The Wine Country Online

Musings from Sonoma County's Slow Food Conviviati

A Moonshine Dinner - September 14, 1999
by Jack Burton

      The Old Italian called with an invitation: "I'm going to fire up the still, do you want to come over and see how it works?"

      "Well, yeah, count me in, and I will help with dinner," I replied. Considering my interest in all the little mysteries of European kitchen folkways, this was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Photo by Keith Cerricoli
      The distillation of wine is a slow process. Good and slow! The roots of the final clear fire are deep in the soil of the Dry Creek Valley. The process progresses from Spring's first green buds to, in this case, a full day's labor second cropping the neighbors Cabernet Franc. The Old Italian does it all by himself in his spare time. He spends a lot of time out in the barn, patiently making the grapes into wine, and finally choosing the wine to fill the old copper kettle of his handed-down still.

      Wine can be transformed into brandy because of the simple fact that the percentage of alcohol contained in the wine has a boiling point of 173°F.   about 40°F. lower than the water that makes up the bulk of the wine.

      When the wine is brought to a gentle boil, more of the alcohol than the water will end up in the initial vapor. The vapors are channeled from the kettle of the still up and down through a coiled and chilled tube. They condense on the cool surface of the tube and drip out as concentrated alcohol.

      It is a procedure that lends itself to a fine long evening of epicurean pleasure.

The Menu

The Old Italian's 1997 Dry Creek Zinfandel
and 1997 Dry Creek Chardonnay
Bruschetta, grilled and simply rubbed with olive oil and garlic
Home-cured Olives, harvest of 1998
Ripe Tomatoes with a French Feta cheese and dried oregano
Lemon Glazed Finger Potatoes
Dry-rubbed Herb Grilled Free Range Chicken
Banana Flashback
Aperitivo, Digestivo, sips and giggles from the still throughout the evening
The Old Italian's Brandy of 1998 Dry Creek Cabernet Franc


A Recipe for Banana Flashback

     This recipe is taken from the soon-to-be-published book, Dreamsalad Picnic, by Jack Burton.

     As written originally, the recipe calls for a gold tequila, but it works just dandy with any homemade hootch. It's from the story, "A Bad Combination."

Have fun!


     Old Pops is a born entertainer, a psychedelic clown, and a hell of a good cook. One of his favorite old tricks from the Sixties is to turn out the lights in the kitchen and startle his often tripped-out guests with an enormous ball of flame roaring out of a pan of Banana Flashback.

     Choose a bunch of those small red finger bananas, if you can find them, or use ripe (but not soft) regular grocery-store bananas.

  1. Peel and split three large or six small bananas.

  2. Dissolve the sugar in the butter, in a large sauté pan. Have a lid or cover handy that will fit the pan!

      3T butter
      3T brown sugar
      A 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, split (or 1/4t vanilla extract)

  3. Add the split bananas to the pan and cook over a very low fire about three minutes--just until the fruit is warmed through.

  4. Add three or four ounces of good old tequila to the pan, and cover it for about a minute, the object being to warm--but never boil--the spirits.

  5. Turn out the lights and call your guests' attention to the kitchen. Have a match or lighter handy.

  6. Remove the lid and ignite the pan, as you step back away from the stove.

      "Hey, you guys, can you give me a hand in the kitchen?"


    It's a cool trick if you work it right and manage not to set yourself, a guest, or the house on fire.

  7. Serve the sauce and bananas over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serves six.
Author's Warning and Disclaimer:

     Try this recipe at your own risk! It is not recommended for anyone under the age of 21, exceedingly nervous individuals, crack addicts, or anyone completely twisted out on any substance that would impair them physically or emotionally.

     Have a fire extinguisher at the ready!