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(article, Ashley Griffin Gartland)
When I was little, my mother, grandmother, and I used to gather round the backyard picnic table and make lavender bottles from the slew of heady purple plants that grew in my grandmother's garden. Back then I loved the scent just as much as I do now, but you couldn't have paid me enough to try stomaching lavender in my food. A decade later, I'm singing a different tune after tasting an ice-cream sandwich made from honey-lavender ice cream and lemon shortbread. The Ruby Jewel sandwiches, alas, are only available in the Northwest, but you can order them online. Lavender also works well infused into any creamy dessert, such as crème brûlée or ice cream. [%image lavender float=left width=350 credit="Photo: iStockphoto/saw" caption="Lavender flowers are lovely in food, too."] For lavender in all its glory, both gustatory and olfactory, a variety of upcoming festivals around the country showcase the pungent flower. Vancouver, B.C., is home to the Happy Valley Lavender and Herb Farm's June and July Lavender Daze, during which visitors can help harvest the herb and sample lavender baked goods and another variety of that lavender ice cream. Just across the water from Canada in Washington state is the town of Sequim, aka the Lavender Capital of North America. The town's July lavender festival offers tours of eight local lavender farms and a street fair featuring Northwest cuisine and many lavender-inspired nibbles. And in late June in West Virginia, La Paix Herb Farm is planning to host its fifth-annual Lavender Fair. Events include walks and talks on using the herb for crafts, culinary, and medicinal purposes. Rumor also has it that Nancy Longo of Pierpoint Restaurant will be on hand to demonstrate herb-crusted halibut with lemongrass lavender beurre blanc. Try it; you might like it, too.