Oh, Barcelona

What a beautiful city you are, all windy cobblestone streets and leafy boulevards, beachy breezes and Gaudí serpentine. You make me wish I could tan, turn a glowy caramel brown and whisper you sweet nothings in Catalan. I want to stretch out my days like you do, closing up shop for a languid siesta and sitting down to dinner at ten. And oh, Barcelona, how I love your food. I could have tapas every single day and never want for anything different.

In my pre-trip research, I was surprised to find several travel authorities insisting that Barcelona isn’t really known for its tapas. One has to travel to the Basque regions for pinxtos or up to San Sebastián’s beaches for the real thing, they sniffed. Well, I have no idea what those fools are talking about.

Everywhere we went, all over the city, we found gutsy snack-sized bites, each more flavorful than the last. We discovered amazing tapas in neighborhood joints and cool modern digs, modest mom-and-pops and chic cafés; met a few reverbs of superchef/native son Ferran Adria’s experimental gastronomy and savored rustic, traditional arrangements of the canned delicacies for which Spain is famous.

There were montaditos (snacks “mounted” on baguette) of oil-packed tuna and roasted red pepper, with a dollop of tinned sea urchin on top. Tender, sparkling-fresh squid, seared quickly a la plancha and splashed with fruity olive oil and garlic. Fluffy tortilla, wedges of Spanish omelet. Olives, olives and more olives. All manner of seafood and shellfish: mussels, crayfish, anchovy, langoustines. I fell hard for Catalan-style blood sausage (who knew?) and rekindled an old flame for Padrón peppers and jamón ibérico de bellota, the rich cured pork made from free-roaming Ibérican pigs that root on acorns.

And when we weren’t nibbling on tapas, strolling through shops and markets or wandering idly through neighborhoods, we dug into researching Catalan wines (rough work, truly), finding glittery cavas from the Penedès region; crisp, perfect-for-a-hot-afternoon whites and outstanding, velvety-full grenache (garnatxa) blends. (Oh, and we also went to the beach and museums. Saw Picassos and everything!)

And as all good things must come to an end, with feet weary from miles of walking (and a rather epic last night of dancing), feeling soul-rested and sated, we boarded our plane back home. ‘Til next time, Barcelona. Save me some jamón.

Submitted by Layer Cake Wines fan, Kate King

Wine and Food Pairings for Your Home Brunch

Brunch has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, and for good reason. Between the upscale food and the tasty cocktails, brunch has everything you need to have a truly relaxing weekend. Many restaurants and wineries have started offering special brunch menus on weekend mornings. But sometimes, you don’t feel like going out. For those days that you want the comfort of your own home, but still want a relaxing brunch with friends, we have some brunch hosting tips for you!

Plan a Theme

Every meal is better with a theme, especially when entertaining! Choose a common element to tie your brunch together. You could choose a region-inspired brunch, serving dishes from places like Italy or New Orleans, and picking décor and music to match.

Or maybe you want a food theme! Try a veggie-only brunch, or pick a main entrée dish and choose sides and drinks to match!

Other themes could include colors, time periods, or even pop culture references. The sky is your limit! Choosing a theme makes it easier for everyone to pitch in while still having a cohesive brunch meal. This way your brunch will be a team effort and no one person will have to do all the work. More fun for everyone!

Think about Prep

If you want your brunch to run smoothly, think about the flow of traffic between food prep and food consumption. Prep as much of your meal as possible before your guests arrive. Put baked goods in the oven as your guests arrive, to be enjoyed after your first drinks.

Create a station for light food and drink prep. If you’re looking for maximum convenience, look at these wine tasting centers that store wine bottles, glasses, and have counter-space for drink prep. With drawers to store your bottle opener and silverware, you can make this your brunch supply station and be ready for brunch any time! Some even have room for seating and double as a table!

Pair Fantastic Food with Wonderful Wine

Now for what you’re really here for: the food! Here are some ideas to get you started planning your brunch meal:

  • Flatbread is a great finger food and easy to pair with other dishes. Try some simple herbs, smoked salmon and prosciutto on grilled flatbread. It’d go great with Layer Cake Chardonnay or a crisp, Sauvignon Blanc to balance out the salt in the smoked salmon.
  • Want your brunch to have fresh, homegrown food? Plan ahead and plant a pesto garden! Then all your brunches can have a lovely pesto for pizza, pasta, flatbread, or bruschetta!
  • Pair a French Toast (or as the French call it, Pain Perdu) with a homemade berry jam and the fruity Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Looking to add some whimsy to your meal? Check out this A-Z guide to edible flowers. There are recipes for rose jam, yucca hash, and more! You can even make your own Dandelion Wine as an after-brunch palate cleanser. Edible flowers are an easy and unique addition to any meal, more information can be found at Sharie’s Berries Guide to Edible Flowers as well.
  • Stock up on your favorite Champagne or sparkling wine and some fresh citrus juices (orange, grapefruit, tangerine, etc.) for a low-maintenance mimosa bar!
  • Want to give your guests an option with a little zing? Try these Buttermilk and Sharp Cheddar Biscuits with Brown Sugar Cured Ham & Pepper Jelly.

These are just a few fun ideas for your next wine-centric brunch with close friends and family. What’s your favorite brunch pairing? Share in the comments!

Submitted by Layer Cake Wines fan, Jeriann Watkins

RECIPE: Flatbread with Caramelized Onions & Gorganzola Cheese

DOUGH RECIPE:

Ingredients:

Active dry yeast: 1 packet (0.75 oz.)
Lukewarm water: ½ cup
All-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface: 4 cups
Water, cool: 1 cup
Olive oil, extra virgin:  2 Tbsp
Kosher salt: 2 tsp

Instructions:

Whisk together the yeast, lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Dust the top lightly with flour, cover the bowl with a tea towel, and leave the sponge to rise until the flour dusting “cracks,” showing the yeast is alive and well, about 20 minutes.

Add 3 cups of the flour, the 1 cup cool water, the olive oil, and the salt. Start kneading at low speed, then increase the speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed to produce a slightly moist and soft dough. Knead with the dough hook attachment until smooth and silky and the dough adheres to the hook.

Dust the dough lightly with flour and, using a pastry scraper, scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly, folding the dough over on itself. Shape into a ball, flatten slightly, dust lightly with flour, cover with a towel, and leave to rise on a floured surface (or in a bowl) until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Divide into 8 equally sized pieces, shape into a ball.  Keep covered with towel until ready to roll out for use with pizza or flatbread recipe.

Complete Flatbread Recipe:

Ingredients:

Flatbread dough (½ x recipe): 4 doughs (4 oz. approx)
Olive oil, extra virgin: ¼ cup
Onions, yellow, medium dice: 4 cups
Kosher salt: 2 tsp
Black pepper, freshly ground: ½ tsp
Thyme, fresh minced: 2 tsp
Gorgonzola cheese: 8 oz.
All-purpose flour for dusting dough and work surface
Semolina flour
Pizza Stone

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F, place pizza stone in oven.

2. Prepare flatbread dough recipe.  While dough is resting, this will provide time to caramelize onions.

3. Place a large saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil then the onions, Kosher salt, and pepper. Mix well to ensure onions are completely coated with olive oil.  Lower the heat to medium and allow cooking, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are caramelized and a deep rich

4. Before removing caramelized onions from the stove, add 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme and stir well to fully incorporate.  Remove from stove, transfer to small sheet pan and spread into a thin sinlge layer, allow to completey cool.

5. Working on a floured surface, shape each piece of dough with a rolling pin into an thin round or oblong shaped dough that will fit completely on the pizza stone.  Lightly dust pizza peel with semolina flour, transfer dough to the peel.

6. Using a large tablespoon, spread an even layer of the caramelized onions to cover the dough, minus a ¼-inch outer area of the dough to create a crust.  Take ¼ of the gorganzola cheese and dollop atop the pizza in a random fashion.

7. Gently slide the flatbread into the oven on the pizza stone, allow to cook until crispy and the crut is golden brown in color.  Depending on the pizza stone, approximatley 7-10 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board, slice and serve immediatley.

Serves 6-8  (as appetizer)

Recipe by Executive Chef Michael Laukert.