Cocktails Food

A Valentine’s Day Sommelier Deathmatch!

Happy V Day!

I was hoping to post something between this dinner party and the last one but with classes in full swing my schedule is jam-packed and I’m exhausted at the end of the day.

That’s not to say I’m struggling because I actually don’t feel like I’m struggling for the first time in a long time. I’m just your typical busy working mom still trying to carve out time for things I enjoy.

One of those things is putting together dinner party menus and cooking for my friends. Both of which I did this past Saturday!

The Valentine’s Day Dinner Party Menu

  • Cocktail: Love Potion #9 with Baked Halloumi Cheese and Hot Honey
  • Appetizer: Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates
  • Soup/Salad: Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Basil Cream
  • Main: Duck Breast with Raspberry Maple Sauce, Potato Puree, and Warm Brussel Sprout Salad
  • Dessert: Apple Rose Frangipane Tarts with Vanilla Cream

This was another Sommelier Deathmatch where each couple brought a wine recommendation from their local Sommelier and we voted on our favorite pairing — click here to learn more in my first Sommelier Death Match Post.

Cocktail: Love Potion #9 with Baked Halloumi Cheese and Hot Honey

I am very proud of this cocktail and pairing! I worked on it for a few weeks leading up to the party and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out. The salty cheese went great with the grapefruit cocktail.

Love Potion #9 Cocktail Recipe

(makes 4 cocktails)

  • 8 oz gin
  • Juice of two pink grapefruits (~ 8oz)
  • 1 tbsp simple syrup
  • 4 cocktail cherries + juice
  • Perchaud bitters

Shake the gin, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain and pour into martini glasses. Place a cherry in the center of each one and drizzle a little of the cherry juice in so it sinks to the bottom. Top with a dash or two of the bitters. (This would work without the bitters too, it just added a fun dimension)

For the Halloumi I pretty much followed this recipe on Half baked Harvest. They went perfectly with the cocktail!

Appetizer: Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

This appetizer was fun to make and fun to eat! It’s just dates stuffed with pecorino, wrapped in bacon and roasted. They were delicious.

Appetizer Wine Paring

Sommelier #1 selection: Bougrier Pure Loire Sparkling Vouvray

Sommelier #2 selection: Angelo Negro Unfiltered Rosso Piedmont

Again, the first matchup was more exciting than we thought it would be. There was much deliberation and when the time came to vote the sparkling wine eeked out a win.

Result: 3-1 Sommelier #1’s selection of Bougrier Pure Loire Sparkling Vouvray

Soup: Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Basil Cream

This soup may have been the dish of the night! I was so proud of it.

A few days before the party I roasted some red bell peppers and shallots. Then I pureed them with a can of whole roasted tomatoes and some basil leaves. Then the day of the party I added some homemade chicken stock to the puree and let it simmer for a few hours.

The cream is some yogurt mixed with olive oil, basil, and milk. And finally, the crouton was just some Italian bread I cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled on some salt, garlic, basil, and paprika, and then baked until crispy.

Soup Wine Pairing

Sommelier #1 selection: Le Pre Vaujour Chinon

Sommelier #2 selection: 2015 Federico Bonfio Le Portine Toscana IGT

This matchup also resulted in a 3-1 vote but this time for Sommelier #2’s pick. Again both wines were great, and we were really just splitting hairs as we had to pick one for the vote.

Result: 3-1 Sommelier #2 selection of 2015 Federico Bonfio Le Portine Toscana IGT

Main: Duck Breast with Raspberry Maple Sauce, Potato Puree, and Warm Brussel Sprout Salad

I envisioned this plate when I was planning the menu and I’m happy to say it came out exactly how I wanted.

The duck was simply prepared in my cast iron and then topped with a simple raspberry maple sauce I made with some of the duck fat, shallots, garlic, frozen raspberries, and maple syrup.

The Brussels sprouts were sauteed with some of the duck fat, dried cranberries, and some walnuts. Finally, the potatoes were cooked in milk and butter and then run through my ricer.

The dish came together even better than I expected. The raspberry sauce was fun and it really complimented all three components of the dish.

Main Dish Wine Pairing

Sommelier #1 selection: Monticello Estate Merlot 2017

Sommelier #2 selection: 2020 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso

The main course matchup took the longest for us to decide so it’s only appropriate that it resulted in a tie! Straight down the middle! Each couple ended up choosing their sommelier’s pick.

Result: 2-2 tie

Dessert: Apple Rose Frangipane Tarts with Vanilla Cream

Confession time! I never thought, in a million years I could make a dessert like this. It not only came out beautiful but it was freakin’ delicious! by far the best dessert I’ve ever made!

I got the idea for the rose from this recipe but I changed the flavor base of the tart and used a few recipes to come up with the rest of the dessert.

Dessert Wine Pairing

Sommelier #1 selection: Elfenhof Gewurztraminer Spatlese

Sommelier #2 selection: Campbells Rutherglen Muscat

The dessert course wine pick was much easier to decide but still ended in a tie. It seems both couples have very different tastes when it comes to dessert wines. Yet again each couple chose their sommelier’s pick.

Result: 2-2 tie


The sommeliers tied straight down the middle and again, this was more fun than I could have hoped. I’d love to go into even more details but I need sleep and I’m in the middle of finally binging Ted Lasso. So I going to sneak in one more episode before I head to bed.

Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!

Click here to see other Sommelier Deathmatches.

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