Flavor Profile: Balsamic Cherry

It took a bit longer than expected but we finally reached fall! A season of some of the best scents and flavors the earth has to offer. One of the new flavors I've been experimenting with is balsamic cherry. Yep, you read that correctly. Balsamic vinegar does wonders for sweet stuff by adding its own sugars and that tangy zip only attributed to vinegar. I mixed 4 ounces of dried tart cherries with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and let is simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will initially let off some overwhelming vinegar fumes that will singe your nose hairs if you're not careful. Once the mixture has thickened I removed it from the heat and placed it in a small ramekin for safe keeping. I'm not sure how long it will keep for in the fridge but I used mine within a week and that seemed to be OK.

I used the cherries a few different ways, the first was on a flatbread. On a Trader Joe's frozen pizza crust I spread a generous layer of ricotta topped with caramelized onions, sliced smoked duck and apple jack brandy sausage (one of the many fine products at Oscar's Smokehouse of the Adirondacks) and dotted it with spoonfuls of balsamic cherries. I would like to think that any chicken apple sausage would be a decent substitute for those not lucky enough to visit Oscar's. A nice combination of flavors and textures, this flatbread is easy enough to pull off on a weeknight but seems way more elegant and complicated than it appears.

The second way I used the cherries was in brownie mix. I use the Food Network fudgy brownie recipe (rave reviews every time) and stirred in 1/2 cup of the balsamic cherry mixture, mixing until sufficiently incorporated. I brought them to school to share with coworkers with a little trepidation that they might not go over as well as my other baked goods. Well, I couldn't be more wrong. They disappeared by noon and a handful of people complimented my creativity and two asked for the recipe. I love when I make something that inspires others to say, "Wow, I never thought of that combination." It makes me feel like a culinary pioneer even though I'm more of a nomad.

Balsamic cherries would also be a nice base for sauces meant for pork or game meat. I even stirred a few extra spoonfuls into some yogurt for a pleasant burst of acidity to cut the dairy. The possibilities are finite but boy, are they delicious. Until the next dish, ciao!

Oscar Wild Weekend

After a three and half hour drive north I finally see the faded, familiar flag that marks my aunt and uncle's house set amidst the golden leaves. The dogs come bounding down the stairs as I fight my way up with a bottle of wine and an overnight bag. I greet my family and take a look around the Adirondack style house. Same as ever, it brings a smile to my face to be somewhere so peaceful, so beautiful and surrounded by family and the great outdoors. It was a quick one night stay but being in the middle of the wild Adirondacks works wonders to calm my overactive mind and my growling stomach.

The towns in the Gore Mountain area all seem to blend into one another. The large swathes of land and the winding Hudson River make it difficult to draw boundaries but that's never stopped me from finding good food. Basil and Wicks in North Creek has been around for ages pleasing both locals and visitors. Conveniently set on the way towards the mountain is the lodge style building that has burgers, salads, steaks and the best crispy duck wings in a sweet chili sauce. There's also O.P Fredrick's  with a surprisingly seafood heavy menu but I swear by all things duck here. The duck burrito and half roasted duck are house favorites for a reason. 

This weekend though I had been craving the Korean barbecue wings from barvino on the "main drag" in North Creek. The menu stresses local and fresh ingredients meaning the menu changes daily. There are a few more permanent items such as the mussels, the frites, and the wings. I am not ashamed to say that between my sister, cousins and I we have demolished four to five plates of wings a sitting. Supremely crunchy (they're fried) and drenched in sauce with a gentle toss of sesame seeds and scallions these wings are the stuff dreams are made of. During this past visit I got a plateful as well as the salad with preserved lemon and lavender honey goat cheese. The salad was a welcome bite of bright, floral flavors to counter the wings. Sadly, the gnocchi with brandy, cream, bacon and almonds (I know, right?!)  was not on the menu, which means I'll just have to come back, oh drat.

Any trip up north wouldn't be complete without a trip to Oscar's Smokehouse . The deli counters are full of plain and marinaded meats, various sausages, and deli style salads and cheeses. It's hard to exercise self control but when it comes down to it there are three must have items: bacon, maple breakfast sausages, and smoked chicken salad. The bacon is thin cut and simply awesome. The maple breakfast sausages are unlike any other I've had; the flavor legit explodes in your mouth. And the smoked chicken salad never gets old and I now have people placing orders with me for the next time I go up. Oscar's does ship certain items but the chicken salad isn't one of them...which means I'll just have to come back, oh drat. Noticing a theme are we?

Oscar Wilde said, "I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best." and the best is exactly what this area of upstate New York is. Whether it's scenery, food, or recreation, it is sure to be a wee bit wild. Until the next dish, ciao!