Valentine's Day is right around the corner - that traditional day of the year when if you're not dining out with your loved one you've somehow become branded a loser.
In fact, this is one of the most hellish nights to ever stake claim on a table. Restaurants are typically overcrowded, the kitchen is overwhelmed and your perfect night can quickly turn into a disaster.
My solution? Dine out another night - after all, isn't a special night out with your amour just that? Who needs the calendar to dictate happiness?
Click here for this week's recipes and techniques.
Choosing your bubbles
I will admit it: I don't clamor for bubbles like some people. Still I know what I like - and that means I drink what I like.
When I reach for a bottle of sparkling wine, I'll spend a few more bucks for an example that has character and body. Those inexpensive sparklers are fine for mass toasting and budget-driven events - but I'm seriously going to drink a sparkling wine, it's gotta get my attention.
For several years, I've pointed dozens of bubbles' curious drinkers to Gruet, a New Mexico-based vineyard that produces a nice range of sparkling wines. These juices have great aromas, drink with substance and wont' break the bank at an average price tag of just under $20. Gruet bottles a variety of styles, from classic Brut to a sweeter Demi Sec. You can read the vineyard's story and look over the range of its sparkling wines by clicking here.
It is always a pleasure to taste the sparklers from Iron Horse Vineyards with its leader, Joy Sterling, when she visits Savannah. Sterling has led an amazing life and now takes pleasure in also being the most visible ambassador for these remarkable Sonoma County wines. You will step up in price - but these are special occasion sparklers. I'm partial to the legendary Iron Horse Russian Cuvee, which commemorates the style of sparkling Iron Horse made for the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings ending the Cold War. Of course, the vineyard's popular Wedding Cuvee, its Blanc de Noirs made from predominantly Pinot Noir, may be its most widely known and versatile sparkler. Expect price tags around $40 for each of these Iron Horse labels.