Cookin' with Sauce
Cooking with spirits such as vodka, tequila, or bourbon adds instant depth of flavor to dishes from savory to sweet. There is a myriad of clever culinary uses for alcohol. And, spirits, wine, and beer can boost sweet and savory recipes by adding elegance and delicious complexity.
You may be wondering how much alcohol you are serving in these recipes. Slow-simmering dishes will definitely reduce their alcoholic punch. They say that a dish that has been simmering for two and-a-half hours will only retain five percent of its original alcohol content, while the flash fire of a flambé will retain up to seventy-five percent. But, it is unlikely you will get tipsy off the relatively small amounts of booze most recipes call for.
This issue is dedicated to using both wine and spirits in your cooking. Let's start by highlighting some delicious ready-made products that use alcohol as a flavor-boosting ingredient.
Desserts and Sweets
Häagen-Dazs Spirits Collection of Ice Cream are incredible combinations of fine spirit flavors and some of our favorite Häagen-Dazs ice creams. We carry them in Rosé & Cream, Whiskey Hazelnut Latte, Bourbon Praline Pecan, Rum Tres Leches, and Irish Cream Brownie.
Stonewall Kitchen Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce is made by carefully crafting a smooth, rich caramel sauce, adding fresh pecan pieces, and then just to put it over the edge, a hint of a smooth, barrel-aged bourbon.
Beckmann's Rum-Laced Pecan Pie takes the tradition of pecan pie to a new level. Lovely with a dollop of French vanilla ice cream.
Neuhaus Belgium Champagne Truffles have a light butter cream flavored with Marc de Champagne and a surprising contrast between the intense flavor of dark chocolate and the sweetness of the sugar with which it is dusted.
Vosges Haut Chocolat Smoke & Stout is an inebriating union of Forbidden Root Aboot Stoot Beer, Alderwood Smoked Salt and deep, dark chocolate.
Condiments and Nibbles
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Cherries make a great addition to your mixology arsenal. Muddle, garnish, and top your favorite cocktails and desserts with these barrel-aged bitters in Woodford Reserve bourbon.
E. Waldo Ward Spiked Olives Flavored with Vermouth are stuffed with minced pimento are steeped in vermouth. They are ready for your martini—but, don't stop there! These olives lend an interesting flavor to many recipes. Create a creamy pasta sauce or use them with chicken, pork, pasta, or potatoes.
Tillen farms Bloody Mary Olives in Vodka will make your favorite beverage bloody brilliant. They're hand stuffed with sweet onions and tart sun-dried tomatoes and lightly brined in vodka. These olives serve as a savory cocktail garnish or make for a tasty snack straight from the jar!
Jake's Nut Roasters Bloody Mary Almonds are straight from Jake's Orchard in California. They've been dry-roasted and seasoned to perfection with traditional Bloody Mary flavors, to give an added kick!
Medocino Mustard Seeds & Suds combines assertive heat, robust flavor and the intriguing crunch of brown and yellow mustard seeds. Winner of gold medals. Made with Red Seal Ale. You can taste the beer in this one!
Bellavitano Sartori with Merlot is a marriage between a rich, creamy cheese and the berry and plum notes of Merlot. It is delicious pared with toasted walnuts, thin slices of prosciutto and semisweet chocolates for dessert.
The Drunken Goat Quest de Murcia al Vino is a semi-soft Murcia goat cheese which has been soaked and cured in a double-fermented red wine. It has a sharp aroma, fruity flavor and pleasant aftertaste reminiscent of goat milk and cream. It is best paired with full-bodied fruity wines.
Volpi Primo Rosé Wine Salame is made by hand with with rosé wine, love and time. It pairs well with Pecorino Romano cheese, almonds, and fruit chutney
Zoe's Absinthe Salame is made with New Mexican hatch chili peppers, infused with absinthe liquor. Enjoy at your own risk, because it can be a dangerously addicting salami.
Frontera Texas Style Chili Starter with Red Bean and Bock Beer—nothing captures the spirit of campfire cooking and roving cowboys like this Texas chili starter. With three kinds of sun-kissed chiles—New Mexico, ancho, and cayenne—it is full of flavor.
Mia's Kitchen Vodka Pasta Sauce is decadent and well-rounded—made with sweet cream and savory Parmesan, and finished with a splash of vodka and seasoned to perfection.
A Staff Favorite
Calvados is an apple-based brandy from the northern part of France along the English Channel in the Normandy region. The region has a long tradition of distilling their ciders into delicious and complex spirits. While not as well known as Cognac, Calvados holds a dear place in the hearts of many spirits lovers.
Manoir de Montreuil Calvados is made by the Giard family, one of the grand old names that trace their family's history back 12 generations to the 1700's. When Roger Giard, now in his nineties, retired he handed the reigns of the Domaine du Manoir de Montreuil to his son Patrice, who now directs the property along with his wife Michelle.
It is traditional to drink Calvados after a meal, partially because of its digestive qualities. A small drink of calvados is taken between courses in a very long meal to reawaken the appetite. Calvados can also be enjoyed in cocktails and in cooking. It is delicious drizzled over ice cream. What's more, a snifter of Calvados is fantastic in everyday situations, like while watching Netflix, Monday Night Football, or enjoying a good book.
News & Events
The Unity Council Día de Los Muertos Annual Festival is a free, outdoor festival that celebrates the vibrant, culturally-rich Fruitvale neighborhood. This year, the event will feature both virtual and in-person, safe, physically distant activities, traditional Latin American artisans, and the stunning altar artistic installations created by community members paying homage to los Muertos.
The 2020 theme is Lágrimas y Flores (Tears and Flowers) in honor of their 25th anniversary. "Among flowers we are received and among them we depart."
For over 25 years, the Oakland Día de los Muertos Festival has invited thousands of people to celebrate the duality between life and death, by welcoming everyone to celebrate life while remembering and honoring late loved ones. The Día de los Muertos is a holiday observed since ancestral times by indigenous communities in Mexico. In the indigenous world-view of Mesoamerican cultures, life and death were perceived not as opposites but as two complementary elements that formed a complete cycle. Death as one stage in an eternal cycle of life, death, and regeneration.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
Hittin’ The Sauce
There are a number of reasons to use alcohol when cooking. The most obvious one is to add flavor, and some ingredients just scream for a shot of something. Adding some white wine to garlic sautéed in butter and olive oil makes for a fast and fabulous weeknight pasta dinner. And is there a better combination than peaches, pecans, and bourbon? (Or is that just my inner Southerner?)
Using alcohol in recipes can serve another purpose. Adding a small amount of alcohol to your food can enhance and bring out the flavors of the ingredients you are using. The Italians are the masters of this. There is a reason that they use wine in their sauces and it’s not just because they enjoy a nice glass of Sangiovese. Besides adding great flavor to your dish, adding a small amount of wine to, say, a red sauce, actually gives the sauce a bigger tomato flavor than if you left it out. Even if you are using the good San Marzanos. The same principal applies when using the harder stuff—but with a little twist.
Pasta Alla Vodka can be found on the menus of Italian restaurants everywhere. And, while it may seem strange that you would use vodka, a basically flavorless alcohol, to improve your pasta sauce, the fact is that you aren’t using it to add more flavor per se but to make the other flavors better. While vodka does add a hint of peppery flavor, its main purpose is to release the flavors that are hidden in the tomatoes and other ingredients. This is where we get all scienc-y.
The trick is not to use too much. Full strength vodka will overpower the natural flavors in your sauce because it traps the other molecules. Smaller amounts of vodka will actually release new flavors as the alcohol is cooked off during a slow simmer. It sounds like witchcraft but the results are so so good.
This weekend looks like we might have lower temperatures which should make it feel more like Fall. (Hallelujer!) It’s a great opportunity to fire up a big batch of this pasta sauce for your Sunday dinner with a little left over to save for later in your freezer.
A Staff Favorite
A love affair with scones.
Fisher Maple Cinnamon Scones have been a family favorite for generations. They are easy to prepare, are delicious with breakfast and double as dessert. They taste as they should, not over sweet, just right. Fisher scones are waiting to be slathered with butter and jam.
Fisher promotes sustainable farming practices that honor the earth. Our flour comes from a group of Pacific NW family farms that use certified-sustainable farming practices to prevent erosion, regenerate topsoil and provide healthy habitat for wildlife. Their products contain no trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial additives, preservatives, or food color.
Fisher traces its beginning to 1910 when Fisher Flour Mills incorporated in Seattle. To promote the use of its high-quality flour, Fisher Flour Mills came up with the idea of selling piping-hot scones at major fairs. Those delicious Fisher Fair Scones quickly attracted a loyal following that continues to this day.
A Cookbook Recommendation
By Lucy Baker
The Boozy Baker is a fun collection of recipes for cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, and more, all of which contain a healthy dose of alcohol. Home bakers will recognize classic treats such as profiteroles, peach cobbler, and spiced Bundt cake, and be delighted by the ways they are reinvented with chocolate stout, almond liqueur, and even Jagermeister. Featuring more than 30 full-color photographs, the book also includes sidebars throughout with instructions for preparing funky cocktails that add a punchy compliment to many of the recipes.
Whether you are a pastry perfectionist or a one-bowl beginner, a bonafide mixologist or just looking for a way to polish off a few dusty bottles, this cookbook is sure to become a favorite, its pages splattered with chocolate, sprinkled with sugar, and garnished with a twist.
A Staff Favorite
We have a beautiful selection of pumpkins, gourds, and ornamental, dried corn in the store right now. Some of the pumpkins and squash cook up beautifully in dishes like pies, breads, and soups.
And, they all make fantastic decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. We have mini versions for tabletop displays and great big ones for the front porch. We have classic carving pumpkins, others with bumps or stripes, and they come in an array of colors.
Come on into the store and get your home in the spirit of the season!
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.
Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.
You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.
I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.
News & Events
If you are into natural science and the local environment, Bay Nature has been hosting series of free online talks that are both relevant and about our region. Bay Nature connects people of the SF Bay Area to our natural world. They are an independent nonprofit publication and website with a vision that all people have a close relationship with nature.
Their next scheduled talk is:
Nature Journaling with John Muir Laws
Wednesday, December 9th at 4 PM
Join artist, author, and educator John Muir Laws for a virtual walk in the woods to explore how to observe with the eyes of a naturalist, discovering and celebrating the signs of the Bay Area season in a nature journal. Learn how to sketch and document mushrooms, seasonal birds, raindrops, and a misty winter landscape.
And, here is a list of talks that are archived on their website:
- Tennessee Hollow Watershed Restoration
- Infectious Disease & the Environment
- River Otters
- The Journeys of Trees
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
For the most part, I don’t use a lot of alcohol in the recipes I make. Except for wine. And beer. OK, maybe I just don’t use the hard stuff a lot with the exception of the occasional tequila lime shrimp (or chicken). All kidding aside, I do tend to leave alcohol out of certain recipes if I think they don’t really need it. For example, I leave the booze out of my tiramisu because I think the flavor competes too much with the coffee. Blasphemy, I know.
There are some recipes, though, where that alcohol flavor is a must. Beef and Guinness Stew is one. Coq au Vin is another. (I mean, it’s in the name. You can’t leave it out.) And, of course, desserts too numerous to count, that can either be lit on fire or not. (I see you Bananas Foster Bread Pudding).
Sometimes, you just gotta add a little pick-me-up to whatever your making. A splash of white wine in your Chicken Pot Pie gravy makes a world of difference without overpowering everything else. And having a little glass for yourself while you cook is a lovely reward for your hard work. I confess to having a bit more reward than usual lately. I have found it a little bit harder in recent days to leave the happy bubble that is my kitchen but, alas, we must soldier on.
If there is one recipe that requires the addition of alcohol to make it right, it is French Onion Soup. Not only do the flavors of wine and Cognac give the soup it’s distinctive flavor, it’s just so French.
With the weather actually feeling a bit fall-like this week, I am planning on making Julia Child’s version this weekend. It is quintessentially French and Julia would definitely be okay with a little wine for you as well as the soup…
A Staff Favorite
Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale is a seasonal ale brewed with fall spices and a smooth finish.
With a brilliant, deep copper hue and creamy beige-colored head, Anderson Valley's Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale has inviting aromas of caramelized malt and baking bread with highlights of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and seasonal spices. The pleasantly creamy mouthfeel and silky body embrace the sweet caramel flavors and tang of spices (with just hint of hops) that ends in a smooth, round finish.
Cranberry scones, roasted root vegetables, steak chili, caramel flan, Brie, and Aged Cheddar.
If you’re looking for a light-bodied, easy drinking beer with plenty of pumpkin pie spice, this is the beer for you!
News & Events
If you want to have the dickens scared out of you in a socially-distanced kind of way, here are some Bay Area Haunts that will leave you shaking in your boots.
Virtual Ghost Walk through Haunted
You don't have to leave your house for this virtual haunted tour. Meet the ghosts of Pleasanton's past in this uniquely spooky annual event held by Museum on Main. Two ghosts host will be live on Zoom to guide your virtual tour of downtown Pleasanton's most haunted locations. A family-friendly event.
October 16-17, 23-34, & 31 at 7 PM
Pirates of Emerson Haunted Theme Park Drive-Thru
One of the most popular Bay Area Halloween attractions has gone drive-thru! And, rumor has it, it is just as scary. Check out the SF Gate article about it.
Thursdays-Sundays through November 1st by reservation only.
Ultimate Terror Scream Park
This haunted house park includes Voodoo Bayou, Midnight Asylum and House of Undead areas. Scream Park’s Museum of Horrors is a massive horror-themed museum walk-through in Sacramento. It is filled with breath-taking horror set designs with interactive rooms (no actors this year).
Through November 1st
Dead Time Dreams
An open-air, immersive haunted attraction called Horror Alley, plus a Midway of Terror to entertain you before and after.
October 16-18, 22-25 and 28-31 from 7:30 PM to Midnight
Winchester Mystery House Hallowe’en Flashlight Tour
A self-guided evening tour that allows brave guests to explore the dark halls of the mansion while hearing unnerving stories of the home's haunted history. It is a rare chance to glimpse one of the world’s most alleged haunted mansions at night...all alone! Tour hosts will be stationed throughout the house.
Tickets are limited.
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
The Calvados and Tonic Cocktail is a new spin on the Gin and Tonic which uses this French apple brandy in place of the gin. It is refreshing with a touch of bitter, and is perfect for fall.
It is drunk in Normandy, where Calvados is made and we are enjoying it in the Bay Area, too.
Cooking with Sauce—Recipes from Our Archives
From our blog, The Kitchen Table
We have put together a list of some recipes from our archives with a splash of something extra in them.
Cream of Chestnut Soup—
for those who don’t want to hassle with roasting and peeling fresh chestnuts, we have all the jarred and vacuum-sealed chestnuts you could possibly wish for available and waiting for you to give them a good home.
Cognac or Brandy
French Onion Soup
is quintessentially French and Julia Child would definitely be okay with a little wine for you as well as the soup…
Sausage and Apples
comes from the Norman region in France, where apples and Calvados are abundant.
Apple, Onion, and Cheddar Soup
is perfect during the cool fall months. It incorporates apples and cheese, which is an old-fashioned pairing for a pie in New England. The soup builds contrasting layers of sweetness, starting with the apple cider in the stock, then the caramelized onions, and finally the green apples add tartness.
Beef and Guinness Stew
Guinness is used increasingly in cooking. It is a tasty addition to stews and casseroles, helping to tenderize the meat and imparting its distinctive malty flavor to any dish. This recipe makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two after it is made.
Classic Beer Bread has
only four ingredients, which makes it impressively quick to prepare. It makes great toast.
Irish Porter Cake
is an Irish classic that goes well with any meal of the day—especially breakfast!
Chocolate Stout Cake
has a multi-dimensional flavor. The stout gives it an interesting finish and the hops act as a counterpoint to the sweetness. The combination is delicious!
Classic Cheese Fondue possibilities are endless, and you can get pretty creative, so mix your cheeses and dippers. Try a gorgonzola fondue with cut up pears—the bomb!
Classic Borscht takes some time to make. But it is worth the effort—even if only to just try it once.
Cock-A-Leekie Soup—if you make this soup ahead, you may need to add a bit of water or stock when reheating.
Lamb Shanks Osso Buco—these slow-cooked beauties will melt in your mouth when prepared correctly. And, they are relatively inexpensive. They do take some time to cook. So, this would definitely be a weekend meal.
Corned Beef—have you ever corned your own brisket of beef? It's not just for St. Patrick's Day and it makes a delicious meal.
Comforting Slow Cooker Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and gravy is a whole lot of comfort in a crock pot. There’s nothing easier than pot roast and it’s a great way to have dinner done when you walk through the door at the end of the day…
Chicken Thigh Pasta is a favorite comfort food that is quickly devoured. And, the ingredients are pantry staples
Hungarian Goulash is hearty and satisfying and paprika is a favorite spice. Make extra and freeze for leftovers!
Short Ribs in Red Wine Sauce—we recommend that you give this favorite recipe a try. The short ribs are delicious over pasta and the leftover sauce is a treat for future dinners.
From our blog, The Cocktail Post
This refreshing tequila cocktail is fantastic on its own at happy hour and also for brunch. The sweetness of the honey and the gentle spice of the cardamom blend into a deliciously.
You do need to prepare the Cardamom-Honey Syrup a day in advance. But, make extra! It is a great sweetener for tea, coffee, and many other drinks.
Vendor of the Month
The best whiskey is made slowly—its story begins as seeds in the fields and ends as a golden liquid in your glass.
Wright & Brown Distilling Co. was founded in 2014, the first distillery in Oakland since Prohibition. They are a craft grain-to-glass distillery that uses centuries old methods to create exciting new California spirits that stand the test of time.
Wright & Brown believes good whiskey is a combination of tradition, technique and time. With every batch, they pay homage to the early American whiskey makers who built an entire industry and culture with only the grains they could find on neighboring farms, distilled local water, and hand-built copper stills. Their small-batch method is based on "Pennsylvania-style whiskey-making" (versus Southern-style or Maryland-style) a tradition that references pre-industrial distilling.
We carry both their Rye Whiskey and Bourbon Whiskey at the store.
Temporary Store Hours During Shelter-in-Place
10 AM to 8 PM
Special shopping hour for seniors
9 AM to 10 AM
We will update you with any new hours as the shelter-in-place situation unfolds.
4038 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
Visit our recipe blog to learn what Amy, our VP and resident foodie, is cooking up in her home kitchen.