It’s good to be us, here, in this moment of time. Minnesota fall blows cool, with toasty scents of burning leaves and musty flannel. I invite you to celebrate and savor the fleeting day by raising a glass of wine–specifically, a glass from St. Croix Vineyards. Regional wines have gone from fruit and dandelions fermenting in Grandma’s cellar to rich, complex, award-winning glasses made from hearty grapes developed by the University of Minnesota. The passionate, skilled winemakers at St. Croix Vineyards are creating intriguing, beautiful, and downright delicious pours. Invite some friends over and share the autumnal bounty with a locally inspired menu, paired with these wines.
Begin the evening with a cheese offering from Shepherd’s Way. The sheep’s milk is transformed into the soft Shepherd’s Hope, firmer Friesago and the tangy Northern Lights Blue. All can be found at Mill City and Saint Paul Farmers Markets and many area grocery stores. Pair with a festive, easy wine cocktail. In a cocktail shaker, over ice combine ½ oz. ginger-flavored Domaine de Canton, 1 oz. Farigoule, a thyme-infused French liqueur, and top with the juicy, peachy-crisp Frontenac Gris. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twirl of Meyer Lemon zest.
Once your guests are good and primed, pull out all the stops with a main course of deceptively simple roast duck. Now, wild duck and domesticated duck are two different beasts. For this dinner, I suggest a domesticated bird, purchased from a nearby Lund’s/Byerly’s (or check Clancy’s Meats for availability). A 5-6 lb bird will serve 4 people. Serve the crispy-skinned, juicy bird drizzled with a spiced sauce made from simmering a splash of the Marquette red wine with a jar of locally crafted Blueberry Pepper jam from Lucille’s Kitchen Garden. (Substitute Concord grape jelly and ¼ tsp cardamom).
Accompany your bird with some simple roasted root vegetables, like parsnips tossed with a bit of salt, pepper, and Hope Creamery butter.
The ruby-colored wine has notes blackberries and black pepper and pairs beautifully with the rich meat and tart sauce, coaxing wild Northern woods harvested flavor.
Round out the meal with a simple salad of tossed greens and balsamic vinaigrette (mix 3 Tablespoons good quality, aged balsamic, 1 Tablespoon coarse ground mustard, scant ½ cup olive oil). Season the greens with salt and pepper before tossing with dressing.
For dessert, the Port (also made with the versatile Frontenac grape works) wonderfully with rich, creamy flavors. Tart cranberry slides into smooth cocoa flavors. Impress your guests with a stunning bread pudding flavored with Bittercube’s Bolivar bitters, dark chocolate and blackberries. Or, do easy, “store-bought local” by serving a collection of adorable chocolate macarons from Sweets Bakeshop, with locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, offering light, crunchy and utterly, moan-inducing desserts.
Settle in by candlelight and enjoy your guests with this luxurious, approachable wine and worry about the dishes tomorrow. Moments like these are meant to be savored.
Wine Cocktail de Canton
1/2 oz Domaine de Canton
1 oz Farigoule (thyme-infused liqueur)
4 oz Frontenac Gris
Pour over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain and serve in a martini glass with a Meyer lemon twist.
Roast Duck with Blueberry Pepper Wine Sauce
1 (5- to 6-lb) domestically raised duck
2 cups boiling-hot water
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
Remove and discard excess fat from body cavity and neck, then rinse duck inside and out. Prick skin all over with a sharp fork. Fold neck skin under body, then put duck, breast side up, on a rack in a 13 x 9 x 3-inch roasting pan and pour boiling-hot water over duck (to tighten skin). Cool duck, then pour out any water from cavity into pan. Pat duck dry inside and out, reserving water in pan, then rub duck inside and out with kosher salt and pepper. Be careful to handle the raw poultry with care, sanitizing surfaces and washing hands as needed.
Roast duck, breast side up, 45 minutes, then remove from oven. Turn duck over using 2 wooden spoons, and roast 45 minutes more. Turn duck over again (breast side up), tilting duck to drain any liquid from cavity into pan. Continue to roast duck until skin is brown and crisp, about 45 minutes more (total roasting time: about 2 1/4 hours). Tilt duck to drain any more liquid from cavity into pan. Transfer duck to a cutting board and let stand 15 minutes before carving. Discard liquid in roasting pan.
1 jar Lucille’s Kitchen Blueberry Pepper Jam
1?4 cup Marquette or other peppery red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
Combine ingredients in small saucepan. Mix, simmer until slightly reduced or until coats the back of a spoon. Serve duck carved and drizzled with sauce.
Dark Chocolate Blackberry Bread Pudding
1 Loaf brioche (or other eggy bread), cut into 1 1/2 -inch cubes
3 3/4 cups Cedar Summit cream
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 oz 70% Cacoa dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon Bolivar Bittercube Bitters (sub in vanilla extract and 1 tsp Meyer lemon zest)
1 1/2 pints fresh blackberries
1 Tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the bread cubes on a large baking sheet in a single layer and toast until lightly golden brown on all sides, turning a few times, about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
Bring cream and 1 cup of sugar to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and mix in chocolate until just melted. Whisk together the eggs and yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the eggs and add bitters.
Transfer the bread cubes to a 9 x 15-inch baking dish, pour the custard mixture over and press on the bread to submerge in the custard. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb more of the custard.
Place the baking dish inside a larger roasting pan and fill the outer pan with warm water halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until puffed around the outside but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 45 minutes. Carefully remove from the water bath and let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Toss the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the blackberries and lemon juice. Serve bread pudding topped with macerated berries.