Thursday, December 21, 2023

Roll Out the RED Carpet for the Holidays!

                                                       Chambord screams holiday splurge!

This blog's theme for the month of December has been the color red.  The last in the trio of articles is about the scarlet red-colored liqueur Chambord.  Made from a melange of berries (e.g. raspberries, currants and blackberries), Chambord is named after the illustrious Chateau Chambord in France's Loire Valley where a drink using a similar berry liqueur was served to King Louis XIV nearly 400 years ago.

Chambord is a premium liqueur that uses XO French Cognac as its base, along with Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus, and exotic spices such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger.   While the French Chambord brand was birthed in the 1980's in France, in 2006 it was purchased by the American liquor conglomerate Brown-Forman who owns famous brands such as Jack Daniels, Finlandia, and several Scotch companies.   

A Chambord Spritz with a sprig of mint makes for a perfect holiday aperitif

With a bottle that is instantly recognizable behind a bar, Chambord has become a favorite of many mixologists for its flavor profile and intense red color.  Perhaps the most famous aperitif made with Chambord is a deluxe Kir Royale (often called a Kir Imperial), where a couple of teaspoons are added to a flute of Champagne (the non-deluxe version uses Creme de Cassis, a less expensive berry liqueur).   It's not unusual to see such drinks as a Chambord Moscow mule, Chambord gin fizz, or even a Chambord margarita on upmarket bar drink lists.

Chambord is on the pricey side, but remember a little goes a long way.  While the large bottle is beautiful, I suggest you consider a smaller one.  Once opened, the liqueur only lasts about six months.  After that period Chambord oxidizes and turns an orange-brown with an off-putting taste. 

Toasting you Happy Holidaze with a Kir Imperiale!

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

"Seeing Red" for the Holidaze

                      These oven-ready lamb-stuffed piquillos are a stunning holiday show-stopper

"Red" is the theme for December's blog and this will be the second article in a three-part Holiday series.  Today we pay tribute to the neon-red colored piquillo pepper from Spain.  In case you don't know them, piquillos are sweet, smoky flavor-bombs that can be served multiple ways.  Their color and the fact that they can be easily stuffed with a huge variety of scrumptious goodies make them perfect gastronomic treats for yuletide tapas.

                                        Goat cheese & chive-filled piquillos scream holidaze

One of my favorite stuffings is minced lamb mixed with a host of Middle Eastern spices such as tumeric, toasted cumin and fresh mint.  Top them with minced chives and you have Christmas on a plate.  Other faves of mine are a goat cheese-stuffed piquillo, or an earthy wild-mushroom & truffle filling.  But the sky's the limit as piquillos make a wonderful ingredient in a holiday omelet, pasta, risotto, or even blended to make a lip-stick red holiday sauce. 

But, wait!   December is dungeness crab season on the west coast which means piquillos can be filled with crab for a very special holiday appetizer (or first course).  I mix a little binding agent (Greek yogurt is okay if you're watching fat content, or if you're blowing the wad for the season use creme fraiche).   Mince into the crab mixture a little fresh tarragon and you have a decadent, colorful, and absolutely outrageous yuletide dish.

Note:  if you can't find piquillos, they are available online.

Happy holidaze....

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Shades of Red for the Holidays


These very light-colored Kir Royales had only a teaspoon of Cassis

Hello, December!   This article is the first in the month's trio of "Seeing Red" in honor of the traditional red color of the Holidays.  December's blog will cover Spain's neon-red piquillo peppers, as well as two popular scarlet red liqueurs, Cassis and Chambord.   Today's posting is about the red colored liqueur made of black currants from the hills of Burgundy in France.  Commonly called Cassis, it's proper name is actually Creme de Cassis.

             Typically a Kir's ratio is 1 part of Cassis to 4 parts of white wine for a much deeper red

Open a bottle of Creme de Cassis and you'll find it's like dipping your nose into a jar of berry jam at a farmer's market.   Sip a taste and you'll find that Cassis is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  With an alcohol level of 15% (not much higher than wine), Cassis is now a popular ingredient in aperitifs and cocktails.  In fact, two of France's most famous pre-dinner drinks use Cassis: both Kir Royale (made with Champagne) and Kir (made from a still white wine), contain Creme de Cassis.

                                    Priest Kir was an active participant in the French Resistance

Kir and Kir Royale are named after the inventor of the drinks, a priest who was mayor of Dijon during the Nazi occupation of France.  During this period it was required that Burgundy's top wines be handed over to the Nazis which left little available for the locals.  The step-sister white Aligote wine wasn't wanted by the Nazi.   Mayor Kir came up with the brilliant idea of mixing Aligote with Creme de Cassis (the Nazis didn't want it either).  The "kir" drink pale red color mimicked the color of Burgundy's purloined Pinot Noir.  And, as they say, the rest is history. 

                                    The hills of the Cote D'or are the Rodeo Drive of Burgundy

Creme de Cassis has been made in Burgundy for nearly 200 years.  While some of the world's most famous wine (think Romanee Conti) is produced in Burgundy, the higher elevations of the legendary Cote D'or ("hills of gold") is black currant territory.  The recipe for Cassis is simple:  black currants are macerated with an odorless and flavorless alcohol and a little sugar is added.   

Wine-Knows will be visiting Burgundy during the September grape harvest next year.  We still have 3 spaces available.  Why not join the group and have a Kir Royale at its birthplace?

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