By Emily Paster
Twenty-seven years ago, a family moved into the house across the street from mine. This family had two little girls, ages three years and six months. I was thirteen at the time and could just see the babysitting money in my future. I did indeed end up babysitting for the family across the street quite a bit. What's more, this family become some of our closest friends. When they decided to have the girls baptized a few years later, they asked my parents to be the godparents for their younger daughter. When I got married, now eleven years ago, those two little girls were junior bridesmaids. When my dad was very sick, these friends watched my kids so I could spend my days at the hospital. That's the kind of friends they are. And now, the younger of those two girls –the one who was six months old when I first met her — is getting married herself. I officially feel old.
Naturally, my mother wanted to host a bridal shower for her goddaughter and my mother is nothing if not an expert party-planner. She planned an elegant ladies' luncheon for the shower with the help of her long-time caterer. The menu was grilled chicken breast with a remoulade sauce, grilled asparagus, Cobb salad and heart-shaped cornbread muffins. For dessert, there was a delicious assortment of cookies, cakes and brownies — all heart-shaped, of course. The luncheon was held in the party room at my mother's condo building, which is a pleasant and convenient space with a lovely view of the grounds. My mom decorated the table with pink hydrangeas in small, galvanized metal pots.Everything looked perfect.
The guests all enjoyed the light lunch and then sat down to watch the bride open her mountain of presents. My mother and I gave the bride a hefty bakeware set from Williams-Sonoma, plus some of our favorite baking tools, from biscuit cutters to measuring spoons. I added two cookbooks, my stalwart Rustic Fruit Desserts and my new favorite Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo. One of the guests created an expert faux bouquet out of the ribbons on the packages for the bride to carry at her rehearsal — do you all know that tradition? All in all, it was everything a bridal shower should be.
The only cooking that my mom and I were responsible for was a signature drink. But this being lunch after all, we didn't want anything too strong. My mother came up with the idea of serving white sangria, which I thought was perfect. If it were the heart of summer, and raspberries and peaches were in season, I would have surely wanted to use those luscious fruits in my sangria. But as it is, it is only early May — the first blush of spring. We are still a long way off from seasonal summer fruit. So, I decided to come up with a version of white sangria that used some seasonal ingredients, like strawberries, and some year-round ingredients, like oranges and apples. The result was a refreshing, fruity sangria that was sweet enough to go down easy, but not so sweet as to be cloying. I think it would be perfect for all your springtime parties from Mother's Day Brunch to a graduation celebration. Our guests certainly enjoyed it!
Springtime White Sangria
Makes three large pitchers
1 qt strawberries, sliced
2 green apples, cored and diced
3 bottles inexpensive white wine
3/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice (plus a little more to macerate the fruit)
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 oranges, diced
Seltzer or club soda
Several hours or the night before your party, macerate the strawberries and apples by tossing them with a splash of orange juice or a few teaspoons of sugar in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. This will cause the fruit to break down a bit and release their juice.
To make the sangria, combine the white wine, Grand Marnier, orange juice, apple juice and lime juice in a large punch bowl. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the diced orange and the macerated berries and apples, with their juices, and stir to combine. To serve, fill a glass with several ice cubes and pour the sangria over the ice, making sure to include some of the fruit, until the glass is 2/3 full. Top with club soda or seltzer.