Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wine Night

This past Saturday, John and I hosted some good friends for another installment of wine night. For some reason, very early in the planning for this night, I selected a theme of “Food on a Stick.” While these gatherings are all about the wine, I got really hung up on incorporating sticks into the meal. Why is this? You ask. Beats me. I was so focused on the stick food that I didn’t even select a wine theme until pretty late in the game. What I finally settled on is what I’m calling Summer Whites. These didn’t necessarily have anything to do with summer, mind you, but it was a blazing hot day in Ohio and I thought the whites would be more refreshing than a bold red. I was right (one point for Ashley).

My appetizer menu included cheese, both seasoned Havarti and Colby jack, caprese bites (which are cherry tomatoes on a stick with fresh mozzarella topped with basil alongside Balsamic vinaigrette) and bread and crackers (not on a stick). For dinner we had chicken skewers with 3 dipping sauces. I was particularly proud of these sauces because I love condiments. I spent a long time looking for these recipes as I wanted them all to be homemade. There was a Spicy Peanut Sauce (deliciously zippy!), the Neely’s BBQ Sauce (delightfully tangy), and a Cilantro Cream sauce (I can't remember where this recipe came from!) that was a nice coolant in between the kick of the other two. We had zucchini and summer squash, also on skewers. The fruit course (now we’re talking fancy) consisted of kabobs of watermelon and pineapple with another dip, Strawberry Crème, fat free!! For dessert, our guests contributed chocolate peanut butter bars (thanks guys!) that were even better for breakfast the next morning, and I tried my darnedest to make Cheesecake pops.

Let me tell you something about cheesecake. When the recipes all say, “Just roll the cheesecake into balls, it’s easy.” It’s not so easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult. I mixed up my cheesecake and to speed things along, put it in the freezer and kept setting and re-setting timers until it reached a roll-able consistency. This never happened, especially since I accidentally left the bowl in the freezer overnight. One of the recipes I consulted said to pour the batter into ice cube trays. While I knew this would be easy, I was really striving for round cake pops. Hope abandoned, I succumbed to the trays for more freezing.

Then, there was the melting of the chocolate. This is not the first time I had a chocolate melting incident. On our first wine night there was a botched fondue attempt. When John said, “Let’s try it in the microwave”, I agreed, despite my better judgment. If you’ve ever melted chocolate in the microwave, you know that it goes from good to bad very quickly and also hardens much quicker than on the stove. A second only slightly more successful attempt was made at melting in the double boiler. This got and kept the chocolate more liquidy but did you know that once you put frozen cheesecake into hot melted chocolate the cheesecake starts to melt? Yeah, me neither. Needless to say, they did not turn out nearly as cute as I wanted. I end up having to spoon the chocolate over the pops and get them back in the freezer post haste. Thank goodness there were 4 hands. There may have also been terse exchanges and grabbing of spatulas when someone wasn’t moving quickly enough. I won’t name any names. (John) Lucky for me, and my guests, they tasted fine so all was not lost.

Enough about the food already, let’s hear about the wine!!

This is the only picture I got so you could see the labels and I’m too lazy to hunt them down on the internet. It was taken post party, obvs.

We started dry with a Sauvignon Blanc from Markham Vineyards. This was a 2007 Californian offering brought by our guests. I’m going to guess it was somewhere in the $10-$15 range, as most of our wines tend to be. The bottle referenced grapefruit and citrus, which I believe we all tasted. I swore there was some honey too which in a dry white, you don’t usually have but I commented on my uncanny ability to taste honey in all wines. My palate is cool like that.

We moved to the evening’s blend and also the local wine from Valley Vineyards, a winery about 45 minutes from us. It was called White Reflections (retails for $11 or $12, I can’t remember which) and is a blend of many grapes including Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Cayuga. The label said it was semi-sweet. I liked this one but John later said he didn’t care for it. Could have fooled me by the refill he poured.

And a type new to all of us was a Viognier from Loredona winery in California. In my research, I found that Viognier used to be exclusively made in the Rhone region of France until the 1980’s when a group called the Rhone Rangers brought the grape to California. How fun is that name? Do you think they wore masks? Anyway, this wine was interesting and a crowd pleaser for sure. It smelled very sweet and floral but most Viogniers are typically dry. This one had hints of peach and honey. (Honey!) I think this one was also around $12.

All in all, another wine night success. Even if my cheesecake pops looked wonky.

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