The Lava Lamp: Three Easy Holiday Cocktails in One

A modernist take on the Lava Lamp: it’s topped with a blood orange-pomegranate-cranberry foam I made in an iSi Soda Siphon.

I have a confession: the Lava Lamp is probably the most simple cocktail from my book The Bubbly Bar. And maybe for that reason, or the fact that people love the tangy mix of pomegranate and sparkling wine, it’s also the most popular. If you’ve never tried it, here’s the classic recipe:

The Lava Lamp

1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur

4 ounces brut sparkling wine

3 pomegranate seeds

Add the pomegranate liqueur to a champagne flute. Top with the brut sparkling wine. Garnish with the three pomegranate seeds.

I’m glad people still enjoy this cocktail, but I’ve created a few variations on it, and I thought you might like to try them. I’ve found that all sorts of tangy deep red winter fruit juices like blood orange, hibiscus, pomegranate juice, cranberry work well too and make a lower calorie drink. I’ve subbed Pür Spirits Blood Orange Liqueur for the alcohol. And I’ve changed up the garnishes as well. Use the formula below to make your own variation on this holiday drink.

START WITH:

4 ounces brut sparkling wine (or brut rosé or sparkling water for a non alcoholic drink)

ADD:

1 to 1-1/2 ounces of either: Pür Blood Orange, pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, hibiscus juice, tart cherry juice, Cherry Heering Liqueur

GARNISH WITH:

3 pomegranate seeds or slivers of candied ginger, pickled cranberries, candied Meyer lemon peel, a candied hibiscus flower, a flavored cocktail foam

For a modernist (aka molecular cuisine inspired) take on the Lava Lamp, I topped it with a foam made with Pür Blood Orange Liqueur and pomegranate-cranberry juice. I know a lot of people have soda siphons like the iSi at home for making soft drinks; you can also use it to make a velvety foam to top cocktails. I mixed 1-1/2 cups of juice with 1/4 cup of the liqueur and 6 egg whites. Put it in a cold iSi soda siphon, charge it with one cartridge, then shake and chill.

A Quick Primer on Bubbly and Holiday Entertaining the Bubbly Girl Way

Maria with sparkling Framboise Apricot Punch from The Bubbly Bar.

I know entertaining can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need, really, are a few fool-proof recipes, a relatively clean house and an outfit that makes you feel stunning.

My first rule of entertaining is to plan on opening a bottle of bubbly — either Champagne or sparkling wine — as soon as guests arrive. People get excited when they see that curvy bottle and hear the pop as it opens. It reminds them of good times and it will put them in the party mood. You can serve it straight, pour it into a punch or a sparkling cocktail.

The great thing is that these days there are so many choices when it comes to sparkling wine and Champagne. So why not try something new? You could choose a champagne from a family who grows their own grapes and then makes it into a distinctive champagne that carries the unique taste of their vineyard. These grower champagnes — like the Champagne Saint-Chamant Blanc de Blancs NV — are bursting with flavor and personality. This one is made by Christian Coquillette, a charming 80+ year old man with a proper French moustache, who enjoys aging his wines a looong time — he has a mile’s worth of caves under his house so why not? This 100% chardonnay wine is aged for seven years, giving it the rich flavors of a much more expensive cuvée, yet it sells for just $48 because Msr. Coquillette isn’t a household name.

Or perhaps you’d like to get even more adventurous and try a bottle of fine sparkling wine from somewhere else? There’s a growing number of producers around the world who use the  “Champagne method” to craft delicious sparkling wines that offer an amazing value. One of my favorite international producers is Graham Beck in South Africa, who makes wonderful cap classique – the South African term for méthode Champenoise wine. Beck wines, which use chardonnay and pinot noir, have crisp and clean flavors and usually sell for around $20 a bottle. And according to the Graham Beck website, Presidents Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela as well as super-spy James Bond like his wine, too.

Italy is a fabulous source of sparkling wine, as every prosecco lover knows. My greatest discovery from Italy this past year was Ferrari Metodo Classico. They’ve been quietly making fine bubbly that drinks like Champagne in the high in the hills near Trento not far from the Alps since 1902.

Sweet sparkling wines are always crowd-pleasers, whether it’s wildly popular classic Moscato d’Asti or one of the crop of new pink Moscatos and other sweet pink sparkling wines that are winning fans because of their cotton-candy hue and easy to love flavors of peach and melon. Last year I was surprised to by a well-balanced pink Moscato from Moldova; this year I succumbed and bought some of Torti’s Hello Kitty Sweet Pink. Though few are interested on what’s inside the cute bottle, it’s made with pinot noir from the Oltrepo Pavese region of Lombardy.

Don’t worry about pairing foods with sparkling wine; it’s surprisingly versatile. Anything salty, crispy, fatty or fried will be perfect. That list includes: popcorn, French fries, potato chips, prosciutto ham, Parmesan cheese, fried chicken and shrimp tempura. The Bubbly Girl recipe section has some good party appetizers like Posh Popcorn and Tartelette Flambée, an easy bacon and onion pizza you make with purchased puff pastry.

Shellfish of all sorts is delicious with sparkling wine because the wine’s acidity is like adding a squeeze of lemon to a shrimp or some cracked crab. A tray of nigiri and maki rolls from your favorite sushi spot is perfect with bubbly.

 

 

 

Ferrari Metodo Classico: Italian Sparkling Wine That Drinks Like Champagne

The Ferrari Metodo Classico prestige cuvée is called Giulio Ferrari, after the founder. It’s aged for a mind-blowing 10 years before bottling. In that time, the yeast creates heavenly toastiness and depth, though the freshness of the 100% chardonnay wine persists.

I’ve sipped a lot of sparkling wines in the past several years, but I was intrigued when I was invited to taste Ferrari sparkling wines. They’re from Italy, but they don’t make prosecco, Moscato or sports cars. Rather, Cantine Ferrari makes fine, metodo classico (classic method) sparkling wine.

While I love discovering methode champenoise sparkling wines from around the world, I have a tendency — like others — to compare them to the sparkling wines of Champagne.  The best champagne has this electricity to it, a combination of elegance and power.  Few sparkling wines made elsewhere have this quality, but Ferrari Metodo Classico does.

As I took my first sip of the Ferrari NV Brut, I might have thought the toasty nose and bright golden apple flavor sprang from the famed chalky soils of Champagne. But Matteo Lunelli was sitting next to me in a private dining room at Spruce in Presidio Heights, eager to talk about the beauty of his family’s wines from Trentino-Alto Adige.

Ferrari Metodo Classico is a line of fine sparkling wines from Northern Italy’s Trento DOC  that drinks like champagne. Here the Ferrari Perlé 2004 during a tasting at Spruce SF.

“Italian sparkling wine is very well appreciated. But there is a very low understanding of the high end sparkling wine,” he says, managing not to smile at his play on words.

For all it delivers, the 100% chardonnay Ferrari NV Brut is a shockingly affordable $25. The next wine, the Ferrari NV Brut Rosé with 60 % pinot noir/40% chardonnay, tastes of effervescent plums and red berries.  It’s dreamy with confited duck leg paired with a bittersweet duo of roasted pears and three kinds of endive, showing how well sparkling wine pairs with a range of foods.

At Spruce SF, duck leg confit with pears and roasted endive paired beautifully with the Ferrari Brut Rosé and the Perlé Rosé a vintage wine with pinot noir and chardonnay from special vineyards. Yes, sparkling wine is perfect for pairing with food.

Besides the beautifully crafted wines, Ferrari has a good story, too. The winery was founded in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari, an enologist who studied at Montpelier in France and San Michele all’ Adige, a prestigious Northern Italian wine school. Ferrari was a big thinker who wanted to elevate wine from a rustic, agrigultural product to something more fine and artistic. He realized that the cool climate and rocky hillsides of the Trentino Alto Adige on the edge of the Alps would be perfect for growing chardonnay and pinot noir. Ferrari is credited as the first to plant chardonnay in Italy.

His wines were soon poured by the finest hotels and cruise ship lines in Italy. After 50 years of building his winery, Ferrari ended up without heirs. He turned to his friend Bruno Lunelli — a family man and wine merchant — and told him he should buy the winery and continue his legacy. And so he did in 1952, paying it off over the years.

“Excellence is not a single act, it is an attitude,” is a favorite Aristotle quote that Lunelli says guides his family’s wine-making philosophy.

Matteo Lunelli, Chairman of the Lunelli Group which makes Ferrari Metodo Classico, says his father “always presented it as a great opportunity, but never forced me” to join the family wine business.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the less expensive, international sparkling wines that shine next to champagne. They’re grown in a cool climate or at a higher elevation, ensuring that the wines have crisp acidity and beautiful aromas. Choosing the right grape varietal for the area — be it xarello in Spain’s Penedes or chardonnay and pinot noir as Ferrari does — is critical. Longer aging on yeast matters too. Rather than rushing the wine to market, which would be cheaper, most Ferrari sparkling wines age on the yeast for a minimum of  three years. The spectacular Giulio Ferrari 2001, the current vintage of their prestige cuvée, spends TEN years on the yeast, giving it this yummy, buttery richness, aromas of brioche and nuts. And all the Ferrari wines are crafted from pesticide-free grapes; I’ve noticed an extra-sheer quality in wines made from naturally raised grapes.

So, it’s no surprise that Ferrari Metodo Classico is the toast of Italy, poured at the Italian president’s house and events like the Venice Film Festival and the World Cup. It’s also appreciated by American cognoscenti at spots like to A16 in San Francisco to Eataly in NYC.

And now that I know, about this game-changing Italian sparkling wine, I’ll be joining them.

Pumpkin Pie Parfait Cocktail Recipe for Autumn

 

My Pumpkin Pie Parfait is like dessert in a glass.

Well, now that Halloween is here, the leaves are turning red and gold and it’s getting chilly, it’s officially fall. Things are changing at the market too, with autumn produce like pears, pomegranates, persimmons and pumpkins taking the place of summer berries and peaches.

As much as I like making drinks with summer fruit, I think the texture and deeper flavors in fall fruits can be just as appealing. The Pumpkin Pie Parfait cocktail recipe was inspired by the Thanksgiving dessert, but it actually has no pumpkin in it. I didn’t want to deal with the stringy texture in a drink, so I used Torani’s Pumpkin Spice Syrup instead. I like the syrups by the San Francisco company because they really capture the flavor of the natural fruit.

Garnish it with a lot of whipped cream or just a little depending on your taste. I like freshly grated nutmeg best for this drink because it has such a subtle flavor.

Pumpkin Pie Parfait

3/4 ounce Torani Pumpkin Spice Syrup
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur
1 ounce fresh orange juice
Juice from 1/4 lemon
pinch fresh nutmeg
3 drops Angostura bitters
whipped cream

Add pumpkin spice syrup, bourbon, ginger liqueur,
orange and lemon juices, nutmeg and bitters to a
cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a deep champagne coupe or a martini glass.
Garnish with whipped cream and another pinch of nutmeg
on top.
Makes 1 cocktail

© Recipe by Maria C. Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl. All rights reserved.

Perrier-Jouet Champagne Florale Edition LA Launch Party

The new Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Florale edition was unveiled at Katsuya in Brentwood. Photos by John Sciulli/Courtesy of Perrier-Jouet

Champagne means so many different things to different people. On Champagne Day 2012, people are celebrating all the different expressions of this special sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France.

I haven’t been to Champagne, France in a few years, but one of my favorite Champagne experience here in California was the launch party for Perrier-Jouët Champagne‘s new limited edition Belle Epoque Florale bottle.

 

We gathered in a chic, candelit private salon at Katsuya in Brentwood to sip Champagne and meet artist and famed Japanese floral designer  Makoto Azuma. His name may be new to Americans, but he’s well known in Japan and Europe for his avant-garde floral designs and pieces he’s created for Helmut Lang, Lady Dior and Shiseido.

 

Speaking through a translator, Azuma explained that he was inspired by the original Belle Epoque bottle designed by Emile Galle, his respect for nature and the delicate Japanese anemone flower. Azuma says he was also inspired by the sensation of bubbles jumping around on his palate and the smoothness of the wine and its complex taste.

For his new edition, he started with a stainless steel cube which represents artificial beauty created by man and filled it with Japanese blooms, calla lilies, phaelenopsis orchids and vines that symbolize nature.

“I wanted the work to be an homage to Galle,” Azuma said. “The flower language of the plants is quiet and sincere.”

Inside the bottle is the 2004 vintage of the Perrier-Jouët Champagne. It tastes both rich and bright making it a perfect pairing for sushi or nothing at all.

Iron Horse Harvest 2012 – Join the Party

You couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect day than Sunday when Iron Horse Vineyards celebrated the 2012 harvest. It was a sunny 80 degree day, with hardly a cloud in the sky — I even spotted a young deer lurking near a twisted oak as I drove up the 101.

What I love about Iron Horse is that it’s one of the few places that you can have a rustic and natural experience, all the while sipping an exquisite glass of methodé champenoise sparkling wine.

Sometimes pictures tell a story better than words… so here are some images that capture the effervescence of Sunday’s party.

After parking under oak trees, we walked up a pathway lined with zinnias in decorate bubbly bottles.

At the end of the walk, guests were greeted with an Iron Harvest harvest cocktail of fresh pinot noir juice in the 2007 Brut X.

After noshing at Chef Ciara Meany’s bruschetta bar filled with grilled Costeaux French Bakery ciabatta, heirloom tomates from Barry Sterling’s garden, pesto, grilled bacon and other seasonal toppings, we sat down at two long tables set in a V-shape. Joy Sterling, president of Iron Horse, praised her brother Lawrence for his work running the winery, toasted her parents on the occasions of their 60th anniversary and thanked friends and Corral Club members for coming.

 

I loved the simple place settings topped with sprigs of lavender, the plates that look like this season’s fashionable jacquard prints and the Laguiole-inspired cutlery.

The first course was a lovely salad of fresh field greens  — again from the estate garden — topped with pickled radishes, roasted sweet corn and Laura Chenel goat cheese followed by a delicious grilled quail stuffed with Swiss chard and sausage.

Dessert was a petite cup of trifle layered with late summer apples, vanilla cream and amaretti crumbles paired with a glass of Russian Cuvée.

On the Occasion of her 100th: A Julia Child Champagne GIF

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If you’ve never visited Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, stop by the next time you’re in Washington, D.C. I think the kitchen reveals more about a person than any other room in the house, and Julia’s is no exception.

The exhibit which recreates the kitchen where she created recipes for so many of her books. It’s relatively small, but carefully organized. Besides a well-used six-burner stove, there was a wall grid with an inventory for wine (including ’66 Chateau Margaux, Nuits St. George ’71 and a ’59 La Rioja Alta); a small dining table, and places for each pot, gadget and utensil, carefully outlined on the wall.

What brings warmth to the exhibit is Child’s lilting voice, coming from a TV monitor that plays various film clips. During my favorite segment, she’s telling the interviewer about her most prized kitchen gadgets, which include a champagne stopper.

To show off how well this one works, Child tells how Barbara Fairchild — then editor of Bon Appetit Magazine — had come for a visit.

“I gave her some of my very best Champagne,” says Child, ever the gracious hostess. She’s referring to an iconic bottle of Dom Pérignon, but doesn’t mention the brand by name.

They didn’t finish it, but thanks to Child’s trusty champagne stopper, the Dom still had its fizz three days later. I hope the other interviewer got to help her kill the bottle when the cameras were off.

I only got to interview Julia Child once — for an article on the true origins of the Caesar Salad — but she had a wonderful memory and was very excited to share what she knew with a young writer. I think perhaps that may be her most important legacy.

Hot Air Balloons & Bubbles: A Drinkable History Lesson

The custom of serving bubbly after a hot air balloon flight dates back to the 18th century.

If you’ve ever been on a hot air balloon flight, at the end of the magnificent journey, you probably enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine or French champagne. But did you ever wonder how the custom of serving bubbly after a flight began?

AshleyMcCredie, a blogger and content coordinator for Cloud 9 Living, an experience gift company, shares the story of how the champagne toast got its start.

“In late July I was lucky enough to have the once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity of a hot air balloon ride. I didn’t know much about hot air ballooning, and one thing that really stuck with me was the story behind the tradition of a champagne toast at the end of each flight.

My pilot, Jeff Meeker of Fair Winds, briefed us on the tradition and history behind the bubbly toast while presenting us all with a split of Korbel, a California sparkling wine. When I came home I wanted to dive more into the facts and story behind this, and here’s what I found.

The creation of the hot air balloon dates back to the 1700s, and the first flight occurred on Oct. 19, 1783 in France.

In 18th century France, there were educated people living in the city and there were landowners and peasants in the country. People in the rural areas often had little contact and connection to what was going on in the city.

So, picture this, you are a peasant working in the fields and all of the sudden you see this balloon floating through the air with fire coming out of it. Is it an alien? An attacker? For peasants who hadn’t heard of hot air ballooning,  the sight of a balloon falling from the sky surprised and often frightened them; especially when they saw the pilot’s face covered in black from ash and soot from the fire keeping the balloon aloft.

To avoid being attacked by the people they surprised, hot air balloon pilots carried Champagne or wine with them as a way to let onlookers know they were human and to thank them for the safe landing in their field.

Today, the toast often goes along with the Balloonist’s Blessing:

The winds have welcomed you with softness

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in your laughter

and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.

 So, if you do take a flight, hopefully you’ll get to celebrate the experience with a toast and a cold glass of bubbly at the end!”

When she’s not hot-air ballooning, Ashley McCredie is a freelance blogger and writer, a photographer and a traveler. Follow her on Twitter at @ashleymccredie. 

Got Peaches? Try This Bellini Sorbet Recipe

Ripe peaches and Moscato sparkling wine made a refreshing and easy Bellini sorbet.

A couple summers ago dining with friends at Zazu in Santa Rosa, I spotted this recipe on the wall. I snapped a picture of it, so I could try it during peach season.

Duskie Estes and John Stewart, the chefs of Italian inspired Zazu, are known for their way with pork and Black pig bacon. But they also make crazy-good wood-fired pizzas, seasonal pastas and desserts.

Technically, a Bellini is made with white peaches and prosecco, the light and fresh tasting dry sparkling wine from the Veneto. (Click to read more about prosecco on The Bubbly Girl.com.) This recipe features Moscato d’Asti, another popular Italian sparkling wine that’s sweeter and less bubbly.

Since Moscato naturally and has flavors and aromas of peaches and apricots, I’m guessing that’s why the Duskie and John chose it for this sorbet. They suggest their favorite Bonny Doon Moscato del Solo, but it works just fine with any good quality Moscato.

I spotted this Zazu BellBellini Sorbet recipe on the wall at the Santa Rosa restaurant.

Zazu Bellini Sorbet

1-1/4 pounds ripe white peaches
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Moscato d’Asti

Peel the peaches with a small knife. Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor bowl. Process until you have a smooth purée. Stir in the Moscato. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions or freeze in a shallow pan and fluff up every hour or so using the granita method.

Recipe courtesy John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu Restaurant.