I absolutely love this kind of dessert cheese course at restaurants, but too often don’t bother to create one at home. Just small-ish tastes of cheese, fruit, something sweet — with some attention to detail — paired with a lovely glass of dessert wine. It beats the heck out of most all-sweet desserts, if you ask me, and I think it’s especially appealing in warm weather months on those evenings when I want something special but not too heavy.
This pairing started with the Ethos Late Harvest Riesling, a bottle I’d been holding onto for a while, knowing that it would merit a little extra effort on my part. So instead of the “usual” biscotti that often accompanies dessert wine in my house, I concocted this plate full of goodies. It was also partly inspired by this cocktail — when I struck out on my search for kumquats, I picked up a bunch of gorgeous organic apricots instead…
Over the next few days, they disappeared — eaten out of hand, sliced into salads, dropped into smoothies, and then, eventually, poached in clove-infused honey. The other components on the plate include a slice of triple cream cheese (in this case it was Saint Angel, but I was actually had Délice de Bourgogne, and would have also been happy with St. André. (Come to think of it, Cambozola would have been interesting, too…) There are also a couple of Cinnamon Crumblettes from Wholly Wholesome, purchased at my local Whole Foods, thickly sliced and lightly toasted. I think any kind of spiced tea bread or even banana bread would fill-in nicely. And then a scattering of crushed Newman’s Own Organics Ginger Snaps, which have a candied crystallized ginger kick — I absolutely love these things. Of course, more power to anyone out there who is motivated enough to bake your own!
I wonder about people who say they just don’t like dessert wines. I just cannot quite fathom it… (Though, on the positive side — that does mean more for me!)
Possibly, they fall into the “coffee and dessert” crowd and for that I don’t blame them. I, too, would prefer a cup of coffee with my pecan pie, when it comes right down to it. And perhaps that contrast of sweet/savory is the secret to this pairing, too. It’s the same reason I love almonds in my chocolate. Speaking of which, the popularity of fleur de sel caramels is a study in contrasting sweet/salty goodness. And let’s not forget the whole red wine with chocolate thing.
So I would say, that if you think you fall into that category of people who just don’t “get” dessert wines, give a cheese and dessert wine pairing a go.
This particular dessert wine is a beauty — every bit as silky and mouthwatering and heady as I hoped it would be. Rich, elegant, dreamy, aromatic, apricot marmalade, candied citrus peel, wildflower honey, bright bright bright acidity, long complex finish. I could go on… Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Late Harvest Riesling Columbia Valley Ethos Reserve ($35, 375ml). Find it!
Recipe: Honey Clove Poached Apricots
1 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
4 whole cloves
4 fresh apricots (about 3/4 pound), halved lengthwise and pitted
Combine water, honey, sugar and cloves in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add apricot halves, return to a simmer, cover and cook about 3 to 4 minutes — until tender but not mushy. Using a slotted spoon, remove apricots to a serving bowl or storage container. Raise heat and boil syrup until reduced to about 1/2 cup — this could take anywhere from 15-30 minutes — stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Let cool slightly, then pour over apricots. Let cool to room temperature, then serve or chill.
Note: In my experience, no matter how similar the apricots seem to each other in terms of ripeness, some can end up softer than others. I would advise using more apricots than you think you need. The softer ones (or just extras!) are delicious additions to smoothies!