Tasting Prestige Cuvèe & Vintage Champagne with Ed Mc Carthy

Going to get a bottle of Ayala Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2012 TODAY! Cheers!

Charles Scicolone on Wine

Once again Ed Mc Carthy, author of “ Champagne for Dummies,” organized a fantastic Champagne tasting for the Wine Media Guild at Il Gattopardo restaurant in NYC. All of the wines he presented were Prestige Cuvèe and Vintage Champagnes.

Champagne Ed Mc Carthy

Ed began by speaking about the vintages in Champagne. He said 2002, 2008 and 2012 were the great vintages in this century so far. He added that every one in Champagne is raving about the 2018 but they will not be released for some time.

The Champagne

Ayala Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2012 made from 100% Chardonnay from 100% Cote des Blancs Grand Crus: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly and Cramant. The average time the wine spends on the lees is 6 years. Dosage is 6 grams/liter and the alcohol is 12%. It is produced in small quantizes and only in exceptional years. This is expressive Champagne with hints of…

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Sparkling Holiday Champagne Dinner

man wearing black dress shirt holding a flute glass and black wine bottle

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Champagne Thought Of The Day ~ The Whisper Of Love

The sound of air slowly releasing from the Champagne bottle when de-corked is called ‘the whisper of love’. To hear this noise, place your thumb on the muselet, the wire cage that fits over a bottle of Champagne, and gently turn the bottle left. (Under pressure, the longer a cork stays in the bottle, the smaller and more narrow it becomes.)

Sparkling Holiday Champagne Dinner

I love small plate dinners especially during the holidays. Wine pairing is easy with tiny bites of flavorful foods and no one gets overstuffed with huge portions. Here’s my recent menu from a festive champagne small plate dinner with friends.

We greeted our guests with Charles de Cazanove 2000 Stradivarius Brut Champagne. I served the champagne with delicate Boursin cheese palmliers. These cheese pastries are easy to make, light and airy that compliment champagne.

Boursin Cheese Palmiers

The palmiers can be prepared a day ahead of the party.  Prepare the palmiers, do not bake,  place them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with vegetable spray, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Bake them just before service.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 (5.2 ounce package) package Boursin herb and garlic cheese

1/2 cup Italian blend shredded cheese (Mozzarella and Provolone, Parmesan,Fontina, Romano and Asiago)

Melted butter

Place puff pastry sheet on a cutting board that has been dusted with flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s 13 by 13-inches square. Spread the puff pastry sheet evenly with the Boursin cheese.  Sprinkle the Italian blend cheese over the Boursin cheese. Roll each short end to the center of the pastry, making sure to roll tightly and evenly. Freeze rolled log for 20 minutes, until very firm but not frozen. Slice crosswise into 3/8-inch slices. Place the palmiers on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with vegetable spray. Brush tops of palmiers with melted butter. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes or until nicely browned. (Watch carefully so that they do not burn.)

champagne lobster

Our first course was Lobster Mashed Potatoes in a cocktail spoon paired with Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne. The lobster mash is super easy to prepare. Marinate lobster tails in Sprite or ginger ale and sprinkle the meat side of the lobster generously with Old Bay seasoning in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight. Broil or grill the lobster until the meat starts to pull away from the shell. Cool the lobster the remove the lobster meat from the shells and chop it into little pieces. Mix a little whipping cream into deli mashed potatoes, place a dollop of the mashed potatoes in appetizer spoon, top with chopped lobster meat, melted butter and chopped fresh chives. Broil until bubbly. Let the spoons cool a little before serving so they will not be too hot to handle. I bought two small lobster tails to serve 14 spoons (2 for each guest) along with 1/2 pound mashed potatoes from the Fresh Market deli.

theroanoker.com

Our second course was Braised Pork Ragout With Pearl Onions And Mushrooms.  The recipe is in the Roanoker Magazine Blog and here’s the link:

https://theroanoker.com/blogging/behind-the-page/how-the-french-warm-up-in-winter-ragout/

We paired the ragout with Isiri Barolo.

Our third course was mini shrimp and grits and fourth course was mini cheeseburger sliders with caramelized onions paired with Silver Oak Alexander Valley.

Pre-dessert is to dessert as amuse bouche is to hors d’oeuvre.  A small dessert-like course served before the main dessert. I served a tiny almond cake with espresso topped with sweetened whipped cream. I found both the cakes and the espresso coffee beans at Fresh Market.
The presentation is a metal electrical box I bought at Lowes covered with decoupage paper.

dessert

And the grand finale…Flourless Chocolate Cake with Sweetened Whipped Cream and Amarena cherries paired with 2004 Haut Charmes Sauternes. Here’s the recipe for this lovely cake. The cherries are available at Tinnell’s Finer Foods in Roanoke or on-line. 

https://bakerbynature.com/flourless-chocolate-fudge-cake/

The next day we had a 14 inch snow. Our cats were fascinated when snow fell off the roof!

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Champagne Gifts That Are Not Champagne

I must get some champagne jewelry for my doggie. But first, I must get a doggie! Lots of fun holiday gift ideas from the Champagne Chick. Happy Holidays! Cheers!

THE CHAMPAGNE CHICK

My friends and family probably reckon I’m a bit like a stuck record when they ask what to buy me.  My answer is always “Champagne, or anything Champagne related”.

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Virginia Apple Brandy Mimosas And Frosted Cranberry Cocktail Garnish

close up of fruits hanging on tree

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Here’s my recipes that were featured on Daytime Blue Ridge today ~ Cheers!

Apple Brandy Mimosa

Mix together sugar and cinnamon on a small plate. Pour some light corn syrup on another plate.  Dip the rim of champagne flutes into the corn syrup and then roll the rim around in the cinnamon sugar mixture. If it drips a little just wipe off the drips with a wet paper towel. 

For each mimosa: 

1 ounce Virginia apple brandy (or your favorite apple brandy)

2 ounces Hard Rock Hard Apple Cider (or your favorite brand of cider)

Fill flute with chilled San Venanzio Prosecco or Dibon Cava

Thin apple slices dipped in orange juice for garnish

 

Place apple brandy and hard cider in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously then strain into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco or cava. Garnish with a thin apple slice (slice apples immediately before serving, the orange juice will help prevent the apple slices from turning brown). I like to pop a little ice cube in my mimosa right before I serve it, just because I like my cocktails icy cold.

cranberries

Frozen Cranberries in Pomegranate Liqueur

72 fresh cranberries

1 ½ cups orange juice

 

Place orange juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil then quickly reduce heat and add cranberries. Cook cranberries for one minute (do not allow cranberries to “pop” from the heat).  Remove cranberries from heat, drain and allow to cool. 

In a small saucepan combine ½ cup pomegranate liqueur and 1 cup sugar. Heat over low heat, stir to combine and continue to heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

18 cocktail picks

Place 4 cranberries on each cocktail pick. Place the picks in a flat freezer container so that the picks will lay flat in two layers in the container.  Pour the pomegranate sugar mixture over the cranberries.  Cover container tightly and place in freezer overnight.  Every few hours turn the container over to help marinate the cranberries.  Roll cranberries in fine sugar for service.

Cranberries can be kept in the freezer for several weeks. 

Cranberry Infused Vodka

Fill a quart size mason jar one half full with fresh cranberries.  Add 2 tablespoons fine sugar and 2 tablespoons water and the peel of one large orange. Fill the jar with vodka and cover with jar lid. Shake to combine the sugar and water with the vodka.  Place in refrigerator, shaking the jar twice a day for one week. Use this cranberry infused vodka for cosmopolitans and other cranberry cocktails during the holidays.  (I like using cranberry infused vodka because I never use a whole bottle of cranberry juice and the juice just goes to waste.)

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Zesty Italian Artichoke Dip

Zesty Italian Artichoke Dip

…rich, creamy, spicy dip to serve with kettle cooked potato chips during the holidays. I made this dip last weekend and my guests loved it! Super easy to make too! (Make the day ahead and add the bacon on top right before serving.)

2 (12 ounce) jars quartered marinated artichokes, drained and chopped

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

.6 ounce Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

2 ounces diced pimento

16 ounces bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Kettle cooked potato chips

Place artichokes, cream cheese and salad dressing mix in a mixing bowl. Mix these ingredients together.  Add the sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese and pimento to the cream cheese mixture. Mix well to make sure the cream cheese is completely blended with the other ingredients.  Place in serving bowl and top with crumbled bacon. Serve with kettle cooked potato chips.

artichoke beautiful bloom blooming

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Alinea Experience Chicago

There is a fascinating documentary on Netflix “Chef’s Table” highlighting the life and career of Grant Achatz (Chef’s Table, Season 2, Episode 1). The show features Chef Grant Achatz and his restaurant Alinea. Chef Achatz battled tongue cancer which caused him to loose his sense of taste for a period of time. I was hesitant to watch the show at first, thinking it would be a sad story, but it turned out to be an amazing saga with a happy ending.  The culinary masterpieces he serves in his restaurant defy the imagination and showcases the talent of the creative chefs at this restaurant. Since opening the restaurant in 2005, Chef Achatz has become well-known for his deconstructions of classic flavors, meaning that what you think you are eating may not be at all what you are actually eating. This show enticed us to hop on a plane to Chicago to dine at Alinea, a three star Michelin-starred venue, rated number 34 on the top 50 restaurants in the world list.  The restaurant takes its name from the symbol alinea (prominent in the restaurant’s logo). You may remember it as the “new Paragraph symbol” used in manuscripts. Image result for alinea symbol

Chef Achatz also wrote a book about his fascinating life and career: Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat.  Grant Achatz(Author), and business partner Nick Kokonas(Author)

Our Chicago experience began with a leisurely brunch  at our hotel…

Alinea bloody maryalinea brunchalinea salad brunch

Boody Mary brunch at Michael Mina’s Margeaux Brasserie … Croque Madame, Butter Lettuce Salad with laclare farms chèvre, shaved radish, crème fraîche dressing.

Then off to a Chicago River boat architectural tour. I loved how the large buildings reflected in the glass on the skyscrapers that lined the river.

Alinea buildings

alinea montgomery ward

One of our favorite parts of the tour was the history of the Montgomery Ward Mail Order House.  The warehouse was as long as 2 1/2 football fields and at one time had its own post office branch. Due to the expansive length of the building the employees wore roller skates to pick merchandise off the shelves in the warehouse to fill catalog orders. When the warehouse closed they found dozens of pairs of roller skates stashed away in the building. The skates quickly sold on e-bay.

Spoiler Alert!  Alinea is all about illusion. If  you do not want to know the secrets that are served at this fabulous restaurant please do not read any further.

The centerpiece of our dining table was a silver bowl full of Kieffer limes.

After a few courses had been served by our fabulous waiters and sommelier  (pictured below), hot liquid was poured over the centerpiece to create a misty “dry ice” effect that floated over our table. Dreamy and so romantic!

The Alinea menu in the form of a word-search puzzle was posted on our table. Later that evening a complete menu with wine pairings was given to us to take home.

First Course – Smoke: Osetra, Sunflower, Onion, Lemon and Terrarium: Iceberg, Avocado, Herbs

Wine Pairing First Course:  Château La Nerthe “Clos de Beauvenir” Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhône Valley, France, 2010

We found the premium wine flight that we chose to accompany our dinner to be extraordinary.

Second Course: Glow: Lemongrass and Kaeng: Scallop, Mustard, Chili

The lemongrass “test tube” was a palate cleanser. They glow in the dark! You put the red end to your mouth and suck it down just like a jello shooter.  It has a citrus taste, very refreshing.

The dish that was served with the Lemongrass Glow was Scallop fried ramen on scallop pasta – shaved scallop that resembled pasta that was hidden underneath the fried ramen. So your eyes were telling you that you were eating pasta but your tongue was telling you that you were eating scallops. In my opinion the “simple presentation” of the scallop pasta was one of the most memorable.

Wine Pairing Second Course:  Domaine Marcel Deiss “Altenberg de Bergheim” Grand Cru, Alsace, France 2010.

After the first course we were whisked away to the kitchen where one of the chefs prepared a cocktail in a   hand-cranked, cast-iron contraption flown in from Amsterdam. This “cocktail machine” shakes four shakers at a time. Chef Achatz  looked for the shaker for three years before he acquired this one. There are only 30 of them in the world.

We were seated on the second level of the restaurant so we walked through the first floor dining room to get to the kitchen.

When we returned to our table from the kitchen, the Kieffer lime centerpiece had been replaced with a bowl of fire.

Photo of me and my husband at our “table on fire”.

Third Course: Ink: Octopus, Scallion, Black Lime

Ordinarily octopus would not have been my favorite bite, but the preparation of this octopus made it taste like a tender Japanese inspired steak, yum!

Third Course Wine Pairing: Turley “Dragon” Zinfandel, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California 2016

Imagine our surprise when the fire in the middle of the table was extinguished and out comes a potato. The potato had been baking in the heat of the fire as we enjoyed other courses.

There were many more surprises to come  – it was an 11 course dinner.  will feature them in my next blog post…until then…bon santé!

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For Bourbon Lovers On Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving gives us the  opportunity to use earthy, rich, spicy flavors in our food and cocktails. Think smokey, honey, cherry, bourbon and a twist of winter citrus in front of a roaring fire.

alcohol bar black background close up

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First, the appetizer…

mushrooms

Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms With Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce

Makes 10 appetizer servings (2 stuffed mushroom caps per serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

1/2 pound mild pork sausage

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced red onion

Place vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Place pan over medium heat and add sausage. Brown sausage and crumble in pan.  Add red onion and cook over medium-low heat until onion is soft and transparent.  Remove from heat.

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Add panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese to sausage. Stir to combine all ingredients. Whisk egg into sausage mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well combined.

 20 baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed and center (stem side) hollowed out with a spoon.

Stuff  mushrooms with sausage mixture, gently pressing sausage mixture into the hollowed out stem end of the mushroom and mound the mixture on top of the mushroom.  Place stuffed mushrooms in a shallow baking pan. Bake stuffed mushrooms in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.

While stuffed mushrooms are baking, prepare Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/4 pound aged Gouda cheese, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon medium Peri-Peri Sauce or your favorite hot sauce (more may be added to taste – but add carefully…more can always be added, but once it’s in the sauce it cannot be removed!)

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour.  Whisk in one half of the milk.  Add red chili flakes, aged Gouda cheese, Peri-Peri Sauce and the rest of the milk. Stir to combine all ingredients.  Continue to heat over medium low heat and stir until cheese melts. Once the cheese melts remove from heat.

Once the mushrooms have finished baking, remove from oven. Place mushrooms in individual ramekins.  Pour aged Gouda cheese sauce over the mushrooms. Place ramekins under the broiler until the cheese sauce is lightly browned and bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Old Fashioned

It is so easy and delicious to mix a cocktail with hand-crafted Bittermilk Cocktail Mixes (available on-line or at Fresh Market).  We’ve invited friends to Thanksgiving who love Whiskey Sours so I am going to surprise them with Bittermilk Smoked Honey Whiskey Sours served over an ice sphere with  Fabbri Amarena Cherries. These cherries are a dark red variety with a sweet and slightly bitter flavor that are preserved in a rich syrup made from the juice of the same fruit. They are sold in a decorative pottery jar on-line or locally (Roanoke, VA) at Tinnell’s Finer Foods. Seriously delicious!

We’ve revived this old classic by smoking honey over bourbon barrel staves. Bitter orange peel and lemon make for a slightly tart and smoky cocktail. Honey adds a nice frothy head when shaken vigorously. Mixes best with bourbon but swap it out for tequila to make a slightly smoky Honey Margarita. Shake equal parts Bittermilk No.3 + Whiskey with heavy amounts of ice. Fresh Lemon Juice, Water, Bourbon Barrel Smoked Georgia Honey, Florida Golden Cane Sugar, Fresh Orange Peel

food cherries fruits sour

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