Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Random Samples (Imports)—1/17/2018

Our friend Jeff Kralik, the Drunken Cyclist is a finalist for the 2018 Millésima Wine Blog Awards! Please go HERE and vote for him so that I might win a trip to Bordeaux! Cheers and thank you!

the drunken cyclist

I am a finalist for the 2018 Millésima Wine Blog Awards! Please go HERE and vote for me so that I might win a trip to Bordeaux!

It is time for another edition of “Random Samples”–I occasionally get samples from marketing agencies and/or producers, and these can often be grouped together into some sort of over-arching theme: Drink Them and It Will ComeSummer is Here, So That Means (More) Rosé, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.

Other times, I get just a bottle or two that do not have any apparent connection or link. Instead of holding on to those bottles until the “right” combination comes along, I decided to link all these “random” bottles together, making their own category (and, being the math geek that I am, “random sample” has a bit of a double entendre….

The first two wines come from Domaine Bousquet, which…

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Champagne + Truffles = Amazing Evening With Friends

This winter has been extraordinarily cold in Southwest Virginia so a warm fire in a cozy kitchen surrounded by good friends, truffles and champagne was especially welcoming. andre-champagne-and-bag

We toasted the evening with…

NV André Clouet Champagne 1911

Only 1911 bottles of this Champagne are made each year.

Each bottle is numbered by hand. My bottle number 224 and it was disgorged on April 4, 2016.

Produced in the Bouzy village in the Champagne region (the village name is pronounced “Boozy” which tickles me!) with 100% Grand Cru  Bouzy and Ambonnay Pinot Noir grapes by winemaker Jean-Francois Clouet.

Cuvée 1911 commemorates the year riots broke out in the Champagne region as the local farmers rebelled against the larger houses.  The bottle is wrapped in straw, the same way Jean-Francois Clouet’s great grandfather delivered the champagne to Maxim’s in Paris, France in 1911.

Bottle wrapped in straw makes for a fun conversation piece. We found this bubbly to be an “upside surprise”.  Consistent tiny bubbles that danced around my flute.   Elegant and smooth with a fine mousse.  Notes of hazelnuts, lightly toasted brioche and just a touch of ripe pear. This champagne is reminiscent of the Bollinger style.  André Clouet uses an old Champagne tradition which blends multiple vintages together, in this case 2005, 2002, 2000 vintages were blended together to create this fabulous champagne.  $100 range.

1911 champagne

…accompanied by Beef Tenderloin and Gratin Dauphinois Appetizer Spoons. (topped with horseradish cream sauce and fresh thyme sprigs) Gratin Dauphinois are classic French Potatoes Baked in  whipping cream with grated gruyere cheese. These fabulous potatoes remind me of a very rich variation of scalloped potatoes.  Here’s a link to Julia Child’s recipe for Gratin Dauphinois:


White Truffle Imported From Italy

pasta truffle shaver

Truffle Shaver

pasta with truffles

pasta truffles and porcini mushroomspasta

Perfect Pasta ~  Porcini Mushroom And White Truffle Fettucine

pasta wine

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2004. Italian Barolo.   Earthy spices, smoky tobacco, chocolate, orange peel, black cherries, sweet prunes, slight vanilla oak.  Great balance and terrific acidity that paired perfectly with the pasta.

And to top off the evening…

champagne top 1-18champagne turgy

Michel Turgy Champagne ~ Blanc de Blancs ~ 100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru of Mesnil, the same village that brought us Salon, Krug Clos de Mesnil and Launois. Well balanced with citrus and pastry aromas.

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It’s A Puzzle…Any Idea What This Is?


Dear Readers,

I need your help…

I found this at T J Maxx department store in the housewares/barware section.  I have no clue as to its intended use.  I asked everyone in the store and the cashiers and they did not have an answer.  I put the question on Facebook and Instagram and the best answer so far is a chip and dip bowl. It seems a bit small for chips and dip? If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

Here’s the information that I have so far:

  1.  It costs $12.99
  2. The top and bottom do not have any holes in them.
  3. It is made in India.
  4. I looked on T J Maxx website and Marshall’s website, googled it and searched eBay,  but no luck finding it.

Thank you for your help with this puzzle!

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Champagne Cocktails To Celebrate National Freshly Squeezed Juice Day!

January 15, 2018 is National Freshly Squeezed Juice Day.  My favorite juice this time of year is Blood Orange Juice.

Blood Oranges are in season (December through March). Blood orange juice brightens up even the most dreary winter day with it’s POP! of red-orange color.

Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail

For each cocktail:

2 ounces fresh blood orange juice

1 ounce triple sec

1 ounce blood orange liqueur (I like Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur)


Frozen fresh clementine segments to use as ice cubes (Separate clementine segments, remove all white pith and any seeds and place in flat freezer container. Poke a couple of holes in each segment with a fork.  Pour blood orange juice liqueur over the segments, just to cover. Place in freezer for 24 hours.  Turn the container over after 12 hours.  The frozen clementine segments can be kept in the freezer for two weeks.)

Pour blood orange juice, triple sec and blood orange juice into a champagne flute. Stir gently.  Top with champagne.  Add two frozen blood orange soaked clementine segments.
chili oil on red carpet cocktailchili oil on red carpet cocktailchili oil on red carpet cocktail

Link to The London Bar, NYC:

Jean Carlos Parra, Bartender, The London Bar, NYC creates this fanciful cocktail: The Red CarpetI was intrigued by the Thai Chili Pepper-Infused Oil drizzled on the top of this fabulous raspberry blood orange cocktail. Here’s the original recipe and a couple of my twists – very easy to make and very sippable!

The Red Carpet

10 fresh raspberries (I did not have fresh raspberries so I used 4 tablespoons frozen raspberry puree that I had in the freezer – I made the raspberry puree by placing fresh raspberries in a saute pan, heating and smashing them with a fork until they are mushy and juicy. Strain the puree through a fine sieve. Discard seeds from sieve. Place juice in a freezer container and freeze until ready to use. )

2 ounces blood orange puree (I did not have blood oranges so I substituted 2 ounces of blood orange European soda – the soda has a little carbonation in it – this soda is sold locally at Fresh Market.)

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar

3 ounces vodka (I used 1 ounce of Sunset Hills Virginia Gin…I did not want a strong drink so I used less than the 3 ounces the original recipe called for and I wanted to make a gin drink so I used the Sunset Hills. I like this particular gin because it does not have a strong juniper berry flavor or aroma. (Other types of gin may be too strong in juniper berry flavor for this drink.)

5 – 10 drops of Thai chili-infused oil (optional) (I found this oil at our local Asian market.)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle approximately 10 raspberries (if using raspberry puree place puree in cocktail shaker). Add blood orange puree (or blood orange soda), lime juice, agave nectar, and vodka (or gin) and shake vigorously. (I added a few ice cubes to the cocktail shaker to make sure the cocktail was icy cold.) Strain into a chilled martini glass. For an added kick, top with Thai chili-infused oil.

Here’s lots of fun blood orange cocktails to enjoy this winter:

champagne sign

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Placomusophilia: A Hobby that Could Really Use a New Name

A fun read about champagne caps. I’ve been collecting these for years but never knew there is a name for that: placomusophile!

The Armchair Sommelier

Placomusophilia sounds like something that requires a course of antibiotics to clear up.  It’s actually a hobby — collecting the colorful, unique metal caps found on the tops of Champagne and other sparkling wine corks.  But the word, placomusophilia, makes me cringe.  And calling myself a placomusophile just sounds, well, sketchy.

-champagne-0033aa-lot-n17005Placomusophilia comes from the French words plaque, for plate, and muselet, which is the wire basket that holds a sparkling wine cork in place.  Invented by Adolphe Jacquesson (of Jacquesson & Fils) in 1844, the the muselet is a very important piece of wine gear. Prior to the muselet, corks were held in place with hemp twine and wax, which turned out to be rather unstable.  Corks had a habit of flying out of bottles willy-nilly.  This was somewhat problematic, because when a cork flies out of a Champagne bottle, it can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.  If…

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Mailly Grand Cru—More than my Favorite Champagne

A fabulous champagne story from the Drunken Cyclist. I love the last photo on this post…wait for it…Mailly!

the drunken cyclist

It has been a couple of years since I have led a bike trip in Europe, but since that last trip to Burgundy, the Loire, and the Basque region of Southern of France, I have been back to France several times, including this past summer.

My wife has been to France numerous times with me, but she had only been in Champagne for a heartbeat as we were making our way up to Belgium. Thus, this past summer, as we were planning a trip to take the boys back to France, Champagne came up as a prime target. Even though I have been to the region countless times (if I had to guess, I would say I have led over a dozen bike trips to Champagne), it is easily one of my favorite regions of France, so it was an easy sell.

Even though we were heading there in mid-August…

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Winter Grapefruit and Avocado Salad shares another fabulous recipe…this bright and fresh Winter Grapefruit and Avocado Salad is perfect for the New Year!

fourth generation farmgirl

When I first saw the recipe for this colorful winter salad in the cookbook, Southern My Way–Simple Recipes, Fresh Flavors by Gena Knox, I knew I had to make it.  Mainly, because it looked so healthy, but also, because it contained many of my favorite foods and spices—avocados, citrus fruit, basil, and ginger. Plus, it’s nice to enjoy food fare that’s a little lighter, especially after all of the indulgences around the holidays.  This refreshing salad makes a nice starter to a winter meal.  And, if you add shrimp or crab, it becomes a light but satisfying lunch (or dinner).

Winter Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

*Use organic ingredients when possible

Prep Time 10 minutes

Serves 4



2 pink grapefruits or oranges (or one of each)

2 ripe but firm avocados

1/3 cup torn basil leaves

1 head buttercrunch or bibb lettuce, torn into large pieces

Dressing (I have to…

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