Saturday, November 16, 2013

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé!

Every year as November comes around I eagerly anticipate not 1 but 2 Thursdays during the month. Naturally, one is Thanksgiving Day. The other? It falls every year on the 3rd Thursday in November and it's Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

What is Beaujolais Nouveau Day you ask? It's a day in France that celebrates the end of the harvest. It is celebrated with the release of the fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau wine. Worldwide "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" (The new Beaujolais has arrived!) is proclaimed. Over 60 million bottles depart Paris and begin their journey to distribution world wide.

This youthful and vibrant wine is made from the gamay grape in Beaujolais (located in Burgundy) and is bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest. The resulting wine offers notes of strawberries, red currants, raspberries, figs, pears and a hint of holiday spice. Ideally it is served with a slight chill (55 degrees Fahrenheit). It's a wine that is not meant for aging and is intended for immediate enjoyment making it the perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving!

Aside from Turkey, other fantastic pairings for this easy drinking wine are traditional French recipes such as a bistro style frisee salad with a fried egg and bacon,  Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, or even pâté. Grilled cheese or a burger if you prefer a simpler pairing that is just as satisfying!

In addition to it being a fun wine, the labels and packaging are always bright and lively. Need a festive hostess gift? Beaujolais Nouveau with a tantalizing slice of Fleur Verte cheese makes a perfect offering!

Get out there, grab yourself a bottle or 2 of Beaujolais Nouveau this year on November 21! Sante!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Warm Wine Country Charm

My wine and culinary adventures through Greece continue, next stop is Domaine Spiropoulos (organically certified) in Mantineia in the Peloponnese (a large peninsula in Southern Greece).

As my companions and I approached the winery we were warmly greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Spiropoulos and invited in to explore and taste. Inside a tasting of wines from producers all over Mantineia was set up (further mention of other wineries in upcoming posts) . Although wines from the Moschofilero grape are grown all over Greece, it really shines here in Mantineia as we discovered throughout the tasting. Wines made from Moschofilero are most often perfumed and floral on the nose with hints of rose petals and rose water and crisp acidity with notes of spice on the palate.

I am always on the hunt for sparkling wine when/where ever I travel so I was quite pleased when I discovered that Domaine Spiropoulos does indeed make sparkling wine. First to try was their Ode Panos Brut, a 100% Moschofilero dry sparkling wine that had the beautiful notes of rose petals, green apples and ended with a creamy finish. Their Ode Panos Brut Rose sparkling that is made with 90% Moschofilero and 10% Agiorgitiko was next to try. The Rose also had the aromas of rose petals but with addition of red apple and on the palate there was a lovely touch of blood orange as well. I was quite pleased, both lovely sparkling wines!

As we finished the tasting Mrs. Spiropoulos invited us downstairs where she had prepared an authentically local lunch for us. She was so excited to share the dishes with us and the history and details of the recipes. Of all the dishes we had I was very excited to learn about Kagiana (pronounced Kayana). Kagiana is an egg dish and Mrs. Spiropoulos' version was with a simple tomato sauce made first by cooking down tomatoes. onion, a little garlic and oregano. Then fold in a few whisked eggs, after a minute or so some feta and finish with salt and pepper. It was so warm and comforting and was delicious with the Ode Panos Brut!

My other favorite dish was just what I had been waiting for...simply done...grilled lamb chops with just salt, pepper, oregano and a squeeze of lemon. I poured myself some Ode Panos Brut Rose to try with it and for the next 5-10 minutes had a beautiful symphony of flavors...sip, lamb chop bite, sip, lamb get the idea!
Upon the meal's conclusion we gratefully, but sadly departed. All thinking the same thing, how lucky we were to share the day with such a proud, passionate and warm family that sincerely loves to share their wine and culture with others! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Santorini; Assyrtiko's Heavenly Home

View from the Esperas Hotel, Oia

Recently I was fortunate enough to be awarded a trip to Greece (thanks to the Court of Master Sommeliers). Our first stop was two days on the island of Santorini. We stayed in the small town of Oia at the Esperas Hotel,  perched on a cliff with unrivaled views of the Agean Sea. I am still dreaming of this heavenly, breathtaking island!

While on Santorini I explored the unique wine making techniques for Assyrtiko, the island's darling white wine varietal. Due to the island's severe Meltimi winds the Assyrtiko vines are trained into a "bird's nest" or "basket shape" known as Stefani training. This technique protects the grapes not only from the scorching sun, the wind but also from the chance of being pelted with the native volcanic rock and sandy soil.

Mr. Paris Sigalas of Domaine Sigalas exposing the underbelly of Stefani trained Assyrtiko vines

Although grown in other areas in Greece, Assyrtiko from Santorini is my favorite. Especially in Santorini... it's a racy, brisk white wine brimming with mineralty with just a hint of salinity. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, founder and winemaker for Gaia Wines has said about Assyrtiko; " It's a white wine you should propose as a red." After many meals in Santorini myself I agree with Yiannis, Assyrtiko from Santorini has the body and acidity to stand up to red meats (lamb!) just as well as it's ability to pair magically with white and shell fish. Cheers to that or as they say in Greece...Yamas!

Freshly caught Seabring at the Sunset Taverna in Oia

Although many of these wines are not available in the States yet...hold tight! I foresee Greek wines, especially Assyrtiko from Santorini as a rising star in the American market for it's beauty, versatility and honest tariff.

From my travels here are my favorite Assyrtikos/Producers from Santorini. Should you see them, do yourself a favor and give them a try:

Domaine Sigalas: A classic and mouthwatering Assyrtiko, bring on the oysters!
Gaia: Yiannis' Wild Ferment Assyrtiko was one of my absolute favorite wines of the trip...complexity astounds!
Hatzidakis : Masterful wines with impressive age-ability!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston's White Lantern

As I am writing this post my heart is quite heavy. I am still in shock from the Boston Marathon Bombings Monday. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, went to college at Northeastern University and fell in love with Boston before any man had captured my heart. I am a long distance runner and have been a Boston Marathon volunteer for many years while I lived in the city. So yes, I have taken this week's tragedy very personally.

Currently in San Diego, CA I feel slightly helpless, wishing I could be there and in some small way helping to brighten the city's spirits. So for now I thought I would propose a toast to my fair city with one of my favorite beers from Boston's own Samuel Adams.

Samuel Adam's White Lantern* is a white ale brewed with crisp wheat, tangerine & orange peel, coriander and Grains of Paradise. If I were to compare it to a wine I would say it reminds me of Viognier...luscious, floral, citrusy, bright and sunny. As I sip, I wish Boston more sunny days and a speedy recovery as I know the true strength and beauty of this city.

Cheers and my love always to you Boston.

*White Lantern is currently available in Samuel Adam's Spring Thaw Pack*

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Lamb

Spring and Easter are upon us and with it brings the perfect occasion for lamb! I love serving lamb in all forms; burgers, rack, chops but for Easter a boneless leg roast is perfect (and you might even have leftovers for a feta and lamb salad the next day).

My favorite way to serve a boneless lamb roast is actually my adaptation of a recipe I found on Food & Wine online for Vadouvan-Spiced Leg of Lamb.

Here is my version:

Clementine Vadouvan-Spiced Leg of Lamb

2 sticks unsalted butter
3 tablespoons vadouvan or curry powder
2 tablespoons coarsely grated Clementine zest (so floral and fresh!)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons salt...citrus if you have it...I used Salt Farm's Lemon Pomegranate
1 tablespoon crushed pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One 4-5 lb boneless leg of lamb

In a saucepan, combine the butter, vadouvan, zest, rosemary, mint, salt, pink peppercorns and black pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the butter is melted; let cool.
Rub the curry butter all over the lamb. Set the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and let stand for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450°. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes at this temperature and then lower it to 325°. Roast the lamb for about 25-30 minutes per pound for medium rare basting a couple of times. Look for the instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part to register 130° for medium-rare meat. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and skim off the fat. Set the roasting pan over moderately high heat. When the drippings sizzle, add the water and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Add the deglazed drippings to the pan juices and keep hot. Carve the lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the curried jus.

As a suggestion for a festive side why not roast the lamb over artichokes carrots and sweet potatoes too!?

What wine should you pair with this? Here are some classic and some fun suggestions:

For special holidays and occasions this lamb roast and a bottle of France's Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge are perfection. Of course in the spirit of the season and a newly named Pope a wine from the "New House of the Pope" is perfect!

Prefer domestic? Try a Central Coast Syrah or Grenache... Tablas Creek's Espirit de Beaucastel from Paso Robles for example.

When I say fun I also mean a little out of the normal thought process for wine pairing. My recent "fun" pairing for this roast was a bottle of white wine, a Viognier from Condrieu in France. The citrus notes from the curry butter danced magically with the orange blossom and dried apricot notes in the wine.

My domestic suggestion would be Darioush's Viognier from Napa Valley.  This wine would satisfy a red wine drinker and could hold up to the gaminess of the lamb.

Happy Easter and Slainte!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Vivaciously Vegan ...

Last weekend I was invited to my dear friend Colleen's (CEO /Founder/President of GELA ) house for a dinner to celebrate her father and talented photographer Victor Rugg, being in town. The primary focus of the dinner was to serve vegan and gluten free dishes. She knows me well and knew I would insist on bringing something so she threw me a curve ball and requested a dessert that was both vegan and gluten free.

I do try to eat healthy and yes, at one time in my life I was a vegetarian but I was skeptical that I could make a tasty dessert both vegan and gluten free. I begin my research, as suspected, Sprouts Market made finding my ingredients easy and I got to work. If it were to be gluten free I had to decide what my "flour" would be. I happened to have chestnut flour already at home but almond flour would also work just as well. To make it vegan/replace the eggs I used none other than Vegenaise in the cupcake batter.

The frosting was my next challenge...a vanilla citrus butter cream without butter!? A company called Earth Balance makes vegan shortening sticks and it surprisingly whipped up quite nicely with the confectionery sugar. I did find I added more almond milk than I would add to a normal butter cream. But, at the end of the day they looked as I wanted them to.

Now to taste...they appeared to please and satiate the dinner attendees. Surprised am I but pleasantly. Since I have had numerous requests for the recipe so with great pleasure here it is. Enjoy!

Bridget's Vegan Vanilla Citrus Cupcakes

Soaking liquid
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste (found on Amazon)

2 cups chestnut flour (Gave the cupcakes a lovely nutty and gingery taste)

1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt (I used Salt Farm's Lemon Pomegranate salt)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup Vegenaise
1 tbsp Clementine zest
1 tbsp Clementine juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste

½ cup Earth Balance dairy free butter substitute
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp Clementine zest
Pinch of sea salt or Salt Farm's Lemon Pomegranate salt
Up to ¼ cup almond milk (only use as needed to smooth out and thin frosting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Insert paper liners into 12 standard muffin cups.
Prepare the soaking liquid by combining the ¼ cup sugar with the 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar has melted and continue to boil for 1 minute or until it thickens slightly. Let cool while preparing the cupcakes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, water, Vegenaise and 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste until fully combined and no lumps from the Vegenaise. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups (it will be fairly liquid). Bake for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch, browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Spoon the soaking liquid onto the center of each cupcake. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.
Prepare the frosting while the cupcakes cool. In a mixing bowl, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the Earth Balance, powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste, clementine zest and salt. Mix, starting on low speed, to combine. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and then turn the mixer to medium and beat for about 60 seconds. Add the almond milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency – it should be thick, smooth and spreadable.
Frost the cooled cupcakes with the frosting and decorate as desired. I had candied kumquats on hand so I used those but even more clementine zest would be pretty!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Champagne Wishes and Oscar Dreams

Like surf goes with turf, and peanut butter goes with jelly there is no doubt that Champagne goes with the Oscars. Planning your own Oscars party? Why not drink like the stars and indulge in some of these beauties?

Champagne Thienot is making quite a splash this year at the Oscars and are thrilled to be poured, quite a feat as the stage up to now has strictly been Moet & Chandon's. Thienot Brut will be poured at the Oscar Pre-Show and Champagne Thienot's Rose and Thienot 2005 will be poured at the Governor's Dinner paired with Chef Wolfgang Puck's visionary creations. What makes Champagne Thienot interesting is they are still a fairly young House with their beginning only dating back to 1985. Most of their grapes are from their own vineyards in the famous Cotes des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims.

Moet and Chandon's Imperial Brut will also be available to guests at Oscar events including the Oscar's, the Governor's Ball and the post-Oscars Party.

Although there has not been a mention of Champagne Bollinger being present at the Oscars I can not over look it's significance in James Bond films throughout the last 50 years. It has appeared in 12 Bond films in total! There will be a James Bond Tribute for those 50 years at the Oscars so I suggest if you can procure a bottle, pour and toast to Bond....James Bond.

Perhaps you are having trouble finding these Champagnes for your enjoyment? Try the next best thing and grab some sparkling wine from Moet& Chandon's domestic house Domain Chandon from California.

Prefer Champagne Cocktails?

Here's my suggestion, for a French classic perfect for the Oscars and the celebration of the films Les Miserables and Amour..

French 75

1 1/2 oz Cognac
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp sugar/1 sugar cube
6 oz Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne

Combine Cognac, Lemon Juice and Sugar Cube, add ice and shake until chilled.
Pour into Champagne flute, pour in Champagne and garnish with a lemon curl.

Sante and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Divine Hot Cocoa

Valentine's Day may be over but my love for chocolate, marshmallows and vodka never ceases! Although it does not get as cold in San Diego as back in the Berkshires in Massachusetts  (where I grew up) there is such a blissful comfort on a chilly evening curling up with a cup of cocoa.

Recently I discovered Van Gogh's Dutch Chocolate Vodka and along came my idea for this version of thee most divine hot cocoa. It's a fairly easy recipe and the only thing to make is your own marshmallows (Ina Garten's are the best!). Store bought will work but homemade are divine! As an added idea, your leftover marshmallows could be used as a garnish for a chocolate martini you might make with the Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka!

Divine Van Gogh Hot Cocoa:

-2 oz  Van Gogh's Dutch Chocolate Vodka
-8 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-your favorite instant hot cocoa

-Microwave your almond milk in a mug for 1 minute and 30 seconds 
(or heat on medium low on the stove in a sauce pan)
-Stir in your hot cocoa mix
-Pour in the Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka
-Crown your cocoa with 1-2 ( or 3!) and indulge!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Move Over Diamonds...

...Rubis are this girl's best friend! Rarely would I speak in opposition of the legendary bombshell Marilyn Monroe or her tribute to the diamond... that was until I met Louis Barthelemy's Rubis Brut Rose Champagne. The Rubis (French for Ruby) is one of the rarest and most precious of jewels so it seemed quite fitting to name Barthelemy's cuvee after it. This Rubis is composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is elegant and refined with a feminine pink hue. Rich aromas of cherries, red currants and cocoa will seduce you. Of course this would please palates at any time of the day but I'm dreaming of  Barthelemy's Rubis and a cocoa dusted dark chocolate truffle.

Wondering where to find this beautiful Champagne? Join me Thursday, February 7 at Protocol Wine Studio for "Ardor in the Bubbles", a Communal Table tasting to taste this and many others. It will  not be for the weak of heart with fine examples of Champagne, Cava, Franciacorta, Cremant and Sparkling wine. Hearts will be aflutter with our surprise reception wine: the soon-to-be hottest varietal in the wine arena today followed by a Saber Exhibition to kick off the night.

6:30pm – 8:00pm pst
Limited seating $20 per person
Email to RSVP :

4186 Sorrento Valley Blvd Suite H
San Diego Ca 92121
Twinkle lights on in full force to light your way!

Can't make it but need this Champagne? Email me @


Friday, January 18, 2013

Retreat to the Broken Shed...

Those of us who love vodka probably already have our "go to" brand but I'm always in interested to try others. So, of course when a vodka from New Zealand was brought to my attention I was intrigued.

More intriguing yet is this vodka is made from some of the purest water in the world from the sparsely populated Southern Alps. It is distilled with Whey, which they call milk honey.

It all began in 2009, in a small lake town in the mountains of New Zealand's Southern Alps when Broken Shed Vodka was born to Mark O'Brien, Mark Simmonds and Steve Turner. The name itself comes from its inception in the Broken Shed belonging to Mark O'Brien. These days the Shed is no longer used for crafting and producing their vodka and is now used for tasting events.

First I tried it on the rocks. What impressed me was the true purity in the taste; like a white tea with a kiss of sweetness. It can easily be sipped alone but, as I am lover of martinis I gave it a test taste with a recipe provided to me by Broken Shed...the Broken Basil.

Broken Basil Martini

2 Parts Broken Shed Vodka
Generous Amount of  Crushed Bail Leaves
1 Full Basil Leaf
1 Part Passion-fruit Juice
1 Part Apple Juice

Shake all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the full basil leaf. Spring isn't here yet, but this cocktail makes you think it isn't far from now!

It is becoming more available in the US and at the $30-35 USD price, for this quality, I am indeed impressed. Get yourself a bottle today!