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Amazing appetizer to serve with Champagne

Dats Stuffed With Goat Cheese Best Appetizer for Champagne

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese

If you’re like us, you have a ton of cookbooks that you sift through before every party. And if you’re like us, there’s one or two recipes that you always go to for those parties. Maybe they are easy recipes, or maybe they are amazing recipes to pair with wines. Or, perhaps they’re just great appetizers that get the party off on the right foot. I’d like to share one of our favorite recipes, taken from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese, that fits all of those categories. This recipe is easy, makes great appetizers, and those appetizers are perfect to pair with Champagne.

This delicious appetizer is so easy to make, my 12 year old son was the chef. He had a tiny bit of help from us, but in general, he did everything from preparing the dates, to stuffing them, topping them, and baking them. Therefore, even if you have no cooking skill, you can make a perfect appetizer to impress your guests.  We’ll cover the recipe step by step, and recap at the end.

Dates Stuffed With Goat Cheese

The Williams-Sonoma Entertaining book recommends you use Medjool dates, however, our grocery store just had “dates” and they worked fine. I don’t like to discriminate. Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking dish that is just large enough to fit your dates in a single layer

making goat cheese stuffed dates Coat Pan With Oil

Coat Pan With Oil

Take a paper towel and use it to wipe the oil on the pan, removing excess. You want your dates to not stick to the pan, but you aren’t deep frying them. That’s for Paula Dean!

Put 1 TBS of olive oil in a small fry pan and warm on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Warm Oil in frying pan for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Warm Oil in frying pan

Once the oil is warmed, you’ll pour 2 TBS of plain breadcrumbs (or panko)  into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

cooked breadcrumbs for goat cheese stuffed dates

Golden brown breadcrumbs

Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to a plate, letting them cool. While the breadcrumbs cool, start pitting your dates. Using a sharp paring knife, slit the top of each date lengthwise, and carefully pry the pit out.

remove pits for dates stuffed with goat cheese

Pit the dates

Be careful not to make the slit on top of the dates too long, or your goat cheese will ooze out when baking. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get it. You want to make a little pocket in each date to stuff the goat cheese into.

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

date pocket for goat cheese appetizer

Once all of your dates are pitted, you’ll begin filling them with the goat cheese. Using a small spoon, gently fill each date with enough goat cheese that it just crests the top of the date.

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Stuff your date pockets with goat cheese

Once all of your dates are stuffed, arrange them in a single layer in your lightly oiled pan. Top each date with some of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Top Dates with toasted breadcrumbs

Once all of your dates are stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs, you’re ready for the bake. Bake dates on 375 until warmed, about 10-12 minutes.

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Bake Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates for 10 min on 375

Remove from oven and carefully transfer to serving dish. The dates will be hot, so use a spatula or tongs.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

These dates are simple to make, and delicious. They’re a surefire appetizer to serve at any party. The dates also  pair perfectly with Champagne or sparkling wine.

We paired our dates stuffed with goat cheese with an excellent Champagne from Vilmart & Cie, the NV Grand Cellier Brut, Premier Cru.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru

The Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Brut Premiere Cru is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The Brut NV Premier Cru Grand Cellier is the first in a line of specialty and Tete de Cuvees in the Vilmart line up. The blend is aged 3-5 years on the lees before degorgement, which helps create a full and rich mouth feel. This is a great NV Champagne incredible length, sophistication and mineral strength that is not usually found in non-vintage Champagne. The high percentage of Chardonnay provides a fresh apple and light tropical fruit note that is a beautiful and harmonious balance between crisp and full. Alder Yarrow from Vinograpy rated this $73 Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Champagne between 9 and 9.5 out of 10.

If you make these dates, let me know what you think. And more importantly, let me know what Champagne you pair them with.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fine dried bread crumbs or panko
  • 24 large dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1/4 lb soft fresh goat cheese

directions

  • Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold dates in single layer.
  • In a small frying pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs (or panko) and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer crumbs to plate, let cool.

  • With a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff 1 t of goat cheese into cavity left by the pit.

  • Arrange the dates, with goat cheese side facing upward, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top. (The dates can be prepared up to this point 24 hrs in advance. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator.)

  • Bake the dates until warmed through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.

What is Viognier

Viognier Grapes

Viognier Grapes

Have you ever wondered “What is that?” when a lunch date ordered a glass of viognier with their meal? Have you scanned a wine list, seeing a number of French wines, or California wines, made with viognier and wonder what it taste like? All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside our box. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of wine, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

Viognier is a French grape,  not very widely planted there any longer, with less than 300 acres planted in it’s Northern Rhone home. Pronounced VEE-ohn-yay, it’s the main white grape of the French appellations of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, and often blended with Syrah to add an exotic bouquet to the red wine. Viognier wines exploded in popularity in the United States in the 1990s, and there are more than a thousand acres of the white grape there today. You can find viognier wines from Virginia and France’s Languedoc-Roussilon regions in addition to California and the Rhone. Don’t be surprised if you see it from South America as well.

Typical markers, or notes, of viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine, as well as orange blossom. Along with a honey or honey-suckle notes, you’ll also find stone fruit flavors, peach, apricot, nectarine, as well as a nice spice component that can be described as baking spices.  On the palate, you will find it to be typically fuller bodied, often with an oily or “lanolin” feel in your mouth.

Food and wine pairings with viognier include chicken and fish dishes, from grilled to broiled, to poached. Those meats, or others such as veal, with butter or cream sauces will also work well with viognier . The white wine will enhance fruit flavors, making it s great pairing with fruit dishes as appetizers, or as a topping with those chicken or fish dishes. Viognier will pair nicely with lobster, crab, shrimp or other seafoods.  This is clearly food friendly, but also very nice white wine to sip on it’s own.  I’ve reviewed a Sobon Estate Viognier before, as well as a Lange Twins Viognier. Additional viognier reviews are coming, including a new one from Trattore Wines in Dry Creek Valley, CA.

Enjoy some viogner today, and let me know what you think!

 

Valentine’s Day Wines Made Easy

Wine for a Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Everyone likes options. While I tossed out a few great picks in my latest CBS Segment on Valentine’s Day and Superbowl Wines, some friends asked for a few more selections. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of perfect wines for the day of love. However, these are a few wines that I’ve sipped in the past few months that will work well for most of your Valentine’s Day needs.

Whether starting your night with a sparkling wine or pairing a Champagne with your meal, I’ve got three selections that I absolutely love. The first two are under $20 and widely available, and hail from the Alsace. Domaine Lucien Albrecht is one of the oldest leading Alsace family owned estates, tracing its roots back to 1425. The Albrecht Brut and Albrecht Brut Rose are two lovely sparklers from France, the Brut crisp with tart apples, the Brut Rose has notes of plums and tart cherries. Both of these sparklers make a great aperitif, and pair nicely with a cheese plate perhaps with goat cheese or Brie.

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Sparkling Gift Box

If you’d like a sparkler from Champagne, the Pol Roger Non-Vintage Brut White Foil is a great option. It cost approximately $40, and is delicious. Though a brut, meaning dry Champagne, I found the palate a little softer and fruit forward. It wasn’t as dry as perhaps the Pol Roger Pure Non-Vintage, another $40 option that is delicious. Again, perfect as an aperitif, and a beautiful pairing with fruit, cheeses, or even popcorn. Yes, popcorn! Champagne loves salty foods, so popcorn, potato chips and oysters are a natural pair. For those who’s French is as poor as mine, the name is pronounced pawl roh-ZHAY.

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

Pol Roger Non Vintage Brut White Foil

If you’re looking for a big, bold red wine for your evening of love, look no further than Mount Veder 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon or Trefethen Family 2004 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon.

A $40 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that definitely is worth it’s price, Mount Veder Cabernet Sauvignon has a nose of black cherry and a medium palate with medium tannin. There is great fruit burst up front with nice complexities, including a little vanilla, a little cocoa, a little pepper and spice. I think it’s well balanced, and good on it’s own or with food. If you are looking to pair a red wine with your Valentine’s Day dinner of grilled or roast meats, whether it’s beef, veal, even pork, this wine will do the trick.

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Mount Veder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been in the Trefethen Family wine club since 2008, and love the surprises they send me every few months. I enjoy their regular Cabernet Sauvignon quite a bit, which retails for about $50. For a special occasion I open the Trefethehn Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, which for $100 is a very special wine. Whether pairing with prime rib, rack of lamb or sipping alone, the big bold tannin grabs you, and the delicious black cherry and spice keeps hold of you.

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon

Zinfandel is for lovers, or at least I think so. It’s a warm, cozy wine, and it pairs well with anything from pasta to ribs to steak. Titus Napa Zinfandel will run you about $25, but it’s well worth it. Big and bold, like your love for your Valentine, there are fantastic flavors of ripe red berries, offset by huge pepper and spice on the finish. This wine needs some air to open up, though the second you pop the cork you will will instinctivly pour a glass and enjoy the powerful flavors this wine offers.

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Titus Napa Zinfandel

Not quite the powerhouse that Titus is, the Paso Creek 2007 Zinfandel is very round and approachable. Jammy berries, chocolate notes and even some caramel, this wine is a perfect sipper for under $20. Perfect alone, or with food, this wine will make your Valentine feel the love.

Paso Creek Zinfandel

Paso Creek Zinfandel

If you have questions about other wine options for Valentine’s Day, food and wine pairings, or anything in general, feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to play cupid, minus the diaper!