I fell in love with this wine last night. I was sitting at a little outside cafe, Ciao Bella, on Newbury Street in Boston, sipping this delicious, soft, plummy zinfandel, Ravenswood Vintners Blend, and people watching. It was a great spot for this, as we were right on the corner of Newbury and another cross road, Gloucester maybe? We were also conducting an experiment of sorts, for my friend Marley's blog, well it's not really her blog, but rather that of her character Vanessa, in the novel that is being currently shopped around NYC. She had conducted a similar experiment, very unscientific, just random observations on men, which she posted a week earlier. This was hugely popular and ended up on Boston blog, Universal Hub. So this will be her followup, an attempt for better results.
We were really killing time too, having a drink and a shared appetizer of a Jonah crabcake in tequila lime sauce with mango salsa, before crossing the street to Croma. Our friend Marianne held her book launch party there, for her new chick lit/time travel book, A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court, and it was a great event, good crowd, and a super new trendy bar. They even created several martini's just for her, such as the Fashionista Martini and the King Arthur Martini. Drink recipes are up on the site. They do these Tini Tuesday nights every week, so we may have to go back sometime.
After enjoying the Ravenswood Zinfandel so much, I was hoping that Croma might have something similar. The bartender suggested Peachy Canyon, a California zinfandel described on the pretty peach label as an 'incredible red'. It was full of fruit and spice, and was every bit as good as the Ravenswood. So, I got quite lucky, and managed to find 2 new favorite reds in one night. Both retail for around $10-12.
Nana's Candy's were at the party too, handing out little boxes of their spiced pecans, which Marley, who is highly allergic, referred to as 'death candy', as she quickly handed me her box. I of course made the mistake of 'trying one', and then devoured my entire box. They go really well with red wine. :) Fortunately, I still have Marley's box, and am nibbling away as I write this. These pecans are good, with a mild, sweet taste, but not spicy at all.
I like my nuts spicy, and immediately thought of this killer recipe I discovered several years ago in the Best Recipes of 1999 book. I've made this for the holidays several times, and the nuts always disappear quickly. The recipe calls for pecans, but you can use mixed nuts or any nut that you prefer. They are quick, easy to make, and addictive.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
Makes 3 cups
Easy to make in large batches, spiced pecans are great to have on hand for impromptu guests during the winter holidays. Pack them into tins for a welcome gift that's mailable and suits everyone. But though recipes for spiced pecans abound, the usual suspects don't seem to have the right zip-too sweet, too spicy, no character, blah. Then we discovered Lonestar chef Stephan Pyles's terrific recipe. Sautéed and then roasted, these nuts are not quite like any others we've ever had-you taste them at the front, back, sides and roof of your mouth. They're as rich as pralines, with a chile heat as deep as the sweet. People really love them.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons pure chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and set a rack on the middle level.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and sauté, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized. Stir in the paprika, chile powder and cumin. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt.
Spread the pecans in one layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool, then store in an airtight container or at room temperature until ready to serve.