Cheers to Change!


MixologyYes, I realize we’ve had a brief interlude, but I’ve been a bit tied up working on this.  You’ll also notice that in addition to launching the new biz, the blog was also rebranded to have a similar look and feel. Please don’t be alarmed by that – the content here will still reflect my own personal musings. I’ve additionally been pulling artwork and creating some items for an upcoming Etsy shop, so stay tuned because it will eventually be linked under “Retail Therapy.” As far as food and drink interests go, I’ve once again signed up for my Good Food Collective summer share which will start in June. I’m sure my bags o’ farm market goodness will contain some obscure vegetables for further kitchen experimentation.  I’ve also submitted a few of my vegan recipes for a local event called Veg Out taking place at the end of May. Amidst all things “cray,” I’ve conjured up some new soups, cookies, and cocktails. I figure I’ll start with the booze since we should probably toast to new endeavors and I’ve declared it officially gin season. So if you’re thirsty for a new tipple, give these a whirl since they’ve certainly had a few quality control runs.

Let’s start with a drink based on Hendrick’s Gin with a few interesting additives.  I came up with this one a couple of months ago after a liqueur called Parfait d’ Amour piqued my interest.  Parfait d’Amour is a deep violet color and typically has a flavor profile of orange, vanilla, and floral notes. There are other brands available but I picked the Marie Brizard (link above) brand because it also boasts notes of orange blossom, almond, and rose (I’m also detecting a hint of violet) which I thought would complement the Hendrick’s well. It’s fun going to the liquor store and asking for it. No one knows what the hell it is, so you can certainly amuse yourself with expressions of general confusion from the staff. I decided to name this beauty after a classic perfume from the house of Guerlain due to the similar citrus, vanilla, and powdery floral notes and of course, its distinctive color.

Lady Sensory’s L’Heure Bleue Cocktail L'Heure Bleue

1.5 oz Hendrick’s gin

.5 oz of each:  Blue Curaçao (I use this, procured on my trip to Curaçao),

Parfait d’Amour, and freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dry Champagne (or any dry white sparkling wine)

Sparkling water, seltzer, or club soda

Lemon twist (garnish)

Chill a tall flute or large wine glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, Hendrick’s, Blue Curaçao, Parfait d’Amour, and lemon juice. Shake and strain into chilled glass. Top with equal parts dry Champagne and sparkling water and garnish with a twist. This is simple, pretty, and very refreshing.

The next beverage evolved after researching several different gins I had yet to try. I decided to pick up some Plymouth Gin this past week, which is dry, aromatic, and very well-rounded. It makes for an excellent gin and tonic. In fact, I’m drinking one as I type this, and I’ll be experimenting with a Plymouth martini once I pick up some dry vermouth. Much like Champagne, Plymouth is both a style of gin and protected geographical location for gins produced in Plymouth, England. The only distillery producing it is Black Friars (owned by Pernod Ricard) and there is an image of a small friar on the back of the bottle. I really like this gin and find it to be very versatile. I whipped this one up with some ingredients I had handy and it’s both simple and amazing. This recipe will make two cocktails in rocks glasses.

Lady Sensory’s Oran Juice Jones Cocktail Oran Juice Jones

1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.5 oz Grand Marnier

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp honey

2 slices and juice from one medium orange (I used a Valencia orange)

Sparkling water, seltzer or club soda

Angostura bitters

Fill two rocks glasses with ice, cut an orange in half and cut two wheels. Over a cocktail shaker, juice the remaining orange, the lemon, and mix in 1 tsp of honey. Add ice to the shaker, the Plymouth Gin and Grand Marnier. Shake and strain into the rocks glasses. Top with bitters and sparkling water. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Yep. I totally named it after this guy. What can I say? We’ve had a lot of rain lately and this tasted just like orange juice. This makes for an excellent brunch or day drink. Cheers to change and happy sipping!


Distilling My Thoughts

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

I recently visited a brand new local distillery in Rochester for a tasting.  Black Button Distilling is located on Railroad Street on the way to the Public Market and adjacent to the Rohrbach’s Brewery and tasting room. The owner and chief distiller, Jason Barrett, provided a tour and was refreshingly down-to-earth and knowledgable. As he shared his story, we learned how he made the bold move of basically giving up his corporate job and house to pursue his dream of starting his own distillery. He also talked about the history behind the brand name (his family owned a button factory), the distilling process, and various tasting notes of the current product offerings. I recommend stopping in – it was a very educational and fun evening!

I sampled a wheat vodka (there were two and I had the one with the non-sake notes), the moonshine, and the Citrus Forward Gin. The bourbon is presently being aged in barrels with an anticipated release in 2015. Not surprisingly, the gin won me over with its distinctive flavor notes. The typical juniper bite is smoothed out with citrus and spices resulting in a profile reminiscent of orange spice tea. I knew I could have some fun experimenting with this. Thus, retail therapy occurred and I left with a bottle in hand. In addition to the booze, the Black Button shop also offers glassware, delicious maple syrup (really good stuff!), a variety of bitters, and simple syrups. I am 99% sure the simple syrup brand they offer is this one. However, I determined that I could make the lavender lemon syrup at home myself because as we’ve already established, I am that weirdo who has lavender on hand. If you are not as ambitious, feel free to procure a bottle of syrup in addition to the gin.

Let’s cocktail, shall we?

Lavender Lemons

Lady Sensory’s DIY Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

Zest and juice of two lemons + enough water to total 1.5 cup of liquid

1 tbsp dried lavender (make sure it’s for culinary use – you can get it at Williams-Sonoma)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

I added a small amount of vanilla sugar to slightly round out the flavor because I have a fussy palate. No worries if you don’t have it on hand – you can omit or add a tiny drop of vanilla extract. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced in half (approximately 3/4 – 1 cup). Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer to remove the lavender and zest. The color will resemble pink lemonade. Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container (I used a mason jar). Use in cocktails, sodas (“cold pop”), or even over ice cream. Cocktail recipes from my mixology experiments are below.  You’ll note that I’ve incorporated some French names thanks to the lavender.

The Jacques Collins

Jacques Collins

Lady Sensory’s Jacques Collins

2 oz Black Button Citrus Forward Gin*

2 tbsp lavender lemon simple syrup (above)

Orange slice and 1-2 Maraschino cherries for garnish

Top with sparkling water/ club soda.

Chill a Collins glass or large rocks glass a few minutes in advance. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, gin and lavender lemon syrup. Shake until well combined and pour into the chilled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange slice and 1-2 cherries. This drink is simple, refreshing, and will make you long for summer (especially in this extreme cold!)


Soleil Levant Martini

Soleil Levant Martini

Lady Sensory’s Soleil Levant (Rising Sun) Martini

2 oz gin (again, Black Button Citrus Forward)

1/2  oz St. Germain

1/2 oz Lillet (blanc)

1 oz lavender lemon simple syrup

Several dashes of Angostura bitters (will provide additional flavor and color)

Orange or lemon slice for garnish

Chill a large martini glass in advance and fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Combine gin, St. Germain, Lillet, lavender lemon syrup, bitters, and shake well. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or lemon – your choice). You can add another drop or two of bitters if needed (the drink should be apricot in color). You could also rim the glass with lavender sugar if you are feeling extra fancy. And no, I haven’t made lavender sugar yet, but I probably will soon.

Black Button products are currently available at the distillery, restaurants, and some liquor stores. The average cost is around $40 for the gin, and it is well worth it. Pick some up and support people’s dreams and local businesses. Gin season is almost upon us and you will definitely want the Citrus Forward on your home bar!

* If you aren’t local to Rochester, an orange or citrus-infused gin would probably work for either of these recipes until Black Button becomes more widely distributed.

Ballooney Tunes


While I was hanging out with Krampus back in December, I bumped into a friend who told me about a project he was going to be promoting involving a balloon installation of Jack and the Beanstalk at the old Sibley Tower here in Rochester. It sounded a little crazy but he was so excited that I made a mental note to check it out when the time rolled around.

Over the past several weeks, he has been promoting the heck out of it as #BalloonManor. I decided to stop in today and I’m glad I did. The artists, Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle of Airigami, created an amazing balloon depiction of this old English fairy tale. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it and I’m hoping they take it (or another balloon installation) on the road so that other cities can enjoy it. It was also nice to see so many people downtown at the historic Sibley building again. The balloon sculpture is five stories tall, is free and open to the public, and the last day to enjoy it is tomorrow, February 10, from 10 AM – 7 PM.

Here are a few shots, but they really don’t do it justice. If you are in the vicinity, take a day off and go see it in person before it’s gone!

Quick addendum: There is a Balloon Popping Party from 5-7 PM tomorrow. The cost is $10 and the link to get tickets to the event is here.

In Case I Ever Get Famous And Suddenly Die…


Okay, after seeing this BuzzFeed article on drunken authors and their favorite drinks I took it upon myself to do some research and found some inconsistencies and promptly became sad. I mean, they created some of the great works of our time and no one ever noticed what they drank? Not even the bartender? What a cruel and thoughtless world. I then realized that if I were ever to write a novel and suddenly keel over, this could happen to me. No one would be able to correctly name my poison.

Something needs to be done about this. I cannot bear to have any discrepancies. Truth be told, I’m a fickle Libra so brace yourself because we are going to cover all of the things! In true BuzzFeed fashion, I decided to make a list-format doo-dad for you, complete with nonsensical images. I’d give you a smattering of boozy famous quotes for good measure, but it appears some nice person already took care of that here. Yay! Less work for me!

Lady Sensory’s Last Booze and Testament:


Katy Perry John Mayer

My memories of vodka were not this pretty. Photo: Columbia/Sony Music

Once upon a time, the Grey Goose gimlet and I were best friends. Then one night, I rode a mechanical bull three times with a regional sales director. It got to the point where they had to tip the bull and shake us off.  I was conveniently wearing low-rise jeans at the time, so half of my rear end was hanging out. I like to think of it as visual karaoke…the worst karaoke you could ever imagine.  As a result, I just say no to vodka.


Scotchy, scotch, scotch! Photo:

Scotchy, scotch, scotch!

Yes, I had a run on scotch shortly out of graduate school. I like to think that my nights of sipping single malt eventually led me to laser hair removal but sadly, that’s probably just genetics. I don’t drink it anymore and for no reason other than simply growing out of that phase. In fact, I avoid most brown liquor with the exception of an occasional hot beverage (Jameson in Irish Coffee or bourbon in hot apple cider).


I meant to do that. Photo:

I meant to do that.

Remember how tequila made PeeWee Herman dance on a bar and knock over about 30 motorcycles? Let’s not even go there.


Don't act like naps haven't happened to you.

Don’t act like naps haven’t happened to you. Photo:

Being a wine lover, I actually like champagne. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like me and I wind up taking naps in obscure places…or falling out of a chair in painting class.

So now that we’ve covered the avoidance list, here are a few of my favorite things:


Dark 'n Stormy made with Gosling's and Barritt's...and a flamingo!

Dark ‘n Stormy made with Gosling’s and Barritt’s…and a flamingo!

In my college days, it was good old Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. I’ve since traveled to Bermuda a couple of times and my favorite is presently Gosling’s Black Seal. This is best served in a Dark & Stormy or Rum Swizzle, but it’s just fine for sipping on its own. Other rum friends include Appleton, Cruzan, and some Cuban stuff I tried in Aruba. I wish I could recall the name because it was delicious, but it would never make it past customs.


Hendrick's Gin - photo directly from their Facebook page at so it will be easy for you to find it!

Hendrick’s Gin – photo directly from their Facebook page at

Gin has proven to be a strong favorite in recent years, with Hendrick’s topping the list. It’s good in a tonic, but I prefer it in a dry martini with olives instead of cucumbers. But if you give me both, hey, I’m not going to complain.


St. Germain Cocktail

St. Germain Cocktail

There are quite a few that I enjoy but none compare to my beloved St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers. It pairs very well with the aforementioned Hendrick’s gin and my favorite white wine, mentioned below.


Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. This one is tricky because I’m an equal opportunity wino and like quite a few. To sum it up as concisely as possible by grape, Sauvignon Blanc is my white of choice (anything from New Zealand to Sancerre) and Pinot Noir is my red of choice (Washington/Oregon and those from the Burgundy region). Honorable mentions should include Riesling (hey, I live near the Finger Lakes, but it absolutely must be dry). And I will drink most any dry red, including dry rosé, but I do not like Merlot or Beaujolais. Also, I’m not a fan of Pinot Grigio and unfortunately, Chardonnay gives me a headache. And we all know friends don’t let friends drink white Zinfandel.

I purposely left craft beer off of this list because I’ve only recently become enamored with it and don’t drink it that often. Like wine, it would be challenging to keep it concise.

So in eighty years, when someone tries to tell you I loved Sex on the Beach, you’ll know they aren’t talking about the drink.  By the way, I also like coffee and drink more of that than anything else. It’s not always about the booze, you know!

You Say, “Expresso” and I Say, “Shut Up.”


PrepOkay, I could have chosen a much more inappropriate version for this post title but can we talk about the mispronunciation/misspelling of the word, espresso, for a hot minute? This is not the expressway. This is not the express lane at Walmart. This is not Madonna’s, “Express Yourself.” This is coffee. This is espresso, not expresso. I have a friend who cringes every time she hears this, among other grammatical sins. Typically sipped and enjoyed at Starbucks and preferably other local cafes, those who need it for culinary purposes often use this:


This is the only time I use instant coffee. It’s perfectly acceptable for baking and will last you for years. So now that I’ve gone off about the proper spelling and pronunciation of espresso, let’s get back to baking, shall we?

A couple of weeks ago I got blinded by some chocolate packaging in the baking aisle at Wegmans. I had heard of Guittard but could not find any locally (I generally play with Scharffen Berger bittersweet). So this made its way into my cart:

Guittard bittersweet

I was attending a Super Bowl party last night (much like the rest of the nation) and decided brownies would be a fun addition. I generally like my chocolate snacks dark, rich, and slightly bitter. Yeah, you can interpret that sentence any way you like. However, since my friend has three children I figured I should lighten up a bit and make my dessert a little more family friendly. Inspired by memories of eating coffee ice cream with crunchy Heath bar topping as a kid (I swear that’s how I learned to like coffee), I came up with this idea. I even made them easier to say.  No “espresso” in the recipe title below, especially (yes, it’s ‘especially’ and not ‘expecially’) since it only accounts for a small portion of the recipe.

Lady Sensory’s Coffee Toffee Brownies

Adapted from this recipe on CHOW for the chocolate purists (weirdos like me). I beefed up the espresso a bit and added a few extras.

6 oz package of Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or any brand bittersweet – 60-70% cacao preferred)

1 cup of Heath (or any milk chocolate covered toffee) bars, coarsely chopped

1 stick of unsalted butter, plus an extra tbsp for greasing the pan

2 eggs, beaten, and at room temperature

1 cup vanilla sugar (see how to make this and your own extract here)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp brewed espresso (I used instant but if you have an espresso maker, go ahead and use it!)

1 cup flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt

1/4 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon

Brownies 2Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 ” square pan with butter and line bottom with a greased square of parchment paper (trust me – these get sticky and this will make your life so much easier). In a large saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat and combine the dark chocolate chunks until completely melted and smooth. Handy tip: I used my 4.5 qt Le Creuset which doubled as the mixing bowl. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.  Once the chocolate/butter mixture is at room temperature whisk in the vanilla sugar, extract and coffee, followed by the beaten eggs. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until combined. Add half of the chopped Heath bar chunks and spread into the pan in an even layer. Top with remaining Heath bar chunks. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once. Start checking at 25 minutes. My brownies were done right around the 30 minute mark (an inserted toothpick came out clean). Insert a spatula around the edge of the pan to release some of the toffee sticking to the edges while still warm. Allow to cool for at least an hour, if not more. When cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. They look a little strange at first because the toffee melts in the oven. When cooled, the topping becomes a delicious, slightly crunchy texture that will please even the most discerning palates. Dare I say they’re almost as good as that random Prince appearance on New Girl?

Stop and Eat the Flowers

Gourmet goodies!

Gourmet goodies!

I know what you’re thinking. That title should say “smell the roses.”  But we’re not talking about perfume or roses today. We’re going to talk about my herby/floral friend, lavender. I’ve previously covered lavender as a dessert ingredient here. This topic came up the other night and the highly intelligent convo went something like this:

Me: “I like lavender in food. You know, because I like French stuff.”

Other person: “I don’t like lavender. I don’t want my food to taste like perfume. Or soap. It can’t be the star player in the dish.”

I could probably recollect more of the conversation had we not indulged in so many cocktails, but I appreciate the perspective. Floral extracts (rosewater, orange blossom water, violet, jasmine and even my favorite St. Germain ingredient, elderflower) have the ability to become overwhelming if not balanced properly. And interestingly, the lavender-tinged herbes de Provence that I enjoy so much really didn’t become popular until the mid 1970s. In fact, I didn’t eat anything featuring lavender while visiting the south of France. I only found it in bunches or in soaps and other toiletries at the market.

So, while on holiday in Florida visiting Crazy Bob, his lady friend and I took a shopping jaunt over to Sanibel Island where we discovered the Sanibel Olive Oil Company in Periwinkle Place (online as Florida Olive Oil here). They had such a variety of unique oil and vinegar flavors that we thought our taste buds were going to explode. After several tastings, I purchased Lavender Balsamic and Key West Citrus Balsamic (I’ll be experimenting with the latter in the near future). She picked up the Habanero-Lime and Walberry (a combination of strawberry and walnut). Sadly, I’m not finding the lavender in their online store so I may call when I run out or try a different vendor. However, if you are in the Fort Myers/ Naples area, you could easily head over to Sanibel and visit the shop to sample yourself. The owner is quite the conversationalist and in addition to oil and vinegar, he also carries flavored salts, spices, sauces, and other “foodie” delights.

Among many other adventures, Crazy Bob and I managed to visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I picked up some local saw palmetto honey in the gift shop. Both are used in the recipe below, but you could substitute with your own local honey and the balsamic vinegar of your choice if you aren’t partial to lavender.

Lady Sensory’s No Soap For You Lavender-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

1 – 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (I picked up an organic pack of three medium-sized breasts)

2 tsp Herbes de Provence

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressedChicken

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup lavender balsamic vinegar

2 tsp honey (I used saw palmetto, but use what you have)

With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine and grind the mustard seeds, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. Apply to the chicken breasts as a dry rub and pop them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm oil a large pan (that can transfer from stove to oven) on medium heat. Place garlic in and cook until slightly golden. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and brown on each side until you see the breasts just turning from pink to white (about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate temporarily. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and vinegar and raise the heat to medium high. You are making a reduction so when the mixture comes to a slight boil,  stir in the honey, and turn off the stove top. Return the chicken to the pan and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once and keeping an eye the glaze to ensure it doesn’t burn. I served these with a side of roasted asparagus, but they would be equally tasty with Brussels sprouts, potatoes, or any side dish of your choice. You’ll find the lavender gives the chicken more of a lemon/herb flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Top the chicken and side dish with any remaining glaze and enjoy!

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

I Am What I Ham

Meet "Spootch."

Meet “Spootch.”

Holiday Greetings from Florida. Over here to the left is my new friend, “Spootch,” that I found at the Coconut Point Art Festival (along with those nifty chopsticks made by the same artist). This was my favorite booth and purchase from the show and I’m super excited to put my Spootch to use in the home kitchen upon my return.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to head down to the beach so this will be a quick post.  I am not a big ham person but we had it for Christmas dinner. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought ham from the deli since it gets so slimy. However, I do enjoy a nice cooked ham, and particularly because I know what to do with the leftovers. In addition to making lovely breakfast sammies, you can totally make the best split pea soup ever. So I took over the kitchen to make this:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Pea on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining Soup

See what I did there? I love me some quality Judge Judy quotes. You will need:

1 16 oz bag of dried split peas

7 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (This is a lot of garlic, but it tastes delicious. So if you aren’t cool with that, reduce to your desired level.)

1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped

About 6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

3/4 bag of baby carrots, chopped

1 ham bone (used the leftover Christmas ham, but you can get one from a butcher)

1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cut into bite size chunks (again, Christmas leftovers)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper, to taste*

6-8 cups of water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

*You can add salt if you like but there was more than enough in the ham and the bone so I did not add any.

Split Pea Soup

As I mentioned, this was a kitchen takeover. I think the pot I used was roughly 4-5 quarts (it’s similar in size to my 4.5 pot). So, warm the olive oil in a heavy stock pot or fancy pot over low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and continue to cook until slightly golden (another 5 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and com for about 5 more minutes and then add all of your dried herbs: the bay leaves, crushed red pepper, black pepper and Herbes de Provence and cook for about a minute or two. Now add the ham bone and dried split peas (you don’t have to soak them) and cook for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and begin to add the water, 1 cup at a time, until bone is submerged and water is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot (so it doesn’t overflow). Add the chopped ham and cook until boiling. Skim foam and fat off the top (this is a personal preference and it won’t compromise the flavor). Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hr – 1.5 hrs (until peas have softened and soup has thickened). Serve and enjoy with a nice crusty baguette or roll and some dry white wine. We enjoyed trying three different kinds while waiting for the soup to cook – an Italian dry white blend, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. Oops!

May your New Year’s Eve be fun, safe, and filled with similar wine indiscretions!