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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lex and the City

My niece Alexzandria is no longer a little girl; somehow the years have slipped by and she's become an extraordinary young lady. The first article I had published back in 2001 was about Lex (her affectionate nickname), as I imagined what a trip to Manhattan might be like for her and what we'd do. She was only six when I wrote it, and now she has a driver's license and a boyfriend.

We've spent many fun summers together, Lex and I, at the family cottage in Friendship, Maine but she hadn't been home to New Hampshire for Christmas in about 12 years and she'd never been to New York. Lex turned 16 over the summer and since we were unable to be together for that important event, Baby and I flew her from Lavergne, Tennessee to see the Big Apple at Christmastime as a birthday present. After a wild four days in the city, we whisked her to New Hampshire to meet up with her father and my parents.

Naturally, I started planning the itinerary weeks before her arrival.

Saturday, the week before Christmas: After traipsing the Highline, a beautiful elevated railway-turned-park in our neighborhood and taking her to one of our favorite Chinese places nearby, we threw a party in her honor. It wasn't a huge affair, just about 20 people. They all sat and chatted with her, absolutely adored her and were thoroughly impressed by her demeanor. We made Chasen's chili, chicken mole, mac n' cheese and pork cracklins corn bread to make Lex feel right to home. Of course, we brought out a cake with 16 flaming candles on it and sang Happy Birthday to her.

Sunday: Manicures and pedicures with Baby's niece, who is also 16 years old! They had never met before but had texted each other for some time and of course they are facebook friends. We took them to Laurent Tourandel's burger joint, BLT Burger for lunch, before taking them to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and then letting them loose in Saks to go shopping. Before long, they were walking down 5th Avenue arm in arm, like old pals. We stopped into a penthouse punch party at Royalton hotel and then made our way to the Village to Cowgirl Hall of Fame for nachos, quesadillas, chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Monday: Oak Bar in The Plaza for a lunch of lobster bisque, Cobb Salad with lobster, a tuna melt and the most outrageous chocolate and cream something or other for dessert. What a gorgeous, warmly paneled room! The afternoon sun was winding down while we took a leisurely stroll through Central Park, up to the American Museum of Natural History for the wonderfully fun Journey To The Stars show in the Planetarium. The Hurricane Club, a marvelous tiki bar/supper club styled after exotic monsters of yesteryear such as Trader Vic's finished us off for the day.

Tuesday: Hudson Hall in Hudson Hotel for lunch, where Lex confirmed just how much she really could eat! A walk to Times Square and thereabouts led us to the Phantom of the Opera theater where we found a couple of reasonably priced seats for that night. While we waited for the curtain to rise, we ducked across the street to have some New York pizza at John's with Baby. Then home and time to pack!

Wednesday: En route to New Hampshire on the bargain and remarkably clean megabus, we stopped off in Boston for a tour of Faneuil Hall and a night at Ames hotel. We all had a delicious, eat-way-too-much dinner at Woodward in the hotel with some friends before collapsing into bed in our respective rooms only to depart the next day to wrestle with relatives over the ensuing holiday.

I was nervous how everything would turn out, but I'm very happy to say it was just perfect. I just wanted to do something good and perhaps toss in a little inspiration along the way. We should inspire children.

Ah, my dear Lex. She may very well be on her way to growing into womanhood, but she will always be a sweet little girl to me. Happy Birthday Lex! And Happy New Year to everybody! Thanks for reading Evenings With Peter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shouldn't You Just...?

Fling cashmere, wool or flannel scarves on your table to create an appropriately wintry warm setting when entertaining?

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


21 W 52nd St (btwn 5th/6th Aves)
212 582-7200

Perhaps we’re not quite 21 anymore, but ‘21’ remains ageless. At least one of the good things about growing older is being able to duck out of the office from time to time for an illicit lunch and perhaps knock back a few dry Martinis. The storied ‘21’ Club is the perfect place to do just that—and there are colorful jockey statues to greet you at the door! ‘21’ is expensive to be sure and although the $30 burger off the menu might be considered a little excessive at lunch time (or any time for that matter), $30 also gets you a three-course prix fixe that is hard to beat.

Remember in All About Eve when Margo and Karen planned to meet at ‘21’ for lunch—with hats on? Too gorgeous. How about when Grace Kelly ordered a lobster dinner from the joint for the house-bound Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and the elegant waiters brought it right into the apartment, table, chafing dishes and all. ‘21’ is like that, more than happy to comply with their patrons’ wishes without the attitude like some of the upstarts that have filtered through the city over the years. They don’t need to. It’s ‘21’ for God’s sake.

In the cozy dining room, by the bar on the main floor, checkerboard cloths cover the tables and all manner of things are strung up on the ceiling such as toy trucks and planes, and other bric-a-brac, gently lit by glowing lanterns. The whole atmosphere is much more casual than the other proper dining rooms above—but jacket and tie are still required, and should you have left yours in a cab or somewhere, they are kindly provided. Hats optional!

Prix Fixe Luncheon Menu

Seasonal Soup, a selection of ‘21’ classics
Romaine and Radicchio Salad cherry tomatoes, celery, shaved Parmesan, pomery mustard vinaigrette
Cured Mahi Mahi with watermelon, mizuna, radish and citrus dressing
Grilled Calamari olive purée, pickled cucumber salad, black garlic

Main Courses
Horseradish-Crusted Salmon warm summer bean salad, smoked bacon,
red spring onions, lemon emulsion
Smoked Pork Belly honey vinegar glaze, pulled pork, sweet potatoes, corn, roasted poblano peppers
Spring Vegetable Risotto peas, asparagus, zucchini, aged Parmesan, truffle butter Grilled Organic Chicken Breast hominy, sautéed spinach, lemon, natural jus

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée chewy chocolate brownie
Blueberry Upside-down Cake lemon cream sauce
Milk Chocolate Tart toasted raspberry meringue

Cocktails or other far less interesting beverages, tax and tip are not included and naturally, the menu is subject to change.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Impromptu Bananas Foster

The time honored Bananas Foster dessert got a slight re-tweaking the other night when our neighbor down the hall was over for a casual dinner. We had a stash of crepes, a rogue banana and some brandy put by the by so we made this very impromptu dessert, riffing on Bananas Foster. She supplied the hazelnut butter, or Nutella, as is more commonly found.

Impromptu Bananas Foster

Take 1/2 cup turbinado sugar stirred until melted, with a tablespoon or two of melted butter until liquid. Add 1 banana, sliced thinly and throw in a splash of brandy. Carefully light it on fire. Slather 1 crepe with Nutella (or hazelnut butter), decorate it with your mixture of sugar, bananas and brandy. Do enjoy!

Serves one, or two if your guest is interested in sharing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined

Bathtub gin! Sloe-eyed vamps in flapper skirts dancing the Charleston! Long, late nights fraught with illicit behavior! Although it may not have seemed so for everyone at the time when speakeasies served booze on the sly during Prohibition, I can’t help but think this particular part of the past must have been a blast.

In Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined, From New York’s Employees Only Bar (Ten Speed Press), Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric shake up the past and the present with their ingeniously concocted cocktails. The duo behind Macao Trading Co., Kosmas and Zaric first became a team at SoHo’s Pravda and also formed Cocktail Conceptions, a beverage consulting company.

A recent trip to their intimate West Village bar-restaurant, Employees Only, revealed just how these mixologists take a culinary approach to classic cocktails. Using only the finest spirits and a balance of fresh fruit, herbs and homemade syrups, time-honored classics get a highly reverent re-presentation. We loved sipping some of the hooch, such as the Provençale ($14)—lavender-infused Plymouth gin stirred with herbs de Provence-infused vermouth and Combier Royal. We also thrilled to the Manhattan Cocktail ($14) where Rittenhouse rye is stirred with Italian vermouth, orange curaçao and dashes of Angostura bitters.

From aperitifs to cordials, more than 80 luscious libations are presented in Speakeasy and all of the recipes are rife with detail as well as tales about their origins. Helpful tasting notes and which glassware to use when serving your swellegant guests some sauce make this a gift worth giving—or keeping for yourself!

Visit, for more info.

First published in Next magazine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Swiss Chard Stew

This Swiss Chard Stew from (Bon Appetit, December 2005) with curried red lentils and garbanzo beans is extraordinarily good. Making it also happened to effectively dispatch a number of things we already had in our cupboard such as several cubes of vegetable bouillon, lentils, cayenne, and curry powder. We didn't have red lentils, so I used the green variety, cooked until tender, and although this recipe calls for canned garbanzos, I used a pound of dried, simmering them independently first, which lent a nice texture to the dish. We had a bunch of fresh kale patiently waiting in our crisper, so I subbed that for the chard. A hint: to remove the stalks, just grab onto them with one hand and rip the leafy fronds off with the other. We also used a little creme fraiche instead of the yogurt called for as that was what we had on hand. Such a warming dish for winter and very easy to make. Just don't go overboard in devouring it when it is placed on the table--as you might well imagine, it is very high in fiber!

Swiss Chard Stew
Adapted from
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
1 large bunch or 2 small bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
Plain yogurt

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 13 minutes. Mix in curry and cayenne. Add broth and chard. Increase heat; bring to boil. Add lentils and garbanzos; reduce heat to medium. Cover; simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 10 minutes. Divide stew among bowls. Top with yogurt.

Photo credit: Scott Peterson

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nuts for Peanut Brittle

Seems like Baby and I have been a little obsessed with all things peanut lately. Well, why not? Making peanut brittle was very easy and inspired by our dalliance not too long ago with peanut butter ice cream with candied bacon!

Here's what to do, adapted from a recipe we found on Of course, we upped the amount of peanuts used by about half a cup and added fried bacon into the mix before cooling on the cookie sheet.

Peanut Brittle (with bacon)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda

Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads. Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With 2 forks, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces.
Thanks to for the photo.