Saturday, November 27, 2010

Herbes de Thanksgiving

A blog entry from earlier this month suggested using Herbes de Provence as a seasoning for your Thanksgiving turkey.  This Thursday I followed my own advice and turned our holiday turkey into a French-inspired main dish accompanied by the very American sides of stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.  All of the above turned out quite well, and the Herbes de Provence made for a pretty and tasty turkey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

3 Alternatives to Champagne

This holiday season, you might want to celebrate by popping a bottle (or deux) of Champagne.  And who could blame you?  There's just something about the bubbly French drink that brings instant glamour and fun to any occasion.  But the price of most Champagnes - generally $50 or more for a bottle - is not always budget friendly.  When you want the sparkling with out the sticker shock, try one of these glamour-adding alternatives. 

1. Cava
This sparkling wine from Spain is very drinkable and often very reasonably priced.  You can easily find bottles for less that $20, and sometimes even closer to $10.  Keep an eye out for Cava on a bar or restaurant's wines by the glass list as well.  I often see it there next to much more expensive glasses of Champagne. 

2.  Crémant de Loire
If you prefer to buy your bubbly from somewhere inside l'Héxagone, look no further than the Loire Valley.  Vineyards there make Crémant, a sprarkling wine whose production methods and aging process are controlled by French appellation law.  Crémants are produced in many regions of France, and even in Luxembourg, but the Loire Valley is France's second-largest producer of sparkling wine outside of Champagne. Like Cava, there are bottles to be had for around $20 or less. 

3.  American Sparkling Wine

If you're an American, why not support homegrown vineyards this year by finding a domestic option for your bubbly toasts?  If you're not an American, why not try a wine you might not have previously considered?  You just might be surprised at the quality of sparklings to be found stateside.  This Thanksgiving, I'll be celebrating with a delicious $30 bottle of Scintilla, a Brut sparkling wine from Veritas Vineyard and Winery, located near Charlottesville, Virginia. 

À votre santé!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Is Beaujolais Nouveau?

It's that time of year again: The time for cries of "le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" and heavily marketed tasting parties.  You hear about it every year as the third Thursday of November rolls around, but how much do you know about this vin de primeur?  It's ok; I don't know much about Beaujolais Nouveau either.  So here are a few resources to help you brush up on your BN trivia before you attend that heavily marketed tasting party:

1.  Wine Weekly gives us some "Beaujolais Nouveau Answers" -

2.  Wikipedia is an obvious go-to source -

3.  If it's not Wikipedia it has to be -

4. offers suggestions on how to throw a BN party -

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The State of Francophilia in the U.S.

What exactly is an "Old-School Francophile?"  Was Sarkozy really drunk at that G8 Summit press conference?  And what are the three things French people like?    Hint: One of them is food.

Find the answers to these questions and more on a recent episode of Wisconsin Public Radio's program, "Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders."  The episode in question is called "Francophilia Revisited," and it goes well with an afternoon of crêpe-making.

To listen to the discussion on the state of Francophilia in the U.S., head over to Wisconsin Public Radio:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Uses for Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence - that aromatic mixture of thyme, fennel, savory, basil, rosemary (and often others) - is a powerhouse in my kitchen.  This sunny seasoning compliments so many dishes and conjures up so many memories of the times I spent in the South of France that I make sure to always have an ample supply on hand.  You should too.  Here are five of my favorite uses for Herbes de Provence:

1.  Pizza Seasoning

I like to make my own pizzas using just-add-water crust, canned tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and cheddar, and a rotating combination of toppings.  I sprinkle a generous amount of Herbes de Provence in the sauce to take the flavor up a notch.

2.  Roasted Potatoes
The cooler weather has me craving hearty foods like thick soups, red meat, and potatoes.  Especially potatoes.  Chop Golden Russets into medium-sized cubes, douse in olive oil, mix with Herbes de Provence,  bake at 425 Fahrenheit for 30 minutes and get ready for some serious comfort food.

3. Household Decorations
You want to eat Herbes de Provence, but you should also think about decorating with them. Make your kitchen Provençal by putting the herbs into little glass spice jars and using them to decorate open shelves or a window sill.  Spread them around trinkets on a decorative plate, or pour them into small, clear vases for a rustic touch.

4. Salad Dressing
Whisk together extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and Herbes de Provence. Add lettuce. 

5. Thanksgiving Turkey
It sounds gross and it feels gross, but lifting up the skin of an uncooked Turkey so you can stuff that space with butter and Herbes de Provence is a good idea.  Pop in into the oven, et voilà!  Thanksgiving with a French flair.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Delaplane Cellars

I recently took a day trip to Virginia's Sky Meadows State Park, whose strong points include ample picnicking space, sweeping hillside views, and proximity to wineries.  After an evening meal of cheese, charcuterie, and fried chicken and biscuits (we're in the south, after all) our group headed to Delaplane Cellars, a relative newcomer on the bustling Virginia wine scene.  Delaplane's strong points include a spacious tasting room, live music on the patio, and an eclectic selection of vino.