Celebrating The Holidays With Champagne Tasting!

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The place: River and Rail Restaurant, Roanoke, Virginia

http://riverandrailrestaurant.com

The event: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Tasting

presented with Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar

http://mrbillswinecellar.com

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I always love going to River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia when Bill and Kristen from Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar present wine tastings. The Champagne and Sparkling Wine Tasting on Monday evening was super fun and tasty! One of my favorite pours of the evening was Willm Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut.  $20 price range. Cremant d’Alsace is the appellation for the sparkling wines of the Alsace wine region of north-eastern France. The methode traditionelle is used to make this bubbly.  100% pinot noir grapes. Nice and light (for a pinot noir) but has a good taste structure, apple and citrus notes.

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River and Rail prepared spectacular tasty appetizers for us to pair with the champagne and sparkling wine.  Pictured above (left to right):  Smoked Trout Spread with Farro Parmesan Reggiano Cheese Flatbread Crackers, R&R’s Famously Delicious Deviled Eggs, Smithfield Ham and Gruyère cheese puffs and Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini.

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A refreshing pour of  lovely Austrian sparkling wine Szigeti tickled my taste buds. Creaminess on the palate with crisp apple notes, a hint of honeysuckle and citrus and just a pop of white pepper at the end. $22 range.  Grüner Veltliner grapes, region: Lake Neusiedl – Burgenland.

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Another favorite pour that evening… Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru. The grapes for this champagne are sourced from the same village Salon makes their incredibly expensive luxury Champagnes. One-hundred percent Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards. This fine bubbly was an excellent pairing with the Smithfield Ham and Gruyère cheese puffs.  $50 price range. The methode traditionelle is used to make this bubbly. Light lemon color with tiny consistent bubbles. Notes of hazelnut and lightly toasted brioche.

During the tasting we noted that fine champagnes have smaller bubbles. That reminded me of a champagne that we tasted at a friend’s house that was absolutely divine.

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The bubbles in this G. H. Mumm Carte Classique Extra Dry Champagne were super tiny fine bubbles.  This champagne resembled a fine golden chardonnay rather than a bubbly wine…but that is exactly what champagne is ~ fine wine!  Just because the bubbles are very tiny does not mean that the champagne will not taste good…quite the opposite is true.   Elegant and refined. Deep golden color.  Nice and toasty with fruity sweetness, but not so sweet as to alienate those who enjoy a brut champagne. I would describe the sweetness in this champagne as “richness” which added to the nuances of this fine bubbly.

Wishing all of my readers a very happy holiday season and all the best for a bright new year…and remember during all of the hustle bustle of the season…relax because…

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For Ice Cream Lovers ~ Rolled Ice Cream!

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I recently visited Champloo Desserts, locally owned in Salem, Virginia. This little shop located across the street from two of my other favorite stores:  R.M. Johnson and Sons Jewelers and The Bird Cage on South College Street, offers the most unusual ice cream. Here’s the 411:

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The Champloo signature dessert ~ Rolled Ice Cream starts out its little ice creamy life as ingredients that are chopped on a frozen stainless steel surface.  Rich creamy milk is poured over the chopped ingredients and immediately starts to freeze. The mixture pictured above is chocolate  peppermint patties with whole milk.

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 After the mixture is whirled around a bit to combine the ingredients it is scraped into a flat slab.

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Then the ice cream is rolled…and each roll is placed standing up in an ice cream dish…then covered with yummy toppings.

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Pictured above: Mount Everest Rolled Ice Cream ~ chocolate mint ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and pecans.

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Pictured above:  Peach Crumble Ice Cream ~ peaches chopped into ice cream with graham crackers, whipped cream and a peachy sauce drizzled over…

These treats cost $4.95 for a bowl, but definitely worth every penny.  I bought two for a birthday gift for a friend and when I called him the next to see if he liked the ice cream and he said “It’s Gone!” which meant he loved it!

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PAIRED – Champagne And Sparkling Wines ~ Bubbly Book Review

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Pairing wine and food can be quite a conundrum. Champagne and sparkling wines are among the most mysterious when it comes to pairing so it was refreshing to discover this lovely food and wine matching recipe book: PAIRED – Champagne & Sparkling Wines

Just in time for the holidays ~ this lovely book will make a fabulous gift ~  as soon as it arrived on my doorstep I couldn’t wait to commence to tasting and cooking!  Bubbly FUN!

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This cookbook starts out with a splash! …a photo of one of the authors sabering champagne on the Australian coast. We know from the first page that this is going to be a FUN book! (Photo credits: All photos (unless otherwise noted) complements of  Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at paired-media.com)

PAIRED received a ‘Best in the World Award’ in the Food & Wine Matching category at the prestigious Gourmand World Cook Book Awards in May, 2016.  http://www.cookbookfair.com

The forward by Tyson Stelzer, International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year 2015 and International Champagne Writer of the Year 2011 supports my motto:  DON’T WAIT TO CELEBRATE! Champagne has a place at every meal and occasion and pairs with so many foods.

Bubbling over with refreshing information about pairing champagne and sparkling wines with food, this cookbook was written by David Stevens-Castro and Fran Flynn. David and Fran’s mission is to help us make magic combinations with wine and food pairings.

Following is the authors bio compliments of  paired-media.com:

David Stevens-Castro grew up in Chile playing in the vineyards on his grandfathers farm and inspired by his Aunt and Uncles wine analysis laboratory. Fast forward a few decades, with a degree in Agricultural Science under his belt (specialising in fruit and wine production) and a passion for food and wine in his belly, David set out exploring Australia and enriched his career as a sommelier in several five star locations. These days he is a highly respected wine expert, whos admirable palate is regularly employed for food and wine selection and menu design. Meanwhile Fran Flynn honed her skills in all things creative in the Emerald Isle of Ireland – before setting off on adventures that meadered through five continents. After working her way up through many creative agencies, this award winning photographer and designer settled in Australia and has enjoyed ten years running her own successful business. Their worlds collided on the salty, sunny, romantic, stage of Byron Bay, Australia and eight years later (now living on the Gold Coast, Australia) they have combined their skills to present what they know and love with a narrative that is unique, compelling and accessible to everyone.

I received a complimentary copy of Paired- – Champagne & Sparkling Wines in exchange for my review of the food and wine recipe matching book on my blog.

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

I will enjoy giving PAIRED as a gift this holiday season…

The recipes are easy to prepare and bubbly pairings are included on each recipe page.

It is a handy reference book…for the novice or the experienced bubbly lover there is an explanation of every type of bubbly – Champagne, Cava, Prosecco  New World Sparkling, Crémant, Sparkling Rosé, Moscato, and Sparkling Reds.

The photos are fabulous ~ colorful and inviting…the food photos encourage us to get cookin’! And the photos of bubbly make us want to start celebrating!

Here are my favorite recipes and pairings from this lovely book:

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

Gnocchi With Asparagus And Butter Sauce

I love to make gnocchi and this recipe is perfect for making those little pasta puffs of perfection.  Love how they brown the gnocchi in butter before adding the sauce. My hubby raved about this dish! Awesome pairing with champagne.

Roast Duck With Cherry Sauce

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

The balsamic vinegar in the cherry sauce recipe perks it up while the rosemary gives an additional layer of earthiness to the duck. The combination is heavenly! Since roasting a whole duck is not always in the cards,  I served the cherry sauce on seared duck breasts and it was equally delicious as the whole duck recipe. The authors recommended pairing this recipe with Sparkling Shiraz, ideally aged.

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I will be preparing Stuffed Mushrooms With Ricotta And Sun-Dried Tomatoes during the holidays. My husband loved them and I know my holiday guests will love them too. For “pop-in guests” during the holidays I will serve a mini version of the stuff mushrooms, following the exact same recipe and replacing the large Portobello mushrooms with baby bella mushrooms. So easy to prepare with just a few ingredients. They are rich, flavorful and festive! Vegetarian too! 

Fun to pair these stuffed mushrooms with a dry non-vintage prosecco ideally from Veneto, Italy.

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 Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

Obviously I am NUTS about this cookbook!  One pairing that stood out with me after reading this book is Cava with almonds and walnuts. I enjoyed this pairing with one of my favorite Cavas ~ Segura Vuidas Reserva Heredad.  I love the bottle with the silvery embellishments as much as the elegant bubbly inside.

Cheers to Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro!  I am eagerly anticipating future volumes ~ Whites and Reds ~ of PAIRED.

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Here’s a link to purchase PAIRED Champagne and Sparkling Wines: https://www.amazon.com/PAIRED-Champagne-Sparkling-matching-everyone/dp/0994348509/

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Mary Merry Mushrooms!

So happy to see my bubbly friend and her fabulous recipes featured in “A Taste of Lake Life” in the Roanoke Times  today: Fridge Magnet, sheripoore@roanoketimes.com.  She lives at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia and is one of the best cooks I know…plus she has a gorgeous kitchen with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake. Oh la la!!!! Here’s her marvelous appetizer mushroom recipe just in time to enjoy during the holidays:

Baby Bella Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Recipe courtesy of Mary Boyer.

16 oz. package baby Bella mushrooms

8 oz. package reduced-fat cream cheese

1 lb. Neeces extra sage sausage

1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of mushrooms just before they are done

Start with a 16-ounce container of baby Bella mushrooms. Wash each mushroom, pop out the stems, set them on paper towels and let them dry.

While the mushrooms are drying on the paper towels, brown 1 pound sausage. Drain, rinse and return it to the pot, adding 8 ounces cream cheese and stirring until melted.

Use about a teaspoon of this mixture to fill the top of each mushroom. Layer into a casserole dish and bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Just before they are done, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and return them briefly to the oven.

Champagne To Serve With Stuffed Mushrooms…

The Food Lover’s Guide To Wine by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg suggests champagne blended with Pinot Meunier to pair with mushrooms.  Pinot Meunier along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the primary grapes in champagne.

I pick up earthy notes in champagne that is primarily blended with  Pinot Meunier grapes so it makes sense that Pinot Meunier champagne would pair well with earthy mushrooms.  The taste of Pinot Meunier is often described as “confected fruit with a touch of smoke”.

Here’s a link to champagne made with Pinot Meunier grapes plus one of my suggestions to pair with mushrooms:

Argyle Brut Rosé Willamette Valley 2011 is a blend of  70% pinot noir and 25% pinot meunier with a splash of chardonnay:

ArgyleRose kind of dayArgyle 2010 Brut Rose

Wine Spectator tasting notes:  Argyle Brut Rosé Willamette Valley 2011. Light and refreshing, a refined style, with finesse to the balance of fruit and savory notes as the finish dances. Rated 91.

My tasting notes:  My bottle of Argyle arrived as a special order from Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia. http://mrbillswinecellar.com

A lovely sparkling offering from Oregon. Tiny bubbles dance around the glass.  Pretty pale pink salmon color.  The first sip explodes with fresh ripe cherry flavors.  A blend of 70% pinot noir and 25% pinot meunier with a splash of chardonnay. The finish is creamy but with a little tingle on the tongue. This sparkly is well deserving of its 91 points. Cheers!

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Lovin’ Local ~ Deschutes Chili Recipe And Really Good Donuts!

Happy Holidays!

Holidays are the most wonderful time to shop and celebrate local!

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Why is this coffee so special? Because it is the Pumpkin Spice Latte that my bubbly friend and I drink every morning from September through December…and then we have to wait an entire year to enjoy it again. Sweet Donkey Coffee, our local coffee shop makes this lovely latte with fresh pumpkin puree. Our favorite barista always designs a pumpkin in our latte foam.

http://www.sweetdonkeycoffee.com/

Last week I visited the Really Good Donut pop up shop located under a tent in Sweet Donkey Coffee’s front yard.  This is serious donut heaven.  They sell out every time they pop up at Sweet Donkey Coffee!

Like Really Good Donuts on Facebook to find out the days (usually Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. until they sell out…which can be 8:45 a.m.) Really Good Doughnuts will be at Sweet Donkey Coffee.

These photos tell the story of why Really Good Donuts are REALLY GOOD! Fresh…Fresh…Fresh!!! As their Facebook page describes them:

Have you had a Really Good Donut lately? A Really Good Donut is rolled by hand, made from scratch with all natural ingredients, and perfectly glazed.

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Chocolate, vanilla, eggnog, raspberry (made with fresh raspberries, not artificially flavored!) cinnamon sugar and coconut are among the AMAZING flavors of Really Good Donuts!  Brian, one of the owners of Really Good Donuts said that the most popular flavors are Lime Toasted Coconut and Blackberry Crumble. He also explained that one of their goals is to eventually share with other entrepreneurs how to take a $1,000 investment (their initial investment in Really Good Doughnuts) and create a sustainable business.  It will be exciting to watch them thrive.

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Just for fun I sent my recipe for Bubblybee Chili Verde to Deschutes Brewery: https://www.deschutesbrewery.com

My Chili Verde contains Deschutes Black Butte Porter….yum!

Bubblybee Chili Verde

4 ounces thick cut black pepper bacon, fried crisp (reserve fat in frying  pan) and finely crumbled

½ cup finely chopped yellow onion

7  tomatillos, outer husk removed, chopped

1 Serrano pepper, seeds removed, chopped fine

7 ounce can diced green chilies, drained

6 ounce jar roasted red peppers, chopped

1 pound ground chicken

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon chili powder

12 ounce bottle Deschutes Black Butte Porter

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ ounce fresh lime juice (=juice of ½ lime)

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons honey

 

Garnish:  Grated Queso Quesadilla Melting Mexican Cheese, Sour Cream, Chopped Cilantro, Lime Wedges.  Serve with Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips.

Heat the reserved bacon fat in frying pan.  Add onion, tomatillos, Serrano pepper.  Stir and heat over medium high heat until the onions are soft and transparent.  Add the green chilies, roasted red peppers, cilantro, chili powder, salt, lime juice and cumin and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos are very soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the ground chicken and cook over medium heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Add the finely crumbled bacon and the Deschutes Black Butte Porter to the chicken. Stir to combine. Continue to heat over medium heat.  Add the cannellini beans and stir to combine. Add the tomatillo mixture and honey.  Stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium low heat for 30 minutes.  Portion into soup bowls and garnish with Grated Queso Quesadilla Melting Mexican Cheese, Sour Cream, Chopped Cilantro, Lime Wedges.  Serve with Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips. ¡que aproveche!

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8 Random Facts About Champagne

Fun facts about champagne compliments of premierchampange.wordpress.com

premierchampagne

8-random-facts-about-champagneChampagne is the diamond of wines – a sparkling celebration of life and everything in it. When you need to achieve a festive atmosphere, bubbles do it best, but did you know that the cork travels at 64 km an hour once it’s popped and that it can fly as far as 54 meters? That bottle of sparkles is among the most interesting beverages in existence.

1. Origins and Authenticity

Legally, the only beverage that’s allowed to carry the grand title of ‘champagne’ is that which has its origins in the French region of Champagne. That’s why that bottle you have in your liquor cabinet has ‘sparkling wine’ on the label.

2. Marilyn Monroe’s Bubbly Baths

Marilyn Monroe once bathed in 350 bottles of champagne. The famous bath she used had a 262-litre capacity and could accommodate four people. Winston Churchill was equally enthusiastic about the beverage. He began drinking…

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Homemade Maraschino Cherries

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Fabulously quick way to pit cherries…Remove stem from fresh cherry.  Place cherry on top of the opening of an empty wine bottle, stem side down.  Take a chop stick and poke a hole through the cherry knocking the cherry pit into the empty bottle.

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Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Homemade Maraschino Cherries are yummy and boozy with fresh cherry flavor,  just not as colorful as the bright red ones we purchase in the grocery store. Delicious addition to bourbon cocktails…here’s a link to lots of Maraschino Cherry cocktails.  I will plop a couple in a glass of bubbly Cava: http://www.barnonedrinks.com/drinks/by_ingredient/m/maraschino-liqueur-9.html

  • 1 pound sweet Bing cherries, washed and pitted
  • 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped, pod and seeds reserved
  • 1/2  cup maraschino liqueur
  1.  Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place pitted cherries on a baking sheet. Bake cherries in preheated oven for 2 hours. Increase oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sprinkle the cherries with a little bit of fine granulated sugar.  Bake the cherries for 1 and 3/4 hours more.
  2. Place sugar, water, vanilla bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the maraschino liqueur to the syrup and stir to combine.
  3. Place cherries in a 1-quart glass container with a tight-fitting lid and place the vanilla bean pod in the center. Pour the maraschino syrup over the cherries, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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