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Entertaining

Entertaining, Party Recipes and Pairings

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

December 27, 2012
maria_holiday_Framboise_punch

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, Party Recipes and Pairings

Savory Blackberry Cheese Tarts: Holiday Cooking with Driscoll’s Berries

December 3, 2011
raspberries and blackberries

A perfect little blackberry tart.

I love blackberries, and I usually think about them as a summer flavor. But since they’re available year-round, and  low-calorie, high-nutrition snack, I make an exception to the eating with the seasons rule. Earlier this week, Rick Rodgers, (with a D) — the entertaining guru, chef and author of a bazillion books — showed us how blackberries can sweeten up winter cooking in an event hosted by Driscoll’s Berries.

We visited the Hands-On Gourmet kitchen, a unique space for parties and culinary corporate team-building in Dogpatch. (It’s around the corner from a cleverly named bar called Retox.) The kitchen had a large demo kitchen set up, beautiful displays of food and drinks and space for everyone to sit at belly tables with tall Chivari chairs. And the staff were very polished and friendly, especially my pal Fausto.

The guests included a bunch of heavyweights in the blogging world like Cooking With Amy, Eat the Love, Punk Domestics and a fun new pastry chef turned San Francisco baking examiner Angela Rosoff.

In between Rodgers’ segments, noted food photographer Caren Alpert talked about ways to take better food shots. I liked her tips about having different background to use in soft focus, using a white sheet or even paper to bounce more light onto the plate and styling your hero plate last.

Driscoll’s also used the event to announce their “Celebrate the Sweeter Moments Contest.” Tell them how berries made an occasion sweeter and you could win a Viking Cookware set valued at $1,350. The contest ends December 15; for more information or to enter, visit Driscoll’s.

Everything was delicious, from the Blackberry Cobbler cocktail with gin, lemon and a splash of bubbly to the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin in blackberry sauce with sweet potato purèe.

But since I love party food and things that come in small packages, my favorite was Rick’s Savory Cheese Tartlets topped with blackberries and thyme. I adored the cream-cheese crust which was utterly rich but had an airy quality, too. And something about adding the dab of honey on top made it remind me of Greek pastries I enjoyed growing up in Chicago.

Savory Cheese Tartlets with Honey-Thyme Berries

Servings: Makes 24 tartlets, 8 to 12 servings

Number of Ingredients: 10

Cream Cheese Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature,
plus more for the pans, if needed

3 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature

Filling

5 ounces rindless goat cheese, at room temperature

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. honey, preferably full-flavored, such as chestnut or thyme, warmed

About 1 cup mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries)

Fresh thyme leaves, removed from their stems, for garnish

1. To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10 times, until the mixture begins to clump together. Gather up the dough and shape into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and easy to handle, about 2 hours.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Have ready two 12-cup miniature muffin pans (each cup measuring 1 7/8 inches across the top and 7/8 inches deep), preferably nonstick. If the pans are not nonstick, lightly butter them.

3. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. One at a time, place a piece of dough in a muffin cup, and use your fingers to press it firmly and evenly up the sides to make a pastry shell. (A wooden tart tamper can help the job go quickly.) Freeze for 5 minutes.

4. To make the filling, mash the goat cheese and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the egg, yolk, minced thyme, salt, and pepper and whisk until combined. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into the chilled pastry shells.

5. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove the tartlets from the pans and transfer to a wire cake rack to cool completely. (If you wish, warm the tartlets in a preheated 350°F oven for 5 minutes before serving.)

6. Just before serving, lightly brush the tops of the tartlets with about half of the honey. Arrange the berries on top as desired. Drizzle with the remaining honey. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.

Recipe adapted from Rick Rodgers

© 2011 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl

Food + Recipes

Parmesan Toasts – A Champagne-Perfect Snack for #Let’sLunch

July 8, 2011
parmesan_toast_recipe

As the hostess of The Bubbly Girl, it’s probably no surprise that I think about enjoying champagne and sparkling wine a lot. But many people are surprised to learn that these effervescent wines are perfect for pairing with all kinds of foods.

When people hear the word “champagne,” high-end fare like caviar, lobster and cracked blue crab comes to mind. Those are all delicious with champagne and it’s sparkling sisters. But so are a range of foods that aren’t so high-falutin.

Potato chips, popcorn, french fries – basically anything salty, slightly greasy or crispy is wonderful with champagne and sparkling wine.  Pizza and prosecco is fabulous. A juicy burger can be deliciously paired with a sparkling wine, as long as it’s got some gravitas from long-aging or richness from pinot noir.

The recipe section of The Bubbly Girl.com shares recipes for seasoned popcorn, savory cheddar shortbread and all sorts of foods that play well with bubbly. When I was invited to contribute a recipe to the #Let’sLunch champagne-friendly snacks lunch, I wanted to do something new and easy.

I kept thinking of the ghetto-gourmet spread I made for grilled corn on the cob this past weekend. The mix of mayonnaise, grated parmesan, seasoned salt and chili powder was exquisite on corn — and tasted pretty good by itself.  I thought this slightly salty, slightly rich spread would taste even toasted on a baguette. You’ll find these Parmesan Toasts are perfect with sparkling wines of all kinds and they couldn’t be easier to make.

 

Parmesan Toasts

1/4 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (the crumbly kind)

seasoned salt, to taste

dash of paprika

1/4 French baguette, cut into thin rounds

Mix the mayonnaise, Parmesan, salt and paprika in a small bowl to make a uniform paste. Spread the mixture onto the baguette rounds, so you can’t see through to the bread.

Toast under a broiler – watching them carefully – until golden brown.

Eat while warm with your favorite bubbly.

© 2011 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Big Bottles of Bubbly Make for Big Fun

December 19, 2010
champagne_bottle_size_chart

As magical as it is to open any bottle of sparkling wine, opening a big bottle of bubbly when entertaining makes an even grander statement. Whether it’s a magnum that holds the equivalent of two regular bottles of wine or a massive 4-bottle Jeroboam, bigger bottles are a smart and easy way to please a crowd.

Looking back on bottles of bubbly with friends over the years, the larger format bottles seem to stand out. We celebrated wrapping up shooting for my book The Bubbly Bar with a magnum of Veuve Clicquot; I remember sharing the same wine with Tony Hawk and his friends at a party in his oceanview backyard. Krug’s rich and toasty Grande Cuvée flowed freely from magnums at an over-the-top press trip to show off the brand’s custom hot air balloon.

The cool thing about larger bottles is that ounce for ounce, they’re no more expensive than the 750s. And besides their impressive size, larger format bottles win in the taste department when compared to the usual 750 ml bottles. I learned this lesson after a long and windy drive up to Mendocino County to visit Roederer Estate. The tasting room hosts pour their non vintage brut from a 750 ml bottle and a 1.5 liter magnum and letting guests taste the two side by side. The wine from the 750 was deliciously crisp and bursting with fresh green apples; the same wine from the magnum had these richer, toasty notes that usually are found in a wine that’s much older and more expensive.

Krug's Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.

Krug’s Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.

Some fun larger bottles to try include Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, the nearly organic Drusian Prosecco, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut and Joy!, a sparkling wine from Iron Horse that’s aged for 10 to 15 years. It’s only available in magnums, to make sure there’s enough liquid happiness to go around.

Bubbly Events

More Bubbly Book Fun in San Diego

November 11, 2009

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The holidays are almost here, and admit it, you’re probably thinking about pulling out those same familiar recipes you make every year. I bet they’re good, but here’s an even better idea: join me for one of these three events in San Diego this month to pick up a bunch of new ideas and recipes for easy and delish drinks and party food.

Next Thursday Nov. 19 I’m teaching The Bubby Girl’s Ultimate Party Plan at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Fest, which kicks off Nov. 18-22. We’ll be tasting great food like Mediterranean style lamb sliders, Alsatian Tarts and my super easy Posh Popcorn paired with deliciously affordable sparkling wines and seasonal cocktails from my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion.  Click here to buy your ticket and make sure you get a spot in this tasty and useful class for anyone who wants to be better at entertaining.

Bring your canvas shopping back and meet me at the Little Italy Mercato from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday Nov. 21. Pick up some free Bubbly Girl cocktail recipe cards and ingredients for your Thanksgiving dinner at the market at India and Date streets. Click here for a map to the area.  If you haven’t been before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the mix of cool food artisans, farmers and restaurants at this urbane market.

And to help inspire you  just before Thanksgiving, join me at the ever-so-elegant Cafe Chloe for a pre-holiday party and book signing from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday Nov. 23. This is a free event, so come down and share a glass of wickedly delicious Framboise Apricot Punch from The Bubbly Bar and nibble on appetizers including duck confit with caramelized shallots, housemade charcuterie and ahi niçoise  – all featured on Cafe Chloe’s delicious party platters.

We’ll also make it easy to get started with holiday gift buying- I’ll be signing copies of The Bubbly Bar and Cafe Chloe’s  just made a new batch of their gorgeous rose syrup that’s perfect in bubbly or an Italian soda. Never tasted it? Rose Royale cocktails  will be available for half-price.