Wined and Dined: Pesto Party!


In an effort to save the basil forest on my fire escape from death by freezing as NYC enters a frigid October, I decided on a mercy killing to benefit taste buds, which are so often confronted by jars of store bought who-knows-what. Pesto presented the perfect way to shrink a mountain of basil–and it’s always fun to pulverize things alongside a heavy I’m-friends-with-the-bartender-level pour of olive oil.

Hence how I ended up elbows-deep in a pile of basil, and reeking of Garlic at 8pm  Saturday night.  Pesto is one of the simplest sauces to make, and has inherent “Wow” factor, so I absolutely recommend whipping some up for your next date to prove that yes, you can cook. (I’ve snared more than my fair share with five ingredients and a blender…)

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Plus, the recipe is moron-proof. Put basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and voilà. Add more oil to make it super smooth, or go for a more “rustic” version if you’re pressed for time. Add salt/black pepper to taste if you’re really trying to impress.

As I was planning an exciting night out dancing, I decided to spice up the classic (read: boring) pesto/pasta/chicken combination in exchange for more interesting pesto and goat cheese pizza. I’d also hoped (wrongly) that my friends would help assemble such a “fun” meal.  (Ahem, they watched. But it was worth a try…)

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Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are go-to pesto pairings, because both offer a balancing effect to the herbs, and are generally of light to medium body, making them the equivalent of a demure blonde at a Stamford-area country club–pleasant, nice, but not exactly inspiring or exciting.

I opted out of the country club pairing scene, since our pizza toppings provided a more metropolitan mix of flavors ranging  from cherry tomatoes to caramelized red onions to sweet pineapple with cracked pepper.

To accompany such a mélange of flavors, I snatched up a lovely Crémant de Bourgogne AKA bubbly from Burgundy. Yes—sparkling wines exist in France outside of Champagne! And they’re way cheaper.  Burgundy grows many of the same grapes as in Champagne (this juice was a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay) and is actually the country’s second-leading producer of bubbly.

The Blason de Bourgogne Brut Reserve we drank was surprisingly creamy, and had a lingering mineral finish that defined the phrase “palate cleanser.” Combined with brisk fruitiness at the start, this $5.99 bottle to moved effortlessly from our bright, tomato-covered pizza to the sweet, creamy pineapple-goat cheese finale.

And in case you were wondering, the carbs were an awesome energy base for a night on the town.

Cheers!

  • October 3, 2012
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