green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora

cilantro-salted tomatillo green bloody marys | bittersweet seasons of change

I love the challenge of taking any vegetable in my garden – at any stage in its life cycle – and turning it into a cocktail. The abundant amount of sunny, 75-degree days kept me donning shorts, pouring the rosΓ©, and harvesting all of the kale, chard, herbs, edible flowers, tomatoes, and tomatillos my garden would spit out, well into mid-November. We have had the most record-breaking, unseasonably warm weather this past month.

Before I share this {very} late fall recipe, I have to say a few things.

From putting in well over 55 hours each week at the restaurant, to observing the backlash of the recent election, to pursuing creative opportunities on the side, some of which I can’t even share with you yet, I have felt devoid of creativity and inspiration. I’ve had great difficulty writing and pouring creativity into this space here. Even when I do get strokes of genius or breaths of innovation, I’m all-too-tired to put action to paper, recipe, or photo. It’s been quite the challenging year for many of us, I feel.

For both me and Steve, we can safely say that 2016 has been the “Year of Change and Secrets.” That’s actually a soft and easy way of describing it. There have been countless highs and lows. Steve and I got engaged, which was wonderful, albeit stressful with respect to timing. We’ve gone through three different executive chefs at work, finally ending up with one of our former, beloved executive sous chefs at the helm. We’ve also lost two of our long-term managers and haven’t realllllly replaced them, so our workload has been more intense.

green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora

And then there’s our side project, which we’ve been working on since April. Keeping it under wraps has been just as exhausting {and thrilling!} as all of the hours before and after work spent quietly building it. Once I can talk about it all, I’ll feel justified in my actions or, in some cases, the lack of them. For now, I simply seek out those moments, where I feel revitalized and recharged. It’s all I can do. I find them when I go for a long run, when I take a lengthy late-night drive, when I sit still in the darkness before the sun rises, and when I stay up late and watch the moon crest above my head.

Okay, I’ll be honest.

I don’t do all of the things I listed above every time I’m stressed. I want to do them, but many nights, it just doesn’t turn out like that. Take two nights ago, for example. I finished off a bottle of bubbles, impulsively booked two nights at a B&B I’d been dying to sneak away to, baked and consumed an entire pan of brownies, signed up for a marathon, and watched almost every Nora Ephron movie ever made. The next day suuuuuuuuuucked, and of course, I was needed at the restaurant to help Steve because he was having complications with his recent hand surgery.

And I couldn’t make it to the B&B.

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the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora

the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up

Last night, I celebrated Halloween just the way I wanted to: quietly and cozily. The stars had aligned, and it was the first of four consecutive days away from the restaurant for me. We have been going through another managerial transition lately, which has entailed a little stress, so all I wished for was peace and quiet. It sounds kind of Grinch-y, but I turned off all the lights in the house, cracked a bottle of Chablis, cozied up down in the basement, lit some incense, and caught up on a couple of movies.

A big batch of brownies would have really topped it all off. Steve could’ve been there, too. We rarely share evenings off together, so those that we do share are cherished. I was super excited when he arrived home early from work last night, after a “painfully boring” holiday shift. The owner closed the restaurant an hour early, since only 80 people came in for dinner on a night that usually draws close to 200 or more guests. We’ll take every moment to hang outside of work together that we can.

Over the past few months, we have been able to sneak away for two days at a time and visit new-to-us parts of Colorado. We’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn, made the four-hour trek over the Continental Divide, and soaked in as many sights as possible, before driving back to Denver to work the next shift at the restaurant. We’ve gotten very good at maximizing our 48-hour mini-vacays, and we have especially fallen in love with the enchanting town of Paonia, a farming and former coal-mining town, which boasts just a little over 1,500 people. Multiple organic farms and wineries dot the bucolic landscape, shadowed by Mount Lamborn and Landsend Peak, within the Gunnison National Forest.

the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora

the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & floraOur last visit there together a couple weeks ago was beautiful. It’s my favorite time of year to drive up through the mountains. We stayed two nights at Agape Farm and Retreat just outside of Paonia. This bed and breakfast is nestled in the middle of an organic farm with access to a pine forest, an award-winning Pinot Gris vineyard, an heirloom apple orchard, and a vibrant, organic vegetable garden. The hosts, Nancy and her son, Nick, were the most gracious and accommodating. I seriously experienced the most peaceful night’s rest I’d had in years.

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manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

manhattan | a first-time visit, a classic cocktail + an eponymous book

It’s been nearly three weeks since our visit to New York City, and I can still hear the bustling sounds in my head. It was my very first visit, and it proved quite the adventure-filled, three-day escape. Steve and I had already made plans to see our friend Andy’s art show in Chelsea at the end of September, but the stars truly aligned when the dates for the Saveur Blog Awards ceremony were announced. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We immediately booked our tickets, plotted an easy departure from the restaurant’s responsibilities, and started researching places to stay and see and dine.

I had ideas of what New York would feel like, but experiencing it, firsthand, blew my mind. I’m still processing all that we packed in. Instead of staying at a swank hotel in the city, we opted for a cozy Airbnb in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’ll share the details of our digs and dines in an upcoming post, along with all of the activities we enjoyed with the fellow blog award nominees and the Saveur team. For now, I’ll post a few captures from the first day we were there. A day filled with walking the streets of Brooklyn over to Manhattan, the best way to see the city, in my opinion.

And you know I can’t resist the chance to share with you a few riffs on the city’s most famous classic cocktail, the Manhattan. If you’re thirsty for a good story, read on. Heck, if you’re just plain thirsty, read on. I’ve got you covered here.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

There’s nothing like experiencing the city on foot and by subway. Even after walking a couple of blocks from our neighborhood, we felt the pulse of city drawing us in. I quickly realized that there’s really not a leisurely pace; you have to jump into the groove and ride it. That, or get out of the way.

We started our exploration in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. A few blocks into our walk, we scouted a couple of pizza joints and grabbed a few slices. I paired mine with a red Gatorade, because travel dehydration. What’s the actual flavor profile of “red drink”, let alone the actual ingredients? I didn’t want to think about it. The streets were hot, and the air was thick with humidity that rivaled that of my home state of Florida. I needed serious quenching.

Fueled by syrupy Gatorade and cheesy pizza, we braved the streets, eking out as much as we possibly could over the next few hours.

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snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | holly & flora

snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | making adjustments + slowing down

I stood outside in my garden, atop the raised kale and Swiss chard bed, and pressed my cracked phone up to my face, eagerly asking, “Are you outside yet? Is it cloud-covered there? Can you see it, too?” It was just after 8:00PM last Friday night, and my mother and I were standing outside in our respective time zones, which differed by two hours, watching the full, Harvest Moon rise.

“My” moon was full and golden, bloated and sated with possibility, swelling with pride, as it slowly emerged from the east, over the neighboring trees. Back home in Florida, “hers” stood prominently overhead, appearing a little smaller due to its rise, less distorted by the horizon, yet regally shining its sun-reflected light on her driveway, awash on her face.

We marveled at the fact that both of us were observing the very same event, at the very same time, each witnessing differing perspectives. It made the world feel just a little smaller. We stood in silence for a moment and then said our slow goodbyes. I ended the call and sat down on the cedar beams of the raised garden. At first, all was quiet and rather hazy, but as I settled in, the stars came out of hiding, the early evening bats frenetically fluttered above, and the crickets restarted their unified song.

The evening was alive, and, at long last, so was my mind.

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spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | “tiki on the wagon” | scenes from #bossbabefestMSP

It’s pretty much a “yes” for me, if someone invites me over for a cocktail party, but when a group of over 50 bloggers gets together to celebrate the peak of summer and toast its bounty, I’m ALL IN. This is year two of #DRINKTHESUMMER, a virtual sipping soirΓ©e, hosting by Sherrie of With Food + Love, and I’m bringing a Tiki-inspired, sparkling pineapple shrub mocktail to the party.

Even though I’ve spied a few, fallen yellow leaves in the backyard and have been enjoying the recent cooler mornings, I’m holding onto summer, as much as I possibly can. Especially the seasonal cocktails, fruit-packed popsicles, and salads on repeat. Our tomatoes are chiming in with me, since many of them on the vine are still green. It seems we’re all trying to soak up a little extra sunshine and warmth.

I’ll take all that I can get.

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubsLast week, I led my first cocktail workshop at my favorite kitchenware shop here in Denver, Hazel & Dewey. I was excitedly nervous, and, of course, had a ton of last-minute, loose ends to tie the day-of, but it went well and actually ended up selling out at 20 attendees! My sister-in-law showed up with an entire pack of her girlfriends, and a couple of my fellow blogger friends came out for the night, as well.

The hit of the night was the Pimm’s Cup we all made with seasonal fruit shrubs. Most of the attendees hadn’t tasted a shrub before, so it was an eye-opening experience for them to try these tart, concentrated, fruit-based “drinking vinegars.” I’ve talked about shrubs here on the site before, so if you need an introduction to one of my favorite cocktail additions, this post is a great place to start.

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