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Home / Articles / Food / Food Writing /  Domestic Affairs

Domestic Affairs

Home is where the hearth is, so pass the kebabs.

August 20, 2008, 12:00 am
On a windswept and battered coastline in an undisclosed Near Eastern desert there is a distinctive landmark known as The Barracuda. Betwixt ramshackle shanties and brothels that masquerade as all-night bakeries, The Barracuda sits on a narrow spit of land that juts out from the northernmost flats of the peninsula and hyper-extends into the straits like a boomerang with villages pockmarked along its spine.

What happens at The Barracuda stays at The Barracuda, a mangled and derelict wide-body aircraft jet that has been gutted and transformed into an upscale cocktail lounge. It is a vacuum where new worlds open as the entryway doors close. CS Lewis couldn’t have designed it better.

Ten thousand miles west of The Barracuda is Santa Fe. Here, you can find a place just as authentic, unceremonious and private as The Barracuda—the home kitchen—though you may not need a secret knock to get through the door.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then that explains why bona fide speakeasies such as The Barracuda are nonexistent here, where Bloody Marys and mimosas can be swilled at breakfast without apology or risk of socioreligious fallout. Some of the best food in Santa Fe is found in people’s homes, as are the most genuine, playful and experimental. Our generation of cooks discuss kitchen renovations with the same misty-eyed sentimentality once reserved for talk of childhood dreams and a healthy economy. The archetypal guy’s guy now discusses BTUs and horsepower with equal vigor.

By and large, Santa Feans are sophisticated but unpretentious eaters who balance a passion for the outdoors with an intense dedication to staying home—and we like it that way. The result is a burgeoning community of fervent home cooks, hosts and entertainers. Many embrace a lifestyle wherein the only thing preferable to a night on the town with friends is a night in the backyard with friends, or perhaps just a Weber or a Kamado. If half of Santa Fe has given up cutting-edge for cut-off sweats, then we’ve done so gladly.

Is it possible that Santa Fe’s quiet and informal restaurant scene can be explained by its residents’ inclinations toward domesticity? For starters, we are one of the more notably casual cities in North America, largely due to the size of the second-home population here. The city has a high-tolerance policy toward dusty cowboy boots, and even Santa Fe’s fine dining restaurants are markedly less rigid about attire than similar restaurants in larger cities.

If it’s authentic, home-cooked regional classics you’re after, acquire an invitation to a friend’s or grandmother’s dinner table. If you want to escape to Capri, look no further than the island in your kitchen. While legions of devoted home cooks have kept busy shelling peas, the Food Network and its kin have drawn Americans to the stove with a curiosity unseen since the days of Julia Child. 

At last, there is the very best reason to stay home: the license to freely create and consume those wonderful things that are impossible to find in restaurants because they are labor-intensive, esoteric or otherwise impractical. Case in point: the Pimm’s Cup, a gin-based cocktail and fruit course in one. I avoided the Pimm’s Cups of my college years: fusty, Victorian and passé. Then I was turned onto a more modern version, sublimely fruity but austere nonetheless. When it’s warm out, I can think of nothing else I would rather drink—and nothing else most bartenders would resent me more for requesting.

I often say that if I had my druthers, my fantasy restaurant would be a place that serves good sloppy food until 4 am. Leaning against the kitchen sink with a mango and a slice of leftover grilled pizza folded in half, I realize that even if my fantasy materialized, I’d probably never go. I’d rather stay right here.

Pimm’s Cup
If you like sangria and Arnold Palmers, get some Pimm’s No. 1 and mix up a pitcher of this immediately. The quantities are vague because the result depends on the fruit used. It will be delicious no matter what, so just taste as you go in order to determine your preferred balance of sweet/tart.

Make simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water until dissolved. Since this keeps well, you may want to mix several cups for later use. Store in a sealed glass container and chill.
You will need one pound of lemons (more if you are using a very large pitcher or serving more than eight people), one lime, four strawberries, half an orange, half an English cucumber, a tart apple, half a pint of mixed berries (I like a combination of raspberries and blueberries), a few sprigs of mint, a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 and a chilled bottle of sparkling water. Set one lemon aside and juice the others. Prepare a strong lemonade base of equal parts fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. Chill.

Build your Pimm’s Cup in the largest attractive pitcher you have. Slice the orange, lime, cucumber and lemon paper-thin. Chop the apple and strawberries. Tumble in the other berries and the mint leaves and mix with a long spoon. Ideally the pitcher should be about halfway filled with fruit, but don’t worry if you can’t fit it all; just reserve it for the next batch.

Fill the pitcher about a third of the way with Pimm’s No. 1 and a third of the way with lemonade base. Let chill for about an hour so that the fruit can macerate. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with chilled, sparkling water just before serving. Taste and adjust with lemon juice or simple syrup until it’s perfect.

Fill highball or other glasses with ice and pour the mixture over, spooning fruit into the glass to garnish.

 

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