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 it 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.

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



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 & Italian Wine Scholar Student
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

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



Stone Crabs And Bubblies Galore For My Birthday

Ginabirthday2014 042

October is a celebratory month in my family because there are 4 birthdays including mine. This past weekend, I celebrated my birthday with succulent stonecrabs and delicious bubblies, in the company of my amazing family.  I do realize I’m getting a “little”older, but I refuse to grow up, because age is just a number. The important thing is that I feel good, both physically and mentally. In my family, we celebrate with food and wine,  and this year, they decided to take me out for deliciously mouth-watering stone crabs.  The season just started here in South Florida, and it runs from October 15th through May 15th of the following year. Stone crabs are usually served chilled with a mustard sauce, and already cracked for your convenience. We went to Billy’s Stonecrabs in Hollywood and had a fantastic time. The decor is very modern and romantic, and has a fabulous view of the Intracoastal. The seafood is always fresh and delicious.  The stone crabs are succulent with the mustard sauce. I also use some lemons at times (instead of the mustard sauce) which is as tasty.  A little secret to keep in mind, take it easy on the mustard sauce, otherwise, you will get filled up on it and eat less crabs.  Most of my family ordered, “all you can eat” and we paired them with sparkling wine and Champagne. It was a match made in heaven, and we all had a feast. Our waiter Wilson took very good care of us and made the evening enjoyable. I highly recommend this place for special occasions.

Ginabirthday2014 025

Very appealing to the eyes and melt in your mouth

Ginabirthday2014 009

Great bubblies

Ginabirthday2014 016

My family, My Life

Ginabirthday2014 023

Stone Crabs Galore

Ginabirthday2014 038

A delicacy

This was definitely a splurge but it was all worth it. The food, the drinks, the company, the ambiance, all worked together in perfect harmony. It was another wonderful birthday celebration with my loved ones, and they made me feel very special. In closing I’d like to share this famous quote:

“What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!” ~ Victor Hugo.







My Wine Story

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy

Villa Antinori in Tuscany, Italy


Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Food and Wine Pairing with Friends

Sideways was a painfully funny movie in 2004, that piqued my curiosity for wine. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until then, that I decided to do some exploring, and ordered wine with dinner and pairing it with the food.  This process took a while, but, little by little, I would acquaint myself with the various grape varieties. It didn’t take long for my palate to fall in love with this magical juice and enjoy every aspect of wine tasting.  Of course, I was still in the learning stages because, I had no knowledge of the wine making process, and how it went from the vineyard into the wine glasses.

In August 2008, my hubby and I took a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and met the most wonderful people. Some of them, I have kept in touch with, and became very good friends. Tonia, in particular caught my attention, because I was intrigued the way she was pairing all her meals with a wine. At that time, I was still considered a novice, and was “thirsty” to learn more about the art of wine tasting. I realize, she was pairing a different wine with each course, including dessert. At that point, I was eager to discover more about this interesting experience.

As I continued to learn about food, people, and cultures, I became fascinated with the world of wines.  It prompted me to attend the United States Sommelier Association, at the Cordon Bleu in my town, in 2009. I studied under the guidance of the wine master, Rick Garced, and learned about the wine making process. I tasted delicious wines from the most famous regions around the word.  I also learned how to pair food and wine harmoniously.

I met the most amazing and kind-hearted fellow sommelier(s), and instantly made a connection with some of them.  We had tons of fun in class and studied together for the test. Oh, how I dread that word, because it flares up my anxiety. I remember not sleeping the night before because I was too nervous, but with all the studying and the support of my classmates, I passed the blind tasting and the written test with flying colors. It was a big deal for me and for all of us, after spending hours studying and sipping wine together.  After earning our certificate of achievements, we would organize wine gatherings at our houses, and enjoy some luscious wine and food pairings. There was always a theme, and each person would bring a wine from a particular country/region and a dish to pair with it. Since then, we have attended a few more masterclasses together and continue to gain knowledge in wine tasting.

It’s been nearly 14 years that I have been sipping and savoring on red wine, but my passion for white wine has evolved over time. I am fortunate to have visited some of the most renowned wine regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma in California, and Long Island, New York. Most recently, my dream came to reality when I visited Tuscany, Italy, one of the most famous regions in the world. There are so many more regions and wines to explore, but one of the best ways to learn, is to drink wine, write notes, take pictures of the labels, and document them.  I also learned how the terroir has a major effect on the wine. The root of the word is terre, which means land/soil in French.  Today, I will share with you the art of wine tasting.

You will be using your sense of  sight for the appearance, smell for the nose,  and taste using your palate.  First, place a white paper or cloth on a table, pour about an ounce of wine in a clear glass, tilt a little and look at it. Make sure it’s sound.  Next, you need to swirl it to bring out all the fragrances, then smell it, sniff it so you can get a whiff of the aromas.  Please keep in mind, wine tasting is subjective and there is no right or wrong in my opinion. I may smell black pepper while someone else detects licorice.

Lastly, the best part, it’s time to taste. Take a sip and swirl it around your mouth, keep it there, you will be doing an inhaling motion with your mouth slightly open, repeat at least one more time, then swallow. At this point, you will determine all the flavor profiles in the wine, this can take some time for the more complex wines, as they are layered with various flavors.  By tasting the wine, you will find out the acidity level, the sugar content, the tannins, the length, the alcohol level. When all these are in perfect harmony, it is said to be a well-balanced wine.

As you swirl the wine, you will notice the dripping on the inside of the glass, commonly referred to, as legs or tears. The slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content.  You will also learn about the length of the wine. That is determined by how long after you swallowed the wine, the flavors remain in your mouth. The more lingering the length, the better the quality of the wine. A low-quality wine is known to have a short finish, meaning, as soon as you swallow it, the taste disappears from your mouth.

I’ve recently attended the acclaimed James Suckling’s Wine Tasting events: Great Wines of Italy and Great Wines of the Andes in Miami. I tasted some of the most delightful and highly rated wines.

In December 2016, I decided to pursue my studies further, and attended the world-renowned WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education Trust. The class was taught under the supervision of the James Beard award-winning wine and food writer, Lyn Farmer. I am proud to hold a second level sommelier certificate.  I hope you have enjoyed my wine story and my photos. For more photos, please check out my Instagram page: Foodieandwinelover.

This year, I will be working diligently on my cookbook that will include a treasury of my recipes, global cuisines and cultures, and food and wine pairing suggestions. I am also planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Stay tuned!

Cheers to a fabulous 2018!







The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome


Wine tash from Italy - June 2017

Wine stash from Italy – June 2017

Tuscany, Italy - June 2017

Tuscany, Italy – June 2017

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

Castiglion del Bosco in Montalcino

James Suckling and Yours Truly

James Suckling and Yours Truly

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Fattoria Di Montemaggio

Happy Sipping!!!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels
Future Cookbook Author
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover




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