The festive consumption of food and drink is an important social ritual throughout the world. Convivium (Latin: “living together”), or banquet, often accommodates large numbers of diners. In contrast though, it can also refer to more private affairs in which the host entertains a small group of family, friends, and business associates.

This month we offer a group of delectable ingredients to make your gatherings (large or small) more convivial—most specifically, your libations. With their natural seasonings and aromatics, this diverse set will help you to create a true feast for the senses!

  • VR Aceti-Balsam Organic Tomato Balsamic Vinegar – 250 ml
  • Casina Rossa Caperberries in wine
  • Mama Lil’s Pickled Asparagini 
  • I Peccati Di Ciacco Spiritosi: Amarena cherries in Barolo Chinato
  • Bradley’s Kina Tonic
  • The Bitter Housewife Barrel-Aged Bitters
  • Rishi Organic Earl Grey Tea
  • Cortas Orange Blossom Water

Products Imported from Italy, Lebanon, and made in the USA.

VR ACETI BALSAM ORGANIC TOMATO BALSAMIC VINEGAR

With its invigorating sweet and savory flavor, VR Aceti-Balsam’s Organic Tomato Balsamic Vinegar is ideal for turning up the taste in salads, sauces and tomato-based dishes.

Excellent for a tomato vinaigrette, or for a new take on Caprese, tomato or seafood salads.

Top freshly grilled tuna, halibut or oysters, or bring a light tomato flavor to chicken burgers, fish burgers, hamburgers or other dishes where ketchup is used. Adds a new twist to Bloody Marys and Gin & Tonics.

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CASINA ROSSA CAPERBERRIES IN WINE

Caperberries immersed in brightly-flavored wine. Garnish meats, poultry, cheese, crackers, and antipasti. A welcome companion for wine, beer, and Martinis and Bloody Marys..

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MAMA LIL’S PICKLED ASPARAGINI

Mama Lil’s Pickled Asparagini are a crisp spicy spear that’s that firm enough to serve on a veggie platter and hold its head up in a Bloody Mary! 

Mama Lil’s uses only the best locally grown and freshest natural ingredients. All of their produce is selected to create some of the world’s tastiest gourmet food products.

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I PECCATI DI CIACCO SPIRITOSI: AMARENA CHERRIES IN BAROLO CHINATO

Whole Amarena cherries preserved in one of Italy’s most evocative digestivi: Barolo Chinato. This elusive bitters-like wine is made from Barolo infused with herbs and bark, giving it a pleasing cherry and herbal taste. The whole cherries absorb the nuance of this wine, making for an elegant garnish for your favorite cocktails with a flavorful syrup for bitters, mixers and toppings. Adds a superb finish to roasted duck breast, venison, or pork. All natural with no preservatives.

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BRADLEY’S KINA TONIC

Bradley’s Kina Tonic is a non-alcoholic tonic concentrate made from real cinchona bark, warm spices, and real orange oil, and is some of the best damn tonic in the world. Brewed in small batches in Seattle, Washington and made completely by hand, you’ll never have anything quite like this. The flavors are bold and fresh when combined in a classic Gin & Tonic. One 8oz bottle of the Kina Tonic is enough for more than 10 Gin & Tonics according to the recipe on the side of the bottle. All you need is some great Gin and sparkling water to enjoy the most flavorful and classic Gin & Tonic of your life.

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THE BITTER HOUSEWIFE BARREL-AGED BITTERS

There’s something about barrel aging that brings out the best in liquids. Our Barrel Aged Bitters are no different. Made in a well-seasoned whiskey barrel, these bitters are rich and smooth – perfect for spirit-forward drinks like a Manhattan.

You’ll taste a lot of vanilla flavor from the oak, balanced nicely by a hint of smoke from the charred barrels. These bitters are sure to be a hit with bourbon and scotch lovers.

You can also use in any recipe that calls for aromatic bitters and would benefit from a rich, slightly smoky bitters.

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RISHI ORGANIC EARL GREY TEA

A special reserve for Earl Grey lovers! Rishi infuses their top grades of Yunnan Dianhong black tea with the essential oil pressed from real bergamot citrus fruits grown in Calabria, Italy to yield their Earl Grey Supreme blend. Only bergamot oil made during the first pressing of the year, around November-December, which has the most fragrant perfume and floral aromatic complexity is utilized in this exquisite tea’s preparation.

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CORTAS ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER

Orange blossom water has a long history in many Mediterranean countries. It is distilled from bitter orange blossoms and adds wonderful, aromatic citrus notes to drinks, salads and desserts.

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Convivium Pantry Collection Recipes

Shrubs

In the drink world, a shrub (or drinking vinegar) is a concentrated syrup that combines fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the most common base for shrubs, and herbs and spices are often added to create interesting flavor combinations. This sweet, acidic mixer can be enjoyed with still water or soda or used in various mixed drinks. Homemade shrubs are inexpensive and let you explore all of the flavor possibilities to create custom drinks.

Many people enjoy drinking shrubs as a way to enjoy the health benefits of vinegar in a tasty beverage. Shrubs can stand alone in drinks when topped with either cold still, or sparkling water, or clear sodas such as club soda or ginger ale, and can form a tasty base for cocktails and wine spritzers.

 

Basic Shrub Recipe

It’s typical for shrubs to use 1 cup of fruit with 1 cup each of vinegar and sugar (this ratio can be adjusted to taste). Add herbs, spices or bitters to taste; one tablespoon is a good place to start with most ingredients. This will yield a nice amount of shrub for experimentation and quite a few drinks. Once made, store shrubs in the refrigerator for up to six months.

When deciding which herbs and spices to pair with a particular fruit, think about natural flavor pairings. For instance, strawberry and basil work great together, and apple is very nice with either ginger or rosemary. Balsamic and fruit and wine vinegars also add interest and lively flavors to the basic mix.

 

Grappa Shrub Recipe

This grappa-based shrub should be prepared well ahead of time, and can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for weeks.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Organic Tomato Balsamic Vinegar

2 Jiggers Spiritosi Syrup

1 Jigger Grappa

2 Jiggers Red Vermouth

1 Jigger Aperol Liquer

3 – 4 sprigs Rosemary

Add the first five ingredients to a mixing jar, combine well, and then add a sprig of rosemary. Cover and allow to stand at least all day, or overnight.

To prepare a Spritz:

Orange peel for garnish

Spiritosi Amarena cherries

Sparkling or tonic water

Ice

Put a handful of ice into a medium wine glass. Add in one jigger of the shrub. Top up with sparkling or tonic water and stir gently to mix.

Garnish with a skewer of orange peel and Amarena cherries, and a short sprig of rosemary.

 

Bitters

Bitters don’t need to be mixed in a complicated cocktail. Many people simply add aromatic bitters to soda water or wine to make a refreshing low ABV beverage. And, something as simple as a gin and tonic can benefit from a few dashes of bitters.

Cocktail bitters can be added to food recipes to add aromatics and delicious herbal overtones. Try a few dashes in squash soup, chocolate chip cookies, ham glaze, pesto, onion dip, or meatballs.

According to Smithsonian magazine, Farmer’s Cabinet, an agriculture periodical published in Philadelphia, made an early description of what we know to be a cocktail in 1806. It called for four ingredients: “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”  If bitters were mainstream by 1806, when did they really come around? Most sources point to ancient Egyptian times where wine was infused with herbs. Fast forward to the middle ages where bitters, along with distilled alcohol became staples in pharmacology and medicine.

To make bitters, you have to start with a bittering agent: anything from edible flowers and leaves to roots and barks that provide a strong bitter base. The bitter base flavor is then layered with other botanicals such as dried fruits, toasted nuts, citrus peel, herbs like rosemary, sage, or mint, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice. Bitters are made by infusing and blending all of the botanical ingredients in high proof alcohol. This extracts a deep concentrated flavor and acts as a preservative.

 

GIN & TONIC

One cocktail

Ingredients

1 Lemon

Pinch of sea salt

Dash of Bitters

2 oz Gin

5 oz Tonic Water

3-4 Caperberries in Wine

1 Sprig of Rosemary

Ice

Method

Use a vegetable peeler to take a big strip of zest off the lemon, trying to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.  The pith has little flavor and is very bitter.

Get your glass, and rub the lemon peel inside the glass (cut side against the glass). This will coat the inside of the glass with lemon oil that will perfume your drink to the last drop.

Add in ice cubes and then the pinch of salt and dash of Bitters.  The salt helps bring out the herbal flavors of the drink. Then pour in the gin and tonic (to taste).

Thread the caperberries onto a toothpick (for easy removal later on) and drop them into the drink.  The caperberries in wine are critical here – regular caperberries are soaked in a vinegar brine and are quite acidic and would really clash with the drink. The caperberries soaked in wine have all the floral qualities of a caper, but a sweet finish that pairs perfectly with the tonic water. They’re great to nibble on as you sip your drink.

Release some of the oils from the rosemary by rubbing the sprig between your fingers and then drop the spring onto the top of the drink. Let the rosemary float on top of the drink so the aromas last until you’re done.

 

Watermelon and Orange Blossom water iced tea

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 cups boiling water

2 Earl Grey tea bags

Small watermelon, peeled, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons orange blossom water

2 cups chilled mineral water

Fresh mint sprigs, to serve

Ice-cubes, to serve

Method

Place boiling water and tea bags in a large heatproof jug. Set aside for 5 minutes to steep. Remove and discard tea bags. Cool tea for 20 minutes.

Place watermelon in a blender. Blend until smooth. Strain mixture into tea. Discard solids. Add orange blossom water. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cold.

Pour mixture into glasses with mint sprigs and ice-cubes, about 3/4 full. Top with mineral water and stir to blend.

Note: Depending on the sweetness of the watermelon, you may need to add a little sugar, to taste. If you wish, Vodka or Gin can be added (to taste) to the glass of this mixture to make a light, refreshing summer cocktail.

 

Orange Carpaccio with Orange-Flower Water and Pistachios

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 navel oranges, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise

2 small grapefruits or blood oranges, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water

2 Tablespoons shelled pistachios, chopped

Pinch of flaky sea salt

Method

Arrange orange slices on a serving platter, overlapping slightly.

Whisk together olive oil and orange-flower water in a small bowl. Drizzle oil mixture evenly over the citrus; top with pistachios and a light sprinkling of sea salt.

 

Orange Blossom Cake

Ingredients

4 eggs, room temperature and separated (yolk from white)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water

Zest of 2 oranges

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup room temperature butter

2.5 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup fresh orange juice

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare your cake pan by lightly greasing and lining with parchment paper or flouring. We use a 9 inch springform pan, you can also use a bundt cake pan.

Using your fingertips, work the orange zest into the sugar until the sugar has moistened and turned fragrant and changed into a pale yellow/orange color.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle or whisk attachment, mix the egg yolks, orange zest scented sugar, vanilla, and orange blossom water on medium high speed for 2-3 minutes or until pale yellow and fluffy.

Add the oil and the butter and mix until well combined. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until just combined, then add the juice and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl (either with a handheld mixer, or transfer the cake batter to another bowl and thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl) use an electric whisk to whisk the egg whites on medium high speed for 2-4 minutes until they form peaks that hold their shape. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter with a rubber spatula; do this in three additions. Take care not to deflate the egg whites.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If the outside of the cake is browning too rapidly and the inside still isn’t fully cooked, cover loosely with foil for the remainder of the baking time. Start checking at 40 minutes, every oven is different.

Cool before removing from the pan, and serve plain, dusted with powdered sugar or topped with whipped cream and berries.

Interested in joining our Wine Club? Give us a call at the store: 206-322-1103.

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