Celebrate with Cremant

Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux, a bubbly that won’t break the bank

So, I’m alive and well and the family ditto and I’m grateful for that, but, tbh, it’s been a while since I felt, you know, actually stoked. Like I think the last time I felt that little electric stab in the ribs that I interpret as “heart leaping for joy,” was round about July when the Instacart shopper guy texted “good TP in stock.”*

So, the other day when I finished a big project, a week ahead of deadline, too, I decided to administer a bit of course correction. No, I didn’t feel like breaking out the Champagne, didn’t even feel particularly joyous, but gosh darn it, it was a milestone and It Would Be Marked.

So I reached for a bottle of something that is just the ticket when you want to celebrate without making a huge song and dance about it, Cremant de Limoux. 

Cremant refers to French sparkling wine that is made in the same manner as Champagne but is not from that specific (and rather expensive) region. Limoux is in Southern France, nestled next to the Pyrenees and is famous for a type of bubbly called Blanquette de Limoux, made by monks at St. Hilaire Abbey in the 16th century. The story in Limoux is that Dom Perignon (the Champagne guy) visited and picked up a few ideas. Probs not true? But fun.

Blanquette de Limoux is made primarily from the local Mauzac grape and has a distinctive, apple cider-y tang. But in the ‘90s, producers started making the more modern Cremant, which includes international varieties such as Chardonnay. It’s a lovely, crisp and dry expression of sparkling wine and it’s a bargain to boot. Here’s a story I wrote about the region. 

I discovered my most recent Limoux gem at my local wine shop here in Berkeley—Domaine Collin, founded by Philippe Collin in the 1980s, The Domaine Collin cuvée tradition is $15 and it is classic, balanced and smooth. It’s made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc with a bit of Pinot Noir thrown in and it tastes light and fresh with notes of green (but not sour) apple and tangy, juicy lemon.

Just the thing for celebrating a job well done—or at least done—without feeling self-conscious about it.

*Reader, we did, indeed buy that TP and after the absolutely dire 2-ply nightmare we’d resorted to in the Great Panic it was pure heaven. A positive Taittinger of toilet tissue. 

Fall For Tahoe

Fringed by snow or gleaming cobalt blue under sunny skies, Lake Tahoe is a favorite in summer and winter. But there’s a third side to Tahoe: fall.

As crowds thin out, the region seems to take a breath as it prepares for the seasonal switchover from camping and sailing to ski runs and cozy chalet evenings. Trails are roomier, rates cheaper and the lake waters are beautiful but bracing. All this and leaf-peeping, too.

Here are some suggestions.

Click here to READ MORE of this story, published by Associated Press

Zoom in on Zaragoza

 

ZARAGOZA, Spain — Stepping out on a lazy Sunday, I stroll past remnants of a Roman wall and watch couples taking selfies with a statue of city namesake Caesar Augustus. Then I’m brought up short by the shimmering reflection of a 16th-century tower caught on the sleek glass walls of a very modern fountain celebrating the Hispanic world.

That’s 2,000-odd years of history in about a block, and just one of the reasons Zaragoza should be on your list of Spanish cities to explore.

Sure, it may be best known as the halfway point between Madrid and Barcelona. But with its treasure trove of architecture, art (and tapas, too), Zaragoza is worth a closer look.

Click here to read this story, published by Associated Press.

Summer of Love

 

Much has changed since the Summer of Love blossomed 50 years ago, bringing thousands of young people to San Francisco, drawn by an underground culture embracing love, peace and music.

Today San Francisco is known more as an incubator of tech startups than as a cradle of counterculture. The shabby Victorians along Haight Street that were once low-rent havens for the likes of the Grateful Dead now go for well over $1 million.

Even a half century ago, the quest for utopia was fleeting. By October, the “death of the hippie” was marked with a mock funeral in the Haight.

But there are still traces of that psychedelic season, along with a few new attractions rolled out specifically for the anniversary. If you’re going to San Francisco, with or without a flower in your hair, here are a few ways to tune in to the spirit of ’67.

Click here to read this story, published by Newsday.

Nigeria’s No. 1 Street Food

As a child visiting Nigeria, Kwame Onwuachi desperately wanted to eat beef suya, the country’s ubiquitous grilled street snack seasoned with ground nuts and spices. Except his grandfather forbade it, disapproving of street food.

“It actually made it more appealing,” he says.

Years later, the “Top Chef” alumnus and former cook at New York’s Eleven Madison Park returned to Nigeria and immediately sought out the formerly forbidden delight, making friends with a baggage guy at the airport who took him to his favorite suya spot.

The street vendor scene reminded Onwuachi of Thailand: “A lot of darkness and then, out of nowhere, a pocket of lights with many stalls selling the same thing, but with their own twist.”

There was a man, a grill, a counter covered with newspaper. “One, please!”

Click here to read the rest of this story, published in Milk Street Magazine. (subscription required)

 

Claire Ptak wants to change the way you bake

Inside Claire Ptak’s white stucco East London bakery, Violet, staff are moving in careful syncopation. From the open doorway to the small kitchen and café, freshly baked feta-sour cream-and-chive scones and herb-laced quiches call to a steady stream of customers who stop to chat with Ptak and admire 5-month-old daughter Frances West, sitting in her lap.

A native Californian, Ptak is a rising star on the culinary scene—hailed by Jamie Oliver as “one of my all-time favorite cake-makers.” But Violet and Ptak are about more than being an of-the-moment patisserie. It is here that she carries out a fairly revolutionary approach to baking—Soft-whipped egg whites! Flour licking!—that sets her apart from the cookie-cutter mold.

Click here (sign up required) to read this story, published by Milk Street Magazine.