A little less than a year ago, Michael took me to Paso Robles for a weekend for a lovely 4th of July weekend and also a celebration of my birthday, as I had been out of country for my birthday in both Germany and the UK for my new job at the time. Paso Robles is a gem with over 250+ wineries in the area, easily accessible, friendly and not overloaded by tourists. I highly recommend it as a destination. It has a lovely downtown area and wineries are easily accessible. We actually used rideshare services while there and found it easy to get around. At the time Uber was the only one, but we are huge fans of Lyft so we were letting people know about getting that ride service there. We enjoyed the entire weekend so much, we were questioning leaving on our last day. We had a great time enjoying the hotel (yay a pool) and premises and the town itself was full of great places to eat. 4th of July fireworks were amazing, as we ended up happening into the center of two shows crossing one another. We loved Paso!
On our way out of Paso, we stopped at a winery/distillery for handcrafted spirits called Re:FIND that was referred to us on our first day in Paso by a couple that goes there often. Re:FIND is another must stop and see, with their own distillery on site, they gather the unused grapes from the area and create magical spirits with them. After visiting there and having a great time, we didn’t want to leave just yet, debating to stay another day. After leaving Re:FIND we drove a bit and came across Coyote Wild winery and bed and breakfast, a small boutique winery literally in the middle of nowhere it would seem. It was hot and dusty on that day, it seemed we were more in the desert than in the wine country and the winery played up on that. It had a feeling of the old west, deserted and on it’s own in the middle of a dusty road. Pretty cool to be able to achieve that in the middle of 250+ other wineries.
The major pick up here, having been “wined out” at this point as the port. We both love port but I was particularly interested in cooking with it when the time was right. Fast forward to a month ago, we decided to make it port day inspired mainly by a recipe I received in my email feed from Epicurious for a port mascarpone tarte. I thought, this is the sign we’ve been waiting for to pop open that port. And if we were going to make the tarte, then why not do a complete dinner with port and use as much of it as possible (with a little to have afterwards to enjoy).
For the main dish in the past I have cooked port sauces with rosemary and shallots, so we stuck to a version of that. Michael happened to have 30 year aged steaks that would work out perfectly. For a salad we complimented the port with blue cheese and figs. Easy recipes though seemingly complex in flavor when you eat them.
But the part that was the hardest and took the longest time was making the tarte. I do not have a tarte pan, so I improvised with my spring form pan. I had never made anything with marscapone before, it is delish, very similar to cream cheese but definitely a better flavor. I have to admit I do not consider myself a baker, but making crusts, pies, cakes and tartes I seem to have better experiences with. Though I will admit I had to play around with the dough quite a bit to achieve the right consistency and the tarte crust was more of a challenge without a tarte pan. But hey, I enjoy challenges! I was so pleased with my results I smiled from ear to ear. And we both did as well when we thoroughly enjoyed every single piece of this tarte! My biggest fear was cutting it, I wondered would it indeed fall apart? It didn’t, but no doubt the reason it didn’t is that I laboriously tried to perfect the tarte over and over again. Definitely worth it.
The tarte process took some time and patience as you’ve probably inferred from “laborious”
The port sauce and preparing the mascarpone into the pan was much easier: