Thursday, October 4, 2012

Because it's pretty

I just wanted to share this photograph that I took this morning of the lavender growing on my balcony. It's spring here in Sydney, and there is much to celebrate. I hope to have more recipes, ideas and decorations for the Steampunk-style party I'm planning soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Coupe Yvette au Sherry

After writing my previous post, I did a bit more research into the puzzling Coupe Yvette au Sherry on the menu.

First clue: From the New York Public Library, I found a menu from the Savoy Hotel, London, that lists Coupe Yvette aux Paillettes as the second of eight courses at a dinner to celebrate American Independence Day, 1925. This suggests that it was served between the canapés and the entrée at the Savoy in that era. Paillettes, I believe, are straw-like wafers, a bit like crispy strips of crêpes.

Second clue: The same NYPL menu archive also has mentions of Coupe Yvette in menus from the Hotel New Yorker, 1937 – where it's listed under Ice Cream – and the Fifth Avenue Restaurant, 1917 – where it's with the desserts. This suggests that perhaps it is a sorbet-type dish, that might have been served as a palate-cleanser between the courses.

That would go very well in my steampunk style menu, as it sits between the oysters and salmon and a chilled soup. The question is, can I make a sorbet using Creme Yvette and sherry?

I also found this recipe, from a book called The Hostess of To-Day by Linda Hull Larned, in the Sherbets chapter:

No. 391. Creme Yvette
35 cts.
A : 1 pt. Lemon Ice No. 639 (Water Ice) : B : 4 tbsps. Creme Yvette cordial : C : 18 fresh violets. Add B to A before freezing, (ill glasses, add 2 or '■'• of C to each glass.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First course

I've started researching the menu for my proposed Steampunk Party, based on the fare offered at the Savoy Hotel in London on the occasion of H.G. Wells's 70th birthday. The first items on the menu were, according to my source, Huitres Natives and Saumon Fume. It's pretty easy to translate those as oysters natural and smoked salmon, which sound like delightful openers to a sumptuous meal.
I'm a seafood lover, so I'm happy to serve both of those dishes just as they come. Click on the picture at right for an amusing account of eating oysters à la Belle Époque, courtesy of Oysters.US. Pacific oysters, shells opened, piled on a platter with perhaps some lemon wedges and delicate triangles of buttered white bread on the side. Champagne, of course, is the perfect accompaniment.
Smoked salmon is served thinly sliced, either on its own or mounted on thin slices of toasted French bread, with a swirl of horseradish cream and a sprig of dill. These make great canapés to be eaten with the fingers while your guests circulate before sitting down at the table.
The third item on the menu, Coup Yvette au Sherry, is more difficult to decipher. My first attempt at researching this made me think that it is a cocktail featuring a popular 1930s violet-flavoured liqueur, Creme Yvette. Made of berries, violet petals, honey and orange peel, this liqueur is often combined with gin in cocktails such as the Blue Moon, or with champagne in the Stratosphere. Using sherry instead of the gin or champagne seems reasonable, although I have not yet obtained a bottle of Creme Yvette so that I can try it for myself. I would suggest a dry sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice, stirred over ice and strained into a cocktail coupe (hence the "coup" in the title).
This sounds like the kind of drink that Wells would have enjoyed, but it bothers me as an explanation because it is the only cocktail or drink item mentioned on the menu, apart from coffee. In this context, Coup Yvette au Sherry seems more likely to be a hot seafood dish with an Yvette sauce. Yvette sauce begins with a roux, to which are added sherry, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, Swiss cheese and cream. The sauce is poured over chopped prawns, lobster meat, spinach and mushrooms. That also sounds like something Wells would have enjoyed. Which would you include on your steampunk menu?
I still like the idea of trying the unusual Creme Yvette cocktail, but perhaps I'll serve Stratospheres as an aperitif with the oysters and smoked salmon canapés, before adjourning to the steampunk-decorated table to eat the hot seafood sauce dish.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pandora's hatbox

Pandora's Hatbox is surprisingly easy to make. You can follow the steps in the blog posts I've been making or, if it's easier for you, buy a fully illustrated step-by-step guide to doing it for just USD$5.00 at my etsy store. Don't forget to come back to the blog next week to see what my next project will be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Party time

When I was reading Michael Coren's biography of H.G. Wells, my imagination was caught by the description of the menu for Wells's 70th birthday party, at the Savoy Hotel in London. Opulent dishes that graced the several courses included huitres natives, souffle glace de Rothschild, and something called Coup Yvette de Sherry, which I can only assume is a cocktail based on Creme Yvette, a favourite 1920s violet liqueur.

Ever since I read about this extravaganza, I've wanted to hold a steampunk party featuring the dishes listed (or some version of them), with steampunk-style invitations, table decorations and even games. Over the next few weeks I'll be putting my party plan together and featuring some of the recipes and decorations on this blog.

Now, I just need to find someone to make one of these gorgeous steampunk cakes for me. (Tip of the tophat to Airship Ambassador for the link.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Purple lining

Here's how I made the lining for Pandora's Hatbox.
I used spray-on fabric glue (spray it onto both the inside of the hatbox and the back of the fabric for best adhesion) for the sides of the box and lid, then secured the edges with quick-grip liquid craft adhesive. The first step is to apply the lining around the inside of the barrel of the hatbox; after I'd glued down the edge I used bulldog clips to hold it in place while it dried.
To make the lid and base lining, I first traced the base of the hatbox twice onto cardboard and cut out two discs (cut about 5mm or a quarter inch inside the traced line so that the discs will fit inside the box). Then I gathered one edge of a strip of fabric very tightly to form a circle. With the gathered edge in the centre of the cardboard disc, turn the whole thing over and gather the other edge of the fabric so that it draws up on the other side of the disc.
I glued these fabric-covered discs into the lid and the base of the hatbox. (Note that I said last week that I was going to use paper to line the lip of the lid, but I decided to use the fabric because it was quite thin.) Apply the glue in the centre and around the outer edge of the disc, then use a couple of heavy books to squash it into place while the glue dries.
The final step is to add a button to cover up the gathered edges in the centre. I made these buttons by gathering a small circle of the fabric over a small, round badge, then glued them in place (I used the heavy books again). I'll post pictures of the finished hatbox in a day or two, when I've got the full instructions ready in my etsy store.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday marvel

Did everyone see the fabulous steampunk closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games? In case you missed it, here it is in full:

Over the past two weeks I've really been inspired by all of the paralympians, by their determination and humility and generosity of spirit. I can only aspire to have the same greatness of heart and soul as some of these superhumans.