To Entertain, Part One: Taste of Place

("To Entertain" is a brief series on entertaining & hospitality and why it is an especially important practice for twenty-somethings like myself.)

Terroir: a taste of place 

"A good wine smells and even tastes like its terroir, the landscape where it was born. And people are the same; where we come from is always a part of who we are."
-Karen Le Billon
Have you ever had the chance to watch a storm fully brew? Not just the clouds boiling in the sky like a series of pots on a crowded stove, but really steeping itself in barometric heaves producing spectacular grumbles and flashes. Have you ever watched the storm mound and the light change and a field of wheat bend and whisper to itself as thunder drums heavy fingers across the table-land? One of my favorite parts of living in the countryside is this chance to be so intimate with the weather and to learn how my home-place changes under its influence. Yes, it would be delicious to live closer to civilization. My gas expenses would be lower. Fewer people would be scared to drive out to my house after dark for fear of getting lost. But for all these proposed conveniences, I love to live where I do. I have always had an unreasonable attachment to daylight and weather. I never truly feel at home in a place until I've learned its many moods and light. I want to spend several mornings waking up in a space to see how the sun comes in on a cloudless day, on a rainy day, on a neither-here-nor-there day. To truly feel rooted in a place I have to meet it in all the seasons too. I love to look out on our wood-line in October and know, now that we've lived here seven years, which trees turn scarlet first. There is always one bright optimist who blushes ruby red before any of the others have even the barest thought of autumn. I love that solitary maple because I, like it, am prone to rush ahead to all the things I look forward to. There is always, as Pooh-Bear (speaking of honey) puts it, "a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called." I don't disregard this unnamed wonderful moment of anticipation, but like that ruddy maple I get so very excited about possibilities and potential that I can be hard to catch. They don't call people like myself "social butterflies" for nothing. The butterfly part is less descriptive of, I imagine, frailty of purpose as it is of our propensity to flutter ahead of the pack, sipping glibly of every delightful thing life wants to offer and pollinating society behind us with assurance that here are beautiful things in abundance.
Last year I took the butterfly mantra so far that I spent a solid fifty percent of 2016's weekends away from home. I made new friendships, restored old ones, adjusted to new dynamics, experienced so much broadening of my heart and soul. It was a beautiful sojourn out of a desert land. How ready I had been to fly, to beat new wings and dry them as I left memories scattered across the Eastern half of America. I loved my gypsy-year. But strangely enough, the gypsying caused me to crave home like nothing else had. I forgot how golden-hour looks when it settles like a mantle across our freshly-mown lawn. I missed out on dark, honeysuckle-flavored drives down our winding road. I skipped whole weekends of watching the wild roses bloom and the wheat cure and the corn grow topping tall. I missed trying to find a radio station amid the crackling static. I missed my bookshelves and my cast iron skillet. I missed my family. I missed my cat. I missed my coffee shop. I missed star-gazing. I missed my bunched up, ancient pillow and my mattress that squeaks every time I turn over in my sleep. More than all these things, though, I missed a sense of place. I missed belonging. I did not belong at home anymore, because I had made myself a stranger. All rooting of myself had been done abroad. There were pieces of my heart in Florida, in Indiana, in DC, in Atlanta, but when I came home I had my family, one friend...and no one else. This ached. To realize that home is a restless business when I knew that I loved home so very much. Where had I gone wrong? Why didn't it want me? Why did home look at me coldly as if I had become a stranger? My butterfly wings were tired and tattered and only wanted to be nourished by the community I could no longer find. I thought perhaps I never would find it, and then as soft as the rain-hushed evening it came to me:
You have to stay.
It was obvious, once I stood still long enough to listen. Stay, be still, rest, listen, invest, care for. To have roots, one must plant oneself. Travel is a beautiful thing, but when it comes at the expense of home and a sense of place, it is time to set down roots. We humans are not meant to meander about the world without belonging. And to belong is a work we take lightly in a day when we need it most. "I belong," you say, flipping through a phone full of people who, were you to never show up in their Instagram feed again, might never pause to think of you at all. No, belonging means that you are involved in a myriad of analog ways with the people whom you care about. Who picks you up from the airport? Who calls you to come watch a movie on a cozy evening? Who is only a phone-call away from a hard, wonderful conversation conducted over sweating glasses of lemonade? Who can you text to meet you at the beach, with doughnuts, in the next hour or two? Who will ask you to bring tissues and ibuprofen when they're sick? Who reaches out when you didn't show up at Bible study this Tuesday night? Who can you quietly surprise with cheesecake on a random day, just because they're wonderful and you're so grateful for their friendship?

At the 2016 stage of my life, the answer was shockingly empty. Beyond my parents, I couldn't think of a single person - okay, maybe one - who I could call to pick me up from the airport, or hang out on a lazy weekend. The people I would have called all lived a minimum of four hours away. I had butterflied so far afield that I no longer had a sense of community or where I belonged. It was time to plant myself, to fold my butterfly wings, and to learn to drink from the richness surrounding me. It was, in short, time to cherish and tend and wait expectantly for the harvest...I had lost my taste of place and I wanted so badly to have it back. The fullness of life found abroad I knew could, given enough cultivating and patience, be grown at home. It was just a matter of time and tending and staying long enough to see the light play across the land and the friendships spring up under consistent attention and gentle watering.

(watch for Part Two later this week but for now tell me, where is your terroir? What makes you taste of home?)

8 Edible Flowers And How To Use Them


If you've come to this blog post hoping to learn how to use edible flowers to make your food prettier (or to keep yourself alive My Side of The Mountain style) you've come to a good place! I'm no expert but I'm confident I'll be able to point you in a positive, safe direction for eating some pretty gorgeous flowers. Ever since I was a kid and would read all of Jean Craighead George's books about kids going off-grid and surviving by becoming hunters and foragers, I've been fascinated with the things you can eat that grow right in your own yard. I think it's comical how strongly people react to the idea of eating flowers or other wild plants as if it's a new idea:
You're putting redbud blossoms into your mango soft-serve?
Well, yes. Herbs are just domesticated versions of wild plants and so are vegetables and fruits. The idea of being able to eat certain blossoms of certain plants shouldn't be all that surprising. I'm here to bust some myths, highlight a couple favorites, and hopefully inspire you to start tossing (correctly identified) blossoms into your meals! Some of these are wildflowers, some of them are "domesticated," and absolutely all of the flowers mentioned here are safe to eat.


 Now let's get cracking: first off, Legitimate Reasons To Eat Flowers:
  • they are free
  • they are beautiful
  • they are free and beautiful
  • some of them taste good
  • none of them taste bad
  • your food pictures look cooler
  • your friends will think you're smart
  • your friends will think you're basically Bear Grylls. 
As always, the flowers you "forage" should be safely grown. By that I mean not sprayed with pesticides, growing near a roadside where there's a lot of pollution, or otherwise compromised in provenance. Also, if you aren't familiar with what each of these flowers look like, educate yourself on them before running around eating them. Some flowers are harder to identify correctly than others. That's why I'm scared to eat Queen Anne's Lace (which is edible): its doppelganger (poison hemlock) is deadly. Do your research, make sure what you have is actually edible and has no easily-confused lookalike, then enjoy. Ready? Set? Go!




rose -  the one flower that every single person on planet earth is familiar with. Whether we're discussing wild roses, domestic roses, or roses that have simply gone abroad for a while and come back slightly unkempt, you can eat any of them! For large varieties, try candying the petals or shredding them to sprinkle on yogurt. Alternately, dry the petals and use as a beautiful wintry decoration for baked goods.

marigold - most of us are familiar with this pungent, classic vegetable garden flower. Usually planted near less hearty plants to keep bugs away, marigolds are an ideal addition to salads or sprinkled on top of curry. Though the smell of marigolds might turn some people away (I like it - it smells like coffee, after a fashion), the flavor of the actual petals is much milder and adds just the vaguest savory flavor to your dish.

honeysuckle - it's a long-time dream of mine to sit down one day and "milk" enough honeysuckle blossoms to make a bottle of honeysuckle nectar. Okay, or at least to get a teaspoon of nectar and drink it. Like, legitimately, it's my dream. The beautiful scent and flavor of honeysuckle makes it the perfect decoration for a cake, an addition to lemonade, or sprinkled over a light, composed salad.

pansy + viola - these flowers are sisters of violets which are also completely edible. I love how bright pansies and violas are and what a punch of color they add when topping a salad, rice bowl, or quiche. The blossoms have very little (if any) scent or flavor so violas are probably the ideal "beginner's" flower for those just starting to adventure.

clover - everybody knows clover! Clover's like the strong steady hand that you never appreciate till it's gone. While a well-known star in honey (clover honey, anyone?) and the foundation of all successful childhood flower-chains, clover is also a great addition to spring-time salads or marshalled into oatmeal-topping duty. 

dianthus - besides being known as "pinks" and "sweet william" and thus winning every charm contest ever, dianthus has the most exquisite flavor of cloves that you'd ever hoped to meet with in all your flower-chomping dreams. I am enamored. In salads, in drinks, on top of creme brulee...agh. Pure perfection. Get some dianthus. Be in love.

hop clover - okay, I admit that I only added this one to the list because I needed one more flower to round out my list and everything else has either already bloomed or is not yet blooming. However, hop clover is apparently popular and edible, thrown in tea or salads or whatever you feel like throwing it into. I've always thought that the bright, round yellow blooms look like adorable little Dr. Seuss plants. Something a weary Sneech might sit on if he had a moment. You know, as you do. Also, totally throw the blossoms into an ice cube tray and make ice cubes out of those babies because listen. Hops = alcohol and some alcohol needs to be iced. And if you pop into a dinner party toting hop-clover ice cubes, you've become the pun-master, no argument allowed.

dandelions - of all the flowers on this list (besides roses and violas, perhaps), dandelions must be the next most popular. While the leaves on this power-packed plant are better known than the blossoms as far as eating goes, I like tossing dandelions into a drab dish as a peppery garnish sure to bring on a smile. 

There are far more edible flowers than those I've listed above. These were just the ones I had on hand today - if you live in Southern Virginia in May, these will be at hand. Earlier in the spring there were sweet peas, beach peas, redbud, violets, bluets, and chickweed. Later there will be wood-sorrel, day-lilies, and more wild roses. The more I study edible wild-flowers, the more excited I am to find that there are far more edible flowers, seemingly, than there are inedible ones! I hope you'll get outside this weekend, pick a few flowers, and enjoy a beautiful twist to a commonplace dinner preparation.

Atlanta Coffee Shop Crawl

I watched Julie & Julia for the first time last night. I've been trying to find someone who owns it for years and finally located a copy in Atlanta which was the sole reason for my trip really great. Besides making me wish again that Julia Child was still alive and would maybe invite me over to her home for dinner one day, it made me want to continue to go to deeper levels of food and the heart behind why I bother with blogging. It certainly isn't for monetary gain (I don't make money - does anyone?); it isn't because my blog is wildly popular - have you seen the followers tab? No, I blog food, write about food, cook food, try food for the simple and important reason that food is meant to be shared. I'm never in this because I think I'm the best choice. I'm in it because anyone can celebrate what it is to create food and share it with friends and family. No, I don't think I'm the first or best person to ever draw a parallel between food and community. I don't think I'm the only one who loves to cook for the pure joy of throwing ingredients together and an hour later bringing something (literally) to the table that will delight other humans. Food is important. You can't live without it. And there is no more common ground than the need to nourish ourselves and each other with the best eatables we can manage to procure.

Food. It's great.

There is my profound comment for your Monday. I hope somebody reading this was prepared for a lecture from Plato when they clicked on this link because man, did I deliver. My other occupation while in Georgia (besides visiting friends, staging The Great British Baking Show, unofficial American Edition) was an impromptu coffee shop crawl! While waiting to meet up with some friends who were stuck in errands/hellish Atlanta traffic, my sister and I compiled a list of the highest-rated coffee shops in Downtown Atlanta and set off. We hit five stops in two and a half hours that first day and rounded off the weekend by hitting up two more on the way out. Now that I've stocked up on caffeine in half the shops around town, I feel like I can accurately bring you some Atlanta coffee recommendations for the next time you brave the city of peaches, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, and the gold dome! I've listed the coffee shops in terms of a good route to crawl through if you're looking to follow in our revered footsteps. Side-note: Atlanta has a lot of coffee shops and I know we hit only a handful. Most of ours were located in Old Fourth Ward/Edgewood/Highland. The only location West of I-85 that we tried was stop #5: Brash Coffee. So for planning purposes, if you want to replicate this little coffee-crawl, situate yourself East of I-85 and bring bikes or a vehicle - this isn't an easy crawl to accomplish on foot.

Stop #1: Dancing Goats at Ponce City Market
650 North Ave. NE
  Atlanta, GA
in three words: abstract, eclectic, bright
ordered: 12 ounce iced coffee
brews: Batdorf & Bronson 
special feature: roomy, covered patio

Stop #2: Condesa Coffee
480 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA
in three words: modern, inviting, cool
ordered: cappucino
brews: Counter Culture Coffee
special feature: surprisingly delicious yogurt parfait

Stop #3: Chrome Yellow Trading Co.
501 Edgewood Dr. SE
Atlanta, GA
in three words: relaxed, spacious, quality
ordered: cafe latte
brews: Stumptown Coffee
special feature: hipster boutique at the back of the shop

Stop #4: Octane Coffee
437 Memorial Dr. SE
Atlanta, GA
in three words: industrial, focused, popular
ordered: "white lightning" pour-over
brews: house-roasted beans 
special feature: abuts to Little Tart Bakery

Stop #5: Java Vino
579 N. Highland Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA
in three words: super-chill, friendly, quirky
ordered: Vietnamese iced coffee
brews: Selva Negra Estate coffee (grown by the owners' parents)
special feature: you can buy beans from the extensive selection behind the bar

Stop #6: Brash Coffee
1168 Howell Mill Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA
in three words: tiny, pretentious, serious
ordered: iced almond milk latte
brews: house-roasted beans
special feature: built inside a shipping crate

Stop #6: Copper Coin Coffee
400 Chambers St.
Woodstock, GA 
in three words: casual, roomy, rustic
ordered: dirty chai latte
brews: Counter Culture Coffee
special feature: giant wooden "bleacher" seating

Hints: though Anna and I were way over-caffeinated by the end of this coffee-crawl, I would wholeheartedly recommend any of these coffee shops as a place where you are assured of a high-quality cup of coffee in pretty fantastic surroundings. For the most casual cup, try Java Vino and its almost Hawaiin atmosphere. For the most pretentious cup, hit Brash Coffee and be stared at by a barista who almost certainly thinks he's better than you but will definitely make a good almond-milk latte. For the best how-to-hang-out-with-ten-friends-at-once you'll want to the spacious Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock. And if you only have time for one stop, definitely try for our favorite cup of the whole trip: Chrome Yellow Trading Co.! Also, when organizing a coffee crawl there is definitely no need for everyone to order his/her own drink. After our initial orders at Dancing Goats, my sister and I took turns buying coffee at each of the successive shops. Much less cost-prohibitive and far better for us in terms of caffeine consumed. The more friends you can get together, the more fun and less crash-prone your day will be. Plan well, have fun, enjoy all the coffee. Then come back here and let me know more coffee suggestions for next time. That is...if I ever get brave enough to stand Atlanta traffic again. Kidddddddding. I'd come back just for Condesa's yogurt parfait.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches




"They stick to your fingers."
I feel like that should be the tag-line of this post because in my heart, that is the most important point of adding another ice cream sandwich recipe to the reams you can find elsewhere on the internet. Yes, there are other ice cream sandwich recipes. No, they don't all stick to your fingers the way these do.

Over the last two weeks I've consumed more ice cream than is reasonable for any thinking human girl. I mean, where my waist is concerned, we aren't speaking. My friend Caileigh was in town and had never had Ben & Jerry's Tonight Dough ice cream, then we had to show her Bergey's Dairy (home to the best ice cream of my childhood) and then we had to have ice cream at some other point. And then the day she left, another friend who was riding with Caileigh shot-gun in her front seat, called me:
"We should grab dessert before you have to leave."
"What about a box of popsicles? I already have to stop at Walmart so my brother can run an errand."

"Caileigh wants ice cream."
"But we've had so much ice cream this week!"
"Ice cream sandwiches."
It only took those two words: ice-cream and "sandwiches" to totally break down my defenses. "Oh yeah!" I agreed. "The kind that stick to your fingers!"
And that, people, is why at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon a whole posse of my friends and I were standing outside a Walmart tearing the paper from store-brand ice cream sandwiches. Of course I got to wondering what it would take to achieve the classic stick-to-your fingers effect of the chocolate ice cream sandwich wafers. I mean, I've made ice cream cookie sandwiches where you just smush a generous scoop of ice cream between two giant cookies. We've all had that, okay. And I'm not talking about brownies a la mode either. Ice cream sandwiches are different. They aren't cookie. They aren't cake. When you bite into one they are soft enough that the ice cream doesn't squirt out the side and they're firm enough that they don't fall apart as if you'd frozen a slice of birthday cake. They're soft without being spongey, firm without being hard. They're a category entirely unto themselves and the idea that they'd stick to your fingers is essential. I decided to start with some research and then try to make them myself. Which meant recipe testing and more than one batch of homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Research quickly turned into frantic, periodic texts to Caileigh who had since gone home to Indianapolis: SO THE FIRST THING IS IT ISN'T REALLY COOKIE IT'S CAKE. This, after I tried Martha Stewart's recipe for ice cream sandwiches. I mean, the chocolate cookie was good - I don't deny that. But when I put it into the freezer (because, duh, ice cream) they got hard and snappy. Back to the internet. Some sources suggested baking the cookie as a sort of shortening-based shortbread because, unlike butter, shortening doesn't freeze? But the whole idea of a rolled-out cookie didn't sound correct to me. Besides, I was not about to mix up a batch of shortening-based cookies. That is entirely against every fiber in my belief in real foods. It seemed that all over the internet, nobody had been able to come up with a version of ice cream sandwiches that wasn't a roll-out cookie, wasn't shortening-based, and didn't get hard in the freezer. And above all, NOBODY HAD ONE THAT STICKS TO YOUR FINGERS. In a fit of frustration I shut my laptop and thought hard. What is the one baked item that proper ice cream sandwiches most resemble? Jellyroll cake. Only not, you know. Less like cake, more like cookies. I googled a slew of inadvisable things: how to make cake denser. How to make cookies more like cake. And then I just hung it all, grabbed the first chocolate jellyroll cake recipe I could find, omitted things here, adjusted things there, and spread it thin in a pan. When it came out of the oven, things looked promising. I turned it out, cut it in half, sandwiched strawberry ice cream in that baby, and left it in the freezer overnight. In the morning...success! The cookies which had been in the freezer overnight were beautifully al dente. Thin enough, bendy enough, firm enough, tender enough. Ice cream sandwich wafer perfection. Guys, my excitement knew no bounds as I did the final test. I sliced the block of cookie-cake and ice cream into bars and picked one up. My fingers came away sticky and covered in a chocolate film just like the film so vital to the ice cream sandwich experience. So I hurried to take photos and compile this blog post so you don't have to wait; get to the kitchen and mix up a batch. Nostalgia is waiting.


Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches
makes a dozen good-sized bars

1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cups dark cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or coffee extract
1 quart ice cream of choice (I used strawberry)

1.) In a large bowl mix together eggs and melted butter, then add in the sugar and coffee extract. Beat until pale yellow and well-mixed.
2.) In a smaller bowl mix together salt, flour, and cocoa. Add to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
4.) Line large, rimmed baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper, cutting a large enough piece for the edges to overhang the baking sheet.
5.) Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread prepared batter into baking sheet, being sure to spread to all corners evenly.
6.) Bake for about ten minutes or until it springs back from a light touch. Remove from oven.
7.) Remove ice cream from freezer to fridge to slightly defrost.
8.) Allow the cool slightly in pan before turning out onto a large cutting board. Allow to cool another few minutes, then remove parchment paper and cut sheet "cookie" in half across its width. When completely cool, spread softened ice cream over one half. Place second half on top and gently press down.
9.) Move entire, giant sandwich onto a parchment-lined plate or tray and freeze for at least two hours or overnight.
10.) When ready to serve or store, slice giant sandwich into at least twelve bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container until ready to enjoy!

Summertime Grilled Fish Tacos W/ Cilantro-Lime Slaw





Y'allllllll. I'm bracing myself for a real battle with my self control. Know why? Because it's that time of year when all I want to eat on repeat is some variation of fresh mango/pineapple, grilled fish tacos, and ice cream. I don't know what it is about those three food groups but they are virtually all I need during the hot months. I mean, look, we all know that ice cream is a summer food group entirely by itself, especially when it's the homemade stuff: eggs, whole's a protein. Don't argue with me on this one. Also, a couple weeks back, fresh off Cinco de Mayo, some friends + sisters and I found the best little authentic taco joint in Virginia Beach - Gringo's Taqueria. I foresee staking out in that place for the rest of the summer. If I go missing and don't answer my phone, go ahead and check there first. I can't pick up my phone while my hands are full of taco. It's a law. And as for pineapples? Prince Harry was photographed at Ascot sitting behind one which I totally think is a sign that pineapples are royalty. 

Thank goodness I don't have to wait till I can manage a drive to the Oceanfront to enjoy killer fish tacos! Last summer my family and I perfected our fish taco system: glistening grilled fish, fresh mango, a shaved cabbage + lime + cilantro slaw. I've been waiting to share this recipe on the blog ever since then, but they do say that certain things only get better with time. I think that totally goes for the best taco formulas too, don't you? My family's grill caught on fire a few weeks back and the bottom totally burned out but I was still able to grill the fish for these tacos. And on that note of real life: when I left the house the morning I planned to make fish tacos, I had made sure that we had enough tortillas to accomplish the recipe shoot. By the time I got home from work and started making dinner, we had one dog-eared tortilla left over and not a single car left at home with which to drive to the grocery store. So the lone, crumpled, tortilla gets to star in the blog post and the rest of us ate fish nachos. Good rescue, franz. I think what I maybe love most about these fish tacos are how unlike normal Mexican food they are. Heck, I don't even know if they're Mexican in anything but name and the variety of spices used in the marinade. You'll never see cheese or sour cream near these tacos and even though cumin is used in my recipe, it takes a back seat and plays companion to a myriad of other flavors. 


Summertime Grilled Fish Tacos
serves 6

6 fillets of white fish, such as tilapia
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup olive oil
juice of 3 limes (about 1/2 cup fresh lime juice)
chopped mango
chopped avocado
1 recipe cilantro-lime slaw (recipe to follow)

1.) Combine all spices with olive oil and lime juice and in that blend, marinate the fish fillets for twenty minutes.
2.) Brush grill with olive oil before grilling fish lightly on each side until just cooked through and to a slightly translucent (but mostly opaque) white. Remove from heat, break apart with a fork, and fill tortillas. Top with mango, avocado, and cilantro-lime slaw.

Cilantro-Lime Slaw
serves 6
2 cups shaved cabbage
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (about half a bunch)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
juice of two limes
generous drizzle of olive oil

1.) Combine all ingredients and toss gently. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before serving to allow a marriage of flavors.

Classic Creme Brulee + Edible Flowers





No dessert in the history of swanky desserts has quite the same effect on my mood as creme brulee. While ice cream historically is the poster child of the best summer evenings, creme brulee (to me) stands for rocking that single-girl life. I've shared it with a sister on an outdoor patio at dark, surrounded by dining couples, jazz, and a dog named Remi. I've eaten it in Charleston, SC at a place called the Thoroughbred Club (again, with jazz) while friends ordered cocktails. I've made it for a dinner party and introduced three of my friends to the magic in one fell swoop. Creme brulee and single girls just seem to go together like champagne and caviar - all my memories surrounding this dessert are footloose, relaxed, warm. Also, I'm a sucker for the way the sugar glass cracks when you dig into it with your spoon. Like, all the satisfaction of shattering something with zero of the cleanup. I've definitely contemplated brulee'ing a sheet-pan of sugar and cracking it with a hammer just for fun. Maybe a creme brulee cake is in my near future?

Those of you who've been following along on Instagram may remember that I got my gardening spirit on and planted a few herbs and edible flowers in a raised bed on our property. It's still doing fairly well, all things considered. Some evil bug attacked my green basil but the purple basil is still going strong. And there hasn't been a mass return of the giant red ants so here's hoping that they're in the past and my herbs will soon take over and retain ground in that raised bed and flavor many many meals to come. To keep my edible flowers (two varieties of dianthus, plus marigolds) in bloom I've been pinching off the blossoms and saving them for additions to salads, yogurt, smoothie bowls, and yes, creme brulee. I especially love the delicate clove-like flavor of the dianthus!

Creme brulee is one of those things that I believe tastes better when it is made from scratch at home. As intimidating as it may sound to some ("We're making a CUSTARD. From SCRATCH? IN A WATER BATH?"), the method is quite easy and I've yet to meet a creme brulee in public that is quite as silky and perfect at those I've achieved at home. Essentially, you're whipping together some egg yolks and sugar, heating heavy cream to the nearly-but-not-quite boiling point, gently combining the one with the other (off-heat), and pouring the custard into individual ramekins to finish off cooking in a nice Jacuzzi in the oven. After the custards are baked you're chilling them (so make these in the morning if you'd like creme brulee after dinner), sprinkling a little sugar over their tops, and hitting the sugar with an open flame from a butane torch to gain that signature "glass" effect. Easy-peasy. Especially if you have a mini kitchen torch. If not, your dad/boyfriend/husband/mechanic might have a large butane torch you can coerce them into letting you borrow for this step of the recipe. That's what I used for the creme brulee pictured here! To garnish, I like grabbing fresh raspberries and a scattering of herbs or edible flowers. Maybe creme brulee had its heyday in the 1980's as some villain suggested, but I'm still a fan. Dare you to join me.

Classic Creme Brulee
(serves six)

1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup sugar for torching
small kitchen torch

1.) In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, about five minutes.
2.) In a medium sized, non-reactive saucepan heat cream over medium heat until very hot but not yet boiling. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
3.) In a thin stream, stirring constantly, pour about half of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Then gently add the rest, continuing to stir. When well combined, ladle the custard into six ramekins or other small baking dishes.
4.) Set ramekins into a 9x13 baking dish and add about half an inch of water into the bottom of the pan around the bases of your ramekins.
5.) Bake in a 300 degree F. oven for 35-40 minutes or until the mixture is set in the center (it'll still be a little jiggly in the center). Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least two hours.
6.) When thoroughly chilled, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar over each custard dish. Brulee the sugar with the torch until golden and return them to the fridge for ten minutes before garnishing and serving.