Bitters celebrate the aromatic and medicinal in native plants used around the world


Photos Courtesy of Ashley DuVal
Bitters – tinctures and tonics derived from plants – form a base for cocktails, teas and restorative drinks in the new book, right, from Shoots & Roots Bitters, a company made up of ethnobotanists, above right, from left, Ashley DuVal, Rachel Meyer and Selena Ahmed. They will be crafting bitters-based drinks, above, at Hidden Villa Sept. 28.

Bitters taste like a tincture taken from some older time, a combination of flavors carefully weighed through generations of experimentation and foraging. Each region of the world uses its native plants to create intensely aromatic, often medicinal, plant tonics.

Ethnobotanist Ashley DuVal, a Los Altos native, has developed a sideline in studying these recipes with two friends from graduate school, Selena Ahmed and Rachel Meyer. DuVal met her collaborators more than a decade ago, when they were ethnobotany grad students spending time at the New York Botanical Garden.

Beers, too, are going rosé all day


Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
California breweries recently made rosé beers in styles reminiscent of, from left, a tart fruit beer (Modern Times), a rosé wine (Sierra Nevada), a sparkling cider (21st Amendment) and a sour European ale (Bruery Terreux).

With the popularity of rosé wines growing over the past few years, especially in warm weather, it seems almost inevitable that craft brewers would try to capture a portion of the market share for refreshing pink beverages.

This summer saw a marked increase in the number of brews marketed as rosé beers by California breweries. As summer fades into fall, it’s not too late to try some pink beers, which represent a wide variety of styles.

Summer suds: Lagers offer easy drinking with clean, simple flavors

Firestone Lager” width=
Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Lighter beers that are low in alcohol, such as Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Firestone Lager, are sometimes known as “lawnmower” beers because of their refreshing character after an afternoon of yard work.

More and more craft brewers have recently been creating lagers as refreshing, easy-drinking alternatives to the IPAs that have dominated craft brewing for so long.

Lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast that ferments at much cooler temperatures than ale yeast, and they are difficult to make well because the clean, simple flavors very quickly reveal any flaws that are present.

Garden recipes and meal planning start the school year off right

Cherry Tomatoes” width=
Courtesy of Christine Moore
Homegrown tomatoes can be used in a variety of summer recipes, including Christine Moore’s Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta.

It’s a time of ripening. Tomatoes, corn, squash and melon are reaching full readiness at seemingly the precise same moment in our backyard vegetable boxes. After months of watering and waiting, it feels nearly miraculous that there is actual food on the vines. Or perhaps that is just the awe of a mediocre-at-best gardener.

Indoors, things are reaching a more complete state, too. Kids, ripe from a summer of equal parts adventure and boredom, are at their peak condition for taking on a new year of school.

Apricot Blackberry Kuchen


The recipe I share below for Apricot Blackberry Kuchen comes together in a few minutes and makes a colorful show of these peak of summer fruits. Cornmeal gives this Austrian coffee cake a slightly sandy texture. Fresh apricots and blackberries share the limelight in a delicious morning or mid-afternoon snacking cake.

 

Apricot heaven arrives this month


Photo by Eric Larson/Special to the Town Crier
Blenheim apricots grow throughout the Santa Clara Valley and can be made into many foods, including jams.

California’s favorite fruit, the Blenheim apricot, will arrive in local markets by mid-July. The Blenheim has the power to enchant adults and children alike with its gorgeous color, sweet perfume and perfectly balanced sweet/tart flavor. Jams, nectar, syrup, pies and pastry reach perfection with this variety of apricot, which is uniquely adapted to the Bay Area’s moderate coastal climate.


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