Not everybody is a rhubarb fan. Once upon a time, it was valued up there with apes, ivory, and peacocks, spices rare and unguents magical, but in the US, where I live and eat, rhubarb has always been regarded as country fare…a little too rustic and tangy for regular people to eat.
My neighbor Ted had rhubarb in his garden at one time. When he uprooted it, he gave me his plant, which I promptly killed. It was some years before we could buy rhubarb in the grocery store, so I couldn’t enjoy his favorite, which was rhubarb cooked with a little sugar and served over vanilla ice cream. My mother favored strawberry-rhubarb pie. Her rhubarb plants were mighty-mighty, alas, long gone, like Ted’s. I had forgotten, in other words, what rhubarb could do.
Then friends brought us a bottle of Red Ass Rhubarb wine, a prize-winner from Prairie Berry Winery. They’d been visiting North Dakota, where, apparently, you can get this wine. We drank the Red Ass Rhubarb in little apertif glasses to go with a dark chocolate mousse and discovered a new and fabulous pleasure.
This wine is not sweetened much. The raspberry only softens that mouth-dessicating edge that we recall from the rhubarb of our childhood. Otherwise it’s satisfyingly sharp, aromatic, as crisp and demanding and gay as Michael Caine in Miss Congeniality. Paired with dark chocolate anything, it makes you feel sophisticated. Plus, you can kill a bottle without noticing that you’re also eating the vat of chocolate mousse you were planning to serve all next week.
Malort fans would consider this wine bland. I consider this a plus.
Red Ass Rhubarb can be bought in liquor stores in North Dakota. It is also distributed in South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Eastern Montana, and Iowa. Notice that Illinois is not one of those states. Fortunately a friend who felt indebted to me was visiting Fargo and he brought me four bottles. I could have nicked him for more. Notice the self-restraint?
Oh, that dark chocolate mousse. It’s so easy it’s a crime.
DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
10 oz. 60% cacao chocolate chips – Ghirardelli makes some
4 to 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
2 to 4 oz. Cointreau, Framboise, or even Red Ass Rhubarb wine
Put the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl with 2 oz of the whipping cream. Nuke on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Not melted? Nuke it again for 20 seconds. Stir.
When the chips are melted, quickly stir in 2 oz. liqueur. Honestly I prefer the liqueur only because it’s a higher alcohol content: the object is to “temper” the chocolate, to prevent it from setting up in some godawful way while you are whipping the cream. You can achieve the same tempering with brandy or grain alcohol. The wine’s a little too watery, but if your spouse like mine is a member of the Pure Food League, you may want to reduce the number of flavors and stick with Red Ass.
Whip the remaining whipping cream with the remaining liqueur (or wine) until soft or stiff peaks form. (Your choice.) Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate until thoroughly mixed. Spoon into serving dishes and chill. Garnish if you must. The end.
A preacher’s daughter from the dry part of Texas, Nadine Fisher can’t imagine her sophisticated, not to say debauched new admirer, King Dave Flaherty, anywhere near her roots. But stagehands come to Goreville, TX all the time, to learn about the automated motion-control equipment that’s manufactured there. If it weren’t for a couple of these degenerates happening upon Nadine and her flat tire, one lonely night outside Goreville, she would never have thought of running away from home to become a waitress in Chicago’s fabled Café Les Auteurs, or Liz Otter’s, where stagehands go for lunch outside the Auditorium Theatre. And she never would have caught King Dave at his worst moment ever. And King Dave would never have chased her back to Goreville, where the wine is pink and the preacher’s daughter, well, kind of likes him.