Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

By now, if you are a regular follower of this food blog, you have probably detected that I am a big fan of cranberries!  I am always developing recipes using these tasty morsels.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Today, I am sharing my newly-developed recipe for Chunky Cranberry Salsa. As its base, it uses my homemade cranberry sauce for which you can find the recipe here.  You need a good thick cranberry sauce for this, not a runny, watery version as many of the canned, commercial versions are. If a watery cranberry sauce is used, it will make the salsa too runny and messy. The photo below shows what the consistency of this salsa should be – it should “hold its own” and stay in place when used on nachos or crackers.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Any flavour of dry salsa seasoning available can be used in this recipe. I use the Epicure Brand, “Pico”, Salsa Mix which is a mild flavoring. If you are using another brand, or one that is quite spicy, just be aware that the amount this recipe calls for may not apply and you may need to adjust the amount you use.  Also, I use 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of the Epicure “Pico” seasoning but that can be altered according to taste.  However, I suggest making the salsa first with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the seasoning and then adding more according to your personal taste.  As the old saying goes, you can add more seasoning but you can’t remove it if you put in too much!

Almost any flavour of balsamic vinegar can be used, even a traditional white balsamic. I have used a honey ginger balsamic vinegar from our local Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store here in Charlottetown as this vinegar flavour pairs particularly well with the other ingredients in this salsa.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos
Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos

I use this salsa on nachos but it is also exceptionally good served on gourmet crackers. Simply top each cracker with a small slice of Brie or Gouda cheese and some shaved turkey.  Add a small spoonful of the cranberry salsa and, voilà, an instant hors d’oeuvre. Once you have the salsa made, it makes a quick, easy, and tasty hors d’oeuvre.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

With the jewel-toned color of this salsa, this hors d’oeuvre also looks very attractive on a serving tray.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvres
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvres

This salsa often finds its way on to my charcuterie boards, too.

It can also be used to top baked chicken breasts or grilled pork chops. It’s very versatile, especially if you already have cranberry sauce made and in the freezer.  Simply let the cranberry sauce thaw at room temperature and then mix up the salsa. It’s best if the salsa can be made and refrigerated for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavours to blend and mellow.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Ingredients:

1 cup cranberry sauce
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
1½  tsp sugar
1¾ tsp lime juice
1½ – 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
½ orange, finely chopped

Method:

In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.

Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.

Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.

Yield: Apx. 1 2/3 cups

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting and recipe, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Yield: Apx 1 2/3 cups

Jewel-toned cranberries transform into a versatile and tasty chunky cranberry salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1¾ tsp lime juice
  • 1½ - 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
  • 2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • ½ orange, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.
  2. Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.
  3. Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/2015/12/31/chunky-cranberry-salsa/

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

 

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

While cranberry sauce is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, I eat it year-round. In fact, I batch cook it and freeze it for use throughout the year.

Each fall, I eagerly await the cranberry harvest on PEI. The photo below was taken on a day that Mikita Farms in Farmington, PEI was wet harvesting their cranberry crop. Produce just does not get any fresher than this!

Freshly-harvested Cranberries from Mikita Farms in Farmington, PEI

In the fall, I buy a huge bag of cranberries for the freezer as I use them in several recipes, including cranberry-orange sauce.

These gems turn into a rich jeweled-toned cranberry sauce.

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Any time I am cooking a chicken dinner, chicken pieces, or have a craving for cranberry sauce, I head to the freezer for a small container of the sauce as it just seems to make the meal.

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

I hope you enjoy my recipe for cranberry-orange sauce.  This is not a sickeningly sweet sauce although you can add a bit more sugar if you have a really sweet tooth!  Adding some apple and orange juice to the sauce gives it an extra flavour boost and both fruits complement the cranberry flavour well.  While the sauce is lovely without the Cointreau, it does add to the flavour of the sauce.

The method I use for the sauce is to make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water and then adding the cranberries, apple, and orange juice. I don’t care for runny cranberry sauce so I have learned this tip from my mother: Occasionally stir the sauce as it is cooking but make sure you stir it several times as it cools as this will help to thicken the sauce.

Don’t save this zesty cranberry-orange sauce for the holidays; enjoy it year-round!

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup apple, finely chopped
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1½ tbsp Cointreau (optional)

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Remove saucepan from heat and add orange rind and Cointreau. Stir several times as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.

Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: Apx. 2 cups.

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting and recipe, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

Zesty Cranberry Orange Sauce

Yield: Apx 2 cups

A mildly tart and flavorful sauce that pairs well with roast turkey and any poultry dishes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup apple, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1½ tbsp Cointreau (optional)

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and add orange rind and Cointreau. Stir several times as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.
  4. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/2015/12/30/zesty-cranberry-orange-sauce/

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Twas The Night Before Christmas Tablesetting

The Dinnerware

Johnson Brothers’ “Twas The Night” dinnerware is classic Johnson Brothers in every way. The dinnerware features nostalgic scenes and text from the classic Christmas story “Twas the Night Before Christmas“.

DSC_0152-001

Made of earthenware, this is a sturdy, durable easy-to-care for set of dinnerware that is both dishwasher and microwave safe.

This tableware has a distinctively pinkish-red and ivory color and, with text from the afore-mentioned Christmas story, it is definitely Christmas-only dinnerware.  For this reason, I have chosen it for Christmas Eve dinner.

Let’s take a look at the intricate pattern on each plate and the bowl.

The dinner plate features the exterior of an old stone house.

The salad plate shows a tree by the fireplace with stockings hung.

The soup bowl shows a full moon in the winter sky over the rooftop.

Even the bottom of the plates has detail.

As those of you who follow the tablesetting part of my food blog will know, I’m a big fan of charger plates, both for their functionality and for the color and elegance they lend to a tablesetting.  However, as I have discovered, not all dinnerware necessarily benefits from the use of charger plates.  This Twas the Night pattern is a prime example of that.  I did try pink chargers under the plates but found the dinnerware too informal and, for my taste, the chargers looked out of place.  This, of course, does not mean a pretty table cannot be set with these dishes.

Glassware

Because this dinnerware is more vintage in design, I have chosen glassware in styles that complement the dishes.  This is dinnerware that allows mix-and-match glassware.  In fact, none of the three vintage glasses are a matched set yet they seem to work in this setting. The stem glasses with red trim give a bit of extra pop of color to the tablesetting and blend in with the red berries in the jars.

Linens and Napkins

It is not often that I set a table without either a full tablecloth, a square, or placemats.  However, for this setting, I have chosen to use a short Christmas runner down the center of my oval table and let the maple wood of my table shine.  I think this complements the informal casual look of this dinnerware.

When selecting napkins, I try to choose them in a color that either matches the background color of the dinnerware or, alternatively, select a color from the pattern.  In this case, I have opted to go with ivory napkins and the fold I have chosen is the rose.

The Rose Napkin Fold
The Rose Napkin Fold

This is a simple-to-do napkin fold.  I like to use this fold when space on the table is limited to display a napkin, when a napkin fold would substantially cover up the dinnerware pattern which is a focal point of the table, or when placement of the napkin would clutter up, or compete with, a simplistic tablescape design.

The rose fold requires either a soup bowl or a cup to contain it and hold it in place.  This method of styling and presenting a napkin is unpretentious yet gives the look and feel that planning and effort have been put into the tablesetting.

Tablescape/Centerpiece

Since my goal with this setting is to keep it very simplistic, I have chosen to use standard glass canning jars of two sizes for the table decor.  You may know these as Mason or Ball brand jars.

In the three larger jars, I have added a base of Epsom salt to resemble snow topped with some faux red berries to symbolize cranberries.  To add a touch of seasonal greenery, I have topped each jar with a few sprigs of fresh greenery.

In each of the smaller jars, I have placed a small white votive candle on a base of Epsom salt.  Just make sure you put the candle in a small votive glass inside the jar to contain the melting wax.

Using an odd number of jars is more pleasing to the eye than if an even number was used.  More (or fewer) jars can be used depending on the length of the table.

Using these glass jars is remaining quite popular and trendy probably because of their versatility.  I think their “home-y” look blends well with the nostalgic tableware that has a homestead, casual look to it.  When I think of homestead, I think of canning fruits and vegetables which is the traditional use of these jars.

This dinnerware is sure to be a conversation piece on the dinner table for many Christmases to come.


To view other Christmas Tablesettings, click on the links below:

Glitz ‘n Glamour New Year’s Eve Tablesetting
The Warmth of the Christmas Light Tablesetting
Christmas Eve Tablesetting and Dinner
A Tartan Holiday Tablesetting
Pretty Poinsettia Tablesetting
Poinsettia Trio Tablesetting
The Holiday Table
The Pink and Green Holiday Table
Christmas at My Island Bistro Kitchen
Purple Tablesetting for the Holidays
Evergreens and Reindeer Christmas Tablesetting
Cupcake Tablescape

 

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

Molasses Spice Cookies

Sugar and spice and everything nice!  That pretty much sums up the smell in the kitchen when these cookies are baking.  These cookies have a lovely blend of spices that make them a real taste treat, especially with a tall glass of cold milk.

Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

The key to keeping these cookies a bit on the chewy side is not to overbake them.  Otherwise, they get crisp and hard and more resemble a thick gingersnap.  These are almost always a staple in my freezer since they freeze so well. Good treat any time of the year.

Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

Ingredients:

6 tbsp shortening
6 tbsp butter
¾ cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup molasses

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp soda
1/8 tsp salt
¾ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ginger
¾ tsp cloves
Pinch mace

Sugar for dusting cookies

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter together. Beat in sugar. Add egg. Beat well. Blend in molasses.

Sift dry ingredients together and blend into creamed mixture.

Form dough into 1¼ “ balls and place approximately 2” apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten with fork tines. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 8 – 9 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting and recipe, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

Molasses Spice Cookies

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

A soft and chewy molasses cookie that combines a tasty blend of spices

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp shortening
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • ¾ cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp ginger
  • ¾ tsp cloves
  • Pinch mace

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, cream shortening and butter together. Beat in sugar. Add egg. Beat well. Blend in molasses.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together and blend into creamed mixture.
  4. Form dough into 1¼ “ balls and place approximately 2” apart on prepared baking sheet. Flatten with fork tines. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 8 – 9 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/2015/12/22/molasses-spice-cookies/

 

Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

DSC_0881

Tips and Suggestions on Choosing Holiday Wines

Many will buy wine over the holiday season either for their own home entertaining events or for gifts. Sometimes, if you are like me, when I enter the wine section of a store, it can be puzzling to make a selection from the wide array of wines on the market. To gain some insight into making some wine choices this holiday season, I enlisted the help of sommelier Debbie Smith.  In addition to being a sommelier, Debbie also works as a product adviser at the Prince Edward Island Liquor Control Commission at their Oaktree store in Charlottetown. I thought readers of my food blog might also be interested in what I learned so I am sharing the insights.

Readers will note that wine selection is very much based on personal taste and preference. There are as many opinions on wine choices as there are wine drinkers and sommeliers; however, what follows are the views and suggestions of one sommelier in direct response for advice I was personally seeking so are meant as just that — – suggestions one might consider when selecting wines to pair with certain typical holiday foods. It does not mean that other wines not suggested, or named in particular, would not be fine pairings, too. As a further note, prices are in Canadian dollars and are current as of the time of writing in December, 2015. The reason I asked for price points is that I find it useful to know if a wine suggestion is, say, less than $20.00 or more than $50.00 per bottle.

Debbie, a certified sommelier and graduate of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, has been a sommelier for eight years. Prior to her current position, she worked as a sommelier and wine trainer with the Murphy Hospitality Group in PEI. She became interested in learning more about wine in order to raise the level of service she was providing to patrons in the restaurant industry. Debbie says she was fortunate to work with one of the Island’s first accredited sommeliers who was very enthusiastic about the field and this increased her interest in learning more about wine.

To begin, I asked Debbie if price is an indicator that the more expensive the wine is, the better its quality. Debbie indicates that, while price point can be a general indicator on the quality of wine, it is only part of the equation. She points out that wine preference is such a personal experience, other factors come into play — the occasion, budget, personal preference, and past experience with wine. Debbie points out that the general indicators of a good wine include its complexity, intensity, balance, and finish. So, the more different notes and distinct flavours you can pick up on, identify, and distinguish in the wine and how harmonious the fruit, tannin, acid, body and alcohol level are (with none outshining another) along with how long the flavours and sensations remain in your mouth after you have swallowed will indicate a quality wine.

Food Pairing

My first question was what general factors should one think of, or consider, when making wine selections for pairing with different foods. Debbie suggests that flavour and intensity are key considerations. For example, the flavours and intensity of the food and wine should match so one does not overpower the other. Since lobster is often served in Prince Edward Island over the holiday season (and is our traditional fare on Christmas Eve), Debbie uses the example of lobster served with a rich creamy sauce pairing well with a rich butter US Chardonnay while lobster served out of the shell with fresh lemon could be paired with a crisp citrusy Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire in France.

I asked, if I was hosting a dinner party, how important it would be to serve a different wine with each course. She says it really isn’t critical and many people focus on pairing a wine with the main course specifically. That said, however, if budget allows, it does contribute to the dining experience if different wines are served with the various courses of the meal.

My next question was, if budget is a concern, is there one general wine she could recommend for a holiday meal. In this scenario, Debbie suggests what she calls “crossover wines”, those that have the ability to pair well with a number of different food styles. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, for example, are considered versatile wine choices since both can pair well with chicken, pork, salmon, and less marbled cuts of beef like tenderloin. Wines that might fall into this category could include OPI Chardonnay from Argentina ($15.99 CDN$), Arbodeda Chardonnay ($16.99 CDN$), or Chile Cono Sur Pinot Noir ($13.99 CDN$).

To get a little more into specific food and wine pairings for typical holiday foods and events, I asked for Debbie’s advice on what wine would be best to serve in the following scenarios:

Appetizers

Seafood chowder is a fairly common starter on many menus in the Maritimes over the Christmas holidays so I asked for information specifically on wines that would be suitable to pair with rich seafood chowders. Debbie suggests a wine such as L’Acadie Blanc styles (price points $17-22 CDN$) from the Maritime Provinces because, in her words, ‘what grows together goes together!” White wines from grapes grown in the Maritime Provinces offer crisp acidity and slightly sweet aromas which are an ideal match for a rich cream-based chowder made with the fine seafood from the Atlantic Ocean.

To pair a wine with a green salad, Debbie suggests Vinho Verde styles from Portugal and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (price points $14-23 CDN$) because the key is to match the level of acidity when pairing wine successfully with green salads. She suggests that the Sauvignon Blanc often has distinct tropical fruit and grassy aromas with a good acidity level that are perfect complements to a salad. In Debbie’s opinion, the Vinho Verde is a unique style of wine noted for its slight effervescence, vibrant fruit, and refreshing qualities that make it a great pairing with salads. For the green salad course, then, I might consider either Gazela Vihno Verde ($13.60) or Quinta da Aveleda Vihno Verde ($14.50).

Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner

There is no need to break the budget for a good wine to complement the traditional roast turkey dinner. Debbie suggests an off dry Riesling from either Canada or Germany and several can be purchased for under $20 (CDN$). She suggests, because the dinner itself can be heavy, choosing something light to moderate in alcohol that has high acidity to balance the richness and add a bit of sweetness to match the cranberry and yams on the table. For this course, then, I might consider Beaujolais Nouvalle ($18.99-20.99) or a wine produced in St. Catherine’s in my home province of PEI – Matos Gamay Noir ($16.95).

Holiday Desserts

Desserts over the Christmas season can often be rich and heavy. For many of us, that might include traditional plum pudding. For this course, Debbie suggests choosing a wine that is as sweet as the dessert. She recommends a slightly chilled tawny port from Portugal because the port is full of flavours of caramel, apricot, plum, and raisins which would complement the similar flavours in the pudding. Ports tend to be slightly more pricey so this option would require me to be prepared to pay $30 or more (CDN$)

Acadian Meat Pies

For many families, particularly those of Acadian descent, it would not be Christmas without the traditional meat pie. For this repast, our sommelier’s suggestion is to choose a wine that is rich, savoury, and spicy to complement the similar flavours in the pie. Cote du Rhone and Grancha Syrah Mouvedere (GSM) blends from France and Australia would, in Debbie’s opinion, be good choices and they range from $15-30 (CDN$) or, for a truly Acadian experience, one might try Baco Noir, Machel Foch, and other wines produced in the Atlantic Canada region.

Brunches

I was curious to know what a sommelier might suggest as a wine accompaniment for a brunch. While recognizing that a brunch might have a number of different items on the menu, Debbie suggests a sparkling wine or, indeed, a Champagne to accompany croissants, pancakes, and even muffins because of the buttery yeast flavours in these foods. If bacon is on the menu, she suggests light oak Chardonnays with butterscotch and vanilla flavours would play well with the salty smoky qualities of the bacon. If steak and eggs are on the menu, a Merlot that has notes of black cherry, green pepper, and minerals might be considered. And, if spicy sausage is a featured menu item, a chilled Beaujolais red berry with low tannins to offer a good contrast to the spice and heat in the meat would be a good pairing.

Wine and Cheese Parties

These two make a fine pair! The cheese is meant to bring out the character of the wine and the wine, for its part, enhances the depth and flavour in the cheese. Debbie claims that Gewurtraminer, with its sweet and fruity components and balancing acidity, offers the most opportunity for successful pairing. This is because the combination of sweetness and salt is pleasing to the palate. So, considerations could include Pelee Island Gewurtraminer from Canada ($12.99 CDN$) or France’s Wolfberger Vin D’Alsace Gewurtraminer for $18.99 (CDN$).

If goat cheese is being served, Sauvignon Blanc would be a suitable choice with its natural high acidity which tends to pair very well with the tart flavours commonly found in various goat cheeses. Selection suggestions could include Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99 CDN$) from New Zealand or Paul Mas Sav Blanc Single Vineyard Collection for $15.99 (CDN$) from France.

For stronger flavoured cheese (like Gorgonzola, for example) Debbie recommends Coltibuono Chianti Classico from Italy ($22.95 CDN$) with its earthy notes and good acidity or the full-bodied Red Guitar Tempranillo and Granacha blend from Spain ($15.99 CDN$).

Sipping Wine to Pair with Fruitcake, Chocolate and Other Sweet Treats

The sommelier suggests choosing a wine that blends sweetness with some acidity for the sweet treats we often associate with Christmas. Either Apothic Red Blend from the US ($16.99 CDN$), Criollo – a chocolate raspberry liqueur from South America ($19.99 CDN$) or, if you have the budget, Cockburn 20-year old tawny Port would make a fine pairing for chocolate but is a bit on the pricey side at $42.99 (CDN$).

New Years Eve Celebrations

For many, it is not New Years Eve unless there is a glass of bubbly and some of the champagnes can be pricey. However, there are many choices at different price points and these include the modestly priced La Marca Prosecco from Italy at $17.99 (CDN$), Benjamin Bridge Brut from Canada at $44.95 (CDN$) and the more expensive Bollinger Brut Champagne Special Reserve NV from France at $74.98 (CDN$).

But, if champagne is not your beverage of choice and you still want something a little sparkly with some effervescence, you might consider Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 from Canada priced at $24.99 (CDN$) or Jost Vineyards’ Selkie Frizzante $19.95 CDN$) also from Canada. Patrons of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival will recognize the Benjamin Bridge name since this winery was the official wine sponsor of the 2015 festival and their wines, including the fabulous Nova 7, were served at many of the culinary events. The Nova 7 will be my choice for New Year’s Eve celebrations this year.

Optimal Serving Temperatures for Wines

The temperature of the wine is important to savour its true qualities. If you are not sure of the optimal serving temperatures for various wines, here are the recommended serving temperatures, according to the sommelier:

White wines: Full bodied 11°C; Light-bodied 9°C
Red wines: Full-bodied 18°C; Light-to-medium-bodied 12-15°C
Rosé wines: 5°C
Sparkling wines: 6°C
Champagnes: 6-7°C (8°C for vintage champagne)

Wine as Host/Hostess Gifts

Wine is often chosen as a host/hostess gift but it is sometimes a quandary to know what wine to select, especially if you don’t know the recipient’s tastes so I asked Debbie for her recommendation if one is faced with this scenario. She recommends either a Pinot Grigo, such as Gabbiano from Italy currently priced at $14.99 (CDN$), or Norton Privada Malbec for $24.95 (CDN$). Malbec, at the time of writing, is a trendy favourite.

Before we concluded our discussion on wine and food pairings, I asked Debbie if there are any new or up-and-coming wines or regions we should know about. She says that, although New Zealand has been producing wines since the 1800s, it has really come in to its own as a wine region within the last 20 years, particularly with wines such as Kim Crawford. In fact, New Zealand will be the featured wine country for the 2016 Festival of Wines Prince Edward Island to be held May 27-28th at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. And, of course, our own three PEI wineries, along with a number of others in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, here on Canada’s East Coast, are proof that our cool climate is also very suitable for growing a number of different kinds of grapes that produce fine wine.

To finish off, I asked Debbie some “quick snapper” questions.

1. What wine(s) will be on your 2015 Christmas table and why that particular choice? I will be serving two wines at this year’s dinner. The first is Dr Heidemanns Bergwilier Riesling Kabinett ($24.99 CDN$) from Mosel region in Germany because this is a dry Riesling with notes of black currant and apricot with a structured finish which makes it a wonderful pairing with turkey. The second wine is Gabriel Liogier Vacqueyras ($26.89 CDN$), a red wine from France that is full bodied and a bit spicy, making it a perfect pairing with both roasted vegetables and turkey.

2. What is your personal favourite food and wine combo? Growing up in rural PEI, my favourite meal will always be meat and potatoes so my choices would be Barolo, Amarone, or Cabernet Sauvignon which are full bodied red wines with good tannin levels that all match the texture and intensity of beef.

3. What is the one wine you’d recommend people try this holiday season and why? I’d suggest Jolie-Pitt Perrin Cotes du Provence Rose Mirval from France because it has such beautiful white cherry and dried peach accents with a refreshing finish. It would be a treat after all the rich dinners and desserts we indulge ourselves with over the holidays. It currently sells for $30.95 (CDN$). I’d also suggest Mark West Pinot Noir at $18.99 (CDN$) which is smooth and subtle with toasty oak and espresso notes.

4. What’s the number one question you get asked as a sommelier/product advisor during the holiday season? I am often asked to provide food and wine pairing information and suggestions but, during the holiday season, the most common question is “What do I buy my boss/friend/co-worker who knows everything about wine?” My response to the question is: “I would choose some more interesting styles and grape varieties and in particular I would choose one one of the following: KWV Cathedral Cellars Pinotage from South Africa ($20.99 CDN$) with its aromas of sweet fruit, black pepper and cedar or De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon from Australia ($30.99 CDN$) with its layers of intense botrytis fruit including citrus, marmalade, and hints of butterscotch, or Firesteed Pinot Noir from Oregon in the US ($24.99 (CDN$).

5. If you were abandoned on an island and could have only one bottle of wine with you, what would it be? Cristal 2007. It retails for $295 (CDN$) but would be worth the price to celebrate my rescue! It’s truly an amazing product.

6. If you had to give one piece of advice for pairing wines with meals, in general, what would it be?It’s your palate so drink what pleases you. In general, I think making sure the intensity and textures of the food and wine are equal are the most important (factors to consider).”

My thanks to sommelier Debbie Smith for taking the time to assist me with wine selections to pair with holiday foods I will be serving this year. Sommeliers and in-store product advisers are great resources and can help with wine selections so don’t hesitate to seek them out with your specific questions as I have done. They are trained to help in the way Debbie assisted me with my wine-related questions.

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

A Tartan Holiday Tablesetting

I am not sure why but a red plaid pattern evokes thoughts of Christmas for me.  As I have discovered, red tartan dishes lend themselves well to setting a beautiful holiday table.

Dinnerware

The dishes I have chosen for a holiday dinner are by designers Colin + Justin. Apart from the dynamic look, there are several things I like about this dinnerware pattern.

First, the dinnerware has the look and feel of fine  china, complete with gold-colored trim, but is actually easier to care for since the dishes are both dishwasher and microwave safe.  Second, they can work effectively either in a formal or informal tablesetting. In fact, I’d suggest they are quite contemporary in look and design and could easily transition from breakfast/brunch to lunch to dinner. And, third, they don’t scream Christmas which means they can be used throughout the fall and winter months.  With their dark color, they would be a bit heavy for spring and summer, in my view, but I would certainly use them from October to March.

The dinner plate has a white center so food will still stand out against the plate. I’m a big fan of white plates for food presentation! This dinnerware gives the benefit of a nice plaid border against the white center.

The salad plate is a full tartan design. The dinnerware has the versatility of allowing for an exchange of a plain red, green, or white plate with the plaid salad plate for added contrast to the setting or to change it up for different occasions.

The bowl is white inside so the soup color certainly stands out.

DSC_0239

Linens

The dinnerware with its bright red and green plaid has a somewhat heavy look to it so it needs some bright white neutral contrast on the table for it to stand out.  For this reason, I have chosen to use large plain white placemats as the base for each place setting.  The white connects to the center of the dinner plates and bowls – always try to connect the linens somehow to the dinnerware pattern.  If, for example, I had chosen red or green placemats or a full tablecloth in either of these heavier colors, the dinnerware pattern would have been lost and would not have stood out. And, sometimes, I just want to see the maple wood in my table and placemats allow for that. The placemats are also in keeping with the contemporary look of this setting.

If you are not knacky with napkin folding, or simply don’t have time, using napkin rings is an easy alternative solution.  I think of napkin rings as the jewelry on the table.

I bought these beautiful poincettia napkin rings on an after-Christmas sale last year and think they go particularly well with this dinnerware.  With their deep red color, they need a bright white napkin for their color to pop. The white napkin, of course, connects to the white placemat.

Apart from the speed and ease of threading a napkin through a ring, napkin ring-folded napkins can be placed in various locations at a placesetting — to the left-hand side beside the fork, in front of the plate if space allows, or laid across the plate or atop a soupbowl (as I have done in this setting) if table space is at a premium or you simply want to add some pizzazz to the top of a placesetting.

Centerpiece/Tablescape

For the tablescape, I pulled in colors from the dinnerware.

I have opted for a relatively simple and easy-to-construct centerpiece – two faux green kissing (or pomander) balls on high glass pillar candlesticks surrounded by greenery, holly berries from outside my front door, Christmas balls, and pinecones to fill in some empty spaces.

Since I am not a huge fan of taper candles that can easily tip with a guest’s knee jerk against the table, I have chosen to use a series of small white votives interspersed along the edges of the centerpiece. They add a lovely upward glow to the kissing balls which are the focal point of the tablescape.

One of the things I am doing this season in my tablesettings is trying to use existing product and props in my centerpieces as opposed to buying more or always opting to use fresh flowers.  As lovely as fresh flowers are, they do require some work and, if I want to set my table well ahead of an event as my time allows, it’s easier if I use other options for centerpieces. Additionally, if you already have suitable props, it’s a more economical option.

Glassware

Because this dinnerware is quite modern, I am using extra-tall and very contemporary wine glasses.  The height of the glasses complements the high centerpiece as well as the dinnerware.

I hope you have enjoyed my contemporary tablesetting using red tartan dinnerware.  Happy Holidays!

To view other Christmas and New Year’s Tablesettings, click on the links below:

Glitz ‘n Glamour New Year’s Eve Tablesetting
Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Warmth of the Christmas Light Tablesetting
Christmas Eve Tablesetting and Dinner
Pretty Poinsettia Tablesetting
Poinsettia Trio Tablesetting
The Holiday Table
The Pink and Green Holiday Table
Christmas at My Island Bistro Kitchen
Purple Tablesetting for the Holidays
Evergreens and Reindeer Christmas Tablesetting
Cupcake Tablescape

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————

 

The Warmth of the Christmas Light Tablesetting

I love setting beautiful tables any time of the year but the Christmas season lends itself so well to many creative tablesetting options.  Sometimes, I have many more ideas than I have need to create new tablescapes!

Today, I am veering off the traditional color theme one might ordinarily expect to see on a Christmas table though I have incorporated some red and green into the design.

The Dishes

The dinnerware I have chosen is manufactured by Royal Stafford in England. The pattern is called “Christmas Home”.

These earthenware dishes are durable and not nearly so fragile as fine bone china.  The dinnerware is both microwaveable and dishwasher safe so, for this reason, the dishes are a suitable option for everyday use during the holiday season or they can be dressed up for a Christmas dinner as I have done here.

The predominant black/gray color may not be what one would think of first for Christmas dinnerware.  However, look closer and you can see the black/gray makes a lovely frame for the heartwarming scene on the dishes. It really makes the red and green pop in the pattern.

As soon as I examined the scene, I knew my tablescape would draw its inspiration from the glow of light in the windows of the dinnerware pattern and I have called this tablesetting the “Warmth of the Christmas Light“.  I like how the nostalgic pattern in the dishes tells its own story.

Charger Plates

I have a wide collection of charger plates and use them frequently in my tablesettings.  They are as functional as they are decorative.  They are functional as they help to keep each placesetting clean.  If a morsel of food escapes a plate, the charger plate (as opposed to a fine tablecloth or wood table) catches it.  Charger plates also allow for the elements of each placesetting to be coralled in an orderly fashion.  From a decorative point of view, chargers add a touch of class, elegance, and color to a finely set table.  Charger plates are very inexpensive and I have chosen basic black to complement the black and white dishes and the black lanterns in the tablescape.

Linens

When the dinnerware pattern is busy, I recommend choosing a plain tablecloth that matches the background color in the dishes.  In this case, I have selected one of my white Irish linen tablecloths because the background in the dinnerware is white.  The blank white canvas of the tablecloth allows for the elements of the tablescape to stand out.

I am a big fan of cloth napkins and, in particular, plain napkins.  Plain linens are very important if the dinnerware has a busy pattern so neither competes with the other.  The plain napkins help to ground the patterned dinnerware. To use patterned napkins and tablecloth with this dinnerware would make it very cluttered to the eye. To add some brightness to the tablescape and to tie in with the hints of red in the dinnerware and the bow on the lantern, I have chosen red napkins.

Candlestick Napkin Fold
Candlestick Napkin Fold

In keeping with my theme of the warmth of Christmas light, the napkin fold I have selected is the freestanding candlestick. This is a very easy-to-do napkin fold and a stiff napkin is required.  The red napkins I have used have white trim on the edges so, when rolled into a candle shape, the white resembles candle drippings. If you find this napkin fold too tall for your liking, the napkins can always be laid across each place setting where they will appear as simple, elegantly rolled napkins.

Centerpiece

For the centerpiece on this table, I have used two black lanterns along with red pillar candles.  I like to use props I already have and incorporate them into different table settings.  The black lanterns blend well with the color of the dinnerware and are continuing the theme of light. I have dressed up the taller of the lanterns with a swag in colors complementary to the dinnerware along with a perky red bow. The lanterns also provide a safe place for the candles yet still allow them to add light to the tablescape.  Some faux red berries and pine cones complete the look.

Glassware

To complement the nostalgic dinnerware, I have opted to use very traditional glassware of about average height for stemware.

I hope you have enjoyed my “Warmth of the Christmas Light” tablesetting that features Royal Stafford’s “Christmas Home” dinnerware.

To view other Christmas and New Years Tablesettings, click on the links below:

Glitz ‘n Glamour New Year’s Eve Tablesetting
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Christmas Eve Tablesetting and Dinner
A Tartan Holiday Tablesetting
Pretty Poinsettia Tablesetting
Poinsettia Trio Tablesetting
The Holiday Table
The Pink and Green Holiday Table
Christmas at My Island Bistro Kitchen
Purple Tablesetting for the Holidays
Evergreens and Reindeer Christmas Tablesetting
Cupcake Tablescape

—————————————————————————-

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

Follow “the Bistro’s” tweets on Twitter

Follow “the Bistro” on Pinterest

Follow “the Bistro” on Instagram

——————————————————————————