Date Night

Afternoon Delights: Flights & Small Plates

Getting out in the middle of the afternoon to share a flight of beer or wine with a couple of small plates can make for some of the sexiest meals out ever.

I’m not dismissing the romance of a special occasion dinner out, but there’s something so decadent about sharing sips of lovingly crafted brews or wines. For us it’s about uncovering and discovering new tastes and sensations and having time to focus on them … and on each other.

While bumming around Santa Cruz on a weekend afternoon, my lover and I stumbled upon a really cool wine restaurant and tasting room – Le Cigare Volant (328 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, Calif.) We were most impressed with its tapas selections (a craft cheese and fruit sampling, pulled pork sliders with coconut water and chili dipping sauce, and a duck cigar wrapped in a deep-friend grape leaf) and the wines our server recommended. Our server also surprised us with an unexpected treat after our mid-day indulgence: wine cubes … a wine and gelatin concoction cut into sugar cube-sized squares and dusted with granulated sugar. What a treat!

Of course I had to create a recipe to make these. As much as I would have wanted to make these with Le Cigar Volante’s signature $45 a bottle Bonny Doon Winery Syrah blend that’s steeped in dark cherry, berry and plum flavors like we had, a moderately-priced deep Cabernet or a fruity Moscato are near perfect. I’m making these for a girls’ night out get-together, but I’d rather share these under the sheets with my lover again while basking in afterglow while listening to some of our favorite music.

Wine Cubes

750 milliliters bottle of Cabernet or Moscato
6 envelopes of powdered gelatin
1 cup of sugar
Granulated sugar

Pour wine bottle of wine into a separate saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar and 6 envelopes of gelatin to the pan. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar and gelatin.

Pour the wine/gelatin mixture into a lightly oiled 9X13 pan and place in the refrigerator until set.

To remove, slide a small knife around the edges of the pan, dip the bottom of each pan into hot water and then invert so the wine jelly will release. Cut into bite-sized cubes and roll them in granulated sugar.

Some other places we’ve enjoyed slipping away for flights and tapas …

Bastone, 419 S. Main Street, Royal Oak, Mich. House-brewed Belgian-style ales and mussels.

Hog Island Oyster Co., 610 First Street, Napa, Calif. Oysters, small plates, and local wines.

Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery, 311 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, Mich. House and local craft brews and nouveau comfort food.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, 404 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, Calif. Organic craft beers. and unpretentious pub treats like hot dogs and pretzels.

Uncorked at Oxbow 605 First Street, Napa, Calif. Tasting room featuring Ahnfeldt and Carducci wines.