Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers with Wine

I'm a lover, not a fighter.  Nowhere was this more evident than in my childhood.  I can recall coming home from school and crying to my mother about how mean kids could be.  I was extremely sensitive and would get my feelings hurt over just about anything.  To make matters worse, I had gaped teeth and was teased about it constantly.  I just wanted to be liked and fit in.  I had always found the space between my front teeth to be something that made me unique and a source of fun since I would shoot water through it.  Suddenly, I went from being a cute little girl to an awkward pre-teen.  I tried to hide my gap by purposely smiling with my mouth closed or holding my lips over my front teeth.  Fortunately, this didn't stop boys from liking me, but it did take a toll on my self-confidence.  After being called "gapy" for what seemed to be the millionth time by a boy at school one day, I begged my mother for braces.  I was only 10 and I knew she didn't have the money, but I wanted to stop the pain.  My mother suddenly opened up about her own experiences of being teased in school and said these famous words, "Honey, sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you."  Words did hurt, but I learned to look at the situation differently.  I developed a wall of steel and no matter what anyone said to me, I tried to only believe what I thought was the truth.  It was the beginning of a defensive mechanism, as well as streak of stubbornness, choosing to believe only what I wanted to believe about myself.  Luckily, a few years later my grandmother financed braces for me and I was able to put that skeleton in the closet.  As I entered a new high school in a new city, no one knew that I ever had gaped teeth.  Although that didn't stop kids from finding something to tease me about!  Sometimes I wonder if I still had gaped teeth, would I shoot wine through the center of them? Hopefully not, since it wasn't very lady-like and would be a waste of my precious vino.

Cheese and peanut butter crackers remind me very much of my mother.  On a recent trip to Canada, I brought along a few packages for her to munch on.  She's always loved the snack and it's one of the reasons I chose to pair it with wine.  As I watched her munch on the crackers, I decided to show her how they too can work with wine.  As soon as we arrived in Vancouver, I searched for a local wine shop.  Low and behold they had exactly what I was looking for, the 2008 Okanogan Estate and Vineyards Gewurztraminer (geh-VURTZ-tra-MEEN-er) from Washington state.  The wine is off-dry (slightly sweet) with characteristic notes of honeysuckle, lychee and orange blossoms.  I tell my mom to stick her nose in the glass and see if she can pick any of these scents out.  She likes to garden so she immediately smells the orange blossom.  Then, I tell her to take a bite of the food, followed by a sip of the wine.  I want her to notice how the saltiness of the cracker and peanut butter is contrasted beautifully by the sugar in the wine.  The honey, peaches, apricot and lime flavors also help to off-set the saltiness of the food.  The honey-like texture of the wine is mirrored by the creaminess of the snack.  Finally, the wine has an incredibly clean finish that helps to wash all the flavors off the tongue.  My mom was impressed by how much she likes the pairing.  Although, I figured she would since it's one of her favorite snacks and the wine is extremely easy to drink.  I hope you'll enjoy it as well!  Cheers!

Broccoli 'N' Cheese Soup with Wine

Although you couldn't get me to eat oatmeal, I never had a problem finishing my veggies.  Heck, I even liked peas!  Broccoli was always my favorite green veggie.  When served with dinner, I would arrange the brocolli around the top of my pile of mashed potatoes to look like hair.  I would then draw two eyes and a smiley face with my knife, all to the dismay of my grandmother who warned me not to play with my food.  "Courtney, eat your food!" she'd scold.  My grandmother often made her own cheese sauce from scratch and served it dripping hot over broccoli.  When I learned there was a soup that combined both of these things I was sold!  The best broccoli and cheese soup I've ever tried is made at Panera Bread.  The cheese flavor is reminiscent of macoroni and cheese and they always serve it with a small baguette.  Nothing lifts my spirts on a chilly spring night like Panera Bread's Brocolli and cheese soup.  And when paired with a great bottle of wine, you won't have a problem eating your veggies;-)

I love the magic that happens when I serve broccoli 'n' cheese soup with Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  The soup is piping hot and extremely creamy whereas the wine is served chilled and is highly acidic.  Both have aromas/flavors of green veggies and the sharpness of the wine plays nicely off the sharpness of the cheddar cheese.  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, the broccoli flavors spring forth.  The wine helps to cool the soup down and washes the cheese flavors off the palate due to it's high acidity.  What I also love about this pairing is that neither the wine nor the food gets lost against each other.  This is partly due to the fact that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is highly aromatic and can stand up to flavorful dishes.  Other wines to try with broccoli 'n' cheese soup are Viognier (esp. cool regions of CA), Chardonnay (esp. cool regions of CA), Sancerre, dry Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris (esp. Oregon), Pinot Blanc (esp. Alsace) and sparkling wine.  Enjoy!

Jalapeno Poppers with Wine

I have to be honest.  Up until recently, I had never tried a jalapeno popper in my life.  Boy was I missing out!  And if you're wondering just exactly what a jalapeno popper is, let me be the first to introduce you to this tasty little snack.  It's a jalapeno that's filled with cheddar cheese, breaded and then fried.  Delicious!  And this makes me wonder, what else have I missed out on?  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I always order what I know I like on the menu of any establishment for fear of being disappointed.  And out of the blue this little bite of goodness has suddenly turned my world upside down.  No more playing it safe.   From here on out, it's time to be a little adventurous!

This snack encompasses three of my favorite things.  A little spice, creaminess and crunch.  And after trying several wines alongside it, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc blows the roof off on all the others.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown in many parts of the world.  It does particularly well in France, Australia, Chile, South Africa, California and New Zealand.  What New Zealand versions offer that others don't is a zingy crisp acidity.  This acidity works amazingly with fried food, helping to cut through the grease.  Since jalapeno poppers are fried, we have a great combination.  The acidity also cuts through the creaminess of the cheese and helps the wine stand up to the spicy flavors in the food.  Sauvignon Blanc is vegetal and citrusy, allowing it to work wonderfully off the greenness of the jalapeno.  After a bite of the food and then a sip of the wine, I notice the jalapeno flavor is heightened and the wine suddenly seems slightly sweet.  Other wines to try with jalapeno poppers are German Riesling and Gewurztraminer, Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, sparkling wine, and off-dry white wines.  Avoid wines that are too high in alcohol.  This will increase the intensity of the spice.

The Bobbie® with Wine

For years I heard people talk about it.  Many would say it was the best sandwich in town.  And then I found out what all the hype was about.  It’s called “The Bobbie®”.  The Bobbie® is basically Thanksgiving dinner between two pieces of French bread.  Shredded turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo, make it to die for.  And let me be the first to tell you, we’re not just ordering this at Thanksgiving.   The next time you’re in Las Vegas, you have to stop by Capriotti’s sandwich shop.  Believe me, it’s worth the trip!

It's amazing how many wines work with this sandwich!  To celebrate Thanksgiving however, I suggest drinking Beaujolais Nouveau with The Bobbie®.  Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape and released the third Thursday of November, shortly after the grapes have been harvested.  Like Thanksgiving, Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk in celebration of the harvest.  Because the wine is only 7-9 weeks old, it is extremely light, fruity and easy to drink.  Beaujolais Nouveau's berry flavors compliment the cranberry sauce, and suddenly, after taking a sip of the wine, the non-existent turkey flavor takes front stage.  Another wine to try with The Bobbie® is a German Riesling (Kabinett).  Kabinett is a drier style of Riesling.  With Riesling, the cranberry sauce and stuffing come to life, and the food and wine seem sweeter.  The aftertaste is incredible!  In addition, the Riesling has the acidity to cleanse the palate, making you want to go for another bite.  Other wines to try with The Bobbie® are Zinfandel, Shiraz (both still & sparkling), Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, CA Chardonnay and Cab!