Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2007

By Sara Pitzer
For the Salisbury Post
The Cheerwine recipe contest, which was part of the companys 90th year celebration Saturday, had just two requirements for entries: they had to be original and they had to include Cheerwine as an ingredient.
The panel judging the entries had two criteria for each dish in the contest it must be good and it must taste like Cheerwine.
Yes, but what does Cheerwine taste like?
For people like Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, who grew up drinking it, theres really no discussion. The taste of Cheerwine just is. I was raised on this and dont ever find anything like it.
But Dave Walters, who came to the festival from Greensboro, was more analytical. It has a cherry flavor, he said, but not a traditional one. Its a flavor that blends with other flavors. Friday night hed mixed up a Cheerwine barbeque sauce that he was eager to get home and use.
Caterina Knord, from Germany, was with him. She said in Germany they had cherry drinks but nothing like this. In describing this, English failed her.
Judy Montognese, a local resident, zeroed in more specifically. Its a wild cherry flavor rather than sweet cherries, she said, while 15-year-old Anna Teague agreed that its not that sweet.
Judy Arnhardt added another dimension. It goes well with chocolate and makes a real rich chocolate-cherry flavor.
From the abstract of opinion, on to the experience. The judges had cups of Cheerwine to cleanse the palate and get a reminder of the taste theyre looking for in the recipes that had been submitted for the contest.
First place went to the Cheerwine Cherry Pie by Howard Griffin. It combined Cheerwine with canned pie cherries and a bit of almond extract, which somehow intensifies the cherry flavor.
The most ingenious recipe, Cheerwine Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette, Courtney Curtisss entry, took second place. Its tart cherry zing comes from a reduction of Cheerwine and balsamic vinegar.
Cheerwine Velvet Cake, third-place winner from Joyce Orphanoudiakis, is decidedly sweet, with both sugar and Cheerwine, balanced by the tang of sour cream.
So, lets think of it this way. If youre going to cook with Cheerwine, try Dave Walters approach. Instead of asking what it tastes like, consider what will marry well with it. After the barbeque sauce, he said hes going to try hotdogs cooked in Cheerwine. Now that would be good.