It’s Terrace Season!

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I’ve been ready for spring since January 2nd. That’s quite a long wait, but now that it’s here, it was all worth it. Not just because of the flowers, the warm breezes, the new growth or the little animal babies. I love spring because it’s the best time of year for outdoor dining!

Blue Duck Tavern has one of the best outdoor dining spots in DC, and it’s officially open for the season! I had the pleasure of enjoying a perfect spring evening at the Terrace Opening Party last week to sample some of the fresh dishes that will be on the menu this spring. The weather was so gorgeous that the local duck couple even decided to drop in!

Everything from the blue-crab hushpuppies to the white asparagus soup was incredible. Executive Chef Ryan LaRoche and Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy did a fantastic job featuring seasonal ingredients like snap peas, mint and white asparagus in their dishes. They also take extra care to find high quality, environmentally responsible purveyors for their ingredients.

The spring pea salad was probably one of the best salads I’ve tasted in a long time – it is now on the spring menu, and features snap peas, farm cheese, lavender honey, preserved lemon and spiced peanuts. The light flavors from the cheese and peas are a perfect canvas for the vivid lavender honey and preserved lemon. The spiced peanuts add a little kick to bring it all together.

The dish that stole the show was the slow-roasted porchetta. Now on the spring menu, this masterpiece is the pig, the whole pig and nothing but the pig. It’s center is andouille, and it’s wrapped in pork belly. It’s then roasted in house, low and slow, until the skin is crisp and the inside is succulent and flavorful. Feast. Your. Eyes.

IMG_9665BDT’s new cheesemonger, Sophie Slesinger, had an impressive showing with four incredible cheeses. My favorite was the Green Hill soft-ripened cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia. Not only was this brie-like cheese delightful, but the farm also has a really neat history. It started out as a conventional dairy, but when the founders were introduced to a New Zealand style rotational grazing system, their farm changed forever. They now move their cows to new pasture every 12 hours, and they are kept cool under a pivot system so that they never have to be in a barn. The founders, Al and Desiree Wehner, decided that they had to showcase this high quality grassfed milk, and artisan cheeses were the perfect solution. The business is now run by Al and Desiree’s daughter and son-in-law, Jessica and Jeremy. I haven’t had the chance to visit this farm myself, but the next time I’m in Georgia, Sweet Grass is definitely on my must-see list!

IMG_9662But enough about cheese. (Who am I kidding, you can never say enough about cheese.) It’s time for dessert! (Ok, when dessert is involved, I’ll agree to stop eating cheese for a little while. Unless it’s cheesecake – the best of both worlds.)

Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego outdid herself with the dessert table – everyone was subtly eyeing the treats all evening, just waiting for the socially acceptable moment to start indulging. And indulge we did.

I loved the fluffy pastry and the light fruit zing in the lemon blueberry cornmeal shortcakes. And I’m a sucker for anything in a cute little jar.

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Zach loves peanut butter and jelly more than anyone I know, so he was over-the-moon about these hearty peanut butter and jelly bars.

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I couldn’t get enough of the creamy center and crunchy shell on these chocolate hazelnut crunch pops.

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My absolute favorite was the decadent chocolate cheesecake bar – two of my favorite desserts rolled into one. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

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As the evening came to a close, each guest was given a little bit of spring to take home. We received a parcel of peas, a potted peppermint plant and a recipe to replicate some of Chef Ryan LaRoche’s culinary creations at home.

IMG_9670IMG_9668A few days after the party, I decided to try the recipe. It was as simple as it gets, but it brought out the delicate spring flavors of the ingredients. As Chef said in his note, spring’s bounty barely requires any preparation to shine.

You simply toss the peas in a pan with some butter, sauté until tender, add lemon, mint and serve!

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I enjoyed the peas with a grilled grassfed beef burger with homemade Gouda cheese (that’s right, I made Gouda! More on that in a future post…).

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Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. unsalted butter
  • 4 oz. picked fresh peas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pinch of chopped mint
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. In a sauté pan, melt the butter until it starts to bubble.
  2. Add in the peas and sauté until they become soft (one minute).
  3. Drizzle lemon juice and add the mint to the pan.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Enjoy!

Happy spring!

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