Roomano from Holland with Haystack Mountain's Aspen Ash.
Roomano from Holland with Haystack Mountain's Aspen Ash.

Roasted grapes and New Belgium's La Folie complement a plate of cheese

I recently visited family and friends in New Orleans, and needless to say, we ate very, very well. Not to sound like a homer, but the food scene in that town truly is like no other. Flavor, for lack of a better descriptor, is intoxicatingly ubiquitous and engulfs you much like the ever-present humidity. And one of the flavors that impressed me the most was roasted grapes, which were a featured ingredient at two of my favorite places (Dante's Kitchen and Sylvain...phenomenal). I couldn't wait for an excuse to make them myself. A craving for cheese provided as much.

It seemed I waited too long, though, since I was hard-pressed to find any good-looking grapes. Upon further consideration, however, I selfishly concluded that roasting not-so-ripe grapes would, in fact, be putting them to good use (they'd go bad and get thrown away otherwise, right?). And that reminded me of some advice I read from M.F.K. Fisher in regard to kitchen economy: "More or less, this simple but surprisingly little-practiced rule is true in using an oven: Try to fill every inch of space in it."

With that in mind, I grabbed a head of cauliflower as well (the roasted cauliflower dipped in whipped goat feta at John Besh's Domenica was sinfully good).

I was in the mood for a sour beer and was pleased to find this year's La Folie on the shelf at Mr. B's. New Belgium has essentially perfected its barrel-aged sour brown ale over the years, as evidenced by the number of awards it's garnered, and it pairs perfectly with a variety of cheeses. Its inoffensive yet assertive sourness provides a nice contrast to aged cow's milk and soft-ripened goat's milk cheeses alike. And the roasted grapes turned out wonderfully: tart and sweet and pleasantly reminiscent of the beer.

As for the roasted cauliflower, it's easily my new favorite snack, especially with a side of hummus.

Here's the recipe for the roasted grapes:

Ingredients

1 pound grapes, stems removed Olive oil Salt and pepper 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 2. On a baking sheet, toss grapes in olive oil, salt and pepper. 3. Roast for 30 minutes, remove and let cool for 5 minutes. 4. Strain liquid into saucepan, add honey and simmer until syrupy. 5. Pour syrup over grapes and mix to combine.

Cauliflower:

1 head cauliflower, stalk and leaves removed 3 tablespoons melted butter

1. Brush cauliflower liberally with butter and roast for 40 minutes or until it begins to brown.

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