Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

sparklingpunch.jpgTired of being the host and the bartender at your party? This is the perfect solution...a festive drink your guests can serve themselves.

When's the last time you brought out the punch bowl? They are hip now and back in style....very retro and not to mention look beautiful on a table. If you don't have one, get yourself over to Goodwill...they have shelves and shelves of vintage ones they are dying for you to take home.

This drink is a very fun way to start of your party. This punch along with some bottles of wine will keep you concentrating on the meal while your guests help themselves to some cheer!

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whattodrinkFood and wine pairing. Everyone tries to do it well. Most of the time, you go by the old standards - steak with Cabernet, white wine with fish - with the best of intentions just hoping that they don't clash, but praying you hit it just right. You're hoping, praying you get the perfect mouthful, where the wine and food meld together into something unexpected, complementing and enhancing one another into a perfect delicious union. When that happens, and it's not often enough, it's truly magical.  

There are countless books written on the subject. The "bible" being What to Drink with What You Eat. My copy is so over-used the binding has separated, causing pages to fall out whenever I open it. This book includes just about every food (though oddly not potatoes, but an entire section of cheese) and just what types of beverage (beer, cocktails and tea included) you should pair with each ingredient. We drink wine almost everyday in our house and it's been my passion over the last few years to try to not only become a better cook, but to be more successful at wine pairing. It's a frustrating, hit and miss operation.

What makes it worse is the fact that I usually hit the nail on the head when I don't actually follow a recipe, but mash a few together to accommodate what I have in my fridge and pantry. While these meals are a delight and help boost my confidence in the kitchen, they make me sad and a little angry when they're over because I won't be able to duplicate the experience. I never write it down because I go by taste and feel. Great for the dish, bad for posterity. I know it should be more about the journey, blah, blah, blah, but it would be great to have a few pairing/recipe locks in my repertoire.

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sangria.pitcherEvery holiday party deserves a little cocktail. Don’t you agree? Using seasonal ingredients to create both savory and sweets is a given. Drinks should share in what the season has to offer and that is exactly why this cocktail will be what we will be toasting with this season.

Two years ago I made Moscow Mules and last year I whipped up Persimmon Mojitos using one of my most favorite seasonal fruit. This year I am all about the Honey Crisp Apple.

If you haven’t eaten one yet, you are truly missing out. It is the one apple, aside from a good Fuji, that I crave. Around 11 a.m. every day, my snack of choice is a honey crisp with a wedge of raw, white cheddar. So satisfying!

Whipping up a cocktail is an effortless task. I don’t drink all that much and when I do come up with something as simple as this I am reminded as to how much easier it is to mix up a drink, unlike a cake or a tart.

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savinoThough I love wine, I don’t own much wine paraphernalia. Good glassware and a sturdy corkscrew is pretty much all anybody needs. Carafes are nice for entertaining. Aerators a possible necessity if you’re drinking a lot of young red wine, but I generally spend my wine dollars on wine. We have a fairly large cellar and once people find out how many bottles we have - enough to survive a year without buying more, not so much we couldn’t drink it in our lifetime - the first question is always “how much do you drink?” Let’s just say there are two of us, usually one bottle a day…you can do the math.

Leftover wine is rarely an issue in our house. Yet not everyone has a nightly wine buddy and some people just like to have a glass with dinner. Others like to try several different ones at a time. How do you make sure the wine stays as fresh as possible? Once you pull that cork oxygen begins it’s hack job trying to turn your luscious vino into vinegar. I’ve found the “re-cork it and refrigerate it” method works pretty well with most red wine, since - except for very old ones. Most reds could use a little opening up and many are better the next day doing this. However, if you’re not going to get to the wine for a few days you’re really taking a gamble. Especially if you really LOVED it the first night. (Our advice when that happens - drink it all. Seriously.) When it comes to white wines or rose, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be disappointed the next day if you don’t take some precaution against oxidation other than refrigeration.

When I got the chance to try the Savino, I figured why not give it a spin?

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This warm and comforting drink is great on a cold day. 

mulledcider.jpg 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (Use a meat mallet or heavy saucepan to break  into several pieces.)
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds  
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns  
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves  
2 quarts apple cider  
4 strips orange zest (each about 2 inches long) 
1 – 3 tablespoons light brown sugar or dark brown sugar (to taste) 

Combine lime zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and salt in large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors meld, 24 hours.

Toast spices in large saucepan over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 3 minutes. Add cider, orange zest, and sugar and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, using wide, shallow spoon to skim away foam that rises to surface. Pour cider through fine-mesh strainer lined with coffee filter and discard spices and orange zest. Serve. (Mulled cider can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to one week. Reheat before serving.)

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James