Lavender's pretty purple color and floral fragrance make it a natural ingredient for soaps and sachets. But this flower can be used in cooking, too -- local chefs have incorporated its slightly sweet, herbal flavors into desserts for years. And we've been spotting fresh and dried lavender more and more these days in savory sauces and as a garnish on entree dishes.

At The Refectory, Chef Richard Blondin has worked the ingredient into his dishes in various ways. For example, he drizzles his buzzworthy Alpaca Terrine, a chilled pate studded with pistachios and black olives that's a must-try for adventurous foodies, in a lavender vinaigrette.

Meanwhile, Chef Alana Shock at Alana's occasionally cooks up a daily special of lavender-buttermilk roasted Ohio chicken, served with mushroom creme fraiche.

You'll find the herb in cocktails, too, like the Violette at Mouton. This purple Kool-Aid-hued concoction is made with sparkling Cremant, Creme de Violette and housemade lavender bitters.

And, of course, adding lavender is still an easy way to give sweets some panache. Like Pattycake Bakery's pretty lemon cupcakes topped with lavender icing, or the Lavender & Brandy Pound Cake, a seasonal treat served at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls that's made decadent with a dark chocolate ganache topping.

Alana's 2333 N. High St., Old North Columbus 614-294-6783

Inn at Cedar Falls 21190 State Rte. 374, Logan 740-385-7489

Mouton 954 N. High St., Short North

Pattycake Bakery 3009 N. High St., Clintonville 614-784-2253

Refectory Restaurant & Bistro 1092 Bethel Rd., Northwest Side 614-451-9774

(Will Shilling photo)