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food pairing

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.


Food + Recipes, Pop Culture, Wine + Food Pairing

Estrella Damm INEDIT is a New Beer Designed for Food…Oh Really?

May 20, 2009
Estrella Damm INEDIT, a beer from Spain, is touting itself as the first beer designed to pair with food. (Courtesy photo)

Estrella Damm INEDIT, a beer from Spain, is touting itself as the first beer designed to pair with food. (Courtesy photo)

I don’t write about beer very often, though technically it is bubbly. But I couldn’t resist when I got this announcement trumpeting the release of Estrella Damm INEDIT, a beer that was crafted under the direction of genius chef Ferran Adria from El Bulli in Spain.

INEDIT is supposed to be served in a wine glass, in order to allow its bouquet to show itself. I do like the curvy, champagne-like bottle and the way the star logo stands out on the black bottle.

But get this: the people from the Spanish brewery are touting INEDIT as the first beer designed to go with food. Really? I think all of the brewmasters in Belgium are going to be rather nonplussed and amused by that one. After a short trip to Belgium last fall to experience Stella Artois, Leffe and Hoegaarden in all their different styles, it’s quite clear that to Belgians, beer is it’s own food group. The many styles and weights of beers are expertly paired — just like wine — with everything from appetizers to desserts. One of my favorite pairings was a tangy Kriek cherry lambic beer with an airy Belgian waffle topped in whipped cream!

I'm really enjoying this raspberry Hoegaarden while in the town of the same name; sadly this beer isn't available in the U.S. .... yet.

I’m really enjoying this raspberry Hoegaarden while in the town of the same name; sadly this beer isn’t available in the U.S. …. yet.

The extra-ironic part is that INEDIT is made in the style of a Belgian witbier, a white ale made from wheat and spiced with coriander and orange peel. I’m sure it will go with frites, tapas and all kinds of foods just fine.

Once I finally tasted INEDIT, I was delighted with its fragrance and elegance. Sorry, Miller High Life, INEDIT is my new champagne of beers.