June 10, 2010 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Dessert wine + x = "This is so awesome I won't move halfway across the country after all!" Some help, please, MeFi foodies?

One of my beloved housemates is moving out soon, and we're having one last house dinner together, for which I've volunteered to make dessert. I would like to serve a dessert wine - Constantia Uitsig Muscat D'Alexandrie - that I've been saving for a special occasion. I would also like dessert to be special, and to not turn it into a cloying mess.

I got this wine a few months ago and originally sampled it in the middle of a small tasting trip, so I don't remember a whole lot about it, other than that I didn't find it strongly sweet or viscous (unlike, say, most of the icewines I've tried). I was able to find this brief description: "soft, velvet like tones on the palate with an apricot nose. Well paired with strong cheeses and citrus desserts."

How do I make my part of the meal memorable?

1) Should I serve this wine with dessert? I'm not actually sure how my housemates feel about strong cheeses, so I'm leaning away from that suggestion a bit, but I'm not entirely opposed to doing a wine-and-cheese course instead of, or in addition to, dessert.

2) If I do serve it with dessert, what dessert should I make? I'm completely taken with this pretty, pretty peach melba, but I'm worried it might be too sweet. (I also worry that I'll screw it up, since I've never poached anything in my life.) I don't have any citrus desserts in my repertoire, and there's a good chance it'll be sweltering, so I'd prefer not to bake. Ideally, I should be able to whip up the dessert quickly before serving, or be able to prepare it a day or two in advance.

Recommend me something delicious!
posted by EvaDestruction to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Poaching is merely cooking in liquid that is simmering (below the boiling point, so steam, but no bubbles). Not hard at all. I promise. If you do this dessert, and are super paranoid, throw in a few extra peaches, increasing the amount of poaching liquid proportionately, and start pulling them and cutting them open as they start getting soft. That's the super accurate but wasteful way to do it. Otherwise you can poke them with a thin skewer to judge the resistance. You'd be looking for soft, but not mushy. His notes about the way the skin slips off is vital, too.

Make sure you get freestone peaches, rather than cling peaches.

Personally, I'd shy away from citrus desserts this time of year, but I'm super obnoxious about seasonality.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:18 PM on June 10, 2010

Honey, in the comb if you can get that; fresh berries; and whatever sort of cheese you think your friends might enjoy. Don't get fancy; let the wine take center stage. I've had some memorable desserts along these lines.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 10:19 PM on June 10, 2010

Lemon mousse, add some lime.
posted by hortense at 10:25 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: I'd make a case for a strong cheese. Why? Transformative effect on both the cheese and the wine. Makes the wine very interesting. The saltiness of the cheese will balance the sweetness of the wine and allow for a more nuanced flavor profile. But, that doesn't mean that you can't wait a few minutes or swish your tongue around your mouth and experience all of the sweetness the wine has to offer.

Sweet desert is, in my opinion, not such a good idea. Both wine and dessert will be muted. If you must, go with something much less sweet. I would not make peach melba with sugar syrup to serve with a dessert wine.

Roquefort doesn't go wrong with any dessert wine, but you're welcome to take a more mild stance. Something blue or something squishy.

If you want to do the melba, I would serve it after cheese and wine. That would be nice.
posted by Suciu at 10:43 PM on June 10, 2010

Dessert wine goes with dessert. But as a rule of thumb, according to my amateur sommelier better half, the wine should be sweeter than the desert itself. This does not mean dessert should be savoury.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:48 PM on June 10, 2010

As implied above, there is no question that a too-sweet dessert will ruin a dessert wine. You will only taste the bitter components of the wine. The less sweet the dessert is, the less dominant this effect is.

Especially because you say that this wine is not terrifically sweet, you stand a good chance of wrecking it with something sweet.

A savory pairing for a dessert wine is more than common, cheese is often a dessert course, and multiple dessert courses are always welcome.
posted by Suciu at 11:40 PM on June 10, 2010

Dessert wine fan here. From experience:

Melting chocolate puddings

Really good 70% cocoa or greater dark chocolate is the key here. Don't worry about the brandy. Or the sugar content. The chocolate will wind back the sweetness and introduce a bitter complexity that the wine will complement nicely. Don't serve with ice cream - the real cream won't be too sweet.

A good alternative recipe without flour, and including coffee, which works well.
posted by dowcrag at 12:03 AM on June 11, 2010

I'd be worried about the ice cream component in the peach melba recipe - maybe too sweet. Otherwise, I think you're on the right track.

You might look into some kind of non-chocolate, fruit (citrus?) mousse with a berry sauce. Try to pick a recipe that's more about the fruit&mousse and less about added sugar.

I had a similar combination of fruit mousse with dessert wine at a one-Michelin-star restaurant last weekend. I usually don't like dessert wines - I find them too sweet. But this was a great combination -- a not-too-sweet dessert that was just sweet enough to take the cloyingly sweet edge off of the wine. It was actually the first time I understood dessert wine, and I remarked to my girlfriend on how interesting and pleasant the combination was.

Good luck with your dessert!
posted by syzygy at 2:39 AM on June 11, 2010

Sorry, didn't read the no-bake bit.
posted by dowcrag at 4:25 AM on June 11, 2010

Consider fromage blanc (or, if you can't find it, even greek yogurt) drizzled with honey and berries. The underlying cheese won't be sweet, you can adjust the amount of honey and berries to avoid overpowering the wine, and none of the elements needs to be baked-- or really prepared at all. And you can have all of this without going down the strong cheeses route. There is a reason this is a popular French dessert.
posted by willbaude at 5:36 AM on June 11, 2010

I realize it's inelegant, but some sort of fruit pie would be my choice. Almost any fruit pie can have its filling cooked on the stovetop, so you're only on the hook for blind-baking the crust, which can be done a day ahead of time. Use something acidic (most berries fit the bill) and make the filling relatively tart. Get some good cream and make a very sweet whipped cream or maybe a sweet creme fraiche. That way people can calibrate the sweetness of the pie at the table. For a more elegant looking critter, do the same thing, but make it a tart with a fancy crust.

Pie is always good. Always.
posted by pjaust at 6:12 AM on June 11, 2010

If you want something sweet but not too sweet that you can make a day ahead-I would suggest some type of blintzy dessert. Crepes and a filling can be made a day ahead and you can assemble them that morning. Then, after dinner, throw them in a frying pan to heat and brown them a bit just before serving and top them with berries (or peaches or a light chocolate mousse if you like) and a little cream or some kind of rum sauce. It won't be super sweet and is very amenable to making all the pieces ahead of time. Also, they are pretty light as far as desserts go. And would go nice with a dessert wine, I think. Depending on your filling and topping, these can be as sweet or savory as you prefer.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:24 AM on June 11, 2010

Recently had strawberries in balsamic vinaigrette (a really, really fancy b.v.) and it was heavenly! Served over a little homemade vanilla ice cream with dessert wine would certainly take it to nirvana :)
posted by wwartorff at 6:56 AM on June 11, 2010

Suggest Creme Brulee with berry compote served in ramekins. Cheese and desert wine is a strange suggestion in my opinion. Would serve to ruin both the cheese flavour and the wine flavour.
posted by numberstation at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2010

Foie pairs really nicely with muscat.

Get a lobe, devein it, cut it into ounce portions, and saute it up and serve with a blackberry compote.
posted by TheBones at 8:18 AM on June 11, 2010

You can drink the wine with whatever you like.

That said, the general rule of thumb is that dessert wine is the dessert, itself. It doesn't accompany a dessert.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:39 AM on June 11, 2010

I agree with The Bones about the foie--the combination is insanely delicious.
posted by Lycaste at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2010

Though I'm not a big fan of the foie gras ethical/humane aspects, I can say it's delicious with dessert wine.

Another not too sweet option is Panna Cotta which can be made several days ahead. You should taste it for sweetness as you're making it (I'd start with only 1/3 c. sugar). Some unsweetened berry puree could also be made in advance, or a dark chocolate sauce would be nice too.
posted by fontophilic at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone. I never would've thought of foie, but it wouldn't work anyway, since one of my housemates is vegetarian. I'm leaning in a berries and cheese direction at the moment, but there will be more house dinners, and I usually make dessert, so I'm sure I'll find an occasion to use most of these recommendations.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:02 PM on June 11, 2010

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