BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Cranberry-Zinfandel Brownie Bites

  • Prep Time 0:30
  • Cook Time 0:18
  • Estimated Cost $12.50
  • 6 Comments

It just seemed obvious.

I had half of a bottle of Zinfandel left over from last night and dark chocolate on the mind (surely inspired spending Friday afternoon with my friend Julie, owner and chocolatier of Salt Side Down Chocolates), so I did the thing that made sense: I combined the two, studded the result with plump dried cranberries and popped it in the oven. Bliss.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 (6 tbsp) stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan $1 for a stick
  • 2/3 cup inexpensive Zinfandel $2 for a bottle
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips $2 for a 12-oz. bag
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa $4 for 6 oz.
  • 1 cup sugar Pantry
  • 1 egg $1.50 for 12
  • 3/4 cup flour Pantry
  • 1/2 tsp salt Pantry
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries $2

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 12-cup mini-cupcake tray or an 8×8” square pan. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter and wine in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until butter melts and wine has reduced. Reduce heat to medium, add chocolate chips and whisk gently until chocolate melts.
  3. Transfer melted chocolate-butter-wine mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk in cocoa, sugar, egg, flour and salt. Add about 1/8 cup water and whisk until mixture is very smooth.
  4. Pour into prepared muffin cups/pan and top each muffin cup (every 2 1/2 " if you're using an 8"x8" pan) with a few cranberries. Bake 15-18 minutes or until top is shiny and few crumbs cling to an inserted toothpick.
  5. Cool until the brownies are warm or room temperature and carefully remove from muffin cups (or cut into squares).

Makes 12 mini brownie bites or 8-10 square brownies.

You know I love wineries on a budget, so when my buddies at Joffer told me about this sweet deal, I had to pass it on to you:
Wattle Creek Winery, whose tasting room is right here in San Francisco, is giving away a tasting for 2 PLUS a bottle of wine, all for $25. That is a sweet deal, friends. You would normally pay more than twice that amount. Get on it!

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Even with jobless rates as high as they’ve been in years, some Americans still have money, and some wines still move from the shelf at $700 a bottle, like the Cabernets of Screaming Eagle in the Napa Valley. Some young wineries are even entering the struggling market at price points above $100, like the brave Yarden Rom, an Israeli winery now introducing to the United States a 2006 red blend at the suggested retail price of $160. Madness? Absolutely.

Because wines as complex and food-friendly as the high-priced giants are available – and perfectly adequate for all but those most particular of dinner party guests. In fact, by my eyes, affordable good wines have become even more readily available now that the economy is in a trough and wineries wising up to reality. This is all good news for the Brokeass among us.

Concannon Vineyard, based in the Livermore Valley clearly knows how to do business; the winery was founded in 1883, long before rock star winemakers sold their bottles of juice for the price of a Vegas vacation. Recent releases from Concannon include a 2007 Central Coast Shiraz and a 2009 Central Coast Riesling. Fourth-generation winemaker John Concannon swears they bear “the structure, balance and intensity of wines twice their price point.” They could probably compete with many wines of 10 times their price, the wine business often being a game of name recognition and slick marketing. The Shiraz is smoky and leathery in smell, and it tastes of thick berry jam, dried prunes and juicy ripe fruits, balanced by earthy forest floor. The Riesling, like the best examples of the variety (“varietal,” in case you’re about to correct me, is an adjective), smells and tastes bright and beautiful, of pears, peaches, mango nectar and miscellaneous tropical fruits. A crisp acidity fortifies the wine’s delicate fruit backbone. I tend not to well-versed in white wines, and so I tend not to review them, but I do appreciate a nice Riesling.

Also high in quality and low in price are recent releases from Blackstone Winery in Sonoma. The 2008 Winemaker’s Select Merlot runs $11 and tastes as fruity as it does green – an interesting sort of herbal vegetal character. Some might suggest allowing it to age a year. I personally liked it. The Winemaker’s Select Zinfandel ($12) carries plenty of that sharp pepper and raspberry bite we all love while also bearing softer edged flavors of chocolate, vanilla and tree bark – the latter, I concede, an acquired taste of the trained wine drinker. Indeed, growing to appreciate notes of tree bark can take years. Keep sipping.

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Old stereotypes are fading as the boxed wine trend picks up credibility. Some of the latest wines in the movement are those of the Octavin Home Wine Bar, a collection of several varietal wines in 3-liter octagonal packages, holding the equivalent of four bottles of wine at BrokeAss rates and with a spigot at the base of the container.

“Home Wine Bar.” How do you like that for a selling point? The phrase evokes a tantalizing image of wine endlessly available, which wine in a box is. For boxed wine means wine by the glass – or the sip – anytime. For better or for worse, a box on top of one’s fridge, the spigot ready and willing, and the wine, never exposed to the air and always fresh, provides a fresh pour whenever one grows thirsty. Whether happy, sad, bored, leaving for Yoga, freshly back from a run, about to call the mayor’s office – there’s the box. The ease in taking a draft at any pass through the kitchen comes in place of the pomp, circumstance and clumsiness that otherwise accompanies the corkscrew ritual – so 2009. Without so much cork-pulling ceremony, guilt-free indulgence is what’s left in a box of wine.

The 2008 Monthaven Winery Chardonnay ($24 for 3 liters) lasted a week in a household of four. We noted the wine for its smoothness and grace, and we praised it for its mild oak and butter flavors – intuitively surprising for a wine contained in a plastic sack – and we drew from the box like there would be no end. The end came, though, and the sad hour arrived when we tore the box open and squeezed every last drop possible from the sack. The well had run empty.

On the darker side is the Big House Red ($24 for 3 liters), a 2008 blend from winemaker Georgetta Dane, a Romanian now living and working in Ripon, California. The Big House is made of 13 grapes, and while I prefer varietal wines that have more of a conceptual identity, this blend still does the trick. The wine is bright and fruity with enough tart acidity to make it interesting and smooth enough to glissade over the palate. This wine also lasted a week before a household drained it dry.

More of the Octavin series are available, though. The in-box collection features six wines from around the world, including a California Zinfandel, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Spanish seven-grape blend, and a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Grigio from, of all odd places, Hungary. Each box runs roughly $24 or $25 – a well worth tapping into.

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What is a sustainable wine if not one which will last forever? That is the question being asked by consumers who recently bought wines from a Mendocino County organic winery with the belief that the bottles would never run empty.

But two wines, a red and a white, from Parducci Wine Cellars in Ukiah, California have not lived up to their names, allege miffed buyers of the products.

“They say it’s ‘sustainable,’” complained Noah Peter, a San Francisco native who, confronted with what he believed was a never-ending bottle of red wine, made the $11 investment in the 2008 Parducci Sustainable Red at a local Whole Foods. “Well, we hadn’t poured more than five glasses before it was entirely gone.”

Alicia Young, a school psychologist for South San Francisco Unified School District who says she does her best “to be green,” bore similar sentiments.

“They might be saving forests with this wine, but it is it definitely, positively not a quote-unquote ‘sustainable wine’,” said Young, who tasted the Sustainable Red and reported that aromas of prune, jam and strawberry set the stage for a brilliant flavor parade of cherry, blackberry and chocolate. Young says she opened the wine while preparing for a dinner party at her apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

“But before my first guest even got there the bottle was empty,” she says. “We had to go buy cheap stuff at the corner store.”

Peter said he tasted smoke in the Sustainable Red, perhaps attributable to the Syrah comprising 26% of the blend. Peter also reported licorice and pepper notes, descriptors often associated with Zinfandel, which constitutes 39% of the blend.

Parducci Wine Cellars’ Sustainable White, a 2006 blend of five grapes, carries a label that makes claims of sustainability identical to those of the Sustainable Red. Also like the Sustainable Red, the white has drawn criticism from drinkers who report that, while the $11 wine carries a lovely fragrance of pummelo and peaches and a tantalizing taste of summer stone fruits, a bottle may run empty after as little as three generous pours.

But the sustainability claims of Parducci Wine Cellars, which prides itself on environmentally conscious efforts like recycling and supporting local farms, may refer more to forest preservation than to bottles of wine. In a statement released March 2, the company’s executives assured that for every bottle of Sustainable Red and Sustainable White sold during the month of April, 2010, the company will donate $1 to American Forests tree planting projects. The wines can be found exclusively at Whole Foods, Safeway and Sprouts.

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