Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Food & Drink, Holidays, Spirits, Wine

If you plan to toast America’s Independence Day, you have three ways to say, “Cheers!” Those who enjoy bold flavor might try a red sparkling wine,* such as Lambrusco (wine blogger Marissa A. Ross is a fan), while traditionalists can opt for a classic champagne made with white wine grapes (our choice for the occasion, natch, is Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut). But those who enjoy things a little off-color will swear by something blue.

Yes, blue sparkling wine is becoming a thing. There’s a blue prosecco from Italy, which gets its color from blue curaçao, but this 4th of July we’re raising a glass of Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux by Bronco Wine Company. Made from Chardonnay grapes with a touch of blueberry juice for color, Blanc de Bleu is a respectable effervescent wine with crisp, dry flavor…but let’s face it—the color is why we’re talking a blue streak about this cerulean sparkler.

The unexpected hue of Blanc de Bleu is mesmerizing and sure to become the center of conversation at any gathering. Much like rosé wine, which beguiles with its blush, blue sparkling wine is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (will #intotheblue replace #yeswayrose?). It’s a natural choice to serve at weddings and gender reveal parties…or to class up your backyard barbeque. There’s still time to stock up for tomorrow’s celebration, so get a case of the blues this year and spread some holiday cheer(s). Happy 4th, Swoonsters! 🥂 🇺🇸


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Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux

 

Blanc de Bleu is available at BevMo, Total Wine, and many wine shops and liquor stores.

 

*You can also add cranberry juice to white sparkling wine for some bright red refreshment. With a splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec, this is known as a Poinsettia and makes a festive cocktail to serve during the Christmas holidays.

 

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No Pleasure Without Champagne

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits, Wine

wondermade-gold-champagne-marshmallowsI believe there is no pleasure that can’t be heightened with the addition of champagne. This celebratory drink tickles the senses and delights the spirit, especially during the holidays, when it symbolizes fellowship and festivity. Creative culinarians are finding new and inventive ways to incorporate champagne into all manner of sweets and savories, but the folks at Wondermade have given new meaning to sparkling wine by gilding their lily-white champagne marshmallows with 24 karat gold.

gilty-pleasureWondermade artisan marshmallows are handcrafted with pure cane sugar and “100% sweet magic air.” I have no doubt that there is wizardry involved, because they have achieved pillowy perfection with these scrumptious squares, which come in flavors ranging from bakery sweets (Sugar Cookie and Gingerbread) to boozy treats (Bourbon and Fireball). But I prefer to pop open a box of Gold & Champagne Marshmallows at this time of year to dress up a cup of rich hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. Served in a gold-rimmed demitasse, this “gilty” pleasure is the definition of decadence.

Offer a gold plated dessert on your holiday buffet by setting out a platter of glittering marshmallows—perhaps alongside a chocolate fondue or fountain—and even the teetotalers and designated drivers in attendance will be able indulge in a bit of bubbly. So whether you raise a coupe, cup, or cube this New Year’s Eve*, say “Cheers!” with champagne and you’re sure to have a wonder-ful night. Happy Swoon Year!

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Wondermade Gold & Champagne Marshmallows

 

Wondermade marshmallows are also available at select Lolli & Pops stores. Flavors change seasonally, so check back throughout the year.

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*It may be too late to acquire a box of Wondermade marshmallows in time for midnight tonight, but Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. ❤️

 

Trial by Fire Tongs Punch

Author: Kirsten K., Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

Christmas has forced me to face my fears on more than one occasion. When my father was no longer able to hang lights on the outside of the house, I had to conquer my fear of heights to get on the roof and do it myself. Ditto for climbing to the top step of the ladder in order to place the angel atop our 13-foot tree.

feuerzangenbowle-1As the granddaughter of German immigrants, I enjoy many German Christmas traditions, so when I read about Feuerzangenbowle (FOY-er-TSAHNG-en-bowl-uh)—literally, “fire tongs punch”—I knew I had to try it…but I am scared of working with fire.

I have always had an anxious relationship with fire. One year at a family dinner, tissue paper from a gift bag fell into a candle flame on the table and caught fire. I panicked and dumped an entire pitcher of water on it, dousing my sister in the process, which led to yelling (and slapping). Fearful of starting a fire in my own fireplace and burning the house down, I prefer to enjoy one at Kirsti’s, where her husband Aaron is master of the hearth and assumer of the risk.

But I really wanted to try this punch.

The practice of setting fire to a rum-soaked sugar cone suspended by a set of specialized “tongs” over a bowl of mulled wine has a long history in Germany, but gained in popularity after the release of the 1944 film Die Feuerzangenbowle, which has become a cult classic. The sugar cone caramelizes as it burns, dripping into the punch bowl to sweeten a blend of red wine, citrus, cinnamon, and spices.

It’s a showstopper at parties with a large cone set aflame, but I wanted to start small, so I purchased mini sugar cones and tongs for experimentation. My first couple of attempts were failures, since the rum I’d acquired did not have a high enough proof to catch fire, but I was assured by subsequent research that Bacardi 151* would satisfy all my flaming needs.

feuerzangenbowle-2With tools and ingredients on hand, I set to brewing. I began with just a cup of wine, adapting the recipe (below) for one person. Once the tongs and sugar cone were in place, I poured the rum over the sugar. Then, with the longest match I could find in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other, I lit the cone.

The flame started small, but quickly shot up higher than I’d expected, giving me a moment of panic, but it subsided as the sugar began dripping into the pot. In less than a minute, the punch was ready to drink—and it was delicious! Of course, you have to like mulled wine, which I do, but the addition of caramelized sugar makes this a sweet holiday treat.

Since my trial by fire tongs punch, I have made these seasonal spirits several more times, both on the stove and in a special mug with attached tongs. I no longer fear the flame and feel ready to tackle the larger version at a future holiday gathering. Until then, you can find me sitting by my (virtual) fire in front of the tree getting punch drunk on Christmas cheer. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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FEUERZANGENBOWLE (adapted from German Deli)

feuerzangenbowle-32 bottles of red wine (Burgundy or Merlot works best)
4 thin slices of orange
4 thin slices of lemon
juice of 2 fresh oranges
juice of 2 fresh lemons
½ tsp. fresh orange rind
½ tsp. fresh lemon rind
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. cloves (optional)
1 large sugar cone
1 cup of rum (at least 151 proof)*

Equipment:
1 heat and flame-proof glass punch bowl, and
1 stainless steel bridge (tongs), or
Hot Pot Feuerzangenbowle Set
Long match or lighter

feuerzangenbowle-4Directions:
In a large pot, add both bottles of wine and all ingredients except the sugar cone and the rum. Simmer the wine, fruit, and spices over low heat for about 15 minutes. Don’t boil the wine—it should be hot, but not scalding. Carefully add the hot wine (including fruit slices and whole spices) to the punch bowl. For dramatic flare, place the punch bowl in a dimly-lit room. If you have a Hot Pot set, light the candle below the punch bowl to help keep the wine warm. Place the stainless steel bridge across the top of the punch bowl. Unwrap the sugar cone and place it on the bridge. Slowly pour the 151-proof rum onto the cone, rotating the cone until it is soaked with the rum. When guests have gathered around, light the sugar cone with the match or lighter.* The sugar cone will dissolve as the burning rum heats up the cone. The caramelized sugar will drip into the punch to sweeten it and the rum will enhance the flavor.

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*Use extreme caution with alcohol at this proof, as it is highly flammable. When you light the sugar cone, do so from a distance with a long match or lighter and make sure there is sufficient space for the cone to flame upwards (i.e. away from hanging light fixtures or decorations). Do not put your face near the cone or look down on it from above as you light it. Bacardi 151 comes with a stainless steel flame arrester over the opening to prevent the rum from igniting inside the bottle. It can be found in select liquor stores and is available for purchase online.

 

Grapefruit Loop

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

rose-pamplemousseToday is officially the last day of summer, and even though I view the hottest season of the year with dread, I find myself wondering where the time went. Back in April, Kirsti sent me a link to an article about grapefruit wine and how this rosé pamplemousse was all the rage in France. Envisioning the two of us enjoying summer sunsets on her balcony with a bottle of the citrusy spirits, I bookmarked it as something to explore—and possibly post about—in early summer.

On the day the season arrived, I saw a segment on Nightline about the “rosé lifestyle,” a craze primarily among millennials that has spawned the hashtags #yeswayrose and #roseallday. Deciding to blend the trend of those who #drinkpink with the French penchant for grape juice and pamplemousse, I scoured wine shops and liquor stores for grapefruit rosé, but couldn’t find a single bottle. An online search uncovered a few brands for sale from a handful of retailers, but the shipping was two-to-three times the price of the wine. When I contacted two local wine shops about ordering rosé pamplemousse in the States, neither was able to do it, so I shelved the idea.

very-pamp-rose-pamplemousseIn late summer, it suddenly occurred to me: I have a friend living in France! I’ve written a number of times about Mika, who currently calls Lyon home, so I contacted her and asked if she’d seen any grapefruit wine around town. Despite everything I’d read about the French passion for pamplemousse, she hadn’t heard of it, but she returned mere hours later with two bottles of Very Pamp from Maison Castel. She drank each “without fanfare” (her words) and didn’t seem too impressed, but the next day she found three more brands and reported back:oh-my-pamp-rose-pamplemousse

“I am having the Oh My Pamp. It is really good! Very interesting notes all around. Lots of play on the palate and much more in the nose. Yes, it’s sweet, but not too sweet and not flat at all. It actually has a small hint of ROSE flavor to it! I don’t know why, but it TOTALLY works. Super low alcohol, so after I enjoyed half a glass I added a tiny bit of vodka and it’s still smooth and delish. Rosé and grapefruit might be my new flavor combo this year!”

summer-water-rose-wineThree bottles later, what may have started without fanfare had ended with a fan there, but that didn’t help me at all. Unwilling to put her to the trouble of shipping me a bottle of alcohol, but wanting to stay in the grapefruit loop, I decided to take the advice of one blogger and simply mix grapefruit juice with grape fruit juice, so to speak. Since both grapefruit wine and rosé have become synonymous with summertime, I purchased a bottle of Summer Water rosé for this experiment.

Pink grapefruit juice and rosé wine make such an obvious pairing that it’s difficult to believe this marriage has only been recognized for the past few years. With each displaying a shy blush and demure sweetness that tempers a tart acidity on the tongue, this fun and and flirty couple captures the “spirit” of the season. It may have taken me until the end of summer to figure this out, but with local temps predicted to reach over 100° by the weekend, it’s refreshing to know that there’s still time to fall for this fad.

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grapefruit-rose-wineGRAPEFRUIT ROSÉ (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup rosé wine
½ cup fresh pink or Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Ice (optional)

Mix wine and grapefruit juice in a small pitcher. Serve straight or over ice. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit, if desired. Serves two.

Variation: omit the grapefruit juice (or not) and add Monin Ruby Red Grapefruit Syrup, to taste.

 

You can purchase Meadowsweet Rosé Wine with Grapefruit (from Arlington, Binny’s, and Jericho), Ruby Red Rosé Wine with Natural Grapefruit Flavor (from Amity, Shop Rite, and We Speak Wine), and Pulse Rosé with Grapefruit & Peach online, but be prepared to pay around $20 to ship a $5-10 bottle of wine.

 

Pétillant Child

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Spirits, Wine

kirsten-in-3rd-gradekirsti-in-3rd-gradeToday is a special day at The Swoon Society, because it marks the anniversary of the day Kirsti and I first met. I won’t say how many years ago that was…but it’s a lot! Although it took us four years from that first meeting to become close friends, this is a milestone anniversary, so we wanted to toast it properly. We got together this past weekend and decided to celebrate early by popping open the bottle of pétillant naturel that I gave Kirsti for her birthday.

A French classification meaning “naturally sparkling,” pétillant naturel wines (pét-nats, for short) originated in the Loire Valley from a fermentation technique that pre-dates the méthode champenoise. The process involves bottling and capping unfinished wine so that it can complete fermentation in the bottle and develop a mild effervescence. It is actually illegal to add sugar or yeast during production of a pétillant naturel, resulting in a wine that is completely natural, unrefined, and occasionally cloudy. For this reason, pét-nats have become trendy in recent years among hipsters and those seeking a more handcrafted, authentic wine.

les-pions-petillant-naturel-1Kirsti and I read about pét-nat wine for the first time last year, but didn’t take the plunge until I decided to purchase a bottle for her as a gift. Her house is built into the side of a hill and has a secret storage area that looks like a wine cave, both because you can see the exposed hillside and because it’s filled with bottles of wine. But despite having an enviable collection, she did not have a bottle of pétillant naturel, so it was “naturel” that I should remedy the situation. There was only one selection at our local wine shop, so the choice was easy: Ludovic Chanson Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Naturel Les Pions 2011. (Let’s just call it Les Pions, shall we?)

The tasting notes* included with my purchase cited a bouquet “wafting from the glass in a mix of apple, quince, bee pollen, bread dough, chalky soil tones and a bit of citrus peel in the upper register” and referred to the wine twice as “snappy.” I’m no connoisseur and am generally of the opinion that, to quote writer Nick Tosches, the tasting of wine falls into one of three categories: “‘good,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘just shut up and drink.’” However, I felt immediately that this wine was different, with its earthy flavor and lively bubbles. A Monet-like image sprung to mind of French peasants resting against haystacks to enjoy a simple lunch of crusty bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of rustic wine.

les-pions-petillant-naturel-2I was somewhat disappointed that this pét-nat wasn’t cloudy, but rather than sulk like a petulant child, I’ve decided to embrace my pétillant child and seek out other varieties. While Les Pions is 100% Chenin Blanc, pét-nat wines can be made from both white and red grapes. The unpredictable nature of the fermentation process means you’re never sure what you’re going to get, but the low price point (generally under $30) means that it’s a risk worth taking.

As with Kirsti and me, it’s best to make the acquaintance of a pét-nat when it’s young, so don’t wait for a special anniversary to enjoy it. Get to know your new “pét” immediately, and who knows? It might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Ludovic Chanson Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Naturel Les Pions 2011

 

*By John Gillman in View from the Cellar.

 

“Peach It, Sister!”

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits, Wine

Moscato and PeachBefore she moved to France, my friend Mika and I would routinely put away a bottle of Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti with a baguette and a wedge of triple-crème brie. The light, sweet flavor and delicate effervescence of this Italian sparkling wine were the perfect accompaniment to a late afternoon snack. Now that summer is here, I’ve become a peach bum. Their Moscato & Peach sums up the season with heavenly hints of the succulent stone fruit.

Since I’ve seen men turn up their noses at what they perceive to be a girly drink (although, if real men eat quiche, they can also drink peach), round up your girl squad and serve a chilled bottle of this fruity frizzante at your next garden party, afternoon tea, or girl’s night in. When the sisters discover how it complements your freshly-baked gallette, they’ll have a religious experience.

If coming up with summertime entertaining ideas has you throwing your hands in the air, “Peach it, sister!” Offer your guests Villa Alena Moscato & Peach and you’ll be sure to amass a following.

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Villa Alena Moscato & Peach

 

Villa Alena Moscato d’Asti is sold at Trader Joe’s. Moscato & Peach is available for a limited time.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happy New Year

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Spirits, Wine

The Pursuit of Happy New Year 1A close friend of mine who makes her living as an “intuitive” told me several years ago that she believes I am the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson. While I’m dubious about this, I’ve had some fun with it over the years, celebrating the special anniversaries in “my” life and reminding a number of my fellow Americans on July 4th of the debt they owe me: “You’re welcome.”

I have become highly attuned to all things Jeffersonian, so it wasn’t surprising that a bottle of sparkling wine with Thomas Jefferson’s signature and likeness on the label caught my eye when I was perusing the shelves of my local liquor store. What was surprising is that it’s produced by Gérard Bertrand, maker of the fine rosé in the lovely rose-shaped bottle that Kirsti gushed over in her very first post for The Swoon Society.

The Pursuit of Happy New Year 2I bought a bottle of their Cuvée Thomas Jefferson, which Kirsti and I enjoyed with friends during the holidays. Everyone agreed that it was an exceptional crémant—elegant, fruity, and superbly balanced. I made a declaration that this was the perfect sparkling wine to ring in the New Year and resolved to get another bottle to toast the arrival of 2016.

The label states that this cuvée is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, “the most French of American presidents,” who had a love of wine from the Limoux region of France, believed to be the birthplace of sparkling wine. Like Jefferson, Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux Brut is both charming and a true ambassador of its homeland.

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2015, celebrate your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happy New Year by electing to purchase a bottle of this revolutionary wine (trust me, I know how to make a good purchase). Then, on New Year’s Eve, raise a glass to old friends, new beginnings, and independent spirits. You’re welcome.

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Gérard Bertrand Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut

 

Cuvée Thomas Jefferson can be obtained online from The Wine Club and Wine.com. To learn more about Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux, visit the company’s website.

 

The Pursuit of Happy Birthday
Update 4/13/16:

Thomas Jefferson was born 273 years ago today. Since we at The Swoon Society like any excuse to uncork a fine bottle of bubbly, we’ll be celebrating Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happy Birthday by toasting our third President with a glass of his namesake sparkling wine. Join us, won’t you?

Rosé, That Flirty Minx

Author: Kirsti Kay, Food & Drink, Spirits, Wine

That Flirty Minx 1If champagne is the friendliest drink, then rosé has to be its flirty cousin. Its pink color is irresistible, especially in a pretty glass on a warm day. Rosé is actually made from black-skinned grapes whose skins have had less contact with the juice than red wine.

I love shopping for rosé. There are so many different hues, from very pale pink to almost fuchsia, and they usually have lovely bottles too. I don’t typically like the bright pink rosés. The paler ones seem more sophisticated, more delicate, more…French. And they usually have a more refined, drier taste that is perfect for a warm spring day with some runny cheese, some ripe pear and a crusty baguette.

That Flirty Minx 2Recently, I came across Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé and it hit all those notes for me, but the pièce de résistance was the bottle. First of all, it has a glass stopper instead of a cork. I have a soft spot for the glass stopper. Several years ago, Kirsten searched high and low for wine with a glass stopper for a birthday gift for me. She came over, all triumphant, with the gift in a bag and my dog jumped up on her. She dropped the bottle and it broke. We both just stood there in horror and watched the wine ooze all over my lawn. I saved the glass stopper, though, and I still have it. Glass stoppers prevent cork taint and are a gazillion times more elegant and fun than the screw top. I wish more wineries used them. But the best part of the bottle is that the bottom is a perfect rose in bloom—gasp! I don’t know who this Gérard Bertrand is, but I would like to be friends with him, s’il vous plaît!

The wine is everything you want a rosé to be: crisp and dry with a delightful aroma and the perfect blush color. Kirsten and I finished the bottle last weekend with some double cream brie and crackers. It flirted with us pretty hard. I’m sure there will be a second date.

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Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé

 

Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé is available at BevMo.