Of course I mean the best you can afford. But if you find yourself wearing fewer sports coats and even fewer ties (don’t even get me started on the scarcity of suits these days…), you are going to have to abide by a couple of rules if you still want to look sharp. The first rule is buy the best. Find the best-fitting off-the-rack brands and combine them with the best tailoring you can afford. Or have it made. I like to have even my casual clothing made. The difference in the shirts alone will make you see the light.
Rigorous tailoring is required since there will be fewer distractions from the cut of your shirt and trousers. Please don’t resort to baggy shirts and ill-fitting khakis. Casual doesn’t mean sloppy. As a matter of fact, I’d skip the khakis unless they are part of a trimmer cut cotton suit. Leave them for the weekend.
That said, the brand that I find fits me best is J. Crew. They offer a trim cut, narrower leg in a lightweight cotton that is very cool wearing in the heat of Virginia summers.
For me, the most useful trouser I own is in grey. Grey flannel for winter, worsted and very lightweight wool for warmer months. Varying the shades of the fabric keeps things interesting. If I don’t have them made, I prefer the cut and fit of Incotex trousers, although many find the rise is too low.
I haven’t been as lucky with shirts. Hackett and Dunhill do well, and for polos, I’m beginning to prefer Sunspel’s Riviera polo shirts. I have yet to try their piqué version.
When you are business casual, opt for tailored fits to stay on the elegant side of the equation.
Valentine’s Day. I love going to a restaurant. The trouble is that it is hard to find an intimate restaurant. One without a television anywhere in sight. One with suitably romantic music playing. One with discreet lighting and low noise levels. bistros, brew pubs, farm-to-table kitchens, we’ve got by the tonne. Romantic restaurants are a rare thing. Don’t you agree?
So why not create a little ambiance at home this Valentine’s? Candlelight, a good soundtrack, a table set for two with linen napkins, the good china, silver, and crystal all goes into setting the tone for a wonderful meal and memorable evening.
Now, I love to cook. But if your talents lie in other directions, take advantage of take-out from a favorite restaurant, prepared foods from Whole Foods, Fresh Market, your local fish monger or butcher. Or prepare what you know best, just make sure that the ingredients are fresh and take a bit of care with the presentation. An omelette aux fines herbes, green salad with a Dijon vinaigrette, crusty bread and a bottle of the best champagne you can afford will be the highlight of any evening!
In case you like to muck about over the stove, the kind PR people at Panna have offered Easy and Elegant Life’s readers a couple of celebrity chef Michael Anthony’s (of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern) recipes from their new app and wonderful website. Panna is video-based to help you see how to prepare a recipe while you’re engaged in cooking and offers advice from chefs, wine-merchants/sommeliers on food and drink pairings! A subscription is $14.99 a year and looks like a good deal for those who are visual learners.
Enjoy! And, of course, don’t forget to dress for the day….
Fried Oysters with Pickled Ginger Aioli
Michael Anthony Executive Chef/Partner
Yields: 4 servings
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 7 hours
Tip: Do the pickles anywhere from a one day to one month in advance so that the ginger can fully pickle. The sauce can also be made up to a week in advance.
12 medium-sized oysters, shucked
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups breadcrumbs (such as panko)
1 quart grapeseed or canola oil
Pickled Ginger and Garlic Sauce (recipe below)
1. Heat oil to 375F in a large pot.
- While oil is hearing, whisk eggs and a teaspoon or two of water in a small mixing bowl to create an egg wash.
- Shuck oysters, removing meat gently with a spoon and make sure they are clean of shells. Wash and reserve the shells.
- Lightly bread each oyster by dredging each first in flour, then egg wash, then roll in breadcrumbs. Handle carefully, and knock off any excess dredging flour, egg, or breadcrumbs.
- Fry oysters in oil at 375°F, several at a time, for no more than 20 to 25 seconds; the outside should be golden brown while the inside still barely cooked.
- To serve, place fried oyster back in their cleaned shells. Top with a dollop of pickled ginger and garlic sauce. (Recipes follow.)
(This will yield extra pickled ginger than necessary for the oyster recipe, but can be stored for up to a month, or recipe halved.)
4 oz. ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tbsp sugar
½ tbsp salt
- Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add sliced ginger to the pan, and immediately remove from heat.
- Pour into small mixing bowl and allow to cool for 6 to 8 hours.
- Pickled ginger will keep for up to two weeks in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Pickled Ginger and Garlic Sauce
(Yield: 1 pint)
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup olive oil (s/a/a)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp pickled ginger, minced
½ tsp salt
1 tsp soy sauce
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and Dijon mustard until smooth and emulsified. Add canola oil very slowly, drop by drop to start, then in a fine drizzle, whisking constantly. This will emulsify with the yolks. Add olive oil in the same manner. Should be thick and emulsified.
- Add vinegar, lemon juice and zest together until doubled in volume.
- Fold in garlic, pickled ginger, salt and soy sauce.
- Let sit for about an hour to let flavors come together. Taste and season as necessary, perhaps with a bit of pickling liquid. Can be made up to one week in advance.
1. Place an oyster in each cleaned shell.
2. Top each with a small dollop of sauce, and a slivered slice or two of pickled ginger.
Lobster with Basil-Lemon Butter
Microplane or other fine zester
Large slotted spoon
Yield: 4 servings
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
1 Stick (4 oz., 113 g) Unsalted butter, room temperature
Juice from .5 lemon
.5 tsp. (3 g) Lemon zest
.25 Bunch fresh basil, leaves picked washed, and chopped
.5 Shallot, peeled and minced
2 T (5 g) minced chives
LOBSTER AND TO FINISH
Two 1.5 Pound (.68 kg each) live lobsters
Fresh lemon juice
1 Recipe Basil-Lemon Butter
Put a large pot .33 full of water — enough to steam, but not fully submerge the lobster — to boil. Meanwhile, make the compound butter by placing butter, herbs, shallot, lemon, salt, pepper, and zest in bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, adding water 1 spoonful at a time if necessary to loosen and blend properly. Transfer seasoned butter to small container, cover and hold at room temperature. (This can be made in advance, refrigerated, and brought back to room temperature for serving.)
When water has boiled, add sea salt, approximately one handful for each quart of water. Add whole lobster and steam for 5 minutes.
Remove lobster from pot using a large slotted spoon or tongs. When cool enough to handle, break down the lobster in this order, placing each piece of meat gently on a plate: First remove the claws. Then, separate the tail from the head. Break the thick leg attached to the claw into two pieces at the joint, using the kitchen counter as leverage. Break claw into two pieces, loosening at the joint. Split claw open with back of a chef’s knife, and twisting at 90 degree angles.
Lay each tail on its side and press down to crack. Do not smash. Use thumbs to peel shell away, and pull the tail out. Trim away any ragged, small pieces of meat. Break down the elbows by gently breaking shell with the back of a chef’s knife in several places and peeling away the shell. Gently scrape the albumen from the meat.
To finish, use the back of a spoon to smear some compound butter on the plate’s rim. Slice lobster tail in half lengthwise, and arrange with other lobster pieces on the plate. Garnish meat with an additional dollop of butter, sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
On days that I spend mostly at The Manse, you will often find me in a comfortable sweater. To me, the shawl collar is one of the more versatile members of the knitwear family and one that I think the man who no longer wears a suit everyday and commutes to the office should embrace. The shawl collar, like the polo collar, eliminates the need to wear a collared shirt beneath it. Something I’m reluctant to try with a crew neck, or heaven forbid, a v-neck sweater.
Here, I’m wearing a grey henley. If I need to dress it up, a scarf fits right in and won’t look too studied in the winter. These thicker sweaters pair nicely with corduroy trousers (Mine happen to be rusty-red today…), moleskins, flannel or tweeds just as easily as they do with denim at the weekend. The combination of grey and cream or camel is particularly appealing to me. Throw on a long camel-hair coat and a pair of suede Chelsea boots for quick errands and you’ll be well dressed for whomever you may bump into.