Category Archives: cocktails

Guest Blog Post: Renée M. DeLuca on Chili and Beer

Renée M. DeLuca is the daughter of pioneer microbrewer Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewing. She recently launched the Brewer’s Daughter Marketing & Public Relations Agency, which specializes in promoting the craft brewing industry. Renée lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Paul, two teenagers, a 100 lb. yellow lab, two cats, and a refrigerator full of beer. You can follow her on Twitter @brewersdaughter or email her at Here’s her advice on chili and beer.

The Perfect Pair: Chili and Beer
By Renée M. DeLuca

Chili and beer go together like, well, chili and beer! It’s a perfect taste combination. But don’t ruin your wonderful chili recipe that you labored over with that yellow fizzy stuff that’s advertised during every break of every football game. You put love in that pot, and the beer you have with it should love it back. That’s where craft beer comes in. Wonderful, flavorful brew with character. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s more than worth it.

If your chili is the fairly standard spicy beef and bean combination, I highly recommend a bourbon style beer, like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The boozy flavor of the beer offsets the spices and brings the taste profile of the chili to a whole new level.

Got white chicken chili simmering in a pot? How about something hoppy for contrast. Stone Ruination IPA has the hops that’ll do it. Or choose your favorite IPA.

A rich vegetarian chili deserves a toasty brown ale to held meld those flavors. Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale has notes of brown sugar and toffee and a warm goodness that will bring out the best in your recipe. Another great pairing would be a pumpkin ale–Dogfish Head’s Punkin‘ is deliciously balanced, and not overspiced.

And if you have a little chocolate in your chili recipe, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout is the perfect complement. The flavors of oats, malt and yes, chocolate will have your guests oohing and ahhing over the combination with the chili. You’ll find a number of stouts in your beer speciality store–see which one is your favorite by holding a taste test with your guests.

Aside from drinking these fine brews along side your chili, it never hurts to pour a little into the pot while you’re cooking and sipping. It deepens the flavor of the chili, and makes those pairings really stand out. So cheers to chili and beer!

Interview with “Booze Cakes” Authors Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone

This interview may be considered treasonous by pie people, but please forgive me because I’m not talking just any cakes–I’m talking Booze Cakes. Mint Julep Cupcakes! Salty-sweet Honey Spice Beer Cake! Piña Colada Cake! Jägermeister-powered Deutsch German Chocolate Cake! This new Quirk Books cookbook by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone is a good time.

Krystina Castella

Krystina Castella enjoys creating books and products that inspire play. She is especially obsessed with playing in the kitchen and sharing recipes with others that are tasty and beautiful. Krystina is the author of Crazy about Cupcakes (Sterling 2006), Crazy about Cookies (Sterling 2010), Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone (Quirk Books, 2008) A World of Cake (Storey Publishing, 2010) and co-author of Booze Cakes (Quirk Books, 2010). She is also co-author/ photographer of the children’s book Discovering Nature’s Alphabet (Heyday 2006). She lives and works near Los Angeles as a writer, industrial designer, and professor at Art Center College of Design.

Terry Lee Stone

Terry Lee Stone is a design management consultant and writer who loves all aspects of design — whether the delivery media is paper, screens, cake, or yarn. She has worked with top U.S. design firms. For over 12 years she taught the business of design at the California Institute of the Arts, Art Center College of Design, and Otis College of Art and Design. She is the author of several books on graphic design, but Booze Cakes is her first cookbook. Active in the graphic design industry, she has written for design magazines; served on the Board of Directors of the AIGA; and has presented lectures and workshops for numerous creative organizations. She also blogs daily about her knitting obsession at Terry lives with her husband and their pugs in the Studio City section of Los Angeles, in the Brady Bunch’s old neighborhood.


Gina:  Whose idea was Booze Cakes? Can you pinpoint the moment of inspiration?

Terry: Krystina and I both were both teaching at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA, and she was a consistent guest lecturer in my class. After several terms of hearing her talk about her cool cookbook projects, I knew I wanted to work with her. So while making my mom’s 1970s-era Harvey Wallbanger Cake one night, it hit me that the world really needed was a Renaissance in boozy baking. And I knew Krystina and I were just the people to kick it off with a book.

Krystina: When I wrote Crazy About Cupcakes (Sterling Publishing), I developed “Cocktail Cupcakes” and did a lot of experimenting with booze and cake recipes. My inspiration was thinking about a dessert party like a cocktail party. I was learning tons more about the history of alcohol infused cakes and baking while writing my soon to be released book A World of Cake (Storey Publishing). I expanded on this experimentation with Booze Cakes.

Gina:  How did the two of you come to collaborate on the book?

Krystina: As Terry said, we met teaching at Art Center College of Design. I have been a professor of there for 18 years. I teach Industrial design and materials explorations. Terry is a graphic designer and had been teaching creative business for many years both at Art Center and CalArts. Terry knew I was a cookbook author and approached me with the idea to do a cookbook called Booze Cakes. I told her I loved the title and we began collaborating.

Terry: I knew it was a “go” when she broke out laughing at the title!

Jelly Cake Shots

Gina:  What was your creative process like?

Terry: One of the interesting things about our development process was that we linked up new combinations of alcohol type + baking style + physical structure of the cakes. Since we’re both designers and very visual people, we sort of instinctively combined tastes and shapes first.

Krystina: We created an outline for the book including the chapter topics and then had frequent meetings at my house to brainstorm recipe ideas. We each chose recipes to test and expand on and reported back to each other with the results. Our favorites were chosen for the book.

Terry: We each had our “To-Do List” in terms of the cakes. When we swapped recipes, I think it really inspired us on to push our ideas further. It was always a bit of a surprise to see how the other person took the concept and ran with it. Very fun.

Gina:  You don’t mention professional culinary training in your bios. How did you each learn to bake?

Krystina: I have been cooking, baking and developing recipes all of my life. When I sold my manufacturing company in 2000 I had much more free time on my hands and immersed myself into educating myself through reading about baking technique, fine tuning and developing new recipes. I took a great class at UCLA on writing cookbooks and took several other non-fiction writing classes. I developed a process and approach to baking and cooking that is very much like how I approach to design giving my recipes an easy to approach attitude and playful personalities. I have since written 5 cookbooks and when you are testing recipes to include in a cookbook you fine-tune each recipe by baking it over and over.  That is the best culinary training you can get. I have made thousands of cakes, cupcakes, popsicles and cookies over the last few years.

Terry: I’m really just a designer who loves to cook. Initially I learned baking from my mother and Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook For Boys and Girls. A seminal work, right?

From there, I indulged my sweet tooth and refined my skills by reading many books, practicing, and lots and lots of trial and error! Happily, even my mistakes and cake wrecks are usually pretty yummy. My philosophy is basically: “Have fun, it’s just cake.”

Gina:  Did you call on recipe testers to fact check your boozy creations to ensure they’d work for readers?

Krystina: We each did our own testing. I had my students taste test them after class.  I teach grad students so they are all over 21. After the final recipes were selected Quirk had a recipe tester make sure they were AOK.

Terry: My friends ate lots of cake and rated each one, plus I had some of them try making the recipes as well. Our editor, Margaret McGuire, also made and tested cakes, then shared her baking experiences.

Gina:  Who took the photos and where? The art direction is beautiful.

Krystina: Thank you. Quirk Books designer Jenny Kraemer designed and art directed the book. Our editor collaborated with us, Jenny, and photographer Daniel Kukla (who happens to be a dedicated home baker himself). Together, they managed to shoot pictures of more than forty boozy cakes within a few days.

The photographs have a very cozy, homey quality because they were actually taken in the homes of Jenny and Margaret (and their generous friends’ homes) in Philadelphia and New York. They found lovely vintage cake plates, cocktail glasses, tablecloths, and linens that matched the book’s color scheme at the flea market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In fact, the book’s color scheme is inspired by the retro palette of Mad Men and the fashionable era of classic booze cakes that Betty Draper might’ve baked. And they didn’t fake it: All the confections in the photographs were baked from scratch.

German Black Forest Cupcakes

Gina:  I was surprised to read that it’s a misconception that alcohol burns off entirely when cooked. Can you talk about the techniques that give cakes more or less kick?

Krystina: The kick comes from adding the alcohol to the batter before baking. More kick comes from soaking the cake in alcohol after it is baked- and adding alcohol to the frosting or topping. The cake is like a sponge and soaks it all up.

Terry: You’ll find a “Booze Meter” indication on each of our recipes. Then you can always add more hootch if you are into it.

Gina:  The book is laced with lots of fun cocktail trivia. What did you find to be the best historic cocktail resources?

Krystina: For me, my father in law Olaf was the best resource.  He was a bartender before during ww1 and through prohibition and he always talked about it with his fondest memories. He passed away at 101 last year and left me with some great bartending stories and trivia.

Terry: I’m not gonna lie: I come from a long line of booze lovers. However, I did do quite a bit of research. There is a lot of history and lore about drinking— lots of interesting stuff there.

Gina:  I was especially amused by the cakes inspired by 80s cocktails. Please tell my readers about your recipe for Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes with its many Regan era variations.

Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes

Krystina: The cocktail cakes are really fun to create because essentially you are mixing multiple ingredients in the batter in a similar fashion that you mix a cocktail. There are more elements to play with and create with then with cocktails. Plus garnishing cakes is just as fun as garnishing drinks!

Where did the name came from? In 1994-95 I owned one of the first designer shopping sites on line called where I sold products by young designers. I’ve always loved the term “peachy keen,” and it fit so well with fuzzy navel, I named the cupcakes after that.

Terry: You’re definitely going to make people happy by just telling them the names of the variations on that cake. Who doesn’t want Sex-On-The-Beach?

Tequila Sunrise Cake

Gina:  Is “Booze Pies” next?

Krystina: Sounds like a good idea. I have already made a Kahula cream pie, a Margarita pie and a black cherry kirsch pie. I love pie as much as cake. Besides A World of Cake, I also Crazy About Cookies (sterling 2010) coming out soon.

Terry: “Booze Pies”— that’s wacky. Stay tuned! In addition to Booze Cakes, I’ve got a new design book series: Managing the Design Process: Concept Development (Rockport 2010) and Managing the Design Process: Implementing Design (Rockport 2010) being published this year.

R.I.P. Lucky Green Sweater

Looking through a folder of old digital photos this evening, I stumbled on this shot of Susan, Anne, and me celebrating the almost-sale of Searching for Mary Poppins and S’s and my 40th birthdays at Tabla in New York. I’m wearing the fabled lucky green sweater, which will soon be transformed into a keepsake felted something thanks to Kari of Chixon.

Interview with Anne Bramley

Anne Bramley is a food scholar, university lecturer, writer, cook, and host of the internationally acclaimed podcast, Eat Feed. She was born in a Midwestern blizzard and has thrived on all the best things cold weather provides, from her grandmother’s “snow ice cream” to deep-winter snowshoeing. She has also traveled the world, living in England, Germany, and United States and learning from each new food culture she encounters.

Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate when the Mercury Drops is her first cookbook. just named it one of the Best Cookbooks of 2008. She lives with her husband, daughter, two cats, and two dogs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they eagerly await the next snow day.


Gina: Your book is filled with lots of wonderful historical recipes. On election night, I had a good time reading your accounts of Lincoln’s Inaugural Chicken Salad, Washington’s Favorite Corn Cakes, and Jefferson’s Peanut Sundaes. Where did you track down these gems? Also, what did you end up serving at your own election night get-together?

Anne: As an academic, I’ve always got my head in some archive or other and tend to collect bits and bobs of culinary history since you never know when you’ll want them. And as a former Chicagoan (and Hyde Park resident) my election night was inspired by some of our favorite foods from the city and neighborhood.

Gina: In your acknowledgments, you mention that novelist Katharine Weber gave you an early boost. How did you meet her and how did she help you?

I met Katharine through Readerville. She is always there with ready and willing advice about the writing life — agents, pitching, publicity, and more — and she’s always generous in lending an ear as well as a hand to a new writer. Plus she has sent me some of my best podcast topics and guests.

Gina: I’m charged with bringing cranberries to Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law’s house this year. I know you love the topic of cranberries. Please tell me how should I cook them and share with my readers why you think they’re so interesting.

Anne: Every way and in everything! I love that they are really one of the few remaining foods that have a season that you can’t industrialize your way around. At least as far as I’ve seen, they aren’t shipped in from the southern hemisphere as with things like raspberries. Instead, I long for the October harvest each year and then try to do as much as possible before they’re all gone from the shelves in January or February.

When I have the ability to cook just cranberries and not have something else in the oven, I love to do low temp, slow cook with a bit of spirit at the end. I don’t really have a recipe and tweak it every time, but do something like a pound of cranberries with 1/2 to 1 cup of brown sugar for 1 to 2 hours at 200 to 225 degrees. Add a splash of alcohol in the final 15 minutes — brandy if you’re going for a Jeffersonian French inspiration, rum for something a bit more middle-brow colonial. The key thing about the low temp for a long time is that the berries don’t pop and go mushy like in a stovetop sauce. Instead they just gently warm and soften. Mmmm. (Also, I know it’s a big range on the sugar, but people have wildly different sweetness desires when it comes to cranberries and I prefer mine a bit tart, vaguely reminiscent of the kind of tart sauces that historically accompanied meat like verjuice in the Renaissance or a 19th-century gooseberry or rhubarb sauce.)

Gina: What is your favorite winter cocktail?

Anne: When I’m looking for some vitamins with my vice, it’s a Bloody Mary made with Scandinavian aquavit (like the Bloody Sigrid in the book). But oftentimes I just want something really warm, creamy, sweet and possibly nutty, so I wrap myself around whatever boozy milk punch is on offer.

Gina: What’s next on your proverbial plate?

Anne: Getting a position in the new administration as the local seasonal food czar. If that doesn’t work out, endless meals with great cold weather foods and a little bit more time with my husband and toddling daughter and our menagerie of 4 animals who are often lounging in front of the warmth of the oven waiting to see what experiment pops out next.

Vintage Poison Labels

Thanks to Karen Templer for this link (via Twitter…see: it’s useful!) to these fabulous vintage poison labels. Perfect to print out and affix to cocktail glasses for your next Halloween party.

Gone By, Gone Bye, Gone Buy

No more peas or radishes at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. We’re on to high summer peaches, nectarines, blueberries, corn, and…at long last…tomatoes. Nothing says east coast summer more to me than tomato-mayo-salt sandwiches on white bread.

New at the market this week: cucumbers. I might make Margaret’s pickles. In the meantime, I’ll day dream of sipping a Charlotte Voisey Cucumber and Lavender Sour while catching up on laundry and other chores this afternoon.

In Praise of Lillet Blanc

The other day I invented a tasty sangria-like concoction of Lillet Blanc mixed with fresh blood orange juice. Very spring…or at least not so winter.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Lillet Blanc since reading in Kim Sunée’s Trail of Crumbs acknowledgments that she drank too much of it while writing the final drafts of her memoir. Other than including a recipe for wild peaches poached in Lillet Blanc and lemon verbena, however, she didn’t drink this beverage in the narrative of the book, so I asked her in the blog interview (which she still plans to get to eventually) how one drinks it. She wrote me last night that she likes it slightly chilled with a twist of Meyer lemon or orange.

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