Category Archives: Beverage

Champagne Tasting in Epernay

After spending a few days traipsing through Burgundy, the Englishman and I packed up our rental car and headed north to spend a couple of days Champagne Tasting in Epernay.  I thought Burgundy was tough to top, but I fell in LOVE with Epernay.  I’m already plotting my return because I loved this charming town so much.

champagne tasting in epernayEpernay is located about 2 hours north-east of Paris in the Marne region.  It’s known as France’s “champagne capital” as the majority of champagne producers are located in Epernay and nearby town Reims.  And a little fun fact:  only champagne produced in this region can truly be called champagne.  Champagne produced in other countries/cities is known as “sparkling wine.”

champagne houses epernayAs a big lover of the bubbly, I was quite excited to do some champagne tasting in Epernay, and the city definitely did not disappoint.  Right in the center of the city is the Avenue de Champagne, which is home to some of the world’s most famous champagne houses including Mercier, Moet et Chandon and Perrier Jouet.  The Englishman and i decided to start our champagne filled day with at tour at Mercier.

Mercier is one of the first champagne houses to be built in Epernay and one of the only to offer a tour of their working cellars.  After a brief overview of the history of Mercier, we were whisked down 30 meters underground to start the tour.

champagne tasting in epernay cellarsWe hopped on a little train and listened to an audio tour that explained the champagne making process from picking the grapes, to bottling and distribution.  It was really interesting to learn about the process from start to finish and I loved seeing the working cellar in action.

Champagne Tasting EpernayAt the end of the tour we were greeted with a glass of champagne which was a nice touch.  Nothing like starting off your morning with a glass of bubbly at 10:30am!

After our tour of Mercier, the Englishman and I started to pop in and out of various champagne houses along the Avenue de Champagne for tasting.  The crazy thing about champagne tasting in Epernay is that the prices are so cheap!  You can get a really high quality glass of champagne for roughly 4-6 Euro, which is about 6-8 US dollars (based on the current exchange rate).

Rose Tasting EpernayThe Englishman and I are both fans of champagnes that are more on the dry side and not very sweet at all, so we pretty much loved every glass that we tasted throughout the day.

The last house we visited was Janisson-Baradon, where we ended up having a lovely conversation with one of the owners, who is hoping to get distribution in the states one day.  His champagne was our favorite of the day, so we ended up buying a couple of bottles to smuggle home to the US.

janisson baradon epernayOf course no day of champagne tasting is complete without an amazing French meal after, but I’ll recap that in another post because it was THAT good.  I do have to give a little shout out to the creme brulee we had one night in Epernay, because it was probably the best creme brulee I’ve had in my life.

creme brulee epernayEven if you aren’t a big champagne drinker (like the Englishman), I feel like Epernay is a must-visit if you find yourself in France.  The food is fabulous, the people are super friendly and the champagne is GOOD.  Now if only I could get a job at one of the champagne houses….

DAVIDs Tea

I first discovered DAVIDS Tea during a trip to San Francisco last year.  I ordered the CocoMint tea, and after one sip was immediately in love.  Unfortunately DAVIDs Tea does not have any outposts in Southern California yet, so the only way I could get my tea fix was to order online.

DavidsTea MugAs luck would have it, I got to travel to Vancouver for work, which meant I could visit my favorite Canadian tea chain!  I made sure to leave a little extra room in my suitcase when I packed for my trip so I could take some favorites home with me.

Davids Tea LooseleafOne of the best things about popping into one of the DAVIDs Tea shops is how you can see and sample any of the teas before you buy them.  I love this “try before you buy” concept so you won’t be disappointed.  DAVIDs Tea also offers a bunch of seasonal flavors, and on this particular trip, I decided to try the Spiced Fig.

DavidsTea CupThe Spiced Fig is an herbal tea that has cranberries, almonds, dates and cloves.  It was the perfect tea to warm me right up while walking around chilly Vancouver.  Plus, with every cup of tea you buy at DAVIDs Tea, a cup is donated to a local charity which is awesome.

Since I had limited room in my suitcase, I knew I had to be quite selective when it came to what I wanted to buy to bring home.  My first choice was Mother’s Little Helper, an herbal tea which is supposed to help you sleep.

Davids Tea Mothers Little HelperThe Englishman first tried this tea in SF last year and swears by it’s magical properties (aka Valerian root).  When I tried the tea I found it to be very soothing and relaxing and I will say it has helped me drift off to sleep quite nicely in the evenings.

I smelled the tin for the Choconut Oolong and knew immediately I wanted to buy it.

DavidsTea Choconut OolongThis tea is perfect for chocolate lovers.  It has a strong cocoa taste and hints of hazelnut sprinkled throughout.  It’s not as strong caffeine wise as some of the black teas, but perfect for a late morning pick me up.  I definitely want to try turning this one into a tea latte with some almond milk.

The Englishman and I are big black tea drinkers, so for my last tea I got the Creme of Earl Grey which has a hint of vanilla.

DavidsTea Creme of Earl GreyI loved the vanilla twist on this Earl Grey classic.  It was a nice addition without being too overpowering.  This is the perfect tea to enjoy first thing in the morning.

If you do get a chance to stop into a DAVIDs Tea shop be sure to try one of their many tea varieties.  I’m already planning on ordering more (Spiced Fig for sure) to add to my collection.

What’s your favorite tea or tea shop?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Winter appears to have bypassed Southern California.  Temps have been in the upper 80s, and I have found myself craving things like ice cream and milkshakes.  But since both of those options will likely leave me with a sugar coma and a stomach ache, I settled for the next best thing: a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie.

This smoothie is made with unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened almond milk, banana and peanut butter.  That’s it.  All the sweetness from the smoothie comes from the banana and you get an extra dose of potassium as well.  Win-win.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie GroupAnd yes, I drink my smoothies out of wine glasses.  It makes me feel fancy.

I ended up using crunchy peanut butter in this smoothie but creamy would work just as well.  Or if you want your smoothie to be extra chocolate-y, perhaps some Dark Chocolate Dreams PB?

This is the perfect smoothie for when those chocolate cravings strike or you just want something a little sweet.  Throw in some kale or spinach if a green smoothie is more your style.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie pinChocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (serves 1)

Ingredients:

1 small frozen banana, chopped

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

6 oz unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp peanut butter

Directions:

Place all your ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie OverheadDrink and enjoy!  I’m sure even Elvis would approve of this smoothie, even if it is missing some bacon.

How to Make a Beer Advent Calendar

Every year people flock to the store to pick up their annual advent calendar that is usually decorated in a cute holiday theme and filled with sub-par chocolates.  Instead of spending money on another cardboard calendar this year I decided to take it up a notch and learn how to make a beer advent calendar for the Englishman.  Not only is this calendar easy to make, it is also the perfect gift for the beer aficionado in your life.

Beer Advent Calendar Close UpThe important thing when making a beer advent calendar is to know your audience.  Do you want to make one with a bunch of cans of beer? (please say no), or how about a winter beer theme?  Or maybe a bunch of specialty beers from Belgium?  For the Englishman’s calendar I decided to go with a variety of different beers from around the world that I know the Englishman would love.

Once you have decided on your beers it’s time to go shopping.  For OC locals, I highly recommend Hi-Time Wine Cellars for all of your beer needs, but BevMo also has a decent selection as well.  Be sure to purchase 24 beers to ensure your calendar lasts the whole season!

Beer Advent Calendar BoxThe next step is procuring a box to house all your beers.  Some of the websites I looked at used cut up tubes for each beer, but since I was going with all bottles of different shapes and sizes, I needed a box.  Lucky for me the kind folks at Hi-Time had an extra box with 24 slots in it that was just waiting to be filled.

Beer Advent Calendar BoxFill your box with the beer and label them 1, 2, 3 and so on.  Then wrap your box and mark your wrapping paper with the number that corresponds with each beer bottle.  I wrapped the box and then cut out individual squares to cover each beer slot.

Now your calendar is ready to go!  Each morning open the number slot that corresponds with that day and enjoy your beer.  Since we have just started our beer advent calendar I won’t post all the beers, but here are some of the beers the Englishman has opened so far.  Once he has opened all the beers I’ll do a follow-up post with the big reveal.

Beer Advent Calendar PipPip wanted the beer for himself.  Too bad he’s too young to drink.

And that’s how to make a beer advent calendar!  Now maybe I need to make a wine one..