Tuesday, December 24, 2019

What is the Legend of the 7 Fishes & the Recipes to Make

Do you wonder what is the history and legacy of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve? And do you know how to cook this special dinner celebration?

If you’ve been baffled about the history and significance of the Feast of the Seven Fishes that’s celebrated on Christmas Eve -- and what to serve - Chef Marisa Iocca - the country’s foremost proponent of authentic yet playful cucina Italiana will explain and demonstrate.

What’s the Seven Fishes lore? Is it the seven days of the week? The seven sacraments? The seven hills of Rome? It’s all a mystery.

And yet…

Chef Marisa - is the award-winning chef and owner of Spigga restaurant who can interpret the La Vigilia - the never-ending fish feast celebrated by Italian Americans.

Do you prepare linguini and clams? Scungilli, calamari, anchovy? Or ...

Chef Marisa cooks with the best ingredients: especially high quality EVOO from Europe.

There are a number of other Meditierranean Holiday dishes, including, fried vegetables, fried potatoes, fried artichokes, fried squash blossoms, and more.

Not surprisingly, there are quite a number of fish dishes featured in my first book, The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook - my love letter to artisanal growers and the chefs they inspire to create seasonal, market-driven menus. After all, Long Island is surrounded by some of the best fishing waters anywhere.  T

There’s Arctic Char filets with miso, grapefruit, and yuzo; PEI Mussels; Rakmacka - contributed by Homegrown chef Joe Isidori.

Arroz de Choco (squid with rice) - contributed by Homegrown chef, Rosa Ross

A Spiced Fish and Vegetable Stew is a happy new take on traditional 7 Fishes meal; the Monkfish with Stewed Leeks - are both from the incomparable Chef Eberhard Müller, now of Satur Farms fame. And making this a “hat trick for Chef Eberhard, I also recommend Chef’s Tuna Tartar with Radishes.

Fluke Crudo - created by Chef Gretchen Menser

Pistachio-Crusted Halibut and a fabulous Grilled Octopus (one of my true favorite dishes) are recipe contributions from Chef Mitchell SuDock

Oysters - hands down, my favorite, especially when they are farmed locally. This pure, is from Cuvée Bistro & Bar owner and chef: Deborah Pittorino. And the classic Long Island Oysters with Mignonette Sauce - this is how I serve my oysters - from the oh-so-creative Chef Kevin Penner. I’m afraid for the “Out East” shellfish farming and the Peconic Bay oysters. I hope I’m wrong…

Speaking of Peconic Bay, these Bay Scallops with butter and lemon is pure joy from Nick & Toni’s chef Joseph Realmuto

Baked Seafood Sagaponack from our dear, late chef, Anna Pump. I adored her, her culinary creations, her indomitable spirit and generous support… And don’t get me started on her famous Lobster Salad that we made at on of the Homegrown booksignins at her Bridgehampton store.

Chef Starr Boggs - a beloved and true culinary star of the Hamptons created the Softshell Crabs with Southern Succotash recipe - after all, chef Starr originally hailed from what many recognize as the crab capital - the eastern shore of eastern Virginia. Chef Starr also contributed the recipe for the Basil-Crusted Swordfish

Striped Bass Grilled with Six Spices - from Greenport’s incredible chef: Robby Beaver

& Striped Bass Montauk - pan-roasted is a favorite - from Chef Michael Rozzi

The Grilled Swordfish Montauk Style with picatta-style sauce is a classic from Shelter Island’s Vine Street Café’s Chef Terry Harwood

The Tuna Crudo is also from chef Kevin Penner’s collection.

All dishes are made with local ingredients -- and love…

If you don’t already have access to the recipes via your much-used, sauce-stained pages of the Homegrown Cookbook, please reach out to me and I can share the recipe(s) you are hungry to make.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

How to Power Up Gourmet Food & Drink Recipes At Home: My Hands-On Review of Breville's Super Q Commercial Grade Blender

Breville Super Q Blender - photo courtesy of Angie Lambert
How often do you ask yourself if your kitchen blender is working for you? And by that I mean, not only working to fulfill your food and drink needs. But rather as your assistant - or as your very own sous chef, if you will.

Does your blender inspire you to create new and exciting dishes - from smoothies to gelato to cocktails? Bill and I were rather perfectly happy with our beautiful --and I thought plenty powerful blender/mixer. I do still love it and its design complements our country house’s blue-ish kitchen decor.

So when Breville asked me to review their Super Q™ - initially I was hesitant.
After all, I was very happy; fulfilled with my present mixer. What can I say? I’m a loyal Capricorn. But ok - I thought. I’m game to try out the Breville model for my loyal readers.

When the Breville box arrived at our Gotham apartment - it was a formidable size. The footprint was “woah.” This suggested that the Breville was more than what I had expected. In the end, Wow! is an understatement.

Let me just jump ahead. And I’ll get back to the more poetic review shortly.

The Breville Super Q is perfect. I didn’t expect to love it so much. (after all, see loyal notation above).

The jaw-dropping, muscular performance of the Breville is akin to a Ferrari - or whatever high-performance analogy you want to reference. (Feel free to drop in Corvette, Tesla, Falcon jet, Harley. You get the idea.) However, it can’t be overstated - this mixer is just so darn elegant and powerful. True Luxury!

What I found while reviewing this commercial grade blender is that it inspires you. That’s what I mean about it being your own personal sous-chef.

The technology is so powerful and the features so intuitive and ergonomic that It actually frees you up to make things you never thought you could. Do you like peanut butter? How about expanding your palate to whip up some Maple Pecan & Brazil Nut Butter, or Chunky Pistachio & Macadamia Nut Butter or Almond, Flaxseed & Chia Butter. In five minutes!

Or how about dough? There’s an entire chapter in the recipe book, “Magical Milling” that embraces Gluten Free Flour Mix to Flaxseed, Sunflower & Almond Meas (FSA Meal) to good ol’ Chocolate Chip Brown Butter Cookies!  (And be sure to order a sheet pan with rack for easy baking and broiling) 
I love making Exotic Spices & Pastes.

Initially, I asked if the Breville came with a recipe book. I was told no.
No worries. I knew I could create my own recipes for food and drink. (Wink.) I’m a food and drink writer, after all, and an author of two plus books on these topics. But after that quirky snafu I discovered that the unit certainly does have a lovely hard-cover “Simply SuperBlending” recipe book complete with gorgeous photos and easy-to-follow directions using both text and icons and measurements that are provided in both Metrics and the US customary Or Imperial system of units.

So. back to why you, dear sweet reader, would want to purchase a Breville Super Q to either replace your present blender standby, to add to your kitchen essentials and/or gift to family and friends for wedding registry or the holidays.

There is no denying the power of the Breville. I shared with the Breville folks that we love our indoor Breville bbq unit. It’s enduring good performance and design has served us and our guests for more than a decade. So there’s the trust factor engineered into the brand.

With regard to the Super Q, I put the put the Breville through its paces. My test-drive review was to see how it performed in what I thought were three key areas that represented what I think most home cooks indulge in. Recipes that fall into these categories:
  • Drinks
  • Savory
  • Wellness
I started with corn ice cream -- I’d made this previously for the last several years - posting in my food and drink column on the now defunct Examiner food site. Much to my surprise - the Breville eliminated a step - surely because of its power to pulverize the corn kernels making them silky and creamy in what seemed a miracle wave of the wand. Er, button. This was remarkable.

It saved time and made the corn ice cream smoother.
While my first time making the corn ice cream I used market purchased corn ears; this year I was blessed to be able to use our own homegrown corn ears

- so while it may be possible that the homegrown corn was a wee bit more tender, thus rendering the mixer/blender “easier” this year - I’m gonna disavow this element. (I only bring it up as full disclosure.) It’s the power of the blender, no question.  Check this out! 

You have to love all the accessories provided by Breville - here I can readily scoop out the blender to cooktop

As the author of The Art of the Garnish - I simply could not review the Breville Super Q without embracing its vroom to cocktails!

We determined to power up a up a libation or two. I wanted to stay true to Breville - and so profiled a drink from the “overlooked” recipe book - vs. using one of my book’s cocktails. While I do hope that all of you have purchased your copy of The Art of the Garnish (smile) I wanted to construct the product review as if I was you without the benefit of my garden-to-glass cocktail recipes.

I was drawn to the Margarita with cucumbers, in no small part because I wanted to use our garden/farm-ette’s prolific harvest of homegrown cucumbers.
Margarita Breville cocktail prep - Photo courtesy of Angie Lambert  

Bill and I asked our favorite neighbors, Eric and Angie to come up for a shared tasting. But then, Angie worked her magic taking these photos. Angie is a superlative photographer.

Woah! Not only did the Breville take us to the next level of cocktail mixology; Angie and her photos took us to the next level of imagery.

You can see the step by step mixing here:
Margarita Breville prep - Photo courtesy of Angie Lambert 

Plus, there was a kismet culinary moment that is worth repeating here. My husband’s name is Bill - as I mentioned previously. I texted him about the taste treat and success of the Breville Super Q blending for the Margarita. But yikes! Shortly after my text, I received a text back from one of the most-admired celebrity chefs: Bill Telepan who is now the executive chef at Oceana Restaurant. I had the honor to interview Chef Bill Telepan again not too long ago for Garden Glamour

Boy was my face red! I hit the send to a Bill that wasn’t my husband while describing how great the Breville is! And then - because Chef Bill Telepan is so cool - he merely wrote back that he was equally enamored of the Breville. He was mixing up a smoothie in his Breville! What are the chances?! High, it turns, out. I asked Chef Bill if I could use his kismet reply in the Breville review and he agreed to OK it. I think it’s all a rather telltale recommendation about how the culinary industry’s best use -- and love -- Breville. (Surely, it was a sign, yes?)
Breville assisted Margaritas - Photo courtesy: Angie Lambert

The other ~ and final ~ test drive as part of the rigorous process was for a soup. Seriously - at this point - I knew that no matter what I could throw at the vaunted Breville to test-drive there wasn’t anything that could daunt its performance. But I wanted - daresay needed -- to continue the full-throttle review.
Photo Courtesy: Angie Lambert 

There was one other category of food and drink in order to be “thorough.” But you know when you’ve found the perfect significant other that you don’t need to search anymore? Well, it was like this. Breville had me at “corn.” Yet, I’m a diligent reporter.

The gazpacho we made from our homegrown tomatoes and garlic and was more a test of pulverizing the tomatoes; blending the herbs, spices, and more. We froze the extraordinary blend; just indulging some now in November. Isn’t that an extraordinary value-add special treat to come from using garden-fresh edibles - blended to be used as a farm-fresh dish for any time you want - in any season?

Bill just made cucumber soup the other night - for Thanksgiving.
From this:

What did we love most about the Breville Super Q? It’s sleek. In design. And performance. The base is a marvel of ergonomic technology. Easy to read screen for speeds. Dial up or down knob. Timer stats readily visible.
Photo courtesy of: Angie Lambert 

Breville cocktail prep - Photo courtesy of Angie Lambert 

Starting with the plug. It’s one of the Breville signature features - the “Bouche” cutout base, ring pulls, plus round controls, you benefit from a complete finger control. Meaning you don’t need to “yank” the plug out of the outlet.

The Breville Assist Plug with the convenient finger hole makes it so much easier and safer to remove from the electrical outlet .
How thoughtful!

Then there is the equally thoughtful finger access on the lid. No more waffling and trying to tilt the top to take off. There’s a donut hole to allow your finger to capture the lid for ready input and pull out.

The Luxe Collection by Breville comprises 20 small kitchen appliances in four new finishes – Black Truffle (matte black), Sea Salt (matte white, the major emerging trend in appliances), Smoked Hickory (metallic dark gray) and Royal Champagne (metallic gold-tungsten) – in addition to classic Silver. The collection features Breville yet is even more elevated, expressing the company’s four core values – creativity, simplicity, excellence and insight – in its clearest voice to date.

There are so many impressive stats. The One Touch programs feature optimized time/speeds to produce the tastiest results. You can enjoy silkier dairy smoothies and smoother green smoothies thanks to the two smoothie programs. Do you know the difference?? The high pressure vacuum pump of the Breville Vac Q draws out the air from the jug before blending, to provide smoother textures, brighter colors and richer flavors to your blend.

The Super Q is compatible with the Vac Q vacuum pump. The Vac Q improves texture, colors and flavors for some of your mixes. For certain recipes flavors will be greatly enhanced providing smoother green smoothies, creamier spreads, delicate dips and silkier gazpacho soup. For milk based shakes, it's the air that's whipped through and trapped into the shake that gives that light and bubbly texture. The Vac Q is sold separately.

You can turn ice into snow with the pulse/ice crush, get creative with the frozen desserts function or make fast hot cold-to-hot soups easily with the soup one touch program.

The Smoothie blending was an eye opening, delicious experience. Do you know about microbubbles as the secret to super smoothies? Or that there is a distinction to be made for smoothies with bubbles and those sans bubbles?!

With a powerful 1800 Watt motor, the Super Q has the highest possible motor rating. With 186mph blade tip speed under load for quick results.

There are 5 one-touch settings.

There are 12, dizzying speed settings - for the vast variety of texture optimization you will explore.

The noise suppression technology is ahhhh - so welcome. I’m very sensitive to noise, so again, the folks at Breville have thought about every single customer feature…


The Super Q comes with a Personal Blender attachment

This way, you can mix up your own sized cup to go! How thoughtful is this, too!

It features an intelligent base that automatically recognizes the vessel and optimizes performance, whether you use the 68oz jug or the personal blending on the go cup.

The Super Q also comes with a Tamper and a Spatula.
Mixing it up & Straining -  Recipe from Breville, Photo Courtesy of Angie Lambert 

Breville® Limited Product Warranty

All Breville® products have at least a one-year limited product warranty, valid from the date of purchase. Should your Breville® product have a defect in product material or workmanship within the Warranty period, Breville® will arrange to have your original product returned to us, and either deliver an identical or comparable replacement to you, free of charge or apply such other remedy as described below. Some models may have longer warranty periods on the product or specific components so please consult the individual product warranty for complete terms and conditions.

I LOVE this blender. The Super Q is indeed Super. It’s the best blender you can own or gift.

I love the respect for the food and drink this blender demonstrates. And I love that the Breville folks have engineered features into the unit that I couldn’t have dreamed of.

Thank you. Enjoy your Breville. I now want to be a card-carrying Breville brand lover.

So glamorous!

Friday, November 22, 2019

All Aboard! NYBG’s Annual Holiday Train Show® Powers Up Saturday, 11/23

The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show® opens to the public Saturday, November 23. This annual winter magic tradition weaves something old/something new, excitement, education, architecture, history, art, culture, and of course plants - to elicit astonishment and enchantment. This year, marking the 28th for this much-loved holiday event, the Garden pays homage to another urban oasis - showcasing Central Park—the most popular urban park in America.

At Tuesday’s Sneak Preview for the Press, we were given an overview and a guided tour through the new exhibit, led by Karen Daubman, Associate Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Engagement, NYBG and Laura Busse Dolan, President and CEO, Applied Imagination. Laura’s father Paul Busse is the original creator and craftsman of the plant-based art exhibit.

Greeting us and kicking off the press conference was NYBG’s president, Carrie Rebora Barratt, a garden glamour icon who never disappoints. Tuesday, Barratt was wearing Comme des Garçons.
It’s tempting to suggest that Barrett and her style always strike me as gilding the lily. I love it!
NYBG President Carrie Barratt 

The press had been huddling, broadcaster cameras set up and ready,

while tasting treats from Bronx Night Market. The red velvet miniature cupcakes with their rosette flower icing from Cozi Treats were perfect, as was her creme de brulee. Thank you, Sheri.

While Barrett spoke, we could hear the trains running on their tracks in the room next door. It’s important to note that the Train Show is a very immersive, transporting experience that tickles the senses. It also needs to be mentioned that the Train Show is not in the Conservatory, as usual. It’s regrettable because nothing can top being in a greenhouse. In the winter. With its incredible oxygen boost and lighting magic and sense of mystery. Yet alas, the Conservatory is under construction so the Garden has built a series of rooms in front of the iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

You have to suspend the feeling that this is too akin to a mall holiday presentation. Don’t be tempted. I recommend looking at the displays - really looking, No one, nowhere - can create these kinds of displays — all made from plant parts! Once you grasp that element and embrace the fact that these compositions are made from birch bark and limbs (more than 500), lotus pods, fungi, acorns, cinnamon sticks and more - not to mention the landscape design of moss (more than 200 boxes of North Carolina moss), berries, ferns, conifers, waterfalls, red-twigged dogwood, and hollies to mimic nature - you will be smitten - and transported. Of course, so will the kids.

This year, there are more than two thousand plants in the exhibit - double previous years because they needed to accommodate the new space and were not creating the composition with the benefit of the existing Conservatory plants that are part of the permanent collections.

It was pointed out that the buildings are not constructed on a one-to-one scale but rather from a perspective - in order to create a much more experiential approach. That is artful design …. The Imagination team researches the history of a chosen building, secures dimensions to render the building in plant parts, then builds the base, continues the embellishments and architectural details.

The show begins with a video on two screens in two separate theaters, right off the queuing area, where you can park strollers, etc. The video’s give you an idea of how the artists at Applied Imagination research and create these plant-based wonders.
Video Theater looking into the exhibit beyond
Then, you step into the miniature metropolis.
The first one you see is the NYBG Haupt Conservatory. Seems fitting.
Overall, there are nearly 200 landmark displays in the show.

There are compositions at three levels, low, mid or eye level and above - with trains traversing and zipping about seemingly everywhere. In the Holiday Train Show, more than 25 G-scale model trains and trolleys hum along nearly a half-mile of track

All the featured buildings have labels, citing the year it was built, the address, and in the case of misguided civic management where the building was torn down, such as Penn Station in its glory days, the date of demolition is noted. And when you think about it, the long-lost landmarks are the secret sauce of the show. You get to see what no longer exists… Every borough of New York is represented, in addition to the Hudson Valley.

I love the whimsy of Coney Island (and never having visited, the composition makes it a place of dreams):

And the otherworldly charm of the Hudson River School and one of its leading painters,

Frederic Edwin Church’s home: Olana:

The TWA Building is getting its due of architectural love of late and here at the Train Show, the gateway to flight transport is a standout. It was pointed out that the roof is a giant coco lobo plant!

Look at this cherub on the parapet of Kykuit:

Look at Macy’s department store awnings - made from gourds; the Macy’s logo made from barley and red pepper flakes:

Look at Yankee Stadium - it has its own corner - and Thomas the Tank runs circles around the stadium!

The new replicas of Central Park’s architectural treasures, including Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, the Naumburg Bandshell, the Dairy, and two graceful pedestrian bridges are along one side of the show - with graceful, lacy, white birch branches as backdrop. While lovely in the day, I can only image the twinkling dream at night…

The landmarks are arrayed in a tableau with existing Central Park replicas in NYBG’s collection, including the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater and the Old Bandstand.

Enjoy this video of Central Park at the Garden:

In addition, famous New York buildings that are either next to the park or just inside it are on display, including the Plaza Hotel, the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,
And the Rose Center for Earth and Space, part of the American Museum of Natural History.

By the way, all the “windows” in the landmark buildings are made from poured resin.

NYBG provides this interesting background to the Central Park Landmarks:
“The Belvedere Castle was built as a Victorian “folly” on the highest natural elevation in the park, offering visitors a “beautiful view”—the English translation of its Italian name. Completed in 1872, the turreted castle includes Gothic, Romanesque, Chinese, Moorish, and Egyptian motifs. In June 2019, the Belvedere reopened after a 15-month restoration. Bethesda Terrace opens on the Lake at the heart of Central Park. The 1873 Angel of the Waters sculpture crowns the Terrace’s majestic Bethesda Fountain. In one hand, the angel holds a lily, a symbol of purity. Designer Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a public art commission in New York City, likened the healing powers of the angel to that of the Croton water system, which brought clean, fresh water to the city beginning in 1842. The Dairy, built in 1870, was intended as a place where children could enjoy a glass of fresh milk, which was not always easy to get in mid-19th-century New York. The hybrid design is a playful combination of a Swiss chalet and a Gothic country church. The Naumburg Bandshell, a neoclassical structure of cast concrete built in 1923, has hosted performers from Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington to the Grateful Dead. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater was Sweden’s exhibit at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition in 1876. The enchanting Swedish architecture and craftsmanship, suggestive of a model schoolhouse, caught Olmsted’s eye, and he brought it to the park in 1877. A theater designed for marionette performances was built inside in 1973. The Old Bandstand was a 1862 Victorian-style cast-iron bandstand designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. It was demolished in 1922 to make way for the Naumburg Bandshell. Also dating from 1862 is the graceful Bow Bridge, the first cast-iron bridge in Central Park. Spanning the Lake between Cherry Hill and the Ramble, its subtle shape is reminiscent of the bow of an archer or violinist. Designed by Calvert Vaux and originally built of white oak, Oak Bridge crosses Bank Rock Bay and is a popular destination for bird watchers.
Enjoy this video of the Holiday Train Show

For more information, you can visit the Garden’s web site at: nybg.org or call: 718.817.8687.

But Wait - there’s more!

While there’s no doubt the annual Holiday Train Show® is the centerpiece of the Garden’s winter extravaganza, don’t overlook the lineup the Garden has produced -- it’s chock-a-bloc loaded with fun, cultural, and education elements, including Evergreen Express, Sounds of the Season Performances, films, Bar Car Nights, and more,

Here are some highlighted events, activities, and programs that are scheduled during the exhibition: (please check NYBG’s web site for a full listing.)

  • The festive and popular Bar Car Nights return to NYBG on select Fridays and Saturdays. This has to be my favorite - this kind of winter holiday magic can only be experienced at the Garden - a combination of cocktails - yeah! - dance, artful ice carvings, along with the authentic beauty and warmth of fireplaces to heat up the cocktail chatter. What else do you need? Exclusively for adults 21 and over, the wintry landscape of NYBG sets the scene for lively outdoor adventures, with an after-dark viewing of the Holiday Train Show as the centerpiece. Purchase a spiked hot chocolate or a holiday specialty cocktail from one of our seasonal bars and a bite to eat from the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-up, then set out to explore the night’s offerings. Warm up around the handcrafted fire pits (so romantic!) in the Leon Levy Visitor Center, feel the excitement of the season with artistic ice carving and festive performers such as contortionists and acrobats from American Circus Theatre, sing along with dueling pianos in the Pine Tree Café, and dance the night away to DJ sets curated by Uptown Vinyl Supreme.
Bar Car Nights take place 7–10:30 p.m.; November 23, 29, & 30; December 7, 14, 20, 21, 27, & 28, 2019; January 3, 4, 11, & 18, 2020. Performers vary each night and advance tickets— Non-Member $38/Member $28—are recommended.
  • During Evergreen Express in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, children can pretend to ride the rails aboard the child-sized play train and caboose, hike winter trails to discover evergreen trees and shrubs, and put on a winter woodland puppet show. In the Discovery Center, they can design an evergreen-scented swag (a simple miniature evergreen wreath with a bow), craft a cone critter with googly eyes, and learn how to create a conifer collection at home. Young scientists can discover why evergreens stay green all winter and then test their identification skills outdoors.
  • NYBG’s Annual Bird Count is for both novice and expert bird-watchers. Collect data on resident bird populations and migratory species across the Garden’s 250 acres. The information helps scientists assess the health of bird populations and guides conservation action. December 14, 2019, at 11 a.m.
  • New York poet, NYBG Poet Laureate, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins returns to NYBG for The Poetry of Trains: Billy Collins and Young Poets. Collins will read poems inspired by trains, the holidays, and The New York Botanical Garden on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at 2 p.m. As part of the Young Poets Contest and in partnership with the Poetry Society of America, he will also select 12 winning poems to be displayed at NYBG during the Holiday Train Show and will be joined by the selected student authors to share their work during this special reading. They look great adorning the Garden at key spots.
  • Enjoy favorite holiday movies on the big screen in Ross Hall during the Holiday Favorites Film Festival, featuring a rotating selection of titles for kids and adults alike. Films include Trolls Holiday, ‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy, and Merry Madagascar. December 21–24 & 26–29, 2019; 11 a.m–4 p.m.
  • Embark on an invigorating 45-minute walking Winter Wonderland Tree Tour. View the Garden’s stately conifer collection and old-growth forest in the beauty of winter. Saturdays, December 7, 2019–January 25, 2020, at 12:30 p.m. Get a fascinating overview of the Garden’s history and its importance as a vital New York City cultural destination since 1891 on our Holiday Landmarks Tour. Walking with an expert 3 guide, explore the Mertz Library Allée, the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life, and the LuEsther T. Mertz Library. The tour concludes at the Garden’s iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Sundays, December 1, 2019–January 26, 2020, at 2:30 p.m.
  • Children join Thomas and Driver Sam on a fun-filled, sing-along, mini-performance adventure during All Aboard with Thomas & Friends™. In Thomas Cleans Up, everyone’s favorite blue locomotive arrives at Knapford Station with a trainload of materials to dispose of. Kids help him and Driver Sam figure out how to recycle everything to protect the environment and save Earth’s precious natural resources. Make sure to have a professional photo taken with the Really Useful Engine to capture the special day. January 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 25, & 26, 2020. © [2020] Gullane (Thomas) Limited
Enjoy the Holiday Train Show and as many of the great programs as possible. Get out. Walk the garden. Meet folks. Bring a friend and family. You can plan your winter schedule and return often. It’s a happy, warm, green way to celebrate a season more often marked by white - snow - that is.

True garden glamour is waiting for you at the Garden.

Monday, October 14, 2019

How to Tuck Your Garden Beds into Their Slumberous State

Tucking Your Garden Beds into Their Slumberous State

After a robust season of tending your ornamental and edible gardens, you’d be forgiven for wanting to pull the covers over your head for a long winter’s nap. But wait, before you hit the snooze button and call it quits for the season, it’s imperative to prepare your garden “beds” for their winter somnolent state. However, if you don’t know what plants to cut back, or remove; or what to save for the pollinators -- along with the autumn’s age-old question of whether to remove the fallen leaves or not - you’re in luck.

The Atlantic Highlands Historical Society (AHHS) is offering a Free workshop, Saturday, October 19, 1:00 pm, located at 27 Prospect Circle, Atlantic Highlands, that will provide a mix of information and hands-on tips to help you:
  • Maintain a beautiful and ecologically based garden throughout the autumn and winter, through watering, weeding and composting - and better prepare for the spring season
  • Decide what to prune back or remove from ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs - along with edibles, and annuals 
  • Help the pollinators during the winter season
  • Learn what will bloom until frost
  • Discover the beauty of the winter garden: exfoliating bark and architectural tree trunks, evergreens, winter blossoms
  • Determine where in the yard to “Leave the leaves…” 
And guess who is giving the talk? Me! Leeann Lavin, principal of Duchess Designs, LLC will host the talk, provide hands-on planning, guide you through the fundamentals of the gardening process and give you the confidence to grow and maintain your gardens.

The “Tucking Your Garden Beds into Their Slumberous State” talk is a distillation of what I have learned and practiced over more than two decades of immersion in garden design and horticulture; as a graduate of The New York Botanical Garden’s Landscape Design certificate program, writer, author, lecturer, and my garden-to-tablescape designs.

“Every good garden design tells a story. Gardens are personal - whether you have a container garden, a raised bed, a terrace, a border or yard, you can tell your story with the right mix of plant combinations, a design that works with your architectural style and site conditions to create garden rooms that will bring you joy in every season for years to come and enhance your lifestyle. And all that starts with a good plan. And tender loving care.”

The “Tucking Your Garden Beds into Their Slumberous State” talk will culminate with a walk around the AHHS Strauss Museum to view the mansion’s landscape. Since the spring garden talk, patrons have provided funds to clean up the garden beds and grounds; AHHS Volunteers and Duchess Designs have donated time and green energy - to create and clean new garden rooms, weed, prune, and spread good, rich, natural mulch purchased from Rysers Landscape Supply in Little Silver.

See you at the Strauss on Saturday. I'll also be able to host a book-signing there for my soon to be released book, The Art of the Garnish !! I got my author's copies late last week! So exciting. The Garnish book is so glamorous - so gorgeous.  You'll want to make every featured cocktail. Cheers! 

** While the Talk is free, please register so that the AHHS can provide seating and refreshments for all guests.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

How to Celebrate National Tequila Day with the Taste of Summer: Cool Cocktail Recipes & Garnishes

I adore tequila. It’s rich flavor and rich history offer so much to talk about during the bewitching cocktail hour.

Not that we need any other reason to pour this most tasty spirit; but it is National Tequila Day, after all.

I love all these cocktail mixes -- made the watermelon and Patron for our Independence Day/Fireworks/Birthday party grand Fiesta -- and served it in the watermelon! With a Williams Sonoma Watermelon Tap Kit. Adorable. So Love and Lust (I just like saying the moniker!) is tops on my tasting list, followed in short by It’s Summer - because well - this is the nicest day of the summer so far. And I’m not just saying that because it’s National Tequila Day. Well, maybe a little…

But mainly because the Prosecco and the St. Germaine are two of my favorites. So delicious and refreshing.


Love and Lust


  • 1.5 oz Patrón Silver
  • 2 oz Fresh watermelon juice
  • .15 oz Fresh lime
  • 4 Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh black pepper drops
  • Watermelon slice for garnish
  • Simple syrup to taste 
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill.
Strain onto fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass.

Garnish with a watermelon slice

It’s Summer



Add all the ingredients, except the MARTINI Prosecco, in a shaker.
Pour into a highball glass.
Top with MARTINI Prosecco.

Garnish with a mint sprig, blackberries and raspberries.

Heritage Margarita

2 oz Patrón Estate Release
.75 oz Patrón Citronge Orange
.5 oz Persian lime juice
.25 oz Simple syrup


Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill.
Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with a key lime wheel.

Patrón Añejo (SRP: $66) A distinctly barrel-aged spirit, Patrón Añejo develops a sweeter profile over time due to its interaction with oak barrels for 12 to 15 months. Big wood notes become prevalent during this time without overpowering the baked agave flavors that are uniquely Patrón. Perfect for sipping or in your favorite cocktail, the spirit also features an elegant, smoky sweet finish. Sip Patrón Añejo neat or in a craft cocktail, as it makes an incredible bourbon or whiskey substitute. Many people find Patrón Añejo to be the perfect after dinner drink or dessert accompaniment.

Patrón Reposado is aged for at least two months in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels. This is done to maintain the fresh agave flavors unique to Patrón that mingle in perfect harmony with hints of light oak. Finally, subtle sweet smokiness from the aging process adds yet another dimension to this incredibly smooth aged tequila. Sip Patrón Reposado neat or mix it into the occasional cocktail. Margaritas, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and more are enhanced with the unique flavors in the gently aged spirit. It also makes a great digestif.

Prickled Pink by Jaime Salas, National Milagro Ambassador

  • 2 Parts Milagro Silver
  • 1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 Parts Pink Agua de Tuna**
  • 3/4 Part Agave Nectar

Pour all ingredients into a Boston shaker, shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Garnish with a lime wheel.

**To make Agua de Tuna: Peel and roughly chop 5 prickly pear fruits (green and red), add to blender and puree until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp, discard.

Spicy Milagro Paloma by Jaime Salas, National Milagro Ambassador

  • 2 Parts Milagro Anejo
  • 1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • ¾ Part Agave Nectar
  • Fresh Cilantro

Pour all ingredients into a Boston shaker, shake and strain over ice in a rocks glass.

Garnish with a lime wheel, cilantro, smoked salt rim.

Ancho Verde Margarita
  • 1 part Milagro Silver Tequila
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes Verde
  • 1 part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/3 part Agave Nectar

Add all ingredients to a shaker, add ice, shake hard and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass with half its rim salted. 

Garnish with a lime wheel.

Milagro Tequila (meaning ‘miracle’) is made from 100% estate-grown, hand-selected, blue agave in the town of Tepatitlan in the Jalisco region of Mexico. The agaves are harvested about 8 to 12 years after planting and the juice is extracted from the heart of the plant by roasting in clay ovens made from the estate’s volcanic soil. Milagro Tequila is triple distilled and aged longer than most tequilas to obtain its distinctive flavor.

The available expressions include Milagro Silver, Reposado, Añejo, Select Barrel Reserve Silver, Select Barrel Reserve Reposado, and Select Barrel Reserve Añejo.


Mezcal has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and is one of the fastest growing spirits over the past several years.

Choosing the right mezcal for you may be tricky, but if you’re looking for an authentic Mexican spirit with an approachable and complex taste, look no further than Montelobos Mezcal. Made in Mexico, Montelobos Mezcal is a mezcal created in collaboration by world-renowned agave spirits expert Iván Saldaña and five generations of Lopez family mezcaleros using the finest, 100% organic agave espadin. The result is a mezcal with a balanced smoke that shifts between chili and dark chocolate. While Montelobos can be enjoyed neat, its complexity makes it an excellent cocktail companion.

A Montelobos Mezcal Ambassador, Camille Austin’s knowledge and enthusiasm for innovative cocktails play a complementary role to brand creator Iván Saldaña. Together, they set out to share the unique taste and versatility of Montelobos Mezcal and the artistry behind agave.

The below flavorful and festive cocktail recipes include Montelobos Mezcal and another authentic Mexican spirit, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur. Ancho Reyes was born from the sacred earth of Puebla and with a recipe dating back to 1927, Ancho Reyes is the original chile liqueur. Ancho Reyes Verde, launched just in 2016 to much acclaim, also derives from the poblano chile like Original, but some slight tweaks in the production process results in a wildly different flavor profile.

Puebla and poblano are inextricably linked - the peppers are named after the citizens who refer to themselves as poblanos. “Ancho chiles are widely considered a culinary delicacy and Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur is created using Puebla’s signature crop,” reports Camille Austin, the celebrated Mexican mixologist. He continues, “Pleasantly sweet, followed by the moderate heat from the chile, Ancho Reyes is delicious in all types of cocktails.

Juan to Juan

  • 1 part Montelobos Mezcal
  • 1 part Ancho Reyes Original
  • ¾ part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters - or homemade bitters or Fee Brothers bitters

Shake, serve in a coupe glass

Garnish with a lemon wheel

Montelobos Picador

  • 2 parts Montelobos Mezcal
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • ½ part simple syrup

Combine ingredients over ice and shake well. Serve over fresh ice in a rocks glass

Garnish is a salt & black pepper rim and orange slice.

Cheers to a memorable National Tequila Day!