WASHINGTON -- Ever heard of tangerine lace? Neither had Cork Wine Bar's new chef, Robert Weland, until recently.
The leafy, long-stemmed green is actually the non-flowering part of a common marigold, an edible flower popular in kitchens and gardens alike.
Weland was turned on to it when Cork sous chef Jenn Flynn found a description of it while researching unusual ingredients on the Internet. And it is unusual indeed.
"The flowers are very, very subtle. You can barely taste them," Weland told The Huffington Post. "But these leaves ... I think they're beautiful."
Tangerine lace has a mild citrus flavor, but one that doesn't leave the palate quickly. It's significantly stronger than marigold flowers alone. Weland currently serves it in a winter radish salad, with local apples, escarole and a sage vinaigrette, but he has plans to offer it in other dishes as well. "I think it could go well with fish," he mused. "I certainly think it could go well with any type of citrus salad as well."
Weland currently gets his tangerine lace two to three times a week from a local purveyor, but he said he hopes to start growing it in Cork's garden-to-be. Weland's no stranger to gardening -- as executive chef at Poste Moderne Brasserie, he gained fame for planting an on-site courtyard garden and using its produce heavily.
"It's all baby steps right now, but we're definitely looking forward to getting things in the ground," Weland said of Cork's future garden. It may be planted on the roof of Cork's wine bar or market, or in an alleyway behind one of the properties. "We've got to be creative here," he chuckled.
He said he hopes to plant other unusual greens, like chive flowers, arugula flowers and "all kinds of fun edible things with spring flowers." Weland also revealed that he has some Italian heirloom seeds stashed from his days at Poste, and hopes to plant them in Cork's garden.
"This is really what drives us," Weland said. "Finding new things."