1. In a sealable glass jar large enough, blend all ingredients together. Seal and refrigerate. (Give the mixture a few hours before use.)
2. Shake and enjoy!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (standard oven)
Place the cream, lavender, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 7 to 8-ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan.
Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until.
To serve, pour a thin even layer of sugar on top of the creme brulee using a torch caramelized the sugar. Allow 1-2 minutes for the sugar to cool and harden and then serve.
Compact is the first word that comes to my mind as we enter O Portao. After an eventful day what I need is a light bite to eat and a cold refreshing drink. The thermometer reads 39 celsius - that's 103 fahrenheit! I am hot. We must have found the right spot because there is not a seat in the house. I am way too hot to stand around. Thankfully a table opens right up, a minute later our server comes to the table. He asks what we would like to order. I learn that O Portao is owned and operated by three friends Andre, Tiago, and Pedro (all with full time day jobs.) Our server is actually one of the owners - Andre. Apparently Gin is becoming very big in Portugal. We are told Gin bars are popping up everywhere. I see the tapas menu posted on a chalkboard on the wall behind him. I place my order, but I am slightly confused. I don’t see a Gin menu anywhere. He tells us that this busy local gin and tapas bar serves 100 plus gins sourced both locally and globally.
We are all impressed with his knowledge of the different Gins they have in stock (it is quite a selection). Andres, personally recommended some of their most popular Gin, and stirred up awesome cocktails for us. I decide my favorite is Nordes Gin a Galician Gin from Spain. This gin’s profile, for you gin lovers, is pretty unique. With a floral, fresh fruit and soapy perfume nodes is distilled using Albarino grapes. Finishing with juniper and spice, this gin with some tonic and fresh bay leaf is refreshing. I paired my cocktail with some grilled octopus (buttery and delicious) and potato croquettes. Several items later, my palette is pleased, and hunger satisfied.
We are ready to move on to the next local spot. As I stand to thank Andres and the guys for the excellent experience, Andres comes over to the table with a few rounds of his favorite after dinner drinks. Something sweet to end the meal...Did i forget where I was? There is no other way. A toast to great food, awesome drinks, and new friends. Not only is the Gin great at O Portao, but these guys are serving up some great bites.
So begins the travel ritual once again. There is nothing like that endless list of pre-flight chores. The clock is ticking - the minutes seem to be flying by, and something will undoubtedly be left behind. There is never enough time in the day. Desserts are in the oven. Check. The bags are on the sidewalk. Check. I think, or rather I hope, I packed my passport... The oven timer has sounded off. Chocolatey aroma fills the air. It’s time to hit the road.
My never ending quest continues; to find fresh culinary inspiration to bring back home to the Hudson Valley. For this tour I set off to the city of Caminha, in the Northwestern corner of Portugal. I am eager to sample all this region of Portugal has to offer. Food, culture, and of course plenty of Portuguese wine. My flight touches down first in Madrid after a cramped seven hour journey across the atlantic, then a quick hour later arrives at the airport in Vigo, Spain. Glad to set foot on solid ground once again, I grab my bags, and make my way to the exit. There awaits my brother-in-law Russ, a Hudson Valley transplant, who has graciously offered to serve as our guide on this trip. We say our hellos, load up the car, and hit the road. We cruise through the mountains and valleys of spain, and cross over the Minho River into the beautiful country of Portugal.
This beauty is hard to capture; crossing over sandbars of the Minho estuary. It is the mouth of the river, where the river's current meets the ocean’s tide. It is low tide, and the view of the Atlantic from the Minho is unlike any other. We are surrounded. Water to one side, mountains to the other, and there ahead is our destination. We were suddenly transported to a medieval town, I was enchanted, or delirious with hunger and in dire need of a coffee.
Town of Caminha
With a history dating back to the 5th century, the town of Caminha exists in a duality between modern and old. The cobblestone streets leading past ornate churches, and elaborate stone buildings; decorated with detailed hand painted ceramic tile that the Portuguese are so well known for. All roads leading to one central point-the beautiful town square, overlooked by a clock tower originally part of a castle. The walls of the castle fortress have long since been knocked down, but the circle of the wall is still visible in the arrangement of the buildings surrounding the square. Modern and traditional cafes, galleries, antique, and shops of all kinds fill the square. It is the Heart of the town and a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Travel down the cobblestone streets of Caminha toward the riverfront. Any day of the week there are endless beauties to behold or shops and cafes to indulge in. Wednesdays when you turn that last corner toward the river, a new path is laid before you. To me there is nothing like this. Tent after tent, one after the other the feda market has arrived. Who doesn’t love an open market? It offers whatever you may need. First comes the live chickens and rabbits, produce and flowers. We pass through the loud chatter of the animals, and arrive at the fragrant scent of fresh cut flowers of all sorts. Next come stands with fresh baked breads, cheese, olives, cured meats, vibrant spices, and handmade terracotta pottery, all from local artisans or traveling gypsies. Where to begin? A sample of this cheese, a little chorizo or presunto, oh and how about a slice of Pao Broa. I’m in my element. I collect my share of spices, and am overwhelmed with ideas on what I can create with these things I am seeing and experiencing. Countless possibilities … plates with piri piri (African bird eye chili), linguica, or fresh bacalhau - I am lost in my mind and ready to get into a kitchen. I am lucky to be from the Hudson Valley, with all our amazing farms provide, they will easily facilitate the translation of my experience to the plate. I snap out of it and realize, I have to take a raincheck - There is more to be seen.
Food vendors give way to traditional terracotta ceramics, hand hammered copper stills,(I wanted one of these but for some reason my fiancé thought it could be a bad idea…..not sure why) and many other things. Followed by the gypsy section of the market. Women in scarves shout at me repeatedly and gesture for me to come shop with them, I suddenly feel self conscious. They seem to study my every move as we walk by. Cloths hang from the tops of the tents. Stands became cars or trucks with half of their products on the floor. Wearing shirts become optional, and I believe I am approaching a give a shoe take a shoe table- though I could be wrong. It feels like a whole separate market. We weave our way through the crowd and head back toward the welcoming cobblestone street. Thankfully, we have made our way out with our wallets intact, and at least most of us left without hexes. (Russ might want to throw some salt over his shoulder…).
It is 4 am and the journey to Mexicali, starting without coffee might I add, has begun. My goal is to seek out fresh inspirations and expressions of flavor from abroad and bring them back home to the Hudson Valley. From JFK to San Deigo it is a little over a five hour flight, followed by a two and a half hour car ride across a small dessert. Soon enough, I found myself crossing the US southern border into Mexicali, Mexico. Joined by my friend Marc, from LA, we were anxiously looking forward to two days of exploring the capital of the Mexican California Baja.
Mexicali, Mexico is an emerging area. With a population educated in, agriculture, and industry, on the surface every-day-life here doesn't seem so different from back home in the USA. Though you may not be able to drink the water or have all your creature comforts readily available, there is un-rushed rhythm to the days. As I have found in many cultures, food and drink seem to be at the center of every past time here. With an abundant supply of street vendors, restaurants, and cold beer it feels only right to get to work and discover the flavors of Mexicali.
Brown soda bread (using all or part whole wheat/germ) is always on the table, and with a little bit of grass fed butter it's hard to beat. One of my favorite comfort foods is brown bread, a good stout, and a tasty fish chowder..... to bad I'm land locked!
Kashiwa, in Chiba prefecture, Japan. A modern city with an ancient past, a commercial hub and a community to many Tokyo commuters. This city, like most in Japan can surprise the adventuress foodie. Arriving at Kashiwa Station, I could have easily mistaken myself for being in New York. A Starbucks to the left, shops, an aggressively urban exterior with a row of restaurants all with intricately designed wax displays highlighting their dishes.
What do you want on a chilly night when you're craving a bone warming meal? With so many choices there’s just one that fits that bill and that’s oden.
This recipe is from my great Aunt Connie Milano and goes back in my family a few generations, possibly more.
These cookies should be light, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. We only make them for Christmas and they are fantastic with a cup of tea or espresso.
As a kid, I liked these cookies when they were still hot and soft… the honey and the citrus really stand out. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family has.