young coconut cooler (and list of favorites)

It’s hard to explain what’s been happening here lately. There’s actually been quite a bit of baking and cooking going on, but I feel as though I don’t have much to share with y’all at the moment.

I think what this is really about is summertime fever. I’ve got it bad. All I want to do these days is go outside and lounge around and read and have cocktails and make ice cream. So, if I may indulge for a moment, here’s a list of what I’m loving and what I’m excited about this summer.

Bulleit Bourbon – Yes. I’ve been hitting the bottle, but who could blame me when the bottle is Bulleit? One of the bartenders at Flora recently turned me on to Bulleit Bourbon. I’m really enjoying it in the form of a Boulevardier, which is a negroni with bourbon in place of gin. It’s divine. A little bit of Bulleit on the rocks is a nice treat, too.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef – When I saw Gabrielle Hamilton on Charlie Rose, I knew I needed to read her memoir. What I didn’t know was that I would fall in love with her restaurant when I visited New York last month and that the leeks vinaigrette and the fried sweetbreads that they serve at Prune would be on my mind for weeks to follow. So it really is no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story behind their maker. If you love food, if you value food, you will definitely appreciate this book. You might even be inspired.

Olympus XA2 – I totally scored. I’ve been keeping my eye out for one of these classic 35mm rangefinders for years, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this little beauty at a rummage sale for $1 this past weekend. I can’t wait to play with it this summer. More importantly, I can’t wait to shoot and develop some film. It has been way too long.

Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits – This has been playing on a loop for days now. Seriously. It’s magical. I love Stevie.

Baby Lettuce Box – This is the best $4 investment I’ve made so far this year. There is nothing like a salad made of hand picked baby lettuces. So fresh, so perfect. A touch of vinaigrette is all you need, but some fresh fruit and a bit of cheese are also very nice accompaniments.

Dogwood – Cocktails. Cured meats. And a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich with whiskey bacon chutney. This is where I’m drinking this summer. Dogwood is one of the new bars in Oakland’s Uptown and it is impressive. It’s cool without being pretentious, offers an incredible selection of spirits, and houses a small charcuterie counter that made my heart skip a beat.

Young Coconut Cooler – Young coconut is a longtime favorite of mine. It may be psychosomatic, but I feel instantly calm(er) after drinking coconut water. I swear there are soothing properties in coconut, which is why I like to keep it on hand for when I’m feeling stressed. I’ve been drinking a whole lot of it lately.

I used to drink coconut water straight from the coconut with a straw, then scoop out the pulp for a snack afterward. It wasn’t until last year that I learned a better way of doing things.

Last Halloween, I woke up on my best friend’s couch with a hair piece still attached to my head and a serious hangover. It was a rough scene. Luckily, Sara’s sensible better half knew exactly what to give to this hot mess: young coconut. And because Mr. Redbeard is clever in the kitchen, he blended the coconut water with the pulp and some ice cubes and handed me the best young coconut smoothie ever.

Maybe blending the coconut water and pulp together is the obvious thing to do, but for one reason or another, I had never thought of it. And now it’s the only way to do things around here. I like to call this a cooler rather than a smoothie because it’s a bit lighter and more refreshing than your typical creamy, fruit filled smoothie. I’m sure it would be great blended with a handful of blueberries or a few hunks of fresh pineapple or maybe even a splash of rum, but I like my coconut cooler pure and simple. It’s great for breakfast or for an afternoon snack. And since coconut water is full of electrolytes, it’s the perfect remedy for hot summer days (and mean hangovers).

young coconut cooler

serves 1

1 young Thai coconut

ice cubes

*If you’ve never opened a young coconut, check out this video before getting started.

Remove the top from the coconut, being careful not to spill too much of the water. Pour the water from the coconut into a jar or a blender. Scoop the pulp from the inside of the coconut and add to the water. Add a few ice cubes. Using an immersion blender or a stand blender, blend until the mixture is white and frothy. Enjoy.

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negroni

It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, my drink of choice was a Ketel-soda with lime. No frills. No fuss. Just Ketel One and soda water and I was a happy lady. Well, obviously, something has changed. Maybe now that I’m pushing thirty I’m required to drink a more complex cocktail. Or maybe it’s because negronis are just so damn delicious that I can’t go back to my boring (but wonderful) vodka-sodas.

It began sometime in August. I woke up one morning with an intense hankering for a negroni. And it never really went away. I’m not even sure what triggered that initial craving, but I have practically abandoned beer and wine and all other cocktails. I have a negroni pretty much whenever the opportunity presents itself. Drinks with friends, have a negroni. At home watching countless hours of a certain HBO vampire series, have a negroni. Dinner at Adrian’s, have a negroni. It’s been sort of ridiculous. Like the night I tried to order a negroni at a restaurant known for it’s tequila bar; needless to say, I had to settle for something else. And then there was last weekend, when I called Adrian two days prior to a brunch he was hosting to inquire about the possibility of me having a negroni that morning (I came to my senses and drank mimosas like all of the other guests). Who’s hooked?

The negroni is like the drunken cousin of the Americano. Both cocktails feature Campari and sweet vermouth, but an Americano is topped with club soda while a negroni is mixed with gin. It still surprises me that I’ve taken such a liking to the latter because I’ve never considered myself a gin drinker, and I have never been a fan of Campari.

I had my first taste of Campari at Evelyn’s house when I was twenty-one, maybe twenty-two. She was drinking Campari on the rocks and let me have a sip. Maybe because it’s red and syrupy, I was expecting something boozey but sweet like grenadine. What a fool I can be. I remember thinking it was horribly bitter and just all around awful. But here we are.

Because of its bitterness factor, the negroni is a bit of an acquired taste. It is all at once sweet, floral, bitter and citrusy. It’s considered an apéritif, so I find that it is the perfect drink to have after work, or while making dinner. I love that it’s one of those old world cocktails and like to imagine some handsome writer sitting in a cafe somewhere in Italy drinking negronis in the 1920’s.  Have a negroni. I’ll likely be having one too.

negroni

1 part gin

1 part sweet vermouth

1 part Campari

ice

orange (for garnish)

Pour the gin, vermouth and Campari over ice and stir. Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove a section of peel from the orange. Twist the peel over your glass and then drop into your cocktail. Enjoy.