I’ve been planning to start a little letter writing club that blends my two favorite hobbies, letter writing and cocktail making, since before the pandemic and…it’s finally time!
On Sunday, July 25th from 2-4PM, I’ll be hanging out in the beer garden at Goldyburgers in Forest Park with a cocktail and my letter writing supplies. Goldyburgers is at 7316 Circle Avenue, which is a short walk from the Harlem Green Line and Oak Park Metra Stations and there’s street parking available, too. As the name implies, they do serve burgers and other food–I highly recommend the cheese balls. Goldyburgers is CASH ONLY, so while it’s free to attend the club, please bring enough cash to cover your drinks, snacks, and tip.
I want to make the club a regular thing, hopefully monthly, but it might take some time to find a good groove, so bear with me as we get this thing started. In the meantime, follow us on Instagram (@divebarletterwriters) or sign up for occasional email updates here.
Naoto has spoiled me the entire pandemic by pouring my Manhattan into a frosty cocktail glass. This spring, as we’ve branched back into other cocktails (mostly involving gin,) we have continued to serve things up in a frosty glass. Most of my vintage cocktail glasses are tucked away until we remodel the kitchen. And they are too delicate for the freezer. So we’ve been using our Libbey workhorses–we have twelve of these, which are perfect for larger parties and for keeping a few in the freezer at all times.
Even when he’s not home and I’m mixing for myself while I water the garden, I’ve been treating myself to a frosty glass. I’ve been on a Jasmine kick since June. Jasmine cocktails are so crisp and tart and slightly bitter…perfectly refreshing on a hot evening. The original recipe calls for Campari, but I prefer the slightly more subtle Cappelletti. Both are delicious, so use what you have.
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
0.25oz Cappelletti (or Campari)
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a frosty glass (or a coupe if you want to be proper.) Serve as a reward for putting the hose away without swearing.
For my birthday this year, I really wanted to drive up to Wisconsin to eat at a real supper club. I’ve eaten at a true Wisconsin supper club exactly once, but it is what my dining dreams are made of–many courses of delicious home-cooking without any pretension.
We were just starting to research the best options when the pandemic hit and everything shut down. It was really depressing. I didn’t give up on my supper club dinner–but there was no way I was going to Wisconsin in the middle of a pandemic. Soooo…once the library started opening back up again, I got this book and started planning a menu from home.
I should preface this with a disclaimer: supper club food is not for the weak of heart…there is a lot of cream and fat in many of the dishes. (Though there are a few tasty looking, lighter fish dishes in the book, in case that’s your thing!) So for us, this definitely isn’t a weekly thing, but it was really fun to make everything from scratch and to indulge a little bit–orrrr a lot!
I’m going to share two recipes from our feast in case you want to create a little Wisconsin supper club happy hour at home.
We started out with the Wisconsin classic, brandy old fashioneds. Did you know that 1/3 of Korbel’s brandy is sold in Wisconsin? (I didn’t know until I read the book.) If you like a sweeter cocktail, this might be for you. It was fun to try, but I’ll stick with a regular Old Fashioned. (Or I’ll at least skip the 7-Up and make it with club soda!)
Brandy Old Fashioned (from the Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of bitters
2 orange slices
1.5oz brandy (Apparently Korbel is the official brandy of Wisconsin, but we used something from Trader Joe’s!)
lemon lime soda (We used 7-Up.)
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and orange slices in the bottom of a glass until the sugar has dissolved. Add the brandy, soda, and ice. Stir to mix and garnish with an orange wedge and a maraschino cherry.
I’m glad we tried it for the full experience and when we can finally (safely) dine out again, I’m totally going to order one at a real supper club in Wisconsin.
Along with the old fashioneds, we had two appetizers. The first, pictured at the top, was beer cheese from Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club in Madison, Wisconsin. This place has been around since 1947 and it’s a top 5 contender for our supper club road trip.
The beer cheese is so easy to make and I found it perfect on Club crackers (because they’re a classic!)
Beer & Cheese Spread
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups shredded swiss cheese (Sargento makes this, but you can also shred your own for better texture.)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
0.5 tsp dry mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
0.5-0.66 cups beer (We used Heineken.)
Add everything but the beer in a large mixing bowl. Beat in enough beer to make a spreadable cheese…add it slowly because you can always add more but it’s hard to take it away…(says the person who had to add more cheese to soak up the extra beer!) I used my stand mixer and beat everything on high to get it to combine. I don’t think my execution was perfect but man, was it tasty! And easy!
Naoto was in charge of the second appetizer–bacon wrapped water chestnuts. This recipe is from The Packing House in Milwaukee. The Packing House is at the top of my must-see list. They have a famous fish fry that is so popular, they built a drive-thru for it. And they have a piano player who has been performing there for forty years. And apparently their banana cream pie is not to be missed…
The bacon-wrapped water chestnuts were soooo good–I love water chestnuts and they were the perfect vehicle for the crisp bacon and the sweet and salty sauce.
For our salad, I made homemade blue cheese dressing from The House of Embers at the Wisconsin Dells. Named because they smoke ribs over embers of charcoal, The House of Embers has been around since 1959. I love the dark and moody feel of the place! The blue cheese dressing was excellent, but we did skip the recommended bacon on our salads. (Sad!) I chilled our plates in the freezer before adding the lettuce (iceberg!) and tomatoes and we served the dressing at the table. I highly recommend chilling your salad plates! It made everything feel so fresh!
For our entree, we went with the classic, Steak Diane. The recipe is from Joey Gerard’s: A Bartolotta Supper Club. Joey Gerard’s is a newcomer–they’ve only been around since 2012 though they are part of a restaurant group that’s been active since 1993. Friends, this Steak Diane recipe was incredible. I don’t want to oversell it here, but…I finished the whole steak. (That never happens…I usually take the sides much too seriously to bother with the steak!) Honestly, I kind of want Naoto to make it again this weekend. If you don’t know Steak Diane, it’s a classic dish, popular in the 40s and 50s, made with mushrooms and cream and so much more. Back in the day, it was often flambéed tableside. This recipe used a magical mix of butter, shallot, garlic, brandy, white wine, beef stock, dijon, cream, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce. It was an orchestra of flavor!
For dessert, we did stray from the cookbook. We planned to make the Buck-a-Neer Supper Club‘s peanut butter pie, but we couldn’t justify an entire pie for the two of us! It is a recipe we want to try…maybe someday when we can have people over again!
Instead, we made Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Budino. (No regrets!) They’re kind of like really rich chocolate puddings and I’ve been wanting to make them for awhile. A tiny portion is just the right amount to end the meal.
If I had been eating at a restaurant, I may have indulged in a grasshopper.
I can’t wait to share a real supper club dining experience here someday…but in the meantime, I give the Hasegawa Supper Club five stars!
Over July 4th weekend, Naoto and I went all out for a fondue feast. I’ve been wanting to have fondue for awhile now, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I made it one of our stay-at-home goals…who knew at the time we’d have so much time to accomplish that list!
(Try to ignore Naoto’s hair here…it’s even longer and more epic now!) Randomly, we own three fondue pots. I received the metal one for a Christmas gift in college and then learned cheese works better in ceramic, so I bought the ceramic one at Marshall Fields (RIP) almost twenty years ago. And my parents found the burnt orange 70s model at a thrift shop. So we figured we’d break out alllll the pots for our three course fondue fest.
We started with traditional Swiss fondue. I have (had?) a fondue cookbook but I couldn’t find it in time for the fest, so we relied on Food & Wine for the recipe. (We halved the recipe since there were only two of us which was more than enough and included leftovers.) We made the fondue in the pot, adding the cheese slowly and stirring often. It worked like a charm! (We learned our lesson the last time we had fondue…seven years ago!)
We had bread, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli for dipping. I can’t believe we forgot apples and pretzels for this round!
After we’d had enough cheese (yes, there is such a thing!) we started preparing the main course–meat and vegetables.
For the main course, we used this recipe for a broth fondue. We built the broth in the pot and let it come to a boil slowly. We found this was a nice way to pace ourselves…
We were going to do a few kinds of meat and vegetables, but we ended up just going with steak…next time I would add shrimp or chicken for some variety. (We were afraid of having too much food!) With the steak, we had carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and mushrooms.
We ended up making little shish-ka-bobs, mixing meat and vegetables together on the same fork.
My favorite combination was steak + carrot + zucchini dipped in ponzu sauce. Fondue sauces are a great part of the experience and next time we’d like to experiment with more. I have to say though…the ponzu was the perfect citrusy balance to the meats and vegetables.
For the dessert round, I mixed up some Brandy Alexanders while Naoto prepped the fondue ingredients. It was a very indulgent evening!
For the chocolate fondue, we used this recipe and we made it on the double broiler on the stove before we transferred it into the fondue pot. We dipped strawberries, bananas, brioche, marshmallows, and pretzels. I had to blow out the flame after a few minutes because the pot got too hot and the chocolate was burning, so we need to find a better heating element for the chocolate fondue next time! Maybe just a little tea light? It took three days of soaking to get the pot clean!
It was such a fun project to plan and to execute. I’m really missing hosting parties and it might seem silly to make a big to-do on a regular ol’ Sunday night, but I found it such a great distraction. I love a good theme party and why not throw one just for ourselves? Oh, and it was a perfect excuse to wear my kaftan and bask in the 1970s for the evening. (P.S. We used these forks from our coffee shop pal, Madonna.)
This day was the highlight of Naoto’s trip, can you tell? It’s called Orion Happy Park for a reason! We were scheduled for the first tour of the day and we totally lucked out–we were the only ones on our tour! We felt so fortunate, as the next tour was packed. Before going on the tour, we spent some time in the little Orion museum. I love looking at old packaging, so it was neat to see how the Orion cans and bottles have changed over the years. There is nothing better than a retro label–I especially loved the cherry blossom editions. We started by learning about the grains used in Orion beer. Naoto was a very involved student, asking a lot of questions of our personal tour guide.
We learned a little bit about the science behind the brewing process, like when the mixture actually becomes alcohol. This display shows how many cans Orion fills in one minute. Isn’t that crazy?!
The bottling and canning processes were so interesting. I’ve been on a few brewery tours and I always love watching the bottles get filled and topped and labeled. This part made me so happy and also felt so Japan. The floor of the factory is blue, like the ocean. The crane is pink, the color of coral. And the walls are painted the color of the sand. The factory celebrates Okinawa in every way. After the tour, we were able to go to the tasting room to enjoy a sample. I don’t drink beer, but they had a delicious bottled tea.Oh and the ORION SNACKS!! It’s peanuts and rice crackery things covered in a mix of almond cheese, turmeric, curry, chili, onion, and garlic powders, paprika, pepper, soy sauce, beer yeast, sugar. They are so crunchy and good. I’m not a huge curry person, but these are just a perfect little drinking snack. We bought a big bag of them in the little snack-sized portions like you see above. We’re almost done with them and we’ve been looking for more here in the US to no avail. Sigh…guess we’ll have to go back to Japan someday for more. I think Naoto would toast to that!
Last month, I heard this story on NPR about “Beers with Beshear,” a happy hour centered around Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s daily Covid-19 briefings. So I decided to modify it for my own governor’s briefings and call it “Spritzers with Pritzker” or since it’s Twitter #spritzerswithPritzker.
On March 26, at 2:30pm, I whipped up a Campari Spritz for the Governor’s briefing. Every day since then, I’ve made some sort of Spritz cocktail (both alcoholic and spirit-free.) It’s given me something light to do every day, something to look forward to. It’s been nice to have a little routine that is forcing me to look at recipes and make something every day. Spritzes are perfect afternoon drinks because they typically have a low alcohol content and are apertifs, before-meal drinks that stimulate the appetite.
Yesterday, much to my shock, the governor gave me a shout-out at the beginning of his briefing! I couldn’t believe it! Because of a mix-up last summer where a local politician thought I was Adam (because my handle is @adamihasegawa,) I had my bio name written out as Adam I. Hasegawa, so the governor and everyone else thought I was a guy. (Since then, I’ve changed my name to #spritzerswithPritzker to stop the confusion.) But I came clean to WTTW when they interviewed me for this article. It’s been a fun couple of days chatting about cocktails and laughing a lot.
So the pressure is on to keep up my project! I decided to create a page here on the site where I can share all the recipes all in one place and for those who aren’t on Twitter or Instagram and may want to join in. (The intro part is pretty much just this post repeated.) I highly recommend a little afternoon break, whether it’s a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or some fancy water. These are trying times and we need to take care of ourselves and of each other.
We always take a little side trip away from Tokyo when we visit Japan and this year, our trip was to Okinawa. Okinawa is a small island in southern Japan. It really felt so much like Hawaii to me! We stayed in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. It really felt like Honolulu to me. It was beachy and carefree, with a huge strip of shopping and restaurants and lots of tourists. Our first night, we checked out the strip and ate at a little Okinawan izakaya that had Orion beer and taco rice, Naoto’s favorites. We started with drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer and I had a shikuwasa cocktail. Shikuwasa is native to Okinawa and Taiwan and it’s a citrus that is kind of bitter and really sour. It makes a really good cocktail with shochu and soda. We ordered gyoza (shown above) which really hit the spot. Next we had a salad with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, pork, and a citrusy dressing. Then we had Okinawan sweet potato fries dipped in honey. Seriously, honey is under-utilized as a dipping sauce in America! We should take a break from ranch dressing and eat more honey!And the main dish: taco rice! It’s basically a taco salad but on a bed of rice. We’ve made it at home before and it’s really good and comforting. I told Naoto we should make it this week and share the recipe so I’ll keep you posted. The version we usually make doesn’t have cheese, but let’s be honest–everything is better with a little shredded cheddar! After dinner, we strolled around the tourist area and I picked up some stationery (surprise, surprise) and we got some salt. Okinawan salt is a “thing” so we bought some shikuwasa salt and onion salt to bring home. I really loved the paper onigiri in the store display.
We celebrated Naoto’s birthday in Japan on January 5th. I found this local craft cocktail bar, Bar Lariat, in “our neighborhood” near our usual hotel and I insisted we try it. Five years ago, we went to Mixology near Tokyo Station and we had a great time…all the time not knowing that this tiny gem of a bar was within walking distance of our hotel! There is no menu. You just let the bartender know what kind of drink you’re in the mood for and he creates something for you. I will admit that this kind of stressed me out. I didn’t want to drink something terrible…but it turns out, the bartender is a great listener and he hit it out of the ballpark all night! With our first cocktail, we were given this little amuse-bouche, cheese and a dried apricot. To start, Naoto ordered something like a Moscow Mule. And I requested something bright and gin based. The bartender muddled a ginko with gin and some other mixers and I was handed a refreshing, delicious cocktail. When Naoto told me a ginko would be part of my drink, I was scared. Have you ever smelled a ginko tree? It’s not good! But the fruit was really delicious! Kind of sweet and orangey? For his second drink, Naoto had a vodka and kumquat. I finished the night with a yuzu cocktail. Everything about this drink, and especially the delicate chilled glass, was perfection. I felt so fancy drinking here! Naoto had a coffee liquor drink for dessert. We definitely want to go back on our next visit. The bar only has ten seats and it’s dark and cozy inside. The owner, Masahiro-San, is an expert in his craft and he really creates a relaxing ambiance in his shop. Thanks to him, we ended Naoto’s birthday on a high note!
On Saturday, we had a little Man on the Moon celebration for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. It was a small, last minute affair but I still wanted to set the Party mood with decorations and a theme menu.I made a cheeseball that I left naked so it sort of resembled the moon and I put a little astronaut on top. We had other cheese and crackers and Naoto made cashew chicken, jello, and Karen brought deviled eggs so it was a retro menu. Oreo came out with a “marshmallow moon” version that had space scenes on the cookies. Easy dessert!We served Moonwalk Cocktails, which is the actual drink Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drank when they returned to Earth. They were refreshing and fun, kind of like a mimosa.
1 oz orange liqueur
1 oz grapefruit juice
3 drops rosewater
top with sparkling wine
Add orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into glass and top with sparkling wine. Toast to the moon. In the living room I made star garlands out of shimmery papers and vellum and I made a weird looking moon out of a giant piece of cardstock and glitter. (Truthfully, it needs more glitter.) We watched a moon landing documentary while also listening to NPR’s moon landing playlist. (I added some songs because what is a moon themed playlist without Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow and Pink Floyd’s Eclipse?)Before we were married, Naoto and I threw a moon conspiracy theory party where we all watched a conspiracy documentary about how the moon landing was faked. I think that was our first theme party! So, this was a nice re-visiting of the moon theme…without the wild theories… (Just to be clear, we watched the documentary for fun, not because any of us are conspiracy theorists. Though if you’re into that kind of thing, the documentary we watched is available on Prime! I found it when I was looking for other documentaries to watch this time. It’s called What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo and it’s more than three hours long.)I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures once everyone came because I had a little moon and stars skirt on and Brooke wore a retro patriotic outfit and Jessica and Karen came in 1960s dresses, but…we were having a good time.
Did you celebrate the moon landing anniversary? I haven’t bought my moon landing postage stamps yet, but I have been using up some of my vintage space themed stamps.
Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂