Wednesday, June 3, 2009

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Bookshelf: Sips & Apps

Should we finish off the beluga
or should we have
some smoked salmon and nibbly things?

~ Edina Monsoon
Absolutely Fabulous

Its cover notwithstanding, a books’ title does reveal something about what’s inside. Kathy Casey’s Sips & Apps trumpets its approach from the very first word. Who else other than those “in the biz” would refer to cocktails as “sips” or, more pointedly, to appetizers as “apps?”

The title lets you know that this writer—and, by extension, her readers—are busy and efficient people who simply don’t have time for superfluous syllables. Furthermore, Casey’s accomplishments listed in the back—celebrity chef, mixologist, TV and radio personality, author of nine cookbooks, founder of a food and beverage consulting firm, owner of cafes and a specialty food line—anchor the book firmly in the realm of multitasking food professionals. Those who aspire to emulate such professionals will find much to like here.

If your tastes run to Martha Stewart-style presentation, Sips & Apps is going to be right up your alley. The book is clearly laid out with straightforward instructions and some inspired recipes. Be warned, however, that a strong sense of precious pervades the pages, both in names and execution.

Take, for instance, the Lemon Meringue Puff cocktail with an actual baked meringue garnishing the drink. Or the Douglas Fir Sparkletini based on a Douglas fir-infused gin. Other than, perhaps, Kaiser Penguin, even the geekiest of cocktail geeks I know will balk at baking meringues for the sole purpose of floating on a cocktail.

And that…that sparkletini? The ingredients sound fine but its vapid “fun” name is deeply off-putting. Call the drink a Lumberjack and I’m much more likely to want one, even to make a batch myself. Check Casey’s instructions below and decide for yourself.

Overall, the recipes seem designed to elicit little gasps of pleasure and delight. Rather than say, a tailgate party, the appetizer recipes suggest special occasions such wedding receptions, bridal showers, gallery openings, and other catered events. Possibly holiday dinners, brunches, or cocktail parties that call for signature drinks and snacks.

Among the food recipes, highlights include lamb sliders on homemade rosemary buns; bacon, blue cheese & pecan cocktail cookies; sausage olive poppers, and croque monsieur puffs. Spiced nuts, salmon, and shrimp show up, too. Teriyaki chicken wings. So maybe, with a little retooling, there are some tailgate ideas here after all if I just loosen up and decide to make it…fabulous.

Who should score a copy? Sips & Apps makes a solid hostess gift for anyone who does even occasional entertaining at home. Your gay uncle or coworker could very well dig it. On the professional side, catering managers, bar managers, and anyone charged with developing a beverage program will appreciate the creative takes on familiar drinks (the Tuscan Rosemary Lemon Drop, Bistro Sidecar, or Grapefruit Negroni) as well as some more adventuresome (the Blue Thai Mojito, Strawberry Shag, or the Fortunella—simply a lychee-infused vodka garnished with a lychee).
Douglas Fir Sparkletini

1½ oz Douglas Fir Infused Gin (recipe follows)
¾ oz white cranberry juice
1½ oz fresh lemon sour (1:1 lemon juice and simple syrup)
Splash of brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
Garnish: tiny Douglas fir sprig and a fresh or frozen cranberry

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the infused gin, cranberry juice, and lemon sour. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and then top with a splash of Champagne. Garnish with Douglas fir sprig and float a cranberry in the drink.

Douglas Fir Infused Gin

1 bottle high-quality gin, such as Aviation
A 5 – 6" sprig Douglas fir branch, rinsed

Place Douglas fir branch into gin and let sit 24 hours. Then remove branch and discard.

Kathy Casey (2009)
Sips & Apps: Classic and Contemporary Recipes for Cocktails and Appetizers.
Photos by Angie Norwood Browne
Chronicle Books
ISBN 978-0-8118-6406—0

Goes well with:


Anonymous said...

"Your gay uncle or coworker could very well dig it."

Because all gay men like to make dainty little nibbles and foo-foo drinks with cute garnishes from pretty books like this? Really?

Matthew Rowley said...

Nah, because I'm gay and I know that most of my gay friends who drink (they don't all) would actually enjoy the book because they're more open to dainty while a lot of my straight friends would be less inclined to dive into it. And I like to rib them. Just a bit.

Anonymous said...

Fair, enough, Mr. Rowley. But I know plenty of straight *hosts* who'd probably appreciate a book like this (god knows I wouldn't).


Trid said...

I can do ya one better on the Douglas Fir gin...howzabout Douglas Fir Eau-de-vie?
(at the bottom)
I've got a bottle iffn's you're up for some 'speriments.

Matthew Rowley said...

Sir, are you proposing a batch of Lumberjacks? Even just a straight taste would be great.

I've seen that BevMo has the Douglas Fir EdV for about $50 a bottle. I've been mightily curious for about two years, but haven't yet given into temptation to buy some. You're on.

Trid said...

I'm a lumberjack and I don't...oh, wait...

Whatcha doing this weekend?

Liquid Kitchen said...

HI Matthew - thank you for the fun review. I hope you'll make the douglas fir drink sometime - it really is good. I had to throw in a bit of a Northwest twist since I am a Seattle gal. Though I do like to slug straight whiskey too :-)
See you at Tales. Best wishes, Kathy

Matthew Rowley said...

Kathy ~

It was my pleasure. Thank you for all of the work you put into the book. I will do my best to say hello in person in New Orleans. And if you should happen to be serving any drinks spiked with Douglas fir, I would be more than happy to sample -- and you can even take my picture doing it. Cheers!