Watermelon Spritzer:: THE drink of the season

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Watermelon is ripe and ready this time of year which means it’s time for Keith Robinson’s delicious batched cocktail recipe, the watermelon spritzer. It’s perfect for spring and summer. Try it this weekend, and let me know what you think. Remember: you can always cut it down for a smaller, more COVID-19 appropriate group. Or just make the entire batch for a weekend of refreshments.

Watermelon Spritzer
Serves 12

You will need:
– 6 cups watermelon juice
– 1 cups fresh lime juice
– 1 cups mint simple syrup
– 1 bottle white Bordeaux or white burgundy wine
– 1/2 bottle club soda
– Fresh mint, lime slices as garnish

To prepare:
In a pitcher combine all the ingredients and ice and stir. To serve add fresh mint and slice of lime as garnish to each glass.

Photo: The Raftermen

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Valerie Failla

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Today’s post is from our PR guru, Valerie Failla:

I am a publicist.

I have worked in areas of public relations, in almost every specialty—big brands, small brands, in-house, off-site—you name it. For the last two decades, I have primarily focused on the culinary and hospitality industries. Unfortunately, these two are a few the hardest hit industries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lately, friends and industry cohorts tell me, “Reinvent yourself.”

My response is always “No.”

I want to continue to be who I have always been simply because it is who I truly am. My “job” has never felt like a job in the traditional sense of the word. What I do for clients fuels my creativity, my drive, and my passion. There isn’t anything else that I could–or would–ever aspire to be.

9/11. I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For weeks, grey smoke hung outside the front windows of my dilapidated, fourth floor, walk-up apartment, although I lived over six miles from the World Trade Center site. I walked seventy-seven blocks and too many avenues to count to work for over two weeks for fear there would be another surprise attack, and I would be crushed underground on the subway. One would think that after surviving the fright of a terrorist attack in your own hometown backyard you could make it through anything. How could life possibly get any worse?

The most difficult difference between that darkest period in America and our current climate is the isolation. My kids can’t go to school. I can’t go to the diner for a cup of coffee and cheese fries. My husband and I cannot now do the work we have so thoroughly enjoyed since my agency, Via Failla PR & Events, launched in 2016. I have read that isolation can play incredibly interesting tricks on the mind, therefore, I will be infinitely grateful for my family who keep me busy, smiling, laughing, and again–very busy.

So what to do? Seek the silver lining.

Planting
As a family we have always planted an assortment of vegetables and herbs on our back deck. While we have been sheltered in place, we have taken the opportunity to create a much larger garden than we have in past years. Part of our newfound excitement is watching the newly potted strawberries and jalapeños bloom for the first time! Gardening is incredibly rewarding!

Play on!
Classic board games including Life, Monopoly, and Operation have been keeping all our minds occupied (as well as laughing!) After playing several nights of each, I have often thought to myself, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, would my kids even know about these iconic games that kept my sister and me so entertained throughout the 80’s?

Cooking
Hands down, our number one favorite activity. Cooking food is therapy. It is an incredibly positive, creative, and simple way to spend time with those we are quarantined with each day and then reap the delicious benefit! My sweet Gen Z children have created time-lapse videos of us cooking and my husband has taken so many photos of our dishes to post socially, that it’s beyond flattering!

Out of extreme circumstances comes learning. We will become tougher, smarter, save more money, and organically be more humble when we finally drive this infectious demon out of society.

Until then, stay home, stay safe, and keep on creating!

Here is one of my husband’s most favorite breakfast foods, egg toast cups. Adults and kids can easily make them and you can add in anything at all from your pantry.

Egg Toast Cups

You will need:
– One, regular size muffin tin
– Olive Oil spray or olive oil
– Bread Slices (Any kind work. However many muffins your tray makes, that’s how many bread slices you need)
– Room temp butter
– Eggs (number is same as how many muffins your tray makes)
– Italian Parsley (minced)
– Minced garlic (or garlic powder if out of fresh garlic)
– Salt and pepper
– Any Italian cured/dried salami “cold cut” that you can easily tear up
– Vegetables or other additions anchovies, roasted peppers, just about anything works!

To prepare:
Either spray the muffin cups or wipe evoo all over each muffin cup to prevent the bread from sticking

Butter both sides of each slice of bread

Push each slice of bread into each muffin cup and form it to stick to the muffin cup to make a bowl

Whisk all eggs and add in S&P, minced garlic (or garlic powder)

Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup and be sure to leave a bit of room at the top b/c egg will rise when cooked

Rip up salami and put a few pieces in each muffin cup (bologna is good too!)

Bake at 400 degrees until the egg is cooked but top is a bit soft (or cooked to your own liking)

Top w/parsley and serve (they easily come out of the muffin cup and they look really pretty!)

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Philip Meeker

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Hello! I’m Philip Meeker, the chef at La Fortezza. Some of you might know me from the cooking classes Annette and I do on her Instagram or from pictures of all the cool things we explore in Italy.

I hope you all are doing well as possible during this time of social distancing. For me, it’s been a mixed experience. Nothing really bad has happened, and I’m thankful for that, but the world has changed in a way that’s left me feeling more uncertain about how to move through it. Being forced to pause also forced me to pay attention to many things I was ignoring. It added to the discomfort of distancing, but it’s given me more self-awareness and has strengthened some of my relationships.

As part of that awareness, I’ve made sure to try to do a few things each week to keep things playful and my spirits up.

Wake up & Dance.
This may sound goofy, but I love to dance. It also gets me to pay more attention to my body and to be comfortable being aware of my feelings there. I’ve been tuning into DJ DNice’s quarantine mixes and have also had Beyonce’s Homecoming on repeat. She’s the Queen B.

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Date nights.
Sarita, who is my partner, and I love to have a night out. Since that’s off the table, I’ve been surprising her with coursed meals, from pasta to octopus salad to pistachio cakes. Sometimes, I feel like I’m unconsciously or deliberately trying to recreate our experience at La Fortezza. If you have a yard, and it’s still cool where you are, I highly recommend an evening picnic next to the fire pit. As the sun goes down, we will lounge about on our blanket in the grass, looking up into the stars, sharing our hopes and dreams. May sound a little saccharine but it’s relaxing. (I made sure to get her permission to share this.)

Nature.
I’ve mentioned this a little in my date night rec, but the outdoors have been bringing me much needed serenity. Whether it’s a jog through the nature-preserve trails near our house or a walk with Louis Harris, our Bichon, I find I start to breathe a lot deeper when I get some exercise while listening to the birds and feeling the sun on my face.

Yoga.
It’s been my centering practice for the last 8 years, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to get myself on my mat much during this quarantine. But as my yoga teacher advises, I’m not going to focus on what I’m not doing with my practice, and I’m going to accept where I am.

Cooking Classes with Annette.
Planning, prepping, and co-teaching these classes has been a welcomed project these months. Cooking with Annette, though virtually, brings back a lot of memories of cooking, dining, and exploring Italy with her. I’m planning to be back there this September with her.

Thanks, Philip! Find Chef Philip’s bolognese recipe here!

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Focaccia La Fortezza Instagram Live Cooking Lesson

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Ciao Everyone!  We had a big demand to do a La Fortezza Virtual cooking lesson on focaccia, so we are answering your wishes! Join Chef Philip and me on my IG Live Wednesday at 5 pm EST. Below is the recipe we will be preparing.

We will be making the authentic Liguria-style focaccia. We will tell you all about the focaccia that you will find all up and down the Italian Riviera, and we’ll show you how to make it yourself. I hope to see you on the ‘gram!

Focaccia
Serves 4

You will need:
– 4 cups double zero flour (super fine flour) flour for kneading if needed.
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1/3 cup warm water
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for the cookie sheet + 3 tablespoons for finishing before baking, 1 tablespoon to finish after baking
– 1 tablespoon coarse salt + 1 teaspoon for finishing

To prepare:

Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1/3 cups water and let proof in a large bowl allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Place flour and oil and salt and water, combine until it forms a sticky dough, it should be very sticky. Flour your surface and turn the dough onto floured surface. knead gently for a minute until dough forms a soft dough.

On an oiled cookie sheet with a lip, spread the dough out to fit the cookie sheet. With your index fingers poke dimples into the top of the dough you may need to oil your fingers a bit to do this.

Let rest for 1 hour, then repeat by poking dimples into the risen dough, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Before placing in the oven, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil immediately and cool and eat warm or at room temperature. The key is to let the oil soak in as the focaccia cools.

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Web-Manager, Nicole

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Hi Everyone!

I’m Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend. As Annette mentioned earlier this week, we are running a series of posts checking-in on the team to see how everyone is handling shelter in place, and I’m up next.

Beyond helping Annette with her web-happenings, I am a freelance journalist which means that I am used to working from home. In fact, I’ve been working from home for six years next month! That means that my day-to-day work hasn’t changed too drastically which I think has really helped my mental state. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m finding that the smallest things absolutely exhaust me, and the tiniest bumps in my day can send me spiraling.

Because of that, I’ve implemented a few quarantine practices to help keep things positive:

A wardrobe of “workday” pajamas. Yes, I wear pajamas for working, and yes, I change into “regular” pajamas for bed. I like to say I’m channeling my inner Patricia Altschul/Betty Draper. For total transparency, I *did* start this routine after falling while walking my dog and not being able to wear anything tight on my knees for two weeks, but I very quickly realized it was a good system.

Quarantine earrings. I am a statement earring wearer, so I am wearing fun earrings once a week or so and documenting it on Instagram.

Needlepointing. I have been needlepointing for the past few years, and I honestly have no idea what I would be doing if I did not have that hobby right now. It keeps me busy with my hands; it keeps me off of my computer/phone, and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment every time I complete a project. If you are looking to learn, check out this post about getting started!

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Herb gardening. Okay, so maybe I am just an herb planter because I potted full-grown herbs but STILL. Planting a variety of herbs has given me something to watch grow and take care of. It’s also inspired tons of herbaceous cocktails. Below, I’m sharing one of my current favorite recipes:

The Windsor Garden
by Empress Gin, modified by me
serves 1

You will need:
– 3-4 fresh mint leaves
– 3-4 fresh basil leaves + 1 for garnish
– 1 hearty rosemary stem
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 1 oz of Empress gin (or other gin of your choice)

To prepare:
Remove herbs from stems and muddle well in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and plenty of ice. Shake well for 30 seconds. Pour into a small martini or coupe glass, garnish with remaining basil, and enjoy.

Overall, I’ve been grateful for the excuse to slow down. Of course, I’d love to be working from my favorite coffee shops, eating at restaurants and going on now-canceled vacations, but all things considering, I am weathering this storm just fine. Better than fine, actually. My friends and family are safe and healthy, and that’s truly all that matters.

 

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