Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Wine Drinks

I got a suggestion from one of my readers (Thanks, Dad), that I do a blog on summer wine drinks. While considering such a post, I was asked if there were any summer wine drinks besides Sangria. A quick Google search came up with hundreds, with names such as Cockney Champagne, Arctic Kiss and Lady Madonna. I'm going to stick to the more basic ones, and my favorite recipes for each.

Sangria is made with red wine and a variety of fruit and served over ice. This traditional Spanish wine punch should, naturally be made with a Spanish wine. The Tempranillo grape is traditional, but, a Garnacha would do just as well. For a lighter twist, try it with a dry Rose'.
1 750 ml. bottle of red wine
2 cups sliced fruit (oranges, lemons, nectarines, peaches, mango - your choice)
4 Tbs sweetener (sugar or honey) more or less to taste
4 oz Cointreau liqueur or fruit flavored brandy
8 oz club soda
Serve in individual glasses over ice.

Bellini. This Champagne cocktail would be perfect for a summer brunch. It is one of a handful of cocktails that can trace its origin to a specific time and place. it is said to have been invented in the 1930s at Harry's Bar in Venice. These days it is made with a multitude of different sparkling wines, most often Champagne, but I like it with Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkler. Some recipes call for peach schnapps. Personally, I would rather put a corkscrew in my eye than drink anything made with peach schnapps. I like it simple.
4 oz cold Prosecco
2 oz peach nectar or fresh pureed peaches
Serve in a Champagne flute without ice.

Kir. This drink brings me back to the summer I spent in Europe with my grandparents as a teenager. (Yes, they let me drink, quite a bit, for that matter! But, we'll save that for another post.) It's simply white wine, with a splash of Creme de Cassis, a black currant liqueur, and served with a lemon twist. The Kir Royale is made with sparkling wine. Some make the Royale with Chambord, a raspberry liqueur, but I find that too sweet and stick with the Cassis. Don't use your best white wine, but stick with something drinkable. My rule is, if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it, or mix with it.
5 oz still or sparkling white wine
splash of Creme de Cassis
lemon twist
Serve in a wine glass without ice.

Andito. This is a twist on the rum-based Mojito, invented by my friend Andy (or so he claims!) For this refreshing cocktail, the rum is replaced with white Port, and the mint replaced with basil.
4 fresh basil leaves, muddled in a rocks glass with
1 Tbs simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water)
Fill glass with ice, then add
5 oz white Port
1-2 oz fresh lime juice
splash of club soda
Shake & pour back into rocks glass.

I hope the weather is hot where you are, so you can enjoy one of these summer drinks today!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Farmers Market?

Ah, spring in the mountains! Life at 10,000 feet is lovely at this time of year....not. All the foodie magazines are full of phrases like, "Summer, with its bounty of fresh produce.." or "The farmers markets are bursting with fresh vegetables of every kind..." I'm looking out my window at a mountain covered with snow and bare Aspen trees. Everyone is talking summer, yet I still haven't had spring! The Western Chorus Frogs are chirping in my pond and I have noticed that the blueberries in the grocery store are now coming from California, rather than Chile, so I do believe that warmer weather is coming.

I am blessed to live in this wonderful place. I never (well, rarely) forget to appreciate the majesty of the mountains. I'm always blown away by the sight of a moose in my yard. And really, spring is the only season here that is not fabulous. Summer is gorgeous and never too hot. In the fall, the mountains turn golden as the Aspens get ready to drop their leaves. I love to start baking and cooking stews. I pack away (or drink) all of my Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios in favor of Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Then comes winter! I realize that if you are reading this from Green Bay or Duluth, you are probably wondering why I put an exclamation point at the end of the last sentence. But, here in the mountains, we love winter - skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling. And let's not forget the holidays! Spring, however, has essentially no redeeming qualities; it's cold & wet and cold & wet. So, we pretend; we go out without coats, break out our shorts and sandals and freeze our asses off!

And we keep cooking and drinking wine. I'll dabble in a main-course salad occasionally; my husband will tend the barbecue while shivering in the freezing rain. He cooked some killer burgers the other night. When it comes to burgers, I've got two words for you - Ground Chuck. Please, forget about the 93% lean and the ground turkey. Burgers need fat. Without it, they are bland and crumbly. Unless you eat burgers every day, make the splurge and make up for it tomorrow. By the way, the splurge is only caloric, chuck is cheap. And while we're talking fat, don't be afraid of making your burgers a little bit fat. (My husband refers to mine as meatball-burgers.) You can't get a flat burger to cook medium rare. If you need a flat-burger fix, you can always hit McDonald's later in the week.

With your fat, fatty burger, I suggest you drink an equally large wine. A California Cabernet or Syrah would be perfect. Or try a Spanish Garnacha or a Cotes du Rhone.

Pass the ketchup and keep dreaming of summer!