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Learn to cook with lavender

The Sequim community lives and breathes lavender each year in mid-July.

Hotels are booked, restaurants and downtown merchants are busy and the streets are filled with residents and tourists. The aroma of lavender fills the town.

This year, during the 12th annual Sequim Lavender Festival July 18-20, people will eat lavender. Farms on tour will present cooking demonstrations throughout the day on Sunday and later, from 7-9:30 p.m., Oven Spoonful chefs Dave Long and Julie Gratton will serve a six-course dinner featuring lavender and foods of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley at Cedarbrook Garden Café.

“Dave and I are passionate about putting our dollar toward the local community,” Gratton said. “The closer to the table the source is, the better.”

Cooking with lavender, however, isn’t easy, she said. “It’s touchy. It takes a light touch because if you use too much lavender, it becomes medicinal tasting.”

Long encourages Sequim residents to attend the dinner. “Lavender dinner is a good opportunity for people who haven’t had a chance to participate in Lavender Festival to get involved in a more laid-back atmosphere than the festival,” he said.

“Let us take care of you,” Gratton added. “We think it’s so important to spend our dollars locally but even more important than money is spiritually, physically and mentally supporting local tourism.”

Tickets still are available, said Scott Nagel, festival executive director. About half of the 100 tickets have been sold to out-of-town guests and now Nagel is trying to gather community interest.

Advance payment is required. Tickets cost $60 per person and must be purchased by July 14. To buy tickets, go online to www.lavenderfestival.com or call 1-877-681-3035.

“This is a chance to get the best local, organic food fresh and learn about where it came from,” Nagel said. “It’s going to be a great dinner and would be a special treat for loved ones and out-of-town guests.”

Items on the menu include smoked salmon bruschetta, prawn gazpacho, wilted spinach salad with smoked bacon and lavender vinaigrette, grilled organic chicken breasts marinated in herbs-de-Provence and glazed with lavender honey, cheese with roasted hazelnuts, dried fruit and lavender rhubarb chutney, and lavender meringue with summer berries. Wine is available with each course.

The Sequim Gazette is co-sponsoring the dinner. Nagel and Sue Ellen Riesau, Gazette publisher, will host the event.

Preceding the dinner, free cooking demonstrations start at each farm on tour beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday. Volunteers will hand out recipe cards and samples at some of the venues.

The culinary demonstration schedule runs as follows:

• 11 a.m., Chef Michael Despars of the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant will prepare peach lavender barbecue chicken at Jardin du Soleil Lavender.

• 11:30 a.m., Oven Spoonful chefs Dave Long and Julie Gratton will prepare fresh, local king salmon flambé at Purple Haze Lavender Farm.

• Noon, Pamela Thomas will prepare braised lavender vegetables at Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm.

• 12:30 p.m., Bella Italia chef Neil Conklin will prepare lavender grilled prawns, as featured on Taste of America, while Kathy Charlton of Olympic Cellars Winery talks about Le Melange Nouveau at Angel Farm.

• 12:30 p.m., Mary Ann Clayton of Sugarplum Designs will discuss how to turn fresh lavender into syrup, jelly and other treats at Olympic Lavender Farm.

• 1 p.m., Carmen Ragsdale, farm owner, will discuss cooking with lavender and herbs while demonstrating selected recipes from her three-volume series, “Cooking with Sunshine Herbs and Lavender,” at Sunshine Lavender & Herb Farm.

• 2 p.m., Cedar Creek Restaurant chef Doug Seaver will demonstrate how to make lavender cupcakes at Lost Mountain Lavender.

• 3 p.m., Chef Ricki Porter of Michael’s Divine Dining will prepare his “famous” lavender barbecue chicken at Port Williams Lavender.

“Celebrate Lavender Festival Cookbook” — a collection of culinary lavender recipes including appetizers, breads, beverages, main dishes and more produced by the Sequim Lavender Growers Association — is available on the Sequim Lavender Festival official Web site for those who want to try their hand at cooking with lavender.

Carmen Ragsdale, owner of Sunshine Lavender & Herb Farm, also has a cookbook published. “Cooking With Sunshine Herbs and Lavender” is a three-volume book featuring how to make sweets, meat dishes, salads, dressing, soups, pasta, breads and even dog treats using lavender and other herbs. A fourth volume is in the works.

“I do a lot of blending of my own herbs; I have for years,” Ragsdale said. “In the store, I talk to people nonstop, coaching them on how to use herbs. Because I had so many people asking, I decided to accumulate my recipes.”

Lavender, Ragsdale said, enhances the flavor of a dish and gives it a very distinct taste.



A festival to remember

The 12th annual Sequim Lavender Festival is July 18, 19 and 20, presented by the Sequim Lavender Growers Association. Eight farms are on tour from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and a free street fair is open to the public 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Farm tour tickets cost $15 per person and provide unlimited admission to all the farms and shuttle buses. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Five-dollar-off coupons are available weekly in the Sequim Gazette. New this year is a military family discount of $5 off the ticket price with active military or active military dependent ID. Volunteers are always needed. For more information or a complete schedule of events, go online to www.lavenderfestival.com.

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