Elderflowers are difficult to come by in Chicago. So when Seedling Farms announced some were available, I jumped at the opportunity to try the ever increasing pile of elderflower recipes I have been collecting. A week or two later, lucky me had a giant box of beautifully perfumed elderflower heads in my hot little hands.

In the states, we’re probably most familiar with elderflower in the form the ubiquitous St. Germain liqueur that has managed to make its way onto every cocktail menu. Europe is better at appreciating these delicate white flowers that are most often used to perfume a sweet cordial. The elder tree is actually a pretty remarkable plant that produces both these flower and elderberries, which are also used in culinary applications. Perhaps most interestingly, the tree has long been associated with witches, and the wood of the tree is particularly well suited to making magic wands. Cool.

What is not to love? And why isn’t there an elder tree on every corner?


Milk Punch (+ Japan)

We’re all trying to figure out how to write about food after what has happened in Japan. Ruth Reichl’s tweets are getting more and more bizarre. We’re struggling. There isn’t an answer. We are unbelievably fortunate to be alive, and to have our homes, friends and family safe. Even this internet that brings me to you is such a privilege. My hope is that we are all appreciating our good fortune, and finding ways to help those that are suffering. And I hope that someday everyone will have the luxury of caring about the food they eat (or whatever else) as much as we do. read more+++

Bonus: The Poacher

So, you have made your beautiful quince pie and have a cup or two of poaching liquid left over (I ended up with 1 3/4 cups). It would be unforgivable for you to pour it down the drain. What to do? Have a drink! The poaching liquid was too beautiful and fragrant for me to ignore, so I decided to invent a cocktail. This is a good idea for any future leftover poaching liquid (pear tarts?). All you need to do is strain the liquid into a jar and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use. read more+++

Drink of Summer 2010: The Nominees (Vote!)

A couple of weeks ago I asked for drink ideas to sip all summer. You came through in a big way with lots of really wonderful suggestions.

It wasn’t easy narrowing them down to 3 finalists, so we chose 4—which wasn’t much easier. I wanted to try almost every cocktail suggested by you, my fine readers. But in an effort to preserve our livers and  live to drink another day, we narrowed down the competition to these fantastic finalists. We were looking for something seasonal, creative and delicious—these all qualified.

In reviewing the submissions, I noticed some trends. Strawberries made their way onto the list several times, as did pineapple, basil and other fresh herbs. Several of you suggested cucumber-based drinks, which I love. Many of you were inspired by drinks you had at favorite bars or restaurants and these final nominees are really an homage to modern mixologists.

So, without further delay, I present to you the 4 finalists for the 2010 Drink of Summer:


Ginger Beer

It is remarkable how my diet changes with the seasons. The things I am interested in eating, the amount of food and even the preparation. We had a few days of warm weather last month and I instantly adopted a summer palate. I was interested in salads and simple meals. I also wanted bright, refreshing things to drink.
At a recent dinner at Longman & Eagle I had a whiskey drink with ginger beer that was pretty outstanding and got me wondering about ginger beer. I’ve heard it used to describe a variety of beverages, some containing alcohol, some not, some carbonated, some not. A little internet research seems to confirm that the term is applied to a range of liquids and the only common component is, well, ginger. I was interested in a non-alcoholic version that I could use as a mixer with soda or something a little stronger and  decided to give making my own ginger beer a go. read more+++

Milk Liqueur

A couple of summers ago, Bryan and I spent 4th of July in Paris with some family friends. They hosted a lovely barbecue in our honor and we ate and drank all sorts of delicious things. What stood out to me the most was an aperitif that the grandfather of the family had made. My French is pretty bad so I have no idea what it actually was, but I think it had something to do with prunes. In any case, I liked that liqueur so much and I loved that it was homemade. The kind man was clearly proud of his creation and spent the early part of the evening holding the bottle and giving out tastes to anyone who was interested. I had more than my share. read more+++

Your Drink

If you follow me on twitter you probably know that I was recently freaking out about the Angostura bitters shortage which was being written about in several places. My fear wasn’t that the shortage would effect the Manhattan or Old Fashioned I like to drink. I was worried it would effect something much more serious: Your Drink.


Agua de Jamaica


Agua de jamaica (or simply jamaica)  is one of my favorite beverages. In Chicago I am able to find it at most of my favorite Mexican restaurants and can’t resist ordering it. I am particularly fond of the jamaica at Maiz in Humboldt Park, which also serves up some fantastic food.  The refreshing and sweet tea-like beverage is made with dried hibiscus flowers. The use of hibiscus to make flavored waters is not limited to Latin America and is also common in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. If you haven’t tried Jamaica yet, you are in for a real treat. It is tart and sparkling with a smooth finish. It is the perfect liquid for a hot summer day and so good served with some of the foods you might be grilling this weekend. read more+++

The 2009 Drink of Summer (???!)


Uh oh. I found another contender for the official drink of summer. This one may look a mess but is really pretty lovely thanks in large part to the wonder that is Hendrick’s gin. And so it seems we have a competition on our hands. I think the only fair thing to do is to have my friend Katie decide. She is the one who usually declares the drink of summer and she has a discerning palate, she is also the person who introduced me to cucumber cocktails with a punch she made many summers ago that was spectacular. Katie and I will be together for the 4th of July which seems like a fitting time for a drink competition. I’ll let you know what happens. read more+++

The 2009 Drink of Summer


I think we found our Drink of Summer. My friend Katie and I like to declare an official drink each year. They’ve ranged from a classic mojito to more complicated concoctions with cucumbers and gin and lots of muddling involved. This classic Italian cocktail combining prosecco and Aperol is leading the pack for summer 2009.  read more+++