February 2012

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play with your food Simple Sips Popping the bubble on the mystery of sparkling wine By Karen Eigenberger Don't miss Eigenberger's selec- tion of the month in The Cue, BRAVA's monthly e-newsletter. Register at to receive yours! Valentine's Day is upon us, which makes a good excuse to chill a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine. Find one that's just right for you by fol- lowing these label-decoding tips. Champagne = Sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, a region with some of the best soil in the world for producing quality wines. Brut = Means dry. Extra dry = This actually less dry than brut. (Silly French! Why did they make this so complicated?) It also has a hint of sweetness. Demi-sec = Literally means half-dry and will be sweeter than "extra dry" but not as sweet as an "asti spumante." Asti spumante = A sweet sparkling wine from the Asti region of Italy. Some Enchanted Evening The recipe for a Valentine's Day to remember By Michael and Jean Muckian According to Patrick O'Halloran, there is a proper way to celebrate St. Valentine's Day at home. First, it's important to set the right mood—some candlelight and a little soft music, perhaps. But the real key is to make sure the food is something special. "Th e roses have to bloom if you want ro- mance," says O'Halloran, co-owner and head chef at Lombardino's, one of Madi- son's best Italian restaurants, speaking metaphorically. His advice: Your meal needs to be rich, yet light, an exercise in multiple courses that offers the best from both kitchen and vineyard. Food and wine can be compelling aphrodisiacs, but only if handled correctly. For the fi rst course, O'Halloran (without reservation) suggests oysters. Th e aphrodi- siac of lore, oysters also contain zinc which helps regulate progesterone and testoster- one, always important for romance. Oyster newbies may want to focus on Kumamotos, smaller oysters from the West Coast that go down clean and easy. Veter- ans should indulge in West Coast Olympic oysters or Blue Points from Boston. "Oysters involve 68 using your hands, which adds to the sensuality of any meal," BRAVA Magazine February 2012 O'Halloran says. Add to that a couple of glasses of bubbly—either Spanish or Italian sparkling wine—and you're on your way to a night you'll remember. Pasta or risotto comes next, and O'Halloran recommends Pasta al Cartoc- cio. Th e dish, baked in a parchment "bag," can be tossed with shrimp, scallops or mussels and white wine. When the bag is opened tableside, drink in the aroma of the steaming creation before enjoying an ex- cellent pasta dish. Serve with a crisp white wine, such as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, for maximum effect. For an entrée, nothing beats Bistecca alla Bismark, a beef tenderloin prepared with cracked black pepper, course salt, a drizzle of olive oil and topped with a fried egg. Th e yolk drips into the oil and, accompanied by an Italian Barolo or Brunello, creates the consummate entrée. "Best of all, if you end up in the bedroom before the entrée is served, you can always have it for breakfast," O'Halloran says. Find the recipes for these entrées on the Culturosity blog at Always reach for a sparkling wine made with the traditional method, often labeled "methode champenoise." The cheapest sparkling wines often use the "charmat" or "charmat bulk" method, which produces large bubbles that quickly dissipate. When you've found a sparkling wine that suits your tastes, serve and store it properly with these tips. Transport and store properly. Wine, especially sparkling, does not like excessive heat or cold. Open with care. After removing the foil, cover your cork with a towel as you carefully untwist the cage around it. Then slowly turn the bottle while hold- ing the cork stationary under the towel. This is less dramatic than popping the cork off, but much safer and cleaner. Serve with skill. When serving, pour a small amount in the bottom of each glass. Allow the foam to settle before continuing to fi ll. Don't save sparkling wine just for a special occasion—they are great alone and make an excellent companion with many foods. Cheers! Karen Eigenberger is partner at STEVE'S Wine-Beer-Spirits on Mineral Point Road. Visit Photo by Amber Arnold

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