The Magnificent SEVEN: Bring on the Berries (2 of 3)

Beautiful, Bountiful Berries. While it’s borderline criminal to not include the beautiful and virtuous raspberries and blackberries in this blog post, we are going to focus on the two most consumed berries in summer months, blueberries and strawberries.

Blueberries

alpine-cheesecakeHolding the title of “The World’s Healthiest Food”, blueberries rank second to only strawberries in popularity according to U.S. fruit consumption numbers. The little blues pack a punch with flavor, but also have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings.

The antioxidant properties of blueberries have been well documented, but for those that are unaware, blueberries contribute to optimized health by combating the free radicals that can damage cellular structures, as well as DNA. Recently, there has been even more exciting news regarding the little health warriors… a growing body of evidence that blueberries can improve memory. Who knew? Who can remember?

But back to the taste. Raw blueberries are, in a word, exceptional… and provide the greatest nutritional benefits consumed raw. That does not, however, stop us from stuffing them in our Cheesecake, or baking them into our Blueberry Crumb Pie. Take a look at our Fresh Fruit and Custard Pie, and the beautiful way fresh blueberries crown the top of that creation!

We get inventive with seasonal specials, and incorporate them into salads, and dressings. We recently served a Summertime Blues Salad created with blueberries, blue cheese crumbles, and sliced walnuts… finished with a Creamy Strawberry-Dijon dressing.

Strawberries

paris brest 2The fragrantly sweet, and “most popular” strawberries are abundant right now at the peak of their season (April through July). While becoming increasingly available year round, they are the most delicious now. So, we encourage you to consume mass quantities!

Strawberries possess a unique combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and are known for their health benefits in three major areas. (1) cardiovascular support and prevention (2) improved regulation of blood sugar, and (3) prevention of at least five major cancers.

Ironically, while the health benefits of strawberries are powerful, they are very sensitive and perish quickly and easily. Here are some tips.

  • Do not remove their caps and stems until after you have gently washed the berries under cold running water, and patted them dry.
  • Do not, however, wash them until right before eating or using in a recipe. This will prevent them from absorbing excess water, which can degrade the texture and flavor of the strawberry.
  • To remove the stems, caps and white hull, simply pinch these off with your fingers or use a paring knife.

Take a look at our bakery menu and check out desserts like our Strawberry Swiss Roll, and Fresh Fruit Chocolate Cheescake. We LOVE serving the unexpected… we recently served Fettuccini in a sauce made from strawberries and finished with parmesan. Surprising, very fresh, and innovative executions with beautiful strawberries. Taste the Freshness. Taste the Love.

The Magnificent SEVEN: Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables (1 of 3)

Summer is the season for cooking fresh and fabulous feasts. Here at Alpine, we take full advantage of nature’s summer bounty and incorporate the juicy produce that these prime harvest months afford us. Just check out the local Farmers Markets who are now in their glory days with colorful displays and an abundance of choices.

There are many, many fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to enjoy, but we are going to focus on The Magnificent Seven.

Tomatoes

Delicious and versatile the tomato which is actually a fruit not a vegetable packs a punch with its flavor, versatility and health benefits. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a carotenoid that has antioxidant properties and has shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease. Combining the tomatoes with a fat, like olive oil increases your body’s ability to absorb the lycopene. Also, tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, folate, riboflavin and chromium.

There’s no doubt, fresh from the vine tomatoes are tastier and healthier. Unfortunately, the flavor and texture of your “garden variety’ supermarket tomatoes doesn’t remotely compare to those that are freshly picked. However, many grocery stores now stock some local farms offerings and refer to them as “ugly tomatoes”. Select tomatoes with a deep rich color and smooth skin and store them on the countertop, where they’ll keep for a few days. Do not refrigerate tomatoes as it changes the flavor and texture.

Look for tomatoes EVERYWHERE in our appetizers and main courses! From fresh applications like our Caprese Salad to our sublime sauces.

Watermelon

watermelon & arugula saladA quintessential summer favorite, watermelon is the lycopene leader among fruits and vegetables—even surpassing the amount of lycopene in our beloved tomatoes. It’s low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol making it heart healthy as well.

Easy to serve and enjoy sliced, cubed, or creatively re-imagined, which is what we’ve been doing (see below), watermelon is a superb summer fruit to enjoy. This time of year, it’s affordable and rarely do you get one that’s not perfectly sweet!

Last week we served a balsamic glazed compressed watermelon, fresh mozzarella & arugula salad with balsamic reduction, basil oil, black pepper & red sea salt.

 

 

watermelon feta salad

 

 

Or another chef featured salad…Arugula, watermelon and feta salad with fresh mint & orange-honey vinaigrette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Alpine we would love to help you explore some creative uses of summer fruits and vegetables. Please try one of our standards or specially created Chef’s Features starring fresh seasonal finds! Follow us on Facebook to see what we’ve prepared just for you!

Bottles of wine in a winery. Red and white wine.

White or Red? Navigating the Wine List Waters – Part 2

Part Two: From Grape to Glass

Bottles of wine in a winery. Red and white wine.In our last blog post, we explored grapes and their color schemes, and encouraged exploration on your part. Now let’s understand the science of fermentation and cover Rose, Sparkling (Champagne), Dessert Wines, Port and Sherry.

The Science: The Yeasts and Fermentation

Harvested grapes become crushed grapes which contain yeasts. Yeasts exist naturally in the vineyard and collect on the grape skins. Once the grapes have been crushed, these yeasts and/or artificial yeasts added by the winemaker, interact with the sugar in the grape juice to produce alcohol, otherwise known as fermentation.

Fermentation is all a matter of time and is dependent on the style of wine the winemaker is after. Fermentation can be a brief as one week or three years.

Storage Matters

Where wine is also stored is a huge factor. Historically, there’s been a great deal of experimentation on this front, but today, Oak and stainless steel barrels are the most popular choices. The container’s unique properties literally impart different factors into the wine’s maturation. Hence the description “oakey”!

Rosé: Pretty in Pink

Three Colors of WineRosé, pink or blush wines characterized by their pretty pink shaded color are made from black grapes. They don’t have an opportunity to turn red because the grape skins are removed from the juice very quickly (hours) after contact.

This momentary brush with the black grape skins gives the wine its pink color. Rosés can also made by blending together white and red wines. This limited contact with skins also translates to a very minimum amount of tannins entering the wine. Rosés like White Merlot and White Zinfandel are sweet. However, traditionally and classically the best European rosés are very dry.

Sparkling Wines: Not Necessarily Champagne

Sparkling Wines are made from nearly any variety of grape and contain carbon dioxide bubbles. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally during fermentation, and winemakers have all sorts of techniques for literally trapping the carbon dioxide in the wine.

A widely held misconception is that Sparkling Wines are synonymous with Champagne. Not true! While Champagne is a type of sparkling wine, there is a distinct difference between the two.

Champagne is actually a region located in northeast France. Strict laws allow only wines made with grapes grown there to be called Champagne.

Some of the more popular sparkling wines include Cava, Champagne, Crémant d’Alsace, Moscato d’Asti and Prosecco.

Desert Wines: The Sweet Side.

glass with white wine , focus on foregroundSure you can drink your dessert… of course we are partial to your ordering something from our bakery. But as an accompaniment, a Dessert wine is a fine choice! Dessert wines have a notoriously high sugar content.

Fortified wines have Brandy or other spirits added to the juice during fermentation to stop the fermentation process which leaves a high amount of sugar in the wine. Some fortified wines, including Port and Sherry, were originally designed to ensure the wine survived long voyages on 17th century ships. Popular dessert wines include ice wines, late harvest Rieslings, Madeira, Port, Sherry and Sauternes

We are proud of our wine list and would love to help you navigate your way through it.  Come in and order one tonight. We promise you can’t go wrong. Taste the Wine. Taste the Love.

Wine at Alpine Bakery and Trattoria

White or Red? Navigating the Wine List Waters – Part I

wines 1Part One: From Grape to Glass

Red or White? Even if you know if you prefer, there are just so many dang bottles out there, it can be daunting to decide which one. On the other hand, because there are so many bottles out there, we encourage you to explore. The subtle and not so subtle differences in a good bottle of wine can be a thrill to uncover.

To cut down on some confusion and help you wade in, we wanted to break down some basics to arm you with as you navigate the wine list waters! In part one of this blog series, we will give you a basic primer on grapes, wine production and differences in the creation of white and red. Keep reading and we will get you on your way to connoisseur status before you know it!

The Beginning: The Grape

It all starts here. For our purposes grapes can be broken down into two categories: white and black.  Just to be clear, White grapes aren’t really white, but light skin. In fact, yellow-green, gold or green and light-orange grapes are all considered “white grapes”.

Black grapes by the same token are also never literally black. Instead they are grapes with a red or blue tint, and range from light ruby to a deep indigo.

By definition, White wines are wines that contain little or no red pigmentation. These wines are almost always made from white grapes, but here’s where it can get tricky, they can be made from black grapes as well. Winemakers can and do make white wine from black grapes because the juice in most black grapes is white or clear. White wines are known to be sweet or dry, or somewhere in between. Popular white wines that you will see on any good wine list (like ours) include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

Red wines are made from black grapes and have a red or blue tint. As we said earlier, the majority of grapes have a clear or white juice, so in order to make red wine the winemaker must use the grape skins. The red skins are what creates the color and have to remain intact with the juice during all or part of the fermentation process.

Tannins: The Real Difference

Tannins are found in the grape skins, and are transferred into the wine while the skins are in contact with the juice. Besides the difference in color, the primary difference between red and white wines comes are tannins. Found mainly in red wines, they provide a dry, puckery sensation in the mouth and in the back of the throat. They also help preserve wine, allowing most (but not all) red wines to be aged longer than white wines. Popular red wines you’ll find on our list include Beaujolais, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Bottom line is drink what you like and don’t be afraid try your own parings. Be adventurous! It’s only wine.

We are proud of our wine list and would love to help you navigate your way through it. Remember Wednesday nights in June we are featuring ½ price bottles (dine in only). Taste the Wine. Taste the Love.

Happy Fathers Bow Tie

Father’s Day: A Q & A to Embrace the Day

alpine-mealHere at Alpine, we would love to help you celebrate Father’s Day. Let’s take a look at some of the traditions, origins and fun facts. And to all you Father’s out there…Happy Father’s Day!

Q: Who invented Father’s Day?

A: A Woman!

In 1909, a woman named Sonora Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington. She wanted to honor her own father, William Smart, who as a widowed farmer, raised his six kids on his own. One year later, June 19, 1910 the first

Father’s Day celebration was proclaimed in Spokane – in June because it was the month of Dodd’s father’s birth. Due to her efforts, Sonora Dodd is now known as “The Mother of Father’s Day”.

Q: What do Dads Get for Father’s Day?

A: Cards. Funny Cards.

Nearly 95 million Father’s Day Cards were given out last year, making Father’s Day the fourth largest card sending out occasion. Most of the greeting cards given to fathers on father’s day are humorous. It is thought that “Humor” is the safe choice and typically best way to express your love and emotion when it comes to DAD. Neckties are the number one gift. Flowers are number two.

Q: What about Internationally?

A: Yes Dads Around the World Get the Love!

In most of the countries around the world, like USA, UK, India, Canada, China, France, Greece, Japan and even Hong Kong, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June.

Q: What is the official Flower of Father’s Day?

A: Rose is the official flower for Father’s Day. Wearing a red rose signifies a living father, while white one represents deceased father.

Q: Who Spends More Daughters or Sons?

A: Daughters spend approximately 50 percent shoppers spend more than sons when buying gifts for their dad.

Q: Where does the word Dad originate?

A: It is believed that the word “Dad” dates back to as early as the sixteenth century.

At Alpine we have would love to help you treat Dad to an exceptional meal and some special time with family. Please join us for some specially created Chef’s Features sure to make Dad feel every bit as special as he is.  Check back soon for our special menu offering.

chicken scallopini at Alpine Bakery & Trattoria

We’ve Changed Our Chicken…and You’re Going to Love It.

Classic staples on the menu of many Italian restaurants, Chicken Piccati, Marsala, and Scallopini almost always start with thinly sliced chicken. Both the preparation of the meat and flavor profiles are distinctive and traditional, leaving little room for interpretation.

However, unfortunately, thinly sliced meat that is overly tenderized (READ beaten half to death) in an effort to make sure it comes out tender often has the opposite effect and can reduce the meat to a thin, flavorless and less desirable product. So here at Alpine, we are making a bit of a departure and altering the way we prep the protein in these beloved Italian Favorites.

We’re going with a thicker cut of chicken breast and leaving the skin on. The result is a delicious, highly favorable portion of meat. Don’t worry we are still completing the dishes with the classic sauces – Marsala, Scallopini and Piccata ensuring the flavor profiles remain strongly intact.

Here are the three Old World Classics thoroughly described with our slight departure in preparation.

chicken piccata at Alpine Bakery & TrattoriaChicken Piccata. A classic Piccata Sauce is white wine, lemon butter and capers. We would never deviate from this. However, we are now leaving the skin on the breast and dredging in seasoned flour before cooking it to tender perfection. On the plate is a twist on Risotto – a Risotto Cake.

chicken marsala at Alpine Bakery & TrattoriaChicken Marsala. Here the chicken cutlets are also dredged in flour and browned. Roasted garlic and Crimini Mushrooms are sautéed and the pan is deglazed with Marsala wine. Marsala Wine (the namesake of this classic) is a somewhat sweet, fortified wine from Sicily. It has a slight oxidized flavor much like Sherry, Madeira and Balsamic Vinegar. It is often used to make quick sauces in Italy much as the French use Madeira for the same purpose.

chicken scallopini at Alpine Bakery & TrattoriaChicken Scallopini. We begin with the same preparation for the chicken and really pack in the flavors and texture with by combining mushrooms, prosciutto, capers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato and lemon butter. We then serve it on a perfectly cooked bed of Capellini Pasta.

Please join us for any or all of our chicken and veal classics thoughtfully prepared and delivered to your table with love. Then and only then, should you declare your favorite. Taste the new Chicken Piccata, Chicken Marsala and Chicken Scallopini. Taste the Love.

The Magic of Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are an integral part of Italian cooking and we use a wide variety year round in all of our dishes. They can magically flavor up recipes without using loads of salt and butter. Herbs have their own distinctive flavors ranging from earthy to lemon, and when used fresh require much less than when using dried.

With the warmer weather you may want to create your own herb pot or garden and experiment on your own. Below are some of our favorites with their Italian names, descriptions and uses.

Fresh Basil at Alpine Bakery & TrattoriaBasil (Basilico)

The best known herb and used in pesto, sauces and pizza. Perfect paired with tomatoes- fresh or in sauce. It has a strong anise flavor – Minty and slightly peppery, with a touch of sweetness. Since the leaves are easily bruised, try using fresh basil whole or tearing it gently with your hands. We do!

Bay Leaf (Alloro)

Bay Leaf is most commonly used dried, but it’s increasingly available fresh as well. Great for imparting a gentle aroma in to soups and sauces.

Marjoram (Maggiorana)

Similar to oregano but milder in flavor. It’s Grassy, lemony and slightly sweet. A great compliment for meats and seafood.

Mint. Fresh mint on a table closeupMint (Menta)

There are hundreds of varieties. Some are mild and sweet; others spicy and hot. Mint is used more in southern Italy and is similar to basil in its ability to bring freshness and brightness to a dish. Refreshing, cool

Oregano (Origano)

Characterized by a very strong aroma and flavor; and commonly used with tomatoes.

Parsley (Prezzemolo)

Flat leafed (stronger in flavor) or curly leafed (somewhat milder) are true staples in Italian cooking. Parsley is probably the most widely used. Parsley, garlic and onions cooked in olive oil form the flavor base for many dishes.

Rosemary (Rosmarino)

Possessing a strong pine aroma and lemony flavor, a little rosemary goes a long way. The needles are tough and need time to soften, so slowly cooked is a must. Perfect with potatoes, chicken, lamb, and beef.

Sage (Salvia)

At once musty and minty, sage is a pungent herb terrific with chicken, pork as well as any sauce with brown butter. Most popular in Tuscany and other parts of central and northern Italy.

Thyme (Timo)

Several different varieties exist but most have pack a strong lemony flavor.

Come in and taste the wide variety of fresh herbs we use to create our incredible plates. We add herbs for flavor, aroma and color. Taste the Herbs. Taste the Love.

Tasty mozzarella cheese with basil on plate on wooden background

Fresh and Lovely Mozzarella Cheese

With a delicate and fresh milk taste, Mozzarella is a staple among cheese lovers. It is available in many different forms and varieties, the most popular being fresh mozzarella or mozzarella fresco. This is a type of mozzarella that is just been made and ready to be consumed at room temperature.

tomato and mozzarellaAt Alpine, Mozzarella is one of our favorite cheeses and we love it several ways, but one of our most favorite is just around the corner. When late spring rolls around well into summer and early fall, we love our Mozzarella paired with heirloom tomatoes, basil with a balsamic vinaigrette. For more on our love of Heirlooms please see our earlier blog… “Summer is here. Let’s talk tomatoes“. So for now, we thought we’d share a little about Mozzarella.

Flavor wise, Mozzarella has a clean, mild, slightly sweet and sour distinct milk flavor. It also has a creamy, soft texture and a Porcelain white appearance. Some preparations include filling it with olives, prosciutto, Pama ham, sun dried tomatoes just to name a few.

Its firm texture makes it an excellent choice for slicing and topping pizzas (we do that!) or using on flatbreads, salads or vegetables. It also pairs well with fresh tomatoes, pestos, fruits, olives, basil and tapenades. Also, it’s lovely with wine.

Top 10 Things about Mozzarella Cheese

  • Made from pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s or water buffalo’s milk.
  • Originated in Italy
  • Region: Campania
  • Family: Mozzarella
  • Fat content: 22 g/100g
  • Calcium content: 500 mg/100g
  • Rindless
  • White in Color
  • Vegetarian: no
  • Also referred to as Mozzarella fresco

In the next few weeks (once Heirlooms are in season) come in and enjoy Mozzarella with tomatoes. In the meantime, you can try Mozzarella in our new lunch Caprese Panni with fresh basil, tomato, basil pesto on Ciabatta Bread. Or, you can enjoy a freshly baked Calzone or White Pizza. Other possibilities are our Chicken Parmaigiana or a Meatball Subs.

Come in and taste the Mozzarella. Taste the love!

Bunny with Easter Eggs

Top 10 Around the World Easter Traditions

Bunny with Easter EggsOur Easter Traditions sound perfectly normal…to us anyway! We thought it would be fun (and educational of course) to explore Easter Traditions in other countries. Almost as interesting as the traditions themselves are the origins of the traditions, some dating back for centuries. Let’s start with us.

America – Rolling and Hiding

Children all over America typically receive gifts of eggs and candy delivered to their homes on Easter morning by the Easter Bunny; a tradition that came with German immigrants in the 1700s. The belief was that rabbits and eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth.

Finland – Begging and Burning

Children put soot on their faces, tie scarves around their heads, then go begging in the streets while carrying broomsticks, coffee pots and bunches of willow trees. In some parts of Western Finland, bonfires are burned, a practice that started from believing that the flames ward off witches who fly around on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Poland – Dousing and Marriage Predications

Referred to as Smingus-Dyngus, the boys in Poland try to soak other people (especially girls) with water. The water can literally be poured from buckets, squirt guns or hoses. The tradition, with origins linked to the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD, says girls who get soaked will marry within the year.

Haux, France – An Omelet on a Grand Scale

Leave it to the French to cook something spectacular. In Haux, a giant omelet is served up in the town’s main square. The omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. The tradition gets its roots from when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets. Napoleon liked his so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his army the next day.

Corfu, Greece – Take Cover

People throw pots, pans and other earthenware out of their windows, smashing them on the street. A custom thought to derive from the Venetians, who on New Year’s Day used to throw out all of their old items. Others believe the throwing of the pots welcomes spring, symbolizing the new crops that will be gathered in the new pots.

Norway – Enjoy a Good Crime Thriller

Publishers come out with special “Easter Thrillers” known as Paaskekrimmen. The tradition is said to have started in 1923 when a book publisher promoted its new crime novel on the front pages of newspapers.

Rome, Italy

Visitors congregate in St. Peter’s Square for Mass to receive the Pope’s blessing from the church’s balcony, known as “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”). While on Good Friday the Pope commemorates the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum. This is done by burning torches that light up the sky as Stations of the Cross are described in several languages.

Czech Republic and Slovakia – Be Advised

On Easter Monday, men (playfully) spank women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons. According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women.

Verges, Spain – Dancing in the Streets

On Holy Thursday this Medieval town does the “dansa de la mort” or “death dance. Everyone dresses in skeleton costumes and parades through the streets to reenact The Passion.

Hungary Sprinkle and Smell

“Sprinkling,” is observed on Easter Monday, which is also known as “Ducking Monday.” Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls and ask for a kiss. People used to believe that water had a cleaning, healing and fertility-inducing effect.

Alpine Bakery's Carrot CakeAt Alpine we have our own Easter Traditions which involve creating and serving some exceptional choices from our chef, baking cookies galore and celebrating with you. Please join us for Easter Weekend as we would love to become one of your Easter Traditions. CLICK HERE For MENU.

close up of fresh chocolate mousse

Our Classic Chocolate Mousse Is Sublime.

alpine bakery's espresso cakeNot all Mousse is created equal. Quick or common versions are typically created by folding fresh whipped cream into melted chocolate. These versions have their place in our bakery and in a wide variety of desserts everywhere. Enjoy a dessert with this mousse preparation and you you’ll agree, it’s delicious. But we enjoy creating our authentic Classic Mousse as a unique and complex element in some of our cakes and desserts. Our brand new Espresso Cake is a perfect example. The Classic Mousse serves as both as taste and texture component that elevates the cake to a whole another level.

 

Alpine Bakery's Million Dollar CakeOur Million Dollar Cake which Southern Living Magazine called the “king of the behemoths” also greatly benefits by incorporating our Classic Mousse. It makes this famous cake taste like, well…a million dollars!  Our authentically prepared Classic Mousse is at once silky, rich and foamy. It’s really something worth creating, enjoying and waxing poetic about. Hence this blog.

Since there are so few ingredients involved in our Classic Mousse, the choice of chocolate is critical. We use a premium quality semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate. It contains around 60% cacao. Also the chocolate must have a shiny finish and a make a sharp “snap” sounds when breaking off a piece indicating freshness. First we melt the chocolate with a little coffee and butter. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, the egg yolks are whisked in. Next, egg whites are whipped with a little sugar until stiff peaks form. Then heavy cream is whipped with a little vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. The whipped whites and whipped cream are then carefully folded into the chocolate producing a light and fluffy, yet extremely rich confection. The chocolate flavor is intense and the texture is silky, airy, with an almost foamy feel. After all, “Mousse” is French for ‘froth’ or ‘foam’.

At Alpine, making our Classic Mousse requires finesse and is neither quick nor easy, but you are worth it.  Come in for our band new Espresso Cake or our famous Million Dollar Cake. And if haven’t already, you’re sure to Taste the Love.