This weekend The Artist and I went up to Sonoma for a wine tasting event at Tin Barn Vineyards. It was a dazzling day. This is one of our typical Octobers, with bright sunshine, warm temperatures and light breezes. It was a very fun event with its lively gypsy jazz music performed by the Plectrum Duo (hire them for your next party!), elegant appetizers from Todd Humphries’ Kitchen Door in Napa, and of course the outstanding wines of Tin Barn.
We had a fun demonstration of “rack-and-return” a wine making process that helps red wines become more fully infused with the flavors and colors from the grapes during fermentation. The solids tend to float, creating a “cap.” By draining the wine and pumping it back over the cap, the aeration softens the tannins, stabilizes the wine’s color and more flavor is extracted from the solids. It was fascinating to experience the changing aromas as the wine was emptied from one vat into another. And the color was unbelievable. I can just imagine how wonderful it will taste when it is fully aged.
We wandered through their facility, noshed on the apps and sipped wine. We sampled some of the grapes freshly picked from bunches still on the vine and I was surprised at how sweet they were. Then The Artist and I wandered outside to enjoy the late afternoon golden light. I know there are many places in the world that are renown for their “light” – the south of France and New Mexico for example – but the light in California certainly has to rival them. But with my penchant for warm colors, the light in the afternoon/early evening is particularly pleasing. Everything seems to glow a little more, almost magically.
If you are a wine lover and ever have the opportunity to experience the Crush, you are in for a treat. In Napa Valley, which is long and fairly narrow with tall mountain ranges running the length on either side, the entire valley smells like grapes and wine. It is intoxicating, not in the traditional sense, but more like addicting in that you want to be able to have that beautiful aroma around you every day. But like the first asparagus in the spring or sweet peaches in the summer, we have to wait another year to experience it again.
Every time I show friends around San Francisco, stroll along the Pacific Ocean or drive through the wine country I am incredibly grateful to be living in this beautiful area. So, what does all this have to do with milkshakes? The Artist and I ended our day by sipping a pair of these at Cindy Pawlcyn’s latest restaurant, Wood Grill and Wine Bar in St. Helena on the Napa side of the hills.
Dinner was wonderful (as it always is at any of Cindy’s restaurants), but the dessert blew us both away. It was rich and chocolatey, and yet light and refreshing. And unlike most recipes for similar milkshakes in the Webosphere, Cindy makes hers with chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. This guarantees a deeper chocolate flavor, which is enhanced by the bourbon. But you can’t use any cheap bourbon here. It really deserves a good one. Not the top of the line, but a good sipping bourbon. Cindy uses Buffalo Trace and both The Artist and I agree that it was perfect!
This is definitely not a dessert for children, but would be the ideal ending for an adult dinner party and may just make another appearance at Christmas and I think it would be a blast to serve on New Year’s Eve. The Artist has generously volunteered to do quality control on the rest of the bourbon, LOL!
You can have this dessert/treat made in less than 10 minutes from start to finish if you have all the ingredients on hand. It would be terrific as part of a trio of mini desserts. Serve the milkshakes in shot glasses along with small chocolate chip cookies and perhaps chocolate mousse piped into mini tart shells. You will be competing with the finest restaurants in the country and it will impress even the most jaded of your friends.
For those of you on America’s eastern seaboard, batten down the hatches and stay warm and dry during the hurricane and storm. Our thoughts are with all of you and hope you remain safe and don’t have any major property damage.
Take care my friends!!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you have surprise guests arrive on your doorstep, this is a dessert that you can pull together at the last minute and still satisfy everyone at the table.
Some believe that distilled liquors are safe for those with celiac, but it depends on your level of sensitivity. If need be, avoid any alcohol that is derived from traditional grains and steer toward those made from rice, sugar cane or potatoes.
Kitchen Skill: How to Clean a Blender
The easiest way to clean a blender is to have it do all the work. Then you don’t have to worry about cutting yourself on the blades. When you are done with the blender, rinse it out with hot water. Add about 1/2 cup water, a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and place on the blender base. Set the lid on the top and secure it. Turn the blender on high and run until the entire interior surface has been coated with the soapy water.
Discard the soapy water and rinse with clean, hot water. Set upside down on a kitchen towel to dry.
- 1-1/2 cups rich chocolate ice cream such as Haagen Dazs, or gelato
- 1-1/2 oz good quality Kentucky bourbon such as Buffalo Trace (see note above if gluten-intolerant or celiac)
- 1 oz whole milk, if desired to thin the shake
- Chocolate Syrup
- Whipped Cream, for topping
- In a blender, combine the ice cream or gelato with the bourbon. Blend until smooth. Add a splash of milk if needed.
- Squirt the chocolate syrup into the serving glass, swirling it around the inside of the glass. Fill the glass with the blended ice cream and bourbon. Top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream if desired and drizzle chocolate syrup over the cream.
- Serve immediately.
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