DRINK } Bittermilk's Oaxacan Old Fashioned

After stocking their excellent cocktail mixers at Salt & Sundry for some time, I finally had the chance to meet the delightful creators of Bittermilk when they made the trip from SC to DC for Emporiyum.

They're one of those impressive pairs who make you wonder if they have more than 24 hours in the day. Between running a popular Charleston bar, raising kids and selling their growing Bittermilk line, husband-and-wife team Joe and MariElena Raya are still cooking up new flavors.

The latest is the Bittermilk No. 6 Oaxacan Old Fashioned. In the dead of winter, it delivers a welcome dose of spicy warmth.

Inspired by the flavors of Mexico and mezcal, this craft mixer blends dried Mexican chilies, cocoa nibs and spices. It's sweetened with raisins and — you know I love an NC connection — aged with cocoa husks from French Broad Chocolates in Asheville.

Mixing one up couldn't be easier, as Joe demonstrates below: Stir 1 part mixer with 4 parts mezcal and ice. Garnish with a lime twist. And warm up.


STYLE } Purple Haze

After the riotous bold colors of the holidays, I'm feeling drawn to a palette of pinks and purples — which sounds like a 6-year-old girl's favorite colors, but in dusty muted tones, the pair can be quite sophisticated. Here's a little winter eye candy to cut through the cold.

Silk tie dyed tablecloth from Shabd, available at Salt & Sundry.

Sibella Court's fabulous new book Gypsy, full of warm bohemian interiors.

A recent harvest from the gorgeous bed of greens Love & Carrots planted in my backyard this fall.


Happy New Year!

Not one for punitive New Year's resolutions, I finally got to snag one of Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.'s breakfast biscuits before opening Salt & Sundry this weekend at Union Market. The fluffy, crumbly biscuit topped with Benton's bacon, a runny egg and melted cheese is a breakfast I hope to repeat often in 2015.

I also hope to be writing a bit more here, as the dust settles from opening two shops in two years.

Wishing you a very happy new year!


SHOP } Small Business Saturday at Salt & Sundry

Back when I opened Salt & Sundry two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to find an incredible and talented team of women (and the occasional man!) to work with. One of those women is Mallory Shelter. While holding down a full-time job in PR, she works at the shop on weekends and last year, she launched her own jewelry company. She likes to stay busy.

On Nov. 29, we're throwing a trunk show and soirée featuring Mallory's gorgeous handmade pieces as part of American Express and Etsy's nationwide Small Business Saturday campaign. Working with local makers and designers is one of my favorite parts about owning a shop, and I'm excited to showcase Mallory's one-of-a-kind work.

The trunk show runs from 1-7 p.m. at Salt & Sundry Union Market, and from 4-7 p.m., we'll serve up snacks from Bayou Bakery, seasonal sips and tunes by DJ Shanti Shree.

Hope to see you there!

Photos by Jeff Martin


DRINK } Spiced Cocktail Infusion

Stop reading if you're a friend or family member because you'll ruin your holiday gift surprise. ... For the rest of you, this spiced vodka infusion is a perfect DIY gift.

I fell for this during Salt & Sundry's most recent Drink Lab class, hosted with our Union Market neighbors Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits. Barman Dan Searing, who's graciously hosting the series, provided the recipe. Make a few batches and divide into small bottles. Or create a spice kit for your friends and give it with instructions and a bottle of good vodka. The infusion is delicious in cocktails or to spike hot cider.  

Warm Spiced Cocktail Infusion
makes 1 750 ml bottle
adapted from Boyd & Blair Vodka

375 ml high-proof vodka, such as Boyd & Blair 151 from PA
1 whole nutmeg, crushed into several pieces
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom pods
4 black peppercorns
1 star anise
3 allspice berries
peel of 1 orange

Place the spices in a heavy sauce pan and toast over medium heat for several minutes. Put the orange peel and toasted spices into a mason jar, add the vodka, and seal tightly.

Store the jar in a cool, dark location, and shake daily for 7-10 days.

Once the spices have infused the vodka, strain contents with a mesh strainer and coffee filter into a clean bottle or jar. Mix with equal parts simple syrup in a bottle that will hold about 30 ounces or more.


STYLE } October Love

October has to be my favorite month, and this year, it's shaping up to be an exciting one. I'm looking forward to ...

• Opening the second Salt & Sundry (fingers crossed)!

Making pumpkin pancakes 

• Finding time for apple picking

• Warming up with hot buttered apple cider spiked with rum


COOK } Rancho Gordo Beans Now at Salt & Sundry

My favorite beans are now on the shelves at Salt & Sundry! What's the big deal about Rancho Gordo beans? Founder Steve Sando cultivates New World heirloom varieties that pack greater depth of flavor and much better texture than the aged dried beans you often find.

For Salt & Sundry's pantry, we opted for Vaquero, Red Nightfall, Yellow Eye and good ol' garbanzos to start. I'm dreaming up earthy fall dishes to put them to good use.

A little DC connection from a 2009 New York Times article on the Rancho Gordo craze:
At the Yountville market, shoppers were lured by Sando’s boldly patterned beans, only to recoil when they realized they weren’t candied nuts, noted Sando. The French Laundry chef de cuisine Eric Ziebold (now at CityZen in Washington) brought Thomas Keller, who flipped for the Vallarta, which Sando jokingly described as “a stupid little yellow bean on the verge of extinction.” Soon everyone wanted “the Keller Bean.”