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Dec 12, 2014

Recently, a package of wonderful vegetarian products came across my desk, perfect not only for entertaining this holiday season, but for year-round enjoyment.

Whether you're veg or not, I guarantee you'll love these.

I've always bee a fan of dips and spreads. I became so proficient and well-known for my own it was suggested I start producing them to sell. I've never had the desire to do so, I simply enjoy making them for entertaining or as host/hostess gifts.
I've never focused on making vegan dips although when I think about it most of the dips I make are.

So when Melissa Mills (founder and recipe developer) contacted me to sample the four Spread 'Em Kitchen vegan dips/spreads she was making and selling locally here in Vancouver, I was immediately intrigued.
She delivered them along with some beautiful blue corn organic tortilla chips and an assortment of raw dipping veggies. I went right to the tortillas and cracked open all four of the dips. My goal was not only to taste them but to find some wine pairing options.

The Dips/Spreads

Carrot Chili & Cashew DipSpred'em dips and spreads

Rich, thick and creamy with classic carrot orange colour flecked with small white bits of ground up cashew. The sweet creaminess of the carrot and the sweet nuttiness of the cashew alongside the gratifying spice of the chili and ginger made this an instant winner.

Immediately I dubbed it my favourite.

Wine Pairing: I tried the products with various crackers and sourdough bread-  nothing to interfere with the dips/spread themselves. With the carrot dip I found white wines, such as Riesling (off-dry is best), Torrontes (Argentina's fragrant and spicy white variety) were the best options. But, juicy Pinot Noirs (new world fruity styles) picked up on the earthiness of the carrot. Modern style Tempranillo was not a bad option either. Okay pairings were Argentine Malbec and Pinot Gris/Grigio.

Cilantro Pumpkin Seed & Garlic Dip

More a dip than a spread with a distinctly southwestern twist, this is a looser product (think pesto) and great for tortilla chips. If you like cilantro this one will be a hit. Mills has wisely incorporated pumpkin and sunflower seeds to add texture so it's not just an overpowering herbal dip.

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc was a clear winner, it's herbaceous character does not detract but compliments. Pinot Grigio, especially the more restrained Italian versions will also work.

Jalapeño "Cheesy" Cashew Spread

I loved the "cheesy" quality of this dip. It reminded me of raw cashew cheese I used to make years ago when I obviously had more spare time. It has a pleasing spiciness (I should mention I love spice and can handle quite a bit) although not overt, with lingering warmth. The lovely soft green color looks wonderful when paired with red tortillas, carrots, red peppers or on a hand rolled tortilla cut in sections like sushi.

Wine Pairing: Torrontes won the bid here. Pinot Grigio was also good. Riesling, oddly enough was just okay but the surprise was a fruity Spanish Garnacha.

Beet Cashew & Balsamic Dip

It seems everywhere I turn beets are in focus, not only as a great seasonal menu item in multiple forms from risotto and carpaccio to chèvre salads and...juicing. Beets are great for high-blood pressure as well. The color is glorious and intense magenta purple. The balsamic addition adds another sweet depth and acidity to highlight the earthiness of the beets. Suddenly beet was in a battle for first place alongside carrot dip and the jalapeño spread...

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir! I always suggest Pinot Noir with beet dishes, their earthiness is on par and the much of the wine's red and purple fruits compliment the earthy sweetness. Similarity, the cousin of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris fared extremely well. The buttery sweetness of a new world Chardonnay was solid as was a Rioja Tempranillo made in a modern style.

Ultimately the dips were all winners suited to different wines, occasions and dippers but when I stumbled across them recently at the local grocer, Meinhardt's, guess which one I purchased?

The Carrot Chili & Cashew dip.

The Spread 'Em Kitchen website offers a few recipes and can direct you to where to buy.

►For more wine pairings for vegetarian cuisine click here
►For wine pairing ideas with snack (junk) foods click here
►WineDiva's Secrets to simple wine & food pairing click here

~Daenna Van Mulligen

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