Eat Your Sweetheart Out: Snickers Cheesecake

Eeeeeeeee! It’s the season of sugar! (You really can’t make weight loss resolutions until after Easter, seriously). Valentine’s Day is today, and I sure hope your pancreas is ready for what I’m about to dish up. 🙂

It started with the urge to make a decadent cheesecake for my mom’s birthday.

When I googled snickers cheesecake, I came up with results that showed cheesecakes with swamps of Snickers bar chunks on top. This seemed like a good idea (and it’s not bad, I’ve had it at the Cheesecake Factory before), but not quite what I was hoping for, as far as great flavor and texture are concerned. Instead, I decided to pay tribute to the spirit of a Snickers bar, with roasted, salted peanuts, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream on top. I think I’ve created a winner! Snickers Cheesecake

If you’re looking to make dessert this Valentine’s Day (or any celebration, for that matter), you’ll appreciate this cheesecake recipe. It’s not too hard (considering) and it tastes way better than shoving mutilated candy bars in your cheesecake batter. 🙂

Ditch the box of chocolates, Forrest Gump… you and your Valentine will die and go to candy heaven with this recipe.

Ode to Snickers Cheesecake
(Heavily adapted from a recipe for Irish cream cheesecake from Favorite Old-Fashioned Desserts by Pat Dailey)
By Brenna Arnesen

CRUST
1 – 9 oz. box Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
4 T unsalted butter, melted

FILLING
1 c. plus 2 T granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 lbs. (4 – 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract

TOPPING
Hot fudge sauce
Caramel sauce (I used jarred for both, quick & easy)
Roasted salted peanuts, coarsely crushed
Whipped cream (from a can)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Crush the cookies into fine crumbs in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and mix well. Transfer crumbs to a 10-inch springform pan and press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crumbs are set, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, mix the sugar and eggs in a food processor or with an electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese in batches and mix until thoroughly smooth. Add the cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the cake is just set in the center, about 35 – 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, but leave the oven on.

Take your crushed peanuts, approximately 1 – 1.5 cups worth, and sprinkle on top of cheesecake. Return cheesecake to oven and bake for 6 minutes or so, until peanuts set and get slightly toasted. Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with room temp hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce to your liking. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours before serving, and then serve with whipped cream.

And snicker at how easy this dessert was to make! 🙂

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day! What are you eating and drinking tonight?

Love,
The Rambling Vine

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Life Lessons From the Super Bowl

Photo courtesy thenewstribune.com

It’s February 3, 2014, and the Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions! This was our year! What an amazing game to behold and cheer on. More importantly, it is my 7-year wedding anniversary, and I am thrilled to celebrate with my wonderful husband tonight with some fine steak and, of course, fine wine.

This post is more rambling than vine, but I wanted to share what football has taught me… and this is coming from a total non-jock who typically is only mildly interested in the Super Bowl every year. 🙂

No one player is greater than the rest of the team. The Seahawks are your case in point. All play unique roles and all are important. When you happen to find yourself in a position of superiority, glamour, or prestige, never look down on your other teammates. When you are in a position of inferiority, remember your value and importance in your role and don’t waste time and energy envying the other positions. Every job has its challenges. Be gracious to your teammates who are doing the best they can.

Be nimble, adaptable, and flexible, because things can all change at a moment’s notice.

Just because you carry “names” with you that the media throws at you (best quarterback, worst defense, etc.) does not mean those words define you. Only your performance defines you professionally. You can choose to allow those words to become your identity or leave them be.

Life’s highs and victories go so fast. Enjoy them. Let the Gatorade soak you to the bone.

When you lose, lose with dignity. It’s not necessarily a reflection on you and your worth as a person. After all, it’s just a game.

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect the same results. Be willing to take risks and try new things in order to score points.

Football is very hard on your body, and you only have so many years in the game. If you want to stay in it longer, take great care of yourself and improve the odds.

You cannot control what or who comes at you. But you can control how you respond and react.

And finally… beer goes better with football. 🙂

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Drink When You’re Expecting Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s challenging being a pregnant wine-lover. While very light drinking – especially after the first trimester – is probably not going to harm the baby, science still cannot tell us how little alcohol it takes to cause damage, and that’s just not something I’m willing to risk. My guilt wouldn’t let me anyway: I sneak thimble-sized sips of wine or beer from my husband every now and then, and I still panic a tiny bit. It’s just not worth it to me, although once I’m in my 8th or 9th month I may be so uncomfortable I’ll be willing to risk a glass of wine once a month. 🙂

However, there’s still “in the mean time.” It’s now June, and I am in my 21st week, or about  month 5. Still 4 more months of good behavior in store.

More than enjoying a glass of wine on its own, I have missed wine the most when I’ve had a very rich meaty or cheesy dinner and I don’t have those precious few sips of wine to wash it down and ease the digestion of fat. It makes a huge difference now in my ability to digest and enjoy a meal. Certain dishes like rich, buttery, cheesy pastas or marbled cuts of beef with velvety sauces are unbearable now without a glass of wine!

One night not too long ago, I went out to eat with my girl friend and in the spirit of yea-I’m-celebrating-with-my-out-of-town-friend-I-should-live-it-up I ordered macaroni with three cheeses and kielbasa sausage (makes me sick just to read that now!). What the heck, I thought. I never order this sort of thing, it will be a treat. The dish came, and it was wonderful and addicting, but then I began to fear the power of all that oily cheese and butter and the havoc it would soon wreak on my GI tract. There is a reason I never order this sort of thing without wine! What have I done, I thought to myself with the same disgust and self-loathing of someone who’d just signed up to run a marathon through Death Valley on a July noon. We were about to go see a movie after dinner… would I miss most of it because my body insisted I stare at bathroom wall art work instead?

But then I remembered what I could do! Although I didn’t have a tasty glass of wine with which to complement my mac and cheese, I recalled hearing about Italians from Modena, the region famed for prized aged balsamic vinegars. I had bought a fine bottle for my dad as a birthday present, and remember reading the tag on the bottle that listed how the people of Modena enjoyed their vinegar: over strawberries, over parmesan cheese, or – gasp! – even by the spoonful after a meal. Huh, that’s nifty, and makes sense, I had thought to myself. Vinegar is highly acidic and breaks down fat molecules, thus helping you digest. Taking a spoonful of rich balsamic vinegar after a meal is like a tonic or digestive aid, more medicinal in purpose, but if you select a sweet, dessert-y balsamic, it’s more pleasant than a harsh, cheap, low quality vinegar. The Latin and Greek roots of the word balsamic even mean “balsam-like” or “restorative” or “curative.”

With this snap revelation from Bacchus the Italian wine god, I asked our server if he could bring me some balsamic vinegar. After his first failed attempt of bringing me malt vinegar (the kind Brits put on their fish & chips – not something to slurp on its own!), he did manage to find some better balsamic and brought it to the table (someone got an education in vinegar that night). My friend had an empty condiment cup from her nacho toppings, so we emptied it and I filled it like a shot glass and slammed that baby down without too much puckering.

Praise the Lord, I had no issues! That shot of vinegar did the trick in helping me digest some mighty rich food. I think it probably worked better than a glass of wine because of how much concentrated acidity is in balsamic vinegar as opposed to a single glass of wine. Who knew, huh?

The restaurant balsamic was OK, but definitely not the finer, aged, gourmet kind you can savor on its own, with its dark, rich, syrupy smooth sweetness. Sometimes those bottles will run you $30, $40, $50 even, depending on how long it has been aged, and also the name brand.

If you want a fabulous, authenic, aged balsamico from Modena, with great texture and smooth, complex aromatics, have I got a sweet little secret! It’s even less than $20. You must think I’m crazy, right? Ha, check this out….

The sweet little secret is Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Tsillan Cellars in Lake

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Nectar of the gods, aged balsamic vinegar. Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

Chelan, WA. You know it must be good if we’ve downed most of the bottle, right? We bought this 8.45 oz. bottle for only $12 when we were wine tasting at Tsillan (pronounced Shuh-lan) Cellars last summer. This balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy and “is aged up to 18 years in wood casks. Its sweet yet subtle character makes it the most famous vinegar in the culinary world.”

Tsillan Cellars is a gorgeous Tuscan-style villa overlooking the lake. I could totally die happy there. I’ll definitely blog about some of their other wines down the road. For now, trust me when I say that they make fantastic wines and an astonishingly awesome balsamic. I don’t see this vinegar for sale on their website, so you may just have to plan a trip out to Lake Chelan soon for some wine tasting. Darn! 🙂

This vinegar is scrumptious on its own (I’ve enjoyed a couple spoonfuls since being preggo) or mixed with a fine olive oil to drizzle onto roasted veggies or in which to dip big hunks of rustic rosemary bread. For a special treat, drizzle over strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and mint with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Or, for an even more ridiculously special treat, stuff some medjool dates with bleu cheese, wrap with bacon, and roast in the oven until cooked through, dark and crispy, then drizzle balsamic over the top. Freaking. Unbelievable.

There’s something mysterious yet appealing about balsamic vinegar’s whole “sweet and sour” routine. It’s complex and satisfying, which is apparently something preggos crave a lot, like pickles and ice cream. Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, at least not eating them together. Balsamic vinegar is a whole new paradigm, like parenthood.

So, if you’re like me, an abstaining preggo who may get herself in trouble from time to time with rich dinners, make it your Mary Poppins mantra that “Just a spoonful of balsamic vinegar helps the indigestion subside… in the most delightful way!” 🙂

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bye Bye Business: When Wine Shops Go By the Wayside

There is an adorable little wine shop I’ve enjoyed frequenting that is shuttering its doors after over a decade of successful operations and scores of happy, loyal customers. Don’t let the word ‘adorable’ fool you into thinking I mean quaint, or “nice try, considering.” Oh no. Their variety and selection is among the best you’ll find at any boutique wine shop. Wines are racked properly, lighting and humidity are just right, all wines are organized excellently, and there are just enough cute gifty items to make it unique without being too hokey. The owners really know their stuff and have a very impressive selection of both local and international wines.

I recently read that they were closing at the end of the month. The owners are retiring and closing their doors. My first thought was, How selfish. After building up a great little business that’s helped revive a retail district in a small city, they decide to put a cork in it (no pun intended whatsoever). 😉 No mentions of selling it to someone else. Just gone. Poof. All that work, investment, wine, sweat, and tears, down the drain. A crime, to say the least.

Now, catch me under slightly different circumstances, I would totally love to plunk down an offer to buy it and rescue it. I’d be like a wine warrior princess kneeling with a sword lifted overheard and a “Teach me everything you know, masters!” look about me. Your business is too important to too many people and the community to see it vanish after all your hard work.

Unfortunately, and this may be what they ran into, who’s willing to put money into a retail business right now, even a successful one? If my work in the business community has taught me anything, it’s that retail stores are dying out right now, no thanks to things like Amazon, etc. It’s just a new reality that is forcing businesses to be more competitive and creative with how they sell their goods and services (however, restaurants are still opening, especially in areas zoned for restaurants and where other established restaurants have laid the foundation for a thriving restaurant district. Wine bars should be no exception).

However, if my work in the local business community has taught me anything, it’s also that there are more great resources out there to make business ownership possible than the average person is aware of. There are loans, grants, free advisors, business brokers, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. The resources are just sitting there, waiting to be used. And at this time right now, with small business creating a large percentage of jobs in America, we NEED for budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of these dynamite resources.

I don’t know. Perhaps the owners did explore these options. Maybe they are just so tired and ready to retire they said heck with it, and are just looking to liquidate and sell the space. Who knows.

Perhaps they don’t like the thought of selling their baby to another set of parents. It is theirs, after all; giving up your child must be hard to fathom. But wouldn’t you rather see your baby in the arms of safe, good, loving new parents? Even if they will raise it differently and it will turn out differently in part due to their nurture? Why would you let that stop you from fulfilling your legacy?

But I felt better when I read a letter to the editor on a blog. Someone wrote an urgent and frantic message, casting the net out into the community to see if anyone else wanted to go in with him on forming an LLC and saving this wine store. Thank you! I thought as I read to myself. I’m not the only one who is shocked to see this business go by the wayside. There is a critical mass out there who care dearly for this wine shop. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Under different circumstances, I would have loved to have bought this wine shop and started a chapter of my life having a successful wine business that means something to the community (especially when all the groundwork has been laid for you, what a break!). But I’m on a track right now I’m not ready to veer off of just yet. Does that mean I’m not entrepreneurial enough, not enough of a risk-taker? Maybe. You have to recognize and seize the opportunities when they come your way. Can’t overanalyze it too much. 

But it’s super disappointing to see a great creation vanish without a trace, simply because the owners are retiring. It’s a sin, really. I don’t know what to do about it, since it wasn’t a case of good-business-owners-who-did-great-and-tried-but-got-swallowed-live-by-recession-or-big-box-retailer-next-door. Because they still remained competitive… maybe not the lowest prices, but unparalleled selection, free tastings every Friday and Saturday, and the attention and familiarity that kept people coming back.

Not that it was the perfect business. I remember well a day where I went in, and, feeling like spending some money on nice wine, went in, moseyed around, and bought three lovely or curious bottles of wine for $60. A free tasting was happening next door, so I wandered over there with my brown bag of wine, sidled up to the bar and indicated I would like to do a tasting.

“We’re doing a fundraiser tasting today, so we’re asking for donations  today to raise money for blah blah blah,” one of the owners said. “Oh, that’s great,” I said. “But I haven’t got any cash on me.” I don’t remember his response very well after that, but he wasn’t about to pour me a tasting since I clearly wasn’t able to donate (in spite of spending a good chunk of change that day in his business!). A nice lady at the bar said, “Go ahead and serve her, I put in a $20, don’t you think that will cover a couple free tastings?” So I got my tasting, but don’t remember enjoying it very much, no thanks to Mr. Ebenezer Grumpypants. That one sour customer service incident definitely flavored the rest of my experience there. Some people just don’t get it. Customer service truly is everything.

With every business that closes, another one is getting ready to open up just on the next block. Fingers crossed that now we’ll get something even better than this great little place.

Here’s to a great example made, and to a new wine business legacy! May they do what you did best, wine shop!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Decadent Toasts: Dessert for Breakfast

Goodbye boring breakfast toast, hello fancy indulgence! Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

And now, a movie scene, concerning the luxury of toast….

Kate: You know something? Nobody gives a rat’s ass that you have to push the toast down twice. You know why? Because everybody pushes their toast down twice!
Leopold: Not where I come from.
Kate: Oh, right. Where you come from, toast is the result of reflection and study!
Leopold: Ah yes, you mock me. But perhaps one day when you’ve awoken from a pleasant slumber to the scent of a warm brioche smothered in marmalade and fresh creamery butter, you’ll understand that life is not solely composed of tasks, but tastes.
Kate: [mesmerized] Say that again.
Kate and Leopold, Miramax Pictures, 2001.

Kate & Leopold may not have been my favorite Meg Ryan chick flick (trust me, it wasn’t!), but you do have to agree with Hugh Jackman’s sentiment here… that our lives should not be measured by how efficiently we completed tasks; rather, its quality and richness is derived from the slowing down and enjoyment of color, depth, texture, flavor. I like this thought, and this is why I purposely make cooking a hobby and priority in my life: it’s important. Until we slow down and show our food a little more reverance in its preparation and savoring, we will forsake our health, quality of life, and enjoyment of life.

It was this thought of warm, oozing, pleasurable toast that led me to trying a couple of fun different toast combinations. I actually don’t eat much sandwich bread anymore… when we buy bread we get the kind without preservatives, but since we can never finish a loaf that fast, it always starts spoiling and we can’t finish it. Probably best for a couple of daily desk-dwellers to not be so heavily reliant on bread, but we do have it a little bit. These toast recipes are for when you’ve got a fresh loaf on hand and want to enjoy some toast at breakfast or brunch. Could even work for an afternoon tea!

Whole Grain Toast with Strawberries and Nutella

9 grain and seed bread, toasted medium
Butter, or healthy spread
Nutella
Fresh, super ripe strawberries

The strawberries I used were so ripe they were heavily fragrant and practically jam. Decadent! Enjoy with a pot of French press coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Like eating a chocolate covered strawberry for breakfast!

Topping Option #2:

Whole Grain Toast with Blueberries and “Mascarlade”

9 grain and seed bread, toasted medium
Butter, or healthy spread
Mascarpone cheese
Orange Marmalade
Fresh Blueberries
Cinnamon

Marmalade is highly underrated. It is, however, very very sweet, and a little goes a long way, especially when you have sweeter blueberries, too. Mascarpone is a fancy Italian version of cream cheese.

A toast to noble, yummy toast, and it’s unlimited versatility! What are some other deliciously unusual ideas for toast?

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Orzo-Mint Salad with Prosciutto, Figs, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

Fig: the name doesn’t quite befit this beautiful fruit, does it? Use black California Mission figs in a refreshing summer salad. ©iStockphoto.com/Ivan Mateev

Figs! When fig season is upon us, I freak out and buy as many as possible (short of troubling my digestive system), because we don’t really know how long it will last and how long they will be in the store (kind of like life, so seize the day and enjoy!).

Figs are so good for you! Did you know that figs are a great source of fiber and are highly alkaline? Alkaline means they reduce the acidity in your body, making it a hostile environment for cancer.

Here are some fun fig facts, for my fellow figophiles.

This pasta salad is yummy-licious! A friend of mine told me she made an orzo pasta with pecans, figs and mint a few years ago. I loved her idea but I upped the ante by rounding it out with some ham and cheese.

This pasta would be great with a white wine, maybe a Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Pinot Grigio. See? There’s my wine reference!

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market are the grocery stores I know of that carry the fresh California Black Mission figs regularly.

In fact, during the summer, you should be able to buy this meal completely at Trader Joe’s.

You will need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used lavender)
Salt and pepper
One 16 oz. package Orzo pasta (a full package is a lot, use half if you like)
One box fresh black California Mission figs, sliced into bite sizes (dry is not acceptable)
One package prosciutto, chopped (optional)
One 5 oz. log goat cheese, crumbled
One package unsalted dry roasted pecan pieces
Fresh mint leaves (to taste)

Prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Drain, run some cold water over the pasta to cool it off. Once the pot is cooled off, put the cooled pasta back in the pot and drizzle and toss with oil & vinegar. Add the figs, goat cheese, pecans, prosciutto (if any) and mint leaves. Mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

If orzo pasta ain’t yo thang, substitute with cooked rice, couscous, or quinoa.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Butternut Squash Quesadillas

Ooey, gooey, melty, yummy, they’re calling your name! Photo by Brenna Arnesen.

It’s time, ladies and germs, for another respite from vino… off on a culinary excursion! Whet your appetites, it’s gonna be really good! 🙂

I love to cook, and I love the final, tasty fruits of my efforts even more. Apart from learning basics like spaghetti and scrambled eggs from my mom, I learned how to cook real meals using recipes. Rachael Ray and her pink cookbook
get huge props for helping me beef up my skills to master chef status, especially when I lived on my own before getting married. I still tend to prefer using recipes when making meals, but as I gain more confidence, and the realization that not all recipes make perfect sense, I bravely make my own modifications and start trusting my own burgeoning culinary instincts… which is super important for every cook.

I’m maturing as a cook because lately, more than in previous years, I am now making up my own recipes. This is a huge step for a girl who is a cookbook maven (they are piled by my couch all the time for leisurely perusing and inspiration) and who has stuck to recipes much like a religious dedication to algebraic equations. I didn’t veer far from cookbooks, partly because I wanted to train myself by learning to follow a recipe verbatim and educating myself on process and terminology. But now I’m taking creative risks in the kitchen, and this is helping not only my cooking, but my whole outlook on life. Every time I cook, even though I’m using the same ingredients, it’s a new experience and new result every time. That’s the art of cooking.

One of the best ways to let your creative juices flow and have fun in the kitchen is to invent your own recipe. Not out of thin air, mind you, out of the inspiration you’ve gleaned from any fantastic eateries you have frequented. It only makes sense to borrow from the best and riff on them in your home kitchen. Most restaurants have their menus posted on their websites in PDF format, so you can refer back to the ingredients, or you can jot them down/take a picture with your phone when you’re dining there.

One such recipe I vowed to recreate at home and did — successfully, and even upped the nutrient quotient! — is butternut squash quesadillas from The Matador. Just uttering the phrase “butternut squash” puts me in a very happy place, so much so that I will order whatever item that is on the menu that has been blessedly paired with the saintly squash. It’s one of my favorite foods, obviously.

And this has become a new favorite recipe — made in a cinch, loaded with fiber and nutrients, and heartily filling. I just added the black beans and kale. You can find precut butternut squash at Trader Joe’s and if you would rather save time than money, this is well worth it. Of course, it’s not hard to prep an actual squash, but again, this requires planning ahead.

Purchase the quantities you need… this recipe paints in broad brushstrokes.

Butternut Squash Quesadillas
Tortillas
Sweet Onions
Kale
Can of black beans (try to make your own if you can, or scope out low sodium beans)
Cooked butternut squash chunks, perhaps a 12 oz. bag from Trader Joe’s
Goat cheese
Shredded pepperjack cheese

Slice or dice the onions (your call) and caramelize in olive oil (high heat first, then lower heat to saute). Add pieces of kale and saute. Add the cooked squash chunks and the rinsed black beans and warm through with the other ingredients. Move your filling to a separate dish. Take two flour tortillas; on one spread some of the filling and then crumble over some goat cheese and pepperjack cheese to your taste. Top with the second tortilla to make a frickin’ rad quesadilla, plop in a medium warm skillet to melt the cheese and heat through the middle, then flip to finish off the cooking.

Buen provecho, mis amigos!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How You Like Them Apples?

Even MIT wunderkinds endorse the virtues of spirited apple wine… in a bar in Boston, no less!

Finnriver’s Spirited Apple Wine Reveals the Magnificence of Washington Apples

We all need a change of scenery from time to time. Our palates need it, too. Man cannot live on wine alone, so when you’re tired of ink-stained teeth, saturated with sauvignon blanc and melancholy from merlot, consider this very appealing alternative for your liquor cabinet. (Yes, I will be writing about liquor periodically!)

Finnriver is one of my recent favorite discoveries. They are an organic farm located near Port Townsend, WA and they make first-rate hard ciders and liqueurs from farm-fresh fruit, using traditional artisan methods. (Brief, important tangent: try their dry-hopped pear cider for something truly refreshing and interesting!)

Their Spirited Apple Wine will shake up your taste buds. Even if you’ve tried other craft ciders and brandies, I don’t think you will have tried anything quite as deliciously different as this. Best of all, once you open it, since it’s a spirit it will keep for a long time in a cool, dark place. It’s great on its own or for mixing. Martinelli’s will soon be a bygone, a distant memory.

From the tasting notes: “The wholesome apple may surprise you with the sultry side revealed in this sumptuous spirited apple wine, handcrafted on our Olympic Peninsula family farm. After fermenting the fruit, we capture the tantalizing sweetness of the apples by fortifying with custom-distilled apple brandy. May this bottle of Finnriver Spirited Apple Wine bring you warmth and good cheer. Alcohol content 18.5%. Our Spirited Apple Wine won a Bronze Medal from the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.”

Another reason I really like Finnriver is their insistence on the inherent star quality of the apple. Currently in Washington (perhaps Oregon, too), dozens of acres of prime apple orchards are being decimated to make room for vineyards, due to the explosion of winemaking, to meet the demands of the wine craze. This is understandable, to an extent; agricultural landscapes change to accommodate consumer preferences (remember when Red Delicious was one of only three types of apples at the grocery store?) Yet it grieves me to hear this. As a native Washingtonian, I have a special place in my heart for our state’s prized fruit… as any Floridian would have for oranges. I’m also reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life at the moment, so I’m extra wary of drastic changes in farming and the vanishing varieties of produce on our planet. It amazes me we can let things go so easily sometimes.

Fortunately, the tides are turning just a wee bit, and others are recognizing the massive potential of cider as a great tasting alcoholic beverage. Finnriver is one of the best cheerleaders for Washington apples that I know of, and I’m proud to jump on their bandwagon. I think you will, too.

*Note from Finnriver: “One interesting note: the Spirited Apple Wine is not classified as a liquor but as a fortified wine, so it can be purchased and sold at wine shops in WA state. (Of course that is all changing now…)”

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.