Like I Said … Keep Calm and Drink Champagne

keep calm champagne

This really doesn’t need much text — the sentiment expressed is quite self-explanatory. In fact, I’m a bit chagrined I didn’t think of this myself. Bubbly is an instant mood tonic, and I’ve been encouraging everyone to enjoy the Bubbly 365 lifestyle for a while now.

This adorable poster from the Keep Calm Shop on Etsy is pretty in pink, as well as a range of other vivid shades like gold, turquoise and emerald, because they want you to be happy. The poster is just $16 retail, which is the same price as a decent bottle of domestic U.S. sparkling wine, cava, or prosecco, but alas just a glass of champagne.

Delicious Chocolate & Champagne Candies for Valentine’s Day

Words of love are screen-printed on champagne ganache chocolates filled with raspberry pâte de fruits. Sea salt caramels topped with red salt complete the box from Socola Chocolates.

Probably because they’re both foods associated with indulgence and pleasure, people love to talk about eating chocolate while sipping champagne for Valentine’s Day. Know what that combo makes me think? Yuck!

A typical brut champagne is far too acidic to pair with a sweet food like chocolate, so even your favorite champagne will taste tart and thin. And the wine does nothing to improve the flavor of the chocolate. It’s really a waste of both.

Here’s how we can stop the madness:  with chocolate truffles that are made with champagne! This way, the champagne lends brightness, fruit and a hint of luxury to the chocolate.

If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s easy to make Chocolate-Champagne Truffles yourself with this recipe from Martha. She rolls hers in white sparkling sugar, but it would be fun to use different colors.

But if you don’t fancy cleaning chocolate and sugar off your kitchen cabinets and floor, here are some great champagne and chocolate truffles to buy for your sweet — or yourself for Valentine’s Day:

Socola Chocolatier’s Aphrodite’s Delight: This chocolate gift starts with raspberry pâte de fruits enrobed in champagne ganache; each one is topped with the word love in different languages. The other half of the box is filled with grey sea salt chocolate caramels topped with red Hawaiian salt. Super-cute sisters Wendy and Susan, who are based in San Francisco, just became the featured chocolatiers for Zaarly, a cool site that curates all sorts of services. New members can go to Zaarly and snag the 12-piece Aphrodite’s Delight box for just $15; shipping is free in San Francisco and $5 elsewhere.

 

 Recchiuti Champagne Truffles: Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti adds the deeply toasty and fruity Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs to super creamy dark chocolate. They’re rolled in powered sugar as the final step. Pick them up at the Recchiuti shop in the Ferry Building, at the new Chocolate Lab Café in Dogpatch or online.

 

Moonstruck Chocolate Pink Champagne Truffle Heart: I met a sweet lady from Seattle’s Moonstruck Chocolates at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and was eyeing these cute pink hearts. A candied raspberry is at the center, surrounded by a white chocolate ganache flavored with champagne and raspberries and finally a white chocolate shell. Like all of their confections, it’s hand painted.

 

 

Teuscher Champagne Truffles: While I’ve not tried these yet, the website for the Palo Alto-based confectionery makes a compelling claim: company founder Dolf Teuscher Sr. invented the chocolate truffle back in 1946 in Switzerland.  A buttercream center infused with Dom Perignon Champagne is wrapped in either dark or milk chocolate. The milk chocolate original is dusted in confectioner’s sugar for a juicy sensation, while the dark chocolate is rolled in bittersweet cocoa powder for a drier, deeply flavored bite.

 

Vosges Haut Chocolat Champagne Truffles: These truffles and I go way back: We’re both from Chicago. The stylish chocolatiere Katrina Markoff mixes Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée with 85% chocolate and a splash of rosewater. The truffle is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder before being popped in a purple box.  You should know that the Vosges website has a range of other Krug and chocolate gifts, just please promise you won’t drink the champagne and the chocolate together.

Real champagne for $20? Mais oui if you know where to shop

Champagne Didier Chopin, a real brut rosé from the Champagne region of France, was one of the bargains I found at Grocery Outlet in Oakland this weekend.

For the past few weeks, a new friend has been telling me about the wine bargains he finds at a placed called Grocery Outlet. Actually, he calls it Gross Out, so  can’t say I had been in a hurry to get over there. But when he brought a couple white wines to dinner that were surprisingly good, my curiosity got the best of me.

It looks like a bodega outside, with bins piled high with oranges and mini watermelons. Inside, racks are piled equally high with everything from toilet paper and toothpaste to flower pots. I snagged some organic baby green mix in the produce section, then went to track down the wine. Along the way I noticed a very extensive cheese section, where a woman explained to her friend what “ricotta salata” was.

On the display opposite the cheese, I spotted my first wines. I picked up an Italian one in a familiar berry shade of magenta. The label said Casorzo D.O.C. Ricossa Antica Casa.  The description on the back read: “a semi-sweet sparkling frizzante style wine of fragrant floral aromas with hints of rose petal and a soft smooth taste.”

That description told me I had found a wine that contained some brachetto, the red grape from Piedmont typically made into sweetly balanced sparklers with distinctive rose and berry aromas and flavors. A wine with word brachetto on the label will usually run $18 to $22. Grocery Outlet was selling it for $7.99 – perfect for making sangria.

There's some brachetto blended into this Italian dessert wine that was just $7.99.

In the wine aisle, I spotted all kinds of wine, mostly unfamiliar. Many of the wines were blends, such as the Spanish white Pazo de Monterey that my friend had brought to dinner. It was marked $2.99 here, but drank much better. A Google search revealed that the blend of treixadura and godello grapes that had soft apple and floral aromas sells for $9 to $12 around the country.

But in the refrigerated wine case, I found the real bargains. Among a bunch of half bottles of botryitized semillon from Australia – a super bargain at $9.99 -  I spotted a few bottles of rosé sparkling with the name “Champagne Didier Chopin” and “product of France.” I didn’t know this wine either, but that doesn’t mean much since there are hundreds of smaller producers in Champagne that never make a name in the US.

I Googled the name from my phone and learned that Msr. Chopin started making wines in the Vallée de la Marne nearly 20 years ago. His brut rosé sells for around $55 in U.K. He’s a négociant -manipulant, meaning that he buys pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes and then fashions them into wine. We savored this fruity deep pink wine with its bold berry flavors and aromas. Even more delightful was picking it up for $19.99 at Grocery Outlet.

I’ll definitely be going back for more.

 

 

 

10 Great Bubbly Bargains for New Year’s Eve – All Under $30

This cremant from Burgundy is French, eminently drinkable, and $10 at Trader Joe's.
This cremant from Burgundy is French, eminently drinkable, and $10 at Trader Joe's.

On the whole, I think 2009 will be remembered as the year of moderation. Nearly everyone is looking for ways to be smarter about how they spend their money. While champagne and sparkling wines seem like a luxury – and they are a luxurious experience — they don’t have to come with a high price tag. One of the most useful features of my book The Bubbly Bar is a guide to buying bubbly in every price range. Since I wrote the book, I’ve continued to discover affordable sparkling wines that are great for sipping alone or in cocktails. Here’s my list of bargain bubbly available nationwide for New Year’s Eve 2010.

1. Michel Dervin Brut Champagne – crafted by a small grower in Champagne, this is toasty just the way you want, about $29.99
2. Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut or Extra Dry – made just outside Seattle, these wines are fresh and easy to like, about $8.99
3. Juve y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Brut Nature – an elegant and delicate mouthful, about $15
4. Blason de Bourgogne – a sparkling wine from Burgundy, made especially for Trader Joes available in brut and a brut rosé, about $10 – At Trader Joe’s
5. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs – crafted from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, a satisfying bubbly with a hint of richness, about $17

The Domaine Carernos Brut is a perfect marriage of California and France, with its fresh fruit balanced by toastiness.
The Domaine Carernos Brut is a perfect marriage of California and France, with its fresh fruit balanced by toastiness.

6. Domaine Carneros Brut — fresh and toasty, a marriage of California and France, about $24
7. Roederer Estate Brut – crisp green apple abounds, about $19
8. Mionetto Prosecco Brut – fresh green pear and soft bubbles, about $14

A sophisticated sparkling wine from Alsace, it delivers gorgeous pinot noir flavor.
A sophisticated sparkling wine from Alsace, it delivers gorgeous pinot noir flavor.

9. Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé – sophisticated and juicy with pinot noir, about $20
10. Domaine Chandon Brut Classic – a bright and bubbly wine, always a classic about $15

White Stars, Anemones & Black Currants: Bubbly Questions Answered

I was greeted by a bottle of Fleur de Champagne and painted flutes when I visited Perrier Jouet in Champagne this summer.

I’ve gotten a few questions lately at my site The Bubbly Girl so I thought I’d answer a few of them in one post. If you have a question about bubbly or cocktails, feel free to ask!

Mal wrote to ask how long the Perrier-Jouët bottle has worn its fabulous cloak of white and gold anemone flowers?

The Perrier-Jouët family has always had an artistic flair, shown most notably in the Chateau Perrier and their home that has been converted into the Maison Belle Epoque on the Rue de Champagne in Epernay. In 1902 Henri Gallice commissioned famed artist Emile Gallé to create a special design for the Perrier-Jouët bottle that captured the artistry and spirit of the art nouveau movement. Gallé painted white and pink anemones outlined in gold with tendrils that hug the curves of the bottle. Apparently, with wars and other drama affecting the maison, the Gallé design sat unused for 60 years. It was unearthed in 1964 when a wonderful vintage inspired Perrier-Jouët to create a special cuvée called Fleur de Champagne, aka Belle Epoque in Europe. It was unveiled at Maxim’s in Paris and at Alcazar to mark Duke Ellington’s 70th birthday.

James, a recent transplant to San Diego, asked where he could find crème de cassis? In Japan, there’s a popular drink called Orange Cassis that’s a blend of crème de cassis and OJ that he wants to recreate stateside.

Luckily for James, crème de cassis – which is black currant liqueur is somewhat popular in the U.S. and Europe as an ingredient in the classic champagne cocktail the Kir Royale or the white wine cocktail called a Kir. It should be available at most well stocked liquor stores – especially the old school ones. The thing I like about creme de cassis is that its kind of sweet balanced by a tang on the back end. There’s a wide variety of styles of crème de cassis out there – some are more commercial and cost about $10; others like Massenez and L’Heritier Guyot are more artisanal and can cost about $20 to $30. For more brands, check out this crème de cassis discussion on Chowhound.

Valerie wrote wondering what champagne to drink now that Moët & Chandon isn’t making White Star any more?

I wrote this post about the demise of White Star earlier this year, though I’ve been seeing it around for much of the year. You might try the new Imperial, the cuveée that Moët created to replace the top-selling White Star. Imperial isn’t quite as sweet, but it’s very tasty. If it was the slight sweetness of White Star you loved, then why not give Nectar Imperial, Moët’s demi-sec style champagne a try.

Get Crystallized and Bubblified in NYC

The Crystallized boutique in Soho features oodles of Swarovski crystals, a stunning waterfall chandelier and a lounge serving champagne and food. (Courtesy Photo)
The new Crystallized boutique in Soho features oodles of Swarovski crystals, a stunning waterfall chandelier and a lounge serving champagne, prosecco and upscale food. (Courtesy Photo)

I’m always on the look out for sparkling new ideas and beautiful places to enjoy bubbly. So I was enchanted to learn about Crystallized, the new high-concept Swarovski jewelry  boutique that opened in late June in New York City.  The legendary Austrian company known for precision-cut crystals has several boutiques around the world and now there’s one at 499 Broadway in Soho.

Besides the truckloads of sparkly stones and baubles, Crystallized also boasts a lounge serving four kinds of sparkling wine and champagne:  Adami Prosecco, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut and Moet & Chandon’s Brut Imperial and Brut Rosé Imperial. I haven’t seen the whole upscale food menu yet, but I heard about a coulibiac of salmon in puff pastry that would be complemented by the Brut Rosé Imperial and I’m sure they’re serving french fries which are fabulous with anything that sparkles.

The all-white space features a stunning  crystal Cascade chandelier created by Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen that illuminates the boutique’s two levels. Yards of display cases show off Swarovski bi-cone and round faceted crystals and pendants like the Lotus in colors ranging from crystal aurora borealis to black diamond (yes, I make jewelry too); shoppers can buy stones to make their own creations or have them assembled at Crystallized. They also sell all kinds of crystal accessories like an almost-practical blinged-out USB thumb drive for $55; jewelry like the Divine Rock Light necklace that raises money for clean-water projects and transfers to make sparkly T-shirts.

The new short sleeve Bubbly Girl T-shirt in berry pink is great for yoga, sleeping or wearing out with jeans.
The new short sleeve Bubbly Girl T-shirt in pretty berry pink is great for yoga, sleeping or wearing out with jeans. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

Speaking of T-shirts, it’s a perfect time to mention that the new summer Bubbly Girl T-Shirts with short sleeves  in a delicious shade of raspberry pink are now available in my online boutique. This shade seems to flatter every skin tone and the 100% cotton T-shirt emblazoned with a Swarovski crystal champagne flute and the words “bubbly girl” let you make a chic statement without even saying a word.

The Scent of Champagne: 6 Luxury Candles to Go to Your Head

The Celebration Candle created by high end NYC floral designer Belle Fleur smells just like a toasty glass of champagne with a hint of lily of the valley.
The Celebration Candle created by high end NYC floral designer Belle Fleur smells just                       like a toasty glass of champagne softened with a hint of lily of the valley.

 

I thought it was just me, since I have a heightened awareness to anything that has to do with champagne. But the latest luxury candle and home fragrance trend is filling the air with the alluring scent of champagne.

The first I noticed was Crisp Champagne by Voluspa, a subtly fresh candle mixed with the scent of ginger and vanilla. It’s pleasant and reasonably priced at around $22 for the full-size, 80-hour candle while votives are just $7.

The Voluspa Crisp Champagne Candle offers a bright, fresh scent tempered with ginger and vanilla.
The Voluspa Crisp Champagne Candle offers a bright, fresh scent tempered with ginger and vanilla.

More recently, I discovered the super luxurious Belle Fleur Celebration Candle, shown at top, created by a floral and event designer in NYC. It goes straight for the toasty, bready aromas that greet your nose when you drink champagne, tempered with a hint of lily of the valley. Bready and toasty make me think of being in a bakery, but the owner of the high end candle shop where I discovered the Belle Fleur candle swears it’s worth the $88 price tag.

Looking further, I found the Bubbly Candle by Flare; this clean-burning soy-based candle that sells for about $24 mixes champagne’s scent the grapey, fruity fragrance of Italian muscat grapes (they’re what make the sparkling wine moscato). Neiman Marcus promises to tickle your note with notes of citrus, ginger and raspberry in their Penthouse Champagne candle, offered at $55. And Nordstrom’s is carrying the Antica Farmacista Champagne Candle; it’s a 25-year-old Italian brand recently revived by a couple of savvy American business women. This $38 candle offers an exuberant burst of fruit and flowers including satsuma mandarin, apricot, lily of the valley and passion fruit.

The l'objet Pink Champagne candles from Unica Home.com arrive in Limoges porcelain vessels adorned with 14K gold and platinum.
The $85 l'objet Pink Champagne candles from Unica Home.com arrive in Limoges porcelain vessels adorned with 14K gold or platinum and tiny figurines.

The hip site Unica Home.com is offering the l’objet Pink Champagne Candle that captures the scent of rosé and comes in a white Limoges porcelain vessel edged in 14K gold or platinum and adorned with a tiny figurines like a butterfly, dragon or golden elephant. It’s awfully pretty, but then again, for $85, I might rather be popping the cork on a bottle of Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé champagne.

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