Wild Thistle Kitchen: Plum and Nectarine Puff Pastry Tarts

These tarts are no fuss and really let the fruit flavor shine. Feel free to switch up the fruits: peaches, apples, pears or fresh figs would all work well here.

An Inviting Streatery Offers an Italian Interlude

Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian artistry pops up in Georgetown at Officina in Via Umbria’s Wisconsin Avenue location, where chef de cuisine Niko Cezar offers a compact dinner menu.

Cook on a Whim: Triple Berry Crème Fraîche Scones

These scones are the perfect weekend treat (or any day, really). These would also make great shortcakes with some freshly whipped cream and berries sandwiched between. 

Wild Thistle Kitchen: Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Make this on a lazy weekend day and enjoy the slow process and the wonderful aroma that will fill your house as it cooks.

Capital One Café Opens in Georgetown

Besides the brews and sweets provided by its partner, Peet’s Coffee, the corner spot has desks, couches, private nooks, meeting rooms and a conference table with a television and screen projector.

COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Dirty Bananas From Saint Lucia

The first thing I notice when I meet Big Ted is not his size. It’s his smile. It’s a friendly, welcoming type of grin; similar to the ones proudly displayed by most of the locals I meet in Saint Lucia. Ted Barnard, or “Big Ted” as he is called, is the bar manager at the Coconut Bay beach resort, which is tucked away on the southern tip of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. The vacation spot, which boasts multiple bars spread out over its mile-long stretch of beachfront property, is known for its lengthy drink choices. Between the swim-up bar, the lobby bar, the nightclub, sports bar, restaurants and the tiki bar beside the well-shaded adult pool, I lose count of the different cocktails by my first evening. Each bartender seems to have his or her favorite potions. Everything from the self-named “Terry in a Cup” to Kay’s “I Like” and Hami’s killer “Negroni,” I ask Ted to mix me the most popular tipple at the resort. He whips up a “Dirty Banana,” a delicious smoothie-like concoction forged from fresh bananas, coconut cream, rum, coffee liqueur with an optional squirt of chocolate syrup. Because it is forged from fresh bananas, this cocktail sips more like a milkshake. Its thick texture gives it a dessert-like quality. But don’t be fooled, the dirty banana packs quite a punch thanks to three ounces of liquor. Later, I am informed that Ted has an extra-special version of the drink known as a “Filthy Banana.” When I ask him to elaborate on its contents, he slyly tells me it’s made with even more rum. Ted likes the dirty banana because it showcases the island’s local ingredients, St. Lucian rum, bananas, coconut and Ti Tasse, a rum- based coffee liqueur that is also produced in St. Lucia. Like most Caribbean nations, Saint Lucia takes great pride in its native rums. The flagship spirit, Chairmen’s Reserve, is blended rum concocted from a combination of continuous distilled and double-distilled rums. The result is a full-bodied spirit with just enough sweetness and a little bit of bite. The spiced version of Chairmen’s Reserve contains local spices and fruits including cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, all spice, lemon and orange. It is also rumored to include Richeria Grandis – known locally as “Bois Bande” – a bark renowned in the Caribbean as a potent aphrodisiac. While I specifically requested Chairmen’s rum in my drinks, Ted usually blends his dirty bananas with a light locally-produced overproof rum. Hence the potency of this drink. A few too many, will have you floating off your barstool. Unfortunately, many of Saint Lucia’s spirits can be difficult to find in the states. If you’d like to replicate the dirty banana at home, I would recommend using either Wray and Nephew overproof rum -- or if you like a fuller flavored spirit, Flor De Cana seven-year-old rum. For the coffee liqueur, you may substitute Kamora. The smooth frozen tropical coconut-banana flavor is a fine anecdote for Washington’s recent scorching Caribbean-like weather. ? THE DIRTY BANANA 1 banana, sliced 1-ounce milk 1-ounce coconut cream 1.5-ounce coffee liqueur 1.5-ounce overproof light rum Squirt of chocolate syrup Add ingredients to blender with ice. Blend until well mixed. Garnish with a pineapple wedge. [gallery ids="100878,127477" nav="thumbs"]

Cocktail of the Month: Mezcal Margarita

Anyone who has ever been to Mexico has probably been exposed to tequila. Whether it was a watered-down margarita made with low-grade liquor and sour mix at an all-inclusive resort or a glass of quality handcrafted anejo at a high-end lounge, tequila and Mexico seem to go hand–in-hand. What many outsiders don’t know is that in addition to tequila, Mexico has another similar spirit, and that depending on what state you’re in, is often the more popular option. This sister spirit is mezcal, which is often confused with tequila. Most people’s exposure to mezcal in the States is limited. If you’ve ever drunk a bottle of “tequila” with a worm in the bottom, you’ve tasted mezcal. The worm is a marketing gimmick which is added to exported bottles. It is rarely sold that way in Mexico. While I was traveling through the Mexican state of Oaxaca earlier this year, I had a chance to sample many varieties of mezcal. Both mezcal and tequila are both distilled from fermented agave juice, but the preparation of these spirits is quite different. They are dis- tilled in different regions – tequila in the state of Jalisco, while mezcal is made further south with the majority of it hailing from Oaxaca. Tequila is made from only one kind of agave –blue agave. Mezcal is made from various types. Mezcal is produced from the heart, or the pina of the agave plant. The pinas are cooked an earthen oven for about three days. This underground baking imparts a smoky flavor. The pinas are later mashed and left to ferment. The distilled liquid is later collected and aged in barrels. Small producers, using recipes passed down from one generation to the next, make most mezcals. Because of it hand-crafted nature, one can find a variety of flavor and complexity. In Oaxaca, many brands are never sold outside the area where they were produced. In small villages it is not uncommon to find people distilling and selling mezcal from their homes. These are often sold in recycled tequila bottles with hand-painted labels. While staying at the laid-back beach haven of Zipolite, I watched one day when as the “mezcal” truck made a stop on the town’s only paved street. Locals formed a queue at back of the truck with empty containers waiting and have them filled. Now, that’s the type of food truck I’d like to see in D.C.! The taste of mezcal can differ widely as many producers add flavoring agents such as cinnamon, or slices of apple, pineapple or other tropical fruits to the mash, which impart a slight, subtle flavor. (Nowhere near the powerful taste of the mostly artificially flavored spirits popular in the U.S.) Often, at the end of the distillation, a piece of the flavoring agent is added to the bottle. For example, when I bought mezcal distilled with chobocano, the bottle contained seeds from the fruit. Another common practice is adding a piece of the agave leaf to the bottle. The quality of mezcal also widely varies. The age of both is measured the same way. Either can be made from 100-percent agave or a majority agave mixed with other ingredients. A white or clear liquid indicates a spirit with little aging, while dark un-aged liquor with added coloring is called dorado. Mezcal or tequila that has been aged between at least two months to a year in a barrel is called reposado while anything aged over a year is anejo. Some of the best are aged from 2-4 years. The biggest difference between mezcal and tequila is its distinctive smoky favor, almost akin to smoky single malt scotch. Mezcal’s alcoholic proof is generally stronger than tequila, which is usually watered down to conform to the 80-proof standard in the States. While most Mexicans prefer to drink mezcal straight, I found it to be a stimulating alterna- tive to a tequila-based margarita. The strong smokiness works as an excellent complement to the tart lime. In the U.S., the most popular brand of mezcal is Monte Alban, but if you have access to a quality liquor store there are much better alternatives. I recommend either Sacacuento or Mezcal Del Maguey.? MEZCAL MARGARITA •1 1/2 oz mezcal? •1/2 agave nectar? •1 oz fresh lime juice ?Mix ingredients well in a cocktail shaker with ice. If desired, salt the rim of your glass. Pour contents, with ice, into glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

Wild Thistle Kitchen: Ode to Summertime Tomatoes

Cook on a Whim is now Wild Thistle Kitchen! Here are three ways to take advantage of summer’s tomato bounty.

Cook on a Whim: Vanilla Bean Scones

Of all the sweets on my blog, this is probably the recipe I’ve referenced and made the most. My kids adore them and I love making them, so it’s a win-win.

Cook on a Whim: Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Prepare yourself for the easiest and most delicious butter pecan experience of your life. Browning the butter amplifies the buttery taste and adds a toasty, caramel flavor and aroma.