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Recap: Forest and Beach Garden Party

A few weeks ago I attended the July garden party at a local bar called the Winchester with a few close friends and family members. The theme, “forest and beach”, did not leave my palate unsatisfied. The night featured five courses and five beverages (not to mention a brief beer and bite in the garden). FIVE!! Yes, buckle up because I’m about to indulge you with a full recap of this delicious night.

We kicked off the evening with a tour of the Winchester’s garden which was blooming with edible flowers, beets and beet greens, peppers, chard, and micro greens. While browsing the garden we sipped on El Gose from Avery Brewing Company. On a 90+ degree July afternoon, this crisp yet tart German-style sour ale set the pace for the evening. The hint of salt and lime washed down the balsamic-infused yellow melon with ease (sorry guys, no picture for this one!).

Following the garden tour, we were escorted to our beautifully decorated tables resembling my favorite childhood memories of summer nights eating by the bonfire on the beaches of Lake Michigan. Needless to say, my foodie taste buds started tingling with anticipation.

Shall we begin? 😉

Cocktail #1: Whiskey Gin Vin- whiskey, raspberry shrub, ginger, amaro

I may be biased as a whiskey lover, but the sweetness from the raspberry shrub and bittersweet bite from the amaro (an Italian liqueur often infused with herbs, roots, and other aromatics) created a lovely little duo; A slightly sweeter spin on a Negroni. I love a stiff cocktail that has a hint of sweetness to it and flirts with bitter. This one hit the mark.

Course #1: Salad- chard, garden greens, beets, watermelon brined feta, grapefruit shrub vinaigrette

How beautiful, right? The hues from what appeared to be beet dust was truly stunning. The mix of chard and garden greens offered a crunchy bite and earthy flavor to the base of the salad. However, do not fear because this mouthful of what my boyfriend might call “weeds” was tempered by the sweet, tangy bites from the rainbow beets and grapefruit shrub vinaigrette.

Cocktail #2: Barstool Dreamer- nasturtium infused gin, lemon, simple, elderflower liqueur, basil seeds

A few notes about this beauty… Nasturtium is an edible flower (both the flower and the leaves), which provides a peppery and sweet flavor. On the other hand, elderflower is an edible flower known for its fresh and floral nature. In combination with the pine flavoring of the gin and citric-acid of the lemon resulted in a starkly floral and refreshing spirit. Lastly – chia seeds vs. basil seeds: it was at this event that I discovered that basil seeds gelatinize with fluid just like chia seeds! The moment the seeds hit your tongue they resembled a smaller version of tapioca followed by a small crunch.

Course #2: Michigan Whitefish- horsetail cucumber dashi, cucamelons, beach peas, garden sugar peas, borage flowers

This dish really started to seal the deal on forest and beach for me. It also screamed pure Michigan. Horsetail is a tall plant that typically grows near streams, rivers, and in dunes. Common uses include adding it directly to broths and grains for a rather mild flavor. But don’t worry, that dashi’s got your taste buds’ back. That little green sauce had a combination of sweet and savory that paired beautifully with the heat from the whitefish rub. And how cute are those cucamelons!? Cucamelons taste like cucumber with a hint of lime and compliment the starchy beach and sugar peas.

Garden Party Cocktail

Cocktail #3: Glass Eye- scotch, blended port, lime, absinthe

Right around when I started wondering how in the world I was getting home that night 😉 This little infusion tasted like a mix between licorice and lime and was refreshing enough that I found myself coming back for more just to stay hydrated…errr or that might have been the absinthe talking. Regardless, thumbs up buttercup (which is how I started talking by the end of this one).

Course #3: Creppinettes- rabbit, pork, beet greens, mushroom and juniper jus, nasturtiums leaves, sage flowers, white pine needles, smoke

The first thing that came to mind when I took a deep dive into this creamy sauce was my Mom’s beef stroganoff. The earthy beet greens cut the slightly gamey rabbit and heavy jus duo to create a savory, fresh dish that left me cleaning the plate.

Cocktail #4: Water Fowl- aquavit, bison grass vodka, lime, dill, cucumber

Keep em’ coming, keep em’ coming. This was my favorite cocktail of the night and beyond refreshing. From the description provided by the staff, it is a drink I probably never would’ve ordered off the menu which says a lot considering I’ll pretty much try anything. The description went something like “aquavit (what in the world is this?), dill, caraway, cucumber…”  and so on and so forth. To my surprise, this cocktail was divine. Aquavit is a spirit native to the Scandinavian culture and means “water of life”. It was very cool and refreshing going down with hints of lime and fresh dill. Trust me on this one, give it ago.

Course #4: Crostini- green tomato, eggplant chow chow

Not the crostini I had in mind but let’s do this. The crostini, which I believe was baked asiago cheese (could be wrong on this one), provided a nice little serving plate for the pickled green tomato relish. The most interesting part of this course was those little moisture drops resembling water on the leafy greens. These little droplets created a sweet burst of flavor, which resembled a light simple syrup.

Cocktail #5: Fudgie- cynar, lime, egg white, cold brew coffee

Course #5: S’mores- panna cotta, graham dust, marshmellow fluff, Michigan fudge ganache

Fudgy oooey goooey goodness dusted with graham cracker fairytale dust. A more pristine s’more tied up in a bow and washed down with a foamy dark brew coffee similar to a porter beer with a hint of lime. The perfect end to a lovely night of new foodie experiences.

The theme of forest and beach rang true throughout each cocktail and plate of the night. Between edible flowers and blossoms, seeds, herbs, or liquors, sauces, vinaigrettes infused with summer herbs and spices, the theme, although not always obvious, was consist and inspired. Beyond that, it was a night full of both palate-exciting and boundary-crossing food and spirits.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out the next garden parties coming soon at The Winchester this summer and fall.


P.S. Thanks to my friends and family for all the contributed photos of this beautiful night!

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Herb Guide: Pruning and Harvesting

I have been gardening for the last 3+ years and learn something new every year. During this time, I have learned that pruning (or trimming) your plants is essential to a healthy plant and a good harvest, which is ultimately the goal! Pruning helps keep your plants healthy and allows you to control their growth. However, pruning and harvesting is often different based on the plant so it’s important to know the methods you need to use for each plant.

I find that herbs in particular, need constant pruning to control or promote growth. I decided to create this user-friendly guide to pruning and harvesting as a resource to my followers and out of my necessity as a gardener.

A few key points to remember:

  • When harvesting most herbs and plants, be sure to only harvest 1/3 of the plant at a time and allow time for it to recover. This will encourage continued growth without devastating the plant.
  • Harvest from the top. I know it seems opposite of what you think but trust me, harvesting from the top instead of the bottom helps keep your plant sturdy, but promotes continued growth.
  • Know which tool to use for pruning and harvesting…your fingers or kitchen/garden shears. Some herbs are more delicate than others so it’s important to know the difference.

Annual vs. Perennial: Annual plants grow and live for one growing season. They need to be replanted every spring season. Perennials grow and regrow every spring season. Perennials are less work than annuals because they do not require re-seeding each season.


Method: Kitchen Shears

Category: Biennial (a mix between an annual and perennial, meaning a single dill plant has the potential to live up to 2 year, but can be very sensitive to frost and freezing).


  • Snip off the flowers at the tops of the stems. Be diligent with pruning the flowers of the dill plant unless you are ready for the dill to go to seed. Once the dill sets to seed, the plant stops producing and starts to dry out (which is fine if it is the end of the season).IMG_6885


  • Harvest from the top of the dill plant
  • Harvest at the elbow of stems or where leaves meet the main stem (see picture below).
  • If you desire to cut an entire main stem or stock, do so at least 3-4 inches about the ground to promote re-growth.

Recommended uses: Tzatziki, pickling cucumbers and other vegetables, roasted carrots, salmon and lemon, potato or egg salad, fresh pasta-based or green salad paired with feta cheese



Method: Fingers

Category: Annual


  • Wait until the plant is 6 inches tall before pruning
  • Pinch flower buds off to force the plant to focus its’ energy on the actual basil leaves
  • If growing vertically, pinch off leaves from the top (this will encourage lateral growth)


  • Pinch above where there are 2 large leaves on either side with small leaves with them
  • Pinch 1/4 inch above a node and 3 inches from the base of the plant
  • Don’t be afraid to be a little more aggressive with your basil harvesting. Basil is a rapid-growing herb and can recover well from more aggressive harvests.

Recommended uses: Italian dishes, ramen, pesto, raw green salads, pasta



Method: Garden or kitchen shears

Category: Perennial


  • Prune anytime during spring and summer until 4-6 weeks before the 1st frost
  • Wait to prune rosemary until the plant is 4 inches tall


  • Trim stems ~4 inches at the end of each stem (see featured image at the top of the page)
  • Avoid the woody parts of the stem

Recommended uses: Roasted vegetables, Gin-based cocktails, herb-flavored olive oil or butter, herbed spreads using mayo or Greek yogurt, added to crackers or pita chips




Method: Fingers

*Planting: If possible, mint should be planted in a separate container due to the runners that grow under the ground and have a tendency to invade other herbs.

Category: perennial


  • Wait until 6 inches tall then cut stems 1 inch from the soil to promote better growth.


  • Harvest around the plant to control the growth.
  • Cut stems 1 inch from the soil
  • Be aggressive, be, be aggressive! Mint is a rapid-growing herb so don’t be afraid to be more aggressive with your pruning and harvesting.

Recommended uses: Mojito, fruit salads, pestos, tabbouleh, mint julep or non-alcoholic spritzer with fresh fruit, homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream



Please feel free to add comments or suggestions! I am open to all feedback because like I said before, gardening is a constant learning process for me. Stay tuned for my next herb guide on how to best preserve your herbs.