April Cookbook Review: Seasons in A Vermont Vineyard

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By Sarah Strauss

I should say, to be perfectly honest, that I know next to nothing about wine. When we go out to dinner, I rely on oenophile friends to select wine for me, or I will ask the waitstaff, with my upturned eyes wide with pleading, to help me pair a glass with my entrée. How lucky I am then, to have Seasons In A Vermont Vineyard: The Shelburne Vineyard Cookbook by Lisa Cassell-Arms sitting on my shelf.

Each of the recipes in this cookbook includes a wine pairing suggestion, as a small descriptive note at the bottom of the recipe. There is also a brief, but helpful, pairing guide just after the introduction. Instead of having to ask a friend or a stranger for a suggested pairing, I might feel empowered do it all on my own.

This beautiful book is divided into four seasons, with a brief narrative about the life and workings of the vineyard prefacing each section. Each of the recipes were contributed or developed by friends or staff of the Shelburne Vineyard, and this personal stamp of the vineyard is prominent throughout. The sun-saturated photographs pop off of the pages and whet the appetite, as well as capture the character of the Shelburne Vineyard and its staff.

From the Spring section, I especially loved the Duck with Rhubarb-Rosé Sauce. After straining the sauce, I smashed the remaining rhubarb solids into mashed potatoes to serve alongside, as the recipe suggests, and this small step elevated the humble side of potatoes to a fantastic dish nearly equal to the duck itself. Top that meal off with the dark and sinful Red-Wine Chocolate Cake, or with the light and sweet Riesling Poached Pears with Ice Cream.

The Summer section yielded up another favorite, a Watermelon Salad with Feta and Picked Red Onions that we slurped up happily, a perfect balance of salty, sweet and tangy flavors. There’s also the Duck Confit Tacos, deceptively simple to make, but so delicious. To finish, the Blueberry Ginger Crisp makes the most of our fleeting Vermont blueberry season.

In the Fall section, Rhiannon’s Red Wine Risotto with Blue Cheese stood out with bold flavors in each warm, filling mouthful. Gail’s Apple Crisp follows with a homey and comforting simplicity that satisfied my sweet tooth, and the under-appreciated quince gets a starring role in Sarah’s Quince Cake.

The Winter section featured Ethan’s Butternut and Beer Soup to warm our spirits, and a bright and festive Clementine Cake with Fromage Blanc to keep the winter blues at bay. I also loved the hearty Bison and Mushroom Bolognese, cold weather comfort food at its best.

At this point, I should say, as a disclaimer, that I helped to test the recipes and contributed to Seasons In A Vermont Vineyard. It was a great pleasure to work on this book, and I hope that the cooks who use it will enjoy it as much as I have.

“Seasons In A Vermont Vineyard: The Shelburne Vineyard Cookbook” by Lisa Cassell-Arms. Photographs by David Seaver. Published by Queen City Printers, Inc., 2014. 134 pages.

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