There was I time I could handle a dessert wine, a digestif or maybe a cognac followed by a strong espresso after a work day dinner and still get up at the crack of dawn the next day, but those days have long since passed.
Now my favorite way to end a simple midweek dinner is with a plate of fruit and a pot of tisane, herbal tea, made with fresh mint leaves or, when it's in season, lemon verbena. It's a tradition I owe to many dinners over the years at Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley. N and I enjoy it so much, we couldn't resist buying the same beautiful glass teapot the restaurant uses when we saw it at a store in Berkeley.
So I was happy to discover that Nigel of Eatwell Farm is currently growing this highly perfumed herb on his farm in Winters. Its aroma is a wonderful as its name, scented like lemongrass or lemon zest on steriods.
To make a tisane, wash then place your herbs in a pot and cover with water that is just shy of a boil, as you would for green tea. Then let the leaves steep at least three minutes and serve.
Lemon verbena can also be used in place of vanilla to infuse cream to make any custard dessert, such as ice cream or panna cotta, any of which would pair perfectly with sweet local strawberries.
Eatwell Farm regularly attends the Saturday market and, during summer any way, the Tuesday market. If you're in town, stop by the Ferry Building today between 10 am and 2 pm and pick up a bunch of lemon verbena.