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Food + Recipes

Entertaining, Party Recipes and Pairings

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

December 27, 2012
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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 mustache, 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’s 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. Since 1902, they’ve quietly been making fine bubbly that drinks like Champagne high in the hills near Trento not far from the Alps.

Sweet sparkling wines are always crowd-pleasers, whether it’s 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 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.

See how easy that is?

© 2012 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

 

Food + Recipes, Sparkling Wine

Got Peaches? Try this “Bellini” Sorbet Recipe from Zazu

July 31, 2012
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Ripe peaches and Moscato sparkling wine make a deliciously fresh and light Bellini summer 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 can be made with any good quality Moscato.

I spotted this Bellini Sorbet recipe on the wall at Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa.

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.

© 2012 Maria C. Hunt, aka The Bubbly Girl.

 

Dinner Tonight, Food + Recipes

Spanish Shrimp with Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Grits for #letslunch

May 4, 2012
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Shrimp ‘n’ grits is a classic Southern dish, especially around the Low Country of South Carolina. I like the way grits make a blank starchy canvas that can be easily paired with so many other flavors. A pot of grits is the easiest thing in the world to stir up; make it interesting by adding some butter, a little white cheddar, browned bacon and chives.

The shrimp that go with grits are usually seasoned with garlic, Cajun style seasoning, cayenne and herbs, kind of like a kicked up shrimp scampi.

But since Mark Bittman told me about this Spanish inspired recipe that stars  Spanish paprika with ground cumin, I haven’t looked back.

The Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

Adapted from How to Cook Everything

Excuse the superlatives; this spin on a Spanish tapa is my favorite, and everyone I serve it to loves it. The shrimp juices infuse the oil, and the sum is beyond delicious. It’s good with bread, over rice, tossed with pasta, or stuffed into tacos.

Other seafood you can use: similar-sized scallops (or larger, though they’ll take longer to cook).

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers

About 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, 20 to 30 per pound, peeled, rinsed, and dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, broad ovenproof skillet or flameproof baking pan over low heat. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Add the garlic and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, some salt and pepper, the cumin, and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.

From Mark Bittman.com

Celebrity Chefs, Food + Recipes

The Five Best Things I Ate at Pebble Beach Food & Wine

April 23, 2012
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My second visit to Pebble Beach Food & Wine last weekend was amazing; I think it’s now my favorite food and wine festival. I love the fact that it attracts great chefs from all over the country along with some of the best wines in the world. And since it’s in California, it feels a lot more relaxed than Aspen.

During the Grand Tasting, guests have three hours to eat and drink their way through two large tents. The trick is to figure out which chefs are doing the best morsels, and get there early, before the line gets too crazy. Here are the best things we ate:

1. Michael Cimarusti’s Striped Bass Cheeks

Cimarusti is a master at seafood of all sorts. A trip to his LA restaurant Providence is well worth it, both for the creative and technically perfect two-star Michelin food and the surprisingly stylish decor. I loved the ethereal ceramic circles that sprouted from the walls like sea anemones. His main dish was a perfectly tender – (perhaps sous vide) striped bass tenderlon paired with pickled enoki mushrooms, carrots and miso mayo. But the fun part was the “Cheek Bar” around the side, where Cimarusti handed out the succulent bass cheeks to guests he liked including Roy Yamaguchi and yours truly.

Douglas Rodriguez’ Sweet Corn Arepa was topped with a runny egg and chicken hash.

 

2. Douglas Rodriguez’ Sweet Corn Arepa with Soft Egg and Chicken Hash

To me, Cuban-American Chef Douglas Rodriguez will always be the king of Nuevo Latino style food; that mix of Latin American flavors and tropical ingredients. I love, love, love everything in his book Nuevo Latino, it’s the Bible for cooking creative Latin food people will be craving years later. So we got sucked into standing in a long line for his dish, but fortunately it moved quickly. The arepa was sweetly corny and satisfying; the egg added richness while the chicken hash spiced things up. We chatted with the chef and I asked him if he ever took my advice and opened a restaurant on the West Coast. Dougie, I’m sorry but Scottsdale is NOT the West Coast.

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Nancy & Matt of Mozza in LA served an out-of-this world burrata caprese with a side of fried bread.

3. Nancy Silverton’s Deconstructed Caprese

Team Mozza seemed to have had a rough night; the crew including Matt Molina wore baseball caps with the brims pulled down low; Silverton had on these massive round sunglasses  à la Iris Apfel. Platters of lightly roasted cherry tomatoes and mounds of golden bread cubes filled the back work table. Matt scooped out the creamy burrata, another cook added bright pesto and a tomato to each plate. Then Nancy crowned it with the bread and a sprig of basil. Actually, I think the chef should have called this a deconstructed panzanella, since the piece of bread fried in olive oil was what made this dish. Whatevs, it was the most stunning bite of the day. I’ve since become obsessed with homemade pesto – I’ll post my version soon.

Richard Reddington’s warm and fragrant arancini rested atop a lamb Bolognese sauce.

4. Richard Reddington’s Arancini with Lamb Sugo

Richard Reddington is the other amazing chef in putting Yountville on the culinary  map thanks to his consistently well-executed and striking seasonal cuisine at Redd.  That’s why it’s my favorite place to eat. He’s been been in an Italian state of mind ever since opening Redd-Wood which serves up handmade pastas, upscale wood-fired pizzas, and Italian-esque meaty dishes a couple months ago. If you haven’t been, the cocktails featuring Italian amari and spirits are first-rate and so is the service, led by Nick Dedier, formerly of Ad Hoc. This crunchy outside, creamy saffron rice inside arancini in a nuanced lamb sugo is one of the apps from the Redd-Wood menu. It’s also the kind of thing that makes you want a whole plate of Bolognese.

 

Imagine eating a hot, cinnamony buñuelo stuffed with rice pudding – that’s what Dahlia Narvaez did.

5. Dahlia Narvaez’ Rice Pudding Turnovers with Banana Ice Cream

Not only did Team Mozza create the most delicious savory bite of the day, they also served up the most creative and memorable dessert. Mozza’s Executive Pastry Chef is Dahlia Narvaez, and when my friend Jen — the super-talented designer and artist of Gonzalez Grafica — spotted her name, she rushed over. I’m so glad she did, as I loved the way Narvaez did a mash-up of two favorite Latin desserts: rice pudding and buñuelos. The result was a warm crunchy turnover dusted in cinnamon and sugar with creamy rice pudding inside. A scoop of banana ice cream was added for good measure.

 

Celebrity Chefs, Food + Recipes

Experience the Magic of Pigs & Pinot with Chef Charlie Palmer

March 8, 2012

Chef Charlie Palmer is hosting a series of events celebrating pinot noir and pork during March at Hotel Healdsburg.

Don’t you love the way some combinations of food and drinks are just perfect together? Milk just begs for cookies, pizza needs beer, and according to celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer, pig likes pinot noir. He should know.

His Pigs & Pinot benefit that started seven years ago as a fun way for Sonoma food lovers and Pinot makers to come together to raise money for charity has become the hottest ticket in Healdsburg. Tickets for the March 23-24 event at Hotel Healdsburg sold out in about five minutes.

But don’t despair. Dry Creek Kitchen is hosting a series of events this month that celebrate the wonderful flavors in both pork and pinot noir. Chef Valette is creating a three-course Sonoma Neighbor Dinner Menu of some of his best por dishes for $36; it’s $51 paired with two wines. Sommelier Drew Munro has added more international pinot noirs to the wine list, and can help pair them with a la carte pork dishes that will be featured during March.

The little benefit became big news when contestants on Top Chef: Las Vegas were challenged to create pinot-loving pork dishes.

“We got about 5,000 email sign-ups on the website and the tickets sold out in 3 minutes,” says Circe Sher. Her family owns the Hotel Healdsburg, where Palmer has his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant.

On a recent bright and cool Thursday, I drove up to Healdsburg for a Pigs & Pinot preview event. A group of us gathered in the sun room off the main lobby, where we sipped and nibbled on Chef Dustin Valette’s housemade charcuterie and sipped Cuvée Aureole by Iron Horse before a Pigs & Pinot preview tasting.

Winemaker Daryl Groom led us through a competitive blind tasting of 16 of the pinot noirs competing in the Pigs & Pinot judging. Some were elegantly earthy and floral, others were bold and so big they tasted more like syrah.

After choosing a winner, we sat down to a delicious luncheon that starred a roasted porcini velouté (that’s a velvety soup to the rest of us) with crispy coppa ham that sang with the earthy 2008 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir from Oregon. The juicy pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and daubed with violet mustard was well-suited by both the 2009 Rochioli Three Corner Pinot Noir and the jammy 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Pinot.

To make reservations for your own pork and pinot experience at Dry Creek Kitchen, call 707.431.0330.