Ask the De­signer

Cel­e­brat­ing the Sea­son in Style

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue - Michelle M. Har­ri­son Pho­tog­ra­phy by Mara Kuhn

Cham­pagne in­stantly perks up a party. It has a life of its own and some­how seems to make me smile. Years ago, I threw a birth­day party for a dear friend dis­guised as a Christ­mas party. Com­plete with a “fake” in­vi­ta­tion for the birth­day girl. There was a feast of all things chocolate, Cham­pagne, and cheese and at some point fur­ni­ture was moved out of the way to make room for an im­promptu dance floor. It was one for the books! That party theme has been en­joyed many times since then and with­out fail, there is lots of laugh­ter, whole face smiles and warm con­ver­sa­tions. Maybe Cham­pagne bub­bles have mag­i­cal pow­ers?

Cham­pagne is a sparkling wine but not all sparkling wines are Cham­pagne. To be la­beled “Cham­pagne” it must first come from the Cham­pagne re­gion of France and pro­duced so that a sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion oc­curs in the bot­tle to cre­ate car­bon­a­tion. There are other rules, of course, but you get the idea.

Hav­ing said that, please don't let the idea of Cham­pagne make you think your menu has to be filled with things like caviar and black truf­fles. A re­cent piece in the New York Times Wine School en­cour­ages the pair­ing of Cham­pagne with foods from sushi to fried chicken, pizza, and pop­corn. But, of course! The Hot Springs Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val has been kick­ing off their fes­ti­val with a Cham­pagne and pop­corn re­cep­tion for over 20 years. Just a few months ago, a bril­liant pair of lo­cal food­ies were quite suc­cess­ful with a black truf­fle pizza.

So, let me share with you my fa­vorite, the Cham­pagne Cock­tail. Not to be con­fused with a Mi­mosa (or­ange juice), Kir Royal (Cham­bord) or Bellini (peach puree), while they are all fine ad­di­tions to any cel­e­bra­tion, but THIS is the clas­sic cock­tail. It's been around since Civil War times and can dress up even the most hum­ble selections of Cham­pagne. Ask for help at the liquor store counter if you're un­sure but know you can get a nice bot­tle for un­der $20. Choose a flute with straight sides. Drop in a sugar cube. Add a few dashes of An­gos­tura bit­ters and let them soak in for just a mo­ment. Then care­fully fill the flute with your fa­vorite bub­bly. Take care not to spill too much, it bub­bles quickly. Now, we didn't talk about how to open that bot­tle. So if you're new to that task, ex­er­cise cau­tion… no need for eye in­juries or dry­wall dam­age.

Mine is a tra­di­tional south Louisiana fam­ily and we are many in num­ber. Ev­ery other year we cel­e­brate our “big” Christ­mas. This year, marks our ma­tri­arch's 90th birth­day. As one would ex­pect, there will be a dis­turbingly long list of well-wish­ers. But even with such a large num­ber of peo­ple there will be lots of laugh­ter, whole face smiles and warm con­ver­sa­tions, and of course, a few Cham­pagne cock­tails!

So take this sea­son, and take any rea­son to cel­e­brate. Cel­e­brate birth. Cel­e­brate a home­com­ing. Cel­e­brate a loved one's rich and full life­time and cel­e­brate each other.

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