An Unexpected, Delicious Medley

Dessert tends to be the dish that my friends have come to expect in my home, an expectation I undoubtedly fostered given my endless creation of sweet treats. From cakes to cremes, I seem to always being looking for the next-best-challenge on my dinner parties’ grand finales (it should be noted that I have never set foot in the dessert restaurant Finale given my personal standards, though I’m sure they’re fabulous). For this meal, I just happened to have a GIANT bottle of Moscato that my friend TJ had brought over. Being more of a Chardonnay gal, this was bound to become a dusty relic in my pantry, so I had to find a use for it. Best way to get rid of an excess amount of liquid? Poach or Braise. Since this was dessert, the former option was the winner, and I went with Poached Pears in Honey and Cinnamon Syrup.
Using Moscato in a dessert is quite appropriate given its characterization as a “sweet dessert wine.” It is from the family of vines Muscat, allegedly one of the oldest grape species in the world that is also cultivated for table grapes and raisins. The “dessert” varietals are either harvested once fully ripe (even overripe) or fortified with a distilled beverage (such as brandy). These two methods guarantee that the resulting wine will possess the fullest sweetness of the grape. As I mentioned above, I’m drawn to whites with an oaken or buttery taste, so finding a way to use this bottle was a huge relief.
These poached pears were undeniably gorgeous, beautifully shaped and covered with flecks of vanilla bean.  It also creates a beautiful reduced sauce that would have been a shame to waste it…so I baked a cake (surprised?) The cake was Dorie Greenspan’s favorite butter cake, which you can find the recipe for HERE (I’ll do a more in-depth post on this cake at some point – it is AMAZING!) The cake was the perfect sponge, making this already-elegant dessert even more ridiculous. I served them with a few scoops of French Vanilla ice cream – my friends were practically licking the bowl clean. Whether you’re looking to use an unwanted bottle of Moscato or can’t stand the thought of NOT making this dessert in the next 24 hours, you can find the recipe HERE.
Poaching pears and moscato is not a combination many would consider, yet the end result is stunning. That led me to a piece with instrumentation that, though unusual, has a beautiful result: Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question. There are three layers to this piece, each represented by a separate set of instruments: a solo trumpet consistently asking “The Perennial Question,” a woodwind quartet on a quest for “The Invisible Answer,” and an offstage string quartet who represent “the Silences of the Druids—who Know, See and Hear Nothing.” The intermittent trumpet calls are like “flecks” of vanilla throughout, with the winds bringing a marked presence to an otherwise still environment (much like the moscato to the pears). The recording below is with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trkFgIMC-Ks

Sources Cited:
“Muscat (grape),” Wikipedia.com
“A Question is Better than an Answer,” CharlesIves.org

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