My holiday gift to you: One lucky reader will win two signed copies of GUILTY AS CINNAMON---one to keep, and one to give away. Comment below for a chance to win.
I like to joke that research for my books means eating. And that's kinda true. But when I was writing GUILTY AS CINNAMON, I knew I needed to understand more about the business of being a chef. So I devoured chef lit—memoirs and nonfiction about kitchen life. One fun discovery was BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, founder and chef of Prune in New York. I learned a lot about cooking and the business of running a restaurant, but also how freedom and weirdness are key ingredients. Chef Hamilton described a scam that worked its way into CINNAMON, after I finally figured it out!
And she made me crave the Negroni, a cocktail made with gin and Campari. Have I said, I don’t like gin? And Campari is too bitter for me. But this drink—wow.
Then we went to Seattle, for research. I-90 in central Washington was clogged with construction and we got to our hotel in the Pike-Pine corridor late, hungry, and thirsty. We walked a couple of blogs to the Odd Fellows Café in the old Odd Fellows Hall, two doors down from the great Elliott Bay Book Company, and two blocks from my alma mater, Seattle University.
Where I drank a Negroni sbaglatio, made with sparkling wine instead of gin. Wow. Plus you can drink two and still walk home.
(When we took these pictures, we hadn’t found the little tool for cutting the perfect orange peel. You don’t technically need it. But you know you want it.)
My version of the Negroni comes from Gary Regan, author of the Joy of Mixology, which Mr. Right found in said Elliott Bay Bookstore. Sandra’s spiced nuts are my variation of a recipe found in Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, the husband-and-wife team who run Vij’s in Vancouver, B.C. Road trip!
Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that’s as individual as the cook. GUILTY AS CINNAMON includes the Seattle Spice Shop’s version, created by Sandra, the shop's master mixologist. Make your own, or use a commercial version, as I did for this batch. My house is redolent with cloves and cardamom. And the sweetness the mango adds is a nice complement to the cayenne.
The perfect pairing for your holiday entertaining, for a party of twenty or one. Just save some for me.
The NegroniFor each drink:
1½ ounces Campari
1½ ounces sweet vermouth
1½ ounces gin
1 orange twist (a strip of peel, about 1/2 inch wide and 3 to 4 inches long, twisted to release the oils)
Best drunk outdoors on a deck overlooking a freshly mowed meadow or water. Or anywhere, actually.
Sandra’s Spiced Nuts1 pound raw almonds or cashews, or a mix
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt or another crystal variety
1½ teaspoons amchur, or mango powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground cayenne
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together the nuts, oil, salt, and spices.
Makes 1 pound.
Recipes from GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Berkley Prime Crime, December 2015)
Do you have a favorite holiday libation?
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.
Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.