Friday, April 11, 2008

The Promise of Spring

Eggs300I've had just about enough of this fickle March weather -- it snowed in Birmingham two days ago and today it was sunny and 65.  What gives?  I really shouldn't complain, though, because today was one of those days where the weather's so beautiful you actually feel cool (like, Fonzie cool).  You know what I mean?

All I know is that when I was in college and a day like today rolled around, you could kiss class good-bye.  It's been cold and rainy for the last few weeks, so maybe I'm just high on vitamin D.

Anyway, it was just too nice to stay inside, so I met my wife and youngest daughter for lunch at our favorite outdoor eatery (in case you're wondering -- or in the event my boss is reading this -- there were no thoughts of blowing off work.  I promise.)

As we sat outside soaking up the sun and savoring every single minute of the humidity-free breeze, my wife and I talked about cleaning up the back yard, sweeping off the patio, and inviting a few friends over for a casual get-together this weekend.  Nothing fancy -- a few nibbles, some wine, fire up the outdoor speakers.  You get the picture.
We kicked around a few menu ideas before deciding to use recipes developed by our friend Rebecca Gordon, who's also the Assistant Test Kitchens Director at Southern Living.  When it comes to creativity, Rebecca has it in spades, and last April she created some really fun twists on Southern favorites in her story, "Simple Food, Fresh Style."  From Rebecca's story, we're gonna serve Spicy Roasted Red Bell Pepper Pimiento Cheese, Cream Cheese-Olive Spread, Lemon-Dill Chicken Salad-Stuffed Eggs, individual Bacon-Blue Cheese Salads (they're super-easy to make and look like a million bucks).  We'll round out things with toasted pecans, sliced apples and pears, olives, some baguette slices, and a little soppressata and proscuitto.


Now for the wine.
 I'm thinking we'll welcome everyone with sparkling wine, then offer a light white and rosé.  (For the record, I'm crazy for rosé.)  I've listed options -- budget, splurge, and Southern-produced gems -- for a few of my favorites, in case you'd like to recreate this little gathering at your home.
Sparkling Wine (always good to get the party started) -- Value: Brut, Avinyo, Spain; Splurge: Brut, Veuve Clicquot, Yellow Label, France; Southern: Brut, Beachaven, Grand Cuvée, Tennessee
Light White (a sure bet if you'd rather skip the sparkling wine; these have crisp, palate-cleansing acidity; good all-around wine for most appetizers) -- Value: Aveleda, Vinho Verde, Portugal; Splurge: Viña Montes, Leyda Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Chile; Southern: Childress Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, North Carolina
Hearty White (for those white wine fans who want something with a little more body) -- Value: Pepperwood Grove, Viognier, California; Splurge: Flora Springs, Chardonnay, California; Southern: Linden, Chardonnay, Virginia
Rosé to Light Red (a little bigger in body and style, but won't overpower the occasion) -- Value: La Vieille Ferme, Rosé, France; Splurge: Castelvero, Barbera, Italy; Southern: Becker Vineyards, Provençal, Texas

What are your favorite everyday and splurge wines? What's your favorite Southern wine?

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