Tag Archives: garden-to-glass

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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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

sparkling spiced blackberry negronis | adding flavor with fruits + infusions

Writing this post has gotten me excited about planning our new garden this spring. I’ve missed all of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs growing just outside my backdoor. Granted, we have some amazing farms out here on the western slope, so I haven’t gone without, but there’s nothing like tending and growing your own. Cocktail gardens included.

This past fall, we tilled up the yard around our house, and we ordered some no-mow, low-water grass seed to fill in the almost dust-bowl-like terrain we’ve got going on now. I’ve got a couple of “wish list” plants bookmarked over at High Country Gardens, and those, along with some seeds I’ve either saved or been gifted, are going to colorfully make their way into our lives in a few months. I can’t wait!

Let’s talk about naturally adding flavor in cocktails for a moment.

Did you make any resolutions to eat healthier or drink less? Or maybe your goal is to make healthier versions of your favorite cocktails? This line of thought is on the radar of many home bartenders {myself included} and mixologists around the country. In fact, the appearance of healthier cocktails is one of the projected trends for 2018, according to publications like Supercall and Industry Juice. I’m definitely excited to make and drink more juice- or kombucha-based cocktails and see more low-ABV or alcohol-free drinks available whenever I go out.

I’ve always been a proponent for cocktails flavored with fresh fruits and vegetables, infusions, and less sugar — or even none at all. Drinks simply taste better, when they’re made with fresh ingredients. Think about those florescent-hued, cloyingly sweet drinks you’ve had before. They might be pretty, but their headache is never worth any temporary “enjoyment.”

Two of my personal favorite ways to add flavor to cocktails without adding extra, unwanted sugar is by using fresh fruits and vegetables and by making infusions. I’ve also been enjoying adding Zevia’s stevia-based mixers to my drinks, like the Ginger Apple Swizzle from a few posts back. This sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni gets its flavor from fresh blackberries and Zevia blackberry sparkling water. I’m happy to share another cocktail that’s on the lighter but more flavorful side with you.

Any way I can add flavor without the calories or unwanted chemical substitutes, I’m in.

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the ginger apple swizzle | a low-sugar, sherry cocktail

Crisp apples, roasted nuts, spicy ginger, herbaceous rosemary.

Those are some of my favorite flavors of the fall and winter seasons, and they all magically meld together just perfectly, somehow. I have definitely been on a kick with creating all-cocktails-apple lately, and this particular recipe incorporates all of these components in bubbly, festive fashion.

In an effort to cut back on my sugar intake, I’ve been playing around with low-sugar or sugar-free cocktails, focusing on the natural vibrancy of fruits and herbs. The catalyst for this quest occurred earlier this month when Steve and I baked and devoured a batch of oatmeal cookies in one sitting. I kept rationalizing that they were healthy-ish. That they could be dinner. One cookie led to 15 cookies.

Then there was the night that very same week that we baked and ate an entire pumpkin pie.

After dinner.

That was the tipping point.

That pumpkin pie was truly delicious, and I reveled in the decadence of eating the whole thing. Of course, Steve contributed his fair share of slices, too. I’m laughing about it now, but I also knew at that point that I had to slow it down with the sweets. When I craft cocktails, some kind of sweetening agent is almost inevitable, and I normally use a simple syrup to bring sweetness to the drink. Sweetness is necessary to bring balance to a cocktail, especially when there is a strong acidic or bitter note.

And a balanced drink is a good drink.

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persimmon gingersnap flips | a california state of mind

I guess you could say that I finally caught my breath. Just a breath. And it’s totally worth celebrating. It’s taken me nearly two months. Last Friday, I sneaked away for a couple of days and escaped to sunny Newport Beach with my friend, Kelly Pfeiffer. She was there to shoot some recipe videos. I was there to get out of my head and let my thoughts wander.

Kelly finished her shots, thanks to the talented hand of Haley Davis of Brewing Happiness. She truly works magic with the lens, and she’s just plain awesome to be around. We all laughed together at our antics between frames, we devoured every one of Kelly’s creations {a perk of on-site recipe shoots!}, and I took the opportunity to pair and share some wine with them.

The proverbial monkey is at least taking a break off of my back, and I feel somewhat recharged.

I brought a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, along with me. It’s an intimate glimpse into Elizabeth’s journey through creativity, and through anecdotal stories, Elizabeth shares her tips on lively creatively beyond fear. I’d read it before, but I knew it needed a revisit, since I’d felt so drained and lethargic with respect to anything creative. I seem to flip through its pages whenever I’m on a trip, especially a trip that I’ve declared as a catalyst for change.

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