Because I live under a lucky star, I’ve been to more Pink Martini concerts than I can count. I’ve loved them all, though one that sticks with me was in Portland, Oregon (the bands’ home town) in an outdoor park, with bald eagles flying low over the crowd.
For each one, I live in anticipation days before the event. Oh, I can listen to their music from my trusty CD player (yes…) but it goes without saying even though I’m saying it, that a concert by this band is a happening.
The band is about thirteen strong: from Juilliard-trained musicians and vocalists to virtuosos like Timothy Nishimoto who started singing at the age of two at his church, and Dan Faenhle who trained by playing jazz guitar with the greats around him. When they all come together, the sound is deep and rich, the melodies enveloping.
Lauderdale began Pink Martini because, as a political activist and aspiring politician he was dismayed at the music played at the political events he attended. In 1994 he put togehter a “little orchestra” with musician friends in Portland, and they played at political events around the issues of civil rights, inclusion, cleaning up the gorgeous Willamette River, affordable housing.
From Carnegie Hall to Terwilliger Plaza
The rest is really history. The band does sold-out gigs at the Hollywood bowl, the Grand Rex, and Carnegie hall (among other venues) as well as minor appearances at Terwilliger Plaza, a rest home in downtown Portland (where my mother lives), gratis, simply because they are like that.
It’s fair to say, that what catapulted the band to international fame is their first song “Sympathique,” also the name of their first CD. It’s in French and its key phrase is “Je ne veux pas travailler” which translates as “I don’t want to work”…to a melody that gets everyone onto the dance floor. It gained the band a nomination for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards in 1995 and it has the dubious distinction of being a mantra for striking French workers. What it represents, along with all of the bands’ music, is delightfully smart and well-constructed lyrics, world-class music, performed by a group of gifted musicians in so many languages it makes the head spin. that get you moving, singing, and smiling with your eyes.
Just the way Timothy and Dan do. Serious, seriously funny, thoughtful, open, kind and generous, these two get on stage and Wow! Dan, a jazz guitarist, is in love with his gift and when he talks of how he learned – playing with the greats in Ohio where he grew up, at a time when the jazz greats were all there – and why he plays, it brings tears to the eyes. As for Timothy, who grew up singing with his family and whose father has appeared with the band, it’s simply the same. I’m always wiping my eyes when I’m with them, from laughing and from the simple joy of sharing their gifts.
Not only that, these guys love to eat. Enjoy the crème brulee that I imposed on them, as well as the Pink Martini which is an overnight classic in my home, just the way “Sympathique” is to the world of music!
- 7 parts gin your favorite, I like Drumshanbo Gunpowder or Bombay
- 1 part Vermouth your favorite; I like Martini or Noilly Prat
- Splash of bitters your favorite, I like Select
- Blend all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 2 ordinary ice cubes and shake, shake, shake to blend.
- Pour the cocktail into two champagne coupes or small-ish martini glasses, and enjoy!
- 1 cup; 250ml chilled whole milk
- 3 cups;750 ml crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 1/2 plump moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out with a small spoon
- 9 large egg yolks
- 3/ 4 cup;150 g vanilla sugar
For the caramel crust:
- 8 tablespoons;70g firmly packed light brown sugar
- Whisk the milk and the cream together in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Add the vanilla seeds to the milk and cream. Whisk the mixture so all the ingredients are blended, add the vanilla bean, then place the mixture in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and scald it. Remove from the heat and infuse, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean, rinse it thoroughly, and reserve it for your vanilla sugar!
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until pale yellow and light. Whisk in the cream mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Preheat the oven to 250 F (125 C). Line a 2-inch (5cm) deep baking pan with parchment paper.
- Arrange the baking dishes in the baking pan. Pour boiling water around them, half way up their sides. Pour equal amounts (1/2 cup; 125ml) of the crème brulée mixture into the dishes. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the crèmes are set, about 1hour (check after 45 minutes; the baking times can vary from oven to oven). You will know the crèmes are set when you jiggle pan and they are tenderly solid throughout.
- Remove the custards from the oven, transfer them from the water bath to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover the cooled custard loosely with parchment paper and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- At serving time, preheat the broiler or a blow torch.
- Sprinkle equal amounts of sugar over the crèmes and set them under the broiler until the sugar caramelizes and forms a crust, being careful to watch it so it doesn’t burn. Alternatively, have some fun with the blow torch, using it judiciously to perfectly caramelize the sugar! Remove from the oven and let the crust harden. Serve immediately.