think of sunny, breezy days. I will make this again. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Wild Inside" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Cook the Books February/March Pick: "The Discovery of Chocolate" by James Runcie

It's Cook the Books time and our February/March food-filled pick is The Discovery of Chocolate, a novel by James Runcie, selected and hosted by Simona of briciole. As usual, I am sneaking in close to the wire for the deadline. It was worth the procrastination though because it helped me discover a fabulous Ina Garten recipe for Chocolate-Orange Mousse, both as my book-inspired dish and as a proper send-off to Ina as the featured chef for another blogging group, I Heart Cooking Clubs.

The Discovery of Chocolate is part history lesson in the origins of chocolate, part time-travel story, and part romance novel. It's quite a fantastical story following Diego De Godoy, a young notary to Emperor Charles V of Spain, who is sent to The New World in 1518 to return with a fortune and a unique and precious gift for his betrothed. It covers many centuries, countries and places that chocolate traveled to and evolved from as Diego looks for love and meaning in life. 

It took me a while to get into the book. I wasn't particularly fond of Diego from the start as he is young, selfish, and not that appealing. In fact, my favorite character turned out to be Pedro, his loyal greyhound. (I will never look at Hershey's kisses without thinking of Pedro). I do like time travel and I adore chocolate and learning about food history, so eventually the story kicked in more for me as Pedro finds himself living a very long life and wandering with Pedro from Mexico to Paris and then on to Vienna, England and America. While on his travels, Diego has brushes with many diverse historical figures such as Montezuma, the Marquis de Sade, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Milton Hershey--which was entertaining and fun--although at times maybe a bit too much. Diego does grow some during his journey, but he never quite won me over completely. Besides Pedro, ;-) the food descriptions were my favorite part and the book is filled with them (see my Food Inspiration notes below). Overall, although I didn't love this book, I think if you are a foodie and a chocolate fan and don't mind a lot of fantasy in your historical fiction, it is an interesting and enjoyable read that will have you reaching for the nearest chocolate bar.

My molinillo [moh-lee-NEE-yoh] -- Mexican chocolate whisk/stirrer

Food inspiration:

As I am sure you can imagine, The Discovery of Chocolate is full of mentions of chocolate and dishes that include it as an ingredient like the chocolate drink chocolatl, hot chocolate, turkey with a mole sauce, chocolate mousse, Hershey's kisses, and wild hare in chocolate sauce. It is also chock full of other food inspiration including spices like pepper, nutmeg, cloves, sage, black pepper, aniseed, and cinnamon, as well as fish--dorado (aka mahi-mahi), tamarind and hibiscus, turkey, maize cakes, cherries, oranges, mango, pineapple, peppers, melons, tomatoes, avocado, papaya and passion fruit, figs, vanilla, chillies, rabbit, tortillas, tamales, lemon, honey, watermelons, menudo, empanadas, shrimp ceviche, chicken, guinea fowl, partridge, prickly pears, apricots, apricot preserves, brandy and other apricot delicacies--including Sacher-Torte. There is Chantilly Soup, braised oxtail, galantine of capon, miniature mushroom tartlets, herrings in oatmeal, caviar blinis, hard-boiled eggs with whipped cream, truffles and Madeira wine, chicken liver omelettes with six eggs and cognac, wood pigeon with chestnuts and cabbage, rabbit pie, lobster with beurre blanc, lemonade, red sorrel flower tea, lime marinated red snapper with coriander, vermicelli soup and gazpacho, seared cod with caramelized shallots, grilled calamari, steamed scallops with ginger, quail marinated with rosemary, bay leaves and garlic, guacamole between paprika toasted potato skins, stuffed green peppers with a walnut sauce, pumpkin-blossom quesadillas, and chorizo stew. 

I took my inspiration from the "excellent chocolate mousse" that Diego is offered after dinner on a ship with Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. According to Gertrude, "Alice makes a very good whip, with eggs, butter, chocolate, icing sugar, cream and Cointreau..." Although the mousse the waiter offers is made with coffee and adorned with rosettes of whipped cream and chocolate leaves and Alice's favorite mousse is "a chocolate mousse with passion fruit sauce and raspberry cream," I decided to go with a chocolate-orange mousse as a nod to a childhood memory that Diego relates about sitting in an orange grove looking down on the city of Seville. 

It also didn't hurt that I found a recipe for Chocolate-Orange Mousse from Ina Garten that sounded delicious and that I needed to make a Goodbye Ina! dish for I Heart Cooking Clubs as this week we end our six months of cooking a weekly recipe from her. I made a few changes to the recipe that I note in red below--mainly simplifying it and I switched out Ina's recommended Grand Marnier for the less expensive Patron as Deb's budget isn't as big as Ina's and this orange liqueur was about half the price and from Mexico--which fits in nicely with the story. Also, this recipe uses raw eggs--so do make sure that you can get eggs from a source you trust before you make it. I buy local eggs from my health store/co-op for anything where the eggs remain uncooked. 

Chocolate-Orange Mousse
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten & at
(Serves 6-8)

6 oz good semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier) (I used Patrón Citrónge Orange)

1 tsp grated orange zest
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature  

Whipped Cream:

2 Tbsp sugar
dash pure vanilla extract

Combine the 2 chocolates, orange liqueur, 1/4 cup water, and the vanilla in a heat-proof bowl. Set it over a pan of simmering water just until the chocolate melts. Cool completely to room temperature. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined.

Place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick and pale yellow. With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate mixture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place 1 cup of egg whites (save or discard the rest), the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Beat on high speed until firm but not dry. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then fold the rest in carefully with a rubber spatula.

Without cleaning the bowl or whisk, whip the heavy cream and the remaining tablespoon of sugar until firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into individual dishes or an 8-cup serving bowl. Chill and decorate with whipped cream and oranges. Serve with extra whipped cream on the side.

Whipped Cream:
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don't over-beat, or you'll end up with butter!
Deb's Notes: I halved the recipe because I did not need that much chocolate mousse and its respective calories--although I still ended up with 4 coffee cups worth of mousse, plus enough for an espresso cup. I am also a bit (OK, a lot!) lazy so I shortened/combined a couple of steps like melting my chocolate mixture in the microwave and making up all of my whipped cream at once, then folding part of it into the mousse and putting the rest into a pastry bag for piping onto the mousse--seems unnecessary to whip twice. ;-) I also used my hand mixer for everything. When my old stand mixer gave out years ago, I never replaced it. I have a tiny kitchen and limited counter and storage space and don't bake a lot, so my hand mixer gets me through pretty well. I still ended up with fluffy, airy mousse and whipped cream. Finally, Ina garnished with canned Mandarin slices and whipped cream and I found an orange jellie candy from Spain that I sliced into triangles to top my mousse, along with a sprinkle of cacao nibs.  

Notes/Results: As a rule, I like my chocolate mousse to be pure chocolate, maybe with a little espresso mixed in to add to the richness of flavor, but I really enjoyed the orange in this one--it is present but doesn't overpower the chocolate.The mousse is rich and decadent but light and silky smooth. I ended up with more mousse than I need but I am sure I'll have no problem in eating it. An excellent Ina Garten dish to go out with, I'd happily make it again.

Speaking of Ina recipes, it's customary for me to post my favorite recipes from the outgoing IHCC chef. We start cooking with Chef Eric Ripert next week, but I had lots of wins with Ina these past six months. These five (in no particular order) were my favorites:

This post is linking up several different places:

First to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's our March Potluck and Goodbye to Ina Garten as we move on to Chef Eric Ripert.

The Discovery of Chocolate is my third foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the March 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

The deadline for this round is on Saturday, March 31, and Simona will be rounding up the entries on the CTB site soon after. If you missed this round and love food, books, and foodie books, join us for April/May when we will be reading Shark's Fin and Sichaun Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, hosted by yours truly here at Kahakai Kitchen


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hiddensee" by Gregory Maguire, Served with a Recipe for Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost) and Pear Toast with Pomegranate & Toasted Walnuts

Someone reminded me that it was just under six weeks to Christmas. Yikes! Today's stop on the TLC Book Tour of Hiddensee, (the new fantasy book by Greogry Maguire that brings the story of the toy maker that carved the Nutcracker to life) has some obvious ties to the holidays--like the famous Nutcracker Ballet that is a tradition for so many. I'm pairing today's book review with a snack (afternoon please--there is alcohol!) of Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost) and Pear Toast with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts--two dishes that would be more than welcome at the holiday table.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .

Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.

Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann– the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier– the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet– who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults– a fascination with death and the afterlife– and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)

My Review: 

I jumped on this tour when I saw that Gregory Maguire was adapting the story of the Nutcracker both because of the story subject and because I hadn't picked up a Maguire book in a few years. I was a big fan of Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and I liked Mirror Mirror and Lost, but although I own them, I just never got around to reading his other works--something I intend to do one of these days.

Hiddensee is similar to the other books in that it is a secondary character that takes the lead and the bulk of the storytelling. In this case, rather than focusing on the Nutcracker, or even Klara, it is the toy maker, Herr Drosselmeier who presents the Nutcracker to Klara on Christmas Eve. Hiddensee leans to the darker side, as Maguire stories tend to do and takes us to the forbidding deep woods where the young Dirk was a foundling, raised by a woodcutter and his wife. It's not a happy childhood, nor is how he leaves it and goes out into the world, but his story is for the most part interesting (a few chapters dragged a bit for me), as is how the Nutcracker came to be and how he ended up as a gift to a young girl.

If you go into Hiddensee expecting lots of dancers and sugar plum fairies or even much of a Christmas story, you will be disappointed but if you enjoy a quirky, slightly dark story that aligns with Grimm's Fairy Tales and Germanic folklore you will likely get caught up in Dirk Drosselmeier's journey. Although it didn't win my heart as much as Wicked or Ugly Stepsister, I think it is a worthy addition to my Maguire collection. (And I do have to say that I love both the paper jacket--which is gorgeous and the printed book underneath--which is creepy/cool--check out the last picture of the post for a glimpse.)  


Author Notes: Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes WickedSon of a WitchA Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
Find out more about Maguire at his website and follow him on Facebook.


Food Inspiration:

There was a good amount of food in Hiddensee and it provided plenty of inspiration with things like mushrooms, ale, bread, chicken, sausage, stew, potatoes, lots of bread and cheese, red apples, figs, venison, carrots in honey, noodle pudding, sweet cakes,  pastries with gooseberry jam, wurst with soft yellow cheese, veal stew, potato dumplings, strudel, onions, shelled beans, strawberries, sauerbraten, black cherry conserve, bread dumplings, headcheese, pomegranates and walnuts, schnapps, gingerbread, fesenjan (Iranian stew), baklava, raspberry pastry, pork and apples, pickled onions, sliced apples in honey, veal with lemons and carrots, and thin-shaven potato in vinegar, boiled sweets,steamy aromatic cider, chicken and olive soup, pear toast and biscuits with honey icing, cabbage with fennel seed and caraway, soup, fish, whipped eggnog and pfeffernusse.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to combine a few things. First "a cup of cider, aromatic and steamy" is given to Drosselmeier sounded so good that I decided to make a mulled hard cider. Then young Klara imagines a café where on the menu is "...chicken and olive soup. Also some pears on toast. And what else. Some biscuits with honey icing." I thought it would be fun to do the pears on toast but add some pomegranates and walnuts to it--as both play a role in the story and to use labne (yogurt cheese) as a base and drizzle it with honey. Together with the mulled hard cider, it makes a nice snack to enjoy with a good book.

There were a few different recipes online for Mulled Hard Cider (I learned it is called Glühmost and is more popular in South Germany and Austria, consumed in the winter months as a changed from mulled wine). The recipe that I liked best is from a blog called The Kitchen Maus where the blogger used to (she's been on maternity leave since last year) has a passion for making authentic German recipes. She has a good write up on it that I encourage you to read. I kept her recipe ingredients mostly the same--just making a few small changes to her quantities to my tastes and noted in red below. 

Mulled Hard Cider (Glühmost)
Slightly Adapted from Diony at
(Serves about 4)

4 cups (or two 16oz cans) of Dry Hard Cider (I used 3 12-oz bottles Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider)
4 slices of lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves (optional--I omitted)
2 star anise
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled
(I added 1 cup apple cider) (optional)
honey to taste (I used 2 Tbsp)
1/3 cup of Orange Juice (optional)

Place all ingredients except for orange juice into a medium saucepan and bring to a low simmer over medium-high heat--being careful not to boil--so the alcohol remains. Reduce heat to low and let cider steep about 20 minutes. add the orange juice a few minutes before it's finished and allow it to warm up.

Pour the cider through a sieve and discard solids. Serve hot, garnishing with extra lemon slices, apple slices, star anise and/or cinnamon sticks as desired. 

Pear Toast with Pomegranate & Walnuts
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 as a snack)

2 pieces thickly-sliced good bread (I used cranberry-walnut bread)
3 Tbsp labne, yogurt, ricotta or cream cheese (I used labne)
1 ripe pear of choice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp walnuts, toasted & chopped
2 Tbsp pomegranate arils/seeds

Toast bread until lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes and spread with labne (or yogurt, ricotta, cream cheese...)

Core and thinly slice pear and brush the slices with lemon juice. Layer pear slices on top of toast and drizzle with the honey.

Sprinkle tops of toast with chopped toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds and serve. 

Notes/Results: I may have to swap out my hot mulled apple cider tea for Glühmost. With the hard cider, it reminds me a bit of a warm apple shandy. Comforting and delicious with the cinnamon, star anise, ginger and lemon. Since the hard cider available to me is fairly sweet and I used both apple cider and orange juice, I reduced the amount of honey and it was a good level of sweetness for me. The pair toast was delicious--a nice alternative to my usual savory avocado toast--but not too sweet due to the fruit and tang of the labne. I will definitely make both of these again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Hiddensee" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Way to London" by Alix Rickloff, Served with a Gin Rickey

I'm happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Way to London by Alix Rickloff, a WWII historical fiction novel. I am pairing today's review with a crisp and refreshing cocktail, a classic Gin Rickey, inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of Secrets of Nanreath Hall comes this gripping, beautifully written historical fiction novel set during World War II—the unforgettable story of a young woman who must leave Singapore and forge a new life in England.

On the eve of Pearl Harbor, impetuous and overindulged, Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever.

Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers, Lucy never dreamed that she would be one of the last people to escape Singapore before war engulfs the entire island, and that her parents would disappear in the devastating aftermath. Now grief stricken and all alone, she must cope with the realities of a grim, battle-weary England.

Then she meets Bill, a young evacuee sent to the country to escape the Blitz, and in a moment of weakness, Lucy agrees to help him find his mother in London. The unlikely runaways take off on a seemingly simple journey across the country, but her world becomes even more complicated when she is reunited with an invalided soldier she knew in Singapore.

Now Lucy will be forced to finally confront the choices she has made if she ever hopes to have the future she yearns for.

Paperback: 384 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 19, 2017)

My Review

World War II-set historical fiction is my jam. Between book reviews and on my own, I have read or listened to about ten for the year so far. What drew me to jump on the tour for The Way to London was that they main character has been living in Singapore for the past few years and having spent time there for work years ago, I am always looking for books set there. Although we don't spend long in Singapore before Lucy is banished to London for the indiscretion of a romance with the son of one of her stepfather's local business contacts, it's always nice to read about the Raffles Hotel and other places I recognize.   

Beyond the initial Singapore location, I didn't settle into the story in The Way to London  easily--mainly due to the main character who is not immediately likable. She is spoiled, defensive, and has trouble controlling her impulses--especially when it comes to things that will annoy her distant socialite mother and lecherous stepfather. It is the interactions with these characters that made me thaw to Lucy--it becomes more than understandable what drives her behaviors. Once Lucy arrives in the English countryside to her aunt's estate (taken over by the government for use as a hospital/rehabilitation center for soldiers) she meets 12-year-old truant Bill Smedley, escaping back to London to find his mother. Lucy, wanting to get there herself in hopes of getting to America to start a new life by finding an acquaintance staying there on his way back to Hollywood, sets off with Bill and her experiences on the road with him begin to change her. With these changes, she becomes a better person and I found myself rooting for her happiness and on board with the rest of the book. There is romance, but the heart of the story is about growing up and Lucy's coming of age and it is well told. There is a good balance of humor (Bill especially is a pip and once Lucy grew on me I appreciated her wit and sarcasm more), some action, and a touch of poignancy--although coming off of a round of heavier books, I was happy that The Way to London leans to the lighter side of war historicals. Lucy and Bill have quite a journey and I was happy to travel along with them.

Author Notes: Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series, the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy, and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series.
Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.


Food Inspiration: 

Even though it's wartime, there are food and drink mentions in The Way to London including bacon and eggs, pickled onion, whiskey, bananas, cookies, coconuts, lemonade, scrambled powdered eggs, haggis, coffee, champagne, boiled cabbage, biscuits, haddock, cabbage and potato pie, beer, popcorn, boiled parsnips and cabbage,apples, tea, ham sandwiches, Coca Cola, chocolate bars, gum, cold martinis, extra jammy jam rolls, fish and chips, gingerbread, boiled eggs and toast, blackberry jam, a ham dinner, oysters, strawberry jam, beer, caviar, plum Charlotte, cottage pie, beans, soda bread, a recipe that replaced SPAM with cauliflower, peanuts, mushrooms, a picnic lunch of SPAM sandwiches and milk tea, an orange, currant roll, crisps, toast and margarine, beans on toast, bread pudding, egg and cress sandwiches, "carrolade" (a drink of carrot and rutabaga juice), real eggs and butter, mushy peas, eels, offal and sausage, finger sandwiches (ham, chicken and cheese), berries and scones with cream and jam, porridge and soft boiled egg, a cream bun, licorice all-sorts, steak, canapes, and chocolate millefeuille.  

There were also a few mentions of gin--usually in a gin rickey which seemed to be Lucy's drink of choice although gin gimlets were mentioned as well. Not really being inspired by most of the food, I decided to make a gin rickey as my book inspired dish. It sounded good in our warm and humid weather and it's been a crazy week again and a cocktail was definitely needed. I am not a huge gin drinker as a rule but I have a bottle of Tanqueray gin that needs using and I like the fact that a classic rickey has no added sugar.

The gin rickey was created back in the 1890s in a Washington DC bar called Shoomaker's and was named for democratic lobbyist named "Colonel" Joe Rickey (Here's a take on the history by Imbibe.) There are lots of recipes for them online, differing slightly in ingredients. I ended up going with the one below from Serious Eats. 

Gin Rickey
Recipe from
(Makes 1)

Fill a 10-ounce Collins glass with ice. Squeeze lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Toss in the lime shell, then add gin. Top off glass with club soda. 

The rickey doesn't need it, but if you like a sweeter drink, add splash of simple syrup. 

Notes/Results: Crisp, tangy and refreshing with that slightly bitter-in-a-good-way bite from the juniper in the gin. I can see why they were a favorite of the Lucy in the book. I liked it a lot as made as I tend to prefer a less sweet drink. I would happily order it or make it again.

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Way to London" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.