madiera

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.

Ice Cream with Wine

Vanilla or Chocolate? Chocolate! I always felt different from the other little kids growing up.  One reason being, I loved chocolate ice cream.  While almost every one of my friends liked vanilla or strawberry, I was a true chocolate fan.  If plain chocolate wasn’t available I would take rocky road as a backup.  I also liked sugar cones more than waffle cones.  When asked what I wanted for dessert, I would always say, “A chocolate cone”.   My grandmother would mention buying something else for the week to have for dessert, but I held strong.  This is true to my personality.  When I like something, I usually stick with it.  Whatever item I like at a restaurant, I order every time I go.   I’ll ask to taste someone else’s dish to see if I’m missing out on anything, but unless that sample completely moves me, I never stray from my original choice.   And in case you’re wondering, chocolate is still my favorite.

The flavor of ice cream is really key when choosing a wine to pair with it.  However, the one wine I've found that works with a number of flavors is late harvest Muscat (Black or Orange).  Late harvest means the grapes were left on the vines well into the fall becoming very ripe and full of sugar.  "Elysium" the wine used for this post was amazing with both chocolate, rocky road, and vanilla ice cream.  The wine has flavors of milk chocolate and jam, making the chocolate ice cream taste like a chocolate covered cherry.  With rocky road ice cream, the experience got even better!  The marshmallows and almonds really came to life and both the flavor of the food and wine were heightened.  Vanilla ice cream was incredible when the wine was poured over it like syrup!  Besides the flavor, this wine works well because it is full-bodied and matches the weight of the ice cream, has enough acidity to stand up to the cream and cut through it, and has enough sugar to match the sugar in the dish.  When pairing dessert with wine, the wine needs to be equally sweet, or sweeter than the dessert, otherwise the wine will taste extremely tart.  Other wines to try with ice cream are Moscato d' Asti (especially with vanilla or fruit driven ice cream), tawny Port (especially with chocolate ice cream), sweet Sherry, Vin Santo and sweet Madeira.

Pumpkin Pie

I never liked pumpkin pie. Every year at Thanksgiving my mom would barely touch her food.  My grandmother would snicker, and everyone, including me, would give her a hard time for not eating grandma’s delicious food.  Her answer would always be, “I’m saving the calories for pumpkin pie”.  She loved pumpkin pie!  I would watch as she cut a slice of pie, sprayed whipped cream on top, and then practically inhaled it.  I hated the texture and couldn’t understand why she liked it so much.  Without fail, I would catch her in the kitchen hours later, trying to stuff another slice down her throat before anyone would notice.  Today, I actually enjoy a bite or too of pumpkin pie.  Although it’s still not my favorite, what would Thanksgiving be without it?

This Thanksgiving, don't forget the dessert wine!  Pumpkin pie has a creamy texture and a hint of spice.  Madiera (Malmsey) is amazing with this dish.  It's reputation as a cheap cooking wine has done it a great injustice.  Madiera comes from the Portuguese Islands of Madiera.  Its made in a range of styles from dry (almost no sugar) to sweet.  Malmsey is the richest, sweetest style.  The wine has great natural acidity, helping to cut through the creaminess of pie, and an inherent spiciness that mirrors the flavors in the dish.  What's better, is that an opened bottled of Madiera lasts nearly forever due to it's exposure to heat & oxygen during the wine-making process.  Other wines to try with pumpkin pie are tawny Port, Sauternes, sweet Riesling, Tokaji Aszu and sweet Sherry.