Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears

red wine poaches pears

OK, if chocolate and hazelnut isn’t your thing, (then I don’t understand you BUT) I’ve still got you covered for Christmas dessert. You can totally invite me over if you’re going to serve these. (You should have a little talk with your taste buds about the chocolate hazelnut thing, though.)

This is the perfect dessert to end a rich holiday meal, when you know there will be cookies and other sweets on the table, too. Spiced red wine poached pears are positively healthy compared with what you could be serving (ahem hazelnut cake), yet elegant and interesting enough to satisfy any dessert-lover. And for those who like rich desserts (this girl!), a healthy dollop of mascarpone cheese is recommended.

red wine poached pears

Can you tell from these pictures how beautiful these pears are? They are poached (fancy word for simmered!) in red wine, then further soaked in the poaching liquid, which is finally reduced down to a syrupy glaze to pour over the pears. The color is just gorgeous. You know I have a thing for colorful Christmastime foods! And served with the creamy mascarpone, they are just heaven.

This is definitely an adult-table-only dish. Sorry kids! You wouldn’t like it anyway… way too grown-up for you :)

(Am I the only one that liked the taste of wine as a kid? I specifically remember dipping my finger in my dad’s white wine when I couldn’t have been older than 6. My mom told me to stop because wine made kids “sick.” Hah!)

Plan a day or so ahead for these pears so you can give them time to soak overnight and take on the beautiful color and flavor of the spiced wine. That means leaving some extra room in the fridge for them during your Christmas food prep… and oh yeah, leaving some extra room at the table for me!

Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears

Adapted from The Boston Globe

Ingredients:

4 cups cold water
juice of 1 lemon
4-6 firm but ripe pears with stems intact (I used Bosc, but Bartlett will work, too)
1 bottle light red wine (mine cost $6.99 and was perfect for the job)
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 orange
1 2-inch strip orange rind
1 star anise
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cup mascarpone for serving (or whipped cream, if you prefer)

Instructions:

Juice the lemon into a large bowl with the water. Carefully peel the pears, keeping the stems intact and taking care not to dent them. Cut a small slice from the base of each pear so that it can sit upright. Place each one into the lemon juice mixture as you finish peeling and cutting it. This will miraculously keep them from browning!

In a pot large enough to hold all the pears, combine all other ingredients besides the mascarpone (wine through cinnamon stick). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the pears and simmer for 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so to ensure even color. They should be tender when pierced with a skewer. (They may need 5 to 10 minutes longer if they were not ripe.)

Remove from heat and allow pears to cool completely in the poaching liquid.

Once completely cool, transfer the pears in their liquid to the fridge for at least several hours and as long as 3 days. (I recommend at least overnight to develop a deeper color.) You can keep the whole pot in the fridge, or transfer to a different container to save space. If your pot/container is deep enough, keep the pears standing upright. If not, that’s fine, just turn them over occasionally to let them soak evenly. The sides where they lie down will be a little flat and less colored, but no one will mind.

Before serving, strain about 1/3 of the poaching liquid into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove lid, reduce heat to medium and let the mixture bubble steadily until it reduces to a syrupy glaze, about 15-20 minutes.

To serve, place each pear on a dessert plate or in a shallow bowl and drizzle with the syrup. Add mascarpone on the side.

Enjoy!

Time:

4 hours to 3 days (includes refrigeration time)

The Weekend: Viva Las Vegas!

las vegas | coffee & quinoa

I just got back from Vegas last night! And although I don’t necessarily feel ready to take on the week, I’m happy to report that I neither drank too much nor lost any money the whole weekend. The same can’t be said for all the co-workers I went with – not calling anyone out though :)

This was a work trip, but no meetings or anything – just an annual rewards trip where we get to head down there and have fun! Last year they went at the end of my very first week of work, so needless to say, I did not get to go. I was happy to be in on the fun this year.

We took buses down there, leaving at 6 am on Friday, which was brutal. We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Palazzo. The hotel was awesome. I’m not sure how much the suites cost, but it was definitely nicer than the hotel we stayed in last time I was in Vegas on my own dime!

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The rooms were huge! Each one had two double beds (we had roommates) and a step down to a seating and office area.

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The bathrooms were super nice, too, although I didn’t get a picture before I spread my stuff out all over.

Our hotel was attached to the Venetian, and I wandered around there for a while. I found I could deal with the tackiness of Vegas much better my second time there, and even appreciate it, because I knew what to expect.

the venetian | coffee & quinoa

I didn’t do any gambling the whole weekend. I’m not really into the gambling thing… when I was in Vegas this May I lost about $2.50 in the penny slots, and that was enough gambling for the year for me! (Can you say high roller?) Luckily this time we had plenty of activities lined up, and I didn’t even have to spend too much time watching other people gamble. :)

Friday evening we had a company meeting (where I won a $50 Amazon gift card – totally left Vegas up!), then a bunch of us headed to dinner at the sushi fusion restaurant in our hotel.

sushi samba at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

That might not be the most appetizing picture, but everything was delicious! Pickled seaweed, grilled baby corn, asparagus, eggplant, and more corn, plus swordfish and beef skewers. We did a tasting menu that included our waiter bringing out several trays like this for the whole table to share. I have to admit I broke with veganism to eat these swordfish skewers, plus the sushi that came after this. Too good to pass up!

After dinner, we went to the hotel club, where we had a VIP area rented out for work. Probably the only time in my life I’ll get bottle service in Vegas, and I only drank the bottled water! When my choices are Amstel Light and hard liquor, I think I’ll pass.

lavo at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

The club was fun, but by 1 am (2 am Salt Lake time!) I was ready to call it a night.

The next morning we ate at Olives and got to watch the Bellagio fountain show from the patio. Fun!

olive's at the bellagio | coffee & quinoa

We shopped our way back down the strip, only to hop in a cab and head back to the Luxor for the Bodies exhbit.

Saturday night we had a staff dinner at the steak house at the Palazzo. I was all prepared to request a vegan entree… until I saw the prix fixe menus on the table. Boo. I ate creamy squash bisque, salad, salmon, and part of the creme brulee. My stomach did not feel awesome afterwards, but that’s OK. As much as I like eating vegan, I also realize the value of being able to go with the flow and not make a stink in that type of work-dinner-prix-fixe situation. (Did I mention I avoid confrontation at all costs?)

After dinner we made our way back down the strip to the Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan.

chandelier bar | coffee & quinoa

This place was awesome, and had no cover! It’s a multi-story bar in the center of the Cosmopolitan that looks like a giant chandelier. We wandered in and ended up going down to the ground floor where a live band was playing. They were amazing!

jennifer keith quintet | coffee & quinoa

They played swing, some songs from the 20s, and other music that made me wish I still had some of my old college ballroom moves. Maybe I’ll get back into it sometime…

My feet were killing me after walking a mile down the strip in heels, so we took a cab back and headed to bed. This morning we were up bright and early for breakfast and the loooong bus ride back!

So after adding every possible picture into this post, here’s a little summary:

Where we stayed: The Palazzo (attached to the Venetian)

Where we ate: Sushi Samba (vegetarian friendly), Morel’s French Steak House (they might make you a veggie entree, but everything on the menu definitely had meat, butter and cheese), Todd English’s Olives (I got the portobello flatbread without cheese and it was delicious!)

What we drank: Vanishing Point 2011 Pinot Noir (at Morel’s), Mad Fish 2008 Australian Shiraz (that I brought from home), bloody Mary at Olives (delicious!)

What we did: Lavo Nightclub, shopping on the strip, Bodies exhibition, Jennifer Keith Quintet at The Chandelier

My main takeaway from the weekend was that even though I don’t love gambling or drinking heavily, Vegas is a lot of fun! As long as someone else is paying. :)

Willamette Valley By iPhone

Hah! As if all my pictures weren’t taken on my iPhone.

This past weekend, Nate and I headed to Oregon to spend a long weekend wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. We had planned this vacation in the summer, when he got his class schedule and realized he’d have this Monday off. I’ve been looking forward to it for months!

Last spring we spent 5 days in Napa, and it was the best vacation we’d ever taken together. Doing the same thing this year (but this time with pinot instead of cabernet!) sounded excellent.

We flew into Portland Friday evening, picked up our rental car (Frankie the Ford Focus!), and headed down to Newberg, OR. We spent the next three days doing nothing but visiting vineyards and planning our next meal! It was pretty much heaven.

We did multiple tastings each day, ranging from a private tasting with the owner/winemaker at Belle Pente to tastings at much more established wine bars in town. It was all delicious! We restrained ourselves and didn’t buy any bottles to bring home. You’re not allowed to send/bring wine back to Utah (plus we were tasting expensive wines!), so we opted to just enjoy it during our vacation.

Most vineyards were bottling while we were there, in preparation to start harvest on Monday. It was fun to be there at harvest time and see the grapes looking so ripe. When we were in Napa last Easter, there were barely any leaves showing! This was quite a bit different.

Favorite wineries:

Archery Summit - This was our first stop, and had an awesome little outdoor tasting area with some of the most beautiful views we saw. We liked it so much, we went back on Monday!

Carlton Winemakers Studio - This is an amazing co-op where several local winemakers come together to use the same winemaking facilities and tasting room. Two of the winemakers were in the tasting room with us! I loved the Hamacher 2011 Willamette Valley pinot noir, the Andrew Rich 2010 Willamette Valley Verbatim pinot noir, and (surprisingly) a Rose from Retour Wines (that wasn’t on the tasting menu and I didn’t think to take a picture of, so I’m not sure what year!).

Lemelson Vineyards - We stopped here twice, too! Our favorite was the 2010 Cuvee X pinot noir.

Argyle Winery - They focus on bubbly as well as pinot noir. The 2009 Knudsen and the 2008 Spirithouse pinot noirs were my favorite!

Domaine Serene - Another beautiful outdoor tasting area. I think their 2009 Yamhill Cuvee pinot noir was my favorite… but I wasn’t keeping such good track by that point!

Stoller Family Estate - They had just built their new tasting room 3 weeks before and it was gorgeous!

(We didn’t drink much wine, did we?!)

Where we stayed:

We spent the first night at a cheaper chain hotel in Newberg, so that we could splurge on a bed & breakfast the next two nights. We picked the Lobenhaus just outside of Carlton. We were the youngest people staying there by at least 25 years, but it was a great place to come home to after a day of wine tasting.

What we ate:

Pasta and pizza at the Dundee Bistro, delicious sandwiches at the Red Hills Market, gnocchi and risotto at Paulee, and Tapas at La Rambla. For the short distance from Portland, I was shocked at how un-vegan-friendly this area was in general! I guess French cooking and wine country just go together? There was hardly a vegan item to be found on any menu, although everyone was very nice about accommodating vegan requests. Although I have to say that by Sunday night my resolve had broken down a bit, and I ate quite a few tapas with cheese on them at La Rambla. I won’t beat myself up about it once in a while… and they were so good.

When’s my next vacation?!

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