Blu Aubergine Blog

A Toast To Dads, And To You, Patrick!

I met Patrick just weeks before his 27th birthday. Looking back on that now, it amazes me: we were both so young and optimistic and the city of Rome held so much potential for us. We'd make it our oyster. And for years, it felt like we had done just that.
Being back in Italy this year for another June, another one of Patrick's birthdays, without him -- it feels strange, surreal. It's been two years since we organized his memorial party here in Rome, and though time does help soften the pain of missing him to some extent, these vie and vicolipiazze and passaggi are imbued with the history of all of us. Patrick was such a big part of my life in Rome that it always seemed half-empty to me whenever he wasn't here. 

Today, I'm in Florence as I write this. Firenze: the beautiful, small gem of a city where I first lived as a student. It's the place that made me fall in love with Italy, and Italian food and culture and art and the people. And it's where Patrick's older sister still lives with her family, and where his mother Barb lived for many years while we were all in Rome. We'd spend Christmas Eve in chilly Florence with Barb and Erica and the family, enjoying some home cooking and exchanging gifts, drinking eggnog (my first taste of the dangerous elixir!), and laughing into the wee hours. Of course these streets, too, hold countless memories for me. It's strange to think how just being in Florence or Rome makes me about as happy -- both content and elated -- as I can possibly be, and at the same time, as forlorn as I can imagine feeling. 

Patrick and his boys

Still, when I think of June in Italy, Patrick embodies this time and place. His birthday, and now Father's Day, are bittersweet holidays, as I'm reminded of what a wonderful father he was to his two boys, how he saved them and did everything he could to give them a wonderful childhood in the time that he had. And I'm reminded of the birthday celebrations we shared on many June tenths in the warm heat, and on the numerous terraces of Roman friends, and in the back streets of Trastevere (indeed, it felt like "our" neighborhood, as if we owned it).

The gang at Patrick's farewell Roma dinner
I fondly remember the farewell dinner I prepared for Patrick when he decided to leave Rome and move back to the States. It was a series of Patrick's favorite dishes -- simple, hearty fare like steak and potatoes and salad. Lots of cocktails, of course. And for dessert? I used a little creativity to come up with something that said Patrick, in a nutshell: Jack Daniels ice cream, with a coke-and-chocolate sauce. Jack and coke was his drink of choice. 
Patrick, guitar, bottle of Jack
I kept a bottle of Jack at my apartment on permanent "rotation" for our many happy hours we'd have each week. So I thought it was only right, in the heat of the approaching summer, that everyone share Patrick's drink of choice for dessert. With a cherry on top.

Try it. It's actually delicious, and a perfect way to toast to Patrick -- to wonderful Junes remembered, and to beloved fathers the world over, who deserve to have their cocktail and eat it too, in one delicious cup.


For the ice cream:

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
pinch of salt

-In a sauce pot, heat the milk, cream, and 1/4 cup sugar over low heat until bubbles form around the edges.

-In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
-When the milk mixture starts to simmer, pour half of it into the yolk mixture, and whisk quickly to incorporate (you're trying to avoid scrambled eggs here). 
-Pour that mixture back into the sauce pot, whisk to incorporate, and heat on low, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon.
-Take off of the heat, add the Jack Daniels and the salt, and stir.
-Set the sauce pot in an ice bath to cool. Once cooled significantly, cover the surface of the cream mixture with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Place in fridge overnight.
-The following day, spin cold mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze.

For the coke-and-chocolate sauce:

half liter of Coca Cola (not diet!)
6 ounces of dark or semi-sweet chocolate, in chips or chopped

-In a small pot, heat the coke and reduce to 1/3 of its volume.

-Add the chocolate, cover for a minute, then whisk to smooth.

Serve the Jack Daniels ice cream with the warm coke-and-chocolate sauce and top with a maraschino cherry. Cin-cin!