© Tina Rupp
I threw a holiday open house a few weeks ago and learned a few lessons for next year. Hot hors d'oeuvres were a big hit: I'll definitely serve fried wontons and Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon
(above) again—both can be cooked ahead of time and warmed in the oven during the party. I'll only set out food that can be picked up with one hand: When we passed a platter of Smoked Bluefish Pâté
already spread on crackers, it disappeared; anything left in a bowl for people to serve themselves tended to linger.
As for non-food lessons, I finally found a solution to the snowy-boots-on-wood-floors problem: a four-foot-square "Waterhog" floor mat
from L.L. Bean. The look is utilitarian, but it's a big improvement over the piece of painter's paper my husband has taped down in the past, which made the entryway look like a construction site.
Gail Simmons’s rock-stardom is complete: F&W’s phenomenal special-projects expert—and even more famously, a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef—now has her own show, Top Chef: Just Desserts, where she'll take on a Padma-esque role as host and judge. Here’s Gail, answering a few questions.
Why desserts? “Pastry chefs have a different brain than savory chefs. Which is probably why there have been so few good desserts on Top Chef. And there’s so much talent out there in the dessert world right now.”
How does the first season of Just Desserts look? “The people working on casting say the level of contestants is as good as it was on Season 6, the best TC season ever.”
Filming starts when/where: “Filming hasn’t started yet.”
Epically great Top Chef desserts: “A few years ago, we did a holiday special right after Season 4. Tiffani, runner-up from Season 1, made an outrageous butterscotch flan that she served in Chinese soup spoons with some kind of fried sage on top. And Bryan’s dessert on the Season 6 finale—dulce de leche cheesecake with fig sorbet and basil—was another good dessert moment.”
Especially bad Top Chef desserts: “There are so many. On Season 2, Ilan made one of the worst things anyone ate in the history of Top Chef: chocolate ganache–coated liver for a Quick Fire Challenge. And on the Season 5 finale, Stefan made a lame chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t epically bad, but it was clichéd and disappointing.”
On whether Tom Colicchio will be a Just Desserts judge: “He’s a consultant on the show. But he’s not a pastry chef. Unless we do a savory challenge (!), Bravo is looking for judges who have more of a pastry spin.”
on MTV’s Jersey Shore
is the last guy I’d expect to see drinking a girly cocktail, but surprisingly his pre-partying drink of choice is his eponymous “Ron Ron Juice,”
a fuchsia-colored concoction of watermelon, cherries, cranberry juice and copious amounts of vodka blended with ice, which he always prepares bare-chested. “It gets the night going,” he says. “Whenever that stuff [sic] comes out it’s always a filthy night.”
Ah yes, “Ron Ron Juice” does often serve as useful fuel for one of Ronnie’s many bar fights.
“It’s the root of all evil,” says DJ Pauly D
. Plus, there’s nothing like a little “Ron Ron Juice” to provide the energy to “beat up the beat” of house music at da club. “First, we start off by banging the ground, we’re banging it as the beat builds ‘cause that beat’s hittin’ us so we’re fightin’ back, it’s like we beat up that beat,” says DJ Pauly D.
Here, a more refined selection of fruity cocktails to get fists pumping:Watermelon-Tequila Cocktails
(pictured)Watermelon SangriaWatermelon Coolers
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If you’re like me, and one tiki drink is never enough, here’s good news. The men behind the awesome Dutch Kills bar in Long Island City—Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato—are opening a tiki bar in Manhattan. Called Painkiller, the bar is scheduled to open by early March. “We’re trading in Old-Fashioneds for Mai Tais,” says Gonzalez. Well, not exactly: Since the team is planning to blend 1970s New York culture and 1940s tiki culture, this may just be the best-ever tiki bar. Even the address is cool: It’s on Essex Street, in the old East Side Company Bar space.
But if, like me, you can't wait until early March for a Mai Tai, here's an outstanding version from F&W.