Monthly Archives: June 2016

Charcuterie And Champagne

river and rail meat wooden board 3

A lovely charcuterie board at River and Rail Restaurant.   http://riverandrailrestaurant.com

The chefs cure their own hams and salami, so delicious. Charcuterie is a collection of cold cured meats, primarily pork. Try putting together your own charcuterie board…it’s a fabulous appetizer to serve at home because:

1.Wooden cutting boards are perfect for charcuterie service and I found one for $7 at Walmart to use at home. Love it!

2. Gluten-free.  As long as you keep your wooden cutting board just for the purpose of serving gluten-free (no bread and no ingredients that have gluten – check salami that have added ingredients to make sure they do not have gluten) charcuterie makes an excellent gluten-free appetizer.

3.  Easy to make, you don’t have to turn on your oven on a hot summer day and clean-up is a breeze!

4. It’s fun to say “charcuterie”!

My home charcuterie board includes very thinly sliced Black Forest Ham, sliced pepper or herb (rind) salami, Genoa salami, dry sausage with wine added (Roanoke Co-op on Grandin Road, Roanoke, Virginia has a nice selection of these…they even have “Salame with Prosecco”!, whole grain mustard, cornichons and dry cured black olives (sold at Fresh Market)  dried cherries and apricots. Serve with crusty grilled sliced Italian bread. River and Rail adds their homemade sauerkraut and pickles to their board. Part of the fun is finding unique items to put on your board…

 river and rail picklesriver and rail pimento
River and Rail Restaurant  House-made Pickled Vegetables and Pimento Cheese
champagne siecle
Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siècle” Brut Champagne
One of our personal favorites and our Happy Anniversary Champagne this year!
$100 – $120 range
97 points Wine Enthusiast:

*Cellar Selection* Laurent-Perrier’s prestige cuvée has always been nonvintage, a blending of top wines from top years. It remains an exceptional wine, not quite dry and with a tinge of softness, but so elegant and balanced. This bottling has just the right amount of maturity, hinting at toast while guarding every iota of fruitiness.

93 points Wine Spectator

A subtle version, focused more on delicate acidity and texture than the finely layered flavors of creamed apple, marzipan, pastry dough and black currant, with hints of lemon curd and ground spice. Delivers a lasting, smoke-tinged finish. Drink now through 2020.

K&L Wine Merchants Notes:

This Champagne is a blend of three great harvests: 20% 1999, 20% 2000 and an astonishing 60% 2002. It is half Chardonnay, half Pinot Noir and all the fruit comes entirely from Grand Cru villages in Champagne. This is one of the greatest of the tête de cuvée Champagnes, but it has had a hard time selling in the U.S. because it does not carry a vintage date, and is not produced in the same large volume as Cristal and Dom Perignon. This is a must for anyone who loves Champagne. It has glorious detail and complexity on the bouquet. In the mouth, the bead is ultra fine; it is hard to imagine smaller bubbles. The flavors are polished and fresh but still fully developed, a testament to the precise blending of the three great vintages. A great tête de cuvée!

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Champagne And White Mint

blue champagne 2

Entre Ciel & Terre Champagne

Francoise and her son Vincent farm only a few small acres and vinify tiny quantities of premium champagne in the western Marne valley. The grapes are harvested by hand and the champagne ages for several years in the cellar. 65% Meunier , 25% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. $80 range.

This is a lovely pairing champagne with seafood, creamy pasta or salmon.  Notes of lemon, toasted brioche, ripe apple and a touch of ginger.  The  Meunier grape stands out from the first sip.  

Available at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia.  http://mrbillswinecellar.com/

mintmint white

Lovely pineapple mint that I transplanted from my Mother’s garden.  I’ve always loved the “pineappley” aroma of this mint. I remember marveling to my Mom that there was always one sprig of this mint that was perfectly white in her garden. Now the same is true in my garden. That one little white sprig always brings back fond memories of my Mom and her love of herb gardening that she passed along to me. Truly a blessing.

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Sip Szigeti? Champagne Risotto

champagne seizler

The name Szigeti is intriguing…this lovely Austrian sparkling wine tickled my taste buds. I was pleasantly surprised at the first sip – creaminess on the palate with crisp apple notes.

Grape Varieties: Grüner Veltliner

 Vintage: 2013

Region: Lake Neusiedl – Burgenland

Tasting Notes from website:
Lovely golden colour with light green tinges. Delicate aromas of apple with a touch of white pepper. Dry with crunchy acidity, hint of honeysuckle and kiwi over elegant lime notes.

My notes: Creamy, fruity with apple notes.

Locally sourced at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia ($21.00 range)

risotto champagne

Champagne Risotto

The champagne in this dish gives the risotto a bit of a lemony flavor ~ and the fresh herbs give it even more zest –  some of the best risotto I’ve ever tasted – yum!

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 bunch (6) spring onions, white part and just a little of the green part, sliced thin

6 baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

4  cups  to 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup champagne (sparkling wine can be substituted) plus 1/2 cup champagne for the cook to sip on while cooking the risotto since this dish does take a little bit of time to cook!

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

10 fresh basil leaves chiffonade

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

 Chili Oil for garnish (available at Asian grocery)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the spring onion, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until mushrooms are soft.  Add the rice to the mushroom mixture. Stir to coat the rice with the butter mixture and cook over low heat for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of champagne.  Continue to cook and stir over medium low heat until all of the champagne is absorbed.  Add vegetable broth one cup at a time, stirring and cooking until rice absorbs the broth. If the rice is not tender after adding 4 cups of broth, add 1/2 cup more broth.  After about 18 minutes of stirring and cooking the rice will be tender.

Remove rice from heat and stir in basil, Italian parsley, chives and Parmesan cheese. To serve spoon rice into warm bowls and drizzle lightly (to taste) with chili oil.

From Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed Newsletter:

 Wine question of the week:  Which of the following is the driest style of Champagne or sparkling wine?

A. Brut   B. Extra Dry   C. Demi-sec    D. Extra Brut

Answer:  D. Extra Brut is a very dry Champagne or sparkling wine with less than .6 percent of sugar per liter.  Brut is a dry to very dry style containing less than 1.5 percent sugar per liter. Extra Dry is slightly sweeter than Brut. And Demi-sec, with 3.3 to 5.0  percent of sugar per liter, is sweeter than Extra Dry.

 

A Pleasant Twist On Italian Rosé

rose-strawberry-2

Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noir Rosé

Rosé Vino Spumante Brut

I readily admit I am a sucker for a pretty wine label.  The Cleto Chiarli with its fancy label and frilly script pulled me right in.  Pretty pink in the glass. This sparkling is a wonderful value and a very enjoyable rosé  for summer sippin’. I picked up this bottle at Barrel Chest in Roanoke, Virginia. http://www.barrelchestwineandbeer.com/

Blend of Grasparossa and Pinot Nero grapes.  Raspberry and Strawberry notes are no surprise in this wine. The real surprise is the smooth finish…no acidic bite or tannins at the end of the sip…just a touch of refreshing lingering lemon at the very end.

After I purchased this bottle, chilled it and was sipping on it, I opened the Sunday, June 18, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal (thank you to my bubbly friend who always saves WSJ wine articles for me!) and found the article 20 Splendid Summer Wines – All Under $20.  The very wine I was sipping was recommended in this article:  The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is as famous for Lambrusco as it is for cheese, though its Parmigiano-Reggiano may get more respect – or at least recognition – and that’s a shame.  A dry, frothy red like this is compulsively drinkable and great with food.  Serve well-chilled.  

Rose kind of day

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U.S. Sparkling For The Summer!

In anticipation of the summer season, Wine Spectator published an article:  Sparkling Summer ~ As consumers thirst for bubbly, U.S. producers continue to shine.   Here’s a list of U.S. Sparkling Wine from Wine Spectator with rating and release price:

http://www.winespectator.com/wines/list/id/51550

Included in the article are the Top Values ~ sparkling wines that won’t break the bank.  I will try as many of these sparklings that are available to me and will report back here.

Argyle

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!

Champagne Tasting And A Coca Cola?!

Coke bottle

Forget the V8! I bet this guy wished he had champagne!  This sculpture is on display at MoMA (Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art), NYC.  Titled Love  by Marisol Escobar, Venezuelan, born in France 1930.  Plaster and glass (Coca-Cola bottle).

A couple of sparklers to get this weekend started…

champagne

1995 de Venoge Champagne Brut Louis XV

Presented in a beautiful crystal bottle. Bright with green apple, hazelnut and brioche notes. Tiny consistent bubbles in the glass.  De Venoge produced this champagne in honor of King Louis XV, who first decreed the bottling of Champagne in the region to preserve the bubbles (prior to this time wine was transported in wood barrels which resulted in flat champagne since most all of the gas would escape through the wood). Wine Enthusiast rated this champagne 92 points.

dom

2005 Dom Perignon Brut, Champagne

Toasty, balanced and silky with a creamy mousse and a long intense finish. Beautiful tiny bubbles dancing in the flute.  Wine Enthusiast rated this champagne 95 points.

bubbles and brunch

Happy Weekend! Don’t forget the Mimosas and the Buck Fizzes!

Mimosa = equal parts champagne and orange juice

Buck Fizz = two parts champagne and one part orange juice

Cocktail School At River and Rail Restaurant!

cocktail shake

Sunday evening my bubbly friend and I attended Cocktail School at River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia.  Our talented “Cocktail Professors” were Devon Steiner, Manager and Sous Chef John Diaz (pictured above) of River and Rail.

Veuve champagne

We started the evening with Veuve Ambal Blanc de Blancs Brut sparkling wine.  A lovely apéritif, crisp, dry, with notes of fresh apple and a touch of honey. A lively little sparkler!

A bit of history about this bubbly from http://devinewine.com.au

Maison Veuve Ambal was founded in the heart of Burgundy in 1898, by Veuve Marie Ambal, widow of a Parisian banker. Marie returned to Rully to join her brother, a wine lover and wine broker, to make wine at the time “method traditionelle” was being introduced for sparkling wines. The wines immediately gained recognition, and her grandson Charles Roux Ambal, followed by his grandson and current President Eric Piffaut, have continued to build on Marie’s philosophy of quality, and the combination of tradition and modernity which is the signature of Veuve Ambal. With over 200 hectares of vineyards across Burgundy, mainly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Veuve Ambal remain leaders in the production of  sparkling wines today. 

Pale yellow gold in colour, the Veuve Ambal Cremant de Bourgogne shows an exceptionally fine, persistent mousse. The fruity bouquet shows enticing citrusy notes, with a hint of red fruits and some biscuity complexity. The palate is elegant and harmonious, the finish long, crisp and dry. 

strawberry shrub

One of the reasons that River and Rail’s Strawberry Daiquiri tastes so good…they make the daiquiri with strawberry shrub (pictured above).  A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup and referred to as “Drinking Vinegar”. Drinking vinegar is often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in mixed drinks.  Devon and Chef John recommend adding ingredients to match the season such as clove and cinnamon during the holidays.  Our shrub had a little orange zest in it. My bubbly friend and I determined that the shrub made the daquiri taste not as syrupy sweet as commercial mixes which was refreshing. They recommended serving the daiquiri in a chilled coupe glass. Double straining with a cocktail strainer is a good idea for this drink to remove any ice crystals. Always use fresh juices in your cocktails, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

River and Rail Strawberry Shrub

Wash and slice 1# strawberries

Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar, stir to coat evenly

Let this sit with a breathable cover (cheesecloth) for 24-48 hours

Strain syrup through fine mesh strainer or use coffee filter

Add red wine vinegar to taste (Devon likes 2/3 cup for this recipe)

Pour into mason jar and refrigerate. Over time, the shrub will mellow out and flavors marry

  • Experiment with citrus, spices and vinegars
  • Great in nonalcoholic beverages as well

River and Rail Strawberry Daiquiri

2 ounces rum

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce strawberry shrub

1 dash rhubarb bitters

Add ice to shaker, shake hard, double strain into coupe glass. Optional garnish:  Thin lime wheel, strawberry or cherry

River and Rail Bourbon Sour

1.5 ounces bourbon

.75 ounces simple syrup

.75 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add ice to shaker, shake hard, strain into rocks glass

Sour mix:  DO NOT BUY STORE SOUR, make your own. Equal parts lemon juice to simple syrup. Simple syrup:  1 cup sugar + 1 cup boiling water = 1.5 cups simple syrup. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

negronivermouth

June 6 – June 12, 2016 was National Negroni Week. Here’s a link to some fun information about this Italian cocktail: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/negroni-cocktail-facts-history-negroni-week

They recommend serving this cocktail over a “big rock” (large ice cube that fills the glass).  Do not shake this cocktail because shaking bruises the botanicals in the gin.

River and Rail Negroni

1 ounce gin

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 oz. Campari

Combine over ice, stir until glass is frosty, about 30 stirs.  Serve over ice or up.  Garnish: Orange Peel

meatstrawberry bowl

The  lovely hors d’oeuvres included housemade Charcuterie and fresh strawberries.

champagne

Finished this lovely evening on the patio under the stars with this bottle of bubbly: Tendil & Lombardi  Blanc de Noirs Champagne.

100 % pinot noir champagne. Creamy mousse, crisp apple and raspberry notes with a hint of toast.  Wine Spectator rated this champagne “90 points”.

L Asiatic Trogon Lily

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