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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Arnold Palmer in the Rough - Foraged Tea & Lemonade

An Arnold Palmer is by far one of our favorite drinks. It's a perfect combination of equal parts lemonade and tea. The flavor play is a lovely harmony of sweet tart and astringent depth. With that understanding, we decided to take a chance by shooting through the woods to hit the green.

Smooth and Staghorn Sumac

Sumac is popping up everywhere around here and we're gathering enough to get us through the year. You'll often see the deep red formations of drupes popping out from the bushes along most Northeast highways in the summer. This tart fruit is used in Middle Eastern cuisine as a dried and ground spice.

Sassafras Leaves and Twigs

Sassafras is also prevalent in the woods of New England. During the summer, there's an abundance of new growth ready for the picking. The aromatics of the leaves and young twigs reminds us of Earl Grey tea. You may already know the dried & powdered form of the leaves as file, the thickening herb for gumbo. 

Smashing Sumac & Sugar

When it came to processing the sumac, we wanted to use it fresh. It's not easy to separate the berries from the clusters of stems. We cut away the central stalk with scissors, covered the clusters with sugar and started pounding away with the end of a French rolling pin. The sugar acted as an abrasive that helped separate and break down the drupes as they were smashed. After that, we submerged the berries in water and heated to a simmer to steep out the flavor and dissolve the sugar for a light syrup.

Fresh Sassafras Leaf and Twig Tea

Maintaining the freshness kick, we steeped torn leaves and broken up young twigs in hot water as you would tea. It had a wonderful aroma and tasted great. We had to use a lot to get enough flavor concentration. The kicker was the interesting viscosity due to its thickening powers.

Sumac & Sassafras Arnold Palmer

Once all the "hard work" was done, we strained out the solids, mixed the two, added ice to dilute and chill for a refreshing drink. It is one of the best Arnold Palmer spins we've done in a long time. We loved that the primary ingredients were foraged in our neighborhood. 

Strawberry Top Bronze Fennel Koji Kombucha

We hope this helps you think about lemonade and tea as concepts in order to unlock the potential of anything you love that fits. Also, you don't have to go far into the woods to forage for ingredients. Consider the flavor packed odds and ends that have been sitting for a while in your refrigerator, freezer, pantry and cabinets. Cooking is all about using everything available to you. Shed the preconceptions to make something truly inspiring.

As always, please share your discoveries so we can keep the ideas bouncing


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pickles, The Sour Depths of Quickening

Think of pickling as a way of infusing flavor depth and punchy acidity into whatever you submerge. Unleash the crazy potential of the method!

Artichoke Stems in Artichoke Scrap Tea Kombucha

Quick pickling scraps may transform them into something great. At the very least, they'll add another dimension to the liquid to be enjoyed elsewhere.

Jalapenos in Beet Bettarazuke Brine

Tossing sliced vegetables in a lacto-fermented brine is a wonderful no fuss, no waste method to make quick pickles. Chopping or processing into a relish is pretty great too. 

Started Sour Pickles with Nettle Powder, the Next Matcha

Lacto-fermented sour pickles are amazing. We all love the standard dill, garlic & mustard, but when you start thinking about adding other concentrated flavors to your brine...

Sour Pickle Started with Beet Bettarazuke Brine

What if you already have a fermented concentrate to supplement the next one?

Pickles aren't meant to be plain. Consider a spice combination you love from something completely different. Does it make sense in your flavor brain? Just try it. No matter what, you'll learn what works. 


As always, please share your discoveries so we can keep the ideas bouncing.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Spiking Foraged Grapes - Marriage of Experiences

There's nothing better than a tart, punchy cocktail on a summer day. It's the best when you have a killer infusion ready and waiting. Especially, when it's inspired by creative friends & powered by an ingredient you gathered.

Sour Cherry Bounce Riff -
Green Mustang Grapes, Vermouth & Dry Caramelized Sugar

Fairly new to the world of foraging, I'm often seeking guidance from experienced friends. I was fortunate enough to join Misti Norris and Brock Middleton in Dallas for a walk in the woods. These creative chefs have been spinning webs of creative dishes with wild ingredients for some time. Who better to go with?


Brock Middleton & A Tree Covered in Mustang Grape Vines 

We didn't find much to take home that day, but we did come upon a series of trees covered with mustang grape vines. At the time, the grapes were green and crazy tart. We grabbed some because we could definitely make something happen.


Local Wild Grapes

After a little time in and out of the fridges in Dallas, it was time to celebrate our find at home. I sat at the kitchen table crunching a few wondering about the best way to temper the astringency. Then I remembered when my friend Peter shared his homemade sour cherry bounce with me years ago. So delicious! A bounce is simply a complex spirit, sugar and sour cherries. It's a wonderful way to transform the excess of summer into a winter warmer. So why not transform the green of spring into a refreshing summer? 


Green Mustang Grapes + Meat Tenderizer

Unripe grapes are quite dense. I wanted to keep them whole, but I was worried that there would be trouble with a short term infusion. Punching them with holes would help guarantee success, but the common pointy objects for puncturing all these grapes would take forever. An old school meat tenderizer solved that problem.


Dry Caramelized Sugar Cloud in Vermouth with Mustang Grapes

Decisions on the remaining ingredients weren't hard to come up with. A dry vermouth for a green grape play made all the sense in the world. For the sugar, there was a quart of dry caramelized sugar that was waiting thanks to Stella. Those notes add another level of complexity that follows the line of a typical bounce leveraging the depth of brandy.


Rum + Brown Sugar + Green Mustang Grapes

At the end of the day, we all create based on life experiences. We craft compilations of what we've learned from people who have shared their wealth of knowledge with us. Memory elements harmonized into a single experience with the intent to be an inception for another adventurer. The inspired to inspire spiral upwards forever progressing the art. Or maybe we just made a neat summer drink to try out? Hmm...


As always, please share your discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Free Summer Dehydrator & Artichoke Tea - Connecting Every Little Bit

We've been known in these parts to kombucha anything that makes sense in our crazy heads. When you consider tea as something dried, flavorful and complex to be steeped, it's not that far afield to play with an alternative.

Artichoke Scrap Kombucha
I always find myself hanging out with with friends prepping for service. This often puts me in a position to take note of the odds and ends that often end up in the compost. Sometimes there are quality ingredients that have real potential that only require a little experimentation to unlock the beauty.


Artichoke Scraps Before Drying
In this case, Ian was breaking down a ton of artichokes for the hearts. As I watched him mound up the pile of leaves and stem bits, I wondered if I could make a tea with it. I asked him if I could have some. His look quickly switched from 'huh, that's weird' to 'oh yeah, it's you...'. He was more than happy to oblige. So off I went with a big bag of thistle scraps to play with.


Sun Dried Artichoke Scrap Tea
When I got them back to the kitchen, they needed to be dried to concentrate the flavor for tea. I decided to set them out in the sun on a cooling rack. In total, it took a couple days of catching rays. The only trouble I had was the rainy spell in between that delayed the process.


Car "Greenhouse" Sun Dried Sassafras
Within the same time span, I foraged some sassafras while I was visiting Eva. I left the branches in the back seat of my car on a sunny day and found the leaves completely dried out. We've all noticed this effect one way or another, likely undesirable. In the summer here, the cabin of your car is a greenhouse. Also consider that running the A/C dehumidifies as well. A free sun powered dehydrator!

At the end of the day, preparing and preserving ingredients is all about using what's available. More often than not, there are resources at your fingertips that don't require special tools or equipment to achieve what you desire. Sometimes all it takes is a little thinking to link what's been done, your experience and coincidence to coalesce into something pretty damn cool.


As always, please share your discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coffee or Tea? - Just a Starting Point

There are rules and recipes for making all our favorite drinks. So many amazing folks out there endlessly practicing to concoct the perfect glass/cup of whatever you fancy. Balancing each one to perfection is of the moment art to be admired. The first sip can be a revelation. Now, ponder how any drink came to be. The origin stems from necessity, use of available ingredients and some level of preservation. When you think about these guidelines, all you need is in your kitchen even if you're out of "everything".


A couple years ago I was on an agua fresca kick. I was looking to infuse watermelon with a single ingredient other than mint, a little too refreshing and overdone. Initially, I was thinking acidity by adding dried hibiscus flowers, but that tanked hard with way too much astringency. Fortunately, I had chicory come in with the same order. All I did was sprinkle some on pieces of watermelon. It was bittersweet in the best possible way. Describing the flavor play wouldn't do it justice, so just try it.



So if chicory works, why not freshly ground coffee? Cold brewed watermelon coffee was born. So good!



Coffee ice cream is a favorite. Why not chicory, coconut milk & maple syrup? Vegan happens.



Often apple cider is too sweet and needs a touch of acid to make it great. A splash of apple cider vinegar does the trick. Infusing with hibiscus is way better.



If you think about tea as dried leaves with complexity, why not curry leaves in a kombucha? It adds a smoky element without fire. Thickened the fermented liquid as well. Crazy!



If your kombucha SCOBY needs sugar, why not koji, the sweet base for sake? A killer marriage of amazake & tea. Ultimately used to make a wonderful blueberry sauce to compliment a buttermilk umami ice cream.



If you like both coffee and tea, why not combine them? When there's cold brewed coffee in the fridge and garam masala hibiscus syrup around, there is really no choice. I couldn't stop drinking it.



Have you considered using the delicious flesh stuck to mango seeds as the sugar to feed your kombucha? What about infusing it with fresh elderflower you found on a walk and palm sugar that's been sitting in your pantry for a very long time. Perfect for a secondary fermentation. Gotta love natural carbonation.



Coffee or black tea dulce de leche is pretty great. Why not roasted medicinal reishi mushrooms?



Two years later we're still putting stuff on watermelon to tip the balance. No wild mint on the walk, but plenty of sassafras leaves. This definitely needs to be shared with family and friends.

Long story short, your favorite drink originated from experimentation and experience, so why not make a new one that's truly yours?

As always, please share your discoveries to keep the ideas bouncing.