Champagne: Perfect for your Oscar successes and failures


Soon, Academy Award winners will be popping open some bubbly and the runners-up will be drowning their sorrows. What Champagne or other sparkling wines should they have on ice while they wait on Oscar? Better yet, what about you? 

Looking for ideas, the Journal turned to Michael Bernstein, 35, proprietor of The Cask on Pico Boulevard, which has nearly 500 wine titles and is the largest all-kosher wine and spirits shop on the West Coast.

JEWISH JOURNAL: What’s the best kosher Champagne to celebrate an Oscar win?

MICHAEL BERNSTEIN: Hands down, the Oscar would go to the Laurent-Perrier Rosé ($150).

JJ: What makes it so special?

MB: When you taste it, you know it.

JJ: What’s the best to serve at an Oscar party?

MB: If you are looking for a cheaper Champagne, then I would go with a Drappier Carte d’Or for $55, but a sparkling wine like a Yarden Blanc de Blanc for $35 or a Bartenura Prosecco for $19 are also great options, depending on your budget. 

JJ: Is there any difference in the process for making kosher Champagne?

MB: No. The process only needs to be worked on by Shabbos-observant Jews.

JJ: What is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

MB: Real Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France. Sparkling wines can come from anywhere else in the world. Prosecco, like Champagne, France, is a region in Italy.

JJ: What are the qualities of a good sparkling wine?

MB: I think it comes down to personal preference. Me, personally, I look for a more full-bodied, citrus style. I’m also a sucker for a good rosé, both sparkling and non.

JJ: What are your favorite Israeli sparkling wines?

MB: I mentioned the Yarden Blanc de Blancs. Their brut and rosé, I think, are fantastic.

JJ: Why is Champagne so expensive? Isn’t it the same grape juice as white wine?  

MB: I think originally Champagne became so expensive because it’s what was served to kings and queens during celebrations. That being said, sparkling wines have made tremendous growth in the past 100 years and don’t come with the hefty price tag that Champagnes have.

JJ: What about Bartenura? Does that count as sparkling wine?

MB: The Bartenura Moscato (in the blue bottle) is considered a frizzante wine, and is not considered a [full] sparkling wine. However, Bartenura does make a sparkling prosecco, a sparkling Moscato, a sparkling Moscato rosé and an Asti Spumante. 

JJ: Why is Bartenura so popular?

MB: I believe it all gets credited to the rappers. … Drake, Rick Ross, DJ Khaled and Lil Wayne. While they might not seem like poster boys for a sweet kosher wine, the Bartenura Moscato was featured in [DJ Khaled’s] “I’m on One” video and that, I think, opened the doors to an entirely different clientele for the company. 

JJ: What’s your top-selling sparkling wine?

MB: Sparkling: Bartenura Prosecco. Champagne: Drappier Carte d’Or.

JJ: What kind of sparkling wine is best for cocktails?

MB: I think prosecco is the best to use for cocktails. It tastes good, and most of them don’t break the bank.

JJ: What’s your favorite Champagne cocktail?

MB: I think mimosas are probably my favorite — easy to make and delicious!

JJ: What will you be drinking on Oscar night?

MB: I’ll probably have a scotch in hand, as a toast to Leo’s [DiCaprio] first-ever statue, and rooting for Jennifer Lawrence to win her second. (I’m a big fan!) 

MIMOSAS

Makes 8 Mimosa Cocktails

  • 1 750 ml bottle chilled dry sparkling wine
  • 3 cups and 8 teaspoons (750 ml) chilled orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) of triple sec (optional)

 

Fill 8 champagne flutes half-full with chilled sparkling wine. Top with orange juice. Top each mimosa with 1 tablespoon of triple sec (optional).

For 1 Mimosa Cocktail

  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) chilled dry sparkling wine
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) chilled orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) triple sec (optional)

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 27- Jan. 2: Hot Rod Chanukah, Moroccan New Years Eve


SAT | DECEMBER 27

(CHANUKAH BASH)
The week has been loaded with holiday merrymaking, but if you’ve got a drop of energy left, you’ll want to make it last all night long at the Hot Rod Chanukah Party hosted by The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division and Birthright ” target=”_blank”>http://www.birthrightisrael.com. Non-alumni may buy tickets at ibakal@alpertjcc.org. circle@circlesocal.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jclla.org.

(CHANUKAH)
Nope, the Chanukah celebrations aren’t over yet. That’s one of the great things about being Jewish, isn’t it? Instead of one night of merriment, the parties just go on and on and on… Jumping right in is the Israel division of The Jewish Federation/ Valley Alliance, which is throwing its own holiday family festival complete with a magician, festive singing, a menorah-lighting ceremony, and — old magazines? Actually, attendees are asked to bring some along to turn them into a menorah. Not to worry, there will be expert magazine-menorah-makers on hand to help with the project. Sun. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3206. sbjts@cox.net.

(WOMEN)
JConnect is no stranger to bringing L.A.’s Jewish community together, but this gathering is for women only. As part of their monthly women’s gathering series, guest speaker Tova Hinda Siegel will be discussing “A Light Unto Our Nation: Are WE Women the Guiding Light?” Siegel, a certified midwife and very active in the city’s Jewish community, is in a unique position to discuss women and their relationship to Israel. The conversation will take place over a kosher potluck brunch, so make sure to bring along your favorite dish. Sun. 11:45 a.m. Only cost is your contribution to the potluck. JConnectLA, 1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 322, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P to Michal@JConnectLA.com for the exact address of the event. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>Fuel in Studio City into a Moroccan-style lair of rich tapestries, lush cushions and sensuous belly dancers. The feast will not be limited to just your eyes: There will also be a decadent kosher Moroccan buffet by Bazilikum Caterers and Chef Sharon On, a free hookah patio with a variety of sweet flavors and a champagne toast at midnight. Sababa’s loyal DJ duo, Ziv and Titus, will be spinning ’70s, ’80s, hip-hop, dance, house and plenty of hip Israeli crowd-pleasers. Part of the proceeds from this relatively affordable NYE bash (a nod to the struggling economy) will be donated to Yad B’Yad, a nonprofit that provides services to abused children in Israel. 21 and over. Wed. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $48 (prepaid via PayPal), $58 (at the door). Club Fuel, 11608 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (310) 657-6650. ” target=”_blank”>http://geffenplayhouse.com; ” target=”_blank”>http://www.elportaltheatre.com.

FRI | JANUARY 2

(SHABBAT LECTURE)
Rabbi YY, as Yehuda Yonah Rubinstein is fondly known, is one of the most requested Jewish speakers in the United Kingdom. There, he is a regular broadcaster on national radio and television and was named one of the top five people in Britain to turn to for advice by the Independent newspaper. He has written innumerable essays and a couple of books, including “Dancing Through Time” and “That’s Life.” Jewish Learning Exchange is hosting this veteran public speaker and teacher with a gift for fusing Torah, modern-day challenges and humor at a special weekend starting tonight. Rubinstein will lead Melava Malka on Saturday night and speak on the subject of what Judaism says about dreams. Guests are asked to specify if they need sleeping accommodations and/or meals. Fri.-Sat. $36. Jewish Learning Exchange, 512 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323) 857-0923 or e-mail info@jlela.com to register and to receive a detailed schedule. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.tebh.org.

The best of the kosher bubblies


When Champagne producers first marketed their product with enthusiasm in the late 19th century, they avoided the intentionally staid campaigns for Bordeaux’s red wines, which were represented as distinctively male.

The Champagne manufacturers targeted men and women alike through a variety of methods, including posters and labels featuring images of sporting events and leisure as well as scenes of romantic love.

Appeals to the middle class as well as the aristocracy helped Champagne become a mainstay of toasting at almost any occasion, from launching ships to celebrating a marriage. And with the June wedding season upon us, there is little time to waste in selecting the perfect bottle of bubbly to toast your nuptials.

When I recently put in a call to the distributor of some kosher wines, I told him that we were planning to launch a ship and were in need of some kosher Champagne. Happily, the samples arrived after Pesach, and the great Jewish seafaring tradition can continue into the new millennium.

Contrary to popular belief, Dom Pérignon, the 17th century Benedictine monk who was the cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvilliers, in the rolling hills above Épernay in the Champagne district of southeastern France, did not invent the drink we now know as Champagne. He did, however, make many refinements to the winemaking process, including the introduction of heavier English glass to support the pressure of the carbonation created by a secondary fermentation in the bottle.

For the record, the Champagne region has a trademark on the use of the terms “Champagne” and “methode Champenois,” which is very strictly enforced. Only 12 percent of the sparkling wine sold across the globe is technically Champagne from Champagne; the rest is grouped under the category of sparkling wine. In general, the best sparkling wines are from Champagne.

If the so-called Champagne you see at the market was made in Bayonne, N.J., run as if you were being chased by a mob of angry, pitchfork-wielding, trademark-enforcing French farmers.

I put together a crack team of Jewish “Fizzicists” — including Napa Valley winemaker Robert Sinskey, and Laurent Masliah, proprietor of A Cow Jumped Over the Moon, a kosher wine, cheese and chocolate shop in Beverly Hills — to taste some kosher and non-kosher sparklers. This was by no means a comprehensive tasting, but there are presently so few kosher Champagnes that the 11 bottles we had on ice represented a good sampling of what is available. You might have to be Jewish to love some of these bubblies, but there were a few that truly stood out.

We started off by tasting some inexpensive bottles and it was immediately clear that you get what you pay for. I am a firm believer that one can find great values in all kinds of wines, but one should never, ever try to get away with something and drink cheap bubblies. Some of these wines were truly awful. I can only imagine what kind of celebration they might denote: “The market crashed! Let’s open some fizzy swill to mark the occasion, honey!” If you served this at a wedding, the message would be: “mazel tov, but not too much.”

We tried a range of styles, from Bartenura’s Italian Proseco ($15), which was deemed “light and nice,” to an Israeli sparkler by Carmel called “President” ($12), which had all the charm of drinking effervescent haberdashery cologne. A Napa Blanc de Blancs from Baron Herzog ($20) was passable if you weren’t too discriminating, but the Pommery ($60) was possibly corked (though no one could recall another bottle of corked Champagne), surprisingly tannic and bitter on the finish. It would have been bitterly disappointing, too, but we still had low expectations — and the wines were doing little to dissuade us from this opinion.

That changed when we opened a bottle of Laurent-Perrier nonvintage Brut ($65) that was noticeably softer and more developed than the others. “This is Champagne!” declared my mother-in-law, getting into the spirit of the thing at bottle No. 9. We opened a comparable bottle of nonkosher Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut ($45) to serve side by side, and our group unanimously preferred the kosher selection. Laurent-Perrier also makes a big-ticket rose Champagne ($100), which is widely considered the top of the line, but again my panel liked the Brut best.

Our last wine of the night was an Asti, also by Bartenura ($15), which showed good typicity. That means that if you’re inclined to like light, sweet sparkling wines, you’ll probably like this, and if not, by all means, stay away.
In the same way that the greatest praise one can bestow upon a California Chardonnay or Pinot Noir is that it is “Burgundian,” the highest compliment one can offer a kosher wine is that you’d never know it was kosher.

The history of kosher Champagne is one of the shortest chapters in the Jewish wine canon. Nicholas Feuillate, one of my favorite producers, used to make a kosher Champagne but gave up the enterprise because it was too much work to maintain two parallel operations for such a small production. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and you can expect more producers moving into the market as demand grows, with resulting higher quality.

J.D. Smith is the author of “The Best Cellar,” and a regular contributor to The Jewish Journal.

A Rehearsal Menu to Tickle Your Nose


When Dom Perignon invented the creme de la creme of spirits in the 17th century, little did he know that the drink he discovered while trying to eradicate those “irksome bubbles” from his wine would be considered so romantic that wedding guests wouldn’t think of toasting generations of brides and grooms with anything less.

Since today’s weddings are rife with new traditions, why not serve your guests a rehearsal dinner menu infused with Champagne? It will be good practice for your first official dinner as a couple — which, hopefully, you will be cooking together. While it seems extravagant to heat a liquid so precious — it has sold for as much as $25,000 a bottle — chefs praise the celebratory results.

Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica cooks with Champagne for the same reason he uses fresh truffles or searches out the best foie gras or caviar.

“A dish is only as elegant as its ingredients,” he said. “Champagne adds a touch of romance, a certain finesse. Its subtle acidity is the perfect foil for butter, which is why I use it in beurre blanc and other fish sauces.”

Citrin often cooks with a more moderately priced Champagne, then finishes the dish with a splash of a more expensive variety.

When deciding on which label of Champagne or sparkling wine to cook with, it’s important to really like the flavor, said Finbar Kinsella, chef at Lily’s in Louisville.

“It doesn’t have to be as expensive as the Champagne you’ll be drinking, but if you don’t like it in the glass you won’t like it on your plate,” he said. “The myth that the taste will be diffused in the cooking process is just that.”

For kosher consumers, wineries such as Baron Herzog, Hagafen, Abarbanel and Yarden make very good Champagnes.

Cooking with the world’s most celebratory drink is perfect for a wedding, New York chef Jerome Vidy said.

Originally from Apt, in the south of France, Vidy remembers, “It’s very French to always have a bottle of wine in the house, but if there’s a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge, you know something special is coming up. Carrying over the flavor from your flute to your plate is a wonderful way to toast your love.”

Vidy emphasizes the care aspect of cooking with Champagne since its sparkle rarely lasts more than a half hour.

“Assemble your ingredients, pop the cork and then use it immediately. In between additions, keep it in a cool place. Of course it’s fun to get a head start on celebrating by drinking and toasting as you cook,” he said.

Champagne Leek Soup With Caviar

From Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse Restaurant, Santa Monica.

Soup

1 cup white onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5 tablespoons butter, or more if needed, divided

2 quarts diced leeks, white part only

Salt to taste

1 cup Champagne

2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 quart vegetable stock

2 cups water

1/2 cup cream

Garnish

1 cup diced leeks, white part only

1/2 cup cream

1 cup diced white potatoes

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup Champagne

2 ounces kosher caviar

On a low flame sweat onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until translucent, about two minutes, adding more butter if the mixture gets dry. Add leeks and a pinch of salt; continue cooking two minutes longer. Add 1 cup Champagne, raise heat, and reduce the mixture by half, making sure it doesn’t boil. Add Yukon potatoes, thyme, vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream. Bring to a boil again, immediately reduce heat to a simmer; cook for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth. Strain through a chinois sieve.

For garnish, sweat leeks in butter, about three to four minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream; cook until leeks are soft, about two minutes more. Boil potatoes with thyme and bay leaf until just cooked through. Drain and add white potatoes to leek-cream mixture. Mix well.

Heat soup; add 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 1/4 cup Champagne. Blend until light and frothy. Pour into a warmed soup tureen. Reheat leek mixture, adding a bit of butter, if needed.

To serve, place about 1 tablespoon of the leek mixture in the center of six soup bowls. Garnish with caviar. Carefully ladle the soup around the leeks so that the garnish is floating on top.

Makes six servings.

Spinach and Mesclun Salad With Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette

Adapted from New York chef Jerome Vidy.

For Champagne tarragon vinegar

1 pint Champagne vinegar

1 cup Champagne

1/2 cup tarragon, thyme, and parsley sprigs

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

1 teaspoon red, white and black peppercorns

For Champagne tarragon vinaigrette

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Champagne tarragon vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chopped shallots

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

For salad

8 cups loosely packed greens

2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)

2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)

For Champagne tarragon vinegar, pour vinegar and Champagne into a sterilized jar. Add herb sprigs along with garlic and peppercorns. Store in cool place for four weeks. When vinegar is finished strain out the herbs, garlic and peppercorns.

For Champagne tarragon vinaigrette, place olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and shallots in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to blend thoroughly. Stir in herbs just before dressing salad.

Toss with spinach, mache, mesclun, and, if desired, pine nuts and cranberries.

Makes six servings.

Halibut a L’armoricaine

From Uwe Nettelbeck of Merigot, France. If halibut is unavailable, use another densely fleshed fish such as sea bass. Armagnac is an earthy tasting type of brandy, made in Armagnac, France. Or substitute with a liqueur of your choice.

2 large shallots, peeled and sliced

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

8 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and halved

2 cups good fish stock

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup Champagne

2 tablespoons Armagnac

2 pounds boneless and skinless halibut fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons each parsley, chervil and tarragon, chopped

In a separate pan, sauté shallots and garlic in butter until translucent. Turn heat to low, add tomatoes; cook five minutes longer. Add fish stock, white wine, and Armagnac. Turn heat to medium, add salt and reduce by half. Lower heat, add halibut to liquid. Cook gently for about six to eight minutes, until fish is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook.

Remove fish to platter. Lower heat; add cream, half the parsley, chervil, and tarragon. Gently cook until you have a thick cream sauce. Add fish back into sauce; heat through and serve. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley.

Makes four servings.

Champagne-Honey Granita

From Vincent Scotto, executive chef at Gonzo Restaurant, New York City.

This smoothing, refreshing granita is delicious served with berries or sliced fruit. You can substitute sparkling wine for the Champagne.

1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry Champagne

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup honey

In a bowl combine Champagne, lemon juice and honey. Stir until honey dissolves. Transfer to a shallow stainless steel pan that fits easily into the freezer.

Freeze for about an hour. Remove and, using a pastry scraper or metal spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the granita, mixing the frozen particles into the less frozen center.

Freeze for about two hours longer and scrape again. Let the granita freeze for three to four hours longer, until completely frozen. Chop the granita into pieces and serve immediately or return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Makes about two quarts.

Gonzo Bellini

From executive chef Vincent Scotto of Gonzo Restaurant, New York City.

1 pint strawberries or peaches

1/4 cup sugar

2 bottles Champagne.

Puree strawberries or peaches; place in pan with the sugar; bring to boil, cool. Add ice and Champagne.

Champagne Apricot Truffles

From Kathy Cary, chef-owner of Lilly’s Restaurant, Louisville. The recipe was inspired by Camille Glenn, the dowager of Southern cookbook writers.

1 cup dried apricots, cut into sixths

1 cup Champagne, or more to cover the apricots

1 pound bitter chocolate

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup Champagne

1/4 pound shelled pistachios, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

Place apricots in a bowl. Add enough Champagne to cover. Soak apricots in Champagne overnight.

To make ganache, melt chocolate in a double boiler. In a separate saucepan warm cream to about the same temperature as the chocolate. Whip the cream into the chocolate mixture. Remove from stove. Add 1/2 cup Champagne to the ganache mixture. Cool.

With a small scoop, shape dollops of the chocolate mixture into walnut-sized balls. Press a few pieces of Champagne-soaked apricots into each of the balls. Roll completed balls in pistachios to coat the balls.

Makes about three dozen truffles.

 

Attending to Gifts


Your wedding party is an entourage of childhood friends, college roommates, siblings and other close family members. Most have been by your side, contributing their time, energy and love throughout the entire wedding planning process. So, when the big event is about to happen, how best can brides and grooms offer their thanks?

As one would when shopping for any gift, it’s best to keep each individual in mind, choosing imaginative and stylish gifts that come from the heart, say bridal advisers at theknot.com.

Are traditional gifts the way to go?

“Brides can give the bridesmaids something to wear on the wedding day such as a necklace or earrings,” said Kathleen Murray, weddings editor at The Knot. “For the guys, a wine set, Swiss Army knife and golf kits are great traditional ideas.”

Looking for something a little trendier?

Owen Halpern, co-owner of OwenLawrence, an Atlanta boutique, prides himself on offering shoppers items they won’t see in every other shop.

For bridal attendant gifts he suggests a crystal bedside carafe, Italian crystal clocks by Arnolfo Di Cambio or beautifully boxed Italian vodka shot glasses by Salviati — all gift items that are as special as the occasion they mark.

He also said people are “loving” gift items called Elton Rocks, made out of colored, scented resin — “sort of an alternative to potpourri.” (According to Halpern, Elton John allowed his name to be used on the product because a portion of the proceeds are donated to his AIDS foundation.)

Halpern indulges OwenLawrence shoppers with champagne or signature bellinis, offered “only in crystal with linen napkins — no paper or plastic,” to help everyone enjoy “the finer things in life.”

“It’s a stressful time. Brides and grooms can relax and enjoy the shopping experience,” Halpern said.

Anything monogrammed is also popular for attendant gifts.

“Monogramming anything from jewelry to flasks to sandals for a beach wedding is hot right now,” Murray said.

While fountain pens may have become the joke of traditional bar mitzvah gifting, pens are popular as gifts for grooms’ attendants.

“We’ve sold everything form Mont Blanc, Cross and Watermans to Parker and Cartier. Generally we engrave initials of the groomsmen. It’s a small gift, but it’s a valued one,” said Steve Light of Artlite.

No matter how much appreciation you might want to lavish upon your bridal attendants, the sheer quantity can tally a daunting price tag. Be sure to ask yourself how much you plan — and can afford — to spend.

Murray normally advises bridal couples to spend what they can, but on average it’s usually $75 per person. The best man and matron or maid of honor should get something a little more lavish.

Yet, if a tight budget is cramping your style, there are great ways to get by.

Inexpensive gifts for bridesmaids can include an engraved silver photo frame or compact mirror, nice jewelry or beautiful candles.

For groomsmen, engraved pewter beer steins, silver pocketknives or cigar holders are usually low-priced.

Murray says it’s all about being a smart shopper.

“Inexpensive gifts are really just being able to find a great buy,” she said. “The bride may find a bracelet worth thousands of dollars, but if they look harder, they can find one for a lot less.”

Of course, if you decide to splurge on the wedding party, the options are endless. “The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World” offers ideas ranging from remote control cars for guys, a certificate for an acclaimed restaurant or spa certificates to tickets to a game or play, silk pajamas, beauty baskets or cigars.

For bridesmaids, Murray says classes are always a popular item.

“Cooking, wine tasting, photography classes are all great options,” she said. “Again, base your decision upon each bridesmaid’s specific interest. For groomsmen, look into golf or ski lessons or even a bottle or case of wine from a great vineyard.”

Still stuck on what to get? Consider using your own talents. Artists can create drawings, paintings or pottery, while musicians can create a CD of their own music.

“If a couple does not feel they have such talents, or do not have time to make their gifts, they can have gift baskets created that are personalized to each attendants’ tastes and interests,” Murray said.

Laura Vogltanz of Copley News Service contributed to this article.