Culinary Corner

Sweet aftertaste

Wines with dessert heighten culinary delight

by Despina G. Demetriades and Su Peterson


This fall, lift your next dinner to a higher level of culinary delight by topping off the evening with an exciting wine paired with dessert. We follow the philosophy that wine selection comes first, then choice of dessert; actually, we encourage this for all courses.


Some terrifically tasty autumn desserts include poached pears in red wine, La Tarte Tatin, key lime pie, pumpkin cheesecake, Three Berry Crème Brulee Pie with macadamia crust and Greek walnut cake, or Karidopeta. Alternative desserts include the three Cs: cookies, cheese and chocolate. At the end of a lovely dinner, they hold their own with the right wines and add a tantalizing joy to the evening.


Exquisite pairings

Poached pears in red wine make a perfect dessert after a red meat-focused dinner. While lighter than many desserts, the pear’s delicate flavors become elevated when paired with Brachetto d’Acqui. A sparkling red wine from Italy’s Piedmont region, Brachetto d’Acqui is a sweet, refreshing accompaniment to this dessert. Pears also can be poached in white wine and paired with Sauternes or German Riesling.


Julia Child herself prepared La Tarte Tatin on TV decades ago. Her recommendation to balance this buttery, caramelized apple and sweet cream dessert was a sparkling Vouvray wine. Vouvray, made with the Chenin Blanc grape, comes from France’s Loire Valley, which is known as the garden of France. A demi-sec sparkling Vouvray complements the caramelization in this dessert while adding a palate-refreshing experience with the Vouvray’s sparkle and freshness.


Key lime pie has just the right acidity, sweetness and intensity of flavor to release a waterfall on the palate. Such a zippy, sweet dessert needs a wine with a hint more sweetness while still having good acidity. Pair it with Beaumes de Venise, a sweet wine from France’s Rhône Valley that’s made with the Muscat grape. The aromas of tropical fruit, hints of honey and white flowers follow through onto the palate, matching perfectly with the pie’s flavors.


Pumpkin cheesecake — a fall staple — marries a favorite taste of autumn with a favorite dessert to deliver an outstanding taste experience, especially when paired with Sauternes or Champagne.


Berries abound this time of year, so bake a Three Berry Crème Brulee Pie with macadamia crust and enjoy it with Banyuls — a port-style sweet red wine — or Ruby Port. Karidopeta is an easy-to-prepare dessert that pairs exotically with a Greek Muscato or a Pessito from Italy.


The three Cs

Twice-baked cookies — better known as biscotti in Italy, Paximadia in Greece and Carquinyolis in Spain — come in a variety of flavors and consistencies. At the end of a delicious yet filling dinner, savor this dessert with a glass of Vin Santo, a sweet wine from Tuscany that’s made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Italians dunk their biscotti into Vin Santo, so when in Rome …


An intriguing, tasty pairing with regional cheeses is Jurançon, a sweet white wine from Southwest France. Regional cheeses include Roquefort, a blue cheese; Cabecou, made from goat’s milk; Cantal Laguiole, made from cow’s milk; and Ossau Iraty, made from sheep’s milk. Dessert-style Jurançon, typically made with Petit Manseng grapes, is not as sweet as most Sauternes but has flavors reminiscent of pineapple, orange zest, and honey drops, with floral notes. The winemaker might toss in some lesser-known grapes like Camaralet, Courbu and Lauzet for taste.


Last but certainly not least comes the dessert option of chocolate with a complex wine. Several selections pair nicely with white chocolate, including Moscato d’Asti and Muscat d’Orange. With milk chocolate, the palate likely prefers sparkling wine, Champagne or a good Ruby Port. Bring out a rich Pinot Noir for dark chocolates around 55 percent and Banyuls for fine chocolates over 60 percent. Generally aged about eight years in oak, Banyuls exudes red fruit accented with vanilla bean flavors. It’s a classic match that will create a splendid memory.


Whether you select a dessert before wine or take our audacious path of selecting wine first, visit your knowledgeable, independent wine retailer for assistance. The bottom line: Have fun and live.


Despina G. Demetriades and Su Peterson are co-owners of Zeto, a wine and cheese shop in Greensboro. To learn more, call (336) 574-2850 or visit


How to serve dessert wine

A general rule of thumb for serving dessert wine is that it be sweeter than the dessert itself. Chill the wine to between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit and serve a three-ounce pour per person. Taste the

Simple fall fare

by Chef Tara Davis


It seems that once the humidity subsides and the air becomes crisper, the entertaining commitments begin to stack up. We’ve all been there. You’ve been invited to a friend’s house for dinner far too many times, and now it’s time to reciprocate. But you’re tired, busy and are at a complete loss as to what to make.


Most of us have certain foolproof dishes to turn to when company is coming, yet often it’s the other required courses — namely dessert and appetizers — that leave us feeling overwhelmed.


In an effort to relieve some of this stress — and, dare I say, let you actually enjoy the cooking process as well as your guests — I’ve come up with a few dessert options that capture the flavors of the season and a super-easy appetizer that literally never disappoints.


Fall fare wouldn’t be complete without apples and pumpkins. In fact, I rarely cook with them other than this time of year. I’ve always loved apple crisp, in large part due to its irresistible buttery, crunchy streusel topping. It’s a brilliant contrast of texture with the softened apples and hits some of the salty-sweet flavor profile that I continually strive for in my cooking.


When I was younger, I used to make an apple-almond crisp — or should I say many of them — during fall months. A few years ago, I started making it into a pie instead. I know what you’re thinking: Why complicate things? But if you use a refrigerated pie crust, it makes putting this together a lot easier than making one from scratch, and you still get the benefits of both a pie and a crisp. To me, this is a match made in heaven.


I’m a big proponent of almonds and try to sneak them into different recipes. They’re rich in protein and omega 3s and are a good source of fat, and a little goes along way. I love how they complement the apples in this pie. Serve it warm à la mode with vanilla ice cream, and your guests will be reminded of the family dinners of their childhoods.


I also like to use almonds as a well-placed garnish for baked brie with apricots and honey. This is a quick, delicious appetizer that can be assembled ahead of time or à la minute, and it never fails to delight. You also can make a few at a time and give them out to friends or take to the next potluck. Simply layer phyllo dough sheets with melted butter, place a small wheel of brie in the center, top with apricot preserves, seal it up, and bake until golden brown and flaky. Then drizzle it with good-quality honey and sliced almonds. It’s wonderful served with whole-grain crackers and a sliced baguette. If you’re not a big fan of apricots, then you also can make this with fig preserves — both are equally delectable.


My cousin is a big fan of pumpkins, so each year I like to come up with new ways to surprise her. This year, I made a parfait. I start out with crushed gingersnaps, then make a pumpkin filling with whipped cream cheese and the standard pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. I layer it with the cookies and a fresh cinnamon-scented whipped cream and let it sit overnight. It becomes a cool, creamy, almost cheesecake-like dessert with lots of pumpkin spice flavor. This makes a perfect end to a fall meal. It looks lovely and sophisticated served individually, yet it also gives that familiar taste of comfort that we’re all looking for this time of year.


I’m always searching for ways to cut down on day-of cooking time. These three recipes can be prepared ahead, leaving you with less to do before guests arrive — and hopefully enough time to do your hair.


Tara Davis is a personal chef and cooking instructor based in Chapel Hill. An active member of the Slow Foods USA/Triangle and a supporter of the local farm-to-table movement, she frequently offers group cooking demonstrations through her company, The Studious Chef. To learn more, visit



Fall recipes

Recipes by Chef Tara Davis  |  Photography by Flint Davis


baked brieHoneyed Baked Brie With Apricots and Almonds

(serves six)


12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

1/3-cup apricot preserves

1/4-cup sliced almonds

3-4 tablespoons honey

1 small wheel brie cheese (about 8 ounces)

1/4-cup butter, melted


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay one sheet of phyllo vertically on the baking sheet, and brush with melted butter. Place another sheet of dough on top and brush with butter. Do this with six sheets. Then place the seventh through 12th sheets horizontally so that you have a cross of dough.


Place the brie in the center. Spread the apricot preserves on top.


Gently lift one end of the phyllo dough and bring it to the center. Holding it with your thumb and forefinger, fold and cinch the dough around the brie to make a bundle. Brush with remaining butter and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and flaky.


Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with almonds. Serve with crackers or a sliced baguette.

Pumpkin ParfaitPumpkin Gingersnap Parfaits

(serves six)


For the Parfaits and Pumpkin Filling:

1 cup gingersnap cookies, crushed

12 ounces whipped cream cheese

3/4-cup pumpkin puree

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4-teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4-teaspoon ground cloves

1/2-teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of salt


For the Cinnamon Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon



In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.


To assemble, line up six parfait glasses or custard cups and sprinkle the bottoms of each with 1 to 2 tablespoons of gingersnap cookies, then cover with a large spoonful of the pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle each with more gingersnaps, then a large spoonful of whipped cream. Repeat, layering until all ingredients have been used. End with a layer of whipped cream and garnish with remaining gingersnaps. Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

apple pieApple Almond Streusel Pie

(serves eight)


For the Streusel Topping:

1/2-cup unsalted butter, diced

1/4-cup all-purpose flour

3/4-cup brown sugar

1/2-cup oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4-cup sliced almonds

Pinch of salt


For the Pie:

1 refrigerated pie crust

5 Braeburn, Gala or Jonagold apples, peeled, cored,
and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/4-cup all-purpose flour

1/4-cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4-teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the streusel by combining all topping ingredients a bowl. Mix with your hands or a pastry cutter until the mixture forms small, pea-sized clumps. Set aside.


In a large mixing bowl, toss apples with flour, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and almond extracts until evenly coated.


Press pie crust into a 9-inch-deep pie plate and crimp the edges. Add apples to pie plate and sprinkle topping in an even layer over apples. Bake for 25 minutes, then place aluminum foil over the pie to prevent overbrowning. Continue to bake for another 25 minutes or until the top is golden and juices are bubbling.

Fine wine

Fine wine

Tours showcase state’s bounty

by Danielle Jackson


It’s hard to believe that almost 100 wineries call North Carolina home. The state — ranked No. 7 in the country in wine production — also is quickly becoming one of the top wine destinations in the country. And for good reason.


Located everywhere from the mountains to the coast, wineries offer a homegrown taste of what the state offers. And a growing movement is making sure that North Carolina residents know what’s available locally.


“Despite the fact that we have so many wineries, there are still people just realizing that we have a wine industry here,” says Margo Knight Metzger, executive director for the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council, an advocacy group established in 1986 to promote the industry.


“We try to make sure everyone knows that there’s a winery nearby,” she adds. “No matter where you live in the state, there’s a winery within 100 miles.”


The state of grapes

Winemaking actually is quite a tradition in North Carolina. The first commercial winery was established in 1835, with 25 wineries in operation by 1900. The state was leading the country in wine production by the turn of the 20th century, but in 1919 Prohibition drew everything to a halt.


“A few wineries managed to stay in business making juice and Communion wine,” Metzger says.


The late 1990s were a time of resurgence for the North Carolina wine industry, with the number of wineries jumping to 34 by 2004. Today, there are 96 throughout the state, with the heaviest concentration in the western Piedmont.


“The Piedmont area is becoming known for it vineyards and excellent wines,” says Scott Stanley, owner and general manager of Autumn Creek Vineyards in Mayodan.


North Carolina wineries focus on two varieties: native Muscadine and European-style Vinifera grapes.


Muscadine grapes — also known as Scuppernong, the official fruit of North Carolina — thrive in the hot, sandy conditions of the coastal region, while Vinifera — with varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Viognier — primarily are grown in the Piedmont and western regions.


“If you think about the state and how varied it is from the high mountains to the foothills to the clay of the Piedmont and sand of the flat, coastal plains, you’ll see that we grow different grapes for all of these places,” Metzger notes.


“Each wine has a sense of place, wherever it’s coming from.”


Autumn Creek, for instance, has a 100-acre farm with 15 acres of vines and offers 12 varieties, from dry reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to whites such as Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio.


A whirlwind of wine

To showcase these varieties at wineries throughout the state, the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council helps promote the dozens of wine trails available.And with N.C. Wine Appreciation Month in September, it’s a better time than ever to see the state’s wine growers in action.


“It’s farming at its core,” Metzger says of the industry.


“I have been amazed at the resiliency of the people in this business, and impressed with their ability to weather a variety of storms, both economic and traditional.”


Autumn Creek is one such success story. The vineyard, which features a tasting room in addition to cabins for weekend getaways, is adding a 6,000-square-foot pavilion for hosting larger indoor and outdoor weddings and other events.


“We are committed to becoming the premier vineyard in the Triad and plan to continue to add to our facility with the addition of two more planned cabins, as well as with the planting of additional grape vines,” Stanley says.


Metzger notes that in addition to the quantity of wineries available today, quality has improved as well.


“There are so many North Carolina wines that I’m proud to pour for people,” she says.


“For those who think they know North Carolina wine but haven’t tried it lately, I’d suggest trying it again.”


Danielle Jackson is editor of Triad Living, Wake Living and Fifteen501 magazines.


On the wine trail

Fall is the perfect time to head to any one of the region’s many wineries and explore all that winemaking in North Carolina has to offer.


Check out these trails — all within an hour or so — to take it all in. For a full list or for a map of the state’s many wine trails, call toll-free (877) 362-9463 or visit


Haw River Wine Trail: Conveniently located between the Triangle and Triad, this set of four wineries follows the path of the Haw River and features European varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Savignon, Muscadine wines like Carlos and Magnolia, and dessert wines made from blackberries and strawberries. Wineries include Benjamin Vineyards & Winery in Saxapahaw, GlenMarie Vineyards & Winery in Burlington, Grove Winery in Gibsonville, and Glen Iron Gate Vineyards in Mebane.


Piedmont Heritage Wine Trail: This relaxing drive through the rolling hills and farmland of the northern Piedmont region includes stops at Stonefield Cellars in Stokesdale, Grove Winery in Gibsonville, Chinqua Penn Vineyards in Reidsville and Autumn Creek Vineyards in Mayodan. These wineries feature almost every type of wine imaginable, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Muscadine varieties like Carlos and Niagara.


Yadkin Valley Wine’s Lexington Loop: This tour of four Yadkin Valley wineries takes you through prime farmland just southwest of Winston-Salem. Wineries on the tour include Childress Vineyards, Weathervane Winery and Junius Lindsay Vineyard in Lexington, and RayLen Vineyards in Mocksville.


Yadkin Valley Wine’s Scenic 421 Corridor: This trail — which meanders along a section of U.S. Highway 421 — stretches from Benny Parsons Rendezvous Ridge in Purlear to Alison Oaks Vineyards and Hanover Park Vineyard in Yadkinville to Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville.

Key West kick

The Village Grill remains a local favorite after 25 years

by Danielle Jackson


In July 1985, Randy Cox’s dream of opening his own restaurant came true. After eight years in food service and seven as manager of The Cutting Board Restaurant in Burlington, Cox was eager to have a place he could call his own. When property owners approached him with an opportunity to open his own place on Huffman Mill Road, he jumped at the chance.


Twenty-five years — and two additional restaurants — later, Cox’s creation, The Village Grill, still stands as one of Alamance County’s most popular eateries.


The restaurant — best described as an American grill with a Key West feel — is known for its signature Key West Chicken and fresh seafood specialties.


“The folks at The Cutting Board had been very good to me, and I didn’t want to be in direct competition with them as another steakhouse,” Cox says of his decision to focus on white-meat entrees.


A focus on fresh

Cox and his business partner, Wayne Bunting, say their focus on fresh, locally grown foods is a primary reason for The Village Grill’s success over the years. There’s no such thing as a bagged salad or frozen seafood at the restaurant, and all dressings and desserts — including its signature key lime pie, chocolate pie and strawberry shortcake — are created on the premises.


The Village Grill also serves North Carolina-raised poultry, locally made beer from nearby Red Oak Brewery, wines from Iron Gate Vineyards & Winery in Mebane and Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, and fresh local produce whenever possible. A new fresh seafood item is featured every week, from mahi and ahi tuna to crab cakes and grilled Atlantic salmon.


But the restaurant’s Key West Chicken remains a fan favorite. There’s an entire section of the menu dedicated to the specialty, which is marinated and tenderized on site. The marinade, which has a citrus and lime juice base, includes a specialized mix of brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and mustard, among other ingredients.


“We put a lot of time and energy into it,” Bunting says of the marinade.


The eatery’s décor — designed as an island theme with help from local artist John Wade — ties into its Key West theme. The Village Grill includes an open, airy dining room that seats up to 150 people and a bar in the back.


“We’re a restaurant in the bar business, not a bar in the restaurant business,” Bunting notes.


Cox and Bunting — who met while working for Biscuitville and also own the Blue Ribbon Diners in Burlington and Mebane — often can be seen around the restaurant, clearing tables after a busy lunch. It’s this focus on customer service that they also say keeps patrons coming back.


“Offering good service and good food have always been key elements in the success of The Village Grill,” Cox says.


Danielle Jackson is editor of Triad Living, Wake Living and Fifteen501 magazines.


Shrimp and Grits

(serves six to eight; recipe by Wesley Cook)


For the Stone-Ground Cheese Grits:

1/3-cup or about 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2-cup onion, thinly diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 quarts or 6 cups chicken or shrimp stock

2 cups water

2 cups stone-ground grits

1/4-teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2-teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1/4-cup Parmesan, shredded

2 ounces butter

1/2-cup heavy cream


Rub the red bell pepper with some vegetable oil. Roast at 425 degrees or under a broiler until skin turns black, constantly turning it over to cook evenly. Place pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to help loosen the skin. Remove blackened skin and core, then dice and set aside.


Place a teaspoon of oil and diced onion in a saucepan and sauté on medium-high until softened and golden. Add garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add roasted red pepper, stock and water, and bring mixture to a boil. Add grits and stir vigorously with a whisk. Let the mixture come back to a boil, then let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. While grits are cooking, prepare the shrimp (see below).


After grits are cooked, remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Cover with foil and set aside.


For the Shrimp:

36 to 40 shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails on

2 tablespoons blackening spice or Creole seasoning

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large tomato, diced

1/2-pound Andouille or another spicy sausage, diced

1/3-bottle white wine


In a bowl, toss shrimp with spices. Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high with oil, then add sausage and tomato and cook until sausage starts to turn a darker brown. Add shrimp to pan and cook on one side. Turn shrimp over and deglaze pan with enough white wine to cover the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until wine has mostly evaporated and shrimp are opaque. Remove from heat.


To serve, scoop grits into large bowls or plates and place about six shrimp on top of each. Pour tomatoes, sausage and wine over top.


If you go

The Village Grill is located at 580 Huffman Mill Road, across from Holly Hill Mall in Burlington. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. To learn more, call (336) 584-1497 or visit