Category Archives: dessert

Roman Style Wining and Dining in Chicago

There is nothing more awesome than a true Italian style dinner….multiple courses, good wine, and eating that spans several hours. It is pretty rare to find a restaurant that feeds you continuously for that long without requiring you to nibble and look ackwardly at your impatient waitress/waiter. But at Enoteca Roma the owners have created the ultimate Roman feast with 6 courses, serving more food that you can handle and the grand experience of eating what I like to call a “sprawling” European style dinner. All of it is for a swoon worthy $25. Count ’em…
Courses
1. Antipasta and Bruscetta
2. Appetizers- usually steamed mussells and stewed sausage
3. Salad
4. Polenta served hot on a cool slab of marble
5. Pasta
6. Pizza
(7. Dessert)

Dessert is a little extra, and we actually refused the pizza and went for the dessert instead. The various cheesecakes and gelato were a perfect way to end the meal. I greedily finished off the rest of the pana cotta that was silk smooth and topped with berries. It was nothing short of glorious. All of us couldn’t help but comment how great the meal was along the way. Each course was well made and definitely drool worthy. I am already plotting my next visit.

Wines
Bisson Prosecco IGT Valdobbabiene, Italy 2006- $13- Not bad- Damn Good

We started out with this bottle. It had a nice acidity and a good deal of carbonation that made it a good way to clean our palates and start the evening out right. With hints of citrus and pear and a light nose, I thought this was a pretty good prosecco.

Corregio Roero Nebbiolo Piemonte, Italy 2003-$18- Not Bad

This was a very fruit forward light bodied red. It had a little bit of an acidic, tanniny, dry finish but maintained its body. With the bitter savoriness of our arugula parmesan salad, it paired wonderfully showing a great complexity than at first taste. It also left a clean palate.

J Hofstatter Pinot Nero Valle D’Aosta, Italy 2005-$20- Damn Good

To me the best wine of the night, this bottle had a great fruity jammy nose with hints of cherry and a great taste to match. What made it interesting was its complex spicy finish. It went beautifully with our heavier more substantial pasta dishes. Less tannin than the previous wine, it had a medium body and was very drinkable.

The Dregs: Cherry Wine Syrup over Ice Cream

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At one point I made the mistake of opening a fruit wine with only two people around to help drink it. The sweetness got overwhelming and both of us gave up after two glasses. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ To be honest it really drank more like a liquor. Since then a good portion of the remnants has been haunting my fridge door. Over time I have been using it to enhance fondues and whipped cream here and there. Finally I decided to kill the aging bottle by making a syrup for ice cream, drinks, what have you. I’ve done this with other wines before and it can be done with virtually anything your heart desires, reisling, roses, merlot, syrah…you get the idea. It is super easy and almost not worth putting a recipe down for, but I seem to always forget that this is an option for leftovers. I promise this recipe DOES NOT involve a candy thermometer; actually I don’t even own one. This time I used a cherry wine from Cream Ridge Winery in New Jersey (YES…New Jersey!). It tastes like liquid cherry pie and why I thought two people could drink most of a bottle of it is anyone’s guess. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyways, for the syrup it all starts with sugar, A LOT of sugar….

Wine Syrup
2 1/2 cups of wine
1 cup of sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of wine)

1. Dump wine and sugar in a sauce pan.
2. Stir together and turn heat to medium-high.
3. Stir, sugar with gradually dissolve
4. Keep stirring, do not let boil just mildly simmer at most
5. Stir
6. Stir some more (about 20 minutes total of stirring usually) until mixture thickens and leaves an open wake when you run the spoon on the bottom of the pan or coats the spoon
7. When the syrup coats the spoon you can stop there or keep going a little longer, depending on how thick you want it. REMEMBER when it cools the syrup will thicken so stay on the thin side of what you want especially if you plan on using it later and storing in the fridge.

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The Dregs: Kasteel Bier Bread Pudding

 

Although my counterpart does not believe that a bottle should be left unmanned until empty (Peishan has a strict No Booze Left Behind policy), I often find my fridge occupied by opened unempty bottles that tend to linger. Alas, my fridge door as well as the distant cold reaches of the back of the fridge has become alcohol limbo, where bottles are not quite empty enough to toss, but grow too old to drink. So I’ve decided to cook away one by one my forgotten bottles. To finish off an old bottle of sweet brown beer, I made a rich bread pudding that tasted a little bit of beer and with the nutmeg it had a great eggnog quality to it. Mmmmm….tasty, one bottle down…

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Leftover Beer Bread Pudding

4 eggs

8-10 slices of bread (enough to soak up the wet ingredients)

1 pint of half and half

1/2-2/3 cup of brown beer (or any other dark sweeter beer, Young’s Chocolate Stout, Milk Stouts)

1/4 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup of white sugar (you can add a little less if beer is really sweet)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Combine wet ingredients

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2. Cut up bread into inch cubes/squares

3. Mix wet mixture with bread crumbs

4. Pour into baking dish (13×8″ pan, 2 quart souffle, whatever fits…I used three oven proof pots)

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5. Bake until firm in the middle and the fork comes out clean at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes

Wine Pairings from a Novice


I hosted October’s Dead Grapes Society Meeting and decided to concentrate on pairings. It was definitely a challenge deciding what recipes would bring out the flavors of each type of wine not to mention could be prepared in a reasonable time frame. So I decided to go with a wide variety of flavors to try and cover all our bases.

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Here is our menu with pictures, recipes, and tasting notes to follow

SAVORY

Cheeses
Blue Cheese
Port Salut
Brie (Double Cream)
Polder Blanc Goat Gouda
Raspberry Jam to complement

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Mains
Polenta Fritters seasoned with red pepper flakes, oregano, and parmesan
Mini Beef Wellingtons
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Parmesan Cheese
Chicken Kebabs with Red Peppers, Onions, Crimini Mushrooms, and Bacon Wrapped Prunes

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SWEET

Chocolates
Dark Lindt Thins 85% Cocoa
Bittersweet with Nouguat 72% Cocoa
Milka Milk Chocolate 50% Cocoa
Milka White Chocolate 0% Cocoa

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Fruit and Nuts
Fresh Fruit- Pears, Bananas, Honey Crisp Apples, Cantalope, Strawberries
Dried Fruit- Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Cranberries
Honey Roasted Almonds

Dessert
Cream puffs with Bittersweet Chocolate Whisky and Cherry Liquor Sauce and Homemade Caramel Sauce

RECIPES

I gathered most of these off the net with some minor adjustments.

Mini Beef Wellingtons
1 Steak cut into rough 3/4 inch cubes
Chilled Refridgerator Crescent Dough (makes four per crescent, wraps 48 cubes per tube)
Boursin Cheese

1. Quarter a piece of crescent dough
2. Place a 1/4 teaspoon dollop of boursin cheese in center
3. Place a cube of steak into the center a wrap dough around it, try to fuse all the seams
4. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown
Can be made ahead and frozen, bake straight from the freezer, no need to thaw.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
Seeded Dried Dates
Parmesan (not grated)
Bacon Strips
toothpicks

1. Cut parmesian into match stick pieces
2. Place cheese into date
3. Wrap with bacon (1/3 of a strip will do it)
4. Secure with toothpick and bake at 400 degrees, turn after 10 minutes, bake until bacon is browned

Chicken Skewers
Red Peppers
Chicken thighs cubed
Mushrooms
White Onions
Italian Seasoning
Prunes
Bacon
Bamboo Skewers

1. Chop onions, red peppers, chicken and mushrooms into bite size pieces
2. Wrap prunes with bacon (1/3 strip)
3. Skewer each alternating
4. Dust with italian seasoning
5. Place on baking tray
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until bacon is browned and chicken well done

TASTING NOTES

Chateau de Beauregard-Ducourt 2005 (80% Merlot/ 20% Cab)-$13– beef wellington, bacon dates, dark and bittersweet chocolate, port salut, brie, chocolate covered fruit
Despite being decanted for 1+ hour, the majority of us felt that this was a harsh minerally bordeaux that definitely needed food to take away from its chalky finish. It was noted that it brought out the meatiness of the beef wellington and paired particularly well with the bacon dates. The tannins in this pour definitely calls for a rich dish to cut through.

Domaine des Chazelles Vire-Clesse 2005 White Burgundy-$17– chicken, polenta, goat cheese, port salut, brie,
This was one of the favorites of the night. It had a savoriness to it that was described as cheesy and rich flavor. The polenta and goat cheese went particularly well with it as well as the chicken kabobs. Mellow and deep, this white burgundy paired easily with a wide variety of foods.

Domaine des Gatilles Chiroubles Cru du Beaujolais 2004-$13– bacon dates, strawberries, raspberries, port salut, brie, dark, bittersweet chocolate
This wine paired beautifully with strawberries and on the savory end the beef wellingtons. It was very fruity and light, a very drinkable wine although not very distinctive.

Les Tours dโ€™ Amelie Viognier 2005-$12– chicken, polenta, bittersweet, milk chocolate, blue cheese, goat cheese, dried apricots, dates
Crisp and tart, this viognier went well with fruit, particularly cantalope, pears, and dried apricots. The blue cheese and chicken went well with it too. Most felt that it was high in acidity and was complex. More on the mineral side of the spectrum and less floral, this pour showed good depth of flavor. On the nose it was surprisingly savory reminiscent of aged cheese, but on tasting had the characteristic crispness of viognier. This was definitely another favorite of the night.

dโ€™Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz Port 2002-$30– milk chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, fruit, brie, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, chocolate covered fruit
Although described as being part of the tawny spectrum of ports by the wine sellars, we felt that this definitely hovered towards the ruby style of ports. There wasn’t the sense of caramel or raisin notes that you would find in tawnies. However, the more caramel toasted nature came out with honey roasted almonds, and it paired wonderfully with chocolate. Notes of chocolate were found by most everyone in our group. Things to avoid were lighter sweet fruits like strawberries that brought out the berry quality of this port and made it border on cough syrup.

Chateau Huradin Ceron Sauternes 1999-$20– white chocolate, blue cheese, cream puffs, almonds, dried fruit, caramel, pears
Golden yellow in the bottle, this Sauternes was rich and sweet, some felt however that it lacked much depth or flavor. Although for the price and for the concentrated sweetness, its not bad for a Sauternes. This particular year is supposedly one of the better ones for the vineyard in terms of forming the nobel rot. However, most of the group felt it fell flat on its own. However, it paired well with blue cheese, cream puffs, caramel, and fruit. The food brought out interesting notes of apricots and burnt sugar.

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail: Part II

These are the middle of the road wineries that are worth while to hit, but wouldn’t be a great travesty to miss.

Lemon Creek Winery

Doubling as a pick-your-own fruit farm, this is a bustling little winery just across the street from Domaine Berrien. It’s got a rather sparse tasting bar, and the servers get you moving so you can mosey on to their fruit stall.

ORGASMIC ๐Ÿ˜ฎ : Moon Shadow Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($45)- With the same subtle raisin and nuttiness as a good Madeira, I was pleasantly surprised by this unique ice wine. Touted to be the only Cabernet Franc ice wine in the United States, this little gem is for those who like sweet fortified wines and their port on the tawny side.

NOT BAD ๐Ÿ™‚ : Silver Beach Sauternes ($9)- Although watery and thin for a Sauternes, this bottle is definitely worth the price. It drinks like a nice fruity Riesling. Clean, citrus, and refreshing, this would go perfect with seafood or any lighter fare.

KarmaVista

Among the wineries on the northern end of the trail, this small vineyard definitely has a vibe of serenity and calm. The tasting room is a cozy area with tons of trinkets and wine whatsits to buy.

NOT BAD ๐Ÿ™‚ : Ryno Red ($8.50)- Fruity and dry, this is a good basic table red. One of the better reds of the bunch I would say. Would go well with pasta or any meaty dish.

Warner Vineyards

The tasting room for this particular winery is full of character, featuring a random train car in front and a restaurant attached. The tasting room itself is a nice open space where you can sip and peruse. The wines here are decent, but do not back the pomp of being one of the oldest wineries in Michigan.

NOT BAD ๐Ÿ™‚ : Grapes of Love ($10)- This is a good fruity white with nice complexity and is on the sweeter side. Understandably their best selling wine, this is an all around good buy. Would go well with a chocolate or a fruity dessert.

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail: Part I

As the other Asian who did not venture on the Memorial Day Michigan wine trip, I felt obligated to go on my own outing and explore the wine region closest to the Windy City, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The trip was a great break from the city. We managed to fit in all the wineries. So there is A LOT to review, hence the “Part I.”

We stayed at Benton Harbor (features much cheaper lodgings) and drove the 5 minutes into St. Joseph’s and toured the local wineries. We used the handy dandy wine trail map provided by the wineries

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There was a lot to do and see, especially since this was a first visit for all of us. So I want to keep this short and informational. We went to almost all of the wineries in the region, and almost all of the tourist attractions in there area. First the WINE…Some general comments:

  1. Stick to the whites, the reds fall a little flat and can be a little too tannin. Rieslings abound, many of them are styled more in the California or French style, meaning less fruity, more mineral
  2. Do leave room to try the fruit wines and dessert wines if you have a sweet tooth
  3. ALL of the tastings were FREE

THE WINERIES IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE

Best: Round Barn, Domaine Berrien, Tabor Hill

Eh, So-So: Karma Vista, Lemon Creek, Warner

Pass: St. Julian, Contessa, Free Run, Hickory Creek

Round Barn Winery

By far the best experience we had. The winery is nestled in a scenic spot. The tastings are generous and we felt it a rare treat to find a place that makes wine, beer, and vodka.

Tasting: $8= 5 wines, 1 dessert, 1 vodka, 3 beers + Free Glass + Free Tastings at Free Run Cellars

ORGASMIC ๐Ÿ˜ฎ : DiVine Vodka ($34.99)- A unique grape vodka, this stuff is smooth, so very smooth, makes-babies-bottoms seem-like-sandpaper smooth
DAMN GOODS ๐Ÿ˜‰ : Gerwurstraminer ($15.99)-floral, honey, spice, complex
NOT BADS ๐Ÿ™‚ : Artesia Spumante ($14.99)– fruity, refreshing, sparkling…you could get worse with the price, but you could get better
Golden Ale-
refreshing light, hoppy
GHETTO HOOCH ๐Ÿ˜ฆ : Pale Ale, Amber Ale, most of the dry reds

Domaine Berrien Cellars

Although this has less of the fun and flair of vineyards like Round Barn, St. Julian, or Warner, the wines here are surprisingly good and very drinkable. There is a nice outdoor deck where you can enjoy your wine and they will fix you a nice picnic basket of local treats from their fridge case so you can have a little snack. Try the local buffalo and venison sausage. Laid back and unassuming, the standout thing about this place is its wine.
ORGASMIC ๐Ÿ˜ฎ : Cabernet Franc Ice Wine ($50.00)– A cool half a benji this ice wine is unique and flavorful. If you like madeira and sherry, you might find yourself forking over the cash for this tasty liquid. With hints of toasted almonds, walnut, caramel, and raisins, its a complex rich drink. I did not regret giving up my 5 bucks for a taste, but unfortunately felt that I could get a better madiera like experience with a true $50 madiera. Still it is neat to see such a rare type of ice wine.
DAMN GOODS ๐Ÿ˜‰ : Vignoles 2006 ($10.50)– A nice summer white, it has hints of pineapple, apple, and citrus. Its a great clean and fruity pour and well worth the price tag.
Marsanne 2006 ($14.50)– I preferred the Vignoles, but this is less sweet and has a lot of great complexity. Hints of spice and honey, this has good body and is very light and drinkable.
NOT BADS ๐Ÿ™‚ : Crown of Cabernet 2004($23)– has good body, fruit, hint of oak. Not sure if its worth the $ Viognier 2006 ($18.50)– viogniers are so great in general, complex, flowery, fruity, this one is okay, but again you can get better for the money
GHETTO HOOCH ๐Ÿ˜ฆ : Grandma’s Red

Tabor Hill

Probably one of the most successful wineries on the trail, Tabor Hill is definitely has the feel of a larger more professional winery. The restaurant features fine American dining. There are several tasting rooms in the area so where ever you go it is worth a stop to sample. 8 Free Tastings offered.

DAMN GOODS ๐Ÿ˜‰ : Angelo Spinazze’s Spumante ($13.45)- Good complexity, sweet, bubbly, fruity, and floral. Worth the price, especially if you are a fan of sweeter spumante or asti
Classic Demi-Sec ($8.45)- One of their most populat with good reason. A very good basic fruity wine, refreshing and crisp.

NOT BADS ๐Ÿ™‚ : Blanc de Blanc ($13.45)- Not as sweet or complex as the Spumante, but definitely in the same vein of style. It is more of a mellow, fruity sparkling white. Some may prefer it over the Spumante if they lean more towards salt than sweet.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

 

 

Ethiopian: Tej and Injera

Ethiopian food can be a challenge to eat as a newbie. You eat only with your hands using torn pieces of injera, a spongy sourdough pancake like bread, to scoop pieces of saucy goodness into your mouth. Usually the food comes on one giant piece of flat bread with all your chosen entrees on top in sections. Needless to say, if you are at all a germaphobe this is not the thing for you and you should only eat with people you trust who will wash their hands and will not bogart your food. My trusted companions and I went to Addis Abeba. I was particularly excited because I wanted to try their tej. Tej is an Ethiopian honey wine, more like a mead, that is supposed to go beautifully with the spicy flavorful food. The waitress was great and allowed me to have a free taste before committing to buying more. It was extremely flavorful and had the rich aroma of honey. The taste was similar to mead, but lacked the yeastiness. So its flavors were very pure-honeyed and similar to ice wine. We decided to order a carafe to go with the meal, a very tasty decision. The food was great. We each got something different, chefs special, fish-meat combo, and veg-meat combo. The combos seemed the way to go if you want a good variety of flavors. One of my favorites was the yesiga wot (spicy beef stew) and yemiser wot (red lentels in a spicy red wot or sauce) With bread in hand we scooped ourselves to gustatory bliss. The soaked bread that had served as a plate combined with the last tidbits of every dish was a very tasty end to the meal. My only complaint was that the tej got a little sickeningly sweet as it lost its chill. All in all, Ethiopians know how to eat.

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Addis Abeba Tej– 1/2 Carafe 16.50- Damn good ๐Ÿ˜‰

With a strong scent of honey, this honey wine is true to its name. Flowery and flavorful, it has a sweet richness to it that goes well with the more spiced food of Ethiopia. I would have also loved to have this with Indian food. It taste is very similar to mead in that there is a honeyed flavor to this, but does not have the heavy yeastiness of a traditional mead. Sweet enough to act as a stand alone dessert wine, but not too cloying to go with food. This wine is outstanding chilled, but can get too sweet when left at room temperature for too long. It is definitely not for those who are not a fan of sweet.

Sniff- honey, flowery, fruity

Sip- rich, sweet, honey, fruity

Eat- Ethiopian, Indian, spicy rich foods