Category Archives: Roanoke Virginia

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.

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…

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

Weekend Dinner ~ The Buddha Bowl and Lime Cilantro Salsa Chili

Spring has sprung in Southwest Virginia where I live…even though there are 18 more days until it is officially Spring (March 20, 2017).  The flowering trees are in bloom, my daffodils are showing their cute little yellow blossoms and some of my lilies are popping out of the ground.

christina-cooking-class I have a major case of Spring Fever and can’t wait to get outside in the garden and visit our local Farmer’s Markets.  I love to visit a neighborhood village “Grandin Village” near my home when the weather starts to warm up. There’s lots going on in the village ~ cooking and food classes, wonderful restaurants, natural foods co-op and soon the village farmer’s market will open for the season.

I recently took a cooking class taught by food writer extraordinaire Christina Nifong at our local Natural Foods Co-op and I would love to introduce my readers to her fabulous recipes. One of her latest posts introduces “The Buddha Bowl” which is such a delightful way to utilize the fabulous fresh produce available in our farmer’s markets.

Christina explains the concept of the Buddha Bowl in her blog post: A Buddha Bowl is a bowl (some say it should be a favorite bowl or one with meaning so this meal feeds your spirit as well as your belly) that’s filled with one part grain, one part greens, one part protein. Top that layer with veggies (they can be grilled, sautéed, roasted, raw), and add nuts, fruit or herbs. Then tie the whole thing together with a clean, homemade dressing.

Connect with Christina Nifong to sign up for her newsletter with this link:  (sign-up box for newsletter is on the right)


I will put these farmer’s market fresh vegetables in my Buddha Bowl (l to r: candy cane beet, Liberty tomatoes from Pulaski, Virginia, rainbow carrots)


I am also on a “chili kick” these days.  Although chili is often thought of as a “Fall and Winter dish”, I enjoy chili all year round because there are so many variations of chili to choose from:

Cincinnati Chili:  Chili served over spaghetti

Chili Con Carne: no tomatoes, no beans

Vegetarian Chili

My recipe for Lime Cilantro Salsa Chili is not complicated so it’s easy to prepare for dinner.  The leftovers are delicious served over a baked potato or over tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and salsa to make nachos.

And my new favorite:  Lime Cilantro Salsa Chili

1.20 pounds ground beef

1.25 mild chili seasoning mix (I used McCormick’s brand for this recipe)

14.5 ounce can petite diced no-salt added tomatoes, not drained

2 cans (16 ounces) light red kidney beans, drained

16 ounce Frog Ranch mild salsa

1 (25.5 ounces) Muir Glen organic garden vegetable pasta sauce

(You can use your favorite brand of salsa and pasta sauce for this recipe.)

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

Garnishes: Avocado, sour cream, chopped green onion, fresh corn off the cob, shredded Mexican cheese blend,  hot sauce, tortilla chips

Brown the ground beef in a large soup pot. Drain the fat off the ground beef after browning.  Add the chili seasoning and the tomatoes. Stir to combine and heat over medium heat while adding other ingredients.  Add kidney beans, salsa and pasta sauce, stirring after adding each ingredient.  Add honey and salt and stir to combine all ingredients.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I’ve found that one of the secrets to good chili is to simmer it long enough to allow the flavors to meld.)

Top with your favorite garnishes and serve warm over Zatarain’s Cilantro Lime Rice.

You are invited to visit my Facebook page: Bubblybee




Celebrating The Holidays With Champagne Tasting!


The place: River and Rail Restaurant, Roanoke, Virginia

The event: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Tasting

presented with Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar


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.


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.



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.


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.


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…




Chocolate Goes With Wine!

Today, October 28, 2016,  is NATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY!  In anticipation of this delicious day I sauntered downtown to find some fabulous chocolate…

elisMy first stop was Eli’s Provisions right in the heart of the market…one of my favorite places to purchase products made in Virginia. They were sponsoring a wine – featuring Virginia wines available at Eli’s – and chocolate tasting.


Virginia is for chocolate lovers too!


Pictured above chocolate samples from Chocolate Paper, Downtown Roanoke. This adorable store gets its name because they sell chocolate and greeting cards (plus lots of gifts that are perfect for any occasion).


Melissa, one of the owners of Chocolate Paper offered us samples of chocolate to pair with our wine. She is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet…is she so sweet because she owns a chocolate store or does she own a chocolate store because she is so sweet….hmmmm…


Our first pairing was Veritas Chardonnay (unoaked) with Graffiti Zoo, Tropical Tucan...creamy white chocolate with a tropical twist of pineapple and macadamia nut.  Melissa said that she really likes citrus paired with unoaked chardonnay and she is right, this pairing is decadent.

Veritas Winery, Charlottesville, Virginia:



Our next taste of wine was Blanco XOCO ~ grape wine with natural flavoring added.  We did not pair it with chocolate because the chocolate flavor was already infused into the wine! Sweet white wine made with Rkatsiteli and Vidal Blanc grapes and chocolate essence.

One of the guests at the wine tasting said that she would make a “Tres Vinos Cake” like a “Tres Leches Cake” except instead of soaking the cake in Tres Leches she would soak the cake in the Blanco XOCO! I like how this lady thinks and may have to try this sometime!

Horton Vineyard, Gordonsville, Virginia:


Our third tasting was Trump Meritage paired with a Lindt Bittersweet chocolate which was a delightful combination. One of my favorite pairings is dark chocolate with a bold red wine.

Trump winery, Charlottesville, Virginia:


Our last sip was Chateau Morrisette 2011 Heritage After Dinner Red Wine.

Winemaker’s Notes: Entrancing aromas of plum and black cherry presage the intensely fruity entry, layered with the character of black tea, baking spices, vanilla and cocoa. The texture of this deep ruby colored full-bodied wine is silky and emollient; lingering aromas will persist on the palate. Like all Port-style wines, heritage is fortified and finished sweet.

Chateau Morrisette Winery, Floyd, Virginia

My last bite was a Asher’s Raspberry Cream. Asher’s is made by a family owned business in Pennsylvania.  Another reason to love Asher’s chocolates…they have a chocolate blog!!!

Halloween and Thanksgiving  Chocolate Goodies Abound At Chocolate Paper!


Candy corn chocolate bar and Peeps!

pumpkin-1Beautifully crafted milk chocolate pumpkins!

turkey-1Cute little chocolate turkey!

Whenever I stroll through our downtown market I find delightful handcrafted goodies such as these beautifully crafted gourds…


Happy Hokies! Virginia Tech Basket handmade out of a gourd!  Created by The Gourdian Angels, Goodview Virginia. I found this beautiful basket on the market in Downtown Roanoke.



Happy Halloween!




Christina Nifong Presents ~ Fabulous Fall Recipes


Life is short…eat dessert first…Christina’s  fabulous apple cake…so moist…the secret ingredient is cream cheese!

This past weekend my bubbly friend and I enjoyed Christina Nifong’s (local writer and gardener extraordinaire in Roanoke, Virginia) Local For Lunch, Featuring Fall cooking class at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op.

It’s easy to find out more about the Co-Op’s cooking and health classes, just sign-up for their newsletter using this link:

Co-op Classes and Events

Here’s the link to Christina Nifong’s Fabulous Fall Recipes:


Christina prepared her delicious recipes with ingredients from the Co-Op and her own garden. The appetizer she served was a yummy Blue Cheese Herb Spread.  (Goat cheese or feta cheese can be substituted for the blue cheese.)


We enjoyed a roasted beet salad that was as colorful, crunchy and delicious!  It lived up to it’s name Beautiful Beet Salad. Most beet salads have the goat cheese sprinkled on top of the beets but this salad mixes the cheese with the other ingredients resulting in a creamy dressing.


Christina served us Thai Butternut Squash Soup for our second course. One of the ingredients in the soup was “Hen of the Woods Mushroom”, known as a Maitake mushroom in Japan which translates to “Dancing Mushroom”. These mushrooms grow at the base of trees (particularly fond of oak trees).

Chistina recommended using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds out of the butternut squash. The fresh ginger, jalapeno, lime juice and Thai basil give this soup a pleasant spiciness.


We gobbled up these Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins (Gluten-free)!


I enjoy buying my dried herbs and spices at the Co-op because they sell them by the pound. I purchase just what I need. I no longer have to throw away herb and spice cans that have gone out of date.  These items seem to be more fresh than the grocery store dried herbs and spices…especially the vanilla bean! Honey is also available by the pound.


I was so inspired by Christina’s class that I purchased some Delicata squash (pictured above) at the Co-op. This squash lives up to it’s name…delicate taste, easy to roast…here’s a lovely recipe to try:


I picked up a copy of Christopher Kimball’s MILK STREET magazine at the Roanoke Co Op. They have a nice selection of culinary magazines.  MILK STREET  may remind the reader of Cook’s Illustrated magazine which is more than a coincidence…Kimball founded Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  The charter issue, Fall 2016 includes an article about champagne glasses, which of course caught my eye:  The Trouble with Champagne Flutes.  

They recommend not the classic coupe or traditional flute, but the sturdy wine glass:

The classic red or white wine glass – with its broad, stable foot and a bulbous-bottomed bowl – is just about perfect.  The bowl allows the wine to be agitated and aerated with a motion of the wrist (swirling!)…the pros ditch them (flutes) when tasting and judging sparkling wines. They know flutes are for orchestras, not fine wine.

Sounds good to me except that I have dozens of champagne flutes that I can’t bear to toss out. I do look forward to tasting some finer champagnes in a chardonnay glass just for the taste experience.


One of our fellow guests shared this website:

I shared with the group that the liquid that is drained off canned garbanzo beans can be whipped like egg whites to use in recipes such as this began meringue:


Since we’re celebrating local and Fall today, I am happy to shard a very happy occurrence at Sweet Donkey Coffee a local coffee shop in Roanoke, Virginia.  The Pumpkin Latte is back!  They make their own fresh pumpkin puree for the lattes.  Fabulousity!!!

Happy Fall!



10 Reasons To Fall In Love With Baylee’s Best Chocolates!


Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from enjoying chocolate. When it is very hot outside I’ve been known to turn on the air-conditioned seats in my car and put my box of chocolates in the passenger seat so my chocolates won’t melt on the way home.

 At least once a week I find myself at Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop.  My car just seems to automatically drive itself there. I adore her chocolates and have to have at least a bite of it every day.  I’ve eaten chocolate in many places including the places you would think represent the best chocolate has to offer and Baylee’s lives up to it’s name…it is the BEST!  On Friday, I found myself sequestered in Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop without an umbrella in a sudden torrential rain storm. I was a happy girl. I took this opportunity to sit with Bayla,  the owner of Baylee’s Chocolates and ask her 10 questions that I have been longing to ask her since the shop opened several years ago:



3549 Electric Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24018  Located in West Village close to Fink’s Jewelers.

  1.  Why chocolate? Most people like it. It is an affordable luxury, like lipstick. Bayla told me the “lipstick story” ~ used to be that in hard economic times lipstick sales would increase.  These sales would go up because people needed something to make them feel good even though the economic climate was dim.
  2. What’s the origin of the name Baylee’s Best Chocolate?  Bayla is my first name, but people don’t always know how to pronounce it. Baylee’s is easy to pronounce and Baylee’s Best has a nice ring to it, so Baylee’s Best it is!


3.  What is the most chocolate you’ve used in one day?  It’s not unusual to use up to 50 or 100 pounds of chocolate for a large order to dip and enrobe the chocolates and make the center ganaches.

4.  Which is your favorite chocolate in your shop?  Our customers love the Fleur de Sel. I love the Fig and Cognac, Fleur de Sel and the Dixie Doodle (chocolate with caramel and a pecan on top, like a “turtle”).


In Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop you can look back into the kitchen where they prepare the yummy chocolates, dipping them in this yummy melted chocolate paradise…

5.  The secret behind the honeycomb. “Honeycomb” candy dipped in chocolate can only be made when the it’s not too humid.  We have two air conditioning systems ~ one for the retail store that hovers around 68 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit and one for the kitchen that keeps it at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  We monitor the humidity in the kitchen carefully.  

I started making the honeycomb or seafoam candy when a former tax client (Bayla previously worked at H and R Block) from Buffalo, New York, wanted sponge candy because it was popular in her home town. We call it “AKA”… which means “Also Known As” because it is known by so many different names…

In Wisconsin it is known as “Fairy Food”

In England it is known as “Cinder Toffee”

In Australia it is known as “Crackle or Crunchy Bar”


 6.  What gives you inspiration to make a new flavor for your chocolates?  I am always open to all sorts of ideas.  I love improvisation and I have enjoyed teaching improv which shows us how to say “yes” to whatever you are given because as soon as you say “no” you cut off possibility.  I try to do things that are a skosh different while try to cater to local tastes and please my customers. My inspiration for a new flavor for my chocolates may come from a customer’s suggestion, trade or specialty food magazine, or when I walk through an ethnic or gourmet food store.


Holiday Selection pictured right to left above:

Pumpkin Spice, Apple Cider Caramel, Fleur de Sel and tray of Apple Cider Caramel

7.  What was your largest order?  A holiday corporate order for 460 boxes of chocolates. 

8. Tell me about when you opened your shop.  We had a soft opening on January 6, 2009 and on January 7, 2009 just 24 hours later a car crashed into the front of the store (fortunately no injuries) and we had to close briefly. We reopened the following week and on February 6, 2009 we had our formal ribbon cutting.


9.  Any fun little amusing snippets from your days running a chocolate shop?  On Valentine’s Day a fellow said that his wife keeps her chocolate in the safe because she does not want her children to get into it.  Another regular customer asked for “Liquid of the Gods” (the liquid caramel chocolate) and now many customers call it that. (Bubblybee keeps her chocolate in her wine cooler with her champagne!)

10. I saved the last question for me. What is your favorite Baylee’s Chocolate Bubblybee? I have a “left chocolate case” favorite and a “right chocolate case” favorite in Baylee’s Best Chocolates shop.  When you walk in the shop, in the left case is a “Lemonade” which we call “Lemon Drop”. It is a lemon buttercream enrobed in milk chocolate. Honestly, this chocolate tastes like a fresh lemon dipped in the most decadent milk chocolate. Turn to your right and you’ll see pieces of Mediterranean sea salt chocolate made with Oliveto olive oil. (Oliveto is the Artisan olive oil shop that is also located in West Village near Baylee’s Best.)




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Patrick Henry High School Band To Preform At Carnegie Hall

Dear Friends,

This blog post is different from my usual champagne and recipe posts. However, it is about something to celebrate and as I always say, “Don’t wait to celebrate!”.  On Saturday we attended a Food Festival at Dr. Pepper Park in Roanoke, Virginia, sponsored by the Patrick Henry High School Band Boosters, raising funds to help the band members achieve the dream of performing at Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY.  (Now that is something to celebrate!) As a former high school band member I was impressed by the parents and students that worked so hard to put this event together to support what will surely be a life-changing event for some of the band members. And since I recently saw the movie Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep, Carnegie Hall was fresh on my mind! (Loved the movie by the way!)


Carnegie Hall Trip 2017


The Food Festival featured local food vendors and trucks.  We enjoyed delicious pork barbecue (the chef pulled the pork at 4 a.m. that morning!) from Bent Mountain Bistro, Bent Mountain, Virginia.   This farm-to-table bistro serves delicious wood-fire pizza too!

My husband enjoyed a refreshing Deschutes Beer while I enjoyed Viva La Cupcake!  Lots of yummy flavors…they even have a Dr. Pepper cupcake (second from the left in the photo below).


If you find an opportunity to support the Patrick Henry High School Band in their endeavor to perform at Carnegie Hall, please do…thank you!

Bravo Patrick Henry High School Band!


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