February was our book club’s 20th anniversary. Because of Covid numbers, we waited to celebrate together in March with a 1920s party. (You can read more about why we chose a 1920’s theme on this post that talks more about the history of the group.) Sadly we were missing Virginia, who is only one of two original members still with the group, but we had a great time and really landed the theme!
Susan decorated the table with many old copies of books we’ve read. It was so fun to reminisce about each book–it’s also amazing how many we forget reading! We ate tea sandwiches, Waldorf salad, stuffed celery, relishes, deviled eggs, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate phosphates, and Southside cocktails.
We read Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground, which was written in between his novels Native Son and Black Boy in the 1940s, but not printed until last year. It was a really good, but really tough book.
I’m so thankful for this group and for a chance to talk about old books.
For my birthday this year, I really wanted to drive up to Wisconsin to eat at a real supper club. I’ve eaten at a true Wisconsin supper club exactly once, but it is what my dining dreams are made of–many courses of delicious home-cooking without any pretension.
We were just starting to research the best options when the pandemic hit and everything shut down. It was really depressing. I didn’t give up on my supper club dinner–but there was no way I was going to Wisconsin in the middle of a pandemic. Soooo…once the library started opening back up again, I got this book and started planning a menu from home.
I should preface this with a disclaimer: supper club food is not for the weak of heart…there is a lot of cream and fat in many of the dishes. (Though there are a few tasty looking, lighter fish dishes in the book, in case that’s your thing!) So for us, this definitely isn’t a weekly thing, but it was really fun to make everything from scratch and to indulge a little bit–orrrr a lot!
I’m going to share two recipes from our feast in case you want to create a little Wisconsin supper club happy hour at home.
We started out with the Wisconsin classic, brandy old fashioneds. Did you know that 1/3 of Korbel’s brandy is sold in Wisconsin? (I didn’t know until I read the book.) If you like a sweeter cocktail, this might be for you. It was fun to try, but I’ll stick with a regular Old Fashioned. (Or I’ll at least skip the 7-Up and make it with club soda!)
Brandy Old Fashioned (from the Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of bitters
2 orange slices
1.5oz brandy (Apparently Korbel is the official brandy of Wisconsin, but we used something from Trader Joe’s!)
lemon lime soda (We used 7-Up.)
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and orange slices in the bottom of a glass until the sugar has dissolved. Add the brandy, soda, and ice. Stir to mix and garnish with an orange wedge and a maraschino cherry.
I’m glad we tried it for the full experience and when we can finally (safely) dine out again, I’m totally going to order one at a real supper club in Wisconsin.
Along with the old fashioneds, we had two appetizers. The first, pictured at the top, was beer cheese from Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club in Madison, Wisconsin. This place has been around since 1947 and it’s a top 5 contender for our supper club road trip.
The beer cheese is so easy to make and I found it perfect on Club crackers (because they’re a classic!)
Beer & Cheese Spread
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups shredded swiss cheese (Sargento makes this, but you can also shred your own for better texture.)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
0.5 tsp dry mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
0.5-0.66 cups beer (We used Heineken.)
Add everything but the beer in a large mixing bowl. Beat in enough beer to make a spreadable cheese…add it slowly because you can always add more but it’s hard to take it away…(says the person who had to add more cheese to soak up the extra beer!) I used my stand mixer and beat everything on high to get it to combine. I don’t think my execution was perfect but man, was it tasty! And easy!
Naoto was in charge of the second appetizer–bacon wrapped water chestnuts. This recipe is from The Packing House in Milwaukee. The Packing House is at the top of my must-see list. They have a famous fish fry that is so popular, they built a drive-thru for it. And they have a piano player who has been performing there for forty years. And apparently their banana cream pie is not to be missed…
The bacon-wrapped water chestnuts were soooo good–I love water chestnuts and they were the perfect vehicle for the crisp bacon and the sweet and salty sauce.
For our salad, I made homemade blue cheese dressing from The House of Embers at the Wisconsin Dells. Named because they smoke ribs over embers of charcoal, The House of Embers has been around since 1959. I love the dark and moody feel of the place! The blue cheese dressing was excellent, but we did skip the recommended bacon on our salads. (Sad!) I chilled our plates in the freezer before adding the lettuce (iceberg!) and tomatoes and we served the dressing at the table. I highly recommend chilling your salad plates! It made everything feel so fresh!
For our entree, we went with the classic, Steak Diane. The recipe is from Joey Gerard’s: A Bartolotta Supper Club. Joey Gerard’s is a newcomer–they’ve only been around since 2012 though they are part of a restaurant group that’s been active since 1993. Friends, this Steak Diane recipe was incredible. I don’t want to oversell it here, but…I finished the whole steak. (That never happens…I usually take the sides much too seriously to bother with the steak!) Honestly, I kind of want Naoto to make it again this weekend. If you don’t know Steak Diane, it’s a classic dish, popular in the 40s and 50s, made with mushrooms and cream and so much more. Back in the day, it was often flambéed tableside. This recipe used a magical mix of butter, shallot, garlic, brandy, white wine, beef stock, dijon, cream, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce. It was an orchestra of flavor!
For dessert, we did stray from the cookbook. We planned to make the Buck-a-Neer Supper Club‘s peanut butter pie, but we couldn’t justify an entire pie for the two of us! It is a recipe we want to try…maybe someday when we can have people over again!
Instead, we made Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Budino. (No regrets!) They’re kind of like really rich chocolate puddings and I’ve been wanting to make them for awhile. A tiny portion is just the right amount to end the meal.
If I had been eating at a restaurant, I may have indulged in a grasshopper.
I can’t wait to share a real supper club dining experience here someday…but in the meantime, I give the Hasegawa Supper Club five stars!
This weekend we hosted a little joint birthday party for Presley and our friend James. They share a birthday week. I found an avocado dress on Amazon and avocados were “on trend” this summer at Paper Source, so we decided that was a perfect theme. Presley took to wearing the dress pretty well, but we didn’t leave it on her more than fifteen minutes, as I think dressing her up is cute but I also don’t believe in torture. Naoto made an avocado corn salad and Korean beef tacos. Karen made bruschetta and a key lime pie. I made yuzu sidecars. I borrowed the giant hanging avocado decorations from the Paper Source window and used a kit to make little avocado place cards.Naoto’s was my favorite…Presley’s too…Presley ate rotisserie chicken for her birthday meal since she’s not a fan of tacos and corn salad.She is, however, a fan of her new avocado catnip toy from James. I keep finding it in different places when I wake up in the morning.
It was a fun night. We haven’t really been hosting very much this year, and I kind of missed it. Maybe we’ll have a few more opportunities to have people over this fall.
On Saturday, we had a little Man on the Moon celebration for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. It was a small, last minute affair but I still wanted to set the Party mood with decorations and a theme menu.I made a cheeseball that I left naked so it sort of resembled the moon and I put a little astronaut on top. We had other cheese and crackers and Naoto made cashew chicken, jello, and Karen brought deviled eggs so it was a retro menu. Oreo came out with a “marshmallow moon” version that had space scenes on the cookies. Easy dessert!We served Moonwalk Cocktails, which is the actual drink Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drank when they returned to Earth. They were refreshing and fun, kind of like a mimosa.
1 oz orange liqueur
1 oz grapefruit juice
3 drops rosewater
top with sparkling wine
Add orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into glass and top with sparkling wine. Toast to the moon. In the living room I made star garlands out of shimmery papers and vellum and I made a weird looking moon out of a giant piece of cardstock and glitter. (Truthfully, it needs more glitter.) We watched a moon landing documentary while also listening to NPR’s moon landing playlist. (I added some songs because what is a moon themed playlist without Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow and Pink Floyd’s Eclipse?)Before we were married, Naoto and I threw a moon conspiracy theory party where we all watched a conspiracy documentary about how the moon landing was faked. I think that was our first theme party! So, this was a nice re-visiting of the moon theme…without the wild theories… (Just to be clear, we watched the documentary for fun, not because any of us are conspiracy theorists. Though if you’re into that kind of thing, the documentary we watched is available on Prime! I found it when I was looking for other documentaries to watch this time. It’s called What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo and it’s more than three hours long.)I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures once everyone came because I had a little moon and stars skirt on and Brooke wore a retro patriotic outfit and Jessica and Karen came in 1960s dresses, but…we were having a good time.
Did you celebrate the moon landing anniversary? I haven’t bought my moon landing postage stamps yet, but I have been using up some of my vintage space themed stamps.
Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂
Naoto and I have been working on our menu for our 4th annual Hasegawa Tanabata. We are going all out this year again with a sushi tray and lots of homemade recipes we’ve been perfecting all year. It really is my favorite night of the summer…well, next to fireworks…but the food is better. (Sorry, grilled American food.) Last year I made a batch of spumonis and we’ve also had yuzu liqueur and sake, but this year, I wanted a fancy cocktail and I found this one on Reddit. It tastes like something you’d drink at a suburban sushi restaurant, though it’s not Japanese. Still, I think the purple is fitting with the spirit of Tanabata and it’s very delicious.
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
0.75oz lychee liqueur
0.5oz creme de violette
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Serve on the lanai with some sushi and gyoza on a hot summer night.
July 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! It was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! Naoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink. Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. We ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!)
It’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!
A couple weeks ago I threw a party that has been on my theme party list for a looooong time -actually since before the Mrs. Roper party- The Golden Girls Gala! I love The Golden Girls. It’s my favorite comfort TV and I’ve seen most of the episodes at least ten times each. I love the girls’ style, especially their pajamas. (It makes me want to up my pajama game.) I love Dorothy’s sarcasm, Blanche’s confidence, Rose’s innocence, and Sophia’s attitude. This is my favorite Golden Girls moment:
It’s hard to say what my favorite episode is…maybe “Yes, We Have No Havanas” (Season 4, Episode 1) where Blanche and Sophia fight over the same man? Or “A Little Romance” (Season 1, Episode 13) where Rose is dating a little person and the other girls handle meeting him with…awkwardness. What’s your favorite episode? I found these great Golden Girls paper dolls and used them to decorate the food table. I ordered these Golden Girls faces from Paper Party Parade on Etsy. I used them to make little cheese picks. And I used the leftover circles to make a garland with some Golden Girls postcards from my collection. I’ve used the gold glitter rosettes for a thousand parties and I think they’ve met their end. They have served us well…We mostly hung out in the kitchen where Naoto made pizzas (reminiscent of Sophia and Max’s pizza shop in “Sophia’s Wedding” from Season 4, Episode 7.) We ate other 1980s snacks like cheese balls, Crunch-n-Munch, and Pop Tarts. And we ate guava cheesecake because of course…we had to eat cheesecake.We eventually made it out to the lanai to enjoy dessert and cocktails. I encouraged everyone to dress “in costume” and it was a fabulous variety of Golden Girls interpretations. I wore a peignoir set. (My mom was shocked that I was going to wear it in front of guests, but it covered as much as a summer dress would, so I figured it was fine.) My peignoir set was borrowed from my mom (she, too, has fabulous pajamas) and it’s not as colorful and luxurious as Blanche’s, but it worked for the party. Karen wore a very Dorothy outfit, long and loose. (She also borrowed from her mom’s closet!) Robyn wore the most fantastic 1980s working girl outfit, bright colors, bold necklace, neon sunglasses, clip-on earrings!! (You can see her at the top picture.) Donovan and Kathy both wore wonderful kaftans that were casually fabulous. And Jackie found a hilarious t-shirt of The Girls and the moon. I made a Golden Girl punch based off a recipe I modified from Serious Eats. I’ll share it soon. It was a hit, though we ran out of some key ingredients and I had to save us with Aviations later in the night! Of course at the end of every party I always think about the thousands of ways I could have decorated better or hosted better, but I think everyone had a good time…and really, that’s all you need with friends.