Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

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Putting It All On The Table: Delicious Decorating Ideas

 

Cinnamon sticks smell so good...nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose...

Cinnamon sticks smell so good…nobody will notice you burned Christmas goose…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Isn’t that how the song goes? We should know, considering the Christmas music starts earlier and earlier. I, for one, love all things holiday, except the wine stains on the carpet and the required weight gain (I am a certified expert at both – we all have our special talents).

After spending many years in the catering and event planning business, combined with my many years of overcommitting to social engagements that seem to always be at my house, I can set a table in my sleep. Well, not sleep per se, but bleary-eyed zombie-like state from too little rest and too many quality checks of the margaritas during the party prep. I never learn. Does tequila really go with stuffing prep or potato peeling? I say yes. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but Martha had three fewer children than I, and she has a driver, so I am right.

If anyone can pull together a beautiful table, it’s Epicurean. Why? Because Larry DiPasquale is a perfectionist and was born with incomparable taste.

Not that we have to set a gorgeous table, because once Epicurean’s food arrives and the wine is poured, we could be serving our fare on cafeteria trays and everyone would still be happy. It’s that good. I’ve told you about the risotto, right?

Anyway, table settings need not be fancy or frilly, but they do need to be pretty and functional. Here’s a sneak peek to some stunning but simple tablescapes that won’t have you reaching for the tequila.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

Fresh rosemary adds just enough green to a simple tablescape.

 

Use a painter's dropcloth as a tablecloth - so inexpensive you won't feel guilty throwing it out at the end of dinner.

Don’t want a bare table? Use a painter’s dropcloth as a tablecloth or cut them into napkins – it’s so inexpensive you won’t feel guilty throwing everything out at the end of dinner.

 

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

Feeling bold? Break out of the green and red tradition and go for a more modern palette.

 

 

...or deck out your table in creamy white.

…or deck out your table in creamy white.

 

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests.

Vintage decor is always in style. This DIY centerpiece would be a fun take-away for guests. I just noticed similar ornaments at West Elm – so cute!

 

This menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

This sweet menorah makes a Hanukah table even more special.

 

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Cleaned-up tin cans covered with blue paper celebrate the Hanukah season.

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Old song sheets makes forks more festive!

Greenery isn't just for mistletoe.

Greenery isn’t just for mistletoe.

Gold accents paired with chalkboard paint keep this look from being too frilly.

Gold accents paired with earthy add-ons keep this look from being too frilly.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

Dig out an old Scarbble game and use the pieces for a cheeky design.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

This plaid screams cozy holiday. A tartan throw used for nights by the fire turns a table into something special.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Family photographs ups the aaawww factor.

Holiday books get an elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Holiday books get elevated status when built into a funky Christmas tree.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This quick decoration adds some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Add a spring of something green (and not poisonous) to your stemware. This photo is clearly for decoration only, but by using something edible, you can add some personality to the table and a new spin on cocktails. Try lavender or a small skewer of cranberries.

Creepy Cocktail Is So Easy It’s Scary

halloween-drinks

Halloween happens on a Friday night this year – all the more reason to add a spooky cocktail to the menu which, for me, usually includes an appetizer of candy corns followed by a main course of sixteen fun-sized Snickers.

Obviously it would be nice to have something festive to wash it all down.

This recipe comes from Your Southern Peach (a fabulous site I happened upon in my hardcore research). The original recipe works for kids, but I’ve added vodka to make it, um, way better.

Ask your pharmacist for a stash of syringes and feel free to use any glassware you like – these would be chic in a martini glass. So easy it’s scary. Happy Halloween.

halloween-shirley-temple

Bloody Shirley Temple (Grown Up Version)

Ingredients:

  • Sprite
  • Grenadine
  • Vodka
  • Ice
  • Syringes

Directions:

  • Pour sprite and vodka over ice and garnish with a bloody (grenadine) syringe.

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Leftover Oatmeal? Try this!

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends : butter and hot cocoa.

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends known as Butter and Hot Cocoa…

Oatmeal is on the breakfast menu every week at our house. Not that there is a menu, per se. There is simply an eat your breakfast situation – similar to that of lunchbox finds and dinner delicacies. You get what you get. You’re welcome.

You’d think I’d learn not to make so much oatmeal, but I was never good at math – so I always end up with more than needed. And I find it hard to sell oatmeal as an after-school snack.

You know what I can sell as an after-school snack? Muffins. Especially right out of the oven. Especially paired with a cup of hot chocolate. Especially on a blustery fall day.

Georgia is a muffin master...

Georgia is a muffin master…

So yesterday I asked our Epi kitchen pros if I could make muffins out of leftover oatmeal. The kitchen team totally loves it when I go to them in the middle of a busy work day and ask them questions like this. They act like they are super duper busy prepping for a huge event, but I know, deep down, that they would be disappointed if they didn’t have the chance to stop everything and discuss oatmeal muffins.

I realize that many of you out there don’t have access to a full kitchen of professional chefs so I am sharing this recipe with you. It’s fast, it’s healthy, and it’s delicious. And it leaves more room in your fridge for the important things. Like vegetables. And Chardonnay. Speaking of, these muffins pair well with Chardonnay.

There's simply no room for oatmeal...

There’s simply no room for oatmeal…

Epicurean’s Play It Again Oatmeal Muffins

Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 25 minutes | Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil, melted (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (my leftover oatmeal already included raisins and brown sugar – feel free to add these items or others such as blueberries, chocolate chips, etc. – creativity, like chocolate chips, is encouraged in the Epicurean kitchens!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Butter or spray or line muffin pans.
  • Combine dry ingredients together in small bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, stir the egg, milk, and butter into the oatmeal.
  • Stir until well blended.
  • Combine the two mixtures and mix well.
  • Spoon each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter.mes out dry when inserted into the center.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Out Of Africa: Wine Tasting

Image (view from Delaire Graff – aka – heaven)

I recently returned from a trip to Botswana. As in Africa. I was so inspired by the menus, the decor, the wine, the people, and the animals that I came back with loads of blog topics to share with you, our faithful foodie readers.

This is not one of those blogs.

I started on several blogs that were read-worthy – full of wonderful ideas and beautiful photos and lots of pithy humor and more.  But I am finding myself wallowing in despair because I miss Africa in a way that I can’t describe. So I won’t try.

As you well know, I turn to food or drink when times get tough. And we are out of jelly beans so I am focusing on drink. Wine, to be exact.

After our many days and nights on safari, we landed in Cape Town and embarked on a fantastic winelands tour, stopping off at Rustenberg Winery for a tasting before heading to Delaire Graff for lunch. I imagine the view from heaven is the same as the view from the deck of Delaire Graff, which is good to know because based on some of my past behavior, who knows where I’ll end up in the end. And at least I got to spend a buzzy afternoon in the promised land.

But – back to wine. We were introduced to the Riedel tasting glass at Rustenberg and were immediately smitten. This little glass has an empty stem, allowing for the perfect pour when tasting a wine. We were mesmerized; you can roll the glass around on the table without spilling a drop! SUCH a fun party trick and a great gift idea.

DSCN1302

(Kathleen, Rebecca, and Andy at Rustenberg – look closely and you can see the tipped glass!)

The glass was designed to emphasize the aromas and evaluate different wines in a small period of time. Apparently some people don’t open the wine and start gulping it down right away. These are the same people who don’t have four children and can do the New York Times crossword in pen. These are the same people who don’t know the sheer pleasure of pouring a mid-priced chardonney into a thermos prior to attending yet another showing of Frozen. 

I searched the web for a video of Riedel’s tasting glass, but I had very little luck because Riedel’s videos were a bit stuffy. So – thank you James The Wine Guy, for being sort of human.  And may I suggest something light and crisp for your thermos?Image (Delaire Graff’s delicious wine – I’m in the background gulping sipping in a ladylike fashion)

Award Season is Full of Flakes

emmy cocktail

 

I was not lucky enough to be invited to the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards that took place last night in Los Angeles. In fact, I was not even lucky enough to watch the awards; or dine on the filet mignon and beet salad served at The Governor’s Ball. Come to think of it, I skipped dinner all together, opting for some questionable leftover pork tenderloin in the back of the fridge and some chocolate chips I use mostly to bribe the gaggle of children that live here. Do I sound like I am complaining? That’s because I am.

I’m guessing that most of us missed The Governor’s Ball – along with the questionable pork. Want to know what the beautiful people ate last night? Here’s a peek. I will say the Grey Goose Emmy Cocktail looks quite divine and is a much better choice than red wine – imagine a stained gown and purple teeth on the cover of People Magazine!? And you thought you had problems.

The Grey Goose Emmy Cocktail:

  • 1 1/2 parts Grey Goose Le Citron
  • 1 part St-Germain liqueur
  • 1 1/2 parts cucumber juice
  • 1/2 part lime juice
  • Garnish with a cucumber wheel, rosemary spring and edible silver flakes

Father’s Day? It’s All About the Big Daddy Cocktail.

OS_RC_2964_WD

How come all the articles and blogs about Mother’s Day ooh and ahh over breakfast? Is that some sort of cruel joke? Like pink eye and notes from the principal? I don’t want breakfast – and I certainly don’t want it in bed. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen.  I, for one, don’t want a bunch of syrupy, sticky kids on my good sheets. And I certainly don’t want to finally make my way downstairs to a kitchen that can only be described as horror-town.

But when it comes to Father’s Day, well game on! Now we’re talking steaks and burgers and cheesecake for dessert and 36 holes of golf and a nap in front of the tv.  But, life is what it is and I am guessing that being a dad is thirsty work, mostly because dads have to live with moms and on a bad day we’re really not the most pleasant on the planet. Or so I’ve heard.

Searing a sizzling steak and flipping a fabulous burger is an art form. And one that we at Epicurean take seriously. But this year we are talking about cocktails. Because while Epicurean is known for food, we do a darn good job at mixing up the magic. Here’s our take on The Big Daddy Cocktail. Make one for that special guy in your life. And then make one for yourself, because you had to clean up the kitchen on Mother’s Day, remember?

The Big Daddy Cocktail

Prep time: 5 minutes | Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vodka, chilled
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus more for glass rims
  • 2 tablespoons fine sugar
  • Lime wedges and mint leaves, for garnish

Directions

  • Combine vodka, pomegranate juice, orange liqueur and lime juice in a chilled cocktail shaker
  • Dip the rims of four highball glasses with lime juice
  • Place sugar on  saucer and dip glasses to form a sugared rim
  • Pour, garnish, and make a heartfelt toast to a good man