Sunday, October 4, 2015

September 13, 2015 - John's Birthday Bash

Alright, folks... it's another birthday blog post!  And you know what that means - weird, crazy ingredients and odd combinations!  We will not disappoint you in this post, it's another one for the books!  John's chosen ingredients were:  wild boar and bourbon.  

Starter Note - Bourbon

Shout out to my brother in law for dropping this off the morning of our dinner.  He received a few bottles as a gift and unknowingly upped our game for our blog night.  (Sorry, Jim Beam.)  This boutique distillery makes only so many barrels per batch, so it is definitely a more refined bourbon.  Also, it is 124.7 proof.  I probably should have looked at that before I went hog wild.

Cocktail - Maple Bourbon Smash

Just FYI - figs kind of became the third ingredient solely because a massive flat of about 2lbs of fresh ones were insanely cheap at Trader Joe's on Saturday morning and I just needed an excuse to buy them!  This fun cocktail was a mix of bourbon, orange juice, maple syrup, lemon juice, bitters, and seltzer... definitely a perfect "gearing into fall" cocktail.  But keep it at one... remember, this was almost 125 proof!

Hors D'Oeuvres - Bourbon Duck Bites and Bacon Wrapped Bourbon Figs

I'm going to start with the figs - they are easy!  They are tasty!  They are a classic!  You can't go wrong with something like this.  We did use the fresh figs and therefore added some bourbon to the bottom of each hollowed out fig before stuffing it.  Let's talk duck.  Let's talk about how the one dish that we were the most unsure of turned out to be the hit of the night.  Literally... "like chicken nuggets on crack."  I did half the recipe - but should have kept the bourbon the same, because it is soaked up by the fried duck so quickly that there is no "sauce."  But, my God... unanimous decision around the table - biggest surprise of the night!

Appetizer - Bourbon Braised Short Ribs with Honey and Fig Mac & Cheese

Can you just smell the decadence coming off your computer???  We pretty much followed the short rib recipe but then played around with the cheeses.  I could not, for the life of me, find honey fig cheese.  Sooo... I found honey goat cheese and then a gruyere-cheddar mix from Trader Joe's.  Perfect!  I added some chopped fresh figs to the short ribs while braising to make up for the lack of fig.  Delicious!!!  This alone was a meal.

Appetizer - Mixed Green Salad with Bourbon Vinaigrette

We figured a salad had to fit in somewhere, so we threw it on the side of the macaroni and cheese.  We used some extra bacon from earlier and topped with some fresh sliced figs.  The vinaigrette was tasty and honestly was not strong.  

Appetizer Wine - 2013 Pio Cesare Dolcetto d'Alba 

This Italian red is fruity, fresh and fragrant.  However, it has nice structure, round tannins, and a slight spice to it that makes it a beautiful accompaniment to wild game!

Entree - Rack of Wild Boar with Sweet Potato, Apple, and Celery Root Puree Finished With a Roasted Garlic Onion Sauce

This is a 2-day recipe.  The wild boar needs to marinate.  The onion sauce has multiple components.  There is a caramelized onion jam that gets added to the sauce - that jam was made a day in advance.  (And the leftovers were delicious over pork chops!)  However, it all comes together very quickly.  The celery root and sweet potato puree is fantastic, the asparagus is always a great side, and the meat was tender!  It really did taste like a jazzed up pork chop.  The sauce was scrumptious - take the time to make it yourself... don't skip it!!!

Entree Wien - 20012 La Fortuna Rosso Di Montalcino

We stuck with Italy for this blog dinner and the next wine did not disappoint!  This red is fruit intense but has an admirable acidity.  It is full bodied, dry, and rich with a subtle spiciness and a softness hiding among the structured tannins.  

Dessert - Hazelnut and Bourbon Torte

Ummm.. yum.  Enough.  Bourbon and hazelnuts.  Can't get any better than that.  Oh, wait.. it can?  How about that 125 proof bourbon poured for an aperitif that was too strong for the sissies in the group (aka moi) and then poured over the torte instead... yup.. it can get better!

So there you go - another birthday blog post for the records!!!  Can't wait to see what is next!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 14, 2015 - Jennifer's Birthday Round 3

OMG, this is our 3rd year of birthday blog dinners.  Wowza.  Time flies.  So by now you know how this works, so let's get down the nitty gritty - this is a long post as it is...

Tonight's ingredients:  Ostrich, Balsamic, Blueberries

And away we go...

Cocktail - Strawberry Balsamic Bourbon Cocktail

1 part balsamic vinegar.  2 parts strawberry syrup.  4 parts bourbon.  Shake it up and pour it over some muddle strawberries and lemon slices.  Top with seltzer if necessary.  It's lighter than you think and has a delicious heaviness to it from the balsamic vinegar.  (The balsamic used is a classic aged balsamic vinegar of Modena.)

Hors d'Ouevre - Basil Whipped Goat Cheese Stuffed Strawberries with Balsamic Glaze

Aren't they cute???  This was soooo simple and easily put together a few hours before everyone came over.  A nice bite of sweet and savory in one!  (The balsamic used is a reduced balsamic glaze.  A balsamic glaze is a well reduced balsamic vinegar that then gets a very syrupy consistency and a sweet flavor.)

Hors d'Ouevre - Blueberry Basil Balsamic Mozzarella Crisps

Oh.  My.  God.  I made only one mistake with this dish - I didn't make enough.  If you look in the back, you'll see some classic tomato bruschetta lurking - that's because I really didn't know how this was going to turn out.  I was wrong.  The sweet and savory blueberries worked perfectly with the ooey gooey cheese and the fresh basil.  Did I mention the balsamic vinegar used in this dish?  We used a fig vanilla balsamic, and it definitely gave it an extra wow factor!

Appetizer - Massaged Kale Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad was jam packed with flavor - goat cheese, blueberries, grilled corn, almonds, cherry tomatoes - perfection!  And yes, you literally massage the kale and it slowly breaks down and becomes more tender.  The blueberry balsamic with rich and thick and really held up against the coarse greens and fresh ingredients!  This will be next week's lunch!!

Appetizer Wine - 2014 Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rose

Summer = Rose season.  Deal with it.  Embrace it.  This salmon colored wine was lively and fresh with notes of strawberries and citrus.  It didn't overwhelm the salad and instead helped accentuate all the flavors and create a clean palate for the rest of the meal.

Entree - Ostrich Steaks with Cassis and Blueberry Sauce

Ostrich is a bird.  But it really looks and tastes like beef.  It's also extremely lean, so therefore healthier for you than a lot of your other options.  But being that it is a game meat, it is best to serve with something a little fruity, and this sauce was divine.  (It also took pretty much all day to reduce, but if you've learned anything from our blog - its that reducing is time consuming but key.)  And we did use a classic balsamic vinegar in the sauce reduction.

Side Dish - Horseradish Whipped Potatoes

You really don't taste the horseradish!  And the fact that you make it early on and then just reheat is sooo convenient!  Delicious!

Side Dish - Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

There's no real recipe for this, because its simply become a staple in my life.  Halve brussels sprouts.  Toss with olive oil and kosher salt.  (The saltier, the better.)  Roast at 400 until they get caramelized and crispy.  At that point, I usually drizzle with honey and add whatever else I want and then throw them back in the oven for a few minutes.  (I would recommend additions like bacon, pancetta, dried cranberries, almonds, etc.)

Final Plate

Entree Wine - 2013 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel

This well structured red is packed with jammy fruity aromas yet has a rich and well-structured balance of black cherry and smoky pepper.  A delicious addition and a perfect match!

Dessert - Blackberry Balsamic Chocolate Mousse with Blackberry Balsamic Truffles

So I found a blackberry balsamic vinegar and realized it would be perfect for a dessert.  The chocolate mousse was great in concept - just to rich and filling for ending what had been a long and filing meal.  It was also rather sweet.  The truffles were good - just a pain to make.  Next time, I'll just buy some.

Aperitif - Homemade Basil Blueberry Liqueur

Let a bottle filled with blueberries and chopped basil and then filled with vodka sit for a month in the fridge.  Then drain and add simple syrup.  Serve cold..  This was tasty - but too sweet.  Next time, I'll add simple syrup in smaller quantities to taste.

May 24, 2015 - Cucumber Melon

If you are my generation (let's say your childhood existing somewhere in between the 80's and the 00's), then you are very familiar with the phenomenon that was the "cucumber melon" fragrance from Bath and Body Works.  While this dinner wasn't inspired by the fragrance, it definitely brought back some memories, and I am now the proud owner of some cucumber melon body wash just for old times sake.

Cocktail - Cucumber Melon Martini

Please ignore the lighting that gives these martinis a rather puce looking color.  We kept this one simple and refreshing.  Juiced cucumber and cantaloupe with some vodka - can't go wrong with this classic!

Appetizer - Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp and Melon

Did you say you were looking for something to bring to lunch this coming week that was tasty and healthy?  Look no further!  We did use cantaloupe for this, not watermelon, as there was a theme here, people.  Light, delicious and guilt-free!  We followed the recipe exactly (halved it), and literally just grabbed a handful of fresh herbs from the backyard.  I believe they were parsley, basil, mint, dill, and possibly thyme.

Appetizer Wine - 2013 Banfi Centine Toscana

We may have blogged this one before, and that's ok, because its lovely!  I had the pleasure of visiting the Banfi Vineyards when I was in Tuscany last summer and therefore I'm probably a little biased.  This wine is fermented part of the time in stainless steel and then part of the time in oak, leaving a rich flavor full of apricot, pear, lime and herbs.  It's dry and well balanced with a good acidity.

Entree - Grilled Swordfish with Cucumber Melon Salsa

I almost feel bad because there was barely any effort involved this week.  Yet, it still came out a dynamite meal!  Follow the salsa recipe as is, grill swordfish to your taste, and voila!

Side Dish - Melon and Prosciutto Risotto

I know you're thinking to yourself "where does this come from?"  Well - it came out of left field and it was fabulous!  You always see prosciutto and melon together as an appetizer or finger food - so why not add some starch?  Trust me - give it a shot!

Entree Wine - 2014 Babich Sauvignon Blanc

This fresh and fruity wine has a strong minerality to it which was a nice complement to the fruit-heavy meal.  It was well balanced with medium weight and equal flavors herb and fruit.  Great pick!

Dessert - Melon Gelato

So, let me take you back to Italy and try to explain the heavenly dessert called gelato.  No, its not ice cream.  No, its not sorbet.  There is absolutely no comparison for it, and it deserves a league of its own.  Sadly, it is simply nothing that I have found replicated on this side of the ocean.  Our fruits or creams or whatever must not be the same, because store bought and even homemade gelato still does not compare.  It had a granular texture almost, and unfortunately, the melon just wasn't strong enough to really give this dessert some standout flavor.  That's ok - we'll just keep on perfecting it.

Aperitif - Duck Walk Blackberry Wine

I know I've mentioned the Long Island vineyards before, and Duck Walk is one of my favorites!  Besides one of my favorite people ever working there (hey there, Michael!), it does make some great wines at very reasonable prices.  This dessert wine cannot be beat!  Full and luscious with tangy and sweet notes!  

Soooo... there you go.  Another blog dinner... and guess what - another post coming up tonight as well!  It's that time of the year folks - birthday blog dinner!!!  You'll never guess what Jennifer came up with!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 14, 2015 - Lychee and Coconut

Good Morning!  It has been a long time.... this is technically our first post of 2015!  And we have a beauty of a meal for you!  

If you live in the Northeast, you are probably like us and cursing winter at this point.  The sound of a snow plow sends chills up your spine, and you are staring longingly at your flip flops waiting for that first crocus to emerge.  With that in mind, we decided to make this blog night a spring-ready meal... light, flavorful, tropical!  However, we did have an issue this week.  Originally, our chosen ingredient was a kumquat.  Why?  Because why not!  I was in the grocery store, saw them for sale and the next day, shot Jennifer an email saying "we've never tried Kumquats!"  So we plan up this fancy menu... low and behold the next week when I go to the grocery store - they're now out of season.  Soooo... we had to make some small adjustments, but I can't imagine this meal being any better!

Cocktail - Lemongrass Lychee Sake-Tini

Mix some vodka, cold sake, the juice from the lychee can, some lemongrass syrup and voila!  This was exquisite!  The slight gingery heat from the lemongrass with the sweet lychee - perfection!

Appetizer - Watermelon, Lychee, Basil Salad with Spicy Lemongrass Vinaigrette

Ok, so lychees are odd looking, I know.  They are a Japanese fruit that can be found at most Oriental markets and come packed in syrup in a can.  (Almost like when you buy fruit cocktail at the grocery store.)  They are delicious - sweet and exotic.  If you've never explored this fruit, definitely give it a try - don't be put off by the odd appearance.  Now - let's mix these sweet lychees with some crisp and juicy watermelon, add some fresh chopped basil and mix it with a spicy lemongrass dressing and you've got yourself a fabulous meal.  This along could be a stunning lunch!  (We did exclude the feta - just didn't seem to make sense.)  Oh - and the lemongrass - we cheated.  We could have bought the individual stalks at the grocery store, but instead found a jar of pre-sliced lemongrass in liquid and that worked out even better.  (We also use lemongrass a bit so its just economical.)

Appetizer Wine - 2013 Pike's Riesling

This crisp Riesling was a surprise!  Not sweet and not overwhelming at all!  There were great flavors of green apple and lemon with a lingering finish of mineral and stone.  A fantastic summer wine.

Entree - Coconut Crusted Swordfish with Mango Sauce

This is where that lack of kumquat could have caused an issue.  However, we made a quick executive decision and mango seemed like an equally good partner to coconut and fish!  This would make your gym trainer so happy.  (I think... don't quote me on that.)  Fresh and delicious swordfish lightly coated in coconut flakes and then sauteed up.  The sauce is divine - a simple mix of the OJ and diced mango in the leftover juices from the fish!  (Yes, we did cook with coconut oil.)  Seriously - a light and delicious fish!

Side Dish - Coconut Rice

See picture above

It's a rather foolproof recipe and it leads to delicious results!  (Paired with some fresh edamame!)

Entree Wine - 2012 Trimbach Pinot Blanc

This French white is the perfect pairing.  Smooth and crisp with white flowers and apricot, this medium bodied white stood up well to the meaty fish but didn't overpower.

Dessert - Chocolate and Mango Spring Rolls

I'm not even sure why I'm posting the recipe since we completely deviated from it.  First issue was the lack of kumquats (easily solved with mango).  Second issue was once we read it after two bottles of wine, we realized it involved making your own chocolate bars.  (Umm... yeah... not going to happen.)  Sooooo.... we winged it.  We combined chopped chocolate, shredded coconut, diced mango in a bowl and then filled spring roll wrappers.  Roll them up and quickly fry.  Then dust with chocolate shavings.  Delicious!

Aperitif - Mionette il Ugo

Ok, so an Italian prosecco doesn't quite match the rest of the theme, but there's a cute butterfly on the bottle!  We didn't know what to pair with dessert and after the light wines, we figured some bubbles were in order!  This prosecco is actually fused with elderflower so it gives a nice crisp finish that perfectly rounded out our meal!