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Party

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.

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.

 

Celebrities & Champagne

Perrier-Jouet Champagne Florale Edition LA Launch Party

October 26, 2012

The new Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Florale edition was unveiled at Katsuya in Brentwood. Photos by John Sciulli/Courtesy of Perrier-Jouet

Champagne means so many different things to different people. On Champagne Day 2012, people are celebrating all the different expressions of this special sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France.

I haven’t been to Champagne, France in a few years, but one of my favorite Champagne experience here in California was the launch party for Perrier-Jouët Champagne‘s new limited edition Belle Epoque Florale bottle.

 

We gathered in a chic, candelit private salon at Katsuya in Brentwood to sip Champagne and meet artist and famed Japanese floral designer  Makoto Azuma. His name may be new to Americans, but he’s well known in Japan and Europe for his avant-garde floral designs and pieces he’s created for Helmut Lang, Lady Dior and Shiseido.

 

Speaking through a translator, Azuma explained that he was inspired by the original Belle Epoque bottle designed by Emile Galle, his respect for nature and the delicate Japanese anemone flower. Azuma says he was also inspired by the sensation of bubbles jumping around on his palate and the smoothness of the wine and its complex taste.

For his new edition, he started with a stainless steel cube which represents artificial beauty created by man and filled it with Japanese blooms, calla lilies, phaelenopsis orchids and vines that symbolize nature.

“I wanted the work to be an homage to Galle,” Azuma said. “The flower language of the plants is quiet and sincere.”

Inside the bottle is the 2004 vintage of the Perrier-Jouët Champagne. It tastes both rich and bright making it a perfect pairing for sushi or nothing at all.

Bubbly Events, Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Harvest 2012 – Join the Party

September 18, 2012
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You couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect day than Sunday when Iron Horse Vineyards celebrated the 2012 harvest. It was a sunny 80 degree day, with hardly a cloud in the sky — I even spotted a young deer lurking near a twisted oak as I drove up the 101.

What I love about Iron Horse is that it’s one of the few places that you can have a rustic and natural experience, all the while sipping an exquisite glass of méthode champenoise sparkling wine.

Sometimes pictures tell a story better than words… so here are some images that capture the effervescence of Sunday’s party.

After parking under oak trees, we walked up a pathway lined with zinnias in decorate bubbly bottles.

At the end of the walk, guests were greeted with an Iron Harvest harvest cocktail of fresh pinot noir juice in the 2007 Brut X.

After noshing at Chef Ciara Meany’s bruschetta bar filled with grilled Costeaux French Bakery ciabatta, heirloom tomates from Barry Sterling’s garden, pesto, grilled bacon and other seasonal toppings, we sat down at two long tables set in a V-shape. Joy Sterling, president of Iron Horse, praised her brother Lawrence for his work running the winery, toasted her parents on the occasions of their 60th anniversary and thanked friends and Corral Club members for coming.

 

I loved the simple place settings topped with sprigs of lavender, the plates that look like this season’s fashionable jacquard prints and the Laguiole-inspired cutlery.

The first course was a lovely salad of fresh field greens — again from the estate garden — topped with pickled radishes, roasted sweet corn and Laura Chenel goat cheese followed by a delicious grilled quail stuffed with Swiss chard and sausage.

Dessert was a petite cup of trifle layered with late summer apples, vanilla cream and amaretti crumbles paired with a glass of Russian Cuvée.

Food + Recipes

Try These Girly Bling Rings Cupcakes

August 22, 2011
ring_pop_cupcakes

Just like fashions in sunglasses, automobiles and handbags, there are definite trends in desserts.

The first dessert era I remember was age of tiramisu, followed by the crème brûlée epoque. Next came chocolate lava cakes, which oozed their way onto dessert menus everywhere and took their sweet time leaving.

The latter half of the 2000s has been the Era of the Cupcake, when the homemade treat made by moms everywhere was re-imagined as a designer sweet with a 3-inch beehive of frosting and a $3 price tag. As a dessert trend, I think cupcakes are pretty 2008 (read over), but creative homemade cupcakes will never go out of style. I like borrowing some inspiration from designer cupcakes and adding them to the homemade ones.

I remember being fascinated with Ring Pops as a kid and wanted to find a way to incorporate them in a girly cupcake. I baked white cupcakes in fluted petal baking cups and then frosted them with a lemon glaze. Then while they were still soft, I embedded the shank of a ring pop in each one and finished with a sprinkle of silver and white sugar pearls, plus pink and green sugar sprinkles to match the cups.

I have to admit, the cupcake making part was super-easy, as I used boxed cake mix and frosting mix from Trader Joe’s. I turned their white frosting into lemon glaze by substituting the juice of two lemons for the hot water called for on the box.

These Bling Ring Cupcakes are a bit over the top, but they’d be perfect for a tea or a princess party. And when I took them to work, they were appreciated by girls of all ages.

© 2011 Maria C. Hunt, aka The Bubbly Girl