Some friends recently took my wife and me out to a lovely and extravagant dinner at Delaney’s. It was a perfect evening – an icy martini for me to start, an amazing shrimp Provençal with a glass of Fess Parker Chardonnay to continue, and of course the finale – dessert. I’ve often heard the saying “life is short – eat dessert first.” In this instance it was a saying with merit; the crème brulee was to die for – though we could only manage a bite or two each after our filling meal. We enjoyed coffee with our rich sweet – but afterward I was wondering what type of libation might also pair well with dessert.
Desserts tend toward the rich side, with fulsome flavors that can overwhelm many drink choices. That’s why coffee, also rich and flavorful, complements just about anything on the menu. Delving a bit deeper, it’s important that the flavors involved complement each other.
A classic pairing is chocolate, especially dark, with a rich full-bodied red wine. One of my favorites is a Lindt Extra Dark truffle and a glass of Menage a Trois Midnight. The creamy yet strong flavor of the truffle (60 percent cocoa – not for the faint of heart) is actually enhanced by the red blend wine. Of course you can choose milk chocolate if preferred and maybe dial back your wine to a Zinfandel for a fruitier, and still delicious, pairing.
Now … back to my crème brulee. Pairing alcohol with a creamy dessert requires some thought and maybe even some research before having guests over. But I’m willing to make the sacrifice! My wife actually makes an incredible crème brulee, and we were both willing to enjoy this treat twice in the span of two weeks (again, in the name of research). My wife immediately decided to try hers with a glass of prosecco – possibly because that was what she was drinking while I torched the brulees. The Italian sparkler did, indeed, pair up nicely with the crème brulee, especially when we garnished it with a small sliver of fresh ripe peach (almost like a Bellini in crème form!).
I then decided to go a bit more adventurous – and much higher proof – by trying a small glass of Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka with my last few bites. It was like coffee with a kick and very satisfactory. OK, incredible. And the glass just may have gotten refilled.
A Southern dessert favorite has to be lemon pie. That graham cracker crust, tart filling, and creamy meringue topping was a mainstay of my childhood. In later years I’ve become quite a fan of lemon bars, too. Both would pair well with a citrus-forward gin or one with some floral attributes. I especially like Malfy, Italian gin that is exceptional. Malfy makes a lemon-enhanced version, but I just pour a shot of the plain over ice and filled the glass with seltzer. If you feel more in the mood for a true cocktail you’ll enjoy this one with lemon (and orange) in the mix.
CITRUS BLOSSOM MARTINI
1-½ oz Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka
½ oz Cointreau
½ oz Meyer lemon juice
Splash of sparkling wine
Sugar the rim of a chilled martini glass by rubbing a lemon slice around the edge and then dipping in sugar. Place first ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into the prepared glass. Slowly pour in the sparkling wine so it floats on top. Garnish with an extra thin spiral of lemon peel.
Finally, we come to my favorite dessert, one I typically only get at Thanksgiving: pecan pie. My mom always made this pie for me at that holiday because, unlike my siblings, I never liked their favorite, which was sweet potato pie. Now, my accommodating wife will whip one up for me, albeit a substantially less cloyingly sweet version (which, I admit, I like better). I’ve got a few months until I can try this but I think I know just the right pairing – a snifter of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac.
I’m in luck because I just read that the good folks at Remy Martin have released a 50 ml bottle of their pricey elixir that retails just under $600 (a regular 750 ml bottle runs over $3,000). For those not very metric-savvy, 50 ml is less than 2 oz. So … come Turkey Day I am perfectly willing to share a slice of my pie, but you’ll have to enjoy yours with coffee.