Lavender "tastes like potpourri, like soap," says Three Floyds Brewpub chef Pat Niebling. "It's not great. I can't wait to not use it again." In fact, the scientific name for lavender comes from the Latin word for "wash"—the ancient Romans used the flowers as a bath scent, among other things.
Challenged by Donermen food truck chef Shawn Podgurski to create a dish with lavender, Niebling and sous chef Scout Hughes had to start from scratch: Niebling hasn't used it much since culinary school, he says. Hughes notes that one year they made a lavender barbecue sauce at Three Floyds, "and [the lavender] was all you could taste." That sauce didn't stick around for long.
Pat Niebling and Scout Hughes of Three Floyds Brewpub
"Everything I read said you only need a little bit because it's so powerful," Niebling says, "but with every test batch I had to keep adding and keep adding." The pair experimented with using lavender to cure fish and duck, but what ended up working was putting it in (and on) a sausage: specifically, lamb sausage with chopped cashews, Dijon mustard, Three Floyds Yum Yum pale ale, and lavender leaves. The herb also went into a bearnaise, a variation on the classic sauce that substituted lavender leaves for the tarragon and sour beer (Three Floyds Necropants) for the white wine.
After stuffing and smoking the sausage, Niebling brushed bread with butter, grilled it along with the sausage, then assembled everything: onto the bread went a black garlic-cherry sauce, then the sausages, topped with the bearnaise, candied lavender flowers, and microcilantro. "It sounds like it's going to be completely brutal, but it's not," he says. Tasting the sausage with a pint of Yum Yum—which the chefs chose because it's citrusy and floral but doesn't compete with the food—Hughes observes, "It's not overpoweringly lavender. It's sort of mellow."
Lamb sausage with chopped cashews, Dijon mustard, Three Floyds Yum Yum pale ale, and lavender leaves, topped with lavender-infused bearnaise
Niebling has challenged Tony Lomanto of Kuma's Corner to create a dish with spotted dick, a British sponge pudding with dried fruit. "I wanted to give them holy water," he said, "but I don't think that's going to fly."