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Wining and dining

Susan Shifflett
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Cookies-n-Cream Bites

For a little merry with your dessert, pair Saddlehorn Winery's Black Spanish with Cookies-n-Cream Bites.

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

I’ve always been known to jump on the open road. In college, I would pick a spot on the map and just drive, shooting photographs along the way. I loved seeing small towns scattered throughout this great state. As you can imagine, I’ve eaten in my fair share of diners, cafes and dives: Tex-Mex in Palestine, barbecue in Onalaska, pizza in Terlingua, burgers in Mineola.

Brenham, located in Washington County, is just over an hour’s drive from Houston, making it a perfect weekend getaway. Mostly, Brenham is known for that little creamery, Blue Bell, but Washington County is making its own mark in the adult-beverage market. So, I set out over a recent weekend in search of these adult beverages, and then paired them with recipes from the Junior League of Houston’s cookbooks. 

Pleasant Hill Winery is the oldest winery in Washington County. Pleasant Hill produces a variety of award-winning wines, ranging from Blanc du Bois to Sangiovese to port. I ended up leaving with a bottle of Collina Bianca, which is a white blend of Blanc du Bois and Muscat grapes that produces a dry, yet sweet, aromatic wine. Try pairing this wine with the Chopped Chicken Salad with Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette from Peace Meals. You can morph it into snack wraps by placing the salad into multigrain tortillas.

Just northeast of the Brenham airport is Windy Winery, with its offering of unusual wines. The Lady Lavender is a Blanc du Bois white wine infused with culinary lavender. The Jal Spice wine combines a semi-dry red wine with the warmth of jalapeño. Of course, I left with a bottle of Jal Spice because I knew I was going to make the Churrasco, a grilled South American steak, from Peace Meals. For this meal, I used flank steak, marinated overnight in the Jal Spice wine and served with chimichurri sauce. Note: I sliced the Churrasco into strips and placed them on skewers as an easy snack.

If anyone has been to Napa, you know you tend to get “wined out.” Brenham has a new brewery called Brazos Valley Brewing Company. On tap were five beers, but the real winner for me was the Roots Radicals Double IPA. Roots Radicals is a West Coast-inspired India Pale Ale fortified with four different hops. It’s a smooth, hoppy beer that pairs well with both the Black Bean Corn Salsa from Stop and Smell the Rosemary and the Avocado Tomatillo Salsa from Peace Meals. Note: I skip the avocado in the Black Bean Corn Salsa since it limits the time the salsa lasts. Plus, to save time on the Avocado Tomatillo Salsa, I use salsa verde in place of roasting the tomatillos.

Our final stop for the day took us to Burton to Saddlehorn Winery, which produces 2,500 to 3,000 barrels of wine each year. I left with two bottles from Saddlehorn, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Black Spanish. I knew the Cabernet would complement the Churrasco, with its blackberry-cherry aroma with a hint of oak, while the Black Spanish, with its smoky, dry, tannins undertones, would pair well with sweet Cookies-n-Cream Bites from Peace Meals.

It turns out you don’t have to drive to Fredericksburg or Napa to get good wine or beer.  But, if anyone is up for a road trip, I’m game, and will bring the snacks.

Editor’s Note: To buy a Houston Junior League cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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