Cool. Fresh. Mint
Cool and refreshing, bright and astringent, the flavor of mint adds contrast and delight to both savory and sweet dishes and drinks. Given that, it’s no surprise mint makes an appearance in a variety of cuisines around the world. From its pairing with lamb in Middle Eastern cuisine to the English favorite of minted peas, mint adds a dash of the unexpected.
Inexpensive and readily available, mint is also astonishingly easy to grow and relatively drought tolerant. Varietals from pineapple mint to orange mint create a wide variety of flavors to choose from and can be used fresh in salads, cocktails, and desserts or dried for later use.
Helpful tip: For those adventurous enough to grow your own, be warned mint has a tendency to take over a garden, so it’s best to plant it in pots or in spots with a stone border.
Where to try: With such a profusion of minty deliciousness around the world, it can be encountered nearly everywhere. However, to experience mint at its most delightful, here are a few particularly fabulous places to add to your list:
Proof on Main at the 21C
Say mint julep to many people and they immediately think of the Kentucky Derby. In the Derby’s hometown of Louisville, the art-filled 21c hotel serves the famous cocktail at their well-regarded Proof on Main bar. Founded by arts patrons Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c brings works of art to the public through innovative exhibitions and their art-filled bar. Their mint julep is made with Kentucky’s own Woodford Reserve Bourbon and fresh mint and is served is in a classic silver julep tumbler. The bar also offers a comprehensive bourbon library and a bourbon flight.
Recommendations: If you are staying for a meal, a perfect pairing with a mint julep is their famous bison burger served with their house-made Jezebel sauce, a tangy concoction of apricot preserves, apple jelly, horseradish, and spices.
The Slanted Door
San Francisco, CA
Mint is an essential grace note in Vietnamese cooking, adding delicate flavor to the rice vermicelli salads such as bun bo and bun cha. In 1995, Charles Phan and his family started their first restaurant, The Slanted Door, in the Mission district in San Francisco with an eye toward serving home-style Vietnamese food in a modern setting.
The Slanted Door has been at its current location, The Ferry Building, since 2004 and works with farmers at Ferry Building farmers’ market to source fresh ingredients. It received the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2014.
Recommendations: Noodles are a popular favorite. The classic Slanted Door spring rolls feature gulf shrimp, pork, shallot mayonnaise, peanut sauce and of course, mint.
Moroccan mint tea, served in a stunning Moorish-inspired setting awaits visitors to the Menzeh pavilion at the famed La Mamounia hotel and spa in Marrakesh. Opened in 1923, La Mamounia was a favorite of Sir Winston Churchill and one of the hotel’s bars even bears his name. Surrounded by a lush garden, the tearoom offers a tea service with delicate traditional and contemporary sweets made by the hotel’s pastry chef. The tearoom is opened to guests at the hotel as well as other visitors and day passes to the hotel spa are available.
Recommendations: After your mint tea, indulge in a stroll through the gardens of La Mamounia with ancient olive trees, lemon trees, prickly pear trees and more.
Mint and chocolate have always been a natural match with cooling mint deliciously offsetting rich, dark chocolate. Chocolatier Jacques Genin is a Paris legend and said to be one of the best chocolate makers in the world, known for turning out prodigious amounts of sugary confections in his chocolate laboratory. He elevates the mint chocolate experience with his Menthe Amante, a chocolate ganache with fresh peppermint that is one of his shop’s best sellers. His delectable bonbons are packaged in elegant silvery metal boxes perfect for that person who has everything.
Recommendations: After you’ve enjoyed a Menthe Amante, enjoy one of Genin’s famous caramels which come in delicious flavors such as mango-passionfruit, raspberry, and pistachio.
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