Category Archives: drinks

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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bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch | how to make stevia simple syrup for cocktails

I’m posting this just after savoring scarfing over half of a rosemary and caramel dark chocolate bar that I picked up at Meat + Cheese in Aspen on Monday. I don’t know how it’s lasted that long. I also kinda claimed it from Steve. It was technically my birthday chocolate, and I was seriously craving something sweet. I’d already downed the last two handfuls of dark chocolate chips from their mason jar home, so I was on the hunt, and did I ever SCORE.

This is the bar I’m referencing, and it was pure magic. I recently derailed from my resolve to limit sugar in my diet. I will add that it has been a lot of fun doing so. Case in point? This gorgeous cake was breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. My friend Hannah of Blue Sky Bakery here in Paonia whipped up this seven-layer chocolate and hazelnut dream-of-a-cake that I’ll have to request again next year. Hannah, put that on your calendar. 😉

One of my birthday resolutions, however, is to recommit to keeping sugar out of my daily consumption routine. I was on a good track earlier this year and even humorously shared my battle with sugar with you in December here in this post. Basically, if I could eat cake everyday, I would. Hannah’s chocolate cake, along with a glass of Schramsberg brut rosé and a bowl of peppered, Parmesan-dusted, truffle oil-doused popcorn, IF we’re being specific.

So far, in my series of recipes made with stevia-sweetened Zevia mixers, I’ve shared a sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni and a Tiki-inspired ginger apple swizzle. Since blood oranges are quickly making their exit from our local produce department, I’ve not only been stockpiling them to peel and eat, but I’ve also been crafting some blood orange-centric cocktails here at the house lately.

This large-format recipe calls for blood oranges, bourbon, Campari, and Zevia ginger ale. The secret ingredient, however, is a homemade rosemary-infused stevia simple syrup that’s the perfect consistency for blending into drinks. The resulting recipe a bittersweet punch that’s easy to assemble and stellar as both a party pitcher or a single-serving cocktail.

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beet, berry + blood orange granita | a sparkling galentine’s day cocktail

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and that might make you either cringe or just shrug your shoulders or maybe even break out your dancing shoes. I tend to simply shrug my shoulders; the holiday could pass on by, and I’d still be happy. Meh. If some flowers or a card or some cookies come my way, however, I think could be persuaded to celebrate Valentine’s Day and even don a little pink.

I recently developed a Galentine’s Day cocktail for the Kitchn {I’ll share the link, when it’s up}, and in the midst of doing my recipe testing and researching, I really gained an appreciation for the concept behind the celebration. I’d heard about the holiday before, which is 180 degrees away from its cupid-themed counterpart {no pressure or hefty price tags, more waffles and dancing}, and I’ve even used the salutation casually in a sentence, but that’s where it stopped. I didn’t really participate.

The holiday, which is officially celebrated on February 13th, is all about showing your love, support, and enthusiasm for the WOMEN in your life. It’s not a time to bash your ex or gossip about the girl who sits next to you at work. It’s a day dedicated to making time for your girlfriends, your lady coworkers, your moms, and your sisters. It actually succeeds in making you feel and share what the other holiday, oftentimes unsuccessfully, attempts to make you feel:

LOVE.

And a solid Galentine’s Day party isn’t complete without a festive cocktail.

I’m sharing a healthy-ish cocktail with you that’s easy to make ahead and doesn’t require a ton of expensive spirits. It’s low-key and high-reward. I’ve added roasted beets, ripe blood oranges, and sweet berries together for a slightly sweet granita that pairs perfectly with dry sparkling wine. I’ve even added one of my favorite spirits to bring a balanced-but-bitter bite to the mix: Campari. Continue reading