Dec 07

Arizona Wine and Christmas Cookies

Arizona Red Wine with Christmas Cookies

The holiday season is here!  For many foodies, this season brings a tradition: the cookie exchange.  Well, how about something new: skip the swapping and have a wine-and-cookies tasting party!  Since there are traditional cookies this time of year, it makes sense to see what wines pair well with them.

With this thought in mind, I attended the Arizona Wine Garden at the Tempe Festival of the Arts, ready to taste the wines from the newer Arizona wineries.  I took along two bags of cookies:

1. Traditional shortbread cookies.
2. Gingerbread cookies.

…and then I headed into the fray.

 
My approach:
I went to each winery, told them what I was doing, and asked for a wine that would pair well with the cookies.  Then I tasted a bite of cookie with a sip of wine.  My evaluation was based on how well the two combined; did the flavors enhance each other, did one overpower the other, or was there nothing memorable.  The results are below:

 

Winery Wine Cookie
Wilhelm Vineyards Kevin’s Choice Shortbread
Saeculum Cellars 2010 Sangiovese Gingerbread
Burning Tree Cellars 2010 Lotus Gingerbread
Dionysian Cellars 2010 Grenache Shortbread
Frietas Vineyards 2008 Petite Syrah Shortbread

When the wine is lighter and more acidic, it pairs well with shortbread.  When the wine is more full-bodied, it pairs well with gingerbread.  Arizona wines tend to be lighter in body, but some wineries import grapes from other states and then blend them to produce a fuller-bodied wine.  The best way to find out which is which is to go taste Arizona wines!

So when you go to this year’s holiday parties, take along a bottle of your favorite Arizona wine and a plate of cookies and pair them together.  Chances are you’ll find yourself deciding that you have a brand new Christmas tradition.

 

Nov 28

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is a staple side dish during the holidays, but why go with the same old boring out-of-a-can cranberries every year when you can whip up your own, with wine?  Cranberry sauce from a can is actually kind of blah, so making it fresh with a good Cabernet delivers great flavors for your holiday dinner.

To make the sauce, the cranberries are simmered in red wine and orange juice with sugar and spices.  The berries pop open, the sauce thickens, and it’s done.  It’s a simple process, but the result is delicious!  Spicy, sweet, and tangy, with a strong wine flavor enhancing the berries.  It doesn’t take long to cook, and it’s so much better than store-bought.

How to get the most wine flavor:
1. Use a very flavorful full-bodied red wine.  It takes a strong wine to enhance the flavor of the cranberries.  If you pick a wimpy wine, you get wimpy sauce.

2. Add more wine once the sauce has thickened and you’ve removed it from the heat.  Reason: Some of the wine flavor will boil off during cooking. Adding more at the end brings out the flavor.

So this year, forget the stuff in the cans.  Make your own Cabernet cranberry sauce and create a memorable holiday dinner.


Ingredients:

1 12-ounce bag of cranberries.

2/3 cup full-bodied Cabernet wine

2 tablespoons of orange zest.

1/3 cup orange juice

3/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar


Directions:

  1. Put the sugar into a sauce pan.
  2. Pour in the juice and 1/3 cup of wine.
  3. Add the zest and the cinnamon.
  4. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
  5. Add the cranberries.
  6. Simmer until the cranberries pop open.
  7. Continue simmering until it thickens.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of wine and remove from the heat.
  9. Let it cool, then serve.

 

Nov 25

Chocolate Chipotle Hearts

Chocolate Chipotle Hearts

I love Arizona themed food.  So when I saw these chocolate chipotle hearts by Susan Kolman of the Classic Cooking Academy (seen at the Getting our Just Desserts show), I just had to try them.

Boy, are they good!  They’re made with dark chocolate, so there’s not the overpowering sweetness that milk chocolate can sometimes have.  The chocolate center is ganache, very similar to a truffle.  Tasting one of these is chocolatey heaven. ….and then the chipotle kicks in.  Whoa.  That’ll wake you up!  But in a nice way.  Chocolate and Chipotle are a great flavor combination…I know because I once made chocolate and chipotle creme brulee.  But that’s another post.

So what is a “chipotle”?

Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried jalapeno peppers.  They have an earthy smoky flavor with all the burn of a good jalapeno.  Susan has done a very good job of incorporating both the flavor and the heat.  There’s enough of the chili flavor that it adds an interesting dimension to the chocolate, and the spiciness is just right.  It kicks in at the end and it’s really light. Just enough to make the chocolates interesting.

Capture the “heart” of your sweetheart
These little hearts make a great romantic gift…give a couple of these to your favorite person and then deliver some cheesy line like “my heart burns with passion for you…just like these hearts burn!”  That’ll be….um…memorable at the very least.Prickly Pear Marshmallows

And that’s not all Susan brought to the show. She also brought prickly pear marshmallows. Yes, those are marshmallows made with prickly pear cactus juice.  These belong is a nice big mug of Aztec chocolate: hot chocolate with chili pepper…something that will warm up your day in a big way.

Sadly, I had to leave the chocolate and chili heaven to move on to the rest of the show.  But my final thoughts were: If this is the sort of cooking that Susan teaches at her culinary school, I’m signing up!

Nov 12

Yuzu Mousse at Getting Our Just Desserts

Yuzu Mousse from Roka Akor in Scottsdale

“What the heck is a ‘Yuzu’??

That was my question, too.  And I was soon to find out.

First, though, last Saturday I attended Getting Our Just Dessert at the Art Institute in Phoenix.  The institute has a culinary department, and they were showing off their students’ skills as well as bringing in some of their past students to show off their cooking abilities. And what abilities they were!  Two rooms filled with desserts!  I took a lot of photos and tasted a lot of great desserts.

Now, back to the original question…what the heck is a Yuzu?   A Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit. It’s kind of a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.  It’s popular in Japan and Korea and is starting to find its way into Western cuisine as well.

Faith Wipperman fromRoka Akor in Scottsdale used the juice to make Yuzu mousse with blueberries, sage-toasted meringue, and vanilla shortbread.  It was delicious!  Kinda tangy, kinda sweet, nice citrusy flavor, and offset very well with the blueberries.  It was very light, like a mousse should be, but still had substance.  Definitely a winner!  An excellent after-dinner delight.

And this was just the first stop on my trip through dessert-heaven.  There were all kinds of tasty treats, including some non-sweet savory dishes so that we wouldn’t go into sugar overload (and coffee at the very end of the displays – wisely placed, I’d say).

Getting Our Just Desserts is an annual event to benefit C-CAP: Careers though Culinary Arts Programs.  Well, if this is the type of chefs they create, then I’m all for donating to such a great program!

There were so many desserts there that I can’t mention them all in one post.  So stay tuned!  I’ll be writing more about all the tasty treats in my next few posts.

 

Oct 15

Vodka and Marshmallow Crème

Last Saturday I attended the Phoenix Ultimate Women’s Expo because I’d heard that there were some specialty liquor vendors showing off their wares. I was not disappointed.

Three memorable exhibitors stand out:

Arroyo Vodka

Arroyo Vodka, Glendale’s very own vodka distillery, was there handing out samples of a great cocktail made with Arroyo, lemonade, and rosemary. The cocktail was nice, but I wanted the real thing.  So I asked one of the booth workers if I could have a straight shot, and he obliged. Boy, that is gooooood vodka!

It’s light, it’s flavorful, and it’s really smooth.  Some vodkas have a harsh bite to them, but not this. It would mix very well with anything, but it’s so good by itself that I’d keep a couple of shot glasses in the freezer just to enjoy it straight up.  And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve tasted several vodkas brought directly from Russia, and Arroyo stands up there with them.  It’s really good.  You can find out more at their website www.arroyovodka.com.

Arroyo Vodka

 

 

 

 


Chocolate Rouge

Then there’s my second favorite: Chocolate Rouge.  I’m a lover of sweet spirits, and this fits the bill perfectly.  They have two offerings: Sweet Red, a red wine with a hint of chocolate in the background, and ChocolatRouge, a chocolate aperitif with red wine in the background.  My favorite: ChocolatRouge.  This is an excellent cream liqueur: It’s sweet and creamy and chocolaty, but it’s not overpowering in any way.

ChocolatRouge has “sitting in front of a crackling fire with your favorite person while a rainstorm outside lashes the windows” written all over it.  This would be perfect served over ice in a fancy glass.  Their website has several recipes for ChocolatRouge on it, and I plan to try them all.  Here’s their website: http://www.chocolatrougewine.com/

Chocolate Rouge

 

 

 


Phoenix Art Institute

And finally, two chefs from The Art Institute were giving cooking demonstrations.  Their first demo was was Autumn cheesecake (it looked great!), and their next was sweet-potato and marshmallow cream French toast.  How good is that??  Sweet potatoes, marshmallows, and spices.  Three of the four food groups!

As it turns out, the Art Institute has a restaurant where they regularly hold dinners.  Coming up is their big dessert extravaganza.  I’ll just HAVE to attend that one and report on it.  To learn more about the Art Institute, visit them at their website: http://www.artinstitutes.edu/phoenix/

Phoenix Art Institute

 

 

 

 

 

So over all, a great time was had by all. If you live in the Phoenix area, go visit Arroyo Vodka in their tasting room in Glendale.  It’s worth it.  And also take the time to visit the Art Institute’s restaurant.  I’ve tasted their food, and having met the people, I can safely say that you’ll enjoy every minute.

 

 

Oct 01

Arizona Wine and Chocolate

The lights are low, the wine is poured, your favorite person is by your side, and you’re contemplating the perfect match.  A match made in Heaven. What am I talking about?

Wine and chocolate, of course.  Two food items that were made to be Arizona Winetogether.  If you ever want to impress your sweetie, then bring out perfectly-paired wine and chocolate and you’ll get more applause than you did with that perfect dinner you cooked.

The Sedona Winefest was September 21, and 15 Arizona wineries attended.  Being the I-love-chocolate-and-wine type, I left the 104-degree heat in Phoenix and headed to the cooler climate in Sedona.

There were six new wineries at the Winefest and each one had brought their best wines.  So, I armed myself with chocolate and headed into the fray.

I had two types: milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  Simple pairing rules state that milk chocolate pairs better with the lighter red wines and dark chocolate pairs better with the more full bodied red wines like Merlots and Cabernets.

There were six new AZ wineries at the Winefest.  They are:

Here’s how they paired:

Wine Chocolate Type
Bitter Creek Malbec 2004 Milk
Merkin Vineyard 2011 Shinola Milk
Grand Canyon 2011 Red (70% Pinot) Milk
Cellar Dweller “Canvas” Milk
Carlson Creek Syrah Milk
Zarpara Origen 2007
60% Garnacha 40% Syrah
Dark

The predominance of the milk chocolate was surprising, actually.  Usually there’s an even balance between milk and dark, but not this time.Chocolate

A very happy surprise pairing happened with the Zapara Origen.  It’s a lighter wine, so I suspected it would pair with the milk chocolate, but it also has a very nice spiciness to it which balanced the strength of the dark chocolate.

So which would I recommend?  Well, that depends on your taste, of course. But if my favorite person gave me the “come hither and bring chocolate” look, I’d take two different bottles:

Both of those have “romantic evening” written all over them.

So the next time you want to impress your sweetheart, or just indulge yourself after a long day, pick up a bottle of Arizona wine and pair it with the appropriate chocolate.  You’ll be happy you did.

Aug 19

White Wine Popsicles

It’s August and, despite all your wishing, the heat is still here.  You’d love to have something cold and tasty, but a glass of chilled wine just doesn’t quite cut it. When it’s too hot for a glass of wine, go for something better; white wine popsicles!

White wine popsicles

These babies are high up there on the list of guilty pleasures.   They’re cold, refreshing, and will quickly become your favorite tasty treat. They’re made with peaches and white wine so you get several layers of flavor; a peachy taste like pie, and a hint of wine tartness in the background.

There’s a secret to making these that will result in the perfect pop every time:  The riper the peach, the dryer the wine you should use.  If you have “new” peaches, select a sweeter wine like a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris.  If the peaches are really ripe, select a more tart wine like a Chardonnay.

And one more thing….no matter how tempting, don’t put in more than one ounce of wine per pop.  If you do, the alcohol will prevent the pop from freezing.

Ingredients:
8 Tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 ripe yellow peaches
2/3 cup (6oz) Sauvignon Blanc

Directions:
1. Combine the sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan.
2. Gently heat, while stirring, until sugar completely dissolves.
3. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
4. Allow the syrup to cool completely.
5. Rinse the peaches and pat dry.
6. With a paring knife, remove pits and stems.
7. Puree the peaches in a blender.
8. Squeeze the peach puree through a fine sieve, extracting all the pulp.
9. Combine the peach juice with the cooled vanilla syrup and white wine,
stirring well to incorporate them.
10. Pour into molds freeze until solid (4 to 6 hours).
11. Unmold and serve at once or place in plastic bags for storage.

This recipe makes about six pops, depending on the size of the pop molds.

Enjoy!

 

Aug 11

Red Wine Fudgesicles: The Perfect Food

Red wine is good for the heart.  Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that have been proven to reduce heart disease.  Therefore, red wine fudgesicles are the perfect food.

Red Wine Fudgesicles

Why should kids have all the fun on a hot summer day?  Adults deserve their own frozen treats and in a more grown-up way.  Therefore, take fudgesicles from our youth and add some red wine, and you’ve got a treat that the kiddies are just going to miss out on!

These tasty delights can be easily made at home.   And since the red wine tempers the flavor of the chocolate they’re not too sweet and they have a nice red wine in-the-background flavor.

I used dark chocolate to make the pops, so I selected a full-bodied red wine; Vino de la Familia from Page Springs Vineyards.  If you can’t find that, use a full-bodied Cabernet that can stand up to the chocolate flavor.  Also, the wine is reduced a little bit in a pan before the chocolate is added, so it’s going to have a stronger flavor than usual.

No more needs to be said.  Here we go:

Ingredients:
1.5 cups of red wine
1.25 cups of dark chocolate chips
1 cup of milk.

Directions:
1. In a small pot simmer the wine over low/medium heat for 15- 20 minutes, allowing it to reduce.
2. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the chocolate chips until completely melted.
3. Stir in the milk.
4. Pour into your ice-pops molds and freeze over night.
5. Unmold, sit on the porch, and enjoy!

 

Jul 27

Red Wine Granitas

Red Wine Granita

When we were kids, there was nothing like a snow cone to make a hot afternoon a lot more bearable.  Now that we’re adults, though,  snow cones are just too messy and too sweet.  Well, creativity comes to the rescue.  Adults still have snow cones, only now they’re called “granitas”!

Granitas are tasty ice desserts that are made with fruit juice and other flavorings, frozen, and then raked with a fork during freezing to make a flaky, crunchy, tasty ice delight that can be served in a fancy glass and eaten with a spoon.

And since we’re all grown up now, we can skip those overly sweet syrupy flavorings and add in something an adult would like: wine!  That’s right boys and girls, this is a snow cone with booze in it.

Red Wine granitas are made by combining wine with fruit juice.  The type of wine used depends on the juice; the lighter the juice flavor, the lighter the wine flavor.  The two tastes should combine to produce a tasty whole, not to overpower one or the other.

In this case, I used watermelon and then added a light red wine. I chose one of our very own Arizona wines to blend because Arizona’s dry soil produces lighter, dryer reds which blends perfectly with the watermelon juice.  With a quick bit of blending and a couple of hours of freezing, I had a treat that will make our hot afternoons really bearable.

So grab a blender, a fork, and a bottle of wine, and let’s make granitas!

Ingredients:
3 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 cup raspberries
1 ¾ cups Oak Creek Vineyards Zinfandel
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. Agave nectar

Directions:
1. Using a blender, puree watermelon and raspberries together until
smooth.
2. Pour melon-berry mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a shallow,
freezer-safe dish, pressing with a spatula to extract as much juice as you
can.  Discard the pulp.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir gently to combine.
Add it to the watermelon-raspberry mixture.
4. Place in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour.
5. Remove dish from freezer and stir the granita with a fork to break it up,
paying particular attention to the edges of the dish.
6. Return granita to freezer, raking it with a fork every half hour until it is
completely frozen and flaky.
7. When it’s completely frozen, scoop some into a glass, add a spoon, prop
your feet up, and enjoy the best frozen treat in town!

Wanna really impress your guests?  Put the granita into a fancy glass.  As my friend Carolyn Jung says “anything looks great in a martini glass”.  And it tastes better, too.

Oak Creek Vineyards Granita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers!

 

Jun 23

Arizona in a Cone

Horchata and Peach Habanero ice cream

Terroir in Frozen Form
At first glance it looks like any other ice cream cone – vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet, right?  Nope! You’re looking at ice cream that reflects the land and the culture that is uniquely Arizona.

There are two flavors here: On the top: horchata, a Mexican milk-based treat that’s been made into ice cream.  On the bottom, peach-habenero sorbet.

The top layer of this frozen treat is the description of delicious.  The unique flavor of horchata has been captured perfectly; sweet rice milk layered and laced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  It’s a symphony of flavors all wrapped up in a cool treat.  As you work your way down the scoop you find your mind drifting onto a happy cloud of creamy goodness laced with vanilla and cinnamon.  All is well with the world….

……and then you hit the habanero.  Whooooa, baby!  That’ll get your attention!  The peach-habanero sorbet will yank you out of dreamland faster than a bucket of cold water to the face.  But boy, is it good!


Peaches and Cream this ain’t…

The peach flavor is bright and bold. Peaches have a unique flavor that’s perfect for ice cream. In fact, peach is the third favorite fruit flavor in America because of its texture and tone and ability to mix well with other flavors.  Habaneros are one of the hottest peppers in the chili pepper family.  Small and orange, they pack a punch you won’t forget anytime soon.  If you’ve never tried one, then the best advice I can give you is: proceed with extreme caution!

Combine those two flavors and you have an awesome sorbet!  Light, flavorful, and spicy!  This sorbet delivers a solid peach flavor and then just enough habanero to give a small burn on the tail end of every bite.  The lightness of the sorbet makes it very refreshing and easy to eat, and the habanero keeps it interesting.  As the saying goes, when you eat this sorbet you know “you aren’t in Kansas anymore.”  And where do you find this Arizona delight?  Pink Spot Ice Cream….the same people who featured lobster ice cream.

So don’t settle for the same old boring frozen treats.  Hustle your ice-cream-lovin’ self down to Pink Spot and ask for Arizona in a Cone.  Your taste buds will never want plain old chocolate or vanilla again.

 

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