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Caramelized Pear and Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese Mesclun

I know I sometimes remind folks who are trying to locate another bottle of the "most wonderful wine we ever drank" consumed on vacation that it could be that the entire vacation experience may have contributed to their fond memories more than the specific wine! Everything tastes better to me on vacation, too! But Linda and I shared the most wonderful pear and goat cheese salad we ever ate our second night on St. Martin at Le Tastevin, and knew we just had to try and duplicate it upon our return! So after quizzing the server thoroughly about its preparation (a French/English language challenge) and taking notes, we think we accomplished it on Sunday night. This week's wine reviews are my wine parings to accompany Linda's Valentine menu. Together they are our suggestion for a perfect romantic Valentine's Day dinner, if you are staying in this year.

Serves 2

This caramelized pear recipe is a lot of work, but remember it's not just the salad, it's also dessert....

A mesclun of fancy greens - enough for 2 (Marsh's exotic organic selection is great)
2 caramelized pear halves
1 log of plain goat cheese
3 pieces of bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons caramel sauce (from caramelizing the pears)

How to caramelize pears (we consulted Julia on this, I think the recipe began "First, plant a pear tree"):

2 ripe pears
3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons dark Jamaican Rum

Halve the pears lengthwise, removing the core with a melon baller and the bud end (bottom) with a small knife. Peel the pear into halves. Starting below the stem, slice the pear into 5 slices, being sure to leave all attached at the stem end. Melt butter in a frying pan, stir in the sugar and cook several minutes over moderately high heat, stirring slowly and constantly until the butter foams and begins to turn a caramel brown. Don't worry if it lumps. Remove pan from heat and place pear halves in with the cut side down (domed side up). Bring to a bubble, cover the pan and turn down to a slow simmer. Every several minutes, baste the pears with the caramel sauce. Inititially, it will be thick and gooey (like cooking candy), but as they cook the caramel sauce with thin out and the pear slices will naturally fan out - about 12 to 15 minutes (less for really ripe pears). When fork tender, remove pears from pan and place, fanned out, on large plates. Add the rum and cook down until a little thicker. Remove from heat.

Cook the bacon until crisp, but still pliable (to wrap around the goat cheese).

Whisk the dressing, using the olive oil, red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons of caramel sauce.

Cut the goat cheese log into 4 equal-size pieces. Wrap each with a piece of bacon sized to fit the cheese.

Assembly: Arrange a pile of greens next to a pear half, garnish with 2 bacon-wrapped goat cheese pieces and drizzle with the pear vinaigrette. (Enjoy the 2 extra pear halves with vanilla ice cream for a very late-night Valentine's Day dessert treat!)

Try this with the big buttery Martin Ray Mariage Chardonnay 1999 from the Russian River Valley.