BUTTER BEER AT 9 AM ON A THURSDAY
Personally, Harry Potter has always been about the food and drink. When J.K. Rowling’s encyclopedic chronicle of a young orphan hit local bookstores in September of 1998, I hopped on board the Hogwarts Express. As was the norm in many households with young children, the book became a pre-bedtime read aloud ritual. Following young Harry and his cronies required attention to detail, and there were plenty of details to tuck away for safekeeping. Watching Harry navigate wizardry school while dodging He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Lord Voldemort) was both exciting and exhausting. The challenges facing our beloved protagonist seemed other-worldly because in fact, they were.
At some point during Harry's journey from youth towards adulthood, I lost focus and put down the books. The up and coming wizards (plus Hagrid, the Dursleys and more characters than I can recount), soldiered on without me. Dodging more sinister events than an average Muggle (such as myself) would encounter in a lifetime, there was one feature of the books that deeply resonated. Amongst the minutiae found on every page of J.K. Rowling’s fictional masterpiece, I gravitated towards the excruciatingly detailed food references. When Harry and Ron shared sweets from the Hogwarts Express tea trolley, I was riveted. Chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, all of the cream cakes, eclairs, and pies jumped from the pages into my hungry imagination. I craved steaming mugs of hot chocolate, eggnog, and the popular wizarding drink, ButterBeer. (I was already well acquainted with aromatic elderflower wine, thanks to the folks at St. Germain.) J.K. Rowling had created one of the most extensive pouring selections found in literature, one so detailed, you could practically taste it. When the characters spoke of tipples and sweets, the vivid prose latched onto my brain, as indelibly as a Sharpie marker on parchment.
Eventually the books segued into movies, though the dizzying effects and darkness were not my tankard of tea. Harry outgrew his Hogwarts attire and was stepping into roles on Broadway. The Harry Potter brand however, was conjuring far bigger plans for the future.
Quite a few books and so many movies later, the Harry Potter brand has taken up residency in 21,000 square feet of retail space in New York City. Boasting the largest collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts products in the world, the flagship store spares no attention to detail. Spanning three floors, the store feels more theme-park than shopping emporium. Offering plenty of merchandise, an array of selfie-opportunities, and an interactive trivia game, there are also more wands than you can shake a licorice stick at.
Thanks to the kind folks at Le Creuset, Williams Sonoma and Warner Brothers Consumer Products, I had the opportunity to visit the store flanking Broadway and East 22nd Street. Sampling a mug of ButterBeer at 9 o’clock in the morning might not be for everyone, but I’m thinking the brew (which tastes like a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda on steroids) has a.m. drinking potential. A shot of the butter-scotchy beverage would be a fine addition to a strong espresso based drink. And just a few steps beyond the ButterBeer Bar, an expansive alcove stocks floor-to-ceiling sweets. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans are available in, yes, every flavor. For those who like a kick with their chocolate, Shock-O-Choc dark chocolate with ‘chilli’ powder will do the trick. It’s just the sort of sustenance one might consider as a fine antidote to all of the peanut butter cups and Hershey miniatures heading your way this weekend. For those who follow Sirius Black’s mantra, you might prefer celebrating Halloween (and an extra hour of sleep), with a handful of chocolate frogs. Because what’s life without a little risk.
Seckel pear distraction
Yes, it’s almost time to start stashing pie shells in the deep freeze. And it’s also a good idea to contemplate your holiday dessert menu. But I’m currently distracted by a large quantity of Seckel pears from @solebury orchards, the ones glaring at me every time I open the fridge. So instead of chipping away at the diminutive autumn fruit with slabs of gruyere and fontina (plus glasses of house rosé), I’m sending the pears on a scone mission. Inspired by a scone from long ago (the 90s) and far away (Manhattan) the happy result is a medley of cornmeal, honey, pears, and ginger. A simple egg wash, no sugary glaze, because I feel very strongly that scones should be scones, not Pop-Tarts. (I’m not judging, just stating my preference.) And while I wait for the scones to cool, I’ll roll a few pie shells because old habits die hard.
There will be more talk of Pie-vember in greater detail, as we inch closer to the end of this month. For all of the pie bakers in the audience, would you be kind enough to weigh in below in the comments, “What’s your favorite pie plate? What’s it made of and why is it your fave?” Just doing a little research… Thanks in advance! Oh, look at the time- it’s scone o’clock.
ANNIVERSARY WALTZ '21
Sharing/Not Sharing dessert with @mschweppe15 since 1983. (Technically since 1981 but that was in Siam and Neverland- what a time that was.) On this date so many years ago, we had a party with 80 of our dearest in Rommy and Jerry’s backyard. The rental company didn’t bring enough chairs so my brother drove over shortly before the ceremony to retrieve them. @merryliza had car trouble. No one noticed (or wanted to tell me) that my bouquet had an errant rose which in most photos looks like it is growing out of my neck. Rommy snipped handfuls of hydrangeas from our neighbor’s yard to fill in the casual centerpieces. The chocolate ruffle cake was the star of the event, made and transported from Connecticut by the sweetest @betsypalmer. I had one bridesmaid, @bkgray66 who wore a little off-the-shoulder Laura Ashley number. @steinberglorims recalls that Rommy nixed my idea of wearing red shoes. I wore my mother’s wedding dress (reconfigured), a ring of flowers in my hair, and yeah, I did my own hair and make-up. Mr. Brynner sent a telegram and my other celebrity boss, a cigar smoking composer/producer, much to our surprise, attended. Which goes to show- if you invite them, they just might show up. It was a holiday weekend so we had brunch in the backyard the next morning; a glorious party.
So many of the guests are no longer with us, a not-so-subtle reminder that time has winged feet. You have the patience of a million saints, @mschweppe15. Glad you can do the math, because I can’t; ’83-’21 feels like forever and just yesterday. Like the illuminated Timex you wear, (so you can see the time in a dark theatre and know if we’re going to miss our train), we keep on ticking.
Faced with a small avalanche of apples, I had to choose between eating them out of hand, dunking them in a vat of caramel, or turning them into a pie shell. I chose the latter, spurred on by a recent purchase from Toronto’s St. Lawrence market. An addition to my rather extensive bakeware collection wasn’t critical. But I desperately coveted a small yet mighty springform, one with a latch that clamped shut with gusto. One that laughed in the face of water baths, cradled soufflé cakes, and housed the occasional pie. My collection of springforms were showing their age, having traveled endless miles along the Oreo cheesecake highways of the ‘80s and the Martha wedding cake extravaganzas of the 90s. The pans, ranging in size from 4” to 12” had celebrated far too many Cupids and Passovers to count. So I’m retiring some of the formerly durable, currently unhinged tins. Most of them served me well until they didn’t, at which point they taught me how to extinguish smoke and scrub an oven. Springforms and pie date back to savory across-the-pond versions, when deep-dish pies were both a means of preserving and entertainment. I’m not suggesting you rustle up four and twenty birdies for a pie, but consider apples as a contender. Make sure the springform is plenty deep. And you have some time on your flour-dusted hands.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm