Monday, May 15, 2006

Bubbles & Barbecue

The other day I was talking with Bill Niman, the man behind the Niman (nigh-man)Ranch line of meats raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. His meat has that old-fashioned taste and you feel good knowing you're not eating who-knows-what. The last time I was in Oakland, we drove up to Bo's Barbecue in Lafayette and pigged out on ribs made with Niman's naturally raised meats. Anyway, I asked Bill what kind of wines he liked to drink with barbecue. I got an answer I didn't expect: "Lambrusco. It's making a comeback," he said. "There are some expensive ones, but the cheap stuff is good too."

Really??? He's got good taste, but I figured I'd do some research. Apparently he wasn't kidding. Now that the bad publicity from watery and overly sweet wines, Lambrusco's image in the US is being revived. They're even serving it at tony New York restaurants like Mario Batali's Babbo. Though they're drier wines, not the typical grocery store stuff.

So passing through the wine aisle at discount grocery store, I grabbed a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco. The next day, I heated up the last of my dad's own delicious pork barbecue ribs and tasted it with two wines: the Riunite Lambrusco and Il Rosso, a gently sparkling red wine made by Mionetto. The whole Il line is really fun with sexy packaging and marketing.

Of course, there was not much comparison, other than the fact that both were red wines with bubbles. And then they are both from Italy and relatively low in alcohol. The Il Rosso tasted of juicy red berries, more so than a typical rose, but with a hint of sweetness. The Riunite (shown with the ribs) was grapey-berry tasting and sweet, with a flavor that didn't linger long. Going back and forth, I decided Il Rosso's more subtle flavor was better with ribs sans sauce, and the super fruity Lambrusco was more suited to saucy ribs.

But I could see how either one would be mighty nice with a plate of barbecued pork ribs.

Cole Porter Was Wrong

You've seen her: you're out at a bar one night and there's this girl with glazy eyes careening through the room. She's obviously had too much to drink and it's far from cute.

As a Bubbly Girl, I like that little tingle that comes from sipping just one glass of sparkling wine. It seems like sparkling wine goes to my head alot faster than other drinks and it turns out it's not just imagination. A study I recently found online shows that we do get a hefty kick from wine with bubbles.

In short, researchers at a university in England found that people who drank fizzyy champagne had higher blood alcohol levels and stayed that way longer than people who drank flat champagne. For more details, check out the study published in New Scientist.

It's a good reminder to know my limits and be very aware of how much I'm drinking... Because a Bubbly Girl is always appropriate.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Chicago, Chicago

I spent a week in Chicago visiting my family, which is why I've been slacking on the blog. But it wasn't a bubbly-free trip by any means. I usually travel with a half bottle of bubbly slipped inside a neoprene wine carrier, just in case. On this trip, my travelling companion was the Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Aqui by Banfi. Yes, it's a mouthful, but such a delicious one!

At Yu's Mandarin in Schaumburg with my father and sister, I sipped a little bottle of Korbel Brut with my favorite crab wontons (you know fried puffs of crab and cream cheese) and a crispy spring roll before seguing into the best-ever version of Honey Walnut Shrimp. The Korbel, which is made by the traditonal methode champenoise, went down surprisingly well, considering what a bargain it is!

Later that week, visiting the sexy, purple Vosges Haut Chocolat store at 520 N. Michigan Avenue, I spent about 30 minutes just taking it all in. The line, created by chocolatier Katrina Markoff, features exotic, all-natural, handmade chocolate truffles and bars. There was so many tempting combinations, I couldn't decide what to buy. I sipped a cup of hot white chocolate infused with lemon myrtle and lavender while perusing the choices: Michigan cherries and dark chocolate, white chocolate and Grand Marnier, dark chocolate and balsamic vinegar.

The decision made itself when I spied the "Gatsby & Daisy" collection, which offers champagne infused chocolate truffles topped with rose petals. Dark chocolate is mixed with brut champagne; and white chocolate is paired with rose and a drop of rose water. They come nestled in a cute little box decorated with a 40s style pin-up girl. To find out more about the Vosges champagne truffles, click here.

When I returned to my cousin Dori's Gold Coast penthouse, it was time to break out the Brachetto. We both thought the wine's rosy aroma and sweet raspberry flavor tempered by a tannic cranberry note made it just the thing to eat with fine chocolate.