Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sparkling Blood Orange Punch & Maple Pecan Popcorn

Happy Halloween! For the first time ever, we will be staying in on Halloween and handing out candy to trick or treaters in our building. I still want to celebrate (obviously!) so I'm making a batch of sparkling blood orange punch and maple pecan popcorn for our adult guests. I also bought some goody bags so they can take home any leftover candy, that way I'm not stuck with it this weekend!

A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Sparkling Blood Orange Punch & Maple Pecan Popcorn

Sparkling Blood Orange Punch 
1 bottle Prosecco or other sparkling wine
2 blood oranges, juiced OR 1 can of San Pellegrino Blood Orange Soda (if real oranges aren't available)
3 dashes of orange bitters (optional)

Maple Pecan Popcorn
10 cups of plain, popped popcorn (I pop kernels in a pot on the stove like my grandpa did, but I'm told this is very uncommon. You can buy it pre-popped or microwavable, as long as it's plain).
1/2 cup maple syrup
1.5 cups chopped, toasted pecans
3 tablespoons cinnamon maple sugar OR an equal mix of brown sugar & cinnamon

Toast the pecans: Preheat oven to 350. Chop pecans and sprinkle with your choice of sugar. I have a cinnamon maple sugar my mom sent me from Maine (her care packages are unreal). You can also mix brown sugar & cinnamon, or plain sugar & cinnamon - whatever combination you'd like! Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until they darken slightly and smell very nutty.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Sparkling Blood Orange Punch & Maple Pecan Popcorn
Warm the maple syrup: Heat on medium-low in a saucepan until it is just slightly simmering. This will thin it out and make it easier to dispense evenly onto the popcorn.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Sparkling Blood Orange Punch & Maple Pecan Popcorn
Put it all together: Toss the popcorn onto a sheet pan - you want a flat layer, so you may not be able to put all the popcorn on the pan at once. If that's the case, do this step twice. Use the lip of your saucepan or pour the syrup into a measuring cup so you can drizzle it slowly onto the popcorn. Sprinkle additional sugar mix if you want it really sweet (it is Halloween, after all!) Add the pecans and toss it all together into a serving bowl. Enjoy! 

A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Sparkling Blood Orange Punch & Maple Pecan Popcorn

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Brooklyn Products at West Elm Local's "Meet the Makers" Event

I feel so lucky to live in Brooklyn amongst what seems like a million creative people producing thoughtfully designed products. Last night I got the chance to get to know a few of them at West Elm Local's "Meet the Makers" event here in Dumbo. There were some really beautiful products featured that I just had to share with you. Maybe you'll be inspired to pick up one of these items for yourself or a friend, and support a small business at the same time. What could be better?

I treated myself to this mini gift wrapping kit by the ever-clever Knot & Bow. I might use these tags in some place cards I'm making for a Friendsgiving dinner in a few weeks. (More on that later!)  

Brooklyn Thread's crystal wine bottle stoppers would add instant glam to any party. They make me want to keep an open bottle of wine on my bar cart just to show one off! These would also be a great hostess gift.

I can never resist a new notebook. I love dedicating notebooks of this size entirely to planning just one party. I have stacks of them! I especially love the graph paper pages in these ones by Public - Supply. Most of these designs are also masculine enough for a good guy gift (anyone else think it's trickier to shop for men?)

Perhaps the most useful find of the night: "Grown Up Soda." I met the founder, Steven, who explained to me that he and his wife created GuS because they waned a natural, less sweet alternative to conventional sodas. I can personally attest that these taste like what they say they do - nothing fake! The gentlemen of GuS were pouring cocktails and handing out recipes, which I can't wait to try. The ginger will definitely make it into my autumn entertaining.

A gorgeous hostess gift (or stocking stuffer if you think that far in advance!): PELLE's Soap Stones.

PS: If you're in the Brooklyn area, one of my favorite shops, Dabney Lee, is offering 20% off Halloween themed items. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bar Cart Accessories: Coasters

There are a lot of elements to consider when designing a bar cart. I thought we'd start with coasters, being that they are useful whether or not you actually have a bar cart in your home. Below are some of my favorites available now. Also, a set of these would also make a great hostess gift!

A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Bar Cart Accessories: Coasters

Top Row: Letterpress Neon & Metallic Modern Fish Scale, Wishbone Press (only $8 for a handmade set!) | Bazaar Animal Set, C.Wonder | Bubbly Cheers Coaster, Sugar Paper (you may recognize these from my bar cart!)
Middle Row: "Leave something to the imagination" and other quotes, Kate Spade, Purple & Gold Agate, Jonathan Adler | Dark Pink Rose, Sesame Letterpress (I picked up a set of these at their recent sample sale, they are lovely).
Bottom Row: Botanical Set, Rifle Paper Co. | Cocktails Set, 9Spot Monk via Nordstrom | Rae Coasters, Tory Burch (New!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Apples to Apples? Recommended Uses

This weekend I spent an afternoon at Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard with some friends. While we were disappointed that most of the apples had already been picked from the trees, the hot cider doughnuts more than made up for it. The orchard was selling over a dozen different varieties of apples that they harvest, and it occurred to me that I was clueless about the differences. Usually when I'm picking up apples for baking, I go straight for the Granny Smith and ignore the rest. But in the middle of a room packed full of farm fresh apples, that seemed like a waste. Luckily the orchard had a cheat sheet of the apples they sell and their recommended uses. So I started there and did some further research about apple varieties. What I've learned is while most apples recommended for baking pies will also work for general baking (cakes, breads, etc.), it doesn't work the other way around; there are apples you can bake with that aren't specifically ideal for baking pies. As for cider, you want to juice a mixture of apple varieties for a balanced result, otherwise your cider could be too sweet or too acidic.

If you're like me, there's no way you'll remember all these different names of apples much less recall their best uses when you're at the market. So to make it easier, I've combined the information I've gathered into the below chart. Please keep in mind that as cooking isn't an exact science, this is meant to serve as a guideline and not an exact rule. If you have a type of apple you love for a certain recipe, please share! I saved this image to my phone so the next time I'm at the farmers market I don't come home with more Granny Smith (sorry, ladies). Hopefully this will be helpful in your fall baking as well!
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn: Apples Recommended Uses

PS: If you're in the NYC area, I highly recommend you sign up for the One Girl Cookies Apple Pie Baking Class on November 14. I've attended several of their classes, and they are so much fun (more on that later). Plus you get to bring home what you bake!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seasonal Thank You Notes & Weekend Links

I recently received the most thoughtful thank you note (yes, in the mail!) from a guest of a party I threw. While it wasn't necessary, it was very much appreciated. And refreshing! It only takes a few minutes to send a handwritten note, but it is a thousand times more special than an email. And you're much more likely to send one if you actually have a set on hand. (You know that if you have to add buying a note to your to-do list, an awkward amount of time passes and the idea gets scrapped, admit it). Below is a round-up of seasonally-inspired thank you notes available from a few of my favorite stationers. I recommend picking one up so you'll be prepared to thank the hosts of any fabulous parties you attend this fall. Because being a great guest is just as important as being a great host!
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Seasonal Thank You Notes
Top: Sugar Paper via Waiting on Martha, Sugar Paper, Paper-Source
Bottom: Rifle Paper Co., William Arthur, Rifle Paper Co.

While we're on the subject of giving thanks, a big THANK YOU to all for being so supportive of this new blog!

A few links for your weekend...

1. Need a costume for your last minute Halloween party? Camille Styles put together a list of Ten Best: Last Minute Halloween Costumes.
2. Didn't get it together for Halloween this year? Stock up for next year: Waiting on Martha is offering 20% off Halloween supplies with promo code TREAT. All party supplies at Shop Sweet Lulu (Halloween and otherwise) are 20% off with promo code ITSMYPARTY. And over at Pottery Barn, Halloween decorations are up to 60% off with free shipping.
3. Domino's Holiday 2013 issue (so happy they're back in print!) has a fabulous feature called "Throw a Cocktail Party (in Under an Hour!)"

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple Cider Cocktail

In case you were inspired to throw that last minute Halloween party this weekend, here is the perfect autumnal cocktail for you to serve. Fresh apple cider is everywhere right now - it is Cider Week here in New York, after all. So grab some local cider and whip up one (or a pitcher!) of these apple cider cocktails. Recipe for one cocktail or a pitcher below. Cheers!
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Apple Cider Cocktail
One Cocktail:
1 oz bourbon - I used Knob Creek, and not just because I like the bottle. Okay, because I like the bottle.
3 oz apple cider
1/2 oz Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup
-shake well over ice-
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 apple slice to garnish

Pitcher (Serves 8)
1 cup bourbon
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup syrup
-pour over one large ice cube in each glass to minimize dilution-
garnish with ground cloves and apple slice

A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Apple Cider Cocktail
The glass pictured is part of this set of Waterford Mixology Coupes.

PS: SALE ALERT! The stemless champagne flutes on my bar cart are available on One Kings Lane for 1/2 off the retail price + an additional 20% discount (today only) with promo code FALLTREAT. They're also available in silver, if you're into that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rosemary Spiced Almonds

These rosemary spiced almonds are great to have on hand year-round (as we covered in Pantry Prep: Savory Snacks), but I think they're especially satisfying in the cooler months. They're the perfect snack for cocktail hour or for the chef (you!) while prepping dinner. I store them in a Weck jar where they'll keep for months (although they don't tend to last that long without being eaten!) I either serve them straight from the jar, or put them in a crystal dish for added fanciness. I haven't once served these almonds without someone asking me how I made them. I hope they will be a nice addition to your holiday hosting!
2 cups whole raw almonds
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Spread almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle the olive oil on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Smother with the fresh rosemary - you want as much coverage as possible, as pictured below.
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Rosemary Spiced Almonds
Bake for 8 minutes, then open the oven and give the pan a little shake. Bake for 2-3 more minutes, until almonds are slightly crisp. Because of the natural oil in almonds, they will continue to roast outside of the oven. Remove rosemary and discard. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of salt. Let almonds cool fully before placing in an airtight container. I like to add a tablespoon of dried rosemary into the mix to indicate to the guest what flavor they should anticipate.

If anyone else has a go-to snack kept on hand, please share!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Last Minute Halloween Cocktail Party

Halloween is next Thursday, which means most (adult) celebrations will take place this weekend. Don't fret; it's not too late to put together a fun Halloween party. The trick to a last minute theme party is to stick to one color scheme and concentrate your decorations in one area. Don't try to turn your entire space into a haunted house; the results will likely be sparse and sloppy. Instead, focus on a single element that people will remember, such as the bar or place settings. I've rounded up some suggestions for a last minute Halloween cocktail party. These can all be found in common stores and don't require any special ordering. (Bonus: most items are on sale!) A black & white color palette is the easiest option for a last minute Halloween party, as you probably already have items in your home that you can incorporate.

1. Striped paper straws 2. Skull decanter (on sale!) 3. Cocktail napkins - can be used year round 4. Black rimming sugar (on sale!) 5. Paperless post invitations - more festive than an email but just as quick 6. Skull candles (on sale!) 7. Raven taper holders 8. Striped treat bags - invoke some nostalgia and send your guests off with favorite candies from trick or treating past - Mini Reese's Cups anyone? 9. Platter (on sale!) 10. The Book of Halloween Decorations - this kit comes with easy treat decorations - even if you don't have time to bake, you can disguise a store bought pastry, and the book doubles as decor on your bar 11. Spider garland

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pantry Prep: Savory Snacks

We've all been there: You make last minute plans to have friends come by after work. Great! Then you realize you have nothing acceptable to serve. You make a mental list of over a dozen things to pick up at the market on the way home, and feel stressed because there isn't one market with everything you need and you're running late as it is. This scenario can be avoided with some really easy preparation that I like to call pantry prep. By stocking up on a few staples, you can cut your last minute market list down to the fresh flowers that you usually don't have time to buy. And then you can relax and enjoy your company. I guarantee that once you've removed the anxiety that tends to come along with last minute hosting, you'll begin to host more frequently and enjoy it even more. The items below are helpful in putting together a spread of small plates. We'll get to sweets and beverages another time!
Weck jars are airtight and the perfect way to store food in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Crate & Barrel and West Elm Market have a variety of sizes available at reasonable prices. Picking up a few at a time is also a good way to rid your kitchen of the harmful BPA's found in plastic. Formaticum cheese storage papers and bags extend the life of cheese. Did you know that you should never wrap cheese in plastic wrap? It suffocates the cheese and causes the flavor to suffer.

I like to try new cheeses at the farmers market and choose one to bring home, but classics like Manchego and Brie are always crowd pleasers and good to have on hand. Have you tried a high quality French butter? The difference between this and regular butter has changed my world. You can simply spread it on bread or crostini with some sea salt sprinkled on top, or mix in dried herbs to make a spread. There are dairies in Vermont like Vermont Creamery that make butters of similar quality if you'd like to stay more local. Disclaimer: I am a vegetarian. But Olli Salumeria's organic meat products are responsibly made, and (I'm told) delicious.

I keep a jar of cerignola olives on hand in case I don't have time to stop by an olive bar. I think the simplicity of a plain, unpitted, unstuffed olive makes for the freshest tasting jarred option. The next time you're at a gourmet market, pick up a container of small batch pesto. Pesto can be frozen beautifully for use anytime within a year and is the perfect spread for a last minute bruchetta. Pickles have had quite the foodie comeback, with artisanal versions popping up everywhere. My favorite type is the bread & butter pickle because they're small and easy to serve during cocktail hour.

Invest in a finishing salt. I love Le Saunier De Camargue Fleur De Sel, and Maldon Salt is a solid, less expensive option. For added flavor, I use St. Helena Olive Oil Company's white truffle salt. I miss the black truffle salt, which has been discontinued, so learn from my mistake - when you find an artisanal product you love, stock up! St. Helena Olive Oil Company makes several other items that I consider must-haves: their spice mixes can be used for cooking or just sprinkled into a bowl of their olive oil as a dipping sauce for bread, or blended into your French butter. Katz, another Napa based company, makes wonderful flavored honeys that are perfect to pair with cheese.

This is perhaps the easiest part of pantry prep. I love crostini as an alternative to crackers and always have a large Weck jar full of them. I like Castellana's rosemary version, which can be found in most normal grocery stores. When you happen upon some fresh baguettes, do yourself a favor and bring home a few to freeze. If you triple-wrap them, baguettes are a great bread for freezing because of their small surface area and quick thawing time. You can then serve them fresh or toasted. Spiced nuts are a classic, and even better if you can spice and toast them yourself in advance (recipe for rosemary spiced almonds to come this week!).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Welcome to A Bar Cart in Brooklyn!

Hello, welcome! Thanks for being here. 

For years I've enjoyed creating personalized celebrations, and now I'll be documenting them here on A Bar Cart in Brooklyn. My professional planning experience includes both corporate events and weddings, but my favorite to plan are smaller events at home or on travels. I spent a year and a half in the pastry kitchen of a fine dining restaurant, and I have a certificate in cake design from the French Culinary Institute. I also spent some time at an invitation boutique to round out my event knowledge and indulge my love of letterpress. I don't believe in saving efforts for a "special occasion" as there are a lot of things in life worth celebrating! The trick is to be ready for them. In my event design I strive for details that are simple, yet significant. At A Bar Cart in Brooklyn I'll be sharing everything I learn related to preparing for and creating inspired celebrations. 
A Bar Cart in Brooklyn | Monica Stolbach's Bar Cart
My bar cart (in Brooklyn!)
Sources: Belvoir Fruit Farms Cordial & Pressé via Foragers City Grocer | Sugar Paper Coasters | Key Bottle Opener | Rufflewood Pink Linen Cocktail Napkins | Gold Cocktail Shaker | Volsupa Candle | Liber & Co. Texas Grapefruit Shrub | Sofia Minis | Royal Rose Cardamom-Clove Syrup | Granny Chic Floral Paper Straws | Stemless Champagne Flutes (Similar) | What's a Hostess to Do?  | Gold Leaf Swizzle Sticks (Vintage Shop) | Pink Ombre Roly Poly Glasses (Vintage Shop)

I'll be posting every weekday. Follow along! (I recommend bloglovin').