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"Pool Side" at the Hotel Palomar's BLVD 16 Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Blvd 16As we near Labor Day weekend, it seems appropriate to post a recipe for a refreshing cocktail that showcases some of the late-summer produce -- in this case, lemons, cucumbers, grapes and mint. The "Pool Side" was created by Reuben Games, the resident bartender at BLVD 16 (right), the restaurant and lounge at the Hotel Palomar Los Angeles-Westwood. The restaurant was named after Los Angeles' famed Wilshire Blvd. (the location of the hotel, with the 16 representing the length of the street, which runs from the beach to downtown) and features a menu that's updated frequently based on what's in season by Executive Chef Richard Hodge, who suggests pairing the cocktail with their quinoa salad, which also includes cucumber, oven-roasted tomato, feta cheese, olives and mint pesto. Yum to both. Enjoy!

Pool Side
2 oz. Hendrick's Gin
2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1 oz. Organic Blue Agave Light
3 ea. Red Grapes
3 ea. Mint Leaves
2 ea. Cucumber Wedges

Directions: Muddle cucumber, grapes and mint with agave. Combine all ingredients in shaker and shake. Strain into a high-ball glass with fresh ice. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.

New for Spring: The Grand Del Mar's Apricot Jul-Up Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

The Grand Del Mar Mint Jul-up CocktailIt's at about this point in the spring season that it feels appropriate to start thinking about creating a great spring cocktail using seasonal produce that we can break out at parties celebrating grads or dads or whatever else you'd like to celebrate. To that end, I bring you -- courtesy of The Grand Del Mar in Del Mar, California -- the Apricot Jul-up, using fresh mint, apricot-honey syrup and apricot-infused bourbon, in honor of another great spring celebration: the Kentucky Derby. Enjoy!

Apricot Jul-up

3 oz. apricot-infused Bulleit Bourbon
1 1/2 ounces apricot-honey syrup (recipe below)
8 leaves of fresh mint
Fresh mint for garnish

Muddle mint in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint.

Apricot-honey syrup
1 cup dried apricot
2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir constantly for approximately three to five minutes. Before using or storing, strain out apricot pulp and let the syrup cool to room temperature.

Chef Sarah's Green Smoothie from the Andaz Napa Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Andaz Napa SmoothieLooking for an antidote to all the wonderful (and decadent) food stuffs at Thanksgiving -- and/or just for a great all-around smoothie that uses veggies like kale and baby spinach from your garden? Sarah Linkenhell, the executive chef at the Andaz Napa, which opened in downtown Napa in September and offers a "Napa-to-Table" restaurant called (fittingly) the Andaz Farmers Table, has created just what you're looking for. Even better, she was happy to share the recipe with us. Enjoy!

1 Granny smith apple, cored
1 large pear
1 banana
1 cup frozen pineapple, mango, peach mix
2 large leaves kale, no stem
2 large handful baby spinach
1.5 cup apple juice
1.5 cup water

Using a Vitamix blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Enjoy chilled. Keeps for two days in the refrigerator.

Agua de Frescos from Quito's Casa Gangotena Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Agua de Fresca ingredientsCombine amaranth flowers, verbena, esencia de rosas, mint, sweet basil, spearmint, pena pena, lemongrass, fragrant mauve, lemon balm and "a little magic" and what do you have? The answer is the Agua de Frescos, the refreshing drink used to welcome guests to the Casa Gangotena, a boutique hotel fashioned from a restored mansion overlooking the Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador.

For those of us who aren't able to get to Quito (at least anytime soon) but who might be growing -- or have access to -- the ingredients, Andres E. Davila, the executive chef of Casa Gangotena, was kind enough to share the recipe. Even better, Chef Davila says it's pretty easy to make: You just have to boil the water, then turn it off and put all the herbs in for about 10 minutes. Then take the herbs out. Once the Agua de Frescos is cold, add a little sugar and fresh lemon juice.

"That's it. No big secrets, just pure and refreshing Casa Gangotena-style Agua de Frescos," said Chef Davila. Enjoy!

A Cucumber Collins That's Good for Both the Goose and the Gander Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

The opening of a new restaurant in the Napa Valley always brings about bit of a ripple in the foodie community. In this case, it's the new Goose & Gander, which opened last week on the same spot in St. Helena where the former Martini House once stood. With a focus on locally sourced ingredients in both the dining room, overseen by Partner/Executive Chef Kelly McCown, and in the artisan cocktails concocted by Bar Manager Scott Beattie, those seeking a quintessential farm-to-table experience in Napa should be pleased. If you're interested in toasting the opening at home, Beattie was kind enough to share his recipe for the Cucumber Collins. Even better -- wait until Memorial Day, when you can enjoy a summer cocktail in the restaurant's newly renovated garden.

Cucumber Collins
1 1/2 oz. Square One Cucumber Vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. yuzu juice (with no sodium added)
1/2 oz. 1:1 simple syrup
1-2 oz. seltzer
4 to 6 slices of cucumber, pickled and non-pickled (recipe below)

Add the vodka, lemon juice, yuzu juice and simple syrup to an empty 16 oz. mixing glass. Add enough ice to fill the mixing glass completely with ice, seal it up, shake hard a few times to mix, unseal, leaving all the contents in the metal half of the shaker. Add the seltzer to the metal half of the shaker, and then dump the contents into a 12 oz. Collins glass. It should fit in nicely with ice filling the glass from the bottom to the top. Using a straw of the back end of a stirring spoon, carefully slide several slices each of the pickled and non-pickled cucumbers down the sides of the glass, so that the ice pushes the cucumber slices attractively up against the glass.

Pickled Cucumbers Stained with Blueberries
12 oz. unseasoned rice vinegar
4 oz. mirin
4 oz. unfiltered cooking sake
6 oz. white granulated sugar
1 cup frozen wild Maine blueberries
1 large English cucumber

Add the vinegar, mirin and sake to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Next add the blueberries, bring back up to a boil, and summer for 2 minutes to bleed out the color. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Using a mandolin, slice the entire cucumber up to about the width of a quarter, not paper thin, not too thick. Reserve half of the cucumbers for pickling; the other half will stay non-pickled. Stain the blueberries out of the pickling liquid, and then pour the liquid over half of the cucumbers and let them rest for about 2 hours or long enough to stain them purple. They will last about two weeks in the fridge.

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