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Desserts

Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée with Sauternes

This is my go-to recipe from the Culinary Institute of America. It’s fool-proof as recipes go, and there is little motivation on my part to change it. Of course, there are infinite variations on this theme. Try infusing the cream with lavender or cardamom seeds, for example. Or substitute honey for sugar. Add subtle lift with orange zest or Meyer lemon. The possible flavor combinations are endless. Even so, I find myself returning to this most classic of French desserts without altering in any way. The satisfying burnt sugar crust and rich vanilla bean custard lend themselves perfectly to sweet, opulent wines of Sauternes or Barsac. In which case, when it comes to stickies, I want their complexity to shine, and not compete with the pairing. Recently, I paired this with a youthful 2010 Château Rieussec with pleasing results. Thankfully, I have a few more bottles stowed away because Rieussec only grows lovelier with time, the 1988 and 1986 vintages were both outstanding. [amd-yrecipe-recipe:4]...

Crêpes with Oregon Marionberries reduced in a Red Bordeaux

Crêpes with an Oregon Marionberry Reduction Sauce

In another lifetime, I made dozens of crêpes on Friday nights, when throngs of customers would flood my Eastern Washington tasting room to catch live music on the weekends. Since then, I’ve refined the recipe a bit—not the crêpes themselves, rather the toppings. Back then, I used our wineries’ Columbia Valley Cabernet, now I’m more partial to the subtleties of Bordeaux. In this instance, I’ve used a (gasp) Saint-Estèphe with some age on it, a delicious bottle of 2000 Calon-Ségur. Thankfully, one can get by using 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup or so, or frankly, employ a less expensive red Bordeaux as your cooking wine if you prefer, because I can already hear you asking, “isn’t it impertinent to use Calon-Ségur as a cooking wine?” Probably, yes. I also like to add a sprig of thyme to the berries, adding a savory edge to the dish. Pair the finished crêpes with the wine you’ve used to reduce the berries in. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonal berries.     [amd-yrecipe-recipe:8] [caption id="attachment_10195" align="aligncenter" width="900"] The ideal Crêpe is “blonde” or just barely browned on the edge, like this one.[/caption]...

Angel Food Cake with Summer Berries

Angel Food Cake with Summer Berries

I love a good backyard cookout, with endless variations on burgers piled sky-high with hickory smoked bacon, sautéed Walla Walla sweet onions, sharp cheddar, all of it artfully smashed between a warm brioche bun. And let's not forget the hot dogs slathered in pickle relish and mustard, the all-important potato salad, and grilled sweet corn. And at the end of all of this juicy smoky grilling is dessert. There have been years where I've grilled everything, including dessert. But nothing really wows a crowd like an angel food cake. Artfully adorned with red and blue berries, this humble dessert is transformed into an enchanting nod to the stars and stripes. Pair with a light, convivial Asti rosé. [amd-yrecipe-recipe:9] ...

Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza at Aubergine

Art of the Macaron: Cooking Classes at Aubergine

It’s small. That was my first thought on entering the tidy, well-lit kitchen at Aubergine. I had attended an eight-course dinner there the month before, a sumptuous and innovative menu featuring white and black Alba truffles, expertly woven into each luxurious course. I knew what sort of magic could come from the belly of this modest space. It would be my first time meeting Executive Pastry Chef, Ron Mendoza, a lanky fellow with salt and pepper hair and the sort of thick, square-framed glasses hipsters wear. The Chef directed me to my spot, at which point, he poured me a glass of Champagne. At my workstation I found a folder with the recipe, a neatly folded apron, towels, an assortment of containers and a piping bag and tip. As he went through the instructions, I noticed the other students taking copious notes. Mendoza smiled while mentioning that his favorite part of teaching macarons was watching student attempts at piping. How hard could it be? It’s a cookie. I am, after all, trained as a classical artist, a sculptor, and a winemaker no less. I watched him pipe out an entire tray in what seemed like mere seconds, gracefully moving from one macaron to the next with the precision...

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream

Here in Northern California, citrus fruits are ripening. This holds true for the Meyer lemon trees on the property, and suddenly we find ourselves with a small crop to harvest. I use the lemons in main dishes and to make lemon curd, but I'm equally fond of Meyer lemon ice cream. It feels light at the end of a meal, though this certainly won't be a dessert that is lean on calories. I don't mind too much because it's a special treat. [amd-yrecipe-recipe:13]...

Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies for years, but when my son moved out, I wanted to modify the classic chocolate chip recipe to better suit my taste. This more grown-up version substitutes sea salt for table salt, and has a dash of cinnamon and pecans. [amd-yrecipe-recipe:16]...