Scrumptious Caesar Salad

It is believed that Caesar salad was invented in Mexico by Caesar Cardini, a famed restaurateur. This brings vivid memories of my trip to Mexico City many years ago where I relished on a scrumptious tableside Caesar Salad. I don’t generally like to purchase the packaged dressings as they are processed and full of sodium. Today, I am sharing with you my homemade Caesar dressing, but don’t fret, it has raw eggs in it. I recommend you to use the Grade A eggs as they are pasteurized (You will not even know about). This recipe is ideal even for the finicky eaters like my son who doesn’t like anchovies and my mom who cannot stand the thought of consuming raw eggs. Everyone enjoyed it, and not until after they were done, I revealed to them that there were anchovies and raw eggs in the salad. They were in shocked! I know, I was a little sneaky!

   Ingredients: 

  • 3 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 can of anchovies, flat, in olive oil – save some for garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 egg yolks – room temperature Grade A
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + more for bread
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1 load of bread, cut in cubes to make croutons
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, and shaved for garnish
  • Oregano

    Preparation:

    1. In a food processor, combine, 1.1/2 cans of anchovies, lemon, eggs, oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt. Pulse the ingredients until they are blended together. Set aside in the fridge.
    2. Place bread on a flat tray, drizzle liberally with olive oil. Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano, (Parmesan cheese) and oregano. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
    3. In a large bowl, arrange the lettuce, sprinkle with salt, and add the dressing. Mixed well. Garnish with croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese, and whole anchovies to taste. Serve with a protein of your choice.

    Wine pairing suggestion: a sparkling wine made with 100% Riesling from Ca’ d’Or winery.

    Caesar Salad

    Caesar Salad

    Happy Cooking and sipping from my kitchen to yours,
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
    Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    All rights reserved.

Curry Shrimp with Rice, Don’t Forget the Riesling!

A couple of times a week, I cook for a small crowd, and I generally use a one-pot meal because it makes life so much easier. Today, I am making Curry Shrimp with Rice. Grab your apron and follow me in Gina’s Kitchen. This recipe is a Covid-19 edition, using some frozen ingredients and what’s available at the time. I think, all in all, it’s healthy and somewhat affordable. 

Curry Shrimp with Rice

Curry Shrimp with Rice


S
erves: 6-8   –  Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 pinches of garlic powder
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup mixed frozen veggies: carrots, green beans,
    corn, peas and lima beans, thawed
  • 3. 3/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds small frozen shrimp, already peeled and deveined,
    remove the tails, thawed.

    Preparation
    :

    1. In a large heavy-bottom pan (with a tight lid) over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Sauté onions for 1-2 minutes, add curry powder, garlic powder, stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add the rice. Stir a couple of times.
    2. Add the veggies, water, salt, pepper. Stir well. Arrange the shrimp on top. Bring to a boil. Lower the flame to the lowest setting. Cover tightly and simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

    There may be some rice stuck on the bottom of the pan. It’s perfectly fine and adds crunchiness to the dish. Serve it in the pot. The idea is to make cleaning easier.

    Curry Shrimp with Rice paired with Riesling

    Curry Shrimp with Rice Paired with Riesling


    Wine pairing suggestion
    :  An off-dry Riesling or any dry white wine of your choice.

    This curried shrimp dish is begging for a refreshing wine to pair with it. I choose an aromatic and delicious German Riesling from the Mosel region. Rieslings are food-friendly and pair very well with curry, seafood, spicy, and Thai dishes.

    The mineral character in this wine exhibits a great depth of flavor and is a perfect complement to this meal. This Riesling is off-dry and showing a touch of sweetness with crisp acidity; it intertwines perfectly with the intoxicating flavors of the curry.

    I hope you will try this delectable and easy dish and share your experience with me.

    Happy cooking and happy sipping!

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
    Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    All rights reserved.

Tignanello Amore Mio!

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello

 

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello with Filet Mignon

2017 Tignanello with Filet Mignon

Zucchini with Feta cheese

Zucchini with Feta cheese

Alaskan King Crabs

Alaskan King Crabs

 

2017 Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori. Iconic, sexy, exuberant, and alluring are some of the descriptions that I find very felicitous for this Super Tuscan. It is an exquisite wine made with 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. After decanting it for 3 hours using the vSpin vase, (without the motorized apparatus- I was too lazy and busy cooking) all the aromas finally opened up. This wine is incredibly young, full-bodied, but sang to me in Italian in the most romantic way. Exotic, dark plums, sweet spices, cedar, tobacco, leather stimulate my taste buds, showing fine tannins with an extraordinary finish. This wine is meticulously well-crafted and has excellent aging potential in the cellar.

The afternoon started with some Alaskan King crabs as appetizers, and for dinner, I served a roasted filet mignon, with an (optional) gravy made with a roux (butter and flour), salt, freshly ground black pepper, beef stock, dashes of Worcestershire sauce, tarragon, and drippings from the meat. I also prepared stir-fried zucchini and added Feta cheese to elevate the dish. It’s a terrific way to enjoy your veggies! On the menu, there were also roasted potatoes and onions for the big eaters. It was a fun gathering with my family celebrating a special occasion: our wedding anniversary! All the spices in the food and that of the wine intertwined beautifully to create a symphony of memorable flavors. It was an outstanding food & wine pairing experience.

“Tenuta Tignanello estate is in the heart of Chianti Classico, in the gently rolling hillsides between the Greve and Pesa river valleys. Two of the estate’s prized vineyards are on the same hillside, Tignanello, and Solaia, on soils that originated from marine marlstone from the Pliocene period rich in limestone and schist. The vines enjoy hot temperatures during the day and cooler evenings throughout the growing season. The estate’s two signature wines, Solaia and Tignanello, are produced from these vineyards and have been defined by the international press as “among the most influential wines in the history of Italian viticulture”. According to Marchesi Antinori, Solaia and Tignanello are an ongoing challenge and a never-ending passion. The Tignanello estate has vineyards of indigenous Sangiovese grapes as well as some other untraditional varieties such as Cabernet Franc.” ~ Marchesi Antinori website.

I’ve been fortunate to have tasted the 2016 vintage as well at a lavish birthday party on a cruise ship. Celebratory wine like this one should be relished during special moments to add more meaning to the occasion.  

Some day, I hope you will get to experience a “Tig” moment. 

Happy Sipping From Gina’s Kitchen

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and other countries.

Zucchini with Mint is like Summer in a Bowl

Summertime is synonymous with eating light meals and grilling in the outdoors. In June of 2017, I visited Positano on the Amalfi Coast and dined at the famous Chez Black restaurant. As a side dish, I ordered zucchini marinated in vinegar and mint. It was light, delicious, and healthy. Today, I am sharing with you a similar version called Zucchine alle Scapece that is popular in Naples, Italy. Typically, the zucchini is sliced thin, and fried in peanut or corn oil, but in this recipe, I am grilling them for a healthier option. Not having to turn the stove on is also a great way to keep your house cool. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this dish has your name written all over it. Grab your apron, and let’s get cooking!

Difficulty level: Easy – Serves 3-4 as a side dish

      Ingredients: 

  • 3 zucchini cut lengthwise
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
  • Extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 handful of freshly chopped mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

    Preparation:

    1.Season zucchini with salt and pepper, liberally
    2. Drizzle with olive oil, mix well
    3. Pre-heat grill on medium high, and place the zucchini on a single layer
    4. Cover the grill, and cook for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender, turning occasionally.
    5. Let the zucchini cool off and cut them up in 2-3 pieces. Place them in a medium-sized bowl.
    6. Add vinegar, mint, garlic, and mix well.
    7. Drizzle with olive oil to finishZucchini in Naples, Italy Zucchini in Naples, Italy

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina's Kitchen

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina’s Kitchen

     

    I hope you will try this light and summery dish and share your thoughts with me. Until then, enjoy the summer!

    Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to Yours,
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier

    To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

    Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


    It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

Happy New Year everyone! I just returned from a holiday cruise and had an amazing time with my family and friends. Unfortunately, I came home with a cold and was looking for some comfort food. I decided to make a “creamy” and delicious Fettuccine Alfredo. In the US, many people use cream in their recipe when in realty, this dish has only three main ingredients: fettuccine, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Before I share the recipe, I want to tell you the story behind this dish. The original recipe was created by Alfredo Di Lelio in his restaurant in Rome. His wife was pregnant and had lost her appetite. He invented this dish for her by simply adding Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to an everyday Italian dish called Fettuccine al burro ( with butter). She could not get enough of it. Fettuccine Alfredo became very popular in the Italian-American community but many people use cream which is not in the original recipe. If you mix all the ingredients properly, it will create a creaminess without the use of cream. Grab your apron and follow me in the kitchen!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry Fettuccine pasta
  • 1 handful of salt for pasta water
  • 8 ounces salted butter
  • 1/2 pound (24-month aged) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water

    Preparation:

    1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt. Cook Fettuccine al dente (about 12 minutes)
    2. In the meantime, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat up the butter.
    3. The pasta should be cooked by now. Reserve some pasta water before draining it.
    4. Drop pasta in the melted butter, add cheese and reserved water.
    5. Use a set of thongs to mix all the ingredients thoroughly until every strand of fettuccine is coated. Serve at once with a salad or a vegetable of your choice.Gina’s note: Even though I used salted butter, this dish was perfectly balanced and not salty. If you follow my instructions carefully, you will obtain great results.

    Wine pairing suggestions:
    I recommend either one of the three V’s: Vermentino, Vernaccia, or Verdicchio. They are all Italian white wines and would pair nicely with the richness of the pasta.

    Buon Appetito!

    In June of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit a Parmigiano Reggiano factory in Parma, Italy. Photos are my intellectual property. All Rights Reserved.

    Parmigiano Reggiano Heaven

    Parmigiano Reggiano Heaven

    Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

    Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

    Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

    Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

    I hope you will try this delicious recipe for yourself or your loved ones and share your experience with me.

    Happy New Year from my kitchen to yours,

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier

    To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

    Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


    It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

Gina’s Succulent Crab Cakes

It’s the holiday season and I want to jazz things up with some festive crab cakes and Champagne. Every once in a while I make crab cakes, and I always strive to come up with the best possible recipe. I think, I finally succeeded tonight. Generally, Blue Crabs from Maryland are used and they are famous for their crab cakes. My family gave my Maryland-style crab cakes rave reviews, and I am happy to share my version with all of you. It makes a dazzling meal but will break the bank! I’m not gonna lie, just make up for it in January!

Servings: 6 – 8 Degree of difficulty: Medium. Yield about 12 regular-sized crab cakes or 14 smaller ones. This recipe can be divided in half to serve about 3-4 people.

Ingredients:
1/2 red bell peppers, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
Salt to taste (go easy)
1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter for frying veggies, plus more olive oil to pan fry crab cakes
2 lbs. ( 2) 16-ounce containers jumbo lump crabmeat
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. stoneground mustard
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
Sprinkle of garlic powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Crab Cakes and Champagne

 

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Bread and goat cheese

Bread and goat cheese

Beets and goat salad

Beets and goat salad

 

Preparation:

1) Over med-high heat, in a medium-sized pan, heat up olive oil and butter, add celery, onion and bell pepper, salt to taste. Sweat for about 3-4 minutes al dente to give it a crunch. Let it cool.

2) In a large bowl, combine crab meat and all the remaining ingredients. Add the veggies, and mix well with your hands (using gloves). Form crab cake patties, just like you would make a hamburger, place on a tray and chill in the fridge for at least 20-30 minutes.

3) Heat up enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large pan, on medium-high heat, (make sure the oil is hot) place at the most, 4 patties, AND LOWER HEAT TO MEDIUM, otherwise, crab cakes will come out too dark. Cook on one side for 4 minutes, then flip gently with a spatula, cook the other side for about 2 minutes. Remove promptly and place on a dish lined with a paper towel. Repeat the same process. Add more oil if necessary. You can broil them for a healthier version.

I served them with a rémoulade sauce comprising of 2 tbsp. ketchup, 1 tbsp. mayo, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, creole seasoning to taste. Mix well.

It would not be complete without a dazzling beet salad with goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar from Modena, along with crusty French bread. My family had fun smearing the cheese all over the bread for a fun experience. I hope, you will give this recipe a try, and I am certain your family will love you for it.

Wine suggestion: I paired it with a citrusy and toasty Champagne.

Pommery is a great Champagne House. The Brut Royal is made with the 3 main grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, with refreshing notes of lemons and toasted bread. This Champagne is not dry nor complex and is very enjoyable. It’s lively with a touch of finesse. For $34.00 dollars, it has a great QPR (quality price ratio) and is perfect to add holiday cheers.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, &
Bon Appetit from Gina’s Kitchen!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Ca’ del Baio, a Piece of Heaven in Barbaresco

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Piedmont (Piemonte) this past June, and experienced the beauty of this picturesque Italian region. I visited many lush wineries in the sub-regions of La Morra, Barolo, Alba, and Barbaresco, and tasted some delicious wines. Barbaresco is a beautiful region in northwestern Italy where the Nebbiolo grape thrives in the slightly maritime climate: warmer, dryer, and milder, allowing the grapes to ripen faster. The Nebbiolo grapes are used to produce the wine that also goes by the name of Barbaresco. It is characterized by its rich flavors with notes of spices and mild perfumes with sweetness and is considered elegant and refined. The soil in Barbaresco has more nutrients and makes it less tannic than Barolo. Barbaresco is also known for Dolcetto and Barbera. 

Upon arriving at Ca’ del Baio── house of the bay horse, means a dark-horse in Piedmontese dialect, which is an inspiration for their logo──Federica greeted us with her contagious smile in her work attire. We knew it was going to be a special tour and felt a deep connection with the winery.  For four generations Ca’ del Baio has been a family affair, as is the tradition in the Langhe region. Nurtured and passed down from father to son, the vineyards surrounding the Grasso family farmhouse have been added to over time through marriage and acquisitions. 

Giulio and Luciana along with their daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, handle all the various aspects of the business. They do it with passion and expertise, from the growing and vinification of the grapes to hospitality and wine sales. For the Grasso family, simplicity, a sense of sacrifice and the deep attachment they have to their land are pre-requisites for guaranteeing wines of quality. Today the Ca’ del Baio estate takes in 28 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Barbaresco and Treiso, both of which are in the Barbaresco winegrowing area.

All estate-grown, their wines are made from a range of highly valued varieties, some typical of the area while others are more international: the whites include Moscato, Chardonnay and Riesling, and the reds Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Almost all the wines are varietals. The most prestigious vines – producing the Nebbiolo used to make Barbaresco – are between 25 and 40 years old, and they go into making the estate’s crus of Asili and Pora (commune of Barbaresco) and Vallegrande and Marcarini (Treiso). 

Since we were on a tight schedule, I did not have time to write my own wine descriptions, therefore, I am using the winemaker’s notes that I found on their website: Ca del Baio. I enjoyed this wine tasting tour that was conducted by Federica. She’s passionate and very knowledgeable in the world of wines. I highly recommend  you make reservations ahead of time before visiting this charming boutique winery. 

Recently, Ca’ del Baio’s Barbaresco Vallegrande 2016 received the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri”( 3 glasses), Italy’s Best Wines award given by Gambero Rosso. It’s the largest food-E-Wine Publishing House in Europe, according to their Instagram profile. 

Enjoying a tasting at Ca' del Baio

Enjoying a tasting at Ca’ del Baio

Ca' del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

Ca’ del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

 

Winemaker’s notes: The wine displays a brilliant garnet red colour with shades of orange. The intense nose releases hints of lavender, pine, rose petals, aromatic herbs, spices, and goudron (tar) notes. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and warm. It is exceptionally smooth and velvety in the mouth.

 

Ca del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

Ca’ del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright garnet red; nose intense and complex, with fruity overtones conjuring up plums and blackberries, and spicy hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts; taste full-bodied, soft and tannic; a big, yet very flavorsome wine.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2016

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Asili

 

Winemaker’s notes: color bright garnet red, with slight orange tinges; nose intense, with fruity aromas of marasca cherries and hints of violets. Spicy notes of black pepper, liquorice and goudron (tar); taste dry, warm and soft, showing a long, rich, smooth flavour.

Award-winning Ca del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

Award-winning Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour garnet red; nose intense, with powerful fruit, dried flowers and underbrush; taste dry, smooth and rounded, ending in a warm finish with nicely-balanced tannins.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca' del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Winemaker’s notes: the colour is a deep garnet red with reflections of old pink. The nose is an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of raspberries, jam, and violets that give an ethereal feeling accompanied by sweet spicy notes and hints of cocoa. In the mouth, Autinbej is warm, long, persistent and slightly tannic with an aftertaste of fruity notes.

LCa del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Ca’ del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright straw yellow; nose intense and complex, ranging from flowery to fruity, with hints of nuts; taste dry, full-bodied and well-balanced, with long flavour…Chardonnay, international by nature, Piedmontese at heart.

Barbaresco wine region 

Amazing Barbaresco lineup 

While touring, Federica's dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato to taste

While touring, Federica’s dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato d’Asti to taste

I captured a picture of Ca' del Baio family portrait - Original is not mine

I captured a picture of the Grasso’s family portrait – Original is not mine

Ca' del Baio Barrel room

Ca’ del Baio barrel room

 

Ca del Baio Wine Room

Ca’ del Baio wine storage room

Ca del Baio sisters

Ca’ del Baio – the 3 sisters – photo from their website – not mine

 

The Grasso family symbolizes respect for land and passion for wine. They take pride in their work and harmoniously carry on the family’s legacy.  I am so glad that I met this tight-knit family and made unforgettable wine memories. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this article that illustrates our wine tasting journey in Piedmont, Italy. 

“Il vino fa buon sangue”  = Good wine makes good blood
“In vino veritas”  = In wine there is truth
 
Photos taken by Gina for Foodiewinelover – unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 
Disclosure: some of the information was taken from Ca’ del Baio’s website.   

Happy Sipping! 
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

 

 

Bubbles for Every Taste Bud This Holiday Season

It’s almost mid-November and Thanksgiving is just a little over 2 weeks away. Most of you already know whether you are hosting the holidays or not. Either way, you will need some bubbles─sparkling wines─to add a festive mood to the upcoming gatherings. To make it easy for you, I have compiled a list of budget-friendly, mid-range and high-end sparkling wines to spread a little joy in everyone’s holiday season. You need to bring a gift? Think no more, because my list will cover a wide range of bubbles to satisfy your taste buds and budgets. In this article, I am featuring Champagne, sparkling wines from different regions, Cava, Prosecco, and Franciacorta. They all have one thing in common: bubbles! However, not all are created equal.

“All Champagne are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.” I came up with this quote for the novice wine drinkers to better understand the difference.

The most exquisite of all bubbles is Champagne that can only come from the Champagne region of France. It’s labor-intensive because it requires a second fermentation in the bottle and this method produces extremely fine bubbles, making it the most expensive. There is an array of Champagne to choose from: boutique-style, well-known Champagne Houses, and internationally acclaimed luxurious brands.

Sparkling wines that say: “Méthode Traditionelle” on their label use the same method that originated in the Champagne region of France. However, the wine producers from other countries are not allowed to use the name Champagne on their labels. Sparkling wines vary from mid-range to expensive depending on many factors, including the region, terroir and the method in which they use to produce their wines.  

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine also made by the same method as Champagne but is much more affordable, and not as complex. Prosecco is an Italian bubbly that is budget-friendly and generally made by the Charmat method. The secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks which makes the wine more affordable. Franciacorta is regarded as a high-quality Italian sparkling wine that is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you pay for your bottle of bubbles, what matters is the quality time you spend with the ones you love.”

Borrasca Cava
Borrasca Cava Brut

Price range: $9.99 – $10.99 for 750 ml. 
This Cava shows stone fruits, pear and citrus. It’s great as an aperitif or you can pair it with cheeses and seafood dishes. 

 

Syltbar Prosecco
Syltbar Prosecco

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. 
This Prosecco has notes of pears with refreshing flavors of citrus. With only  49 calories (per 6 oz glass), it can be enjoyed with no guilt. 

 

Schramsberg Brut Rose California Sparkling Wine
Schramsberg Brut Rosé Méthode Traditionelle California Sparkling Wine

Price range $34.99-$44.99 for 750 ml. 
Schramsberg Brut Rosé is a special-occasion sparkler with aromas of under ripe strawberries, orange peels, and cinnamon. The palate follows the nose with a touch of toasted almonds, and shows bright clean acidity with a dry and long finish. This Napa Valley wine is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” and can be enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with seafood. It is exceptionally delightful. 

Scharffenberger Sparkling Wine
Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine

Price range: $20.99-$23.99 for 750 ml. Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine is from Mendocino county, California. This wine is dry with beautiful citrus notes.

Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine
Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine is a great value bubbly made by “Méthode Traditionelle”. It delivers delicate aromas and flavors of cherries with a creamy texture. I visited their winery in Napa Valley and had a fabulous experience. 

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve
Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve

Price: $39.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve 

Wine Spectator review:  “A bold, powerful Champagne, reminiscent of wheat toast, pencil shavings and cherry, supported by a firm structure. Concentrated and long, it lingers with an aftertaste of biscuits with cherry jam.”

 

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut

Price range: $37.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. 
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut is vibrant and boasts aromas and flavors of zesty grapefruit and ginger-flavored cola. The finish is lingering. 

Dom Perignon
Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005

Price range: $246.00 and up for 750 ml.  – The price on Dom Pérignon varies depending on the vintage. This classic Champagne is complex with layers of flavors and can age beautifully well, for decades after its release.

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon - Vintage 2008
Dom Pérignon – Vintage 2008

Price range: $149.00 – $175.00 for 750 ml. Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 
delivers an abundance of refreshing lemons, grapefruit, lightly toasted almonds and a hint of minerality. This vintage is still young but is drinking nicely. It needs more time to enjoy its full potential. 

Champagne Billecart-Salmon paired with lobster
Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs NV paired with lobster


Average price: $100.00 Champagne for 750 ml. Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Non Vintage is exquisite with an explosion of delicate and luxurious flavors on the palate. There is a hint of minerality that glides to a long finish. 

G.H.Mumm Champagne
G.H.Mumm Champagne

Price: $49.99 for 750 ml. This comes in a gift set with 2 embossed Champagne glasses. On the nose, this Champagne showcases aromas of ripe peach, apricot and tropical fruits, with hints of vanilla and caramel, a touch of brioche, and a drizzle of honey. Caramel flavors linger into an everlasting finish. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I recently asked my Instagram audience to take part in this article in order to provide you with an array of ideas.

Rupal from SyrahQueen has an adoration for bubbles, and is very knowledgeable in the world of wines. She asked me to add a Franciacorta on my list. Franciacorta is a prestigious Italian sparkling wine, and is considered to be of high-quality. It is another great example of a wine made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne. 

Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta
Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige 
The average price is $40-$45.00 for 750 ml. The bottle is transparent and packaged in clear yellow wrapping to showcase its beautiful gold color. It’s made of fine quality with notes of pears, orange peel, great acidity, and a crisp and persistent perlage. I am so grateful that my dear Italian Wine Expert friend Angela Santarelli introduced me to this beauty many years ago. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had the pleasure of meeting Rupal in the spring, and she gifted me a beautiful bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne. We savored it during our epic lunch in the trendy area of Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale. I will always remember her heartfelt quote: “Friendship and Champagne. Toasting the start of a beautiful new friendship”.

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009 paired with a charcuterie and cheese board
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck  Brut Nature en 2009
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature 2009
Price range: $90.00 – $99.00 for 750 ml. This Champagne is electrifying and it gives you a good jolt from the very first sip. On the nose, it delivers aromas of toasted almonds and stone fruits. This bubbly coats the palate with a creamy mousse carrying flavors of crunchy pears, hints of citrus, and framed minerality. The bubbles are tiny with lush notes of biscuit and toast. The finish is everlasting. It truly is heaven in a bottle! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My lovely friend and wine connoisseur Mary from PerthWineGirl in Australia recommends two producers that distribute in the USA. VasseFelixMargaretRiver Margaret River’s founding estate. Wine: 2017 Blanc de Blancs. (2016 vintage shows in the photo) The other one HowardParkWines is a pioneering Western Australian winery, the Great Southern and Margaret River. Wine: 2013 Howard Park Grand Vintage Jeté. Both are sparkling wines produced by Méthode Traditionelle. 

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $29.00 average. 

 

Exclusive wine reviews from PerthWineGirl” This wine combines Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, giving a vibrant burst of citrus with white peach for a silky taste that bursts after some time on the palate to release an immersion of brioche and cracked grain for a texture unlike any other.”

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine - Photo credit PerthWineGirl

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $40.00 average.
Exclusive wine reviews
from PerthWineGirl: “Made with fruit from selected Chardonnay clones from the coolest sites, this wine is complex and rich. It resembles grower Champagne. Reminiscent of citrus peel, beeswax, and buttered almonds, this wine is elegant and sophisticated. Made in a Brut style, it’s versatile at the table.” 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My friend Tiffany @prettysweetmess recommends Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve. She has a great palate for simple to the most sophisticated taste in wine(s).

Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve.

Price range: $34.99 – $37.99 for 750 ml. 

Notes from Wine Spectator – November 2017 “An aperitif-style Champagne, with flavors of crème de cassis, lemon curd and pastry riding a creamy mousse and framed by crisp, well-knit acidity. Drink now through 2020.” 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I want to thank the following Insta-friends for their contributions:

Laura from @winebythebottle recommends any dry, red Lambrusco.

Robert from @wine_food_explorer recommends a Blanc de Blancs from Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards in Virginia. His notes: beautiful acidity with aromas of pear and vanilla, layered perfectly. Flavors of apple and well-balanced. Priced at $40.00

Funda from @wine_a_little_dine_a_little recommends “Roederer Estate Brut” from Anderson Valley, California. Average price $25.00. 

Patrick from pakieff64 recommends FontanaFredda Alta Langa DOCG Limited Edition, Brut Metodo classic, a typical Brut for less than $20.00. 

Now, that you have this extensive list of sparkling wines to help you celebrate the holidays, it’s time to go shopping! I am wishing you’ all a season filled with lots of bubbles to your heart’s content, love in your home, and good health to you and your family.

This article is intended for people over the legal drinking age of your country (21+ in the US).

Photos: All mine except the last 3 as stated.
Reviews: Most are mine unless otherwise stated. 

Disclaimer: Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this article is implied or claimed. 

Happy Sipping!!  

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award” 
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

 

 

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Barbera D'Alba

Barbera D’Alba

Pasta alla Norma originated in Sicily and is perfect for a small gathering. It is believed to be named after the famous opera called Norma. It’s easy and made with a few ingredients including my favorite veggie: eggplant! In this recipe, I am using whole canned tomatoes but you can use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. This is a great meal for vegetarians depending on their diet lifestyles (with or without the cheese). I served a salad with the pasta and my family ate to their heart’s content. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Serves 6-8 as a main meal

Ingredients:
• 1 medium eggplant, chopped in medium size
• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 – (28) ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5-6 basil leaves cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
• ¼ cup pasta water, as needed
• Ricotta Salata cheese, for garnish
• 1-pound penne, rigatoni or spaghetti

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up oil, sauté the garlic, 1-2 minutes, add the eggplant, cook while stirring for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes covered with lid tilted. Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is too thick, add water toward the end. (before draining the pasta). Turn the burner off.

2. While the sauce is cooking, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt and cook al dente. You will be doing a little juggling.

3. Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well. Serve in a large pasta bowl. Garnish with the cheese and basil.

I paired this meal with a lovely aged Barbera D’Alba from Ca’ Viola winery and it worked magically.

Other wine pairing suggestions: Nero d’Avola, a red grape variety from Sicily or any medium-bodied red wine of your choice.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

Mongolian-Style Beef to Entice the Palate

Mise-en-place for Mongolian Beef

Mise-en-place for Mongolian Beef

Mongolian-Style Beef

Mongolian-Style Beef

After vacationing in Italy for 2 weeks, it didn’t take me long to get back in “Gina’s Kitchen”. Mongolian beef is a Chinese American dish that is quick and delicious on any weeknights. Typically, I would serve it with Jasmine rice, but today, I am using sweet potatoes as a side for a healthier option. Flank steak is a lean meat and is an excellent choice for this dish.

Serves: 3-4 – Level of difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

• 1.1/2 lbs. flank steaks, cut in strips
• 2 tablespoons corn starch
• Salt to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4-6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided
• 1 green pepper, cut in julienne
• 1 long hot pepper, seeded and chopped, optional
• 3-4 scallions, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• Fresh ginger cut into matchsticks (1/4 cup)
• 2 tablespoons water
• 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
• 2 tablespoons low-sodium Soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preparation:

1. Make sure the meat is at room temperature to ensure even cooking. Season with salt and pepper. In a medium-sized bowl, add the corn starch and drench the steaks. Shake them one by one to remove any excess.
2. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil, place half the steaks in a single layer. Cook for about 3-4 minutes (in total) on medium-high heat, the meat should sizzle. Turn it halfway through using a set of silicone thongs. Remove the cooked meat and set aside on a dish. Add 2 tablespoons oil and cook the remaining steaks. Remove and combine it with the first batch.
3. In the same skillet, on medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil, stir fry together green pepper, hot pepper, scallions, garlic, ginger for about 1-2 minutes. Add water, Hoisin, Soy, Worcestershire sauces, and the cooked meat. Give it a couple good stirs with a wooden spoon. The sauce will thicken and stick nicely to the steaks. Voila! It’s ready to be served. Your family will ask for seconds and request that you make this meal again.

Wine pairing suggestions: Sauvignon Blanc, off-dry Riesling, or a Grenache.

Gina’s notes: If you plan to make rice as an accompaniment, start preparing it first, this way it will cook while you are preparing the meat. To ensure the meat is more tender, always cut it against the grain.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award

1 2 10
%d bloggers like this: