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Champagne

Restaurants

Here’s What You’re Missing at CDP, the Sexy Bar by Commis

March 26, 2018
popcorn and sparkling wine

When I first heard about the expansion plans for the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, my reaction was mixed. Sure, it would be cool to have a chic bar by chef James Syhabout right next door to my place in Oakland. But it also meant saying goodbye to my favorite designer second-hand store, since they lost their lease to make room.

But after just a few visits to CDP, I’m very happy with the swap.

If you haven’t made it over to Piedmont Avenue to try  CDP (short for chef de partie) yet, you’re missing out on an exquisite cocktail and dining experience where every detail has been considered carefully. considered. The first thing to catch my eye in the space designed by Gensler was a wardrobe fronted by coppery chain curtain — what an unexpected and sexy way to store coats. A gleaming Carrara marble waterfall bar is the focal point of the dimly lit room framed by potted palms starburst chandeliers and sinuous pendant lights.

oakland 09 cocktail commis bar cdp oakland

CDP’s Oakland 09 is a play on the classic French 75.

CDP specializes in brandy and bubbly — two of my favorite things. The signature cocktail is the Oakland 09, named for the year that Commis first opened. Their riff on the French 75 is all kinds of extra: it stars Pineau des Charentes and housemade demi-sec bubbly (seriously, who else does that??)  The final touch: A spritz of jasmine essence, one of the aromas Syhabout associates with his Oakland neighborhood.

Brandy lovers will want the Blood Orange Side Car, a juicy twist on the classic. It’s spiritous enough to relax you, but I like the way the blood orange juice rounds out the flavors.

But for me, the big draw at CDP is the exquisite bar food that shows Syhabout’s creativity and chops.

brussels sprouts with chervil CDP

CDP’s brussels sprouts just might be the best in the Bay Area.

I know Brussels sprouts are on every menu in town, but trust me — you won’t find any as good as these. They’re crisped in a pan, then crispy cook sprouts and raw leaves are bathed in a luxurious, tangy vinaigrette that gets a lift from the under-appreciated herb chervil. That distinct licorice flavor surfaces again in the steak tartare with chervil creme. Syhabout deftly evokes the satisfying flavors of a rib-eye steak with bearnaise, with none of the heft.

And yes, you do need to try the warm boule of bread and chicken skin butter — it’s a nearly life-changing experience and the butter, topped in delicate flower petal and herb design, is downright beautiful.

butter decorated with flowers

Tweezer food alert: CDP’s schmaltzy butter topped with flower petals and herbs.

There’s even a happy hour menu (early from 5 to 6 and late from 9:30 p.m.to close) that starts at $3 for fine nibbles like Marcona almonds dusted in pink peppercorn and rose sugar, a funky little ham sandwich sweetened with honey or my favorite — the popcorn in seaweed brown butter. Try it with a flute of the Gramona Brut Cava or — maybe the Thienot champagne. And then repeat.

The team at CDP knows the way to a bubbly girl’s heart.

August 2018 Update: CDP no longer offers its happy hour menu. But you’ll still find an array of dishes, such as seared scallops with exotic spices, offered a la carte. The popcorn and other special creations are part of a $65 Cote de Boeuf prix fixe tasting menu that requires advance reservations via Resy.

 

 

 

 

Bubbly Events, Champagne

#TopItOff with Louis Roederer Champagne & the Tablehopper

January 8, 2014

A few days before the end of 2013, I had a preview of New Year’s fun to come at a sparkling party with my friend the Tablehopper Marcia Gagliardi and Louis Roederer Champagne. Dubbed Top It Off, the party offered a chance to experience the exclusive, members only event space at The Cavalier in SoMa and to enjoy the most agreeable Louis Roederer Brut Premier.

Cavalier is tucked away off Jesse Street on the backside of the Hotel Zetta; smart red awnings announce that you’ve arrived. It offers a San Francisco interpretation of a slightly posh London pub, with fish and chips, sticky pudding and Pimm’s Cups. In the style of many famous London establishments like Quo Vadis in Soho, the Cavalier has a clubby private space with a bar they call Marianne’s.

A smartly dressed coterie in Marianne’s at The Cavalier. Can you spot The Tablehopper?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The room is dimply lit with tiny flickering tiny white votive candles placed about the room amid low sofas covered in a pastiche of materials like black-and-white houndstooth or hair calf. Velvet ottomans, Oriental carpets, and bric-a-brac like ceramic horse heads, taxidermy, old books and vases completed the vintage look.

Lots of champagne lovers go ga-ga for têtes de cuvée like Cristal, but I prefer the versatility of a well-crafted non-vintage brut. Like its American cousin, the Roederer Estate Brut made up in Anderson Valley, the Roederer Brut Premier had generous fresh fruit flavors, mixed with hints of toast and refreshing acidity. That winning combination gives Brut Premier marvelous drinkability.

And since the blend is lead by pinot noir, it pairs with so many foods. All sorts of tempting appetizers flowed from the Cavalier kitchen. Besides fresh oysters with mignonette, we nibbled grilled ham and cheese sandwiches cut into long fingers and served with a hollandaise dipping sauce, cured salmon on toast points, gougéres filled with Welsh rarebit gravy and perfectly seasoned sliders that I’m guessing were kobe beef on brioche.

Chef Jennifer Puccio’s gorgeous gougères were filled with a Welsh rarebit sauce.

We were treated to a performance by stunning jazz and cabaret singer Veronica Klaus. Her alto voice resonated beautifully in the small room as she sang standards like Peel Me a Grape. Here she is singing Wild is the Wind.

Klaus has a smooth voice that’s just as drinkable as a good glass of champagne… like the Roederer Brut Premier. I looking forward to more of both for Valentine’s Day.

Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Five Fabulous New Year’s Eve Cocktails from Pinterest

December 28, 2013
kismet_cocktail_flutes

It seems I have thousands of pictures of champagne and sparkling wine cocktails on my poor overworked MacBook. But that’s part of why I love Pinterest, because it collects all sorts of inspiration, and so beautifully. Here are five fabulous cocktails from my Bubbly Cocktails board on Pinterest, along with links to the recipes. Be sure to follow me for more!

 

1. Sloe Motion

This cocktail from The Continental Midtown in Philadelphia was featured in Saveur. Though the recipe is just three ingredients, quite often simple things have the most impact. Love the licorice garnish!

Plymouth's Sloe Gin gives this cocktail its name. Photo credit: Christopher Gabello.

Plymouth Sloe Gin lends this cocktail its name. Photo credit: Christopher Gabello.

 

2. Campari and Orange Sparkling Cocktail

I find Campari’s bitterness tough to take on its own. But when I tasted a cocktail by Paul Mant at Quo Vadis, which mixed the  Italian aperitif with orange, lemon and champagne, it started a whole new chapter. This easy drink from Cooking Light will show you just what I mean.

Campari, orange juice and sparkling wine make for a complex cocktail. Photo credit: Oxmoor House.

The Italian aperitif Campari, orange juice and sparkling wine make a deliciously complex drink. Photo credit: Oxmoor House.

 

3. The Kismet Cocktail

The combination of pomegranate and brut sparkling wine is a winner — just look at all the pins for my cocktail called the Lava Lamp. The Kismet, which means “fate” takes a sophisticated twist on that flavor combination by adding ginger and passion fruit. Pomegranate, ginger and passion fruit are all supposed to be aphrodisiacs… and in my opinion, champagne is too.

Pomegranate, passion fruit and ginger make for a thrilling winter cocktail. Photo credit: Maria Hunt.

The pomegranate, passion fruit and ginger Kismet cocktail. Photo credit: Maria Hunt.

 

4. The Antoinette

This cocktail from Saveur‘s article called Bubblicious is a bubbly take on the Bramble with prosecco mixed with blackberries, lemon, vodka and Cointreau. It’s poured at Oak restaurant in Dallas.

The Antoinette from Oak in Dallas. Photo Credit: Helen Rosner

The Antoinette from Oak in Dallas. Photo credit: Helen Rosner.

 

5. Christmas Cranberry Mojito

This gorgeous pin lead me to a blog called Style Celebration – Style Celeb for short – which shares all sorts of info on fashion, shopping, cosmetic trends, runway reports. A Tastemaker post shared this seasonal cranberry mojito, with cranberry juice, light rum and mint. It would be even more sublime if you sub some brut bubbly or prosecco for the sparkling water.

The Christmas Cranberry Mojito from Style Celeb. Photo credit: Roya Mirgoli of Style Celeb.

The Christmas Cranberry Mojito from Style Celeb.
Photo credit: Roya Mirgoli of Style Celeb.

 

 

 

Sparkling Wine, Wine Reviews

Can Sparkling Wine Age? You Bet!

December 26, 2013
wine_grape_clusters
This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

So as I looked in my wine fridge for a wine to bring to a holiday dinner, I discovered a bottle of Schramsberg Reserve sparkling wine from 1987.  What a thrilling discovery – vintage bubbly! But I kind of worried too that I had aged it into a bottle of Napa Valley pinot noir vinegar.

Both the front and back labels call it “Napa Valley Champagne.” Back in 1987, a gallon of gas cost 89 cents. The most popular car was the Ford Escort (MSRP $6,895). That was also the year that The Simpsons and FOX Broadcasting debuted and Prozac went on the market. I was barely old enough to drink legally. So much has changed in the past 26 years.

Fortunately, well-made sparkling wine can wait. Once uncorked, the wine was a deep golden color with deep notes of golden apple, nuts, toast and Madeira wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The bubbles were persistent but so very tiny, that we could really enjoy the flavor of the wine. It was beautiful on its own, as well as with Dungeness crab cakes and a juicy pork loin.

I resolved to start aging more sparkling wine — and think you should try it too.

Of course, if that bottle of bubbly you’re thinking of laying down costs under $20, you may have nothing but vintage vinegar at the end of your experiment. But if it’s a fine méthode champenoise wine that was carefully crafted and had some extended contact with yeast in the first place, it absolutely has that potential.

While they don’t have high amounts of tannin or sugar — two factors that allow other cult red wines like Screaming Eagle to age — sparkling wines and champagnes are naturally graced with a high amount of acidity. This acidity helps preserve the wine and allow it to develop in a positive way, just like a great German riesling or white Burgundy.

So next time you go to your favorite winery and pick up a bottle of their special release, consider putting it away in a cool place and forgetting about it for 20 years or so.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and ?? - and it was still true 26 years later.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and well aged – and it was still true 26 years later.

Design, Pop Culture, Shopping

Like I Said … Keep Calm and Drink Bubbly

April 22, 2013
keep calm drink bubbly

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.