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The story of the night begins with a nice bottle of champagne and how half of it exploded over the table, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Every Valentine’s Day instead of braving the prix fix menus at restaurants across the city I like to cook a fancy meal at home. I spend the days prior planning out the menu and try to make things that aren’t the usual grains and veggies I throw together in a bowl during the week. One thing Paul and I do very well is plan appetizer platters. We often have whole dinners dedicated to the little bites so I wanted this special dinner to begin with something that would live up to our high standards. Cheese is great, it not only looks pretty, but the endless varieties can keep any serving platter rotating with a different variety each time, but I often find that the add-ons are the part that make the bread or cracker bite even better. Dried fruit, jam, and nuts should be as prominent as the cheese, so for dinner I tried wrapping cuts of brie, pistachios, and a drizzle of honey in flaky phyllo dough, baking them to gooey perfection, and serving them as personal bites. The warm centers paired with crisp dough made a perfect combination, while the honey and pistachios offered a sweet with a touch of salt.

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The evening of Valentine’s Day I had a pretty good system going in the kitchen. The appetizers were being assembled, the main course was roasting in the oven and warming on the stove, the salad was chopped and ready to dress, everything was on schedule and all that was left was to plate the food beautifully. I’m partial to my wooden boards so the phyllo brie bites were given their own little plank for the coffee table, sitting next to the candles, champagne flutes, and a bottle of champagne poised to pop in Paul’s hands. Basically everything was perfect, and then the bottle exploded. Splashes of champagne erupted over the carpet and onto our feet below while hands comically tried to catch the spouting bubbles. There were laughs, a minor mourning for the lost alcohol, but once the scene was mopped up I peered down to see that the appetizers and the arrangement below was still in tact and so the evening moved forward with delicious phyllo bites in a champagne scented setting.

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Mini phyllo wrapped brie with pistachios and honey
: serves 6-8

– 6 miniature Brie rounds (found at Trader Joe’s) or 6 brie slices cut into 1″ cubes
– 12 sheets of phyllo dough
– 1 tbsp. melted butter
– 2 tbsp. honey
– 1/4 c. roasted salted pistachios

– Unwrap the phyllo dough and lay one sheet on a counter or cook surface.
– Brush sheet with melted butter, layer another phyllo sheet on top and brush with butter. Repeat two more times to create a stack of 4 sheets.
– Cut the phyllo dough stack in half, width wise, and place one round on each section.
– Top brie with about 1 tsp. pistachios and drizzle with honey.
– Gather the edges of the phyllo dough to create a pouch around the cheese. Slightly twist the dough at the top to secure being careful not to rip anything.
– Repeat the steps with the remaining sheets until all of the cheese is used.
– Bake according to the package watching closely so the tops do not burn.

Phyllo can be difficult to work with so keep the sheets moist with a damp cloth over them while working. Don’t worry if the pouches aren’t perfect, they will look good once they bake.