Tag Archives: cocktails

mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner's new book, "cooking with cocktails" | holly & flora

mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s new 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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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 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.

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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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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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white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | summer nostalgia + a big thanks

Gripping the handlebars of my bicycle with sweaty palms, I looked over my shoulders to see my little sister pedaling away, quickly gaining speed on me. I hunched over and pedaled with all of my nine-year-old might, heading into the hazy, mid-August sunshine, with the whipping sound of my bike streamers snapping through the warm air. Over the bumpy, tree-shaded trails, through the drainage ditch, and back home across our lawn, we raced home, slamming our bikes to the ground, collapsing onto the grass in laughter.

Sweet, summertime memories like this one make me smile. Wherever we lived, my sister and I, along with our neighborhood friends, would always find a way to build a tree house or a makeshift clubhouse on an empty, hidden lot. We’d carve out bike trails, construct drawbridges, and make trap doors. Every unwanted scrap had the potential to become a part of the world we were constructing. We’d require passwords and hold secret meetings. We’d even make club newsletters, pieced together with tape, typewritten words, and magazine clippings, duplicated on my dad’s copy machine.

I’m dating myself right now, but I feel so lucky to have been a child of the ‘80s.

white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

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