Spiced Bar Nuts (and small town friendship)

Spiced Bar Nuts (and small town friendship)

In general, I try very hard not to play favorites in life. I actually have a hard time choosing favorites, of anything. I don’t like being asked for my favorite song or favorite book. My favorite color is green – but not one particular shade of green, there are several greens I love. I don’t like to be pinned down. I like options and I can see the good in too many things to choose just one. (I truly admire people who can do this, I’m envious of their clarity). For those who hold stock in these kinds of things, I am a Libra, and boy do I have that whole balancing/scales quality.

But, I am here to admit to having had a few favorites when it came to customers at our inn. And I think anyone who ever worked for us could come up with one of my all time favs. He’s an elderly neighbor and friend and one of the joys of living where we do and doing what we did is getting to have this particular friendship.

Tangent – friendships in a small community, they have surprised me. Small town relationships are so much more far-reaching and varied than friendships in big cities, or in my previous lives anyway. I think most friendships tend to be work or location based. (Or they go back to our own childhoods, where they were also location based, or across-the-dorm-hallway based.) And so they tend to be fairly homogenous. You work with similar people. Your kids go to a particular school and so your kid’s friends and their parents are somewhat similar to you. In demographic, in age, in interest. Throw yourself into a small, rural town and a lot of that goes out the window. It certainly did for me, I think it does for children too. Their friends are of a wider age variety. My friends are of a wider age variety. We all live in this small place, that’s our starting point. And there aren’t very many of us, so you get to know the people surrounding you. It has been a lovely surprise.

Back to this particular friend. I won’t go into details because I don’t think it’s fair to give personal information about someone else. But this gentleman is fascinating in the breadth of his life and the role he plays in mine. We started to get to know him best after his partner of 30+ years passed away and he was alone in his big Colonial house here in town. He started calling us for take-out dinners. He’d order whatever fish was on the menu, maybe a salad, sometimes something sweet. Then he’d walk up to the Inn, to the back door, and collect his order. He’d have a chat with hubby in the grill room while he waited (and, yes, sometimes hubby was too busy for this chat but, no, we never said that to him) and always gave me the European double kiss as he left. Gradually he started coming in for dinner with friends and neighbors. Giving him an opportunity to host others for dinner. As his partner used to do, the cook in their partnership. I have heard many stories about the dinner parties they would host, the place settings, the silver, the elaborate menus. I love this the same way I loved Christmas dinner with my father’s family, when Christmas Eve was the major event and it was formal.

I am in no way this formal of a person, though I have aspirations to knowing how and when to do the right thing. (And I have a real thing about written thank you notes.) And aspirations to the ease with which good hosts know how to host. Over the years of being a professional host, (because, seriously, owning a restaurant is like throwing a party five nights a week, where you have misplaced the guest list) I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be a good host. This friend of mine is the one who pointed out to me (by way of giving me one of my favorite compliments ever) that a good restaurant manager is like the director of a play. In control of the proceedings, but never center stage themselves. Their job is to let others shine, the actors in the play or the customers in the restaurant.

I appreciate that as the world gets more varied, then rules do, and should, also vary. The more ethnicities we are exposed to, the more traditions there are, the more ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ there are, and I think that’s a good thing. But I think a good host is a good host. And they always have my admiration.

One of my attempts at good hosting is to have a few simple recipes in my back pocket that are easy to pull out for occasions, large or small. One such recipe is these spiced bar nuts. They are simple to make, very tasty and just a little bit fancy. Now, I’ll admit that over here, they have actually become a household standard, rather than a party trick. We always have a container of these in the cupboard. Because they are so much tastier than any pre-made snack mix you can buy. (And, truth be told, it’s a salty/crunchy-tooth I have, rather than a sweet-tooth.) These nuts are one of the easy, yet a little elegant, things you could have in your bag of tricks too.

Spiced Bar Nuts

The perfect salty, sweet and spicy snack.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups mixed nuts hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, almonds
  • 1 cup sesame sticks
  • 1 cup pretzels I like the waffle shaped ones, slightly crushed
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped we froze rosemary from our garden last year and this was a genius move
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175C)

  2. Spread nuts (not the sesame sticks or pretzels) on a tray and toast for about 10 minutes.

  3. While the nuts are toasting, mix the butter, rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl.

  4. Add the toasted nuts to the butter mixture and stir until everything is coated. Add the sesame sticks and pretzels and stir again.

  5. Spread the mixture on the tray again and toast for about 6-7 minutes.

  6. Try to avoid eating the entire tray of nuts while warm.

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