Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Flowers: Roses & Orchids, Champagne, Cocktails, Kissing, Dining Out & Love...


I’m thinking there is no more enduring, more classic, more romantic way to say “I love you” and to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with champagne, roses, and - I thought a new twist on the classic - with orchids.

Incredibly, as I was writing this loving holiday blog post, my husband, Bill, came home and surprised me with a floral arrangement of blossoms and fragrant blooms in luscious colors - that he selected from the florist.



And guess what? The composition included those very same blooms I was dreaming - er, writing about!



I don’t know about you but my experience with floral design has not been one where these two exotic and beloved blooms have been natural partners.
I did a Google search to confirm my curiosity - and by and large - it’s true.

Orchids

Orchids are love. They elicit emotions.

Did you know there are more than 28,000 distinct species of orchids? Ecuador - with only 0.21% of the world’s landmass is home to approximately 4,000 orchids. (The US has fewer than 200) -- according to a wonderful book, “Birds, Butterflies, and Orchids - A Life in the Cloud Forest,” authored - and autographed - by Carlos Zorrilla.

I chose to include the orchids because - well - they are the jewels of the plant world.
Orchids are eye candy. And The New York Botanical Garden will premiere its Orchid Show soon - I’m looking forward to the press premiere in a week or so.

And even more significant - I’ve just returned from this year’s garden design and horticulture work at Hacienda Cusin in Ecuador -- a kind of plant paradise to say the least.

And while there, I scooted up to the Cloud Forest to not only meet Sandy - my Spanish instructor -- (we do Facebook classes but I’d never met her in person - and she runs an Air BnB there as El Refugio de Intag ), but to see and discover the incredible and rare orchids there in the Intag. Sandy and her husband gave part of their land to Ecuador for the reserve where the orchids grow. More on this in another post but by way of reference - orchids have really been on my mind as of late, as you can imagine.

Here are a few of the images from my rare orchids discovery adventure in the Cloud Forest.









Many see faces in their glamorous blooms and love in their expressions.

 

This is a monkey orchid!

Most folks don’t know that Vanilla is an orchid.

It’s a legendary plant and flavor; loved the world over.

You can combine almost any orchid in your flower arrangement and a vanilla flavor in Valentine’s Day cocktails.

A rare breed of a gold orchid can also be enjoyed in tea or broth or as part of a facial spa skin treatment. Dendrobium has a wonderful taste of honey. Or use the rare orchids that have been artfully crafted intp a special fragrance to be gifted to your loved one.

Sustainable Flowers

Veriflora® Sustainably Grown certification assures that cut flowers meet the very strictest standards of environmental and social responsibility.

So when you give flowers this year, you can tell your loved one that you are also taking care of the environment, farmworkers, and farm communities.

This is the “gold” standard in sustainability certification for ornamental horticulture. Third-party certification assures buyers and consumers that cut flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way, with practices that achieve the highest level of product quality.

I asked the ladies at Veriflora a few questions about the certification, costs, and if the certificate is US only.
In less time than you can say Dendrobium or Trichophilia fragrans they were back with answers. I’m was happy to learn the certification program has been active since about 2003. And embarrassed I hadn’t had this on my radar until now. (why is that?!)

Veriflora certifies domestic and imported flowers, as well as potted plants. And, to the best of their knowledge, these flowers are not more expensive than non-certified so that makes it a no-brainer to ask for them at your local florist.
Their clients are certified across the U.S., as well as in Columbia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

Up until this year, visitors to Hacienda Cusin where I work every January doing garden design, could explore the nearby rose plantations and operations. The Sierra in Ecuador is known for its roses and dairy. A few years ago, I wrote about “Spanking Your Flowers! and the Symbols and Meaning for Valentine’s Day Blooms & Blossoms” that was, in part, inspired by the rose-growing in Ecuador where they grow an abundance of the world’s roses -- and not surprisingly, the end of January is crazy busy time as they line up the rainbow of roses for the world.

Champagne
Coco Chanel once said “I only drink champagne on two occasions: when I am single and when I am not.”

Coco is not just my fashion hero - but I have blissfully inherited her name as my nickname - so christened by friends/associates at The New York Botanical Garden and garden clients, too. I love it.

And love the Coco quote…

I’ve selected a few champagne infused cocktails here for your celebration - today and well, every day that Cupid strikes…

The Siren by Ingi R. Sigurdsson

Photo courtesy of Reyka

Ingredients:

1.5 fresh Lemon juice

1 oz simple (1:1)

1 oz St. Germain

3 oz Reyka vodka

6 oz champagne

Method:

Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker except champagne.

Shake, top with the champagne - or prosecco - garnish and serve in a Bordeaux/Burgundy wine glass over flower ice cubes.

How to Make the Flower Ice Cubes:

Recipe for 2 cranberry juice cubes/2 grapefruit juice cubes/ 1 large simple syrup ice cube with orange blossom water, rose water, frozen edible Sonja orchid.

Ingredients for flower ice cube liquid:

4 liters - or a little more than a gallon of water

24 oz simple syrup 1:1

10 droppers Orange flower water

10 droppers rose water

Method:

Stir till all ingredients combined

Freeze in 1x1 molds with the Sonia Orchids

I adore champagne - and maple syrup - nectars of the goddesses and gods.  So when I was sent this recipe by the Maple Guild, I did a double blink back. Too good to be true!
Photo courtesy of the Maple Guild

Beau & Arrow by The Maple Guild

Ingredients:

1 oz vodka

½ oz creme de cassis

¾ oz champagne

1 tsp The Maple Guild Vanilla Bean maple syrup

Method:
Shake all but champagne in the cocktail shaker. Pour into a coupe glass. Top with the champagne.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry or raspberry or chocolate maple candy from that box that you probably just opened.

Winter Rose

Photo courtesy of Vivanco 
Ingredients:

2 oz Vivanco Rosado Wine

2 oz Brut Champagne

.5 oz Elderflower Syrup

Splash of Pressed Clementine Juice

Garnish with Halved Fresh Cranberries

Sprinkle of Ground Clove

* Build over Ice


French 75

The French 75 is one of two cocktails named after the French 75mm field gun, which was commonly used in World War I.

Ingredients:

2 ounces gin

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar

Champagne or sparkling wine

Garnish: long thin lemon spiral and cocktail cherry

Method:

Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Shake gin, lemon juice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker until well chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute.

Top with champagne. Stir gently, garnish with a long, thin lemon spiral and a cocktail cherry.

If you plan to drink your champagne straight - please choose a quality sparkling wine. It’s a special occasion, after all. I researched and found this complete guide to champagne from Wine Folly that sorts out all the different brands at every price point.

Kissing

Pucker up -- kissing is a sweet exercise just made for Valentine’s Day. Hugging is another romantic “workout” along with hand-holding and …. Well, all this food and drink are mere aphrodisiacs, no?

Because lot’s of kissing is surely in order, it is important to keep your lips healthy and moisturized -- year-round -- but now that the year’s most kissable holiday is here, the lips can use some extra care. And my friend Trish Alkaitis has a sweet offer.
Check this out: Alkaitis gifting you a free 'Love Your Lips' Organic Lip Treatment with any online purchase of $89 on alkaitis.com

The Organic Lip Treatment gives your lips that shiny attractive glow while protecting and nourishing them, providing a long lasting deep treatment.

Dining out

If you you’re in Gotham, you might relish a four-course meal from Irvington at W Union Square. Dishes like Arctic Char Crudo and Chestnut Agnolotti are on the the $65 pre-fixe menu, as well as a dessert platter for two.

Even sweeter? There’s a $55 champagne pairing available as well, including Domaine Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon and Moët Rose.

Midtown? Check out Kingside in Viceroy Central Park is offering up an À la carte Valentine’s Day menu with dishes like ravioli and a Moulard Duck dish for two. Top the meal off with $55 champagne tasting featuring luxe selections like Veuve Clicquot and Moët Rose.

If you’re planning to go out, here’s a splendid spot in Gotham: bar Sardine, Gabriel Stulman's intimate Greenwich Village neighborhood gastropub.

Managing Partner/resident cocktail guru Brian Bartels has crafted a special NOLA-inspired drink menu for the occasion of Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day (sort of a hat-trick of holy occasions), featuring smart cocktails like the Big Freedia 63 (a take on the French 75 with singani, lillet, lemon, lavender, prosecco... and twerking) and Forgive me Father, For I Have Pimmed -- it is Ash Wednesday, after all. This one is inspired by the classic Pimm's Cup with rye, becherovka, amaro, and Pimms. I love most everything with a good amaro.

Dining In

Be sure to create a tablescape worthy of your loves: friends, family, food, drink - and entertaining. 
I am creating one for a Ladies Who Lunch Valentine’s / Lunar New Year celebration next week. It’s the Year of the Dog!

Here’s the work in progress: (details to follow)

Photo courtesy of Virginia Popik


Photo courtesy of Virginia Popik 

Kisses and hugs for a sweet Valentine’s Day celebration filled with glamorous flowers, drink, food, and lots and lots of love.

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