La Vie en Rose

ngélique, our sweet and gracious hostess aboard the Tango, delighted us day after day with beautiful table settings, fancifully decorated butter dishes (I’ll post a link to photos of those tomorrow) and intricately folded napkins. (And I thought I was brilliant when I made little cardinals’ hats out of my napkins at Christmas.) My favorite was this rose design, which she patiently taught us how to make.

Practice this three times and you’ll have it, even if you’ve been drinking wine, golden as this rose, all afternoon.

1. Lay a cloth napkin on a flat surface, “wrong” side facing up.

2. Hold a dinner fork vertically, tines down (like you’re about to twirl spaghetti), on the center of the napkin. Slip a little of the fabric between the tines to stabilize it.

3. Slowly turn the fork in either direction (the spaghetti-twirling motion) so that the napkin forms a spiral around the fork.

4. Carefully remove the fork. Encircle the napkin with both hands to keep the rose from unwinding. Flip it over.

Gothic Chocolate Cake

The winter winds are finally howling in New York, and I’m in mind of dark things…in a good way. I named this cake partly for the cathedral bundt pan I love best to make it in, but mostly because of the way the spices lurk wickedly within the velvety devil’s food. I’d be happy to curl up with a slice of this and read the more macabre tales from the Brothers Grimm to the strains of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” but you needn’t get as carried away.

Be Still, my beating Bivale

Voluptuaries through the ages join me in proclaiming the oyster the nonpareil of erotic foods. The reasons for its reputed aphrodisiac powers are numerous, and many of them are obvious. M.F.K. Fisher sums it up tidily in Consider the Oyster: “Most of them are physiological . . . and have to do with an oyster’s odor, its consistency, and probably its strangeness”.

It’s true that the very act of prizing open an oyster and looking at the mysterious creature, frilled and translucent in its saline habitat, might induce the same voyeuristic flush, however unintended, as a moment in front of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde. And if you ask me, there’s something inherently lusty about slurping a live creature from its shell with all its liquor–which is the only way to do it, really. One would have to eat a great many oysters to benefit from their nutritional content (the oyster is rich in zinc, which boosts testosterone production), but the great seducers of yore seemed to have no trouble polishing off a hundred at a time, to allegedly great effect.