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Try a new menu idea for bridal showers, dinner parties and other festive summer occasions--by pairing sweet bites with savory sips. The combination of ruby red strawberries and smooth, friendly wines might sound unique, but the pairing goes back hundreds of years. Noted 16th-century herbalist John Gerard wrote that together, strawberries and wine "make the heart merry." That's just what you want when you celebrate life's most cherished moments.

So surprise your guests with a Roasted Strawberry Sundae and its deep, rich chocolate sauce heightened by Shiraz. Pour a glass of Chardonnay to enjoy with Chicken, Strawberry and Fennel Salad. Or simply heap fresh strawberries in a glass bowl and splash them with Cabernet Merlot. Then, raise a glass to a long and happy life!


Roasted Strawberry Sundae

4 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and quartered, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean

Chocolate Sauce

3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon Black Opal Shiraz wine
9 cups vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups (about 1/2 pound) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and quartered

To make strawberry sauce, heat oven to 350 F. In blender, purée 1 1/2 cups strawberries; strain through fine-meshed strainer, pushing on strawberry purée with spoon. Combine purée with remaining strawberries and sugar. Slit vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds; add bean and seeds to strawberry mixture. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean and transfer mixture to shallow baking dish large enough to hold strawberries in one layer. Roast in oven about 20 minutes, or until strawberries are cooked and juices have reduced to syrup. To make chocolate sauce, in saucepan bring sugar and water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar dissolves. Add cream and chocolate. Cook over low heat, stirring, until chocolate melts. Remove from heat; add wine. Spoon 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce in bottom of each of 6 sundae glasses. Add 3/4-cup scoop ice cream; top with 2 tablespoons strawberry sauce. Repeat layers. Top with 1/4 cup fresh strawberries. Makes 6 sundaes.

Fresh, gorgeous-red California strawberries can brighten any occasion all year-round.

Did you know that....

--A healthy indulgence, one serving of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange and less sugar than other top fruits.

--Strawberries can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner in both sweet and savory dishes.

--Strawberries and cream is the classic English dessert served at Wimbledon.

--Strawberries also pair well with lemon, rhubarb, vanilla, chocolate and other berries in desserts.

--Kids rate strawberries as their favorite fruit. (USDA fruit and vegetable research)

--A daily serving of strawberries may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, and improve memory.

For hundreds of strawberry recipes, check out www.calstrawberry.com.

Food and Wine Pairing Guide

From South Australia's finest vineyards comes Black Opal wines--rich, sophisticated, smooth and remarkably friendly. Their Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Shiraz deliciously complement foods not only for summer entertaining but for all seasons.

--Chardonnay is crisp with aromas of peach, melon and citrus. Pair with a Chicken, Strawberry and Fennel Salad.

--Cabernet Merlot is rich with cherry and plum flavors, a hint of chocolate and a subtle touch of oak. Enjoy with sweet and spicy ribs.

--Shiraz is rich with aromas of blackberry, pepper and spice followed with rich plum flavors to round out the palate. Serve with spicy grilled meats or seafood.

--Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Australian red wine made from the world's most noble red variety. Pair with a celebratory prime rib or a great steak.

--Shiraz Cabernet is a rich wine full of berry, pepper and spice. Enjoy with grilled steak and roasted vegetables.

For more information, visit www.blackopalwines.com.

Date: 7/17/06


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