Flavor Pairings: Why Grow Herbs For Cooking, Cocktails, And Culinary Crafts

I remember my first herb class on growing herbs for culinary and creative crafts. I left that annual herb sale with young fragrant plants, with just enough knowledge to be dangerous wielding a trowel, and a perpetual enthusiasm that all contributed to help me form my first edible garden oasis.After a trip to Home Depot, I was armed with shiny silver tools, bags of potting soil to house my foliage friends, fertilizer to make them grow, and the inner drive to begin digging my way to becoming a green thumb farmer girl!Now, 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without a bunch of basil on the counter, herbs drying on racks, and jars of dried oregano and chocolate mint within easy reach at each meal. From summer’s juicy ripe berries, peaches, and tomatoes to fall’s vibrant harvest of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, onto holiday turkey and ham feasts, and into hearty winter stews and casseroles, herbs enhance every season’s fare!

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I’m still thrilled to witness the miracle of propagation each time with every plant. I shelter them in stormy weather, talk to them while watering, trim their leaves, and weed their beds. In return, I’m rewarded with savory, spicy, and fruity aromas, a relaxing hobby, a healthy method of adding flavor to food and cocktails that lasts all year long, and great natural photography backgrounds!Do you have herbs and are looking for ideas on how to use them? Do you see those little plastic packets of greenery hanging in the grocery store but have no clue what to do with them? Maybe you want to expand your culinary horizons and explore your green thumb capabilities? Many people are lured into using fresh herbs through the culinary route.This is the first in a series of articles on growing herbs for cooking, cocktails, and culinary crafts. Plus tips on pairing all kinds of flavors, from custom infused oils and balsamic vinegars to herbs, spirits, sweet and savory dishes. When you marry the right foods together into a succulent harmonious balance, the results are amazing and herbs contribute such character to your cuisine.This isn’t about becoming a food snob or being tethered to rules, except for this one; seasoning is vital in cooking and herbs go hand in hand with that philosophy. I’ll offer general guidelines along with novel combinations I’ve discovered but there’s no one taste fits all. It’s thrilling to develop original recipes and tweak the traditional dishes we savor. Play with new ingredients. It’s great fun to use homegrown edibles but if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, buy a few freshly packaged herbs from the store and practice cooking with them.Be daring with oil and vinegar selections. There’s a wonderful store called Savor The Olive in Virginia Beach that is a tasting room full of unique fused and infused oils and light and dark balsamic vinegars. If you have one of those in your area as well as wine tastings, take advantage of going for a visit. Experiment, so that your sense of taste gets stronger and more acute and it will tell you how much to use.

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Herbs add to the enjoyment of cooking and help you personalize what you’ve prepared. Being a chef is an art. Each person has a unique touch and flavor palate. The kitchen is your studio, the plate your blank canvas. Let instinct and imagination guide you. Herbs are one of the tools in your aromatic arsenal that enable you to present a mouthwatering masterpiece.Hope you’ll join me on a tasting tour of my fertile little deck farm as we pinch and smell the herbs, swirl and taste the wine, envision what main course will be the star of the plate, and tempt your taste buds with food that’s appealing to the eye and tongue.

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – An Amazing Experience for Foodies

If ever there is a place where one can try all kinds of different foods, and pair finest of wines and beers with sweetest and savory dishes against one of the most magically themed backdrops then it is at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Truly this one of the most anticipated WDW (Walt Disney World) events turns the entire Epcot Theme Park into a food paradise.Visiting the Park during the premier occasion is an amazing treat for all the food and wine lovers from across the globe. At every turn and every stop there is something very special and uniquely delicious for you to taste and try. In fact it puts you right in the middle of a culinary adventure unlike any other. Thanks to Epcot International Food & Wine Festival for such an incredible and unique experience.

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Celebrated for its inspired culinary attractions, the special fall attraction offers the ultimate setting to explore the best of cuisine the World has to offer. Whether it’s the amazing food and beverage marketplaces or the lively food concerts, celebrity chef demos or the signature dinners and galas, it promises the most amazing culinary extravaganza ever.From the moment one enters the park it turns into a never ending journey of food and flavors. Imagine a place where your are exposed to an incredible array of ever-inviting food booths with their all new mouth-watering menus and attention to detail ambiences. Or just think of an experience that puts you right in the middle of some incredible and live music-acts while you are enjoying your favorite foods, wine and beer.I think for a Disney World fan a visit to this one of a kind event is a must. Being part of the epic celebration will not only make your vacation more special, but also exposes you to the wonderful world of tastes and aromas like never before. And regardless of whether you are attending the event for the first time or a repeat visitor for that matter, there will never be a dull moment at the party for sure. Also the addition of more and more new and innovative culinary attractions every year makes the event even more impressive to attend.

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The annual event is having its 19th edition of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year. And like every yaer it brings along a host of new surprises for this year too, featuring new marketplace menus (such as the Patagonia Marketplace with flavors of Argentina and Chile) and a host of premium dining experiences and much more. No special ticket is required to attend this unique WDW event. The event is included with the regular Epcot admissions.

Discovering The Joys Of Food and Travel

One of the best things about visiting new places the chance to combine sampling the local food and travel. One single country can offer an enormous variety of dishes. Indian cuisine is very sophisticated, though often we don’t know its diversity because the food in most Indian restaurants comes from the Punjabi region of northern India. The other great Indian styles of southern, eastern and western cookery are largely vegetarian, though some include lamb, chicken, fish and even goat.French cooking represents one of the greatest cuisines on the planet. Many of the dishes are rich with their use of cream and alcohol. ‘Escargots’ (snails) cooked in garlic butter might, along with ‘frogs’ legs, ‘ put you off your dinner. France also specialises in exquisite pastries (‘patisseries’). Liqueurs, spirits and a marvellous choice of wines also greet you when you visit France.

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Most of the Mediterranean countries have a cuisine worth trying and Spain is no exception. Well-known for its tasty snacks or starters called ‘tapas, ‘ Spanish seafood dishes can also be very tasty. As well as many excellent wines, you might like to sample one of the most famous national drinks – sherry, traditionally made in Jerez from wine fortified with brandy. ‘Sangria’ is a bit like punch, made from inexpensive red wine with added spices, spirits and fruit.In Mexico, Aztec cookery blended with Spanish ideas to create characteristic dishes wrapped in tacos or tortillas made from flour-based flat breads. Guacamole, a creamy dip made from avocado mashed with oil and garlic, is a favourite Mexican dish.Italy is famous for pasta and pizza. Pizza is equivalent to our word ‘pie’ and was the traditional lunchtime food for labourers in the fields. Every village used to have its open brickwork pizza oven and you could see women returning from the woods with baskets laden with a variety of mushrooms, to make the delicious ‘pizza ai funghi.’ Italian cooking is one of most ancient cuisines in the world, with over 300 varieties of sausage to choose from and 400 cheeses, any traveller is spoilt for choice.Middle Eastern cookery reflects something of the Mediterranean combined with more eastern accents, with its emphasis on warming spices, like cinnamon. As in Greece, ‘mezzes’ or appetizers, dips, pickles, are eaten with delicious breads. This cookery style uses a lot of pulses, like lentils and chick peas, with plenty of fresh and interesting salads, and maybe a little less meat.Thai cooking uses lime juice and lemon grass, to create delicate and subtle flavours. Recipes blend bitter, sweet, hot and sour flavours. Well-known for its fish sauce, Thai cooking also uses a lot of noodles. ‘Sushi’ rice and fish dishes may come to mind when you think of Japanese cooking. Developed over many historical periods, Japanese cookery includes a variety of sweets as well as rice-based dishes and many soya bean products and recipes. Chinese food has carved out a worldwide niche because of its adaptability. China also produces a dazzling array of green, black, white and scented teas.

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In modern folk legend, the English would be the cooks in hell. Despite England’s terrible culinary reputation, their classic dish of ‘fish and chips, ‘ shouldn’t be missed. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (which is not a dessert, but a savoury accompaniment) can’t be bettered on a cold day.

Food and Wine Tours – 7 Ways for Adding Culinary Depth to Your Travels

Food and wine had been the basis of their courtship. Marriage brought an end to these quiet and yet exciting times. She has said little through the years as he went off with golfing pals and corporate jaunts while she stayed at home. His conscious always treated her to spa visits and club memberships to make up for it. Now, he wanted something for just the two of them. Twenty five years together deserved a celebration.He was looking for a place near enough to allow them more time for each other and less time for travel. They needed to find a way of enjoying what they both loved and yet rediscovering their mutual passions for life and each other. One loved the outdoors and gardening. The other looked for a more urban relaxation. Their mutual love was preparing and eating great food. Thus a great culinary adventure is born.Culinary tours allow visitors to really experience the cultural roots of a region. It’s a little bit history, a little bit entertainment and a little bit educational. Yet it can also be an assault on the senses. What better way to involve all five senses?7 Delightful Ways to Design Your Culinary Adventure1. Celebrity/Master ChefsDining out has long been one of society’s favorite activities. Master chefs have left culinary schools for world-class restaurants, honed their skills and are returning in droves to their home communities to be a part of regional tourism and hospitality. The James Beard Foundation is dedicated to celebrating and preserving America’s cultural diversity and traditions. These master chefs are usually members of this foundation.Many are indeed, recipients of James Beard honors. You can usually get some great insights of where to dine by looking for press releases from this organization. Even better, there are categories for joining as a food and wine enthusiast. Of course, some of these master chefs do merit celebrity status. Be sure to make reservations in advance to get the most out of your visit.Cleveland’s Entertainment District hosts some of the city’s most popular restaurants, bars and clubs. Master chefs and celebrity chef, Michael Symon, all have their flagship restaurants here. This is a microcosm of Cleveland, and indeed America’s diverse cuisine. It is a great way to step into the culinary scene and branch out into the neighborhood that centers around your favorite taste. The ethnic neighborhoods of Cleveland are known for superb dining choices.

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2. Schools – Wine and Culinary/ Master ClassesWe have come a long way from Julia Child to the Food Network and beyond. What is important today is that food is recognized as essential to healthy living. Perhaps more important is that preparing healthy food can be at the core of reducing stress for busy professionals and providing touch points for family and friends to rally around.Luxury resorts and hotels have provided culinary excursions and master classes for generations. These are again gaining in popularity. Cleveland boasts both cooking schools and a wine school. These schools provide busy locals with the skills to take their culinary appreciation to the next level. They can also provide a great added value to a culinary tour of the region. Additionally, the nearby Culinary Vegetable Institute brings master chefs from throughout America as artists in residence for classes and private dinners on their campus.3. Luxury Hotel Culinary PackagesEssential to any great vacation is the need to replenish and revitalize ourselves. Some may choose a Bed and Breakfast but for those who see this basic need as a time to treat oneself to more than the ordinary choose a luxury hotel or resort. These hotels and resorts have in place a highly skilled, 5 star staff just looking for ways to delight the guests. Culinary tours are as varied as the hotels but can provide a great foundation for any regional food and wine tour.The Ritz Carlton Hotel of Cleveland boasts a culinary tour that includes face time with the Executive chefs, special dinners, tours of the West Side Market and the city. The concierge staff is poised to provide directions and reservations to other restaurants and attractions that add to the culinary experience.4. Farmers MarketsAmerica’s cities are known for the public markets that support the cities and restaurants. Seattle has its Public Market, San Francisco has its Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cleveland has its West Side Market. These are popular tourist destinations. There are ample chances to talk with local suppliers, sample the many treats and enjoy a pleasurable time people watching.Cleveland’s venerable West Side Market has been supplying the tables of families and restaurants since 1912. As one of America’s oldest enclosed markets, it sets the standard for the many farmer’s markets set up in both urban town squares and the rural areas surrounding Cleveland. This market supplies fruits, vegetables and a diverse array of the regional meats that make Cleveland so popular with gastronomers.A drive through any area in Northeast Ohio on a Saturday will supply a family with locally grown, healthy fruits and vegetables for a week. Concessions provide ample opportunity to taste the best of the regions. You can also check out the Farmers Union markets in town squares and shopping centers throughout Northeast Ohio on weekdays during summer months.5. Wineries/MicrobreweriesAmerica’s interest in locally produced wines and brews is growing. Wine regions are gaining in popularity as destinations. The Sonoma and Napa Valley regions of California, Oregon’s Columbia Valley, New York’s Finger Lakes and the Niagara region readily come to mind. Microbreweries are the next craze to attract regional visitors. Microbrew tastings as well as wine tasting are easily found in the wine regions. You can actually find wineries that are developing companion microbreweries on their properties.Northeast Ohio is home to Vintage Ohio, an event attracting thousands to sample the growing wine industry in the state. Home to several wineries and vineyards along Lake Erie, northeast Ohio provides ample ways to enjoy the ambiance of relaxing in a scenic vineyard with friends with a glass in hand. You can enjoy a picnic lunch or opt for a more formal dinner in the elegance of the winery.6. Farm ToursHeritage farm tours along the Ohio and Erie Canal are committed to capturing the farming techniques of the regional founders for posterity. Many Amish farms welcome visitors to tour their farms by request. Indeed you will find produce stands along the country roads leading to their farms selling whatever vegetables and fruits are currently being harvested in their fields and baked goods, cheeses and cured meats processed on their farms.

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The Culinary Vegetable Institute in nearby Milan, Ohio provides organic and heritage vegetables and micro-greens to the kitchens of some of the country’s top chefs and restaurants. Farmer Lee Jones, the spokesman for the family business, is gaining national acclaim as a celebrity guest at many culinary events.7. Community GardensUrban gardens are becoming vital parts of neighborhoods as families realize the advantages of homegrown produce. However they are not new in many communities. When a visitor is fortunate to find an urban garden gem that has been established for quite a while, that visitor is treated to a glimpse of the heritage of the neighborhood and lovely afternoons spent talking with the gardeners who share the space.The Brooklyn Heights Community Garden in Cleveland celebrates is now 100 years old. Its grounds are well-maintained by the coop members and classes for all ages are held in the greenhouse and garden center on the campus.Remember that anniversary couple? They spent a relaxing week in an area not too far from their home but a world away in new experiences. They cruised the back roads with the car top down, picnicked under the stars in a lakeside vineyard, joined other couples for an elegant and exclusive private wine dinner and shared an evening at the theater. There was even time for a tour of the Botanical Gardens, a little shopping and just the two of them for a few holes of golf. Of course that led to the couples massage in the luxury hotel where they stayed. The rest of the time is private.You can find more about regional destinations and culinary tours at my blog. Be sure to look up my review on Mr. Symons B Spot restaurant in Woodmere.