Peachy Keen: Creating the perfect bellini Jello shot

Bellini Jell-O Shots

My take on the bellini: Sparkling wine & Peach Jello shot

I have a soft spot for Jello shots. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia for college, I’m not sure, there’s just something so fun about them. But while I have fond memories of “shooting” lime Jello mixed with copious amounts of Jose Cuervo, I like to think that as an adult I’ve upgraded to classier versions of alcohol and gelatin.

About 8 years ago, I made a gin and tonic jelly that I had seen in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I was completely smitten with it — it was a beautiful color, absolutely delicious and (dare I say?) even elegant.

Gin & Tonic Jelly

Gin & Tonic Jelly

Triple Layered Fruity Jell-O shotsA few years after that, I did a “cape cod” jelly made with alternating layers of vodka with cranberry and vodka with lime. It was fabulous.

And last year for my birthday I did triple layer Jello shots, putting in as much booze as possible while still allowing for the mixture to set. Yes, there is a science to this.

So when the girls in my office decided to throw a surprise baby shower for another co-worker, I asked if I could bring Jello shots. I think a few people thought this was a little weird (on several levels I’m sure) but my idea of a good party means there should be alcohol somewhere. If we weren’t going to be drinking wine, we should at least have boozy Jello. (In the end we drank wine too, because it was a Friday and we do what we want.)

I figured vodka would be a bit much for the mother-to-be, but since every pregnant lady I’ve known has still enjoyed a glass or two of bubbly while waiting for her due date, it seemed that sparkling wine would be perfect for the occasion. I pondered a few possible cocktail options (mimosas? Kir royals?) before settling on the classic combination of the Bellini — bubbles mixed with peach puree.

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Flowers in your bubbly: A little something different

Wild Hibiscus in Champagne

Wild hibiscus flowers liven up a glass of bubbly!

One of my favorite things to do is host parties, and over the years, I’ve learned it’s usually the small things that make a get-together memorable. Whether it’s creative party invitations, fun party snacks or curiously carbonated cocktails, it seems like it’s often the little details that will stick in someone’s mind for days afterward. Therefore I’m constantly on the hunt for the strange and unusual, little things — generally of the culinary persuasion — to bring out at my next party to surprise guests with.

So when I heard about these Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup a few years ago, I was immediately obsessed with them. Unable to find them in town, I went online and ordered six or seven jars at once. A few I gifted to friends who also share a love for interesting treasures and the rest I hoarded in my pantry to break out whenever the mood hit.

While they aren’t a new trend by any stretch, these hibiscus flowers are certainly still fun to experiment with. They add a festive detail to any party, and are particularly perfect as an ice breaker during aperitifs. (That sentence made me feel like I just channeled Martha Stewart!) But honestly, even if you’ve grown accustomed to these flowers like I have, they never lose their luster.

And the best part is that they require no more effort than this:

Start with a hibiscus flower from the jar. They feel like a gummy candy crossed with a fruit leather, and they kind of remind me of these piranha plants from Super Mario Bros.

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

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Waffles & Mimosas with Fictional Friends

My friend Oliver and I are obsessed with Gossip Girl. Well, to be honest, we are obsessed with Chuck and Blair. They are just too beautiful and perfect for each other.

Last night we watched the final three episodes of the latest season and decided to indulge in a waffle and champagne dinner while we watched. If you follow Gossip Girl you will know that they are always eating waffles. Rufus, Dan’s father, is apparently infamous for his amazing waffle brunches, so every other episode shows someone chowing down on a plateful of them. And it’s made us increasingly jealous, especially since they always seem to be sipping on champagne too.

We may not live on the Upper East Side — or in New York at all *ahem* — but that didn’t stop us from putting together a pretty kick-ass spread.

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Adventures in Booze: Making an Effervescent Martini

Not too long ago my husband and I attended a special dinner at KitchenCru, a community kitchen in Portland. One of our six courses came paired with a cocktail that has been on my mind ever since. The bartender made a martini using sake instead of vermouth. It blew me away.

I have never really been a martini drinker, but the floral notes of the sake made this one intriguingly unique. Last weekend, we decided to recreate the cocktail at home, even buying the same brand of sake, but thought we’d give it our own spin using a twist of Meyer lemon. Oh yeah, and by making it bubbly!

You might be asking, isn’t adding club soda to a martini diluting its integrity? The answer to that is the Perlini, the most recent secret weapon in our kitchen arsenal. There’s way more to this thing than I have time to write, but it makes for an interesting read if you’re curious.

As a fun side note, I actually met the man, Evan Wallace, who invented the Perlini while drinking cocktails in a Seattle bar called the Zig Zag. We had an excellent conversation about the time he once ate lion. That hilarious interaction plus the fabulous cocktails I drank a different time at his bar, the now-defunct Vessel where they actually used a commercial-grade Perlini machine, made me seriously consider the possibilities of owning one myself. And since I had a lack of better ideas this last December, I decided to buy the home version for my husband for his Christmas gift — and what a gift it’s been!

First off, it looks badass. Just look at the case it comes in! Every time we open it, I feel like James Bond. It’s got a row of CO2 cartridges (all labeled with the Perlini name), plus a shaker and a whole slew of other instruments, including a flash drive instruction manual. The curved gadget is a hand-held pressurizer — you screw in the cartridges and use it to filter the CO2 into the shaker.

So how exactly does this sucker work?

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