It was obvious that L. and S., our hosts, had abandoned themselves wholeheartedly to the caloric beckonings of high quality ingredients. They cooked with a happy sense of indulgence I immediately resonated with. The kitchen island was magnetized by the selection of delicious hors d'oeuvres and we swarmed around it, eagerly sharing tastes and introductory handshakes. Crostini were smeared with fresh ricotta , salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil imported from M. & T.'s honeymoon in Greece. Pita crisps were dipped into baked goat cheese, topped with sweet hot pepper jelly. Brown paper packages were untied to reveal paper-thin wisps of salty prosciutto, and jalepenos added a kick to some spicy hummus.
We sat down at a long table, beautifully set, to a starter of fresh mixed greens topped with rounds of lightly fried goat cheese and a creamy champagne vinaigrette. A ham was pulled out from where it had roasted in the oven all afternoon: cross-hatched and caramelized with a Dr. Pepper (!) glaze. The ham was served with sides of grilled asparagus in a mayo dressing, a creamy mac & cheese, and a fingerling potato salad with crumbly bacon and grainy dijon clinging to each bite.
Dessert, which after the floats was entirely superfluous but also entirely welcome, was a bacon bourbon brownie served with homemade salted caramel ice cream. Thank God Manhattan was made for walking.
Manhattan Floats - inspired by Food & Wine Magazine, contributed by Gabriel Frasca
2 PINTS vanilla ice cream, softened
3 OZ Bourbon
1/2 PINT chilled heavy cream
3/4 OZ sweet Vermouth
1 TBSP sugar
DASH Angosturra bitters
1 LITRE chilled cherry soda
Cherries, to garnish (fresh or preserved - the ones pictured above were preserved in moonshine and added an additional pop of flavour)
In a food processor, combine ice cream and bourbon until just blended. Transfer ice cream into a shallow container, cover, and freeze until firm enough to scoop (about 30 minutes).
Whip the cream with vermouth, sugar, and bitters until firm. Chill.
To serve, fill glasses 2/3 full with cherry soda. Add a scoop of ice cream on top and a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with cherries and prepare yourself for giddiness in the form of dessert - these Manhattan floats taste like being at an amusement park feels and are sure to bring a smile.