Food Friday: Bubbly Self Care


We are in the midst of the annual holiday frenzy. There was an ad in my print paper this morning advising potential advertisers that the newspaper office will be closing at 4:30 on Friday afternoon so all those wacky journalists could attend the company holiday party. At 4:30. Wowsers.

I don’t have high stakes holiday office parties like that. Before opening the Spy’s much lauded Test Kitchen, one of my office parties consisted of inviting a friend over to have a beer and watch Leslie Warren’s Cinderella on our new fangled VCR. This year I am going all out and practising a new buzz word – I am going to self care. This Friday I am going to kick back and pop open a bottle of bubbly and watch the original Upstairs, Downstairs for a couple of episodes. There is nothing that makes me feel like a grubby, indulgent, middle-class American faster than Upstairs, Downstairs.

Prosecco or Champagne? It’s a personal choice. I am hugely impressed by a stately bottle of Veuve Cliquot, and would probably serve it to Mr. Hudson, the butler from Upstairs, Downstairs, if he ever came to call. But I find a pretty orange label on a bottle of Mionetto just as appealing. Lady Marjorie, also from 165 Eaton Place, would never comment on the lower price point. She would be pleased just to loosen her corset stays and have a second glass. Relief is on its way! And then Lady Marjorie will tell me to relax, and to enjoy myself a little bit. “You never know when disaster will strike,” she confides. (Lady Marjorie went down on Titanic, so she has some experience with life changing moments.) Mr. Hudson would tell me to pull up my bootstraps.

The Christmas cookies will be baked next week. In the meantime, it is Friday night, and it has been a long week. It’s time to take care of ourselves for once. This is an unusual undertaking that could be shared with a couple of discreet elves. Instead pouring a glass of my usual cheap winter Malbec, I thought I should test some seasonal cocktail recipes to get into the holiday spirit. These are crowd pleasers, but they require a little planning.

French 75s

“Hits with remarkable precision.”
Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book

2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 spoonful extra fine sugar

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice until chilled and well-mixed and then pour into tall glass containing cracked ice and fill up the glass with Champagne. This clever cocktail was said to have been devised during WWI, the kick from the alcohol combo being described as powerful as the French 75mm howitzer gun.

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
–Winston Churchill

Champagne Cocktail

In a Champagne glass add a teaspoon of sugar and enough Angostura bitters to melt the sugar. Add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier or cognac and mix in with the sugar, bitters mix. Add a “fine” quality Champagne and stir. Float a slice of thin orange on top. This is what Ilsa and Victor Laszlo sipped in Casablanca.

“A cause may be inconvenient, but it’s magnificent. It’s like Champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it.”
-Arnold Bennett

As always, our festive friends at Food52 have some delightful ideas for nibbles to help soak up some of the bubbly we are sure to be drinking on Christmas.

On a recent trip to food-forward-thinking-Charleston, friends ordered Aperol and Prosecco cocktails, because they are oh, so trendy. I did not realize that this is the most popular cocktail in Italy. And now it can be one of yours, too!

Aperol and Prosecco

3 parts chilled, dry Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash soda
Serve with on the rocks in wine glass or rocks glass
Garnish with a slice of orange (this makes it practically health food!)

This is very pretty, and so seasonal: pomegranate mimosas. Yumsters.

And the best of both worlds: a Black Velvet! Champagne and Guinness.This drink is simply equal parts stout and sparkling wine, and to be honest, there are some who will never understand its appeal. But to fans, this is a perfect special-occasion drink, particularly suited to mornings and late afternoons. I had my first on a chilly night in London. Divine.

Black Velvet

4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Champagne or Prosecco
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Guinness Extra Stout
Pour the Champagne into a tall glass. We first had ours served in heavy pewter tankards, but at home we eschew the delicate flutes for a sturdy rocks glass. This is not an effete drink. It is robust, and fills your hand with determination. Be sure to pour the Guinness on top. (This is important: Guinness is heavier. If you pour the sparkling wine second, it won’t combine evenly, and will need to be stirred. I shudder at the thought!)

Enjoy yourself this weekend. Loosen the corset strings. And let the games begin, again, on Monday.

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. Kent County’s only Winery Crow Vineyard and Winery in Kennedyville, makes a spectacular Sparkling Vidal Blanc from grapes grown here. So great, that it won a Gold medal at the Maryland’s Governor’s Cup completion this year. If you have not had a chance to sample it, please come to the winery and we will be happy to offer you a free tasting. We are sure you will enjoy it, and appreciate that it is Maryland grown.

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