Birthday Tasting

This weekend we celebrate Steve’s birthday, which is planned as a deeply sensual experience with entertainments, food, and wine. We started yesterday with three tastings: a wine tasting, a vegan cheese tasting, and a halvah tasting.

For the wines we learned about three Italian wines: a 2010 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera, a 2012 Ca’Erto Ripasso della Valpolicella, and a 2013 Abbazia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift) Lagrein. One thing we didn’t realize until tonight was that Amarone is another botrytized wine. That adds to the list of wines created with the botrytis fungus that we love.

Steve and I split on the Lagrein and the Ripasso. I loved the Lagrein for its earthiness. Steve perceived a note of licorice that he didn’t  care for. The Ripasso was excellent, though Steve liked it better than I did. I found it a bit less layered than I like.

But, friends, the Amarone! Oh my! I always forget what it is that makes great wines great. There is a difference between a wine that is technically brilliant and one that sends me into ecstasy. This was the latter. Highly recommended.

The cheese tasting was another sensual pleasure. I ordered artisanal vegan cheeses from Vegan Essentials. We tasted: Fauxgonzola Artisan Cheese by Reine Royal Vegan Cuisine, RIND Aged French-Style Plant-Based Cheese, Mt. St. Helens Artisan Cashew Cheese by Wendy’s Nutty Cheese, Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Cheese Block – Farmhouse Cheddar, The Uncreamery’s Dill Havarti Block, and Classic Brie Wheel.

They were all a delight. My favorite was the RIND aged cheese, which has a sharp pungent flavor. Steve’s favorite was the Mt. St. Helens cashew cheese, which is a soft cheese shot through with ash from the Mount St. Helens volcano. That is also one of my all-time favorites. We split on the hard cheeses. I liked the Dill Havarti better. Steve preferred the Farmhouse Cheddar.

Finally we came to the piece d’resistance, a surprise artisanal halvah tasting. The halvah came from two companies: Halvah Boutique (New York) and Halvah Heaven (Massachusetts). If you guessed that the New York halvah would be the night’s favorite, you’d be right. They really know how to make halvah in Brooklyn. It was delicate, crumbly, and had just the right amount of flavorings. It was similar to Israeli halvah. By contrast the Massachusetts halvah was a bit hard and oily. The flavors were hit or miss.

My favorites were Halvah Boutique’s Chili Halvah and Halvah Heaven’s Fiore di Sicilia, both of which have lovely flavors. Steve’s favorite of the night was Halvah Boutique’s Cinnamon Halvah and their Chili Halvah. He also liked the Peanut Butter and the Fiore di Sicilia from Halvah Heaven.

That was in addition to a full dinner and homemade brownies with vegan cream cheese frosting for dessert and a fun movie. Quite a night. Steve’s birthday continues this weekend with gaming, more food and wine, and perhaps a hike. Steve pointed out that halvah would be the perfect long-distance running food. I agreed, of course.

Hope your weekend is also decadent. Eat well, friends!

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