Right now, I’m looking at my vast collection of food magazines, which burden my kitchen bookshelves and occasionally fall on my head when I try to extract one. You know what they’ll all be writing about between May 25 and September 3? They’ll all be filled with ideas for easy summertime entertaining.
Great, but the bad news is that these magazine parties all presuppose that you’ve actually managed to plan the party ahead. That you’ve shopped for the ingredients and have done a whole bunch of prep work almost defies the notion of summer. At my house, summer parties just sort of happen. Parents share a glass of wine after a play date, people linger after the beach. At sundown, after a sweaty day of yard work, neighbors all wind up on one porch. Generally, we don’t know how many people will show up, but we do know that we’ll be hungry.
Cue the Party Packs at bartaco. Here’s what it’s got going for it: First, it’s fairly cheap. Depending on the size of your gathering, these Party Packs average about 15 bucks per person and can be ordered for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 diners. Each pack yields ample, family-friendly snacks of quesadillas, chips, guacamole, and pork and chicken tamales, and, when those disappear, you can dig into tortillas with three types of taco filling. For sides, there’s cucumber salad, pickled veggies, chipotle slaw, grilled corn with lime, cayenne and Cotija cheese, and all three of bartaco’s excellent sauces. The pretty, dragonfly-stamped paper sacks also include paper plates, handy disposable tongs, plastic cutlery, and tons of napkins. Plus, you don’t need to call bartaco days ahead–just call and pick up your Party Pack as you would for regular takeout. Or, Fairfield County residents can spring a few more bucks for a delivery charge. Party Packs from bartaco’s Stamford location can be delivered by the independent restaurant delivery service, GoWaiter.com.
Oh, but you say it’s just not the same. What about those amazing bartaco drinks? Well, I just happen to have this covered. I snagged the recipe for one of Wine & Spirits Director Gretchen Thomas’s triumphs: her Smoky Cholula. A couple of notes on the cocktail recipe (below): You can find guava nectar in Latino markets or in Latino supermarket sections—sometimes sold as guayaba nectar (which is how I found Goya’s version). Don’t try to substitute just any mezcal for the leathery, smoky Sombra. The good news is Sombra is widely available and pretty cheap as far spirits go. We found a $30 bottle at the nondescript liquor store next to Stop & Shop. Also, just like bartaco, you can make the Smoky Cholula in pitchers—I’ve done the extension below. Here’s to a happy summer!
Courtesy of bartaco
1 oz Sombra mezcal
1 ½ oz guava nectar
½ oz lemon juice (or juice from ½ lemon)
½ oz simple syrup
Lemon wedge for garnish
Combine all measured ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and serve, garnished with a lemon wedge.
Smoky Cholula (pitcher)
Adapted from bartaco
1 cup Sombra mezcal
1 ½ cups guava nectar
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup simple syrup
8 lemon wedges
Combine all ingredients except the lemon wedges in a pitcher (may be done a bit ahead). Serve over ice with lemon wedge (or, if you’re inspired, shake each serving to order with ice, then strain into ice-filled rocks glasses).
Thursdays, 5:30 – 9:30 pm in the Dylan Lounge
$35 per person
Here’s an incredible opportunity to enjoy a lavish feast (with a view!) for not a lot of dough. This, from Chef Peter Kelly: “Please join us this Thursday, May 17, in the Dylan Lounge at X2O for a very special meal. In addition to our regular Dylan Menu and full sushi bar we feature…
A Three-Course Dinner featuring Pan-Fried German Wiener Schnitzel
My very first job in a restaurant was at a little German restaurant where Katy, the owner and chef, first taught me about the wonders of German cuisine. Wiener Schnitzel is the classic German dish that I love best. Young veal is cut into steaks and pounded thinly, then dusted with fresh bread crumbs and crisped in a pan. The result is tender veal with a crispy texture served with a drizzle of veal jus.
The Wiener Schnitzel Menu
Warm Strudel of Wild Mushrooms with Grilled Knockwurst [served with] Caramelized Onions & Light Mustard Sauce
German Wiener Schnitzel with Veal Jus [served with] Spaetzle with Butter & Scallion Spring Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Black Forest Cherry Cake: Kirshwasser-Soaked Cherries & Dark Chocolate Cake Mit Schlag”
Let’s just think of this dish as “pig candy.” We’re talking pork so beautifully cooked that its interior is falling-apart tender, yet its generous layer of fat is rendered and seared with Crown Maple Syrup until it merely whispers luxury. Look for Chef Marc Lippman’s hyper-seasonal ramp-potato purée to rest underneath and a generous scattering of blonde Hudson Valley morels to make this dish insanely lavish. Yum.