Purple Days of Summer: Lavender. Matanzas Creek Winery; Lavender Crème Brulee
GourmetGrrl.com: Food with ‘tude
July 6, 2005
Purple haze. The purple days of summer are here – or is it the lazy days of summer? Hazy or lazy, it must be the lavender in bloom that’s gone straight to our heads.
GourmetGrrl, aka Laura Holmes
Grrl with Corkscrew
One of our favorite Sonoma County wineries is as famous for their lavender fields as they are for their wine. Matanzas Creek Winery has been making outstanding Merlot (hints of chocolate and ripe fruit) and Chardonnay (flavors of butter and citrus) since the late 1970′s. They also make a crisp, lip- smacking Sauvignon Blanc, but the 2001 Syrah will make you want to run to the nearest corkscrew.
Matanzas is located in the Bennett Valley winegrowing region, and the three mountains around the vineyards capture a direct cool air stream from the ocean. This air stream, called the Petaluma Wind Gap, encourages a cooler, longer growing season that results in some tasty wines. Their lavender garden has over 4,000 lavender bushes, so it’s no wonder that you can often inhale a hint of lavender in their red wines.
Join the Matanzas Wine Club and have the wines appear on your doorstep, or look for them in fine wine shops. And if you’re in the area, stop by the tasting room; a great list of wines are poured in a spacious room that isn’t packed with tour buses, and they have enough lavender products to lure you into an eternal state of relaxation.
Matanzas Creek Winery
6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, California
Tours by appointment
Grrl with Sweet Tooth
A Purple Infusion. Adding lavender to a dish – whether sweet or savory – can be tricky; one shouldn’t feel as if they’ve just taken a bite of Grandma’s potpourri. But done right, just a hint of this floral, woodsy purple herb will shine through. (And no, lavender does not color the food purple.) This luscious recipe balances the lavender perfectly, and comes courtesy of Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze of the girl & the fig restaurant in Sonoma, California.
LAVENDER CRÈME BRÛLÉE
2¼ cups heavy cream
¾ cup milk
3-4 lavender sprigs or 1½ tablespoons dried lavender blossoms, plus 6 whole lavender buds for garnish
8 egg yolks
½ cup sugar plus about 4 tablespoons for sprinkling
2 teaspoons wildflower honey
Preheat oven to 350F.
Add the cream, milk, and lavender to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let the lavender steep for 15 minutes or until milk has a lavender flavor. (For a stronger flavor, steep longer.)
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and honey until smooth.
Whisk the egg mixure into the lavender cream mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any foam. Refrigerate for at least four hours.
Pour the mixture in 6 ramekins or crème brûlée dishes.
Set the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up sides of ramekins.
Cover the baking pan with foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until set. (Test for doneness by jiggling the ramekins.)
Remove the baking pan from the oven and allow ramekins to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight
Before serving, sprinkle the tops with thin layer of sugar and caramelize with a small torch or broiler set on high. Garnish with the lavender blossoms.
Wine Pairing: Pair the crème brûlée with a late harvest Viognier.
The Grrls and the Bees: Lavender Honey. Good honey tells you exactly where it was made with just one taste, and when bees dine on lavender bushes the honey reaches the divine.
The French make some of the best lavender honey, thanks to the thousands of acres of Provencal lavender. (Lavender is a member of the mint family, and there are over thirty different varieties, the most common being English lavender and Provence lavender.)
Spread the honey on a crunchy piece of toast, spoon a bit into your tea, or drizzle it over blue cheese. (And it makes a great hostess gift for your summer weekends.) You can find lavender honey in many gourmet markets but our favorite is the nearly-white French lavender honey sold by the gourmet food company Zingermans.