Now Shipping: 2017 L.A. Burdick Robert Burns Chocolates

We all drink whisky on Robert Burns’ birthday (January 25), but if you really want to wow folks, get your hands on a box of L.A. Burdicks’ Robert Burns Chocolate collection, which is available only during this time of the year.

Each box of about 36 bonbons (1/2 a pound) includes multiples of seven different items, each made with a different whisky. Those include Lagavulin, Macallan, Talisker, Springbank, Highland Park, and Glenfarclas. A final chocolate is a whisky honey truffle made with an unspecified whisky.

These are some amazing chocolates and, even though mine got a little freezer burned during shipping thanks to some unseasonably cold weather, they are absolutely delightful and totally worth getting. Order now in time for Burns Night!

More specific reviews and ratings of the individual chocolates can be found here.

$42 / burdickchocolate.com

Recipe: Bourbon and Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Pecan Pie with Bourbon Crust and Malted Whipped Cream

This incredible pecan pie recipe comes from Homebrewchef.com, which adapted it from a recipe in Beer Advocate magazine. I made this with Jim Beam Double Oak Twice Barreled Bourbon. For the Russian Imperial Stout, I used So Happens It’s Tuesday from The Bruery (A / $20 per 750ml bottle), which is aged in bourbon barrels. I was surprised to find the stout had a sour side to it and initially worried it would negatively impact the pie. However, I also used dark corn syrup instead of the light listed in the recipe ingredients. The two balanced one another nicely. The pie filling came out sweet, but not syrupy sweet.

Traditionally, cooks use vodka instead of water in their pie crusts. The reason for this is because the alcohol evaporates, leaving a flaky crust. This recipe calls for bourbon instead of vodka and it worked well for the same reasons. I also loved the use of barley flour in the crust for something truly unique. I found the flour at our local community market.

This recipe also needs dry malt extract (DME), which is not something normally found in the supermarket. I did get mine from the local The Beverage People shop. They do have a website to order from here. It is interesting to note that DME is used in the center of candy malted milk balls. No wonder they are so good! I also recommend the use of real maple syrup and not the imitation kind; a pie this good deserves the real thing.

With the whipped cream, the malt extract adds a malty sweetness to the bourbon and cream flavors. The recipe called for powdered milk. This is an important ingredient as it gives the whipped cream body. I used real heavy cream for mine. The taste is heavenly.

Most of the alcohol, except for the bourbon in the whipped cream, cooks off so there is no real alcohol content to speak of…only the wonderful, warm flavor.

This pie is a bit expensive to make because of the unusual ingredients, not found normally at the grocery store, and the alcohol. However, this is the best pecan pie I have ever tasted. Some things, like fine foods and good beer and spirits, are worth the money spent on them, particularly when they are for a special occasion. This pecan pie is no exception and I highly recommend it.

Here is the recipe. I should also note the crust is for two pies, while the filling is for one. I simply doubled the filling ingredients and baked two pies, which serves twelve slices. Preparation time is about 20 minutes. Cooking time is 60 minutes.

Bourbon Barley Pie Crust
• 1 1/2 cups flour, unbleached all purpose
• 1/2 cup flour, barley
• 1/2 cup flour, pastry
• 3 tablespoons Dry Malt Extract (DME)
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 8 ounces unsalted butter
• 4 – 5 tablespoons Bourbon, ice cold

Stout Pecan Filling
• 3 each eggs, jumbo at room temperature
• 3 each eggs, jumbo, yolks only, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup Dry Malt Extract (DME)
• 1/2 cup sugar, organic
• 1/2 cup Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher
• 3 cups shelled pecan halves

Malted Whipping Cream
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons Dry Malt Extract (DME)
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon milk powder
• 2 tablespoons Bourbon

Bourbon Barley Pie Crust Directions:
• In the bowl of a food processor, add the flours, DME, and salt. Pulse several times to mix the ingredients together. Add the cold butter cubes to the bowl and pulse a few times to cut the fat into the flour mixture.
• Keep pulsing until the mixture has small grain size chunks of fat evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
• With the motor running, quickly add the bourbon until the mixture just forms a ball. Since the alcohol mixed with flour cannot form gluten like water and flour can, over mixing isn’t as much of an issue with this crust. Plus the alcohol will evaporate (40% alcohol), resulting in a flaky crust. Form the dough into two equal size balls. Take plastic wrap and wrap each ball of dough, pressing down on each to create a disk. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to re-chill, while fully hydrating the flour, making it easier to work with and helping the crust from shrinking as it cooks.
• Preheat the oven to 350°F | 177°C. Take one dough ball and roll it out to ¼ of an inch thick round on a lightly floured surface. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a 22 oz bottle that is chilled will also work. Place it in your pie dish or tin. Crimp the edges of the crust and set aside. Use the second pie crust for another pie (try apple) or another application like turn overs.

Stout Pecan Filling Directions:
• In a large bowl, add the eggs and yolks (saving the whites for another recipe), whisking until light and frothy. Add the DME, sugar, Imperial Stout, corn syrup, maple syrup, melted butter, and salt; mix well. Add in the pecan halves and mix to coat. Pour this mixture into the prepared pie crust, smoothing out any pecans which are sticking out. Place into the center of the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before serving.

Malted Whipped Cream Directions:
• In a cold metal bowl, add the cold cream, DME, sugar, milk powder, and bourbon. Using a whisk, beat until soft peaks form. Top each slice of pie with a healthy dollop and serve.

Homebrewchef recommends pairing the pie with Parabola Russian Imperial Stout from Firestone Walker Brewing Company (A / $20 per 650ml bottle). This recommendation was spot on as the flavors of both the stout and the pie mingled well together on the tongue. I also recommend, for the wine folks reading, pairing this pie with a Kelley and Young Late Harvest Zinfandel, from Robert Young Vineyards (A+ / $36 per 375ml bottle).

Review: Vineyard Chocolates

vineyard-chocolates

Entrepreneur Joe Woerly has an idea: Chocolate bars, flavored with wine. It’s unclear where the flavors come from — actual wine, or just flavors inspired by wine — but the chocolate is from Venezuela and comes in a variety of cocoa levels.

In advance of Woerly’s Kickstarter campaign (see link below) to get the word out about his product, we tried all three flavors.

Vineyard Chocolates Cabernet Flavored Dark Chocolate – 73.5% cocoa. Nicely bittersweet, with notes of blackberry, coffee, and a hint of licorice. A little grainy, but fairly well balanced.

Vineyard Chocolates Merlot Flavored Dark Chocolate – 61% cocoa. Unlike the more fruit-focused cabernet flavor, this version tastes more clearly like merlot wine, with merlot’s iconic violet notes plus a touch of strawberry. Probably my favorite of the bunch.

Vineyard Chocolates Chardonnay Flavored White Chocolate – 34% cocoa. Gooey white chocolate, indistinctly flavored with some fig and orange character. The finish isn’t altogether on this one, but that might be a prejudice against white chocolate.

kickstarter.com

Highlights from the California Artisan Cheese Festival 2016

Recently I had the good fortune to attend one of the most entertaining events in this business: Petaluma’s annual “California Cheesin'” event, part of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, now in its 10th year.

This highlight offers regional (northern California) restaurants plus purveyors of wine, beer, and cider — and let’s you go to town on dozens of cheese-inspired small bites. Some two dozen restaurants and cheesemakers were on hand this evening along with another 20 or so beverage companies. The idea: Taste through everything and pronounce a winner amongst the restaurants at the end of the night, following the visitors’ votes. (Beverage companies don’t get prizes, sadly.)

My favorite bites came from Carneros Bistro, whose Red Hawk arancini are perennial festival winners; The Girl and The Fig’s ricotta sorbet mini-cones; and Rustic at Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s asparagus and morel risotto. But the restaurant that got my vote was from a food truck outfit called Croques & Toques, whose truffled cheese croquette as a delightfully sharp and savory dish. (Though one other voter wondered whether it was cheating to use truffles!)

On the wine and beer side, a number of standouts: Estate 1856’s Petit Verdot was fragrant and lively; Goldschmidt Vineyards Fidelity Zinfandel was racy with green olive overtones; and the soft Pinot Noir from Fogline Vineyards was an easy sipper. Favorite wine, however, had to go to Pennyroyal Farm and its lightly earthy Pinot Noir — I’ve passed this place many times en route to Mendocino and never even knew they produced wine at all.

Best beer: Lagunitas Equinox, a pale oat ale, offering the best of two distinctly different worlds of brewing.

As always, it was a fantastic event on a beautiful evening in Petaluma. I look forward to checking it out again in 2017!

Review: Matthews 1812 House Bourbon Desserts

blondiesBourbon’s not just for drinking — the good folks at Matthews 1812 House are putting it to good use in all manner of desserts.

Recently we received some delights from the company, all made with an infusion of bourbon. The Bourbon Blondie Bar ($32) is easily the highlight — a very rich, very dense blondie infused with Kentucky bourbon. You can taste the rich vanilla notes of the bourbon — though it is isn’t overpowering — though a little of this dessert goes a long way. It was so decadent that after a week we had barely finished a third of the 28 oz. blondie brick. It’d be a great choice for entertaining, though.

We also received Matthews 1812’s Chocolate Bourbon Sauce ($14.50)and Caramel Bourbon Sauce ($13.50), both of which can be used as toppers for what-have-you on your dessert tray. Both are quite dense and are more akin to pastes than sauces or syrups, so you might need to warm them before serving. Again, both are the real deal, and the subtle kick of whiskey gives them a slight edge you won’t find in a can of Hershey’s.

The company has even more whiskey-infused products on tap. Give them all a spin!

1812house.com

Review: GourmetGiftBaskets “Happy Hour” Cheesecake Sampler

Happy-Hour-Sampler-Whole-Cheesecake_largeBooze and dessert have always had a special relationship, and the folks at GourmetGiftBaskets are taking it one step further by baking bar delights straight into their “Happy Hour” Cheesecake Sampler. It’s a little off the beaten path for Drinkhacker to review cheesecake, but I feel the cocktail connection is strong enough for a discriminating drinker to appreciate.

We recently received a sampler with a variety of cheesecake flavors, including Amaretto, Irish Coffee, Margarita, and Strawberry Margarita varieties — at least in the version I received. All were good, though the lime character of the two Margarita flavors is quite understated. I wouldn’t have thought they were particularly citrus if I wasn’t told they were supposed to be. The Irish coffee flavor has a bit of a peanut butter character (and consistency) to it, but the Amaretto is pure almond from start to finish. All told, they’re all very good (though perhaps a touch dry) — but if I had to pick one, I’d go for the flavor-packed Amaretto.

Note: While there is alcohol in the recipes for the cheesecakes, the cooked and finished products contain virtually none (if any at all), so be sure to bring your own.

B+ / $35 to $50 (depending on size) / gourmetgiftbaskets.com

Nocciolata Spread Meets Partida Tequila?

nocciolataTo the guy gal who said he would stop reading the site if I kept covering unrelated food items, hear me out.

Nocciolata — an Italian (and slightly creamier) version of Nutella — wants you to pair its chocolate/hazelnut spread with Partida Reposado tequila. And they sent us a bit of both to give this oddball pairing a whirl.

I won’t belabor the point: Gooey chocolate pairs pretty well with just about anything. Consider whiskey, rum, vodka, or your favorite liqueur, and it will pair well with Nocciolata. As for the Partida, it’s a nice match too, adding some peppery notes to the silky, decadent sweetness of the chocolate spread. The vanilla in the tequila is a great companion with the chocolate, too — though I doubt any quality reposado or anejo would fail you here.

If you’ve ever had a hot chocolate spiked with tequila, you know what you’re in for. Give it a go!

about $10 per 9.52 oz jar / nocciolatausa.com /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

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