Monday, December 16, 2013

Let’s Hear It For My Girls!

Truer words were never spoken than when Plautus stated “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” Looking for any reason to celebrate with good wine and great food, my gal pals and I convened for our annual Wine Wednesday Women Christmas soiree this weekend.  We love to spoil each other any chance we can, and this weekend it was my turn to celebrate sincere friendship with a wonderful group.
 The table was set full of wine glasses with care.
Santa's elf napkins and basil marked the seats for us there.

The Menu—Italian Inspired  
Course One:  Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses with Prosciutto and grapes
Wine Pairing:  Prosecco and Champagne
Taste:  Delizioso!

Course Two:  Green salad with Olive Garden Italian dressing
Wine Pairing:  Pinot Grigio (I assigned wines and guests brought their choice of the varietal)
Taste:  Fantastico!

Course Three:  Alfredo sauce with linguini and baked garlic chicken breasts
Wine Pairing:  Pinot Noir or Chardonnay
Taste:  Bello!

Course Four:  Mocha pots de crème
Wine Pairing:  Reeder Mesa Vineyards Grand Valley Port
Taste:  Perfetto!
Bubbles from Italy and France started off...
A cheese course with Prosciutto that left nothing to scoff.

Port and pots de crème was a pairing so dear...
If you have never made homemade Alfredo, try it soon.  It is not difficult, just time consuming to stir the sauce until the Parmesan cheese is melted smoothly.  It is the food of the Gods, mostly because it is cream, butter, and cheese.  Fabulously artery clogging! 

The dessert is my favorite part though.  Chocolate pots de crème tastes as if one has slaved over the delight for hours, when really it takes all of twenty minutes to complete.   

The Recipe
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. sugar
Dash of salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. instant coffee
 1 tsp. rum liquor (I think you can use cognac or brandy too.)
¾ cup hot milk
Whipped cream

Add all ingredients except for the hot milk in the blender; slowly add the
hot milk. Cover the blender to prevent splattering and mix well. Pour into demitasse cups or small ramekins. Refrigerate until set.  Garnish with real whipped cream and fresh raspberries.
I made a mocha version, using one half cup milk chocolate chips and one half cup dark chocolate chips and two teaspoons Kahlua instead of the rum and vanilla.  The dark chocolate and coffee flavors were an easy twist on an already super-simple final course. 

So whether your occasion to celebrate is Christmas or friendship (or because it is Tuesday), I hope you make wine and sweet words part of the fun.   Treat yourself and your loved ones to great food, good beverages, and wonderful laughter.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good wine!
It left us all smiling, filled with great Christmas cheer. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wine on a Whole New Level--Level Design Lounge

In a beautiful, historic stone building nestled on the corner of picturesque Main Street Spearfish, appreciation of wine and design is being taking to a whole new level in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota…pun intended.  Level Design Lounge acts as the anchor to a bustling downtown block, offering much for wine lovers and wine newbies to enjoy. 
Beautiful, historic stone buildings.
Inviting from the outside in.
Level’s wonderful ambiance starts before ever entering the door to the lounge.  The entire building (and those surrounding it) is constructed of large sandstone blocks, speaking of a simpler time.  The instant one enters, the décor is modern yet inviting at the same time.  A seating area of mosaic mirror-topped tables is near the bar, and other smaller seating areas are dotted throughout the lower level.  Home décor, jewelry, art, and wine supplies for purchase are found throughout.  The upper level is a true lounge area, sporting such comfy looking couches one can barely wait to grab a glass of wine downstairs before relaxing with a friend, chatting on the couches above. 
 Reusing wine bottles as interior art.

 Lounge area, ready for wine and relaxing. 

 What a beautiful interior!

Once settled in the comfort of the coolest space ever, now is the time for wine.  Level has a nice list of by-the-glass options, from white blends to Chardonnays to Pinot Noirs to Zinfandels, with many in between.  The by-the-bottle list is even more impressive for an establishment of its size.  Whether one is in the market for a reasonably priced Moscato or is going all out for a budget-breaking Opus One, the bottle choices have every aspect covered.  I particularly appreciated some very unique varietals not found just anywhere:  a Picpoul Blanc, a Gruner Veltliner, and a Cabernet Franc.  We all know that these wine choices deserve at least some finger foods for pairing.  Cheeses, meats, breads, olives, hummus, and chocolates make up combination plates to please any palate. 
 My wine and cheese.
Loved the glass top tables!
If a great atmosphere with excellent wine and light food options is not enough, Level is still the stop to make.  Its events are first class and are worth the drive from any spot in the Black Hills.  Level has fun holiday events, such as a masquerade for Halloween, but the establishment also hosts monthly wine tastings with musical entertainment; the event is open to the public, but free for members of Level’s wine club.  Level also holds some very, very special wine events.  Three winemakers have hosted tastings at level in the past six months—Gary Wooten of Croze-Wooten Wines, Sean Minor of Four Bears Wines, and Erik Miller of Kokomo Wines.  These one-of-a-kind events are so important in our somewhat remote area, offering attendees the ability to learn more about wine in order to appreciate wine on a whole new level…again, pun intended.  The upcoming Riedel and Reds event in December is yet another opportunity for Level to increase wine knowledge and enjoyment in our little area of the American west. 
 Your Sweet Sommelier with winemaker Gary Wooten.
Enjoying one of the wonderful seating areas at a winemaker tasting event.
Yes, Spearfish is one of the most beautiful and charming communities in the Black Hills.  Its quaint downtown made of gorgeous historic sandstone buildings is a site to see.  Though Spearfish boasts many businesses worth a stop, Level Design Lounge is also a must.  The inviting atmosphere from the moment one sees the building is only increased by the wine, small plates, and events.  This business is a Black Hills beauty and wins the award for helping wineauxs appreciate wine on a whole new level!