Tamales with Wine

Christmas comes and goes in the blink of an eye.  Shortly after buying the tree, decorating, and purchasing gifts, you're eating Christmas dinner and opening presents.  Every year at Christmas time, we'd meet at my grandmother's house for a huge feast.  Because my grandmother is Mexican, tamales are always served alongside our traditional Christmas dinner.  Around 3 o'clock on Christmas day, we all gather around my grandmother's table to enjoy the celebration.  I head straight for the pork tamales, knowing they'll be gone fast.  After piling the food on our plates, everyone is ready to eat and talk about Christmas's past.  This is where the dinner takes a turn for the worst.  It never fails that someone ends up crying, getting upset, embarrassed or arguing.  I like to sit back and watch the show.  It wouldn't be Christmas without the chaos!

My grandmother likes everything hot!  This includes her tamales.  To tame the spice, I grab a bottle of German Riesling (Spatlese for slightly spicy and Auslese for extremely spicy).  German Riesling is amazing with spicy foods because the sugar in the wine helps to counteract the spice. The wine's fruit flavors are set off by the corn and pork filling of the tamale.  The pairing is a beautiful contrast between savory/spicy and sweet.  The wine also has incredible acidity that helps to wash the food off your tongue and refresh the palate.  As well, German Riesling is great for sipping, making it the perfect bottle to open prior to eating dinner.  Here's to wishing you and your family and very Merry Christmas!  Other wines to try with Tamales are Malbec, Rose, light Merlot, Rioja, Pinot Grigio, dry Sparkling wine (esp. Cava or sparkling Vinho Verde) and off-dry to sweet wine.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Wine

I believed in Santa until I was 10. Friends would try to tell me otherwise, but I wouldn't sway. Every year on Christmas eve, I would leave two chocolate chip cookies and milk for Santa right near the fireplace. Sure enough, on Christmas morning I'd wake to find a bite taken out of one of the cookies, half the milk gone, and a note from the man himself. "Courtney, thank you for the delicious cookies, enjoy your presents!" My face lit up thinking Santa was in my living room, eating my cookies. You can imagine how heart broken I was when my mother finally revealed the truth.  Christmas hasn't been the same since.

After trying this pairing, my house would have been the first stop on Santa's list every year.  Although, the alcohol may have gotten Santa a DUI, and a couple of upset kids wondering why Santa never made it to their house.  Banyuls and chocolate chip cookies should be a Christmas eve tradition.  Banyuls is a fortified wine from the Languedoc region of France.  Fortified means brandy has been added to the wine to up the alcohol level.  Banyuls is made from the French red grape Grenache.  Although both Port and Banyuls are fortified, Banyuls is much more delicate, lighter and easier to drink.  Banyuls and chocolate chip cookies are great combination because they are both bitter and then sweet, a rare combination.  The wine has flavors of mocha, coffee and chestnut that play beautifully off the chocolate chips.  The chocolate flavor is intensified after a bite of the food, and then a sip of the wine.  In addition, the creaminess of the wine and the creaminess of the chocolate mirror each-other on the palate.  Other wines to try with chocolate chip cookies are Madiera, Muscat (black or orange), Port, late harvest Zinfandel, California Chardonnay, Grechetto, Cabernet Sauvignon if the chocolate chips are dark, Asti, and sweet Sherry if there are nuts included in your cookies.

Apple Pie with Wine

I make killer apple pie. The recipe oddly enough, comes by way of an ex-boyfriend's mother. She loved to cook, and had me help around the kitchen on Sunday nights. I adored her apple pie so much, I paid attention to every detail as she made it. The key ingredient in her apple pie is tart granny smith apples. They offset all the sugar that goes into making the pie. Also, the apples should be cut thin, otherwise they won't cook through. And if you don't make pie crust from scratch, use Pillsbury. Additionally, she would mix in a dash of allspice, not included in most apple pie recipes, giving the pie an added dimension of flavor.  The final key to making the ultimate apple pie is to leave it 5 minutes longer than suggested, letting the crust brown perfectly. You can bet I'll be serving up several apple pie's this holiday season!

Hungarian Tokaji Aszu is to die for with my killer apple pie.  Louis the XIV once declared it to be "the wine of kings and the king of wines."  Tokaji Aszu is a dessert wine made from ultra-ripe, late-harvested, botrytis affected grapes.  Each bottle of Tokaji Aszu lists the "puttonyos" (level of sugar) rating on the bottle ranging from 3-6.  Try the five or six puttonyos wines with apple pie.  The wine has intense aroma's of dried apricot, honey, walnut, raisin, marmalade, caramel and cinnamon.  Both the pie and Tokaji are voluminous and rich.  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, the cinnamon flavors take front stage.  Tokaji Azsu is also balanced by a refreshing acidity, that plays perfectly off my tart granny smith apples.  Don't be afraid to throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the pie either.  This wine will work wonders with it!  Other wines to try with apple pie are sweet German Rieslings, Sauternes, sweet Vouvray, Ice Wine, Muscat, Moscato d' Asti, and demi-sec Sparkling wine.

Pretzels with Wine

I've always loved giving gifts.  Seeing someones face when they open your gift is priceless.  I like this feeling so much so that I go to great lengths to find the ultimate gift.  I've spent hours at the mall in a sea full of kids crying while waiting to take their pictures with Santa, all for that moment of happiness.  After hours of tirelessly going from one store to the next, you catch a whiff of something amazing and your stomach starts to growl.  My nose starts to wiggle like a dog that's on the hunt for a delicious scent.  Without fail, it's always a pretzel stand.

You can order your soft pretzel several ways.  Plain, with or without salt, and ask for cheese sauce or mustard.  I prefer lightly salted and with cheese!!  Champagne is my favorite wine with soft pretzels and cheese sauce.  It's relatively low alcohol works well against the salt on the pretzel and the acid helps to counterbalance the creaminess of the cheese. The cheese also frames the wine nicely and the yeasty/biscuit/toasty character of the Champagne lends itself to the doughiness of the bread.  The flavor of the food heightens the flavor of the wine.  This Christmas, grab a pretzel with cheese sauce on your way home from the mall.  Or better yet, make home-made pretzels with cheese sauce, and have a bottle of bubbly nearby!  Tis the season to enjoy yourself!  Other wines to try with this pairing are Pinot Noir (old world), dry Rose, Pinot Gris (esp. Oregon) and sparkling wine.