I just returned from the Food Blogger Forum in Asheville, North Carolina. The organizers did a fantastic job of putting together a memorable program in what has got to be one of the most food-focused areas of the United States. In addition to the informative seminars and the opportunity to network with many of my fellow food bloggers, we were treated to an all-day Foodtopia tour, which included the Highland Brewing Company, where we were treated to their selection of beers and an array of food from the local food scene. We also visited the Looking Glass Creamery and even had an opportunity to meet some of the goats that produced the milk for their wonderful cheeses. The day finished up with a restaurant tour that evening. All I can say is, “Wow.” The food and company were fantastic, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients that also happens to be a big part of Jeannine’s Cuisine. I was so inspired by the trip to Asheville that I’ve decided to concentrate the next few blog posts on some of the experiences we had during the Foodtopia tour. This post features a refreshing cocktail with basil that was a result of a stop at Strada Italiano, a lovely restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville. We were given a choice of appetizers, and I just had to try the signature figs, stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to try and recreate that one as well. It was a little humid that night and the refreshing pineapple cocktail with basil that was waiting at the table when we arrived was a welcome addition to the evening. I decided to try my hand at my own version of a basil cocktail and this was the result. Summer may be fading, but, at least if you are in the DC area or points further South, you’ve still got some time to try this.
Strawberry Basil Cooler
The recipe includes ingredients to make enough strawberry syrup for 4-6 drinks. You will want to plan far enough ahead to give the syrup time to cool before preparing the drinks. 1 pint strawberries 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup water Fresh basil, two leaves per drink 2 ounces Absolute Citron vodka per drink 1 small bottle soda water To make the strawberry syrup, hull and quarter the strawberries until you have 2 cups. Set aside the remaining strawberries for the drinks. Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan and set aside allowing them to macerate for 15-30 minutes. The longer you can let them sit, the more pronounced the strawberry flavor will be. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat when the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries have turned to mush. This should be very shortly after the mixture comes to a boil. Strain the mixture, setting aside the syrup and discarding the strawberries. Chill thoroughly. To prepare the drink, muddle one strawberry and two basil leaves in a glass. Add 2 ounces of the vodka and 3 tablespoons of the syrup and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda water. Stir again and serve garnished with a fresh strawberry.