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Dessert wine paired with Harry & David’s Organic Pears + Giveaway

French Style Pear Tart using harry and david's organic pears

French Style Pear Tart

While any day is a good day for dessert, a holiday is the best excuse to enjoy it with a dessert wine. When Harry & David asked if I’d like to host a giveaway (end of this post) of one box of their organic Royal Riviera pears during the holidays, I knew it would be a great excuse to make an easy but delicious dessert, and pair it with some sweet wines. I asked friends for a pear tart recipe, something to remind me of the one I had when in Paris. My friend Linda gave me this easy, 5 ingredient recipe that came out perfectly. I then paired three different dessert wines, and euphoria ensued.

Harry and David's Organic Royal Riviera Pears are non-gmo fruit

Harry and David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears

The most important ingredient for the tart, of course, is the pears. They need to be perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy, and healthy. Harry & David’s organic Royal Riviera pears were just the ticket. These pears are included in just about every Harry and David gift basket, and like most tree fruit, they’re not genetically modified (non-GMO). Harry & David’s 80th anniversary is next year, and they still use all natural grafting methods, instead of genetically modifying the seeds. Though Harry & David did provide the pears for this post and the below giveaway, I have been a loyal customer personally as well on a corporate level for years.

To make the pear tart, you just need five ingredients:

2 Harry & David’s Organic Royal Riviera Pears (substitute different quality pears if you MUST…)
1 sheet Frozen Puff Pastry Dough (a rectangle that is about 12 x 8 is ideal)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I improvised and did 3/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp all spice)

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pasty was perfect

For the tart “crust”, I went with a frozen puff pastry dough from Pepperidge Farm. It was not the size and shape I wanted, but it worked just fine.

Before you start cutting and layering, mix up the sugar and spice ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Slice the stem and very top off of the pears and then slice the pears in half lengthwise. Then, use a paring knife and cut out the core. Next, place the pear flesh side down, and slice lengthwise about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

Slice then core the Harry & David Organic pears

 

Slice the harry & david organic pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Slice the pears in 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide pieces

Once the pears are cut, unfold the dough, placing it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

The Pepperidge Farm dough was about 9″ square, and I traced a border of about 1″ around it with a butter knife. Be sure not to go all the way through the dough. This 1″ border will cause the ends to puff up around the filling when cooking, and create edges around the pears. I would have preferred the dough’s width be about 8″, and then the 1″ border would have made for a much more narrow tart.

I was a little skeptical at first that tracing a thin border would create the puffed edges, but it really worked. WHO KNEW?!

cooking with harry and david non-gmo organic pears Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Trace a 1 inch border around the dough

Next, begin layering your pear inside the center of the dough. Be sure the larger end of the pear is closer to the traced line, and have the pears overlap. Try to use the smaller outside pieces of pear first, as a bit of a base. That way, the longer pieces will line up nice and upright. Be sure you don’t leave too much space between the pieces.

Layer your Harry and David pears inside the center of the dough

Layer your pears inside the center of the dough

Once your pears are layered nicely, being sure not to leave too much open space in the middle, while not going over the border, sprinkle the sugar mixture on the top. Place the tart in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 400. It should stay refrigerated about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

Sprinkle your Harry and David pears with the sugar mixture

After the 20 minute refrigeration, place your pear tart in the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, reduce the oven temperature to 350, and set another timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, if the crust isn’t golden brown and crisp, give it a few more minutes. Once finished, remove from oven and let cool. Now, on to the dessert wine!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Dessert Wine Perfect for a Pear Tart!

Pairing wine with sweets has one general rule: your wine must be as sweet or sweeter than your food. If not, the wine may taste muted or bland after tasting the dessert. That said, I’ve selected a trio of dessert wines to pair with the tart. They each come from a different region, and are made with different grapes. I will say that the Sauternes from the amazing Chateau Coutet pictured above was not opened for this tasting. It was a full sized bottle, as opposed to the typical 375ml half bottle you’ll find for white dessert wines. I therefore chose to open another, quite delicious bottle of Sauternes to avoid any waste of the Chateau Coutet, since I was the only taster.

Pairing Harry and David Pear Tart with Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Anakena Late Harvest 2008 dessert wine

Hailing from Chile, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 ($20) was the least sweet of the three wines. However, it was still a perfect pair with the pear tart. Made with 85% Viognier and 15% Muscat of Alexandria, the Anakena Late Harvest 2008 was not heavy on the palate, and still a bit crisp. The nose and palate were delicate white floral and dried apricot, with decent acidity. It’s not as  heavy or viscus as a Sauternes, and there are no honey notes that are found in the other two options. However, this is definitely the best dessert wine pairing if you are not typically a sweet wine drinker.

pairing harry and david pear dessert with Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

From the South of France, I paired Les Petits Grains 2011 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois ($15) with the pear tart. Made with muscat grapes, the Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois uses the noble Muscat a Petits Grains variety of grape, different than the Muscat of Alexandria in the Anakena Late Harvest wine, though from the same family. The commune of Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois was named after it’s famous muscat wines in 1936, and was originally Saint-Jean-de-Pardailhan.  The bouquet of the Les Petit Grains 2011 was unimpressive, and perhaps a little plastic. However, the palate is much different. A very viscous wine, there are delicious floral and honey flavors mixed with spiced orange rind, and laced with dried apricots that dance on the palate. This was an excellent option to pair with the Harry & David Royal Riviera Pear inspired dessert.

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes with pear tart dessert

Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes

The coup de grâce of this delicious project was pairing of Sauternes with the tart. I selected the Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes ($20), which is part of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild family. The bouquet is amazing floral, sweet honey and ripe apricot. This wine is much more viscous than the previous two, providing a very rich experience. The palate is a sweet savory experience, and each sip makes your mouth water. There are amazing flavors of honey and dried apricot, mixed with hints of flowers. This was the best pairing in my opinion.

Now the exciting part. I’m happy to be giving away some of Harry & David’s Organic The Favorite® Royal Riviera® Pears. One lucky person will win 1 box of beautiful organic pears ($34.95 value)!  H&D invented the fruit of the month club. At least one shipment of these pears is sent to every member. You can savor these delectables yourself, simply enter the giveaway below. There are multiple ways to enter, so be sure to catch them all!
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This contest is open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen Sunday 12/15/2013. I will need to forward a mailing address for the winner by Monday 12/16/2013 to Harry & David!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Exciting Delivery From Harry & David organic non-gmo pears

Exciting Delivery From Harry & David

Remember that Sharing is Caring. You should not only share this post with your friends, but share some wine and pears with them!

 

The Chateau de Cosse 2008 Sauternes and the Les Petits Grains Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois 2011 were both media samples from Pasternak Wine Imports. The pears used to make this dessert, as well as for the giveaway, were provided by Harry & David. However, per my sample policy, I offer no assurances that I will use products that are samples, and that my opinion will always be honest about the products I use. I have nothing but my word and reputation, and no free wine or food will make me compromise that. 

Wine and Dine: Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel and Stacey Ribs

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009

Cooler weather typically means people find themselves reaching for cozy food and wine pairings. While you may not live in a cool climate, you still may change your eating and drinking habits in fall and winter. One dish that really works in warm or cool climates is BBQ baby back ribs. They’re hearty and delicious, and can be made indoors or out. And, since Zinfandel works so nicely with barbeque, I’d recommend pairing BBQ ribs with Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2009.

Napa Cellars is part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio. They own or market a host of labels, from Sutter Home to Newman’s Own to Napa Cellars, and even Fre alcohol free wines. I received several samples from this past vintage release of Napa Cellars wines to review. Since I’ve already written about Napa Cellars Chardonnay when pairing with shrimp,, I thought I’d take this opportunity to focus on one of their reds.  Coming in at $22, this Napa Zinfandel has powerful, big fruit without being over the top jammy.

The Napa Cellars 2009 Zinfandel is 88% Zinfandel and 12% Petite Sirah, and is aged 14 months in French and American oak, 10% of which is new. The bouquet and palate are very similar, with chocolate and raspberries on the very inviting nose. The palate is fresh red berries surrounded by baking spices, cinnamon and a herbaceous note as well. The finish is very long, with a predominantly spice and pepper note. There’s a little cocoa that dances around that fruit and spice, adding a layer of complexity that was nice. Letting it breathe for 15 or 20 minutes did not tame this powerful wine, which was 14.7% ABV. However, it’s big without being jammy or hot, and that makes it worth trying.

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Stacey Ribs on my Traeger Smoker

Now, the ribs part requires a story. Our family loves to grill, smoke, and cook in general. I respect vegans and vegetarians, and apologize to my plant eating friends. This recipe is not going to please your palate.  However, PLEASE feel free to post your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe below, and I’ll try it, pairing it with some delicious wines.

One thing that makes it to the table at almost every cookout is ribs. I have several recipes, from a 6 plus hour smoke, to a 1 hour grill, to baking them in the oven. All of them are tasty, but Stacey Ribs have all but cemented their place as our favorite. Stacey is Robin’s cousin, who is an amazing hunter. The man lives to hunt. And he’s apparently equally as good at cooking what he hunts. In eight years, Stacey has only been to two or three events at the same time as us, but this year at the lake house was the best. He rolled out his trailer barbeque and fired up the coals. He then cooked some of the best baby back ribs I had ever had, earning the name “Stacey Ribs”. The preparation was simple, and the results were divine.

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

Cousin Stacey Queing Ribs

While the coals were heating the BBQ pit up to 325 degrees, Stacey peeled off the silver membrane from the ribs, and seasoned both sides with Everglades All Purpose seasoning, salt, and pepper. He tossed the ribs onto the grates, indirect heat, and let them cook for an hour and a half, turning two or three times. Then, during the next 20 minutes he basted each side with some BBQ sauce, mentioned below. He pulled the ribs off the grill, let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then cut and served. They were tender, moist, and flavorful. The simple preparation was very exciting, and the sauce was some of the best I’d had in ages.

Smoked Ribs on my Traeger SmokerI did the exact same preparation with my Traeger grill, and it was incredible. The Trager holds the heat constant, and produced a nice smokey flavor. I used apple wood pellets, as I light a lighter, sweeter smoke. And while the seasoning and smoking are important, I think the finishing touch was the sauce that Stacey used. He picked it up at  gas station in Kenansville, FL. From what I gathered, the company was small and just sold locally to the gas station. Stacey picked up a bottle while driving by once, and swore by it. I looked the shop up online, ordered a few small bottles, and the rest is culinary history.

Jimmy Bear's BarBerQ Sauce

Jimmy Bear’s BarBerQ Sauce

The sauce is Jimmy Bear’s Original BarBerQ sauce. They sell it online, and accept paypal. I ordered two of the 16 oz bottles, and cooking two racks of ribs used about 1/3 of a bottle. I didn’t dissect the flavors, but it seems to be a mustard base with honey flavors. The spices are excellent, and it’s a great balance between savory and sweet that worked perfectly on the pork ribs. I think the sauce, the ribs, and wine all made a perfect pairing for a good time with wine.

In addition to your favorite vegan or vegetarian recipes, what foods do you find yourself making and eating more of as summer ends? What’s on your table these days? I’d love to know, so comment below.

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.

Grilled Buffalo Burgers and Shiraz Food and Wine Pairing


The video has all the information about making the grilled buffalo burger, as well as the tasting notes on the wine. Let me know what you think of it, by leaving a comment below, or rating it on YouTube!

What are we drinking?

I’ve made a lot of great friends on Twitter, and quite a few have asked for food and wine pairing advice. I recently started collaborating with Robyn Medlin from Grill Grrrl, a website all about grilling some fantastic meals. We’ve discussed quite a few projects, which we’ll be rolling them out to you in the next few weeks. Robyn and I got on the topic of her grilled buffalo burgers, and I decided to make them for lunch and pair with a nice shiraz, the 2007 Vinaceous Snake Charmer.

Where does the wine come from?

McLaren Vale Australia

McLaren Vale Australia

McLaren Vale, one of Australia’s renowned wine regions, is located in Southern Australia. It’s famous for Shiraz, which accounts for 50% or more of it’s production annually. Vinaceous does not have it’s own vineyards, but rather sources it’s fruit from various vineyards in the area.

What does the wine taste like?

The video has all of the tasting notes you’ll need, but there’s definitely some nice berry fruit coupled with a great peppery finish. It’s a wine that changed from the time I opened it, until we finished the meal. I preferred it after 20 to 30 minutes of air, as you’ll see in the video.

What to pair it with?

If you saw my short writeup about the Syrah/Shiraz grape, you’ve seen some of the things that can pair with the Vinaceous Snake Charmer Shiraz. Grilled meats, whether lamb, beef, sausage, or obviously buffalo, are a natural food and Shiraz wine pairing. It does well with aged and hard cheeses such as Gouda and Parmesan.

Recap

Coming in at around $20, the Vinaceous Snake Charmer 2007 Shiraz is everything you’d expect from a McLaren Vale wine. Big fruit flavors with an aggressive pepper finish out of the bottle, it mellows nicely with air, and compliments almost anything you throw on the grill. However, don’t take my word for it! Grab a bottle of the Snake Charmer, pop the .. screw top .. and come back and comment on it below! And as always, Cheers!