Woohoo! Can you say, “DONE WITH WHOLE 30!!!” which, by default means, “DONE WITH DRY JANUARY!!!”? Well, I can. As I type this post, I am listening to Mandy on 850 KOA, while I sip my Toasted Marshmallow Nutpod, unsweetened, coffee, wrapping up my last day of the Whole 30 challenge, excited for what tomorrow will bring. A before sunrise and my alarm wakeup, a quick luke-cold shower, 0615 Orange Theory Class, and then what I have been waiting for and dreaming about for the last 30 days: coffee with half and half. I am soooo excited! I did mention the new Nutpod flavor I discovered…I also found a few other things that helped the last few days of my Whole30 challenge bearable and helped me avoid giving up and eating all the things. So, the Toasted Marshmallow flavor is my new favorite. It was in my cup a few mornings ago when I paused after my first sip and said, “Wow! This actually tastes pretty good!” Since I plan to honor my Whole30 habits on days my husband is either flying or sitting reserve, I am thinking the toasted marshmallow will get a solid showing with me. As best supporting actors in this food journey, Lärabars and coconut manna were life savers. I was sooo desperate for something sweet towards the end of the challenge (compounded by the Bengals beating the Chiefs in the AFC championship which made me want to order a pizza), these simple foods truly helped. They will remain a staple in my home.
But now it is time for some adult beverages and sugar loaded fun. I am not gonna lie, I have been waiting for this for at least two weeks. I started thinking about what I would include in this episode of #ThirstThursday mid-January and have even had a few intense dreams about half and half in my coffee with macarons. Not macaroons…the French almond cookie delight, macarons. I started doing some research and found a local business that not only makes macarons but also offers adult beverage infused macarons!
honey B’s macarons is located in Highlands Ranch and is a gluten-free bakery with all sorts of fun and unique macarons to choose from. Owners Michelle and Brent (the inspiration behind “Honey B”) these macarons include locally produced honey (by Brent, the Honey B!) have successfully tackled the challenges of baking at altitude (Michelle offers classes but due to the current Covid challenge, she has put classes on hold for now.) A popular option for weddings, macarons are “beeutiful” and delicate cookies made from almond flour that you often find tinted to match the flavor profile. I love macarons (a traditional almond flavor with a 30-year tawny port? TO DIE FOR!!!) and thought these would make a great feature for our Valentine’s Thirsty Thursday segment. If you are looking for some inspiration for your Valentine, be sure to check out this local small business! Here’s a look at what I ordered and have been dreaming about for a week now…I plan to pair these with some infused cocktails and we will even pair these with some of our wines we have on tap for our tasting. Among the flavors we will be trying, the Valentine’s special “French Kiss,” which is a Chambord infused raspberry macaron, a coffee and Bailey’s infused delight, the signature honey, cinnamac, rose, strawberry, and vanilla macarons. I am so excited to try these with Mandy!
Now, I have certainly been focused on the sweeter things while I went through Whole 30 but I have also had some significant savory cravings, too. If you are looking for a nice Valentine’s Day meal to enjoy at home, away from the craziness of restaurants (or if you failed to book a dinner reservation and now only have the option of eating either at 3pm or 8:45pm) consider taking advantage of this amazing meal from The French Kitchen:
Cornish Game Hen not your thing? TFK also has a delicious Taste of February meal for you that includes two caprese quiches, delectable cream of mushroom soup, and chocolate strawberry queenets! This meal would also pair nicely with the Montepulciano or your favorite rosé wines (perhaps consider the rosés we will be tasting!) Add in a salad of fresh greens with TFK’s new Strawberry Vinaigrette and you will have a wonderful meal to share with your sweetheart. And speaking of sweethearts…how about these gorgeous and delicious sweetheart desserts! And éclair and Paris-Brest (my personal favorite) will show your favorite person how much you love them.
So, let’s chat wines and cocktails. I have gathered several wines and am offering some infused cocktails that I think would be perfect to celebrate the one you love, or if you were like me in my misbegotten youth, to enjoy while you sing along to J Geil’s Band’s “Love Stinks” in rejection of the day.
Let’s first discuss the wines we have on tap for this month. Our first wine is a wild and unusual white wine from France called Clairette Blanche. This varietal is often found in the blend, Châteauneuf du Pape white blends, and is known for bright acidity and light mouthfeel. It has citrus and ginger notes on the nose with lemon curd, nectarine, and ginger notes on the pallet. This would be a wonderful wine to pair with the TFK Cornish Game Hen or cream of mushroom soup. If you are thinking of perhaps a romantic meal of oysters or perhaps fondue, this is the wine for you. This bottle, from Martian Vineyard out of Santa Barbara called Jolie Laide Clairette Blanche, runs around $30 and can currently be found at The Wine Gallery.
Up next are our rosés. Starting with the Gruet Traditional Method Sparkling rosé, this wine is actually made in New Mexico by French wine making brothers, Laurent and Nathalie Gruet, is directly connected to the Champagne house, Gruet et Fils. The family discovered back in the 1980s that outside of Albuquerque a microclimate similar to what is found in Champagne, France. Each wine is tested back by the Champagne house to ensure that the wine meets the Gruet et Fils standards yet is a third of the cost of traditional Champagne.
This non-vinatge sparkling wine is made from Pinot Noir and aged for 18 months on the lyees (expended yeast cells) in the bottle. It has delicate notes of strawberry, plum, and hints of saline on the nose. It has bright acidity which is balanced by a delicate biscuit and lemon mousse on the pallet. It finishes with subtle notes of watermelon, lemon zest, and fresh baguette. Pair this delight with strawberry queenet or macaron or with your fresh green salad and strawberry vinaigrette. This wine would also be perfect to toast around a fire or while watching the snow fall. We will also use this wine to make a yummy spritzer in our cocktail tastings!
Our next two rosés are from local Colorado wine makers. Up first is the Rosé of Franc from Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Colorado (if you aren’t local or cannot make it to Evergreen, they do ship.) Made from 100% Cabernet Franc from their Palisade vineyard, this wine has delicate notes of vanilla, honeysuckle, and strawberries (are you seeing my theme here?) On the pallet, you will experience lush mango, juicy cassis, hints of pepper and minerality, and a lingering finish. This rosé would pair with any charcuterie board, caprese quiche, or grilled pork chops. Now, this wine is only available to Creekside Cellars Club member, but this is one of those wine clubs I recommend you join. You are supporting a small wine maker with local ties and I adore the team at Creekside. My husband and I are heading up to Evergreen to celebrate my birthday and will be frequenting Creekside often (we are staying at one of my favorite B&Bs, Highland Haven, in the “Treehouse.” This is my Valentine’s and birthday gifts from my husband and much appreciated!) If you aren’t interested in joining Creekside’s club, their 2019 Rosé is also delightful.
Over on the Western Slope, winemakers and partners, Steve Steese and Jayme Henderson from The Storm Cellar, are making some beautiful wines that highlight native American varietals. Their Rosé of St. Vincent is made from 80% St. Vincent native varietal and 20% Viognier. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel, meaning the grape’s notes shine without the influence of oak. The wine brings to mind pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry with popping acidity that cleanses the pallet and leaves citrus zest behind. This wine is perfect for grilled or smoked meats or veg, and certainly with fondue, Cornish Game Hen, and long soaks in a hot tub. At $25 a bottle, this is also a great wine to consider if you are having company and want to pick up more than one bottle. I can’t wait to meet Steve and Jayme when I travel to the Western Slope for a wine girls’ trip in a few weeks!
Our final wines will be the red wines, chosen for their balanced acidity and soft, sexy tannins, which makes them all perfect food pairing wines. If you are planning on serving Italian inspired foods or throwing steaks on the grill to celebrate your loved one, these wines will be perfect accompaniments. Up first is our lightest and brightest wine and one I would recommend if you are choosing to go with The French Kitchen’s Valentine’s dinner for two. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a light wine from the Abruzzo region along the Adriatic side of Italy. Abruzzo is dry and hot and their food reflects the heat with spices and lots of tomato-based dishes. This wine is a great pairing with red sauces because of the clean acidity that enhances the tomato while soft notes of almond, cherry, and the price point is perfect: you can usually get this wine for $15 and under. The Collegiata Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is part of The Wine Gallery’s 6/$65. This is my favorite pizza wine and one I would enjoy having with an appetizer course.
If you are looking for a little more intensity and a perfect label for Valentine’s Day, Etike’s Heart Primitivo is a wonderful and reasonably priced choice. Hailing from the Puglia in Italy, this Zinfandel is a great representation of this well-known varietal. The wine itself presents with dark ruby and inky colors in the glass, plum and dark cherry on the nose, and spicy notes of vanilla and rosemary with hints of black pepper on the pallet. This is a great wine to pair with grilled steaks or dark chocolate but is delicate enough to pair with cream of mushroom soup as well.
Finally, from local wine maker, Carboy Winery (they have multiple locations in Colorado and also offer a great club memberships…Mandy and I are both members!) we will be tasting their California blend, Vin ’49. A blend of Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Malbec, and Syrah, this wine has a balanced structure with notes of sweet bell pepper, clay, and violets with supple flavors of spicy chocolate and black pepper. This wine would be perfect with prime rib, grilled lamb, or Paris-Brest and chocolate éclairs. I would definitely open this wine at least a half hour before enjoying to allow the bold notes to soften and meld together.
I will also have Mandy taste some fun and seasonal cocktails! I picked up this great little gift from Aspen Lane Boutique (they ship if you can’t make it to their Denver store) at Christmas (and gifted several to my somm friends) and chose to infuse this Hibiscus and Ginger infusion with the Colorado Harvest Honey Moonshine from 3 Hundred Days of Shine. We’ll be trying it on its own and blended with the Gruet Sparkling Rosé to create a fun spritzer. These two cocktails are perfect for the non-wine drinker and while being good for you! (Hello, hibiscus, honey, ginger, citrus? Must be good for you!) We’ll be pairing this with our macarons and Paris-Brest pastry.
3 Hundred Days of Shine has also released their seasonal moonshine, Peppermint Moon. Perfect for a post skiing adult hot chocolate or mocha, this shine is similar to a peppermint Schnapps. I will be using this in a rift off of one of my favorite cocktails that I call a “Christmas Kiss.” I normally make these with 2:1 Amaretto to Peppermint Schnapps with a drizzle of syrup from Amarena Cherries (these are the best cherries EVAH!) Since Mandy isn’t a huge Amaretto fan, I plan to use 3 Hundred Days Cherry Pie shine (their spring seasonal offering) with Peppermint Moon, using the 2:1 ratio again. I will finish it with a drizzle of the Amarena syrup. Add a red sugar rim to your glass and you will have the perfect “Valentine’s Kiss.” We’ll pair this with…well, with itself! But of course, chocolate, macarons, and anything sweet. This would be delicious with crème brulée or cheesecake or perfect on it’s own.
I hope this month’s Thirsty Thursday has given you some ideas to make your Valentine’s Day special and fun…even if you don’t plan on celebrating the Hallmark holiday, I hope you check out some of these wines, cocktails, and foods while showing your love to local small businesses! Here are links to all the small businesses that I love and that I hope you will love, too.
Cheers and namaste,