Sparkling Wines For New Year's Eve

Regardless of where or how you plan to spend this New Year's Eve, chances are, it's going to involve a toast at midnight. So might I suggest you make it count? Whether your budget's $14 or $140, I urge you to put away the overpriced and overplayed White Star, and make room for one of these bottles of bubbly. Each of these bottles made an indelible mark on my mind (and palate) in 2014; they deserve a spot at the New Year's Eve table.


Veuve Ambal Brut Blanc de Blancs NV ($13.95)


Never heard of Crémant de Borgogne? Although it's a growing category, neither have most people — and that's why it's still a spectacular value. Veuve Ambal's entry-level cuvée, a blend of 50 percent Ugni Blanc and 50 percent Chardonnay, is masterful example of the Burgundian bubbly; light-bodied, with sprightly bubbles and fruity, mouthwatering aromas, it's the kind of easy-to-drink sensation that one could enjoy for hours. 


Pere Ventura Tresor Brut Rosé Cava NV ($15.99)

Self-proclaimed "Cava missionary" Pere Ventura Vendrell exudes playfulness; the quirky proprietor of Pere Ventura hands out cards with the words "I AM" emblazoned on them. The winery's brut rosé has the same playful quality, its intense pink color hinting at a fresh strawberry bouquet and a fruity, dry finish. 

Toques et Clochers Crémant de Limoux NV ($19.95)

Crémant de Limoux is another French value outside of the Champagne category. Along with its lemony bouquet and limestone minerality, this Chardonnay-based bottle, from Toques et Clochers, offers a creamy, fine mousse and a sweet finish. A fun bonus story to share with friends: winemaker Laurent Mingaud makes sure a percentage of profits each year go to renovating one building in a Limoux village; In 2014, proceeds went to the renovation of an old church.

Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut NV ($48.99)

It's said that Queen Victoria loved Joseph Perrier (hence the name Cuvée Royale). And who could blame her? The blend of 35 percent Chardonnay, 35 percent Pinot Noir, and 30 percent Pinot Meunier invites with rich, lemon-lime aromas, refined bubbles, and a nice, long finish. 


Joseph Perrier Cuvee Josephine 2004 ($134.95)

This special cuvée, a blend of Joseph Perrier's four best Pinot Noir and four best Chardonnay crus blended together, has layers of flavor: fresh pear, soft apple spice, an extremely delicate mousse, and a lingering finish that seemingly lasts forever.


Current Fixations — December 2014

How did we get to the last month of the year already? Even if that's the question on everybody's mind, there's no use scratching your head over the answer — just stop for a split second, and soak up everything that is December: lightning sales, holiday baked goods, twinkling sidewalks, cheesy Christmas music, and the always gratifying smell of a fireplace being warmed. Oh, and the few things I'm obsessed with right now.

Big Sur Bakery's Holiday Stollen. Last year, Heidi Swanson of QUITOKEETO started selling limited amounts of Dresden-style stollen, a yeasted German bread with rum raisins, candied citrus, quince, and almond paste, from Big Sur Bakery ($30). The store ran out before I could order any, but you can get notified when the festive-looking sweet loaves are back in stock. 

Helvetica noodle tee. I already wear my heart on my sleeve, so I figure it's okay to wear noodles on my shirt, then, too. I love Helvetica and I love Japanese noodles, so when it comes to this funny statement tee ($20) from Food52, I don't see a better candidate for model than myself. This would make a mighty fine gift for friends and family, too, don't you think?

Pomegranate-accented floral arrangements. The food wasn't the only highlight at POM Wonderful's recent San Francisco event; I was so blown away by the seasonally-appropriate concept of pomegranate arils as decorative accents that I took one of the vases home. (Note that since arils are perishable, arrangements do require some upkeep.) 

OMG Everything Is Fucked mug. I just discovered the writer, illustrator, and designer Emily McDowell, who can't help but make you laugh with her descriptions of the human condition, like greeting cards that say, "There is nobody I'd rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to." I'm itching for this "Everything will be okay//OMG everything is fucked" mug ($16).  


STEM. After the Mid-Market area gentrifies, SF's going to turn all its attention toward the quickly-developing Mission Bay neighborhood. The newest restaurant to open there is STEM, a 158-seat sustainability-focused restaurant with an adjoining garden. Snag one of its excellent  salads or pizzas, then head out to the heated terrace to enjoy bocce, a fire pit, and sweeping Bay views. 

Plantains. Sure, I feel less sluggish when I cut back on the refined carbs, but what's a girl to do when she just loves all things starch? The answer is plátanos. North American cuisine doesn't give these banana look-alikes nearly enough love — I like to pan-fry them in a little bit of coconut oil with cinnamon and other winter spices sprinkled on top.