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Italian Style + Southern California Produce = the Peach Bellini at Locanda de Lago Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Lago peach bellini

It’s always nice to find a gem you didn’t know about in your own back yard. In my case, the back yard is Santa Monica and the gem is Locanda de Lago, which has been on the Third Street Promenade for 20 years. I have to admit I’ve walked by it a million times but didn’t realize until a recent visit just how much care and energy the restaurant spends in not only creating a true Northern Italian (specifically, the Lake Region) experience but also in crafting that experience using the best in local produce. It doesn’t hurt that their location is steps from the legendary Santa Monica Farmers Market, which means many of the farmers are able to walk their produce right into the kitchen.

The summer menu, which changes weekly depending on the fare at the farmers market, includes Borage Tortellini, Verdure Carta Fata (vegetables steamed in parchment paper), Summer Filetto (with eggplant caviar, sauteed zucchini and summer truffles) and a burrata salad highlighted by market tomatoes and a basil sorbet. Even better, the burrata is made locally and traditionally by an Italian family. (You may utter a quiet guttural “mmmmmmm” now.)

Also on the current menu are cocktails named after celebrities with summer homes at Lake Como (the De Niro, the Madonna and the Clooney, which features blood oranges) and, particularly appropriate because of the preponderance of peaches available right now, a White Peach Bellini, made using the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Venice. If you’d like to make it at home, the recipe is quite simple: just muddle a quarter of a ripe white peach and then fill the rest of the champagne glass with prosecco. Like Lago, it’s the perfect combination of seasonal produce and Italian style.

Zucchini Bread with Pineapple and Pecans Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

As I have mentioned on the community garden blog, the early summer star in my garden has been the zucchini. By last count, I have harvested 15 huge zucchinis from the one small seedling put in two months ago -- and it shows no signs of stopping. Naturally, that has led to a need for zucchini recipes. Here is the first (more to follow, including a recipe for Sicilian stuffed zucchini): a recipe for zucchini bread that was handed down from a friend's grandmother. I made the bread today for the 4th of July potluck at the community garden and it turned out great (very moist), so enjoy!

Zucchini breadIngredients
3 eggs beaten
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups zucchini, unpeeled and grated
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmug
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add zucchini and crushed pineapple. Combine dry ingredients and add them to zucchini mixture. Mix well. Add pecans. Pour mixture into two greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Very moist. Will last a week or two in refrigerator. Freeze well.

Spring Cocktails Bloom in Downtown L.A. Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Klaus Puck at Ritz-Carlton cocktail garden

The Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles are launching their spring cocktail program today. Included on the roster are the "Spice of Spring" at gLAnce; "Orange You Glad It's Spring" at the Mixing Room; and Nest at WP24's "Flower to Flute," featuring herbs and blossoms picked from the Ritz-Carlton's rooftop garden, which we first wrote about in 2012 (story and cocktail recipe below). Hello Spring!

It's always good news when a garden opens up in an urban setting like downtown Los Angeles. It's even better news when that garden is filled with more than 15 varieties of fruits, herbs and flowers -- including basil, chervil, chives, fennel, lemon, lime, mint, orange, pansy and verbena -- to be used in a garden cocktail list that changes with the seasons. Situated 26 floors up at the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, the new cocktail garden, which is overseen by Beverage Director Klaus Puck, serves both the Ritz-Carlton's "BLUE" rooftop pool bar and Wolfgang Puck's WP24 Restaurant & Lounge. The recently announced summer cocktail list features drinks such as Verbena Lemonade, which includes Kalamansi lemons and verbena leaves straight from the garden. Even better, Klaus Puck (pictured in the garden, above) was kind enough to share the recipe. Enjoy!

Verbena Lemonade

WP24 cocktails1.5 oz. Ketel Citroen Vodka
.5 oz. Kalamansi puree
1.4 oz. verbena-infused simple syrup (see below)
Juice from half a lemon
Lemon-lime soda

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass while adding the lemon-lime soda; fill to top. Garnish with verbena leaves.

For Verbena Simple Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Generous handful of fresh lemon verbena leaves

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then let cool to room temperature. Remove lemon verbena leaves; the syrup should be a light yellow-green color and have the definite flavor and odor of lemon verbena.

Maui Merriment: Cocktail Ideas from Ocean Vodka Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Ocean Vodka Cosmo

It's that time — time to start thinking about holiday cocktails, especially those that use local, seasonal produce. If you are looking for ideas, here are some from the good folks at Ocean Vodka. The first is the Berry Cosmo, which was part of our post on Ocean Vodka last year (below). This year, they're offered two more ideas, which follow. If you visit the Ocean Vodka website, you can also find recipes for many more cocktails, all featuring fresh produce. And if you find yourself on the island of Maui, they offer wonderful tours of the farm and distillery. The cost is only $10 and includes samples and a souvenir shot glass. It's also a wonderful way to see the beautiful Upcountry area of Maui — one of my favorite places in the world. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!

Looking for a new cocktail for your holiday party? Ocean Vodka brings us the Holiday Berry Cosmo (pictured), featuring raspberries and red currants. In case you haven't heard of Ocean Vodka, it's made on the island of Maui using organic sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water, sourced from a depth of 3,000 feet off the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii. It's 100 percent certified USDA Organic — and it's gluten free. In short, a vodka you can feel good about on many levels.

Ocean Organic Vodka Holiday Berry Cosmo
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
1/2 oz. Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
6 Raspberries
20 Red Currants
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
Macerate raspberries and red currants in Chambord Raspberry Liqueur. Place berry mixture into a shaker and add simple syrup, bruise ingredients in a  shaker. Add Ocean Vodka and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with red currants.

Ocean Organic Vodka Seasons Greetings
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
1 oz. Pear Nectar
Splash of Fresh Orange Juice
Place all ingredients into a shaker with ice and bruise. Pour into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Ocean Organic Vodka Santa's Helper
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
2 Basil leaves
8 Fresh Bing cherries
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
1 oz. Prosecco
Muddle cherries and basil in a shaker. Add Ocean Organic Vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice and bruise. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco.

Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Celebration Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Sacramento beetsLocated at the geographic center of a region filled with an abundance of farms, growers, food producers and culinary leaders, Sacramento will be celebrating that bounty with its second annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration, which got under way last Friday and runs through September 28. The two-week-long celebration in the city, which has been designated by the state of California as "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital," includes a "Legends of Wine" event on September 18, a farm-to-fork festival on the Capitol Mall on September 27 and a gala dinner on September 28 on Tower Bridge that sold out in three minutes.

For those unable to get to the festival, Sacramento offers Gardens-to-Tables-types five full-time and six seasonal farmers' markets and a number of food tours and restaurants featuring local products. One of those -- restaurant ten22 in Old Sacramento -- was kind enough to share their recipe for Roasted Beet Salad (pictured). Enjoy! (Click "read more" for recipe.)

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