Monday, October 12, 2009

Love Me Some Concord

Concord grapes are in season and popping up everywhere from seasonal items incorporated into grocery store products to center pieces on fall harvest menus. It is a fantastic pair for all the flavors of Autumn. Concord grapes have an intense grape flavor, both sweet and tart. They tend to be the best grape source for juices and jams. Recently, I have enjoyed these grapes in a few unusual fashions: pureed into a pie filling, as an ice cream and a sauce over fish and roasted butternut squash.

When it comes to ice cream, I tend to stay away from the "premium" fruity flavored ones. To me, there is not a better base than the indulgent flavors of vanilla or chocolate. I've seen everything from orange ice cream to blueberry ice cream, and they all fail to live up to the traditional vanilla and chocolate. I made an exception for a hand crafted Concord grape ice cream. It was so unusual that I just HAD to try it. The flavor combination reminded me of grape soda topped with a creamy vanilla ice cream (not that I've ever had a grape soda float...gross.). The Concord grape gave the cream a potent flavor and was well bound in the smooth texture and consistency of the iced cream. It was full bodied and had a luxurious mouth feel.

Grape pie is not a particularly unusual product, but I had never tried it before. I was in love. The strong flavor and jelly-like consistency of the grape puree was a well suited filling for buttery flaky pie crust. If you think about it, grape jelly is a magnificent pair for buttery biscuits and croissants so it was no surprise that it would be a perfect match for a pie. It was a dessert worthy of any fall menu.

The most surprising flavor combination of the three items I tried was the Concord grape sauce, served over seared halibut and puree of roasted butternut squash. The fish was phenomenally cooked; light, moist and flaky. The butternut squash was roasted and pureed giving it a nice consistency, texture and sweetness. The Concord grape sauce really pulled the dish together. It gave an added flavor to the fish and the tartness of the grape was exhibited through the sweetness of the butternut squash. It was such a fantastic combination that I wanted to savor...the last bite came all too quickly.

If you haven't tried this grape, you are in for a treat.



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