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Photo by Roy Wright

Photo by Roy Wright

By Jordan Wright

Ahhh … the distinctive allure of a Washington spring. Splashes of nature’s saturated color everywhere; azalea’s pinks and hydrangea’s blues. Down dappled Georgetown sidewalks, we peer into backyard gardens to see bold striped canvas awnings unfurled against the sun’s sudden angle shift. Deep purple clematis weaves its way up iron trellises yielding toward the new light and sweet wisteria and lilac mingle with fragrant viburnum. The first tiny yellow sulphur butterfly of the season winks its wings along a privet hedge. Read more below the recipe!



4 organic split chicken breasts
4 organic chicken thighs with legs
1 lemon, cut into 1/4-inch slices, seeds removed
2 sweet onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Granulated garlic (fresh garlic adds too much moisture)
1/2 cup or more of dried Provencal herb mix
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a 13×18” half-sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil (No clean up later!) With large kitchen shears cut each breast in half (across the keel) and separate legs from thighs, making sure each piece has its own covering of skin intact.

Place slices of onion in one layer — sides touching. Place 1/4-inch slices of lemon over the onions. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil.

Place chicken skin side down at first over the lemon slices and season with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. I use a generous amount of the herb mix. Flip the chicken parts over, so they are now skin side up, and repeat. Dot each piece of chicken with butter and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Turn the oven to broil and reposition the rack to just below the flame or coils and let the chicken skin crisp up nicely. Keep the oven door partially open and watch like a hawk! This should take about 5 minutes or less. With long tongs remove the crisped chicken pieces and arrange on a serving platter.

Place the sheet pan back under the broiler stirring once to mix with the juices and allowing the onion and lemon slices to brown up and finish cooking. Still the hawk! This should take about 5-8 minutes. Pour the buttery lemon, herb, garlic and onion mixture over the chicken. Serve hot or cold. If served cold, save the topping for another time. Serves 6-8 guests



Elegant dogwoods shelter delicate lilies-of-the-valley and violets, white and purple. Everywhere window boxes flourish with traditional geraniums and marigolds. Lawn chairs, garden tools and sun hats are rediscovered. And neighbors come out in the sunshine to chat and catch up. (N.B. In a Sri Lankan research abstract on the environment I read that marigolds are used as bio-material against pollution. Nature’s solution!)

Preparations for the summer are underway. A splintered and paint-cracked croquet set is salvaged from the shed. A lost wicket improvised with a wire coat hanger. Our ephemeral mid-Atlantic springtime advances with alacrity and just as suddenly plunges us unceremoniously into our notorious heat-drenched summers. Enjoy it while you can.

In town one emerges like Montesquieu’s troglodyte of “The Persian Letters.” Outdoor cafes beckon us to linger with friends in the gentle light — trading wind gusts and rain showers for soft breezes and cocktails.

The charm of dining in the garden awakens the primal instinct to eat outdoors. And though you may be without your own madly blooming flower garden or lush green lawn, there are delightful spots around town for sharing your feast. Rock Creek Park, of course, Meridian Hill in Columbia Heights, Georgetown’s new Waterfront Park (the west end is now completed) along the Potomac and Montrose Park beside Dumbarton Oaks come to mind. The Old Stone House on M and 31st sits on its original colonial lot and has a secret garden. And if the weather is disagreeable you can place pots of flowers and vases of Swiss chard among your platters for an indoor gathering. It’s the spirit of camaraderie that matters and, mais naturellement, the food and drink.

At the Dupont Circle farmer’s market one can forage for rhubarb, beets, swiss chard, morels, French breakfast radishes, asparagus, green garlic, ramps, strawberries, chives, tender spring greens, lemon thyme, mint, pea shoots and baby carrots. Here agro-friendly local dairy farmers purvey their ambrosial cheeses. Just arriving from Chesapeake shores hand-picked lump blue crab can ramp up the traditional devilled egg.

In designing this spring garden party menu I wanted to incorporate as many of our local ingredients as possible and celebrate spring’s first fruits and vegetables of the season. I’ll be thinking good weather thoughts for you, your friends and your family.

Welcoming cocktail
Glasses frosted with pink vanilla sugar

Hors d’oeuvres
on butter-sautéed rounds of French baguette
with a sprig of lemon thyme

tarragon and Dijon mustard flavored filling
topped with salmon roe

with hickory smoked bacon crumbles and rhubarb chutney

the classic soup tinted with beet juice
and garnished with spring pea shoots

with morels, asparagus tips and baby carrots

FLOWER SALAD WITH SCENTED GERANIUM, VIOLET AND CALENDULA PETALS strewn over frisee and mesclun mix with endive leaves; garnished with strawberry slices and quail eggs and drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette

Local cheeses
Chapel Hill Creamery Carolina Moon
Everona cave-aged Piedmont
Firefly Farms Bouche Noire and Mountaintop Bleu
Clear Spring Creamery Camembert
Keswick Creamery Wallaby Cheddar

with fresh raspberries and hazelnut tuiles


Crush blackberries together with orange and lime wedges and fresh mint. Sweeten to taste with agave syrup. Add champagne (I like to use Barboursville Vineyards NV Brut, the same champers that was poured at Obama’s inaugural gala), or a fruit-flavored vodka. For a “mocktail,” substitute club soda in place of spirits. Kids can help with the muddling. Serve in a pitcher or punch bowl. For a charming touch, frost the rims of the glasses with pink vanilla sugar.

For any of these recipes or to share news on your upcoming garden party plans, contact [email protected]

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