Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weekly Wine - etoile Brut

etoile Brut

Professionals Say:
92 points Wine Enthusiast, December 2009
"The refined texture recommends this brut, which is mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a splash of Pinot Meunier. It’s an elegant wine, rich in citrus fruits, green apples, raspberries, smoke and creamy yeast..."

Backyards & Bottles Says:
Its the season to celebrate. While I believe you should drink sparkling wine regularly, most only enjoy it during this time of year. We discovered etoile while tasting at Domain Chandon on our first trip to Napa. On a later trip, we went by very late in our tasting day and ended up buying a bottle to drink in the beautiful outdoor setting of the winery (after being cut off in the tasting room!!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Made Easy

Hosting Thanksgiving for your friends or family is always an intimidating task. Whether it is your first time, or you have been doing it for years, it can be very nerve racking. The casual entertainer should keep in mind that this holiday is about enjoying the company of those around you, not slaving in the kitchen! Here are some tips to help you with ensuring you have time to do that:

Turkey made simple - Butterball offers a wonderful option that makes it easy for anyone to make a delicious main course for their Thanksgiving feast. The Whole Frozen Turkey is available at most grocery stores and is much easier to prepare than a traditional turkey. It is already cleaned, with the giblets packaged in a plastic bag, ready to be set aside for addition to the gravy later. Already stuffed with delicious stuffing, you can skip that messy and time consuming task as well.

Stove Top Stuffing - Having a large group over? You may want to supplement with additional stuffing. Stove Top offers a wide selection of flavors that can be prepared in less than five minutes on, you guessed it, your stove top.

Brocolli Puff - One of the keys to enjoying Thanksgiving is finding recipes that can be prepared in advance and reheated the day of the event. This puff is perfect for that. It can be cooked the night before, refrigerated and then heated for 10 to 15 minutes just before you invite your guests to sit down for dinner.

Dessert Done Right - Don’t spend the meal worried about when to start baking dessert. Use a prepared pie that will satisfy everyone. Either buy one at your local bakery, or use this frozen option that everyone will think is homemade. Mrs Smith’s pies are delicious and simple to prepare. In most cases, just take the pie out of the freezer when everyone finishes the main meal. An hour later, when there is just a bit of room in your guests stomachs, the pies will be ready.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekly Wine - Cristalino Brut Cava


Professionals Say:
91 Points Wine & Spirits

Backyards & Bottles Says:
Cristalino is a very inexpensive (around $8) sparkling wine. And it’s delicious! With the holidays approaching, knowing which of the inexpensive options for bubbly will satisfy your guests is very important. When you serve this one, they will never know it is not a high end bottle. We stocked the limo at our wedding with Cristalino. Our wedding party enjoyed it for hours. Now we serve it whenever we have a party.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall Theme Party - Alphabet Beer

You can never go wrong with a theme party. It makes the preparations easier for you and your guests. And it is always fun when it is a unique theme that gives everyone something to talk about. Here is a good one for the fall - Alphabet Beer!

Fall is the perfect time to throw a party centered around consuming beer. The leaves are turning the amber color of a Killian’s. Football and tailgating encompass most weekends, And most breweries have released a tasty seasonal ale. Instead of throwing the same old football viewing party, add Alphabet Beer for an exciting twist.

So how does it work? It is very simple. Tell your guests in advance to bring a six pack of beer with a name that coincides with a particular letter of the alphabet. This technique will ensure you have a variety of beverages that your guests will be excited to try and they will not feel like you simply called the event BYOB, you invited them to participate in a game. How do you decide which letter to assign to each guest? Make it personal! Here’s a list of topics for guests to use the first letter of:
    College they attended
    Their middle name
    A childhood pet
    City they were born in
    Street they grew up on
    Name of their first kiss
    Favorite restaurant

Not only will your guests enjoy tasting a large selection of new beers, but they will also have a built in conversation starter.

Have ideas for other categories to use? Share them here!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekly Wine - Beaujolais Nouveau

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

Professionals Say:
Kind of crazy, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews of this wine. Guess you will have to be satisfied with our thoughts.

Backyards & Bottles Says:
This wine is a treat mainly because you can only buy it a couple weeks out of the year. It hits the shelves of wine stores around the world on the third Thursday of November. Here in the US, just in time to be purchased to drink on Thanksgiving. It’s a light wine, perfect for someone just getting accustomed to drinking reds. I had it for the first time in college, at a boyfriend’s parents house. They were French and seemed to be ok with me having wine even though I was underaged, which at the time was shocking to me. Since then, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for my first ever red wine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weekly Wine - Napa Cellars Zinfandel

Napa Cellars Zinfandel

Professionals Say:
90 Points Connoisseurs Guide “12% Petite Sirah. Rife with the vital and keenly defined, black-berry fruit that is the hallmark of good Zinfandel, this particular effort is made richer yet by its very deft appointment of sweet oak, and it proves to be a wine of uncommonly well-integrated pieces. Slightly supple, carefully balanced and firming up right when it should, it has the presence and polish to make it useful right now but enough depth and potential to reward another few years of patience.”

Backyards & Bottles Says:
We enjoy all of the wines from Napa Cellars, but the Zinfandel is by far out favorite. The distinctive label drew us in, but the taste kept up coming back. Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to find. Many retail outlets carry other Napa Cellars wines, but if you are looking for the Zin, head for an online retailer like

Friday, October 29, 2010

Keep the bowls full

You know when you go to a party and you keep thinking to yourself how great everything looks? Well, I do. I’m always taking note of ideas to “borrow” from great entertainers. One thing I’ve started to notice is that it is often the little details that really make a big difference. Whether you love outdoor entertaining with neighborhood bbq’s in your backyard or a small gathering in the comfort of your living room, this is always important.

One of those little details in keeping the bowls full.

Sounds crazy and pretty time consuming, right? It is, but it ensures your party will look flawless. Empty bowls look messy on the picnic table or the coffee table. When things like chips start to get towards the bottom of the bowl, they look broken and unappetizing. Items that taste best when they are cold or warm have an opportunity to stay that way.

Here’s what to do:
- Ensure you put out only a portion of what you have prepared.
- Make your serving dishes look full, but not overflowing.
- Keep a close eye on when things start to look a bit empty and refill.
- When you run out of an item, remove the serving dish.

I’ve seen this done well a few times, but the best was when the host hired help. That allowed them to enjoy their guests and have a flawless looking presentation. Expensive, but potentially worth it for certain occasions. A more budget (and time) conscious way to pull this off is limiting the number of items you serve, and keep back up bowls prepared that can easily be swapped out.

Happy entertaining!