Carrot Cake with Wine

Easter was always about the gift basket.  Screw coloring eggs, I was in it for the chocolate bunny, stuffed rabbit and coloring books.  The day before Easter was always reserved for decorating eggs, which I loved to dip in every color and write my name on so that there was no doubt as to who the best Easter egg designer was.  We'd even leave carrots outside on our patio table for the Easter bunny to fuel up on while he hid our eggs.  My grandmother would usher me to bed the night before Easter as she set out my basket, returned carrots to the fridge and hid eggs for me to find.  One year she even went as far as throwing rocks on the roof to pretend the Easter bunny had landed at my house.  As with Santa Claus, I was told the only way to receive my gift was to fall fast asleep.  I pinched my eyes tight as I imagined the Easter bunny on our roof.  I don't know how she did it, but somehow there was always a basket right next to my bed on Easter morning.  When it came to finding eggs hours later, it was strictly a competition thing for me.  I wanted to find the most eggs at any cost, even if that meant taking one out of your basket when you weren't looking!  Here's to wishing you great memories this Easter with family and friends and a great bottle of wine!

In honor of the Easter bunny I've chosen a dish based on his favorite food, carrots!  Carrot cake was always a favorite of mine.  The sweet moist cake layered with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with walnuts is the perfect dessert to celebrate the end of a delicious Easter dinner.  Take this dessert to another level by adding a glass of Harvey's orange infused Cream Sherry and even the Easter bunny would rethink eating carrots without a glass of wine.  Sherry is a fortified (alcohol has been added) wine from Spain that comes in a range of styles from dry (almost no sugar) to sweet.  Cream Sherry is made by blending different sweet wines together.  After a bite of the cake and then a sip of the wine I notice the orange zest found in the cake spring to life against the orange flavors present in the wine.  The two combined create almost an orange creamsicle like creamy texture and flavor on the palate.  The wine has just enough acidity to wash the cake off the tongue and neither one out does each other; meaning that I don't loose the flavor of the cake or the wine when I combine the two.  Other wines to try with carrot cake are Muscat (esp. orange), Tokaji Aszu, sweet Riesling, Malmsey Madiera and late harvest Zinfandel.  Cheers!

Banana Split with Wine

For a kid who never liked to share, a banana split was the rare exception.  I was raised as an only child and never had to share with anyone.  Although, between both my mother and father I have 6 half brother's and sister's.  I came into this world by chance really.  My mother and father had a 20 year age gap and had been friends for years.  My mother modeled and was a Las Vegas showgirl, but at the time of meeting my father, both worked in timeshare sales.  My mother wanted the bad boy, and although my father was very much a ladies man, he was not the sort of guy my mother had in mind.  Then by chance on a rare evening in Las Vegas the two connected and you now have yours truly.  They both had children with other people, but also by chance, none of them lived with me.  I soon looked to friends and cousins for the sibling like bond that I so dearly wished for.  And on outings to the local ice cream shop, I begged them to share a banana split with me.  I would giggle as we all stuck our spoons in the same dish and hurried to out eat each-other.  This was out of character for me, especially because if you touched my French fries, we may of had to fight!

Banana Split and Wine!  Another childhood favorite that I have to giggle at when enjoying with wine.  Although many wines work with this pairing, one recently made fireworks light up the sky.  And that was a fortified Australian stickie (dessert wine) called Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve.  The Muscat grapes are allowed to hang on the vine for a longer period of time until they shrivel up like raisins.  They then fortify the wine by adding liquor to it and age the wine for several years.  After, they then add both younger and older wines to the original wine to create a sort of "house style".  In the end you have a deliciously concentrated dessert wine with aromas of raisin, prune, molasses, honey, walnut, vanilla and spice.  Not to mention a killer finish (amount of time the flavor lasts after you swallow the wine)!  After a bite of the dessert and then a sip of the wine I notice that the banana flavor is intensified and prolonged while the nuts are playing a minor role somewhere off in the distance.  As with most wonderful dessert wines, there is an incredible acidity that not only balances out the sweetness of the wine, but helps to wash the ice cream off the palate.  I also like that texturally they are both creamy and heavy, mirroring each-other.  And finally, because this wine is fortified it is very high in alcohol.   The coolness of the ice cream helps to tame the heat from the high alcohol in the wine.  What a fun way to enjoy dessert and wine!  Other wines to try with a banana split are other Muscat based dessert wines, Tawny Port, Malmsey Madiera, Banyuls, Sauternes, Late Harvest white wines, and Moscato d'Asti.

Brownies with Wine

I loved being a girl scout.  Albeit brief, I enjoyed every moment with my troop.  The holidays were always filled with lots of exciting activities.  Shortly before Christmas eve, we'd go door to door singing Christmas carols for anyone willing to listen.  Those poor people were too nice!  This was also the time of our annual bake sale.  To prepare for the event, a sleepover was held at our troop leaders house.  After a vote that consisted of each girl raising her hand, we decided on brownies and pumpkin rolls.  That evening we baked and laughed as we packaged each of our treats.  I don't remember how the brownies tasted, but I do remember having the time of my life, being apart of something special.

I had the wonderful opportunity to drink Heitz Cellars 2004 Grignolino Port with a batch of homemade brownies.  Heitz Cellars has a reputation for being one of the top wine producers in California.  They make a small production, rare bottling of this Port, made from the Grignolino grape. (Pronounced "Green-o-lean-o!")  Talk about perfection!  The blackberry, plum and and sweet maple flavors of this wine pair nicely against the chocolate flavor of the brownies.  The Port also has great acidity to balance the richness and sweetness of the dish and intensify the flavor of the chocolate.  As one friend puts it, "This pairing is BOMB.COM!"  And feel free to add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream!   If your brownie has nuts in in it, try an Oloroso style Sherry.  This wine is full of nutty, molasses, caramel and brown sugar aromas that are sure to play off the nuts in the dish.  Other wines to try with brownies are Muscat, Banyuls and PX Sherry.

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.