Way back in mid December, I hosted my first Christmas party. I finally have an apartment with room for a tree and storage for my Christmas decorations (ornaments, a collection of mini trees and a n assortment of deer–I’ve got a whole thing going), and decided to celebrate that by having my favorite people over for snacks and drinks. My menu was a sweet and savory combo: Smitten Kitchen’s brown butter rice crispy treats (my go to for any party, whether hosting or attending), the chocolate crunch bars Laura and I each made, frozen pigs in a blanket from Trader Joe’s, some token veggies, and three of my favorite family party recipes–deviled eggs, cheese wafers, and red pepper jam with cream cheese. One of my friends, who knows just how to flatter a girl, took one look at the food and said, “it’s like Virginian dim sum!” At that moment I knew that whatever else happened, I would consider the party a success.
To celebrate Jessica’s birthday last December, I wanted to do two things: (1) take her to an indulgent D.C. dinner and (2) host a dinner party with her, in honor of her. For the first, we went to Zaytinya and had as much mezze as our hearts desired. I really liked Zaytinya when I first moved to D.C., but I sort of forgot about it as the city’s restaurant scene expanded over the past few years. Last spring, I had brunch there and was floored by how good it still is. I left the table stuffed, yet wanting to sit right back down and eat it all again. When it came time to pick a winner for Jessica’s birthday feast, Zaytinya came to mind. And it delivered, both on the standards (e.g., those puffy pitas and taramosalata) and the not-so-standards (e.g., the sausage and egg flatbread).
Growing up, my sister, my mother and I always had the same cake for our birthdays–a chocolate layer cake with a hint of coffee in the cake and a splash Tia Maria in the icing. I think the recipe originally came from my aunt Carolyn, and it deserves a whole post of it’s own (stay tuned!). It’s a family favorite, and I still make it for my mom every year. The one deviator from this birthday tradition was my father, who didn’t have much of a chocolate sweet tooth (then, at least–I think he’s amended his ways). Instead, his birthday treat of choice was a lemony cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. It’s creamy, both lightly sweet and slightly sour, and entirely tasty. And though I don’t often make it home for his birthday, this cake still always makes me think of celebrating my dad.
If asked, it would take me a while to think of my favorite song or movie or book, but I can tell you instantly where I had my favorite biscuits. Ad Hoc. Popeye’s is a close second. I really like biscuits. I order them often and I rarely share. The best ones are salty, craggy on the outside, cottony on the inside, and require wads of napkins.
Before we got our December Bon Appétits, we were hoping an appetizer or snack recipe would stand out as the one we’d each want to make. Both of us had holiday parties we were cooking for and wanted to add something new to the mix. Unfortunately, nothing in those categories really sparked us this time around. We decided on cookies, and after some back and forth (the cover girl speculoos buttons were in the running for a while) we settled on crunch bars. We made a good choice.
For both of us, starting butter poached was one of the best aspects of our respective 2012’s. Spending more time in the kitchen and sharing stories here and with each other has been more fun and more rewarding than either of us could have hoped. Looking ahead to 2013, we’re excited to keep building this blog and to keep cooking. Over brunch the other day, we shared with each other our 2013 cooking resolutions. Some of ours are the same–expand our lists of go-to weeknight meals, keep experimenting and increasing our confidence, add to our collections of decorative tea towels–but as we brainstormed together we each came up with some specific goals for 2013. We’re already looking forward to sharing the results here. Happy New Year!