Monthly Archive for December, 2010

Top Bubble Picks – New Year’s Prep

There is nothing more regal than impressing your New Year’s Eve guests with an elegantly named beverage featuring champagne. Two words: Kir Royale. This beautiful rose-colored cocktail is a favorite pre-dinner drink among Parisiennes. I first discovered the classic sparkler when I was in college on a trip to Brittany France with our good family friends, who insisted that I move on from drinking Coke and experience this drink with a bit of fresh bread and cheese. Long story short, I’ve been hooked ever since.

With New Year’s Eve lurking, let’s be honest, the lingering question of what to sip at midnight leaves many of us notoriously reaching for the finest of French bubbly simply for the fact that it’s “tradition.” But enjoying the holiday hoopla in style doesn’t mean having to break the bank (I mean, aren’t many of our resolutions to “save” in the new year?). Check out some fun, flirty and frugal suggestions from Stacy De Fino at WinoBee, along with her suggested recipe pairings. And if you don’t know about WinoBee yet, be sure to book mark their url (, as it is an up and coming blog which underscores the premise that good wine is often the sign of an even better evening. So happy that WinoBee could kick off this new year with such a relevant guest post! Oh, and if you think you want to Kir Royale it up as we wink at 2011, I’ll give you the secret recipe too, but picking your bubbles is your first step to a successful cocktailing experience.

New Year’s Bubblies That Won’t Kill Your Budget

– Verdi Spumante

Best value wine offering a delicious sparkle and zest accompanied by a soft, fruit-forward flavor.

Cost: $4.99 bottle / Where to Buy: BevMo

– Mionetto “Il” Prosecco

Combines notes of citrus, pear and floral with a light effervescence that doesn’t overpower the palate. Simply sip as-is or whip up a cocktail using vodka, triple sec and pineapple juice. You’ll love the versatility!

Cost: $9 bottle / Where To Buy:

– Pommery POP

Unravel the bubbles of this uncomplicated champagne in a perfect, party-portable size. These 187mL bottles are great for individual consumption (who wants to share anyway?) Simply pack a few in your cooler, grab a straw and bypass the flutes!

Cost: $9.99 bottle / Where to Buy: 67Wine

– Banfi Rosa Regale

Softer than champagne, this light wine is made of brachetto and blends rose and raspberry aroma notes with a sweet, appealing touch of berry on the palate. It’s a perfect option to bypass dessert for at your dinner party or to toast with at midnight!

Cost: $19.99 bottle / Where To Buy: BevMo

-Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Brut Cava

This brut cava adds elegance to any soiree. It’s thick Absinthe-green glass and emblazoned solid pewter crest is enough to catch the eye, but the blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Zarello grapes within offer a satisfying fruit intensity and perfumed bouquet.

Cost: $23 bottle / Where to Buy:

Kir Royale

What is Kir? Kir is a popular French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur). Add a splash of Cassis to a glass of champagne and you have made a Kir Royal. Fun historical fact- this drink was invented circa 1876. >gasp< That's about 1, 742 years ago! A drink that stands the test of time. Ingredients

1-2 TBS Cassis
6 oz champagne


It is recommended to chill your bubbly well — either in a refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours or in an ice bucket for about 30 minutes. For a quick fix you can cool it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Pour Cassis into a champagne flute, then add in the chilled champagne to ensure an even mixture.

Be sure to check them out at or on Twitter at @WinoBee
Their aim is to make wine enlightening rather than intimidating by providing a fun, flirty approach to winos of all levels. Their work has been featured on Redbook, and

The difference in pronunciation

What is the difference between a ‘pastie’ (pronounced: pas-tee) and a ‘pastie’ (pronounced: pay-stee). Well if you really must know, it is a short trip to your favorite search engine to take a gander of the images that arrive when you search on ‘pastie’. One is food and the other, err….not so much!

The sorted history of this stuffed pocket: The simple meat pie is thought to have originated in Cornwall, England in the 1800s. Some food historians suggest that miners, because of their poverty, may have added vegetables to stretch this dish further, since meat was too expensive. Louisa May Alcott, in her renowned book Little Women also references this meal/hand warmer option, as she notes that this meal also served the purpose of keeping the girls hands warm, that were too poor to own mittens.

The pasty (singular of ‘pastie’) is thought to be inspiration for the Spanish or Latin empanada. Empanadas differ in the addition of cumin, sometimes raisins, and occasionally are fried rather than baked. Pasties also share similarities with piroshkis, though piroshkis of Russian origin are usually covered with yeasted dough rather than a pastry crust. Perhaps this is too much foodie history? I must confess that this recipe is a true hybrid, of both the pasty and the empanada. Why? Why do I ‘go there’? Well if you want the truth, the Cornish version, in its truest form, never had the filling cooked before baking, the recipe I am about to share with you does, however the ingredients are quite simple and lacking that true empanada flair.

(Note: Be sure to read over the entire recipe as there are two ingredients lists and two sets of directions in addition to sauce suggestions.)

Ground Beef Pasties

Filling Ingredients

1 TBS vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 large potatoes, cubed small (approximately 3 cups)
3 large carrots, cubed small (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup peas
salt and pepper to taste

Filling Directions

In a large-size skillet add oil, potato and salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until potatoes change from a solid white to an opaque white. Then add in the carrots, cooking for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and continue to cook for 7 minutes, stirring continuously. Add in meat, breaking into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat, add peas and cook until meat is no longer red; stirring well. Set aside.

With this quantity of filling I was able to make 36 pies and still had a bit of meat left over. If you are making the crust from scratch, you will want to at least triple the recipe below.

Crust Ingredients

2- 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup salted butter
1/3 cup water
12/ tsp vinegar
1 large egg
2 TBS milk

Note: If you are in a time crunch you can use pre-made pie crust cut into the designated size or the Hispanic supermarket also sells La Saltiña Tapas, which are pre-cut and ready to use. If you opt for this method, continue directions from ‘filling the crust’.

Crust Directions

In a medium-size bowl cut butter into flour. In another bowl mix water, vinegar, and egg. Divide into 8 small balls. Using a floured board, roll out each ball into a circle that is approximately 4-inches.

Place filling in center and fold the crust over the filling until it forms a semi-circle.

Push the edges together with a fork. Poke holes in the top and brush with egg and milk mixture. Cook at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Sauce Suggestions

– Secret Sauce: catchup and mustard mixed together. 2/3 catchup, 1/3 mustard. Mix well.
– Creamy Sauce: sour cream and Tabasco. Mix together 1 cup sour cream, 2 tsps Tabasco and 1/2 tsp paprika (for color). Mix well.
– Purist: squeeze wedges of fresh lemon juice.

Dessert Fit for an Ogre >ahem< Princess

There is no better way to celebrate a bit of Christmas than with a titch of green. To fill that green quota, with kids in tow, we headed to the San Francisco production of Shrek to feast our eyes on two of the most charming singing ogres – Shrek and Princess Fiona. As we say in the biz, “it was a recipe for success” for both kids and adults alike. Hence, a perfectly kid inspired treat. While I can’t claim credit for this recipe, I can tell you that it has a bit of my spin on it. This faux key lime flavor, which I sampled at another fun holiday function this week, is all the rage, “I am a believer!”

Key Lime Ogre Miniature Tarts (fit for a princess)


8 egg whites
3 TBS sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 (3 oz) package lime JELL-O
8 mini graham cracker ready-crusts
4 TBS chocolate syrup
dark chocolate, shaved (or chocolate sprinkles)


In a large-size bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they begin to foam. Slowly add the sugar, a bit at a time, and gradually increase the speed. Beat until egg whites appear glossy, and reach a firm consistency. To test the consistency, turn the mixer off lift the beaters out of the bowl, stiff egg white peaks (AKA meringue) should form. Set the meringue aside.

In another large-size bowl, beat the heavy cream on medium-high speed until turns into whipped cream. Sprinkle the JELL-O packet evenly over the whipped cream and gently fold by hand until fully incorporated. Then, gently fold in the meringue.

Place 1/2 TBS of chocolate sauce evenly in the bottom of each tart (or miniature pie shell). Spoon the mixture into the graham cracker pie crusts. Top with chocolate sprinkles or shavings. Set securely in a baking dish and place in the freezer for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Note: A fun summer alternative to these mini-tarts is to turn this recipe into ice cream sandwiches. To make these you will need to substitute the graham cracker pie crusts for 24 graham cracker squares and eliminate the chocolate sauce. It is still possible to partially dip the sandwiches in chocolate once they are frozen, but the sauce will need to be one similar to one used to dip strawberries, so that it will harden. To assemble the sandwiches, once mixture is ready, place in a zip lock bag and cut off a small corner so that you can easily spread (or pipe) the mixture onto 12 graham cracker halves; and then top with the remaining 12 pieces to graham crackers to form a sandwich. Place the ice cream sandwiches in the freezer for at least four hours, or overnight. Give the sandwiches plenty of time in the freezer so that they soften and the lime mousse freezes. At this point you can dip half of the sandwich in a chocolate sauce and place back in freezer for 30 minutes. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap or seal in an airtight container in the freezer for three to four days, if not eating immediately.

Just to tell you how fashionable this flavor, earlier this week I attended the San Francisco BlogHer holiday event and Wrigley’s featured three new gum flavors- Mint Chip, Strawberry Shortcake AND Key Lime Pie. So trust me when I say, that I am convinced KEY LIME is the gusto du December. Green isn’t just for St. Patrick’s Day anymore, break it out for the holidays!

One of my favorite foodie out-takes from the Shrek story, when Gingy is in trouble. Something about that cookie makes me want to bake! 😉

And of course, a few of my favorite San Francisco-based ogres: Prima, Secondo and Cugina.

The recommendation is in the name.

I was craving Siri’s Norwegian Cardamon Buns, but didn’t feel like taking a trip to the store to round up the essentials. I felt something home made would hit the spot, so I collected a few ingredients I had around the house and voilà a lovely tea cake appeared. Why a tea cake? Well, it went so very well with tea, I had to put the recommendation in the name.

Sassy Lemon Tea Cake


1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 cube), room temperature
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBS lemon zest
6 TBS lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Kefir Cheese or Sour Cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat a 9-inch round pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl on medium-high speed, beat together, butter, sugar, zest and cardamom. The texture should be creamy/fluffy, and pale in color. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each has been added. Mix in cheese, followed by 3 TBS of the lemon juice.

In three increments, on medium low speed, alternate beating in flour then wet mixture (beginning and ending with the flour). Once well mixed, pour into the cake pan.

Bake approximately 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool and then transfer to a plate.

Mix confectioners sugar with 3 TBS of lemon juice until smooth, then pour evenly over the cake. It will harden and make a nice solid glaze.

Serves 6-8.