Three of my “Holiday Must Have’s” this season are Champagne with the accompanied by a great homemade cordial to mix a signature champagne cocktail and a selection of Scandinavian inspired homemade chocolates.
I had the pleasure of sharing my Holiday Must-Haves with Audra and JD from The Better Show at their Holiday Special at Rockefeller Center. The holiday special will air on December 23rd, 2011. Check your local listing for scheduled show times in your area.
Click the links below for recipes, tips and holiday must haves.
We all know Champagne is a staple during the holidays – nothing says celebration like the sound of a cork popping!
Champagne is great to serve at a party as well as to share as a gift, but the choices can be overwhelming. Champagne comes in many different varieties and price points. I have narrowed down the playing field to to include my favorite Champagnes and sparkling wines covering three different price points, $10, $20 and $40.
Varietals of Champagne
1. The drier, less sweet classification is called BRUT
2. The slightly sweeter classification is called DRY
3. The sweet classification is simply called SWEET
There are different price points of Champagne. For this holiday season I chose some of my favorite Champagnes and Sparkling Wines with a range of price points.
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. The term “Champagne” is used to refer to wine produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France from which it takes its name.
Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities, and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with the emergence of a middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility.
Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. The Victorian coupe (according to legend, designed using a mould of the left breast (signifying a giving from the heart) of Marie Antoinette as a birthday present to her husband, Louis XVI) is not recommended as it disperses the nose and over-oxygenates the wine. Champagne is always served cold, its ideal drinking temperature at 7 to 9 °C (45 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water before opening, which also ensures the champagne is less gassy and can be opened without spillage. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose, and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets (to accommodate the larger bottle, add more water and ice).
If you’re going to be entertaining all summer long, here are some essentials from Crate & Barrel that can be “re-used, re-interpreted, and created” in order to maximize use and minimize spending. The Bianca Melamine Dinner Plate, Salad Plate, and Individual Bowl come in summer colors as well as white, which make them great for layering.
The dinnerware also comes in a citrus Melon Ball pattern, adding lots of color to your table.
These lolli candleholders can complement your melamine dinnerware and if you want, can serve more than one purpose. Whether you choose to put votives in them or some kind of dipping sauce, they will be a fabulous addition to the table.
The same thing goes for the Ona Vase in that it can be used in several ways for various occasions–a centerpiece with flowers or even as a salad dressing holder.
As for this acrylic pitcher with infuser, it’s wonderful for adding a little bit of a lemon or lime twist to your water.
You can see how I’ve used some of these pieces above–the layering and stacking of the melamine dinnerware in order to add height to the table, the pop of color coming from the candleholders as they are being used for dip as well as candles, the acrylic pitcher with lemon and cucumber slices and dill, and the ona vase for salad dressing.
If your planning a holiday party this year, there are several must-haves that I wouldn’t be without. In fact they will make entertaining easier all year long!
Portable Ice Maker
Never run out of ice again! I have an ice maker in my refrigerator and always emptied the ice bins several hours before the party to make enough to get the party started. I always had to run out and get extra bags of ice and they just melt all over… skip the mess and the hassle and get yourselves a portable ice maker. They are small enough to put on a bar or counter, make three sizes of ice cubes, make ice in ten minutes stores 2.5 pounds of ice at a time all from a 1.2 gallon water reservoir. This power-house mini ice machine makes up to 35 lbs of ice a day! It’s not cheep at over $200, but if you are a “professional” entertainer (like me), you won’t want to be without one!
As a host, you can never have too much glassware and I want my guests to drink out of real glasses! Plastic glassware is for the outdoor entertaining and disposables are a dirty word in my house (not to mention terrible for the environment). I prefer to buy inexpensive real glassware by the case and store until needed. There are so many advantages to keeping a stash of glassware – you don’t have to stress about using your good crystal, you won’t stress if they break or chip, and they neatly pack away back into their boxes. I keep extra wine, martini, all purpose glasses and especially extra champagne flutes during the holidays! – (click here for my champagne cocktail recipes)
Party left-overs will go to waste no more if you keep fun and festive take-away containers on hand so your guests can take a little of the party with them. I think it is sweet to offer party guests a little take-away container of treats and party snacks as they leave. I always make more than enough food at my parties and actually make a bit more sweet treats so that I can have enough to gift at the end of the party. It is a great send off for your guests and a great way to keep manage left overs!
Stay tuned for more Holiday Entertaining Tips and Tricks… Cheers!
Composting in the City
Nature Mill – Composting Made Easy!
Living in New York City can be a tough place to execute more extensive recycling programs. True, most everyone I know recycles, but those same friends do not compost, reduce, or reuse. I found a really great way to get composting started in the Big City via Nature Mill’s Pro Composting Box. This product is not only easy-to-maintain but it’s also incredibly stylish within the industry of recycling components.
Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell.
Natural composting, or biological decomposition, began with the first plants on earth and has been going on ever since. As vegetation falls to the ground, it slowly decays, providing minerals and nutrients needed for plants, animals, and microorganisms. Mature compost, however, includes the production of high temperatures to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that natural decomposition does not destroy.
Did You Know That Composting Can…
- Suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
- Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
- Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
- Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff.
- Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
- Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
With all that you now know about the great benefits and how easy it is… don’t you think you should start composting today? I do…!
Eco Clean., a NEW line of eco-friendly cleaning products from Denmark.
As much as things to be clean, the noxious odor of cleaning products is enough to make me sick. That is, until I realized that I don’t have to offend my olfactory receptors (my nose) to get my home guest-ready.
I was recently asked to try an eco-friendly glass cleaner from Eco Clean. Loved it! Not only does it make everything sparkle and shine… it smells of white tea & sage.
There are three other great cleaning products in the line that I would recommend giving a try;
ALL PURPOSE with spicy lavender
BATHROOM with lavender and mint
KITCHEN COUNTER with orange and rosemary
Eco-Clean home cleaning products are:
- Good for the eco-system and the people who use it
- Non Toxic – no toxic fumes or gases released upon contact with water. Safe to use around children and pets
- Works as well as traditional cleaners
- Amazing fragrances that are allergy-friendly
- Special foam option nozzle that minimizes vapors
- and… Beautiful packaging
It is going to be awfully hard to find a cleaning product that is as pleasant and effective as Eco Clean’s Glass Cleaner. The act of cleaning is now a joy again! OK, I’m getting carried away…
Available at Duane Reade.
As Earth Day blows out 40 candles today (smokeless, scentless bio-degradable candles.. of course!), I wanted to showcase a few items that are a perfect match for an eco-friendly birthday. Often times with organic or eco-friendly products, user have to sacrifice either a beautiful design or reasonable price to have a first-rate eco product. However, these next three items are sure-fire winners in the eyes of the eco-aware.
I often find myself not amused by having to eat with silver cutlery when I’m eating out, camping or just too lazy to open the silverware drawer. And plastic cutlery doesn’t serve me any better. It often breaks, cracks or the knife proves itself useless against the almighty power of the chicken breast.
So imagine my delight when I came across Bamboo Veneerware’s Bamboo Dinnerware They are made with 100% bamboo – which, as you know is a highly durable and sustainable material. Set includes flatware and chopsticks which are heat- and stain-resistant, safe to use on non-stick surfaces and won’t impart or absorb flavors.
What do art and your sense of smell have in common? On the surface, they seem to be distant opposites. That is, until you’ve tried one of Alora Ambience’s scent diffusers. It’s like having a Monet original in diffusion form. Bred out of the Lake Como region of Italy, these scent monsters will liven up any space. The best part is that no matter the size of the room, the diffuser won’t oversaturate your room with aromas.
Alora uses only the freshest ingredients to formulate their signature scents. And let me tell you, the combinations are out of this world! Two of my personal favorites are the uno (muguet, sandalwood, musk and lemon) and the agrume (grapefruit, orange and eucalyptus). These diffusers make excellent gifts for yourself or a special someone. The price is balanced by the diffusers longevity – for $80 your 16 oz. diffuser will last up to 6 months! You can’t beat that.
Travelers, don’t think Alora left you out! They have Alora To Go, which includes a leather satchel that diffuses when placed in your luggage or hotel room drawer.
Be sure to check out Alora’s full collection of scent diffusers on their website. For candle lovers, they have a wide selection just as potent as if they were handmade by an artisan in your own kitchen.
An immersion blender, or hand blender is the most versatile kitchen tool I own that I use on a daily basis. It saves time and effort: no need to blend in small batches, no need to wash a food processor—just rinse it off and toss it back in the drawer. But which brand is best? I really like this Braun as it comes with a whipping attachment as well as a chopper. The blender tool is the most used attachment in my kitchen, but the other attachments are equally handy. I use my Braun immersion blender in the morning for a quick smoothie/protein shake, in the afternoon to puree easy soups for lunch, and in the evening for everything from frothing and blending to making a frozen drink. I will refer to it often in future posts as it is an indispensable must have tool for just about any level of cooking, healthy living and whips up a margarita in a minute flat.