Saturday, July 18, 2009

My version of heaven...

The quintessential summer meal. No stove, no tedious prep work, just you, great food and the elements!


The heat is finally upon us, even if it is a little tardy and in this instances, throw tradition out the window and dine al fresco! Take advantage of patios blooming with summer colors, dappled light speckling checkered picnic blankets and the breeze, softly scented with the latest floral perfumes... take your family, and your food to the best dining location in town, your own backyard!


Don't stress out over complicated menus and exotic
ingredients. Summer menus are all about spontaneity, fresh ingredients and a ripe imagination. Balmy nights give us the perfect excuse to peruse local farmer's markets in search of in-season produce, artisan cheeses and fruit laden wines. Explore new culinary territories and select a handful of robust, salty cheeses that pair with and elevate equally vivid and complimentary wines. Romanello, Piave Vecchio and Pecorino Romano are only a few of hundreds of classic cheese combinations. Choose a combination of familiar and non-traditional fruits like gooseberries and sweet black cherries to round out a simple menu. When selecting an appropriate wine, keep in mind that sweet whites, like Rieslings, cut through the saltiness that many cheeses boast while cleansing the palate before the next bite. Bold red wines like Merlot and Pinot Noir, while delicious, can taste hollow and flat next to an equally bold cheese. Having said that, it all comes down to what pleases your palate the most. Be adventurous and willing to break a rule once in while, that is often when the best flavors happen!


Fruit, nuts and wildflower honey can take a simple wine and cheese menu to the next level. The addition of other specialty items like quince paste and dense fruit torts add a depth of flavor and heartiness that make this menu a meal in and of itself.


Quick yet reliable flat bread recipes, like simple sea salt and olive oil breads, make another welcome and pronounced addition to a cheese plate. Rustic cheeses and sweet fruits are in good company with a simple yet hearty bread that stands up to and enhances the intricate flavor combinations.


Once the menu is planned, the table is set and the wine is opened, the only thing left to do is invite good friends over to share in the splendor of a simple menu set outdoors. Just like fine wine compliments a good cheese, good friends compliment a great meal set out in the comfort, and beauty of your own backyard. Enjoy your dinner the way it was meant to be enjoyed, right where it started, outside!

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