Great Gifts for the Home

Whether you want to spruce up your place with a new accessory or bring a gift to your host on the next visit, head over to Alex & Lorenzo, a cute little boutique on 1048 Lexington Ave between 74th and75th streets. Owner Kristen McLaughlin has packed the store with a delightful selection of items screaming with character and style. I could not resist this turquoise tray (photo), which had the added benefit of being the exact size as my ottoman. It’s great to use indoors or out. I plan to use it all summer long to dress up my gatherings.

Whisky Explorers Club: Scotch Lovers Unite

Douglas Stone has a passion for whisky, and knew he was not alone. He has created an online community where you can mingle with other afficianados and link to a myriad of blogs on the topic. If you are looking to experience limited editions and unusual tastes from around the globe, you must join the Whisky Explorers Club. The whiskies arrive in unmarked bottles wrapped in black sacks, so tasters must rely on only their senses for categorizing. Club members receive instructions on how to decipher each whisky's identity and can log-in to a special section on the site to contribute their tasting notes and reviews. Douglas is offering a discount to Hip Hostess NYC’s readers, just use the code “HpHsts-0310” when joining. And speaking of delicious Scotch whiskies, I just had the most incredible tastes from the Lowlands, which feature the less smokey of the scotches because they leave out the peat. Auchentoshan had five triple-distilled bottles on the tasting table that night, all distinctly delicious. See photos from the tasting here.

(Almost) Instant Ice-Cream

The Half Pint Soft-Serve Ice Cream Maker from Hamilton Beach has such a cuteness appeal that it will make kids and adults alike scream for ice cream. By keeping the bowl in the freezer, it is ready to use, and produces a half-pint serving in as little as six minutes. Best of all you can use your own wholesome ingredients, and add whatever you fancy, from fruit to nuts. I like the idea of mixing in some savory ingredients, like wasabi or wine, for unexpected outcomes. Please feel free to send me any unusual recipes you come up with.

STIRRING ice cubes

For those who love to swirl, I see great potential with these ice trays from Blomus. For starters, you could float an herb or edible blossom in each. Or, instead of water, use a blend of juices that would melt into your cocktail or water serving. I added pomegranate seeds, mint, and small triangles of blood orange for some color and a hint of flavor to the glasses of water in the photo. We can use a little extra chill right about now!

Cooking on the Go: Hot Brazilian Flame

Ecoflame has revolutionalized sterno with earth-friendly cans of warming fluid made with sugar cane from Brazil. Clean, smokeless and odor-free, the cans can be reused again and again, when refilled from the 2 litre recyleable bottle supply. Going camping? Take along this stack, and cook elegantly for up to 12 hours on an open flame. Cans come in 1, 2, 4 or 6 hour sizes. They also make a lighter fluid. Available on Amazon and at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Camping in Culinary Style: Stay Sharp

Just because you are in the wilderness doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Wusthof has come out with  a folding knife that will take you merrily through all your cutting tasks. The locking mechanism on the Ikon Blackwood knife ensures that the 5-inch long blade will remain firmly in place while slicing through, say, a hard salami, and the piece is assembled seamlessly to keep it thoroughly hygenic. If you get into hunting for mushrooms a good knife is an essential tool. My father told me: Never pull a mushroom out by hand, if you cut a mushroom and leave the root, you can come back for more. It also leaves the dirt behind. The Slovak community in upstate New York takes mushroom picking seriously, everyone is quite competitive! My family hunts for them every year, and either cuts and dries them in the sun, or cuts and freezes them to use in soup, stews, and meat dishes all year round. Free food!


B+B Portugal: from the Algarve to you

If you are looking for some simple and refreshing summer recipes, see my friend Rupert's new blog, which highlights his life as a B & B owner in south Portugal. I had the pleasure of staying with Rupert and Andrew in their London apartment while launching a magazine a few years back and was spoiled by the nightly gourmet meals and their easy-going, fun company. They have since packed up and moved to a glorious spot under a castle, with bountiful garden and beach nearby. I can't wait to go myself! See their website for photos and travel details if you are looking to plan a unique and sophisticated getaway.

Belvedere Pink Grapefruit: So Pretty in Pink

Just in time for summer, Pink Grapefruit launched as the the newest flavored vodka from Belvedere, joining the Black Raspberry, Orange, and Citrus varieties. Belvedere uses a process called “Maceration” which incorporates whole pink Argentinean grapefruits, fresh ginger and Spanish spring lemons to produce a complex citrusy finish, without any artificial additives. You can really taste all the flavors extracted from the peels and flesh of the fruit, which allows it to be enjoyed in cocktails or all by itself. I managed to snag a couple of cocktail recipes from the launch party, which were quite unique and refreshing, perfect for the hot weather ahead. The ginger sugar in the snow cone really enhanced the cocktail, do not leave this ingredient out! You can order the sugar from Amazon, or Flavorstorm, if you want a large batch. And do be sure to remove the outside skin and pith from the grapefruit, which looks quite beautiful in the glass (seen in photo above from the event).

Belvedere Pink Grapefruit Snow Cone
Crushed Ice
2 oz Belvedere Pink Grapefruit
Pink Grapefruit wedge (skin and pith removed)
Ginger infused raw sugar
Pack a double shot glass full with crushed ice (use a blender to crush or put ice in sturdy plastic bag and hit with mallet). Top up with Belvedere Pink Grapefruit. Serve with a pink grapefruit wedge dipped in ginger infused sugar.

Pineapple and Fennel Martini
2 oz fennel syrup
4 or 5 chunks fresh pineapple
1 oz Belvedere Pink Grapefruit
Dash lemon juice
To create the fennel syrup boil a combination of cider vinegar, fennel seeds and cane sugar, reduce until syrupy (am getting details on the syrup, will fill in!). Muddle pineapple with fennel syrup. Add Belvedere Pink Grapefruit. Shake with cubed ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with 3 fennel seeds.

Edible Garden @ the New York Botanical Garden

Just a 20 minute train ride from Grand Central whisks you to a 250-acre sanctuary in the Bronx. Now, you can not only see the most beautiful displays, you can taste them. A fabulous array of chefs will be doing daily demonstrations featuring the spoils of the four spectacular kitchen gardens. The Home Gardening Center is where you can learn how to make your garden the best it can be, and also view the celebrity chef patches from Daisy Martinez, (who had some very intertesting choices!), Dan Barber and Jack Algiere of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Michael Psilakis and Mario Batali, with accompanying audio tours. Of interest to those without a plot of ground, the Conservatory Container Garden has a wealth of surprises coming in that might inspire you to experiment. Martha Stewart’s Culinary Herb Garden has over 50 herbs. Bring the kids to the Children’s Vegetable Garden and show them the wonders of nature. To see who’s cooking and to buy tickets click here. Special festival weekends dot the summer weekends till the harvest. Try this delicious recipe from Michele Di Pietro (see photo), for a unique pesto, whose main ingredient is zucchini. The most important part of the recipe is to make sure that you pull all the water out of the zucchini before mixing with other ingredients. To make the roasted garlic, cut off the bottom of an entire head of garlic and place in a 400ยบ oven, roast for 35 minutes. A handy item to have around, it can be wrapped in foil and stored in the fridge. There’s more photos from the gardens and demo at this link.