A few weeks ago one of my best friends sent me an email with the subject “Fun question for you” and I knew I would be in for a treat. From thousands of miles away Julia told me about a whisky tasting club that she and her boyfriend have been participating in. This month they have the honor of hosting, and Julia asked for some appetizer suggestions to go with the Finger Lakes whisk(e)y they would be sampling. Julia knows me well, and rightly predicted that this would indeed excite me.
Before I get to the pairings, I’d like to introduce you to this friend of mine, Julia Pistell. She is an unbelievably talented nonfiction writer (seriously, go check out some of her essays on her website) who will make you laugh and cry and think and laugh some more. She’s hysterical (and as such co-founded a professional improv comedy troupe), intelligent (her day job is at the Mark Twain House), and has the perfect radio voice (she contributes semi-regularly to NPR). We’ve got over 10 years of friendship under our belts, which includes living together, driving across all of old Route 66 together, traipsing around China together, and, most recently, frolicking in Rhodes together. Julia was one of my earliest culinary guinea pigs.
So, back to whiskey and food, the wheels immediately started turning. Here is what I suggested:
Parmesan-Stuffed Dates – these are the perfect cocktail nibbles. Easy to put together and always a crowd pleaser, I thought the caramel notes in the dates would complement whisky. The parmesan provides a nice umami-rich, salty element, which is always good with drinks. And together the parmesan and dates have a wonderful salty-sweet thing going on. (Recipe below.)
Crostini – Another simple and delicious cocktail appetizer. Crostini are fun to make and can be prepared with a few different combinations of ingredients, allowing for greater variety with not a lot of extra work. I suggested crostini with ricotta, honey, and sliced pear thinking that the sweetness of the honey and fruit would provide a nice contrast to the whisky. Crostini topped with ricotta and slow roasted tomatoes is another favorite of mine.
Honey-Roasted Onion Tart – I’ve made this incredible tart a number of times now and it always goes faster than I can take a photo of it. I imagine that the honey-sweetened caramelized onions will once again contrast nicely with the whisky, while the tangy creme fraiche might act almost as a palate cleanser between sips. This is the item that requires the most work out of the four, but it’s so worth it!
Baba Ganouj – A dip is always a great addition to an appetizer table because it can be made ahead and serves a crowd. Baba ganouj immediately came to mind since I thought the smokiness of the roasted eggplant would pair nicely with the smokiness you usually find in whisky.
- 12 Medjool dates
- 2 ounces parmesan, cut into 12 even matchsticks
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Make a slit in the side of each date and carefully remove and discard the pit.
- Stuff a piece of parmesan in the center and close so the date completely encloses the cheese.
- Repeat with the remaining dates and cheese.
- Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove and allow to cool slightly.
- Serve with toothpicks.
Linked up at Tastetastic Thursday over at A Little Nosh