Panna Cotta, Strawberries, Basil Sorbet & Strawberry Pop Rocks

American author Thomas Wolfe suggested, wistfully, that you can never go home again––that the experiences that serve as brick and mortar to our memories are sometimes best left in the past.

Think then about the faces and lives in a restaurant kitchen. About a chef who came alive to the food world through endless prep work, marathon doubles, and an avalanche of brunch rushes. Consider that those repetitive acts led to jobs in esteemed restaurants across the country, appearances in national cooking shows, ownership of a restaurant empire across California, and accolades too numerous to count.

Think about Dakota Weiss, executive chef at Coyote Café, the storied Santa Fe restaurant where she staged after culinary school and now leads through its latest iteration of Southwestern cuisine? Just this once, Thomas Wolfe may have gotten it wrong. She’s come home again––with fresh, imaginative and palate-tingling results.

Because Dakota’s signature voice brings worldly nuance to our local food scene, we asked her to choose local ingredients and present us with three recipes. On one recent early morning, we watched her in the calm and quiet of Coyote’s kitchen as she brought these ingredients to life in ways that are as grounded in memories (does anyone remember the youthful thrill of 1970s Pop Rocks candy?) as they are alive and relevant in the present.

Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta, Local Honey-Macerated Strawberries, Basil Sorbet & Strawberry Pop Rocks

Serves 4

For the Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta:

  • 2 tsp gelatin powder

  • 3 tbsp cold water

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • ½ cup sugar

  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean puree

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk


1.     Bloom the gelatin in the cold water and set aside.

2.     Add the cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt and heat just until the sugar is melted fully.

3.     Slowly whisk in the gelatin, making sure all of it melts.

4.     Take off the heat and whisk in the buttermilk.

5.     Pour into ramekins or bowls that you plan to serve it in.

6.     Chill until set, about 2 hours.

For the Basil Sorbet:

  • 2 oz basil leaves

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 ½ cups water


1.     Puree the basil with the lemon juice.

2.     In a saucepan, add the sugar and water and cook until the sugar is fully melted.

3.     Remove from the heat and add the basil lemon juice.

4.     Pour into an ice cream maker and spin until the mixture becomes frozen and creamy-looking.

For the Honey-Macerated Strawberries:

  • 1 pt strawberries, sliced thinly

  • 4 tbsp honey (local wildflower is my fave)

  • Pinch of salt


  1. Add all ingredients together and stir well.

Building the plate:

Add the strawberries on top of the panna cotta. Scoop on some basil sorbet and sprinkle it with 1 package of Strawberry Pop Rocks.

 Story by Gabe Gomez/ Styling by Keith Recker / Photography Gabriella Marks

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