Sandy “Schmandy” Shandy

Check out this Sweets & Bitters recipe in the All Hands on Deck cookbook. It's a beautiful collection from Red Hook business, and all proceeds go to Restore Red Hook. Here is my Sandy story, and a cocktail to go with it.

Here is Sandy in a glass. A drink that makes lemonade of lemons, is bittersweet, doused with comforting whiskey, and tinged with salt. There are no measurements because who can find their jiggers in a flooded home or bar? And living through a hurricane has taught us to improvise and not be so hard on ourselves or so judgmental of others. We are doing the best we can, and still finding moments to enjoy–to be together.

I would have never thought that the feeling remaining after losing nearly everything would be gratitude, but here I am feeling more overwhelmed by kindness than devastation. The morning after Sandy, my apartment looked and smelled as though someone had put everything in a blender full of sewage, gasoline and seawater. The refrigerator was on top of the bookshelf on top of my bike–how would I ever find my chef’s knife and my grandmother’s pearls!? Overwhelmed, I retreated to collect my emotions on higher ground. When I returned a few hours later with my brother to bolster me, there was a clean-up crew of 8 people–friends and strangers–standing outside. They had sorted every last thing that might be salvageable into the garage and piled all the trash into the street: the ruined apartment was miraculously empty.

This is the most enormous act of kindness I have ever experienced or witnessed! It was followed by a bottle of whiskey shared with my shaken landlords, and a coat loaned by an also-devastated neighbor who couldn’t stand to see me shiver. As we dug into the next stage of cleaning and sorting a friend stopped by with a hot meal for us, another with wine in a mason jar. Each day I talk with my neighbors and friends and I hear us all saying the same thing, “I’m lucky” and “I’m worried about the people who are worse off.”

It’s not over yet, but here’s a drink to keep us going.

If you want to help with Sandy relief, consider volunteering with or donating to Occupy Sandy, Restore Red Hook, The Red Hook Initiative, Red Cross, or another group helping with aid and recovery efforts.

Sandy “Schmandy” Shandy

  • Beer, a bitter one if you can find it
  • Lemonade, fresh squeezed or not
  • Bourbon, or something like that
  • Black salt (yeah right like you have that around, so kosher salt will do)

Moisten and salt the rim of a pint glass. Put some ice cubes in it. Fill it not quite halfway with lemonade. Add a splash of whiskey, about ¼ cup. Top it with beer, and give it a gentle stir.


Homebound Cooking

photo courtesy of nasaAll the recipes I've been playing with for the forthcoming "Corner Store Entertaining" volume of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly seem especially pertinent as Hurricane Sandy shuts down New York City. If there are stores open, they are mom and pop delis where the proprietors live upstairs. I'm not the only one thinking about how to make good meals out of canned goods and pantry staples right now–what else is there to do besides cook, drink, and obsessively scan social media for storm pictures?

Here are two recipes you shouldn't have to leave the house (or at least the block) to make. Improvise a hurricane cocktail, see what's in the pantry, and get cooking before the power goes out.

Grandma Joan's Pimento Cheese

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • two 4-oz jars pimentos, finely chopped
  • 25 shakes Tabasco

Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. It should be thick but spreadable. Add more mayonnaise if it’s too thick, and more Tabasco if you like it spicy. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl.

Serve with Ritz crackers, baguette slices, or beer bread.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a bread pan (fold one out of doubled up aluminum foil if you don't own one).

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump in the beer and brikly mix together to moisten the flour but leave it lumpy. Transfer the batter to the pan so it's somewhat evenly distributed, and pour the butter or olive oil over the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or fork comes out mostly clean. Remove it from the pan to cool for about 15 minuted before slicing.

Notes: Avoid using a bitter beer, something cheap and light is ideal. Substitute up to 1 cup of the flour with wheat flour. Add spices or shredded cheese for fun.