Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Years Eve Sparkles

The holidays are coming to an end, as is 2014, but there is still New Years Eve to plan for and it's one of my favorites. Why? Because it's an evening for celebration, anticipation and most importantly sparkling wine and Champagne! What will you be sipping? I invite you to explore my favorite go-tos from Champagne to sparklers from all over the world to help you better ring in the New Year!

Champagne....the real thing....

NV Perrier-Jouet, Grand Brut: It's a classic beauty, elegant with beautiful packaging and is composed of  all three of the classic Champagne grapes...Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier

2004 Bollinger, le Grand Annee Brut: Ring in the New Year as James Bond would, powerful, yet refined with notes of toasted almonds, honey and a smokey minerality.

NV Ruinart Rose: Celebrate with a pretty little piece of history, Ruinart celebrated it's 250th anniversary in 2014 of Rose Champagne making and it doesn't hurt that is deliciously gorgeous with strawberries, red currants, and roses, be sure to guard your glass!

NV Chartogne-Taillet, le Rose: Perhaps a little lesser known but divine none the less. It's a crowd pleaser bursting with ripe cherries, red currants and pastry dough.

Sparkling From Around the World:

NV Lucien Albrecht, Blanc de Blancs, Cremant d'Alsace, France: 100% Pinot Blanc, one of the best sparklers for under $20... Rich, baked apple, spice and almonds

2010 Schramsberg, Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, CA: A regal 100% Chardonnay sparkler that has been a constant at The White House with crisp green apple, white flowers and brioche.

2009 Domaine Carneros, Brut, Carneros, CA: Taittinger's domestic sparkler; sleek and balanced...pears, vanilla and baked bread

NV Ca'del Bosco, Cuvée Prestige, Franciacorta, Italy: I can't get enough of this wine that reigns from what some say is Italy's answer to France's Champagne... Comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero with notes of golden delicious apples, lemon curd and brioche. Bring a real conversation piece to the party!

Happy New Year and Cheers to 2015!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grace Kelly in a Glass

Yves Cuilleron, Les Chaillet, Condrieu, France
Orange blossoms, honeysuckle, dried apricots and minerality for days... sounds beautiful? It is and it's the magical characteristics of the varietal Viognier. Viognier is one of my favorite varietals. It's grown all over the world...Australia, South Africa, Italy, United States and in France to name a few.  Of all the expressions of it Viognier from Condrieu is one of the most adored. Condrieau is a French AOC located in the Rhone Valley that is an appellation strictly for Viognier. The wines from Condrieu are not inexpensive but will take your breath away from their elegance...think of Grace Kelly in a glass.

My favorite food pairing with Viognier? Treat yourself to a cozy bowl of Truffle Risotto...earthy meets floral....angels may sing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Portland Playback

As I return from Portland, Oregon where I took my first crack at the Advanced Sommelier Exam ( follow me here as I spend my next year studying to retake it ), I think of how exciting and impressive their food and wine scene is.  Yes, Portland is a little weird, after all,  it's the city's motto! But, it's a great kind of weird!

Enjoy and allow me to indulge as I relive some tasty travels around Portland this April ranking some of my favorite "must go" spots!

Best Bar:

Ambonnay Champagne Bar
107 SE Washington Street #167
Portland, OR 97214

Did someone say Champagne??  Anyone who knows me knows I come running when I hear mentions of Champagne so this was a must on my list of places to check out. Sommelier/Owner David Speer ( named one of Food & Wine Magazine's Sommelier's of the a Year in 2013 ) has created a fantastic bar serving up one of the best lists of Champagne & sparkling wines by the glass/bottle outside of Champagne, France itself!
My recommendations:
By the glass:  Laherte Freres, Ultratradition  Brut, Champagne, France NV (2010)
By the bottle:  Vouette & Sorbee, Fidele Extra Brut, Champagne, France (2010)

*small bites & nibbles available too

Best Lunch : 

Little Bird Bistro
219 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204

Sibling to another Portland hotspot that many flock to, I prefer Little Bird.  I had little time before my first exam of the week and the service, food and wine was charming and just what I wanted! Fresh, local and mouthwateringly delicious!
My recommendations:
Salad: Butter Lettuce, warm lentils, roasted lamb neck ( moist and delicious! ) with lemony yogurt
Main: Sheep Cheese Gnocchi, pea purée, asparagus and morels
For Sipping: Pierre Brigandat, Tradition, Champagne, France

Best Dinner:

527 SW 12th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204

After hearing from both food publications and friends I was happy to finally get to Gruner. Gruner serves "cozy, alpine cusine" and an extensive wine list featuring wines from Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland. It was rainy and chilly outside so it was a perfect night to visit.
My recommendations:
Salad: Smoked coho salmon, watercress, mizuna, roasted beets,
french green lentils, horseradish-beet yogurt
Main: Malfatti, ricotta dumplings with nettles, dandelion
and turnip greens, sautéed hen-of-the-wood mushrooms,
melted butter, parmigiano-reggiano
For Sipping: 2012 Chehalem, Gruner Veltliner, Ridgecrest Vineyards, Willamette Valley, OR

Perfectly Portlandian:
1111 East Burnside (Fourth Floor)
Portland, OR 97214

Any place that promises Wine, Booze, Food and a View sounds like a must check out to me! Noble Rot is located on the fourth floor offering amazing views of Portland as well as numerous menu items coming from their roof top garden. The decor is quirky cool and the staff is too.
My recommendations:
For Sipping: (Drink local!) 2012 J Albin, Pinot Noir, Laurel Vineyard, Willamette Valley, OR

"...the hazelnuts, these are local?" - Portlandia

Friday, January 31, 2014

Nothing Like New York (Part Deux)

The Guggenheim Museum
As day 2 of Kate and I's NYC quick holiday trip was upon us we planned out our day during a breakfast of fruit, yogurt and a latte from our hotel (The Franklin). After , we checked out and headed to The Guggenheim Museum , just a few blocks away.

The Guggenheim is wonderfully stylish building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and founded by American business man and art collector, Solomon R. Guggenheim. It is home to a constantly expanding collection of Impressionist, Post Impressionist, early Modern and Contemporary art. As we wound our way to the top we took in every nook and cranny of art work along the way....Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and Vuillard as well as the featured exhibition focusing on the work of Contemporary artist Christopher Wool. Wool is known for his large black stenciled letters on white canvases...somewhat provocative and thought provoking in nature. As we descended once again to the base of the rotunda we sighed with satisfaction, looking back up at the breathtaking view of the museum's glass dome. Happy and satiated spiritually we departed.

Off we were to our final, but highly anticipated destination of Eataly. What is Eataly you may ask? It
 is a high end Italian food market/hall comprised of restaurants, specialty markets and retail. Owners
of the New York location include such talents as Mario Batali, Lydia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich. As anticipated, Eataly was packed with people. We swam through the crowd and quickly decided we would venture to the top floor and have lunch at their roof top Birreria.

Birreria is a restaurant and brewery that includes Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head as one of the head brewers that has a delicious menu full of Italian food with Austrian and German influences. Kate and I ordered our beers... I the Chestnut Brown and Kate the Thyme Pale Ale. For our lunch we ordered a plate of Speck ( mouthwateringly delicious smoked Proscuitto ) and an Italian cheese plate ( Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, and Gorgonzola Dolce ) accompanied with Frangelico Honey ( 1 part Frangelico to 3 parts honey topped with roasted hazelnuts )..... heavenly!

After lunch we ventured back downstairs to the hall where we grabbed glasses of Franciacorta
( sparkling Italian wine made in the Champagne method ) as we shopped picking up imported Italian chocolates, teas, spices and amazingly fresh pastas. Being that December is truffle season we  selected some white truffle and ricotta stuffed pasta to go that was ethereal then we were off to the wine shop!

Eataly's wine shop was full of any Italian wine I have wanted and gave dreamed of... A wall of Franciacorta and sparkling wines ... they even had Batali's La Mozza Perazzi Morellino di Scansano ( delicious Sangiovese from coastal Tuscany ) in a magnum! Kate and I bought what we could carry and headed merrily to Grand Central station to catch our train back to the Berkshires.

Next trip that takes you to New York City I hope that you treat yourself to macarons from Laduree, roasted chestnuts at Rockefeller Center, Champagne at Corkbuzz and artisanal Italian meats and cheeses from Eataly.

Cheers and happy travels!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nothing Like New York (Part 1)

As the holidays have come to an end, I sit back and reflect on a quick but fantastic little December trip into New York City with my best friend, Kate. After a easy drive from the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts to Wassaic, NY we hopped a train and NYC bound were we! As I now live in San Diego I eagerly anticipated snowfall and snowfall we got indeed


As we exited Grand Central Station, snowflakes danced around us and we began our wintery walk. Our first stop was to a place dreams are made of... Laduree. Anyone who loves ( and obsesses ) over macarons knows about Laduree. They originated in Paris, make the best macarons in the world and now have their first stateside store on Madison Avenue. As we entered I (and I'd take the liberty to say that Kate too) were enamored with the beauty of the store, it was as if we were transported into a tasting salon in Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. There were multitudes of colored macarons shipped in from Paris almost daily, candles, teas and chocolates...color me a happy girl!

After Laduree we were off to check into The Franklin Hotel , our stylish little home away from home for the night on the Upper East Side. It's a charming little spot that offers European breakfast, an evening wine & artisnal cheese reception and 24 hour tea, latte and cappuccino. The Franklin is in a great location; just around the corner from Zabars, a delicious gourmet food and deli, truly an institution in New York and just a few blocks from The Guggenheim Museum.

The Franklin Hotel

Our evening packed with an ambitious agenda we were off to a chic wine bar called Uncorked Wine and Tapas first where we shared a bottle of  J.P. Chenet Sparkling Rose from France with Marissa Ain, the fabulous founder of Plate + Decanter , a Culinary + Wine Event Company. Next as it was the  holiday season we just had to get a look at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. We snacked on roasted chestnuts as we walked to the subway to meet up with our friend Thea at Corkbuzz Wine Bar & Studio, a place I had heard great things about. Corkbuzz was even better than I anticipated...we apparently arrived with impeccable timing as we were greeted with the question "So are you here to enjoy our Champagne Campaign?"  As a lover, or rather a slave to Champagne, I perked up and inquired further. Kate and I were informed that every night at 10pm-close Corkbuzz indulged their guests offering 50% off any and all Champagne. We were off and running!

Corkbuzz Wine Bar & Studio

NV Chartogne Taillet Rose Champagne
I ordered us a bottle from one of my favorite producers, a NV Chartogne Taillet Rose Champagne , a glorious Champagne that is impressively complex offering notes of rhubarb, red cherries, strawberries, ginger and brioche. Kate ordered the Lamb & Pappardelle Pasta dish while I selected  a side of Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and an order of housemade Duck Proscuitto...all of it magical with the Chartogne Taillet Rose.  After we wished our goodbyes to Thea, Kate and I hopped back on the subway to The Franklin where we grabbed a cup of Harney & Sons Tea and headed up to our room to rest up and plan for our next day's  New York City adventures...Part 2 to follow!