Our dear friends Monica and Matt have two lovely children, Frances and Cole, and every year we try to host a tree-trimming party where the kids are the center of the holiday festivities. This year we decided on a brunch with bagels (courtesy of our friend Curt) smothered in cream cheese, nova, and little bites of capers and scallion; swiss cheese quiche; and, to keep the Swiss theme in the fore, Zwiebelwähe, a Swiss onion tart that’s thinner than a quiche, but just as tasty (we got the recipe from Saveur magazine). Monica made some incredibly light pumpkin scones, which added nice spice flavors to the buffet table. (A lot of bready, starchy, goodness, yes, but who’s really counting when it’s the holiday season.)
The kids were no shrinking violets this year; they knew that the tree-trimming was the focus of the party and they were at the center. Frances, almost 6, acted as tree-decorating ringleader, and Cole, almost 4, followed his big sister’s advice as she evenly placed ornaments from each bough in hopes of producing a beautiful display. Their artistic concentration allowed the adults to focus on toasting with a little holiday cheer, this year in the form of mimosas. Mimosas are a terrific drink for a situation like this: you want to catch a light buzz and feel the gaiety of sharing food and tales with your friends. Making a perfect mimosa, though, is subjective. For a cocktail with only two ingredients, everyone seems to like theirs with a different ratio of orange juice to champagne, as we’re sure you do. For our mimosas this season, we used freshly squeezed Clementine juice (so sweet!) and Sofia blanc de blanc (from a bottle this time). Just make sure you’ve squeezed all those gorgeous little Clementines before your guests arrive or you’ll be mired in a drippy mess as you try to scramble to make the drinks.
The weather was cooperating so after the trimming and the noshing, we took a little constitution on the terrace with a round of new cocktails, Ramos Gin Fizzes, a frothy blend of gin, heavy cream, egg white, and some orange flower water. (Instead of shaking shaking shaking until our arms ached, we used a blender—much better for a party.) It’s the orange flower water that gives this drink its characteristic, perfumed flavor, and the gin that gives it its kick, but its the cream and egg white that elevate this drink to the rare status of breakfast cocktail as it leaves a frothy moustache on your upper lip as you sip.
Back inside, after we devoured a flourless chocolate cake, the kids got to open their gift: this year we decided that they could share a DVD of “The Wizard of Oz.” They know the entire story through songs and books, but never had they seen the film until we all sat quietly around the TV and watched as Dorothy Gale does everything in her power to save her little dog from the machinations of Miss Almira Gulch, aka the Wicked Witch of the West. Never have we seen two youngsters so enraptured (and quiet) by movie magic, but we had to remark that it was us, the adults, who were enraptured as well. We all knew the movie frame by frame and couldn’t wait for Dorothy to open the door from her drab, sepia-toned life on the farm in Kansas to the enchanted, brightly colored world of Oz. “The Wizard of Oz” may be 70 years old this year, but it has never failed to cast its spell over the hearts and minds of children and adults all over the world.
Fill a champagne flute a third of the way with chilled freshly squeezed orange juice. Top with chilled champagne, but leave a little room at the top to add more juice or champagne, depending on your preference.
2 oz. gin
1 ounce cream
1 raw egg white
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce orange flower water
1/2 cup ice
quarter of an orange wheel, as garnish
In a blender, mix everything except the club soda until frothy. Divide between 2 champagne flutes, and top with a splash of club soda. Drop the garnish atop the froth.
bagels, sliced down the middle and in half to make half-sandwiches
Nova (cured and smoked Eastern salmon)
Toast the bagels, smear with some cream cheese, sprinkle with dill, capers, and scallions. Top with slices of Nova.