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Entertaining, Party Recipes and Pairings

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

December 27, 2012

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.


Entertaining, Wine + Food Pairing

Think Pink: Delicious & Easy Valentine’s Day Food & Drinks

February 13, 2011

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Whether you’ve got a big Valentine’s dinner planned or not, I think it’s nice to be able to start your celebration at home. So I put together a gallery with some of my favorite, easy-to-make pink foods and drinks for Valentine’s Day.

Visit the recipes section at The Bubbly Girl for the Kismet Cocktail, Raspberry Royale cocktail, and the Chocolate Corks which are fudgey and moist since they start with a yeast based chocolate dough.

You could pick up ingredients for most of these recipes at Trader Joe’s, along with the super-affordable Blason Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé. The red Italian sparkler Brachetto d’Acqui is usually at BevMo or a larger liquor stores with a decent wine department.

To make the Jack Rose cocktail, add 1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur, two ounces applejack (or Calvados if you can’t find it) and the juice of half a lime to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake it until your hands are really cold, then strain it into a smallish martini glass.


Entertaining, Pop Culture

How to Open a Bottle of Champagne – The Right Way!

September 23, 2009


Just last night I was having dinner with a really smart and fun foodie friend who loves, cooking, wine and cocktails. At one point the conversation turned to sparkling wine and champagne –big surprise!

But I was surprised when she admitted that when it came to opening bubbly, she usually handed the bottle off to someone else.

If you’ve been suffering from a secret fear of opening a bottle of bubbly, don’t despair! With the help of my TV reporter friend Kristi, I’ve recorded this video to teach anyone how to open that bottle of bubbly safely.

As you’ll read in the introduction of my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion the first thing to do is to make sure to chill your sparkling wine properly for 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator or an ice and water bath. There’s the same amount of force behind a flying cork and a bullet leaving a gun barrel; making sure the bottle is nice and cold ensures that everything will go smoothly.

Now grab a cloth napkin, your cold bottle of bubbly and let’s get popping!

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks, Entertaining

A Golden Champagne Cocktail for Academy Awards Parties

February 22, 2009
Tiny flecks of edible gold leaf dance on champagne bubbles in the Grant's Gold cocktail. Photo by Ramona d'Viola/Ilumus

Tiny flecks of edible gold leaf dance on champagne bubbles in the Grant’s Gold cocktail. Photo by Ramona d’Viola/Ilumus

There’s no doubt lots of champagne corks will be popping all over Hollywood and surrounding districts as the Academy Awards – which gives Oscars to the best work in the movies the past year – rolls out another list of winners. If you ask me, the best supporting actress is just too hard this year — I wish they could split the Oscar five ways between Marisa Tomei, Amy Adams, Taraji Henson, Penelope Cruz and Viola Davis. Or maybe the best dress should win.

If you want to make like the red carpet crowd, then pick up a bottle of bubbly by Moet & Chandon – Oscar just chose the venerable champagne house as the official champagne of the Academy Awards. Their wines including Nectar Imperial, Imperial Rose and the latest Grand Vintage will be poured from the Red Carpet cocktail party to the Governer’s Ball after party.

But if you want a golden champagne cocktail that fits the occasion, then try my Grant’s Gold, a champagne cocktail that features edible 23K gold leaf dancing in champagne along with VSOP Cognac and Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. I created the signature drink recently for a special event at the Grant Grill, the fine dining restaurant in Starwood’s U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

While developing this recipe, I found that static cling can make the delicate gold leaf difficult to handle, but chopping it with the sticky candied ginger takes care of this. And when you drop the pieces of decorated ginger into the drink, they’ll slowly release little flecks of gold. The Grant’s Gold is potent and delicious and whether you choose to add the gold or not, the cocktail will add a luxurious note to any party.

Pair this cocktail with creme brulee, pound cake or dark chocolate desserts. The intense flavors of fresh ginger and cognac are a perfect counterpoint to sweets while the edible 23K gold leaf from Italy makes it memorable.

Grant’s Gold
Makes 1 cocktail
3 to 4 ounces brut champagne like Moet Brut Imperial, chilled
1 ounce Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1/2 ounce VSOP cognac
2-3 slivers candied ginger with 23K gold leaf
Pour the champagne or sparkling wine into a flute. Add the ginger liqueur and
cognac. Just before serving, drop in the slivers of candied ginger with gold leaf.

© 2009 By Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl. All rights reserved.