Hellooo!! I would have written earlier, but I just can’t seem to get home before it gets dark in order to take photos or find any afternoon sun around here. We’ve had a few showers roll through the area, and while it gives me the chance to curl up with a
cup of hot tea glass of wine and a good book some trash tv, it has interrupted my weekday photography. Once I tell you about last weekend, you’ll understand why I didn’t take more photos then.
The hub and I took on a tremendous challenge: hosting a wine pairing dinner party in honor of one of our dear friends and his 30th year on earth! Of course you can guess whose idea this was, and you can bet that I spent every free moment the week beforehand dreaming up possibilities for the menu. While I don’t have as many pictures to share of the actual event, I will share the menu, the recipes, and (enter date bread) what to do with your random leftover ingredients!
Appetizer: After a trip to Sonoma last October, I have been intrigued by a new (to me) varietal: Gewurtraminer, which is where the menu found its beginnings. It is similar to a Riesling in that it is of German influence and tends to be on the sweet side and quite crisp. Now don’t be scared: sweet wines are not evil, and paired with some salty cheeses, nuts, and olives, they are a perfect start to a cozy January meal. Just trust me and try it out. Stop scowling….I see you. I canNOT remember the exact Gewurtraminer I picked out, but I will say that in Sonoma, we fell in love with the Gundlach-Bundschu Gewurtraminer if you need a rec.
Our Kroger (!!) actually has a cheesemonger (yes, I did just google a word for “cheese expert”), who picked out some tasty cheese to accompany my wine. She encouraged me to choose a variety of creamy and hard cheeses, of German influence when possible, and especially anything in the goat cheese category. I strolled out of there with some aged Gouda and Chaums (creamy) along with a few salty olives and marcona almonds.
Salad Course: I wanted to do a seasonal winter salad, and I came across this recipe for an arugula salad with blood oranges, dates, parmesan, and chopped almonds. I drizzled it with olive oil, and sprinkled on some salt and pepper to serve. That’s it! The citrus from the oranges combined with the sweet dates, nutty parmesan, and salty/crunchy almonds took care of the rest of the flavor, and it was a beautifully colorful salad. I paired this with a an Italian Pinot Grigio (2010 Kris)- much lighter than the Gewurtraminer of course, and a perfect pair with a mustardy citrus salad.
Main Course: For dinner, I made a sweet potato swiss chard gratin which I found here via Smitten Kitchen. I mean, you can’t beat combining a starch and veggie all in one dish. And it was FABULOUS- possibly my favorite part of the meal. Besides the obvious ingredients, it had a pinch of nutmeg, shredded gruyere cheese, and a light cream sauce. I DID make that again this week, so I’ll be sharing that recipe with you soon. Stay tuned.
We also baked a beef tenderloin, pre-trimmed from Costco (!). While this ain’t cheap, it is SOOOO good, and super easy. The hub covered it in salt, pepper, and 21 Spice Salute from Trader Joe’s, and baked it at 450F for about an hour. Keep an eye on it because you want to pull it out while it is medium-rare for optimal juice and flavor. This meat can easily stand alone, so no need for hours of marinade, etc.
To finish it off, I made some blue cheese mini-popovers. They were cute, and packed with flavor. You can find the recipe here, which originally called for Roquefort, but I had already spent a bajillion dollars on cheese, so blue cheese was going to have to do. I thought it paired well with the beef anyways.
We paired this course with a Marietta Old Vine Zinfandel (it doesn’t have Zinfandel on the label, but instead says “Red Wine”. If you inspect the back label, you will find it is all Zinfandel varietal) and a Sharecropper Cabernet Sauvignon. The Zinfandel was a favorite of the night, so I will definitely be heading back for more! It is a full and heavy winter wine that pairs well with beef dishes. Do it.
Dessert: At the request of the guest of honor, I made a batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies (from Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe) topped off with some homemade vanilla and mint-chocolate chip ice cream made by another dear Atlanta friend, Carli (heyyy! shoutout to Carli!), who provides me with all sorts of recipe ideas and inspiration. We paired this with some Port and dessert wine. I was not a fan of the dessert wine, and therefore, blocked it from my memory, but I did enjoy the Port (Smith Woodhouse Port).
SO- there ya have it. And finally, the date bread. They are a delicious snack as well, I must say, but in the event that you have a LOT left over, date bread is an excellent option. Here is the recipe (I’m too tired to write it out for you).