Category Archives: herbs

the alpine margarita | settling into mountain life

I owe you all and myself a proper catch-up post here. That’ll have to wait, but I’ll give you a little peek into what’s been going on. So much has changed over the past three months, since we’ve transitioned from city life to farmer life. Out of all the questions I’m asked, I hear this one most frequently, “What is the biggest thing you didn’t expect when you moved to the country and began growing grapes?” Sure, the exhaustive work is challenging, the learning curve to become a successful grape-grower is a constant struggle, but the real challenge is weed control.

We are shifting the vineyard’s practices and employing organic and sustainable methods, so applying commercial herbicides or pesticides is not in our playbook. We’ve been doing a lot of hand-pulling and weed-eating, instead. There are weeding attachments for tractors, but we’ve been trying to save money on extra expenses. Instead, we’ve been doing the work ourselves. I have the callouses to prove it.

We are in the dead heat of summer, as many of you are, and seeking a cool respite from the sun’s pounding rays is always on our minds. Weeding in the stark sunlight is brutal. So, of course it was the perfect time for our swamp cooler to call it quits last week. It sputters out water and particulates and barely chills the air down to 80 degrees. I’m seriously considering crashing a local hotel pool or even trying to sneak into one of the fancy mountain pools sometime this weekend.

I’m desperate.

There is something so magical when you pair margaritas with a hot day. It’s like the two were meant for each other. Our vineyard is located just over a mile above sea level and gets more sunshine annually than Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State.” In fact, the mesa we’re farming on is aptly named, “Sunshine Mesa.” To beat the heat we’ve been experiencing, we’ve been making tequila-based cocktails on repeat over the last few weeks. This simple riff on the classic margarita takes a nod from the alpine area I live in and mixes it perfectly with freshly squeezed lime and orange liqueur.

Continue reading

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 rosé, 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.

Continue reading

garden mint juleps

I know that I am about a month late to celebrate the deliciousness of mint juleps; the Kentucky Derby, the event that prompts one to don fabulous hats and sip on this refreshing cocktail, happens every second week in May.  Although my timeliness is a little off, the mint in my backyard is, at last, ragingly fragrant, ripe, and ready for the picking.  Fresh mint simply screams for homemade iced tea, mojitos, and, of course, mint juleps.

If you’ve ever planted mint, you know that it takes over your yard, and soon, you have more mint than you know what to do with.  All summer long, you can unabashedly toss it into freshly brewed iced tea, or you can take a small amount of time to make some mint simple syrup that can transform your cocktails, teas, and other concoctions.

Baby mint sprigs ready for harvest. Mint thrives in partial shade environments and will take over your yard or garden, if you let it. It makes a great ground cover and always makes you smile, when you “accidentally” step on it.

How do you harvest mint?  Simply take some garden shears and cut just above what I call a “t” line.  Don’t cut the entire stalk off from the ground.  Select a stalk and count up at least two or three leaves up.  Cut just above the leaves, as shown below.  Easy!

Clipping the mint leaves.

Ingredients for Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar {I use raw sugar}
  • 2 cups freshly cut, coarsely chopped mint {stalks are fine}

Steps for preparing the Syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar by stirring.
  2. Remove from heat, upon being dissolved.
  3. Place chopped mint into a bowl or Mason jar and pour simple syrup on top.
  4. Set aside for two hours, so that the mint steeps.
  5. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve or chinois and place in an airtight container.  The syrup keeps refrigerated for about a week.

Be sure to set aside a few sprigs of mint to use to garnish your mint juleps.  Snip a few sprigs and place them in a vase of water.  They will survive on your table or counter-top for several days, storing them in this manner.

Making the mint julep cocktail is the easiest part of the process, once your mint simple syrup is made.  Simply pack a cocktail glass full of shaved or crushed ice, pour bourbon on top, add the mint simple syrup, stir the cocktail, and top with a mint sprig!  I found the most adorable glass stirrers from a vintage-modern shop here in town, Lee Alex Decor, one of my favorite places to find cocktail accessories.  I couldn’t resist the garden theme!

Ingredients for the Garden Julep

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup {to taste}
  • crushed ice
  • mint sprig, for garnish

I picked up this Colorado-made bourbon from Divino Wine and Spirits, off Broadway, in Denver this afternoon.  Peach Street Distillers makes some of the most innovative spirits.  They are a small-batch operation, based in Pallisade, Colorado, and only make about a barrel a day {talk about small-batch!}.  The corn is sourced from the western slope of Colorado, and the final result is an aromatic, hand-numbered, balanced bourbon.  If you can get your hands on it, do so!

One other side note:  mint juleps are traditionally made with crushed or shaved ice.  If you are unable to find some {one friend of mine says that Good Times sells it by the bag!}, simply place ice cubes in a clean t-shirt or cheesecloth, cover, and smash several time with a mallet or hammer.  That’s what I had to do today!

how to make basil pesto

Another day off, and another day that I wanted to spend catching up on a good read, hanging out with a good friend, or simply staring into the sky.  Not to be had.  At its end, the day ended up to be quite rewarding, albeit taxing, along the way!  There was so much basil in the yard and garden plot that it was almost overwhelming.  Half the day was spent catching up, over breakfast, with my boyfriend, who is as equally dedicated as I am in this gardening-cooking-preserving journey.  We planned our day, gulped a couple of cups of coffee, and set out to make the most of it, despite the fact that we really wanted to just put in a movie and zone out!
An abundance of basil at the garden plot…about double the amount awaited us at the house.

You can apply this blog post’s concept at almost any level:  cut and harvest at the peak of freshness and flavor, and m-a-x-i-m-i-z-e.  Right after clipping, we headed to Whole Foods and picked up the necessary ingredients for pesto:  olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano (both shredded and powdered).  We already had plenty of parsley, sea salt, and pepper at the house, so we were set.

Continue reading

specialty vinegars from the garden

I will be completely honest with you, that I feel completely burned out from my past workweek, so much so, that I did not spend much time in either the garden or the kitchen over the past six days!  Today consisted of sleeping in, going out to lunch, making salsa, meeting up with some good friends, and catching up at the garden plot for our monthly potluck and discussion.  It sounds like a lot, but I waltzed my way through each activity in an almost dream-like state.  I think I managed a nap somewhere in between…

About two weeks ago, I experienced a similar day, where I really lacked energy, but I wanted to do something creative and also deal with some excess herbs.  The theme this summer has truly focused on preserving as much of summer’s ripe, fresh bounty, in as many possible ways.  I opened up one of my most useful books, Small-Batch Preserving, ran to the grocery to pick up a few items, and set out to make some flavored vinegars.  The results, although a little time-delayed, proved quite rewarding.

Two weeks later, I had bottles of lemon-thyme-garlic-white wine vinegar and orange-rosemary-garlic-red wine vinegar.

Continue reading