Wine Pairings for Valentine’s Day Delights: by Gina King, Founder & CEO, Domaine Somm

Valentine’s Day is a day to honor love in every form and what better way to do so than to indulge in some exciting food and wine. Whether you’re celebrating with friends or that special someone in your life, a mind- blowing food and wine pairing experience can absolutely enhance the occasion. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together wine pairing ideas and tips for a few common aphrodisiacs: oysters, chili peppers, and chocolate. We’ll start off with a refreshing platter of oysters, move on to something with a bit of heat, and finish off with some chocolate for dessert.

OYSTERS

In general, it’s best to pair oysters with a bone dry white wine or bubbly, but since they come in so many shapes, textures and flavor profiles depending on their origin, we’ve put together a few guidelines to maximize your enjoyment.

The northeast coast produces skinny oysters that have a longer shaped shell with lean flesh while still retaining a moderately briny, salty, steely flavor. Examples are Long Islands (the original Bluepoints), Wellfleets (from Cape Cod), Delawares and Bristols (Maine). In Canada, “Novys” (from Nova Scotia), Malpecques (Prince Edward Island) and Caraquets (New Brunswick). Due to their lean and minerally taste, the best wine match for Northeastern oysters is a bone dry white with perceptively minerally or flinty qualities. Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley, most commonly bottled as Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé is an ideal match. Sauvignon Blanc from the New World doesn’t work as well since they tend to be fruity and lack stony, minerally or flinty character.

2011 Domaine des Vieux Pruniers Sancerre

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The Northwest coast produces fatty oysters that are the broadest, roundest, fruitiest, fleshiest and creamiest in texture. Examples are Hama Hamas, Quilcenes, Hood Canals, Pearl Bays, Caraquets, Chef Creeks, Sinkus and the biggest of all, Tottens. Dryer style Rieslings, Gruner Veltliner, and Pinot Grigio work well.

2011 Schloss Gobelsberg Gruner Veltliner Gobelsburger

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Olympia and Kumamoto oysters from the Pacific Northwest are unique and produce the smallest variety. Olympia oysters are the Pacific Northwest’s only native variety and are small, mild, and yet meaty. Kumamotos are a sub-species of Pacific oysters, which originated from Japan, but are now farm raised in Washington State and Northern California. They are tiny, plump, sweet, and succulent. A perfect match to both is a dry Champagne or sparkling wine.

 NV R.H. Coutier Brut Tradition Champagne, Grand Cru

 

 

 

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NV BiancaVigna Prosecco Brut

 

 

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CHILI PEPPERS

Many people assume the sweeter the better for wine as the dish heats up with spice, but in reality, the sweetness will take away from the flavors. Wines that are on the fruity side with low to moderate alcohol levels work best. Avoid wines that have subtle flavors as the spices will overpower the wine. For white wines, try a Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, off-dry Riesling, Roussanne, or Sauvignon Blanc. Herbal and tangy Sauvignon Blanc tends to go well with Southwestern dishes that have cilantro and lime notes in addition to spice. The sweet-hot flavors of some East and Southeast Asian fare go well with Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling. A touch of sweetness often found in these varietals tones down chili heat while harmonizing with sweeter sauces, such as sweet-and-sour or coconut milk-based sauces. The lower alcohol content gives your tongue refreshment and relief.

2011 Brooks Wine Gewurztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

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2011 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Lot 150

 

 

 

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Rosés made with Grenache based blends also work beautifully with spicy dishes, even those with a meat element. And by the way, rosés are not just meant for summertime enjoyment! They’re very food friendly and great to enjoy year-round, especially on Valentine’s Day.

 2011 Bergerie de l’Hortus 

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For red wines, stick with lower alcohol wines with noticeable spice character, forward fruit and moderate tannins. Barbera, Cru Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and sometimes Tempranillo work well.

2011 Luli Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands

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CHOCOLATE

The general rule of thumb for pairing wine with anything sweet is that the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the dessert you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may quickly veer towards sour. Since there are many different styles of chocolate, it’s not possible to choose one style of wine as an ideal partner. So, we’ve drilled it down to white, milk, and dark as a starting point.

White Chocolate has sweet flavors of honey, vanilla, caramel, and/or fruit, which pair nicely with a sec or demi-sec Champagne. The acid in sparkling wines produces tart flavors when paired with the cacao in milk or dark chocolate; however, there is no cacao in white chocolate, making a sweeter style of Champagne or sparkling wine a wonderful match. Riesling or Pinot d’Alsace is another great option as they show an exotic sweetness that complements the vanilla, caramel and honey flavors of white chocolate. Fresh strawberries dipped in white chocolate would be great with the following wines.

NV Drusian Extra Dry Spumante Rose, Rose Mari 

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2010 Bott Geyl les Pinots d’Alsace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Milk chocolate has flavors of brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, honey, caramel, nutty and/or malt, so an optimal pairing is Tawny Port.  Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor. A couple of other good partners are Hungarian Tokaji, which goes beautifully with chocolate ganache, and Muscat or Moscadello (Italian), a rich wine with honeysuckle and honey mingled notes which also complement the vanilla, caramel and honey flavors in milk chocolate.

2011 Caprili Moscadello di Montalcino

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Dark chocolate can have bitter, roasted, earthy, and/or nutty notes. Due to the intensity of flavors, bittersweet and dark chocolates need to be paired with stronger red wines with concentrated fruit notes. Vintage Port is a classic pairing with a decadent dark chocolate dessert or truffles. For a non-fortified option, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, or Zinfandel also work well. While some of these varietals may appear too tannic to pair with chocolate, the cocoa butter decreases the astringency and dryness of the tannins and the higher cacao content enables bittersweet chocolate to pair well.

2011 Bodega Noemía A Lisa

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Chocolate with caramel, toffee, or coconut goes extremely well with Sauternes, a rich, sweet dessert wine with honey and apricot flavors that complement caramel, toffee, and coconut.

2005 Chateau Climens Barsac, Grand Vin de Sauternes

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Domaine Somm provides
a personal sommelier service to elevate wine experiences at any occasion.
We create enriching wine programs and curate high quality, distinctive wines for events, wine clubs, and our online wine boutique. We also donate a portion of all profits to charities within the areas of sustainability, health, education and the arts.

Gina King, Founder & CEO of Domaine Somm, is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and received the Advanced Certificate with merit from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Prior to founding Domaine Somm in 2012, she was the Head of Global Event Marketing at a global financial services company based in NYC for more than a decade. Gina earned a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and was formally trained in wine education and service at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley.

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Organize the Holidays

Things can get overwhelming during this hectic, holly-jolly time of year.  That’s why we here at CUE call upon the expertise of Lisa Zaslow (www.GothamOrganizers.com) to keep us at our very best.  Here are her tips for a stress free, organized holiday season:

GothamOrganizers Holiday Survival Tips

“Holidays are an expensive trial of strength. The only satisfaction comes from survival.”

— Jonathan Miller

Bah humbug Mr. Miller! The holidays should be a time to feel blessed, not stressed!. Follow these tips to save time, effort and energy this holiday season!

First, stop beating yourself up for not picking up gifts for everyone on your list all year long and for not having your cards addressed before Thanksgiving. This is the home stretch – time to focus your efforts on what you can do.

* Presto Presents – Technology is your friend. Use the power of the internet to pick, click and ship gifts for everyone on your list, from clients to cousins. Gift certificates to sites like Amazon.com, Gap.com and CrateandBarrel.com will appeal to a wide range of folks. If you must get actual presents, hit a few big stores at off-hours and knock off many items on your list in one shot.

 

* Wrap It Up – Why wrap? I’m a big fan of tissue paper and gift bags. They’re super-speedy and no tape, ribbon or scissors needed.

 

* Go-to Hostess Gifts – One for all and all for one. Get a slew of one great item – a nice bottle of olive oil, beautiful kitchen towels, fancy nuts and/or chocolate, or the tried and true gift soaps or bottle of wine. Pick up a bunch of gift bags and you’re good to go.

 

* Speedy Decorating – Go minimalist. Candles are quick, inexpensive and festive. And you can use them year-round and don’t have to store them.

 

* Feast Without Fuss– Let someone else cook. Put pre-prepared foods on nice serving dishes with a little garnish and no one will be the wiser. Ask your guests to contribute dishes and lighten your cooking load. You can hire a caterer to cook entire meals or just a few key dishes.

 

* Quick Cards – Again, technology is your friend. Cut and paste a photo into an e-mail and you’re done, or send an electronic card at egreetings.com or similar sites. If you really love the idea of sending actual cards, you can extend your deadline by a few extra days and send New Year’s cards this time around.

One last note

Take a deep breath and remember that the true spirit of the season doesn’t require any of the above. Spend your time with friends and loved ones, not running around trying to fulfill an idealized vision of the holidays that may not fit your current lifestyle. Happy holidays!

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Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, has helped hundreds of people get organized at work and at home. Her expertise has been featured on The Nate Berkus Show, Inside Edition and in numerous publications including The New York Times, Real Simple, and InStyle. Get Lisa’s super-easy organizing tips at www.GothamOrganizers.com

© 2011 Lisa Zaslow. All rights in all media reserved.

Eloquent Etiquette

The New Year is upon us and it’s time for a new segment, Eloquent Etiquette. We thought we’d expand our view to not only focus on creating exciting events and delightful details, but to also advise as to how to make formal party interactions and customs less foreign and daunting.

This week we found a great article, courtesy of Allure Magazine. “How to Make a Fabulous Party Conversation” caught our attention because it’s clear concise and gives you different topics and techniques to include or excuse yourself. Enjoy!

How to Make Fabulous Party Conversation

December 31, 2010

New Year’s Eve is one of those high-pressure party evenings: You know it’s coming for, well…a year, and you’re supposed to have the time of your life. But when you find yourself talking to people you met just moments ago—and might end up kissing when the countdown ends—there’s nothing like enforced fun to kill a conversation. Here’s how not to let it fizzle:

  • Do a little homework. Read a few online newspapers and peruse blogs like Gawker andHuffington Post. That way, if someone brings up current events, you can ask a few strategic questions to get him talking. When you know what kind of guests you’ll be mingling with, it’s easier to focus your reading. “If it’s going to be a lot of investment bankers, the odds are that talk will turn to government oversight of Wall Street,” says Deborah Roberts, an ABC News reporter. “And you can keep that in mind as you read the paper that week.”
  • Avoid the obvious. Don’t be intimidated by someone because of their job or reputation; just find out what interests him when he’s not at work. “Powerful people have hobbies, too, and they like to talk about them as much as anyone else does,” says writer Julia Reed, who has made small talk with senators and presidents.
  • Ask for recommendations. People love to be asked about their favorite finds. Ingrid Sischy, a writer and the former editor-in-chief of Interview magazine, fishes for advice she can use on her next vacation or night out. “I’m always trying to find out great new places, great restaurants, great books,” she says. “Some of the best things I’ve done, I learned about at dinner parties.”
  • Push some buttons. “Feel free to be wildly interrogative and ask profound questions,” says Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York and the author of Nasty: My Family and other Glamorous Varmints. “For example, ‘How’s your relationship with your mother these days?’; ‘When was the last time you cried?’ Fellow guests will think you’re insane, but the answers are never boring.”
  • Know when to make your escape. If you’re really getting nowhere with the small talk, then extract yourself. “I often do the discrete handoff,” says event planner Deborah Williamson. “I’ll see a group of friends and introduce the person to everyone. After a few minutes, I’ll excuse myself and dash off.” If that fails, fake it. “I pretend to look for someone specific,” says Marjorie Gubelmann, a New York City social fixture who goes to countless parties every year. “I’ll say, ‘I’m looking for Dorothy—it’s always Dorothy. And then a few minutes later, I’ll apologize, excuse myself, and leave to go find Dorothy.” And the last resort? “Apologize and say you must find the ladies’ room,” says Gubelmann. Go in (even if it’s just to apply lipstick), then bump into someone else on your way out.

For this article and others at Allure Magazine:

http://www.allure.com/beauty/blogs/reporter/2010/12/how-to-start-a-conversation.html

{Advice We Love}: Selecting the Right Wedding Officiant

Selecting the Right Wedding Officiant

Yolanda Shoshana (Luscious Lifestyle Diva)

It is always interesting when a bride-to-be waits till the last minute to find an officiant. This may not be the best move, especially if you are getting married during the popular wedding months. The best officiants get booked fast, and you just may end up with an officiant you have to settle on. You work hard to plan everything so that it is a perfect day, so why should your wedding officiant blow it? A wedding officiant sets the tone and pace of the wedding ceremony, so you will want the right one standing before you.

It is important that you and your partner decide what type of ceremony you want to have such as interfaith, spiritual, traditional, etc. before you select an officiant. Feel free to think outside of the box with what you want in a ceremony; you really can have exactly what you want. Having in mind the type of ceremony you want will help you narrow down your search for an officiant.

Find out what the state you live in requires in the qualification of an officiant. Each state has its own rules when it comes to who can officiate weddings. For example, in New York State anyone you choose can marry you, but in New York City it’s a whole other case. The person officiating the wedding has to be registered with the court. If you live in a state where it is required for the person to be registered, they should be able to supply you with a number from the court, so make sure you check the number to confirm they are legit. The last thing you need is to find out on your ten-year anniversary that “technically” you aren’t considered married. Check the officiant number.

You should question how much the officiant is willing to customize the wedding ceremony. There are officiants who will create one ceremony and use it for every couple that they marry. Talk about boring and impersonal. Then there are officiants like me who specialize in creating customized ceremonies. In a customized ceremony, you can add prose, poems, songs, have dancing bears, that basically allow your imagination to run wild. Also, find out if you want your friends and family to play an active role in your ceremony and see how the officiant feels about that. These are important questions to ask when you interview. The officiant should be incorporating your vision into the ceremony.

Personality is key when selecting an officiant. For the most part, when you interview the officiant, what you see is what you get. Choosing someone with personality will ensure that your ceremony is unique, plus there is nothing worse than an officiant so boring that everyone at the ceremony is falling asleep. Everyone has been to a boring wedding; you know you don’t want that to be you.

Last but not least, find an officiant who makes you feel comfortable. Don’t forget that the officiant works for you, not the other way around. It is your big day, one to remember forever.