Tag Archives: cocktails

Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

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Gyu-kaku

Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurantsNaoto and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday! We had plans to go to a new cocktail bar called Prairie School, but it unexpectedly closed for good the week before our anniversary. (It wasn’t even open a year!) I was super bummed. But then I read about Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ chain that came to Chicago a couple years ago. I knew Naoto would be into it–he remembers going in Japan–and I figured it would be something different and fun. It’s definitely not really a romantic place…it’s pretty bright and loud and open and you’re working together to cook your food, so if you’d rather have a more traditional special occasion with your partner, maybe this isn’t your place. That being said, a group dinner here would be a blast. (And of course it was perfect for us since we’re not really white tablecloth kind of people.) Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, lychee cocktail, Asahi beerWe started with an Asahi beer and a lychee martini while we pursued the menu for the best options for the two of us. You can order a la cart, or you can do different levels of prix fixe options. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, Gyu-kaku saladWe opted for the “samurai” menu that included starters of miso soup, salad (pictured above,) spicy tuna volcanoes, and beef bibimbap. And for grilling, Kalbi beef, miso skirt steak, rib eye, garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Oh and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was plenty of food for both of us. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThe servers give pretty good instructions about placement and timing for the various meats. No one wants to eat raw chicken.  Naoto did most of the grilling, but I helped with the vegetables. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThere are three sauces to accent the food, sweet, sour, and spicy. The meats are marinated but the sauces are perfect little accents to balance the richness of the meal. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, mochi ice creamOur dessert was green tea and strawberry mochi ice cream. A few bites of each was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Next time, I think we will probably order a la cart, mainly because there are different sides and meats we’d like to try in place of the prescribed choices with the prix fixe menus. They even have some summer specials that look really fresh and tasty. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, cherry blossom cocktail, asahi beer Cheers to the next twelve.

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Tiki Birthday Party

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrellaOver the weekend, James, Naoto, and I threw a tiki-themed birthday party for friends, Karen and Jackie. I LOOOOVE theme parties (as you may know) and I thought it would be really fun to jump into summer with a tiki theme. tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis I did a simple table because we had a spread of fun food. I got the “centerpiece,” leis, napkins, and a couple of garlands from the Dollar Tree. I really don’t shop there often, but I went with my parents once and now it’s my go-to place for parchment paper and tissue. We went a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to see that they had a bunch of tiki party things. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post.) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisEven though it was a small gathering, I made us little festive place cards with some peacock card stock and little puffy pineapple stickers from Paper Source. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisI had these tropical leaves (an old Paper Source kit) leftover from a couple of summers ago, so I hung them up in the corner. They will likely stay up for the whole summer. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis, crab rangoonWe started the night with Blue Hawaiis and crab rangoon (purchased from a local thai restaurant.) James told me that flamingos are not tiki, but I couldn’t resist the neon pink flamingo stirrers (also from the Dollar Tree!)

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendstiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friends, presleyWe stayed in the kitchen and ate and drank Mai Tais while Naoto finished cooking the dinner. He and James were in charge of the menu and I was in charge of decorating, cocktails, and cupcakes. Collaborative party planning is the best!  tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki partyFor dinner, we had pineapple fried rice served in the pineapple, Hawaiian pizza, and an Asian slaw. I’m going to admit that the fried rice in the pineapple was sort of the catalyst for the whole party (thanks, Pinterest!) James and I watched a YouTube video to learn how to hollow out a pineapple and it was not as hard as it sounds, as long as you have a sharp knife and a little patience. (James executed it perfectly because I have neither a sharp knife nor patience.)

Naoto has really been into making his own pizza lately, so we decided he should make a Hawaiian version. And James made the slaw and he doesn’t use recipes. Everything was really tasty (which I can say because I only made the cocktails and the dessert!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis, gift wrap, paper source gift wrap, flamingo, pineappleWe ended the night with gifts, cupcakes, and a last cocktail, the Admiral Montenegro, which I cannot recommend enough if you like slightly bitter tiki drinks. (The cupcakes were not-so-photogenic but taste-wise, Martha didn’t let me down!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendsHappy Birthday, Karen & Jackie! XO

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Cocktail Perfected: Boulevardier

Naoto and I had our first balcony Hasegawa Happy Hour last weekend. It was freezing. After a week of warm temperatures, the mercury plummeted on Saturday night, leaving me to shiver through our cocktail.

I love a good negroni, but since it was getting so chilly, I decided a warmer version of the drink would do the trick, so I made Boulevardiers. Basically, the gin is swapped out for whiskey. It’s warmer and a bit sweeter than a negroni. We drank them in two of my new favorite cocktail glasses, thanks to my parents’ thrifting luck and genius.

Boulevardier 

1 1/2 oz bourbon

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

3/4 oz Campari

Pour into a mixing glass and stir with ice until completely chilled. In my experience, that means stir for way longer than you think you should be stirring, 25-30 seconds. Strain into a pretty cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel, if desired. Enjoy on your balcony on a chilly night, and come inside when you get too cold.

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Letters & Libations: Mr. Zip Cocktail

mr. zip cocktail, letters & libations, gimlet, gin cocktailHe’s always “on thyme!”

This is the cocktail we served at the Letters & Libations birthday party. I think it was a hit, based on the amount of gin consumed at the party. (We only served this cocktail and also beer and wine.) Naoto is the kind of bartender who tops off your cocktail when you’re not looking, though. The Mr. Zip is a simple gin gimlet, with a bit of a twist. We swapped out the lime juice for lemon and we added a hint of thyme to the simple syrup.

Thyme Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Handful of fresh thyme sprigs

In a pan on the stove, dissolve sugar in water. Once sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and add thyme sprigs. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Chill before using. The simple syrup will last up to a week in the refrigerator. This makes enough syrup for five cocktails. (You can adjust the amounts based on the size of your party, but the basic recipe is the same: equal parts sugar and water, and a handful of thyme.)

Mr. Zip Cocktail

2 oz gin

3/4 oz thyme simple syrup

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Enjoy with friends, preferably while writing letters.

 

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Letters & Libations Stationery

letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayAs I mentioned the other day, Naoto had special Letters & Libations stationery made especially for the party. He knew that Donovan sometimes makes special stationery for the Letter Writers Alliance letter writing socials so he commissioned her to draw something that incorporated letter writing and cocktails. He met with Donovan to chat about the plan and she came up with a few designs. Because he knew I would probably want to use the stationery beyond the party, he let me choose which one I liked best. letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayThis was the winner…a perfect cocktail coupe with a stack of mail ready to go. I love that the top letter has a little paper airplane on it and it’s addressed to me from the LWA. (But that detail is small enough so others could use the stationery without it being weird.) Donovan formatted the image so two sheets of stationery fit on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. Naoto had them printed at the UPS store, where fifty copies cost $5. (He brought his own paper, Superfine White from Paper Source from my stash at home. I love Superfine papers…almost anything–fountain pens, gel pens, felt pens, pencils–writes nicely on it.)

I now have a nice leftover stash of my own personal stationery and the ability to print more. I’m so excited to write some letters on it this week! (By the way, I’m staying on top of my letter writing this week…how about you?)

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Letters & Libations

letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday, birthday cake, kays bakeryFor my birthday this year, Naoto threw me a Letters & Libations party, complete with a theme cocktail, letter writing, and lots of friends. It was so fun and a perfect beginning to a new decade. My only regret is that we didn’t get more good pictures… letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday So, about the cake…we got it at our local bakery, Kay’s. When Naoto ordered it, he asked if they could do red and blue (airmail colors!) and draw an envelope on the cake. Simple, right? I mean, and envelope is a rectangle with a triangle inside. (Even I can draw an envelope and I’m terrible at drawing!) They said they couldn’t do an envelope but they could do a pencil and a notebook so he figured close enough…well…that’s what we got. Funny, right? It still tasted delicious. Birthday cakes are my favorite…nothing fancy, just white cake with buttercream frosting.

letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayWhen Naoto sent out the invitations, a few people wondered what a letter writing party was. I was feeling a little nervous about making my non-letter-writing friends write letters, but it all worked out in the end and almost everyone wrote a letter! I even had some Mr. Rogers stamps on hand for people to use and Naoto had some special stationery made for me. (I’ll share that soon!) I was so happy to see tables of friends writing letters and drinking cocktails at my dining room table. It was really the best birthday gift ever. (Confession: I didn’t write a letter!) letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayWe ate Freddy’s meatballs (pretty much a party standard around here) and Lou Malnati’s pizza and salad, cheeses, chips and salsa, and Karen made her famous pimento. letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayNaoto turned my desk into a bar and mixed up a signature cocktail for us…I’ll share that soon, too.

My heart is full, and I’m well-stocked for National Letter Writing Month.

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Happy Birthday, Naoto!

Naoto making cocktails, Trader Joes guyHappy birthday to my charming husband. May this year be your best one yet…I know you’re off to a great start in 2018!

XO

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A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery

A Cocktail Story at ch distilleryFor the second year in a row, Naoto and I went to CH Distillery in the West Loop for their Christmas pop-up, A Cocktail Story. I love a good theme party, so it’s right up my alley–all of the food and cocktails are based on the holiday classic, A Christmas StoryA Cocktail Story at ch distilleryI wish I’d taken pictures of the menu, because I can’t remember the witty names of our cocktails, but we started with bourbon (Naoto’s was a version of an Old Fashioned and mine was similar to a Manhattan) and moved onto tasty rosemary gin cocktails.  We ate classic snacks like deviled eggs, cheese balls, and fried rice (keeping with the movie’s Chinese Christmas dinner theme.) A Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogFor me, the best part of the whole experience was Eddie’s Frozen Eggnog. (Eddie = Clark’s cousin in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) It is so deliciously decadent. I’ve been thinking about it since I tried it last yearA Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogCheers to the holidays once again!

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Cocktail Perfected: The Rosemary Gimlet

rosemary gimlet, Hasegawa Happy Hour, cocktail hour, summer cocktailsWe don’t have any ripe tomatoes in Plot 6 yet but our herbs are flourishing like crazy. So far, I’ve made Greek orzo salad with our parsley, a round of pesto with our basil, and a cocktail with the rosemary.

I haven’t made a classic gimlet in a long time, and I thought rosemary would be a nice addition and what do you know? Someone‘s already done it! I love the balance of herbal and tart with a hint sweetness (though mostly herbal.) Rosemary used to remind me of fall, Thanksgiving turkey, roasted potatoes…but in a cocktail, it’s very fresh and summery.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Make this ahead of time so you have time to chill it before making the cocktails.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

~2 Tablespoons of rosemary, roughly chopped (Or for a lighter rosemary flavor, just add 2-3 stalks of whole rosemary into the sugar/water mixture.)

Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. This makes enough for 4+ cocktails.

The Rosemary Gimlet 

2 oz gin

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy on the lanai on a hot summer night!

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