Category Archives: drinks

spicy cucamelon cocktails | why culinary treats are the best travel souvenirs

First of all, happy almost-end-of-summer!! I’m excited to share the story behind this spicy cucamelon cocktail that I created after returning from a trip to NYC, where I toured and savored its verdant famers markets. I’m definitely reveling in these final days of summer and doing my best to capture their vibrancy by making jams, jellies, relishes, chutneys, and, of course, cocktails.

This particular trip to New York City in the fall of 2019 just might be my favorite culinary trip I’ve taken. Yes, I’ve had some incredible food-and-wine-centric trips throughout my wine career. Traveling to historic places like Burgundy, France; visiting the Vinho Verde region in Portugal; exploring the Piemonte, home to Barolo and Barbaresco, in Italy; and touring the vineyards in Ribero del Duero y Rueda in Spain were all career and personal highlights for me.

None of these trips, however, compared to traveling to New York City two years ago with several of my favorite chef and sommelier friends within the culinary industry. There is nothing like rolling out of bed (maybe a little hungover?) and exploring the city’s various farmers markets to source produce, flowers, or meat that will be served at a dinner later that evening, with the very chefs, who will be cooking the dishes.

In 2019, my husband and I were chosen, along with our industry friend and colleague, Jen Mattioni, to be the beverage component of the Colorado FIVE, a group of five talented chefs, who are changing the face and direction of the Colorado culinary scene. I’ve shared one of the epic dinners we’ve thrown in another post, to reference the kind of scale and pomp these dinners have. Throughout the summer season, each of the five chefs within the Colorado FIVE team hosts a five-course dinner at his or her respective restaurant, we pair the drinks, and we all raise money for charity.

The year culminates at a dinner that we host at the James Beard House in New York City.

Yes, that James Beard.

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chai pomegranate whiskey spritz | on winter survival

Happy new year!!

I know we are a solid five weeks into 2021. I can still celebrate. 😏 We took down our Christmas tree only six days ago, I just finished writing out my goals for the year, and I’m still sending out HNY cards into February. I honestly don’t know where the last few weeks went, so I’ll blame my tardiness on the haze that was the month of January. I think we can all agree that the month was, for lack of a better descriptor, weird.

With the darker days thankfully growing longer and brighter, I have been embracing all-things-cozy to keep me grounded and positive. It’s been rainy, snowy, and muddy here at the vineyard, so we have had to postpone outdoor projects and either remain glued to our computers or work on finalizing the blends for our 2020 wines. To keep my spirits high, I’ve been making time for muddy walks with the dog, cooking with my husband, giving the house a deep clean, and whipping up some new cocktail recipes.

This Chai Pomegranate Whiskey Spritz was one of my favorites that I made in January, and it features an easy-to-make chai syrup that works well with wintry drinks. The cocktail is rich and savory, with bright, pomegranate notes, and it finishes with a dry, refreshing pop of bubbly.

I’m also sharing the recipe for another cocktail that uses this chai simple syrup, the Rum Reviver, a rum-forward cocktail, which first appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. Both of these cocktails require low-maintenance prep and yield high-impact reward.

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the peach blossom | a cocktail inspired by a flower farm tour at deer tree farm

I’m not that good at self-care lately. I’m just being honest. This year has beaten me up, but there hasn’t been time to recuperate. Perhaps I should rephrase that – I haven’t taken the time to recuperate. There is always time for what you deem important.

I came in a little early this evening to share this post and recipe I shot and created earlier this week. Today was exceptionally smoky and hot. Here in Colorado, there are four wildfires burning, two of which are relatively close by. I’ve been working outdoors in 97ºF weather, while wearing an N95 mask to keep my lungs protected. I could have finished weeding two more rows of Riesling, but I opted to take a late-afternoon bath and pour myself a little sip of wine from said Riesling.

It was a priority shift.

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I haven’t checked in here in a while, and I could share some war stories from the past few months. I think we call could do that, given the unrest, the tumult, and the uncertainty this year has gifted us. I use that word intentionally – gifted. While the process is is beleaguering, going through periods of unrest, tumult, and uncertainty can be poignant periods of growth, if we are willing to embrace it.

Right now, I’m crying mercy. And choosing to share something beautiful. I hope I can embrace what I need to learn, but I seriously want some reprieve. So, I took that late-afternoon tub bath. I took my medicine.

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a summer dinner among the vines | thoughts on hospitality

I just finished writing a blog post for our winery project, The Storm Cellar, telling a few stories and showing off some of the gorgeous photographs that Irene Durante captured for our very first dinner in the vineyard back in the middle of June. The evening couldn’t have been more beautiful, and the food any more delicious.

This dinner was the first time that we formally released our freshly finished wines into the world. There was a moment, when Steve and I were walking behind the guests, as they were seating themselves at the long, communal table we set, right in the middle of our Riesling vines. We paused and watched the scene of smiling faces, full wine glasses, friends and family, and a prep station ready to plate. Tears filled our eyes, as we pulled each other close.

Our dream was being realized.

All of the hard work, late nights, early evenings, uncertainty, and excitement had lead up to this moment that we had been waiting for for nearly three years.

Steve and I recently dined at Tavernetta, Bobby Stuckey’s newest restaurant located in Denver’s Union Station. Stuckey is known for his iconic, Boulder restaurant, Frasca, which recently won the 2019 James Beard Award for Outstanding Service. Frasca was the only Colorado nominee finalist and winner at what is basically known as the “Oscars of the Culinary World.”

I bring up Stuckey, who is also a Master Sommelier, because of his vocal, and now internationally recognized, stance on the practice of hospitality. He mentions in a Denver Post interview that the concept of hospitality is “not about what we do to somebody; it is about how we make them feel.” Every night, at each of his restaurants, what his team figuratively does is “open the door and give every guest a bear hug.”

Steve and I couldn’t agree more with this philosophy of placing the guest experience above the tasks we execute. We could plate up the most beautiful food, serve the most exquisite glassware, source the most colorful flowers, and host a dinner in the most breathtaking setting, but without making our guests feel welcomed and special, the entire event would be flat, disappointing, and unmemorable. Continue reading

tasting through rosé + pinot grigio with ava grace | planting the summer garden

Happy National Wine Day!

Yes, it is an actual holiday. I pretty much revel in that day’s festivities every day of the year, but I’m celebrating with you by sharing a couple bottles of wine that Steve and I enjoyed this past week. We finally took the plunge and made some drastic changes in our yard, and I couldn’t be more happy about them!

Although AVA Grace Vineyards kindly sponsored this post, all words, opinions, tasting notes, and photos are mine. I am happy to align myself specifically with brands that I trust and with whom I actually ENJOY, so I thank you for supporting the brands and companies that support holly & flora and allow me to keep the recipes, stories, and reviews coming your way!

I can officially say, after waiting well over a year, that we have a garden again! That might seem like a short amount of time, but for someone who has tended a garden and made countless meals and cocktails from its herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits for nearly 12 years, it felt like a lifetime. It’s hard to contain my excitement.

Nature surely has a way, however, of forcing you to change your direction or slow down, no matter what your plans are. Take this past Sunday. Steve and I couldn’t have chosen a windier day to plant our summer garden and paint the exterior of our house. Dirt in our faces, debris in the paintbrush, flies in our wine. Then try taking photographs in these conditions.

You get the picture. A slightly blurry one, perhaps.

So, maybe we didn’t accomplish the lines on our to-do list as fast as we would have liked, but we got all of the plants snugly settled into the soil, and we ended the day with laughter, a mandatory hot bath, and a sleepy viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gardening always makes me think of the lush landscapes the hobbits tend and the lifestyle of simplicity they embrace.

We are super excited to actually have the beginnings of a garden this month. When we moved out here to Paonia over a year ago, we didn’t have the time to plant or maintain even a simple herb garden. We inherited a mess of a vineyard and a “dirt bomb” of a yard, when we purchased this property. We went from gardening a small, lush, corner lot in suburban Denver to full-on farming 16 acres of grapevines out here on the dusty slopes of western Colorado wine country.

This year, we made an effort, despite the pressing needs of the vineyard, to dedicate a day to pause and plant a garden for ourselves. We picked up a few flats of herbs and veggies at High Country Gardens, filled up our playlist {which included DJ Frane’s aptly titled, “In the Garden”}, donned our grubbiest clothes, and chilled down the wine.

And what started out with one gifted clipping of lemon balm became an entire herb garden, once the plants hit the dirt. Dill, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, parsley, and thyme, along with a few varieties of mint. I’ve been waking up early and going to bed late, making sure that they’re all watered and sturdy and safe.

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