Happiness Is A Weekend Of Bubbles…Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun!

Kitchen Remodel Update:  We added a new window to the back wall of our kitchen. When we looked out the new window we were delighted to find 4 little blue Robin’s eggs tucked into a nest in the Rhododendron tree.  Fortunately Mama Robin has not been disturbed by the construction.

Happy Weekend!

One of the nicest things about remodeling our kitchen is the way our family and friends have been taking care of us…treating us to dinner in their homes or taking us out to dinner.  So thoughtful!

Our fun weekend began on Thursday evening when our bubbly friends welcomed us to their beautiful apartment overlooking downtown Roanoke with glasses of  Mumm Napa Cuvée with a fresh raspberry in the bottom of each flute.  The Cuvée was a very pleasant bubbly surprise with aromas and flavors of toast, pear, apple and citrus.  Rich body, smooth with a creamy mousse.  $26 range.

Our bubbly friend made the most wonderful cheese crackers served with fig jam.  I can’t wait to make these when my kitchen is back up and running, but until then here’s a couple of links to Ina Garten’s cheese crackers recipes ~ delicious!

http://www.food.com/recipe/barefoot-contessas-parmesan-black-pepper-crackers-ina-garten-215143

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blue-cheese-and-walnut-crackers-recipe/

On Saturday evening we enjoyed this lovely pink bottle of Broadbent Vinho Verde Rosé that looked so pretty on my bubbly friend’s tablescape. $10 range. Vibrant aromas and flavors of fresh strawberry, pomegranate and orange zest with a little spritz of effervescence. We enjoyed every sip.

So excited that the Grandin Road Farmer’s Market is now open on Saturday mornings!  These baby turnips were a fabulous find…eat them whole (with butter and sea salt to dip them in if you prefer…just like radishes) or slice them to add to salads. Delicious and a little more sweet than radishes.

Edible Flowers!

Finished the weekend with MASfi Cava…100% Trepat grapes.  Bright and clean. Cherry and strawberry are the the predominant flavors in this Cava.  Lively pink color. $12 range.  And since it is “Mimosa Season”, this cava made a nice strawberry mimosa!  I will have some yummy seasonal mimosa ideas in my next blog post…stay tuned!

You are invited to visit my Facebook page:  Bubblybee

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Elegant Spring Beet Salad with a lovely Spanish wine pairing…compliments of fourthgenerationfarmgirl.com

fourth generation farmgirl

With a sweet, earthy flavor, juicy texture, and beautiful ruby-red hue, beets make a salad into something sensational.  The key to making them the highlight of a simple yet elegant salad is roasting, making the beets juicy and tender with a concentrated sweetness.  Peeling is easier when the beets are still warm.  Also, tossing the sliced beets with the dressing while they’re warm is a must.  This allows them to absorb maximum flavor.  Goat cheese, baby arugula, and toasted pistachios round out the dish, adding tang, peppery notes, and nuttiness.  These flavors help to balance the beets’ sweetness.  It’s important to look for bunches that contain beets of similar size so that the beets will roast evenly.  If the beets are different sizes, remove the smaller ones from the oven as they become tender.  You can use red or golden beets in this recipe, or a mix of both.

I…

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Welcoming Spring With Champagne And Rosé!

Since this is what my kitchen looks like right now, it’s understandable that I am not doing a lot of cooking these days.  We are combining our kitchen and dining room to make one big kitchen.  Very exciting, but I miss cooking!  Should only be a month to six weeks to complete. Thinking about what should be the first meal that I cook in my new kitchen…would love suggestions from my readers!

Fortunately our family and friends have seen to it that we get fed well during our kitchen remodel ~ so thoughtful!

My bubbly sister-in-law took me out to lunch at my favorite neighborhood restaurant River and Rail.  I had the Green Bibb Salad. The reason I love this salad is that the Buttermilk Herb Dressing is in the bottom of the bowl along with Clemson blue (cheese), pistachios, celery, and little chunks of Virginia apple, which helps to distribute the dressing more evenly as you eat the salad.  I look forward to preparing salads that way when I get my kitchen back.   Blue cheese is not my favorite so they substituted Parmesan cheese on my salad, yum! For dessert we enjoyed an ice cream trio ~ Honey Lavender ice cream is pictured on the above left.  Unique and delicious!

My bubbly friend made this beautifully delicious fresh coconut cake for Easter…yum!!! The fresh eggs in the photo above are compliments of my bubbly friends hens.  The hens even colored their eggs for Easter (of course they color their eggs all year round!).

My bubbly friend also made this lovely strawberry appetizer…fresh strawberries halves stuffed with a combination of softened brie cheese, blue cheese and chopped toasted pecans. Delicioso!

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Galileo

Enjoyed this bubbly over the weekend…Ruby Red Grapefruit Rosé SPARKLES!  you will think that you’ve just cut into a fresh ruby-red grapefruit. It’s easy to see why this is all the rage in Paris…lots of tiny bubbles, a lovely light grapefruit flavor with a tee-tiny bit of sweetness. $13 range.

McGah Family Cellars flagship wine is “Scarlett” named after the founder’s daughter.  http://www.scarlettwines.com

“My philosophy is simple: create the most natural and expressive wines California can offer. I believe in allowing the fruit to fully reveal itself in the wines, encouraging the personality and terroir of the vineyards, while showcasing itself to the fullest extent. Thus, allowing the wines to be true to their nature and bringing harmony to the bottle.”  ~  Mike Smith / Winemaker

Another wine we shared with bubbly friends this past weekend was McGah Family Vineyards Scarlett Sauvignon Blanc. Honeydew “green melon” flavors along with notes of honeysuckle, Meyer lemons and lime blossoms.  Clean, crisp finish. $30 range. Excellent pairing with Thai food.

Easter Wine!

Notes from The Champagne Guide 2014-2015:

Laurent-Perrier macarates its rosé for 12-72 hours, depending on fruit ripeness, until the color is fixed and the aroma resembles freshly picked raspberries.  So crucial is timing, legend has it that the first Chef de Cave, Edouard Leclerc, slept by the tank to stop it just in time! This wine has achieved that elusive ideal of volume and finesse, the world’s best-selling rosé champagne epitomizes the ultra-restraint of  rosé’s finest expressions.  All the more remarkable for the challenging  saignée method.

One of the first times that we served this delightful rosé, one of our guests exclaimed “Oh! Easter Wine!” She explained that her mother always liked to serve wine that matched her pink dining room drapes on Easter Sunday (White Zinfandel Wine). We all got quite a giggle over that story and we continue to call this  Rosé Brut “Easter Wine” to this day.

 Perfect for Spring sippin’ because it is so nice and light.  A grenache/cinsault/syrah rosé  blend.  $15 range. Very fresh with notes of strawberries, peaches and rose petals. I love this bottle…the base of which is cast into the impression of a full rose flower.

My bubbly friend introduced me to Noosa Blackberry Serrano Yogurt. Served with fresh blackberries it made a perfectly yummy healthy dessert.  Just the right amount of sweet and just the right amount of heat.

You are invited to visit my Facebook page: Bubblybee

Lovin’ Local Spring Greens and Rosé Champagne!

Christina Nifong, Culinary Instructor, Food Writer and Blogger Extraordinaire!

Local For Lunch: Welcoming Spring!

Christina’s culinary classes include lunch she creates out of local ingredients, many of them right out of her own garden!

Please visit Christina’s website and subscribe to her newsletter where she shares lots of her cooking and gardening expertise and fabulous recipes:  http://christinanifong.com

Christina’s Local For Lunch classes at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op are always colorful!  Pictured above Radicchio (a type leaf chicory, sometimes known as Italian chicory.  It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. It has a slightly bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted) that is sold at the Co-op.  Rainbow carrots mixed with radishes (from Christina’s garden) are in the middle photo and fresh mint from Christina’s garden is pictured at the right.

Christina introduced us to kale flowers for salad.  The kale in her garden had bolted and bloomed so she cut the flowers and chopped them up to add to the lovely green salad she made for us.

Another delicious salad ingredient that Christina introduced us to is Black Rice sometimes known as “Forbidden Rice”.  I love Christina’s recipe. She cooked the rice in vegetable broth and added about 1 tablespoon (to one cup uncooked rice) coconut oil to the rice while it was cooking. These flavors made the rice taste rich and yummy. She served the rice cold to serve alongside our salad greens.

Black rice is an ancient grain that was once reserved for only Chinese royalty.  It contains many healthy elements including disease-fighting antioxidants.

After attending Christina’s classes I have gained more respect and love for fresh seasonal produce, but I must admit, I still LOVE the dressing!  My favorite part of this class was Christina’s Poppy Seed Dressing.

Poppy Seed Dressing

by christinanifong

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweet onion (about a quarter of a large onion)
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey (local if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola or avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, using the knife blade, chop onion, with salt, until ingredients are ground into a liquidy paste.
  2. Add vinegar, honey and mustard. Process until all is well-mixed.
  3. Mix two oils together in a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout. Slowly (so slowly!) pour oil into the food processor while processing. The slower you go, the better incorporated the oil will be with the other ingredients.
  4. Add poppy seeds and mix gently. Pour salad dressing into an air-tight container (such as a Mason jar) and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If dressing separates, shake to recombine.

Another fun find at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op:  Lacinato Kale or “black cabbage” in Italian is well-known in Italian cuisine. Slightly sweeter and more delicate than curly kale. This is the green that we see so often in Italian soups and pastas.

It’s always nice to celebrate Spring with a little rosé bubbly.  We popped open a bottle of Paul Déthune Brut Rosé this weekend. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay grapes.  Absolutely delightful with notes of wild strawberry, peach and Meyer lemon. Very fine mousse. $50 range.

We also had the opportunity to taste Lagard Altas Cumbres Extra Brut 2013 from Mendoza, Argentina this weekend.  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sémillon blend prepared under the Charmat (tank) method. Young, fresh and fruity with light citrus and apricot flavors. A fun little sparkling wine for casual sipping in the $10 range.

We toasted our kitchen remodel (kitchen and dining room demolition completed, next step is plumbing and electrical) with Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence NV.  Look what we found in the wall ~ Garst Brothers Dairy paper milk container.  This container has probably been in the wall since our house was built in 1952.

You are invited to visit my Facebook page:  Bubblybee

Poutine Poppers, Butter Chicken Spring Rolls…Appetizers In 10 Minutes!

As we head towards the lazy days of summer,  I am always looking for ways to get out of the kitchen and outside to the deck to visit with my guests.  Trade in my spatula for a glass of wine and reeeeelax. I have always been a proponent of homemade appetizers since frozen appetizers are usually tasteless and boring. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Private Selection frozen appetizers at Kroger that are actually quite delicious.  http://www.privateselection.com/about-us/

The Poutine Poppers are cheese curds, shredded potato and rich gravy in a deliciously crispy potato breading.  These little pops of yummyness are inspired by the rich flavors of Quebec cuisine.

So what the heck is “Quebec Cuisine”? From Wikipedia:

In Quebec, Poutine are French Fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.

Quebec’s traditional cuisine is as rich and diverse as the province of Quebec itself. The historical context of ‘traditional’ Quebec cuisine is from the fur trade period, and many dishes have a high fat content. The strongest influences on traditional Quebec cuisine come from the cuisines of France and Ireland.  

Crispy without frying!

Butter Chicken Spring Rolls are inspired by the fragrant flavors of India and East Asia.  Beginning with chicken, vegetables and sweet and creamy Butter Chicken Sauce, this unexpected twist on the classic spring roll is a perfect way to add global flavor to your entertaining.

The Hatch Chili and Cheese Puffs (16 count) came in their own little bake-able tray (to help keep their shape) and took 25 minutes to bake. Buttery puff pastries filled with rich cream cheese and Monterrey Jack cheese blended with hot Hatch chilies and green chilies.  These little puffs do have a little bit of a bite to them!

This Notorious Pink Rosé wine was a very nice compliment to the Hatch Chili and Cheese Puffs.   The Notorious Pink is a Grenache Rosé with lovely strawberry notes.  I love the pink glass top and the wine has a very light pink tint as it is poured into the glass. $19 range.

And the Swan Song for the oven in my current kitchen before starting remodeling tomorrow…will it be Duck à l’Orange, Beef Wellington perhaps?  No…Tater Tots!  ( Alexia Garlic and Black Pepper Potato Puffs from Fresh Market which are actually yummy for a quick treat.)  http://www.alexiafoods.com/products/potatoes/crispy-seasoned-potato-puffs

Photo of the inside of a ruby-red tulip that greeted me on my walk this morning.

You are invited to visit my Facebook page: Bubblybee.

 

A piece of paradise in Barcelona

Freixenet is made by the same family that makes Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine, so I know it will be delightful! Can’t wait to taste the Freixenet Ice Rosé…hope it’s available in our area…will keep my readers posted.

Vicky Wine Barcelona

If you always thought that paradise in Barcelona🇪🇸 was the beach 🌊 or a cool tapa bar🍳, I’m sorry to disappoint you, because there is something MUCH better, something which you won’t be able to forget. Yes, I’m talking about cava-chocolate pairing. 🍩🍫🍫

 So far we have already seen some cavas (and there are more to come) but one of the most exciting ways to drink it is with chocolate. On Thursday, we were invited to such a pairing to Tannic by Freixeneta wine boutique.

IMG_5842

I guess everyone has heard of Freixenet at least once, it is one of the most well-known cava producers. Their range of cavas (which needs another post) is crazy and on Thursday we paired many of them with the best chocolates by Chocolate Amatller, one of the oldest Spanish chocolate producers:

IMG_5848 I just adore these pretty little metal boxes! It’s a…

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Loving Weekends With Laurent-Perrier

I love Saturday mornings in the Spring.  Promise fills the air as I walk downtown to visit my favorite bakery Bread Craft  to purchase over-sized pecan sticky buns and almond croissants.  http://breadcraftbakery.com/

Continuing my walk along the city market…

Love these heart-shaped wild bird seed treats to hang in my garden.

Rolling Meadows Farm has the most colorful succulents. I can always find interesting plants at their booth on the market… the plant pictured on the right above is a “Frizzle Sizzle” plant (Albuca spiralis).  Tightly curled leaves on short stems that arise from an underground bulb, this plant loves the sun!

Mushrooms are Mother Nature’s work of art…from Shady Spring Farm.

Love this whimsical bird house!

We are getting ready to remodel our kitchen so we started packing up dishes on Saturday. Our kitty “George Gershwin” felt the need to personally inspect our work. Here he is checking out the empty buffet.  Curious cat!

I am trying to figure out how to prepare meals for the next 6 weeks without a kitchen. We plan to use our outdoor grill for some meals.  I recently discovered Fresh Market’s “Little Big Meals”.  A different meal is offered every week or so –

for $20!

The meal I purchased included 4 gourmet hamburger patties with brioche buns, cheese slices, cut up fresh fruit and garlic and black pepper potato puffs.  Easily served the three people and I can cook the entire meal on our grill.

I found this recipe contest which is perfect for the grill and might keep me occupied while our kitchen is being demolished…http://www.grilledcheeseacademy.com/contest

After packing up our kitchen I could use a hug…

My bubbly friend treated us to a bottle of Laurent-Perrier this weekend!  This lovely brut bubbly consists of 45% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir, and 15% pinot meunier grapes. Made by the same champagne house that brings us  the beautiful Grand Siècle champagne. Fresh and lemony. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous Spring day.

You are invited to visit my Facebook page:  Bubblybee

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