Is it strange that I remember the first time I ever heard of Rhubarb?
It was one of the first times I was up in Watkins Glen, NY, visiting Brad’s family. We were driving back from hanging out in Ithaca and passed a sign that directed us up a side road for fresh produce.
I was expecting a tent, a van, or maybe a little shack filled with all kinds of produce. Oranges, Apples, Citrus, Veggies… You know, a normal side-of-the-road produce stand.
But we pulled up to a wooden structure with faded and peeling red paint. It was about the size of an outhouse. There was Rhubard laid out on a shelf next to a box with a slit in it for money. A sign hung from the side that said “Rubarb $2”.
Where was I??
I mean, farmers just leave their produce out on a road and ask for people’s honestly when taking some and leaving their money?? Let me just say, that is NOT the way things work where I grew up. Or most anywhere I’ve ever lived.
Kind of sad that I was so blown away by this show of faith in human kind, right?
Now it’s about five years later and I still have a very vivid memory of that Rhubarb stand. We didn’t end up buying any, we weren’t really in the market for Rhubarb that day, but since then I have seen the mystery fruit (yep, its actually a fruit) pop up on dessert menus all over.
Which leads me to our holiday cocktail – because you didn’t think I’d let a holiday slip by without pairing it with a little booze, did you?
I will admit, I can’t take all the credit for this one. I mentioned before that I walked around the Farmer’s Market last week with Liz, our kitchen manager at R+D, and we brainstormed all kinds of cocktails to feature in the upcoming months (stay tuned – all sound delicious). At one point we walked by a big pile of beautiful, bright red rhubarb and Liz said that she wanted to do something with Rhubarb and Strawberries.
Ok, now if you don’t know, Strawberries and Rhubarb are a pretty classic combination. You’ll often see it in desserts, where the tartness of the Rhubarb perfectly balances the sweetness of the Strawberries. Trust me. If you ever see a Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble on a menu, try it. Especially if it involves a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. And especially if you are at Gjelina or Just a Taste. And please share with me.
So running with Liz’s idea, I thought we should feature a Valentine’s Day cocktail on our special menu at the restaurant this evening. A twist on Strawberries and Champagne maybe? And why not make it Farmer’s Market fresh?
I present to you the R+D Valentine’s Day cocktail….
If you don’t feel like mashing up a bunch of strawberries and cooking it down, head over to R+D tonight. But if you’re feeling like getting down and dirty in the kitchen this Valentine’s Day, here’s how it goes.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Sparkler
1 oz Vodka
1.5 oz Strawberry Rhubarb Conserve
2 oz. Champagne (or Prosecco or Cava…)
Fill a Champagne flute halfway with Champagne
Shake Vodka and Conserve together over ice
Strain Vodka mixture into Champagne
Note, this can be served in whatever glassware you choose. I just really love my vintage-looking coupe glasses. I feel very chic when I use them.
Another note- this cocktail is super easy and since all the flavors pair together perfectly, it can be made with whatever portions you decide taste best. I liked a lot of bubbles in mine and not so much vodka, but this can also be served as a martini with just a floater of the bubbly stuff. Mix it up and find your favorite!
Now for the Strawberry Rhubard Conserve – also super easy to make. The pictures show the giant batch I made for the restaurant, so this recipe is cut waaaay down. Just make a little bit and then keep whatever you don’t drink as a topper for your ice cream or yogurt. Brad and I might have tried that just to make sure it tasted alright. It’s all research, you know…
Strawberry Rhubarb Conserve
4 pints Strawberries
4 Rhubarb Stalks
1/3 cup Sugar
First, chop your Rhubarb into small pieces.
Boil the Rhubarb with half a vanilla bean, split, in about 4 cups of water
After about 30 minutes, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I then stirred the mashed Rhubarb bits back into my mixture because I liked the extra flavor and texture it provided.
Return the mixture back to a pot and bring back to a slow boil.
Cut the stems off of your Strawberries and blend in a food processor until smooth.
(Look! Even my knife is Valentine’s Day Pink!)
Mix the strawberry puree into the rhubarb reduction and add sugar to taste.
Allow to gently boil for about 2 hours or until the flavors have intensified to your liking.
(I tried to make a heart in the bubbles… can you see it??)
Store in the refrigerator for mixing into cocktails, yogurts, or desserts!
I hope you all have a Valentine’s Day filled with love and bubbly!