OK. I'm back from vacation, extremely well rested, slightly tanned, and moderately well read (completing Twilight and New Moon in one vacay may be a lot of reading, but not particularly challenging). There's nothing like a little tropical beach time to help you forget the daily doldrums.
Actually it wasn't that long ago that I took a staycation (just trying to use all of my vacation days by the end of the year!) and spent my days furiously baking as you might recall here, here, and here. I also hosted a mini-wine tasting party with my friends Megan and Bella. I couldn't decide what I was going to make or pour until the last minute, so my pairings were a little off, but it's the thought that counts! (And there were only three of us so it's not like we could taste 6 different 2001 Cabs...only to not finish them all!)
In the end I decided to serve the wine as you might over the course of a dinner. I started with Prosecco, moved on to Sauvignon Blanc, and then ended with a Rosso di Montepulciano (NOT d'Abruzzo...I'll explain the difference later). I also provided food that might work well with each.
Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico Brut NV
I LOVE BUBBLY. Prosecco, Cava, or Champagne hold nearly equal places in my heart, but Prosecco is a favorite for the price, quality, and availability. Generally I buy Prosecco from the Mionetto winery, but I recalled having another that was also very good from the Nino Franco winery so decided to try it again (both are from the Prosecco making region of Veneto called Valdobbiadene). It was delish! With hints of apple, pear, and white peach and a crisp acidity, it's the perfect apertif. Or perfect anytime drink really. And I just learned that Nino Franco is the original Prosecco, first served at Harry's Bar in Venice in the early 20th century. Mix it with white peach juice for an authentic Bellini.
Unlike most people who prefer sweets (or assume that you must serve them) with their bubbles, I prefer salty snacks with mine. (For the record, I can't stand when chocolate covered strawberries are served with Champagne. Just give me the Champagne.) Fortunately, I found a great recipe for spicy almonds that would be a great bar snack anywhere. (I also served cheese straws made from puff pastry, cayenne, and Parmesan - but I forgot to take a proper photo - so just buy them at your local gourmet store :). Cheers!
Roasted Spiced Almonds
(Adapted from Bon Appétit)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound whole blanched almonds
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper and black pepper and stir to distribute evenly in the skillet. Add the almonds and stir to coat with the oil-pepper mixture.
2. Cook until the almonds begin to darken slightly and the mixture is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not walk away), about 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Cool completely. Makes about 3 cups.