I Made an Entire Four-Course Meal Out of Rosé
Is it possible to survive entirely on rosé? I had grape expectations.
All photos by Steph Wilson
What is the meaning of the good life? For Aristotle, the good life—happiness—meant depending on ourselves. But for most of us, the good life can be most accurately defined as a bright summer's day—preferably in the grounds of an Italian villa, although the warmest patch in your tiny apartment balcony will also do—in which you get to guzzle down as much alcohol as your stomach can physically handle without being sick, and then getting up again the next day to do it all again. And the liquid regret of choice for many? Rosé.
Rosé has traditionally been maligned as a mom wine, but you know the people saying that are the people who've never had to contend with pushing a ten-pound baby into the world. Give moms a break and let them drink whatever the hell they want. And the world is catching up with moms—now rosé is everywhere, even prompting Vanity Fair to ask, "When did rosé, like, become a thing?"
Good question. I have no idea. That isn't the point of this article. The point of this article is to find out if I could cook a meal made exclusively—OK, not exclusively, but about 80 percent—of rosé. Is it possible to subsist entirely on rosé? Will my pores start to ooze sickly sweet wine juice by the second course? Or will I ascend to a new level of culinary enlightenment, similar to the first time someone at Cafe Gitane spread avocado on toast?
I had, shall we say, grape expectations.
First, I had to find actual recipes that involve rosé. Luckily, there is no shortage of highly Instagrammed, Pinterest-friendly recipes for the blush pink wine (in fact, Pinterest declared blush pink its color of 2016). The difficulty is finding a recipe that doesn't involve baking cupcakes, which everyone knows is the cheaters' version of fusion cuisine (you can put pretty much fucking anything on a cupcake).
Luckily, it turns out that 2016 is also the season of frosé, also known more prosaically as the "wine slushie." Apparently, it is the "FAB new drink of summer 2016," or if you want to get more religious about it, the "god of summer," which makes you wonder what the god of winter is—port? Whiskey? Jesus?
Conveniently, you don't even need to cook frosé. All I had to do was pour a bottle of rosé into a baking tray and then slam it into the freezer for a few hours. If I'd known it was this easy to put my addictions into deep freeze, I would have done it sooner!
Of course, woman cannot live on frosé alone. I had dinner guests coming and they would be hungry. After scouring the internet, I came across a starter that combined womankind's two favorite things: cheese and alcohol. That's right: rosé fondue.
It meant grating almost half a kilo of Gruyere and cheddar cheese into a saucepan of bubbling rosé. It felt almost sacrilegious—the equivalent of pouring a can of Four Loko into a pot of stewing bouillabaisse—but who was I to argue with Cookipedia? The site also recommended scooping the fondue into a baguette and toasting it in a panini press, but I'm not a savage—I already felt bad enough about what I was doing to French cuisine, especially once the cheese and wine mixture turned into the pale, lumpy yellow I associate with the kind of snot you sneeze out after an all-night coke bender.
Finally, I reached the main course, which, as you guessed it—included rosé! The difficulty here was finding a recipe at all. While conducive to cupcakes and alcopops, rosé is less widely adopted as something that can beef up your main. People think cooking wine has to be either red or white, but fuck that kind of binary thinking. At last, I found what I was looking for: chicken a la rosé, recipe courtesy of Tesco—the British supermarket chain that I associate most with gastronomic achievement, Thai slave labor, and boxed wine.
As far as I can tell, cooking is a sham. Anyone can cook. When you see fancy words like "deglaze the pan," all this means is "pour the alcoholic beverage of your choice into a hot pot and furiously scrape the bottom with a cooking implement so all the burned bits dissolve like delicious, BBQ-ed carcinogenic flakes." So after cooking some onions and searing the chicken on both sides, I summarily deglazed with rosé and then poured the sauce over the meat, putting it into the oven to bake in its sweet, sweet booze juices.
Was that it? The rosé—which I had already started drinking out of the box—had stirred something deep in me; I suddenly felt like Julia Child flipping a perfect omelette out of the pan and onto a hot plate.
No, I decided. I have to make an amuse-bouche. And a dessert. And maybe I could even make a topping for the dessert made of rosé, like rosé on rosé—Inception levels of rosé.
I felt triumphant. Fuck the 16 course meal at Noma made from Danish wild berries and reindeer testicles and foraged moss—I was going to make multiple courses out of a single box of rosé with a lion on the the packaging.
Next up: rosé soup. The recipe was on a website called Great British Chefs, so I knew it had to be good. It had even tried to disguise its essential rosé-ness by trying to pass it off as "cherry soup," but we all know that anything you pour half a liter of rosé into isn't cherry fucking soup. I poured rosé, pitted cherries, vanilla, cinnamon, and brown sugar into a pot and boiled the lot. I even threw in a little flour as Great British Chefs recommended, to no discernible effect, but, hey—I was improvising. As I blended the hot, burgundy mess of boiled cherries, I smiled and thought to myself: This is what cooking is all about.
For dessert? Rosé ice cream topped with rosé gummy bears. Now, there was a problem here. While rosé ice cream was easy—just whipping cream, rosé, and a bit of sugar frozen in a Tupperware box—I lacked the requisite gummy bear mold for these rosé candies. I improvised again and poured the hot rosé and gelatin mixture into an old rubbery ice cube mold from IKEA in the shape of little apples. Julia Child, eat your heart out.
I served up to my willing victims, lighting a candle and serving them course by course—just kidding, I put it all on the table in a buffet spread because anybody who doesn't think that buffets are the pinnacle of gastronomic achievement should be forced to live on Soylent for the rest of their life.
"These are really strong," my cowoker Sirin said, sipping a frosé slushie that my photographer, Steph, had dripped red food coloring onto in an attempt to make it look "decorated." In fact, it did taste a lot stronger, though it did not discernibly make the cheap rosé taste any more expensive.
The fondue went down in a cheese-flavored storm, and everyone pretended not to notice as I tried to surreptitiously scoop out the lumps with a chunk of bread. Nobody could tell if the tangy aftertaste was down to the rosé or the tremendous quantities of dairy I had put in it. But melted cheese is melted cheese—you could basically slug a bottle of vodka into a fondue and it would still taste pretty OK.
Now for my amuse-bouche foray, wherein the limitations of rosé became clearer. Basically, nobody wants to drink a warm soup made from rosé, not even one that I had tried to spice up with some winter-warming elements.
"It tastes like mulled wine," Sirin said helpfully. "I think it's the cinnamon." This taught me a valuable lesson: Nobody actually wants to drink alcohol out of a soup bowl unless you're at a house party that has run out of glasses, and even then, only as a last resort.
The chicken smelled like it had been braised in very mild red wine. "It just tasted like chicken in chicken-y sauce with caramelized onions," Sirin said afterwards. "There was no tang of wine, just delicious chicken."
To be fair, most of the rosé had probably burned off in the oven, but I pressed on. Here was the rosé climax of the night: dessert.
I passed a bowl to Steph. "Oh," she said, making a face. "Oh. It tastes... It tastes of something." She picked up a rosé gum, which I had extracted from its ice mold prison, and put it in her mouth. She immediately looked like she regretted it. "That's very rubbery," she said, dropping one on the floor and seeming disappointed that it didn't bounce higher (it was more of a lateral bounce).
"I'm just very full," Sirin said. "I did eat a lot of cheese."
I took a mouthful of the ice cream, which tasted like it had lightly brushed against rosé in a spacious corridor—as in, it didn't taste like much at all. What it did have was a heady alcohol aftertaste that knocked into the back of your throat. If you like flavorless, icy ethanol, I highly recommend.
By the end of the night, we had gone through the equivalent of four bottles of rosé, and I was developing the kind of dull headache that would haunt me in my sleep, but some courses were more eaten than others. The rosé soup—which I tried to jazz up with some creme fraiche—was mostly untouched. I couldn't even freeze it for afters—who knew what that creme fraiche would mutate into? Does rosé grow mold?
"What are you going to do with that?" Steph asked, and then vigorously recommended pouring it down the toilet ("It's what I do with all food waste, so it doesn't clog up the sink").
I couldn't decide if this was rosé blasphemy or not, but as I waved Sirin and Steph goodbye, I was starting to feel a queasiness in my stomach that would later result in numerous rosé and cheese-fueled nightmares.
I know, objectively, that it is a terrible thing to waste food—when you grow up with an Asian mom telling you that every uneaten grain of rice on your plate will mean one more cystic acne pimple on your face, you kind of get the drift—but there was no fucking way I wanted to put more rosé into my body. If you cut me open, I would bleed pink and white Zinfadel.
"I think what I've learned is that while you can cook everything you eat with rosé, it doesn't mean you can," I said to myself sadly, pouring rosé soup down the sink.