Jolene Eats at the Lavender Festival
Every year in Cherry Valley, CA, there is a glorious Lavender Festival held at Highland Springs Ranch & Inn + 123 Farm. This year, I finally got to go! Head over to my Lavender Festival Travel Blog for my full experience, but stay right where you are if you're ready to read about some delicious lavender-infused food and drink.
We arrived close to lunch time, or what I like to call brunch time. It was the perfect time to starting eating and perhaps indulge in some lavender champagne, or a lavender-infused cocktail. I opted for the champagne while my friend grabbed a lavender hard lemonade. Both were classy, pretty, and refreshing! Even though we hadn't hit peak heat of the day, these drinks were perfect to cool us down. We were by no means interested in going overboard with the alcohol, so having pretty, classy drinks seemed like a good idea.
After wandering around a bit and working up an appetite, we were ready to eat! There were a number of tents offering different fare, ranging from sausages to sandwiches, to fresh grilled corn and dessert. I had reviewed the menu ahead of time (because I'm mildly ridiculous like that), and I was very much taken by the idea of a savory lavender sandwich. I chose to try the brisket with lavender onion jam, and it did not disappoint.
When attending festivals, there is always the issue with crowds, and waiting in lines is inevitable. Even though we faced this when approaching the food tents, we didn't have to wait that long. Service was more than satisfactory; the volunteers were polite, knew what they were doing, and had a clear system that was efficient. I got my brisket within minutes, and we found some empty spots at a log table, overlooking the lavender fields.
My biggest complaint with the sandwich was the sogginess of the hoagie roll. I'm always a big fan of soft bread, but it didn't quite work that well with the wetness of the brisket. That being said, there was no lack of flavor. The brisket was tender, well seasoned, and very well complemented by the floral undertones of the lavender onion jam. There was also a wonderful kick from the horseradish aioli. I don't eat spicy food, but even I thought the horseradish was perfect. It added an essential tanginess and freshness to balance the sandwich.
After shopping and exploring, we needed to cool off. We stumbled upon some cute little shops (which I mention in my other blog). Most of the shops were housing wonderful edible items, including European style butter, artisan olive oil, sourdough bread, tea, and ice cream.
We sampled the European style butter, which was all organic and handmade. It tasted more like cheese than the butter are used to, and the volunteer was telling us about how it also lacks the bad cholesterol we associate with supermarket butter. We also sampled their handmade sourdough, which we found out was considered gluten-free! Because of the fermentation process, the gluten is broken down, so the bread is safe for gluten-free bread lovers to enjoy. Next was the olive oil - I tried the citrus olive oil and it was phenomenal. I'm not a huge olive oil fan, but I would probably drizzle this particular oil on everything.
We skipped out on the tea (I wasn't keen on entering such a small space with so many people already inside) and headed for the ice cream. Let me tell you, I am very serious about my ice cream. I. love. ice cream. SO I'd also like to tell you, this ice cream was wonderful! I tried the elderflower flavor but found it too sweet, so I ended up with a scoop of honey lavender ice cream. Not only was it perfectly cool since the day was heating up, but it was completely creamy, and both flavors were present. It was one of the best honey lavender ice creams I have ever had!
After finding a shaded bench and having some girl talk while enjoying our ice cream, we wanted to move onto another beverage. There was an adorable cafe serving lavender lattes, tea and botanical sodas. I absolutely adore cute cafes that offer locally roasted drip coffee and unique drinks, so you can imagine my excitement. I steered away from my typical lavender latte order and went with a strawberry lavender soda.
Often times, I am skeptical about anything strawberry-flavored, since it usually ends up tasting artificial. However, I was instructed to stir my drink, and I saw why when I gave it a good look. Instead of using an artificial strawberry syrup, they used fresh strawberry puree! The soda was subtle in the lavender department, but I still loved it with the sweetness of the strawberry.
Unfortunately we did not make reservations for the lavender tea, but we did end our day with one final lavender treat. I got the mini lavender cheesecake with berry compote, accompanied by a lavender iced tea. It was the perfect, sweet end to a magical day in the California desert. The cheesecake was light and extremely delicate. I wish there had been more lavender flavor, but I got more than enough in my lavender iced tea. Because of its strong flavor, I think the tea was one of my favorite lavender items of the day.
I would definitely recommend this festival if you like the flavor of lavender. There were other items available to try that I didn't get a chance to - lavender beer, lavender tea, lavender lemonade, and so many other wonderfully handcrafted items. If you are looking for an authentic experience without having to travel that far, head over to the Lavender Festival next year to try some of these delicious floral delicacies!
Until next time,