Ready to wine down and chill? Oh, I know that you are! It’s been a long week. We changed the clocks back but all that did was wake you earlier. And you’re still in the dark.

Don’t worry. We’ve got your back. Return here each Friday to find food, movie, wine and music recommendations that are paired in a theme. Read on for an easy, no-recipe-required fabulous dinner paired with an affordable wine, and a viewing suggestion. We’re here to help you sit back, wine down and chill.

Brandewijn

You’re probably looking at the subtitle, brandewijn, and thinking, “that doesn’t look like an English word I know.” And, if you were thinking that Captain Obvious, then yes, you’d be correct. To be honest, I didn’t know the word either until I started researching for my column.

The word is Dutch. Translated, it means “burnt wine.” And now the lightbulb turns on, right?!

Brandy is distilled from grapes (occasionally some other fruits but we’ll cover that in a moment) and has a long and rather surprising history. Around 1313, brandy appeared in France. At that time, it was considered as medicine.

Believe it or not, it was an elixir touted for its sanitary and strengthening powers and peddled as “l’eau de vie” which translates to “the water of life.” I could go there and say that if brandy is good for you, ergo wine is good for you … but this is a fun little wine down and chill column and we’re not going to make any crazy claims! 😉

Blowing up the proof

Now this subtitle sounds like a Jeffrey Epstein or 2016 American Election story … but I digress.

Like any scientist would appreciate, theories have to be tested. The “strengthening power” of the brandy would be tested by pouring variable quantities (i.e. no scientific rigor in this era) on heaps of gun powder and then set on fire. Yes, right again, Captain Obvious, gun powder on fire goes “kaboom.”

If it went kaboom, that meant that it was “above proof” which correlated with a brandy that had a low concentration of water and a high concentration of spirits. On the contrary, if the ratio of water: spirits was too high, the gunpowder would be wetted and no kaboom. Hence the origin of our tradition of classifying all beers, wines, and spirits by a percent proof. Only it’s measured a whole lot differently now complete with scientific rigor.

Mais oui, c’est vrai

Wine was literally heated by open fire and flames to produce brandy. Given its low boiling point, nearly all of the alcohol, some water, and the wine’s organic essence and chemicals are distilled off and captured. There are many variations of brandy due to the fruit fermented and the origin of that fruit which impart distinct notes and flavors to the brandy, which is a concept we’re familiar with for wine down and chill.

Italians use grape skins to distill grappa. Plums are used to distill slivovitz in Poland. The Japanese use rice to make shochu and Americans prepare bourbon from corn. And it’s called pisco in Peru. Essentially, these are all classified as brandy.

Another concept that we’re familiar with here on wine down and chill is that the French tend to do everything first – and better. Sparkling wine is bubbly which gains its distinctive mouthfeel and effervescence by trapping the carbon dioxide natural byproduct of fermentation. If those bubbles are produced in France, it’s called champagne. If they’re produced in Italy, it’s called prosecco. In Spain, it’s called cava in Spain and if it’s made in the USA, it’s plain old sparkling wine.

Belting out the flavors

The same holds true for brandy. If it’s distilled in France, it’s top-shelf, and it’s called cognac. American brandies are trying to compete by doing some out-there innovative things like blasting David Bowie music to the barrels to stimulate aging. But French cognacs win hands-down every time. Here are the current Top 10 brands of brandy sold in the US.

Whichever brandy you choose, make yourself an Old Fashioned, one of the original cocktails. Combine brandy with orange bitters, lemon-lime soda and a maraschino cherry or two (how much cheery juice you add determines if it’s a sweet or traditional cocktail). Crank up the David Bowie, wine down and chill.

Blow the budget

I enjoy the craft of designing packaging and yes, I enjoy eating and drinking new things, too. This over-the-top cognac is the most expensive spirit ever sold. I’ve never tried it, of course, but it’s worth sharing because it’s so over-the-top.

The Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne comes in a crystal bottle dipped in 24-karat gold, tipped with platinum and decorated with 6,500 certified cut diamonds. At $2,000,000 a bottle, it’s a little beyond our wine down and chill weekly budget. Indeed!

Flaming hot chicken

Of course, we could have gone all schmancy-fancy and suggested a recipe that you alight on fire for dramatic effect – and to burn the alcohol off (sad!) – but that’s not what we do here on wine down and chill. Instead, we’re going to go with a flaming hot selection. And yes, it involves Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Five ingredients and three steps

One, dip chicken thighs or wings (or mock chicken) into an egg then into a bag of smashed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Two, cook at high temp around 425°F for 20-30 min until they’re cooked.

Three, drizzle with honey and serve with a side of ranch dressing, carrot strips, and celery sticks.

Pour yourself a cocktail to quench the flames. Get comfy. Let’s wine down and chill.

Burning Cane

Although today’s movie selection is bit broody and intense, the cinematography of Burning Cane looks superb. It’s a deep character development drama that is already a standout given the numerous awards and nominations that it has received from various film festivals. Life in rural Louisiana is portrayed from the perspective of someone who has intimate knowledge of it. The conflict between religion and faith with a descent into the vice of alcoholism spin at the core of this story.

As if that’s not enough, you need to take into account that the film’s Director Phillip Youmans was only 17 years old at the time he produced it and this film marks his debut. What makes his Founders Award win exceptional is that he is the first person of color to receive it. Today, it will be available on Netflix. And, now that Array has acquired the worldwide rights to it, it will be coming to theaters soon.

Finally, it’s our favorite time of the day. Yes, it’s time to wine down and chill.

Cheers!

Image by Gaby Stein from Pixabay