Cooking New Year's Day dinner with friends
Over the years, my husband and I have created a funky mix of beloved holiday meals, blending my New England roots with his Southern California sensibilities. We start with Christmas sushi. This ritual began when the chef of the San Francisco restaurant where we met sent us home on Christmas Eve with beautiful fresh sashimi. Next comes roast lamb for New Year’s Eve, a nod to my grandmother’s picture-perfect holiday dish (but minus her fluorescent mint jelly). And my favorite meal of all: Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, which we’ve adapted from recipes from my mother-in-law, who is from Georgia. We pack a few dozen close friends into our tiny apartment to celebrate with blackeyed peas (to resemble coins) and collard greens (to represent paper bills), which are said to bring good fortune in the new year. Thus fortified, we’ll be ready for 2011.
© Lois Ellen Frank
The Basics for Tomahawking Champagne.
In Part II of my occasional series, Don’t Necessarily Try This at Home (Part I featured two-year-old vintage eggnog
from Jonathon Sawyer
of Greenhouse Tavern
in Cleveland), I’d like to spotlight tomahawking Champagne
as a potential holiday trend. I first heard about this from Holly Arnold Kinney
, who owns the iconic Rocky Mountain restaurant The Fort
, outside of Denver. Instead of the classic, and dramatic, French practice of “sabering” Champagne
—hitting the bottle neck with a saber at just the right angle so the cork pops off—the Fort uses a tomahawk to do the same job.
In her cool new coffee-table book, Shinin’ Times at the Fort
, Kinney goes into even more detail: “My dad taught his pal Julia Child
how to tomahawk a bottle of Champagne, and later that week, she taught Jay Leno
how to do so when she was a guest on The Tonight Show
.... [but] the bottle Julia used was weak and broke all over the set! Although she grabbed a second bottle and tomahawked it perfectly, NBC decided to use the broken-bottle take to promote the show.”
Wines Under $20
'Tis the season to do TV appearances on wines for the holidays, apparently! I was at the CBS Early Show last weekend offering wine & spirits gift-giving strategies, and on Fox Business News last Friday with some great wine values for holiday entertaining.
Also, if you need a last minute stocking-stuffer for the wine geek in your life, you could definitely do worse than the Twistick ($9.99), which may well be the world's smallest corkscrew. You can put it on your keychain for wine emergencies (they do happen!), and while it's not the easiest corkscrew in the world to use, it's a lot better than biting off the top of the bottle with your teeth.
I know I said that I wasn’t going to do a ton of wine bags this year
but I came across these screen-printed organic cotton ones from Tartella
and had to share them. I love the happy cork print that comes in either red or teal. Tartella has also started making wine tags
in the same print to slip over the neck of a bottle. They look so nice, you might not even need a gift bag!
I wrote about these super-excellent beer journals
last June because I think the idea is just so great—they fit in your pocket, and each page has a spot for all the tasting notes you could ever possibly come up with. I was elated to hear that 33 Books has come up with books for wine notes
), too, because I’m always writing notes on gum wrappers or magazine insert cards that I dig out of the depths of my bag when I’m out. These are a smart way to keep it all in one place. Plus, the wine-colored ink on the covers actually contains some wine from the Walla Walla Valley. These little books would make excellent stocking stuffers or accompaniments to a bottle of wine.
© Christopher Klapp/Petrossian West Hollywood
Petrossian's Champagne and Caviar Coffret
Some might call me a failure at this 12 Days of Wine Gifts
business, but I’ve just been holding on to some excellent things to wallop you with all at once, so I will magically turn three days in to one. So, here, the first installment.
I will not be purchasing this gift for anyone this year, but if I had $490 dollars to spend on one person, this would definitely be high up on my list. Petrossian Caviar’s West Hollywood shop has put together a pretty over-the-top set called the Caviar and Champagne Coffret that contains of 125 grams of Tsar Imperial Transmontanous Caviar, two half-bottles of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne and two mother-of-pearl spoons. I might be tempted to tack on a couple of these metal straws to encourage drinking the Champagne straight from the bottles. Unfortunately, this set isn’t available on the Petrossian website, but you can call the shop directly to place orders at 310-271-0576.
© Photo Courtesy Fonté Coffee Roasters
Tonight, Seattle's Fonté Coffee Roasters
will gather some of the city's best food artisans for a Shop Local Holiday Happy Hour at Fonté Cafe and Wine Bar
, which opened
last year. The event includes a tasting with master roaster Steve Smith (who came to Fonté 20 years ago to focus on small-lot roasting after his time at Starbucks); holiday-themed chocolates (like gingerbread chocolate bars) from Theo Chocolate
; and wines from the Small Lot Co-Op
and Heaven's Cave Cellars. A portion of the proceeds from the event go to the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool
, which helps low-income families with care and healthy meals for children. Another bonus: All proceeds from purchases of Fonté's excellent, limited-edition Holiday Blend
(left), a delicious low-acid coffee with citrus notes, go to the same cause.
Penguin Corkscrew from Terrain
Last Friday, I kicked off my non-wine-bag-focused wine gift guide
with a wine bag—so today, I present you with something more true to my word.
As an unabashed fan of Anthropologie’s dresses
and latte bowls
, I’ve wanted to head to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, to visit the company's flagship home and garden store, called Terrain, which opened a couple of years ago. I still haven’t made the trek, but in drooling over its website embarrassingly often, I recently discovered this charming penguin corkscrew
. Give it as a gift with a bottle of rich red wine, like the 2007 La Spinetta Pin Monferrato Rosso
(around $43, find this wine
), a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo from Piedmont. It's at once sweet, spicy and aromatic—destined for drinking in front of a fireplace.
I got to rise very early this past Sunday morning and trundle over to the studios at Rockefeller Center to do a TODAY show spot on wines to go with classic holiday meals, with the always engaging Lester Holt. It was sort of a slow-starting morning, thanks a very unscientific tasting of multiple Champagnes the previous night, but after a large infusion of coffee my brain started zipping along in a relatively lively way. The result—you can watch it on this clip—was great fun.
Last year about this time, I took it upon myself to search out some lovely wine bags for gifting during the holiday season
. I confess, despite the cute bags, it might have been overkill. So this year, I've decided to bring you wine-related gifts that go beyond wine bags-with some wine bags sprinkled in. After all, the holiday wine-giving season is upon us and it's no good to just hand over naked bottles.
And so, on this first day of wine gifts, I present to you this ultra-chic black wine bag from Reisenthel
that will look just as good with your sparkly holiday dresses and bowties as it will with your woolen mittens. Tie it up with a humongous bow and any party host will be delighted.