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.

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.

Gobble Gobble Time!

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, you begin to consider many things: “What do I do first? How should I decorate? What should be on my menu? Dare I attempt the Turducken?” With that in mind we at CUE thought it might be nice to offer a few suggestions to help you get in the Thanksgiving spirit.

First, let’s start with a craft project.  A cute way to spice up your Thanksgiving table is to create a Turkey Bread Basket.

Turkey Breadbasket Centerpiece

Courtesy of Familyfun.go.com

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large wooden spoon
  • Tacky glue and a glue stick
  • Pair of googly eyes
  • Pencil and scissors
  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Flat wooden craft spoon
  • Red marker
  • Colorful printed wrapping paper or pages from old magazines
  • Waxed paper
  • Thin wooden skewers (sold in the kitchen/cooking section of most grocery and department stores)
  • Basket to serve as the turkey’s body (it should be large enough to fit a loaf of bread or dinner rolls)
  • Florists’ foam or Styrofoam block (sold at many large craft or department stores) large enough to wedge into the basket
  • Cloth dinner napkin
Instructions
  1. To create the turkey’s head, turn the large wooden spoon so that the back of the bowl becomes the face. Use tacky glue to stick on the googly eyes. Then cut out a yellow construction paper beak and glue it in place.
  2. For the turkey’s wattle, use the marker to color the flat wooden craft spoon red. Glue the wattle onto the face at an angle so that the top slightly overlaps the beak. You can use a pinch-style clothespin to hold the pieces in place until the glue dries.
  3. From the construction paper, help your kids cut out lots of colored feathers that measure about 10 inches long and 1 3/4 inches across at the widest point. Cut out the same number of feathers from the wrapping paper or magazine pages, then trim them so that they are slightly smaller than the solid-colored ones.
  4. Cover a flat work surface with waxed paper (this makes for easier cleanup after applying glue), and you’re ready to assemble the feathers. For each one, place a construction paper cutout on the waxed paper and set a wooden skewer atop it so that the blunt end is just below the top of the paper and the pointed end extends about 3 inches below it.
  5. Next, use a glue stick to coat the underside of a printed feather. Then press it, glued side down, onto the construction paper feather, sandwiching the skewer between the 2 layers.
  6. Wedge the foam block into the basket (trim it first if necessary). Push the spoon handle into one end of the block deep enough to secure it. Stick the feathers into the opposite end. Cover the block with the cloth napkin, and the turkey basket is ready to fill with bread.

If you are  in the mood for a more elegant meal, then consider using a few leaves from your yard to create a subtle fall theme. Display autumn leaves beneath a sheer tablecloth and the dining room will look as brilliant as the trees in your front yard. First, place leaves between paper towels or waxed paper inside a phone book for a week to dry and smooth them. Next, if needed, use double-sided tape to attach foliage — in any grouping — to a standard white tablecloth. Then place a sheer cloth, such as organza, on top.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

You might also want to use a leaf or a sweet-gum-tree spur as a place card. Just tie a name tag with a bit of ribbon to the stem of your chosen item.

Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

Finally, no Thanksgiving is complete without a bit o’ Pumpkin Pie. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Follow the recipe below.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of 100% Pure Pumpkin or Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)

Libby's(R) Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Courtesy of AllRecipes.com

But remember, no matter what decor you choose or how many delicious treats you taste, Thanksgiving is ultimately about being grateful for the ones we care about and the meaning they bring to our lives. So, this Thanksgiving make sure to put a little extra TLC (Tender Loving Care) into each project or dish and it will certainly shine through to your loved ones!

Happy Horror Madness

Halloween is creeping around the corner and as you work your way around the crowds, through the mess they’ve left behind in the costume store, and pick out your last minute costume, you might’ve forgotten a vital component in making Halloween such a wonderful holiday – a party! The greatest thing about this day is that you can get away with doing anything from different themes to activities to food selection. Do you want to make it kid friendly? Or scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs scary? If you are still deciding and need some inspiration or just need some last minute tips, the CUE team is here to save the spooky.

As the tricks of planning are over, the treat of seeing your guests flow through the door shows off your dedication in making an unforgettable night. Now it’s your turn to relax and party like there’s no tomorrow!

xoxo,
Kiki