THE LOVE CONNECTION
FOOD AND ROMANCE ARE THE PERFECT COUPLE. THEY WILL BE SEEING A LOT OF EACH OTHER ON VALENTINE'S DAY.
By Heather McPherson
Mom knew it. So did your first girlfriend or boyfriend. For that matter, the whole state of Wisconsin has long been clued in.
How else could your mother have known the precise moment you needed a red velvet cake blanketed in cream-cheese icing? How else did your first crush know that chocolate speaks volumes when your sweaty palms and jittery voice only evoke nervous twit? How else did the land of gouda and goat embrace "the power of cheese."
It doesn't take a platter of tarts to understand that food is the ultimate prize. Food and drink placates, entices and seduces.
When Valentine's Day is celebrated February 14, it's a good bet there will be an exchange of gifts both naughty and nice, but you can count on plenty of food and drink in the mix, as well.
The hallmark effervescence of sparkling wines and the opulent fullness of fruity cordials lighten the moods of those who indulge as if these were elixirs created by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, herself.
GRAND MARNIER-HONEY CHOCOLATE FONDUE
Yield: 6 servings.
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons orange zest
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur (see note)
Assorted fresh fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces, as needed
Ladyfingers or pound cake, cut into bite-sized pieces, as needed
1. Combine the melted chocolates and keep warm.
2. Bring the heavy cream, orange zest, salt and honey to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow the zest to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture into the chocolate and whisk together. Add the Grand Marnier and mix thoroughly.
3. Serve warm in a fondue pot with a variety of foods to dip (strawberries, pitted cherries, apricots, cake pieces, etc.).
Recipe note: Recipe from the Culinary Institute of America's Gourmet Meals in Minutes (Lebhar-Freidman, $40). If you prefer, omit the Grand Marnier and substitute an additional 1/4 cup of heavy cream. For white chocolate fondue, substitute 2 cups melted white chocolate for the bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.
How to open the bottle
The goal is to control the cork and, of course, not waste any of the sparkling wine or Champagne in the process.
Here's how to do it:
Step 1: Hold the lower part of the bottle with one hand and, with the other hand, peel the foil from the neck and top.
Step 2: Carefully loosen the cage on the cork, but do not remove it. For safety, place your thumb on the top of the cork; then grab it firmly with the rest of your hand.
Step 3: Begin to turn the bottle gently with the hand holding the thick part of the bottle.
Step 4: As you feel the cork starting to push out of the bottle, hold it back and ease it out gently.
Remember that sparkling wine or Champagne should never pop. When it does, it loses fermentation that makes the bubbles. The sound of a bottle opening should be a gentle "psssst."
HOW TO SERVE
Champagne should be served in tall glasses called flutes.
Flat, saucer-style glasses dissipate the bubbles and warm the wine
ALIZE PASSION AND SPARKLING WINE COCKTAIL
Yield: 1 serving.
3 ounces Alize Wild Passion
3 ounces sparkling wine
1. Combine liquids in chilled champagne flute.
2. Garnish as desired and serve.
Heather McPherson / Food Editor
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