Confession: I don’t get excited about beverages unless they have an alcohol content.

There, I said it. I’m sure I’m not alone. But, it is what it is. Sweet tea, fruity flavored lemonade, they just don’t do it for me.

Except maybe orange soda. I once had a sweet spot for that, and perhaps still do, but haven’t had it in years.

And dare I say it: serving non-alcoholic beverages is always kind of an afterthought. “Hey, we forgot to get some soda, who can we call to pick some up on the way?” Oops.

But there’s some good news. Us boozebags don’t get to have all the fun anymore when it comes to pairing interesting libations with good nosh.

Which is absolutely fair, given that, for a variety of reasons, not everyone chooses to drink alcohol. Or caffeine, or artificial flavors and colors, for that matter. Which is why the good folks at Cascal have come up with a line of handcrafted beverages geared towards adults who appreciate good taste without all the crap. Or next-day consequences.

Cascal is not your average soda, no way. It’s distinguished by a light, yet complex fruity taste and perfect amount of fizz that comes from a natural fermentation process in a micro-brewery. And it comes in these tall, skinny cans that somehow manage to make you feel sophisticated. I don’t know why, but they do. When drinking  blends like Fine Dry (with notes of apple and anise) and Light Red (with notes of black current and mirabelle), you might wonder why no one’s asking for ID.

In case it’s not clear by now, I received a lunch tote filled with Cascal flavors to try out. And rather than just drink them and report back, I thought it would be more fun to choose a few of the flavors and come up with a fun little Cascal tasting menu, pairing the each soda with a recipe meant to compliment its unique flavor.

First up was the Crisp White. With a flavor profile containing pear, apricot and magnolia, I might liken it to a dryer riesling. It could go nicely with a cheese course, for sure, but I came up with an east-meets-west rangoon filled with other flavors I thought would match nicely: salmon, apples, and ginger. This was my favorite flavor and recipe of the night, which is why I’ve chosen to share it below. I love that the soda is not “in-your-face” syrupy-sweet, and has a few layers of delicate flavor, just like a good wine. It went particularly well with the ingredients in my salmon rangoon, each helping to bring out the different notes in the other.

Next, we went with the Fresh Tropical flavor. Remember my sweet spot for orange soda? This reminded me of that, but with a much more interesting adult flavor. You know, more than just sugar. The description on the can (other side) suggested pairing it with barbecue, so I picked up some brisket from the local bbq joint and made sliders.

What? Store bought? No-she-didn’t.

Yes, she did. There was more effort meant to go into this course than you see here, but I, uh, forgot about the oven for a little bit. Thus, that accompaniment didn’t make it onto the plate. Fortunately, we still really enjoyed this pairing.

Lastly, we paired the Ripe Rouge – with notes of cherry, rose, and chocolate – with a fudgey chocolate cake laced with cinnamon and finished with a caramel buttercream.
Sort of. I mean, you guys know me. It wasn’t just your average sugary, gluten-ous cake and frosting. There were quinoa and dates and cashews involved, and it was quite lovely, but I’m going to wait and share it another time.
The Ripe Rouge blend was a nice match, providing a little extra oomph than any berry-flavored soda I’ve tried. The fact that its a bit closer to a wine than a sweet drink made it a great compliment to dessert, not overpowering.
Want your own pack? Cascal has offered to give not one, not two, but FIVE of my readers a prize just like the one you see here. (Disclaimer: the flavor blends listed on the Cascal website now are a little different than what I received, so I can’t say you will get exactly what I did. But I hope you’ll want to try them nonetheless.)
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment telling me which Cascal Blend you’d most like to try, and if you’re feeling extra creative, what you’d pair it with.
Can you do other things like stumble this post, share it on twitter, or like Cara’s Cravings or Cascal on Facebook? Of course you can, but this time they won’t be for extra entries. If you like this post and feel inclined, however, I’ll take it as a compliment.
The giveaway will be open until Wednesday, October 5th at noon (EST) at which point I will choose 5 winners at random. Cheers!

These tasty little bites are such a fun, seasonal twist on the classic crab rangoon appetizer. I was a little worried that the sweet-tart apple and fresh ginger would overpower the goat cheese, but everything worked together wonderfully. They’re just as easy as the original too.

 

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Baked Salmon Rangoon with Apple & Goat Cheese

Yield: 5 servings

Ingredients:

3 oz goat cheese, softened
6oz can wild Alaskan salmon, drained and flaked with a fork (or about 4 1/2 oz cooked salmon, finely chopped)
1 medium apple
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
20 wonton wrappers
cooking spray
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Reduced sodium soy sauce, for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place a metal cooking rack on top of a cookie sheet.

Place the goat cheese and salmon in a medium bowl. Peel the apple and grate the apple using the large holes of a box grater, and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add the apples to the bowl along with the ginger and sesame oil. Mix well and season to taste with black pepper.

Working with a few at a time, place wonton wrappers on work surface and brush the edges of each one lightly with water. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each one, and pinch the edges closed.

Arrange the filled wontons on the baking sheet. Spray them lightly with cooking spray, then flip them over and spray the other sides. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Serve hot with soy sauce for dipping.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings Per Recipe: 5
Serving Size: 4 pieces
Amount Per Serving
Calories 196.4
Total Fat 6.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Cholesterol 14.3 mg
Sodium 367.5 mg
Potassium 138.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 20.4 g
Dietary Fiber 1.0 g
Sugars 3.4 g
Protein 11.5 g

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

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