Category Archives: tequila

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.

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the tropicante | margarita of the year

Between packing up our old house and making small moves out to our new spot on the western slope of Colorado, Steve and I have barely had time to fix dinner, let alone relax and enjoy it together. Last night was different, however. Steve fired up the grill, despite the falling snow outside, and served up some Coho salmon, alongside a few handfuls of blanched spring peas and sautéed green onions.

I garnished every, last bite of salmon with fresh avocado, since we’ve had a lot of it on hand this past week. It has made appearances on sourdough avocado toast, layered between salsa and corn chips, piled on by the spoonful, and even muddled up in a few cocktails. Have you ever tried adding avocado to a drink? If you have enjoyed any egg whites-based cocktails, then you understand the delicious role that texture plays and the sometimes surprising ingredients that make it happen. Adding avocado does the very same thing an egg white does – it adds a rich, silky mouthfeel and integrates a variety of flavors together.

I find it perfectly timed that I get to share an avocado-based cocktail with you that’s in the running for Patrón’s 2017 “Margarita of the Year.” It’s one of seven artisanal, creative spins on the versatile, classic cocktail, crafted by top-notch bartenders around the world. One of those bartenders in the running is Denver’s own Alex Kady of 12 @ Madison and Star Bar. His Tropicante Margarita is a whipped combination of reposado tequila, mango liqueur, citrus, and avocado. It’s also the perfect brunch cocktail to complement your go-to avo toast. I might have done just that. On a Wednesday.

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mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s book, “cooking with cocktails”

Apparently, it is National Margarita Day today, a celebration of all-things-tequila, salt-laced, and citrus-y. I’m also celebrating the book release of one of my favorite food bloggers and friends, Kristy Gardner, of She Eats. Her new book, Cooking with Cocktails, is dedicated to the both the cocktail-imbibing cook and the food-loving beverage connoisseur. Its beautiful pages are filled with 100 boozy recipes, each crafted with wine, beer, or spirits. I’d can safely say that she wrote this book with me in mind.

I have been patiently awaiting the publication of Kristy’s book ever since I helped her test a few recipes for it this past spring. When she asked me to be a part of her virtual book release tour, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Since the date of my post along the tour fortuitously fell upon National Margarita Day, I knew that I had to share Kristy’s recipe for “Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas” with you.

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dsc_3937For those of you new to Kristy Gardner, I’ll give an introduction. She is a writer, photographer, and self-professed “bourbonator” from Vancouver, British Columbia. Bourbon is her jam. She also does a little acting and owns a branding agency called, Peppercorn Creative. The two of us bonded over the subject of cocktails {our first love} from the start about four years ago, and we regularly send each other lengthy emails and care packages filled with culinary treats {our second love, essentially}.

I trust Kristy’s drink-making skills implicitly. In fact, the very first recipe of Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight out of the jar. This particular recipe that I’m sharing with you is the perfect combination of flavors. As much as I love a simple lime-centric margarita, this smoky, savory, and slightly vegetal version might be my new favorite.

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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.

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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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frozen peach + chambord mezcal margaritas | #margaritaweek

Ever since Steve and I got back from our quick trip to Sonoma earlier this week, it has been rather challenging to get back into a regular groove. Getting away and escaping the routine – even if it was only for three days – was exactly what we needed. Warm, sun-filled afternoons; brisk, starlit evenings; local, spring produce; walks in the vineyards at Peter Michael Winery; and too much wine for our own good. I can only imagine what an entire week out there would do for my soul! I just might not come back home.

Along with eight other sommeliers from across the world, Steve and I were invited to attend Peter Michael Winery‘s annual Sommelier Summit. This particular year was exceptionally special, however. Wine Spectator recently declared PMW’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Au Paradis, “Wine of the Year.” The excitement there was, as you would expect, palpable and contagious. I’ll definitely share more about this memorable trip in an upcoming post.

We managed to find some time for relaxation, while we were there, despite the packed schedule of tastings and lectures. Making a couple of visits to our favorite Healdsburg watering hole, Spoonbar, was non-negotiable. One of the things I love most about this bar is that they choose a spirit for the season and create myriad twists and iterations using it. Gin is their current obsession, and there are nearly ten different gin-based cocktails on the list, all crafted with spring flowers, fresh herbs, ripe fruits, and just-picked vegetables.

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