France: The Contribution of Monk Dom Pérignon

Dom Pierre Pérignon (c. 1638–14 September 1715) was a Benedictine monk who made important cdom-perignon-1841615_1280ontributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine in an era when the region’s wines were predominantly still pink and red. Popular myths frequently, but erroneously, credit him with the invention of sparkling Champagne, which didn’t become the dominant style of Champagne until mid-19th century.

In his era the in-bottle refermentation that gives sparkling wine its sparkle was an enormous problem for winemakers. When the weather cooled off in the autumn, refermentation would sometimes keep fermentable sugars from being converted to alcohol. If the wine was bottled in this state, it became a literal time bomb. When the weather warmed in the spring, dormant yeast roused themselves and began generating carbon dioxide that would at best push the cork out of the bottle, and at worst explode, starting a chain reaction. Nearby bottles, also under pressure, would break from the shock of the first breakage, and so on, which was a hazard to employees and to that year’s production. Dom Pérignon thus tried to avoid refermentation.

English Party Crackers

English Crackers are decorative party favors used for a variety of special occasions including, weddings, dinner parties, and Christmas tree trimmings.  Crackers consist of a wrapperd and decorated cardboard tube containing a paper crown(tissue hat),

When the elaborately decorated treat is split between two individuals, it produces a loud bang and releases its contents. Invented in the late 1840s by London’s Thomas J. Smith, Crackers are popular in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, South Africa, Russia, and New Zealand.

Crackers originated as popular Christmas favors but are now also used as New Years Eve treats.  New Years Eve Crackers are normally festive in color and are usually silver, or bright metallic.  Their contents usually consist of New Year’s fortunes and celebratory noisemakers.

Check out Olde English Crackers to learn more about these popping treats, order some, and try making your own for family and friends!

Foodies take notice: Crackers are also filled with candies and small cookies!

Top Ranked Restaurants in the World

Epicurious online magazine recently compiled a list of the top sixteen restaurants around the world. Cuisines that are prepared in fine restaurants from Paris, Spain, New York and Beijing are highlighted on the list.  Check out this list and see if you favorite restaurant made the list: READ MORE

Kwanzaa Unity Cup

The Karamu Feast is an important part of Kwanzaa and is celebrated on December 31. During this special day the Kwanzaa Unity cup takes center stage. Usually filled with grape juice, water, or wine, the Unity cup symbolizes the unity of African nations and is used by Kwanzaa observers to perform ancestor-praising libations. READ MORE

Polenta Cake Recipe by Chef Delutis

Made from grain cooked in water, Polenta served as a Pre-Columbian Northern Italy staple. Sometimes made from chick-peas or chestnut grain, the porridge-like substance is also known as “Italian Grits.”  This Recipe is by Chef Christian Delutis of Sotta Sopra in Baltimore.(See Review of Restaurant)

Polenta Cake

Feeds 6 to 8


  • 1 pound eggs
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 Cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 Cup of polenta
  • 1 T. Baking powder
  • 4 Peaches, peeled, pitted
  • 3 Cups of sugar
  • 1 Cup of White wine
  • 2 Cups of heavy cream
  • 1 T. Lavender
  • 3oz. of sugar

1.      Combine flour, and baking powder with a pinch of salt aerate.

2.      In standing mixer combine butter and sugar until very smooth, add half the flour, mix, add 1/3 eggs, mix add remaining flour, slowly mix in eggs to incorporate.

3.      Place in a greased 5 by 6 baking dish, bake at 425 until rises and golden, and a tooth pick can be inserted and when removed dry.

4.      For Peach Mostarda, combine peaches, sugar, and wine, cook at a simmer until peaches are very soft, puree and place back on stove if necessary to reduce and thicken, stir constantly.

5.      For whipped cream, toast lavender in a dry pan until fragrant, place lavender in a cold stainless steel mixing bowl, add lavender and sugar whisk until fluffy. Portion cake and plate dessert.

Chef‘s Tips

* 8 Eggs= 1 Pound

* Cracking eggs on a flat surface gives you more surface area.

* You may substitute White wine with apple cider, peach juice, etc.

* Clean the kitchen as you go!


Best Non-Traditional Christmas Celebration Ideas

Christmas is the holiday that defines tradition. Most families have traditional ways of celebrating this day that have been passed down generation after generation. But as our world continues to rapidly diversify with blended families of different ethnicities, religious traditions, and cultural backgrounds, a non-traditional approach to celebrating Christmas has become more and more popular. Here are a few new non-traditional ideas on how to celebrate Christmas:

Anywhere but Home:

Any Christmas celebration is strongly associated with our family home. This year, why don’t you try celebrating Christmas anywhere but at home? You could plan a winter camping trip with your family, or rent a cabin in the beautiful, quiet outdoors, or even fly to the other hemisphere and celebrate Christmas in South America or Australia, where it will be summer. READ MORE

Sparkling Wines of the World

Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved (as in theCharmat process), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection.

Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé but there are many examples of red sparkling wines such as Italian Brachetto and Australian sparkling Shiraz. The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry “brut” styles to sweeter “doux” varieties.

The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne, but many other examples are produced in other countries and regions, such as Espumante in Portugal, Cava in Spain,FranciacortaTrento and Asti in Italy (the generic Italian term for sparkling wine being Spumante) and Cap Classique in South Africa. In some parts of the world, the words “champagne” or “spumante” are used as a synonym for sparkling wine, although laws in Europe and other countries reserve the word Champagne for a specific type from the Champagne region of France. The French terms “Mousseux” or “Crémant” are used to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region. German and Austrian sparkling wines are called Sekt. The United States is a significant producer of sparkling wine: California in particular has seen French Champagne houses open wineries in the state to make American sparkling wine according to the Champagne method. Recently the United Kingdom, which produced some of the earliest examples of sparkling wine, has started producing Champagne-style wines again.

The 20th Annual Chocolate Affair

Have a sweet tooth? The 20th Annual Chocolate Affair is coming to M&T Bank Stadium to help you with that need. 

 Over 50 Baltimore restaurants, caterers, and chocolatiers will present their best chocolaty delights and samples all to benefit Health Care for the Homeless.

Continue reading

Cuban Style Christmas

From you’re thinking of having a Cuban style Christmas, plan on preparing a great deal of food.  Noche Buena is the time that you will want to have a great deal of Cuban cooking to keep everyone satisfied, here we’ll provide you with some details on how to throw a good Cuban Christmas party.

Typical staples of a Cuban Christmas Eve party include the lechon asado (roasted pig), Moros y Cristianos (Black beans and rice), and plenty of Cuban cider to drink.  The biggest tradition is to have a pig roast.  The day before Christmas Eve, a pig would be selected, slaughtered, cleaned and would begin marinating for the cookout the roast the next day.  Roasting your own pig is a big undertaking.  Most Cubans living in the U.S. will purchase an 80 pound pig (maybe 100 lbs if you plan on feeding over 70 people with single servings) from their local butcher store. (READ MORE)


History of the Candy Cane


Image by Jill Wellington

Candy Canes are popular Christmas treats. The striped candy originates from a simple white stick of sugar created to satisfy children’s sweet teeth.

The evolution of the modern day hook candy cane is shrouded in mystery. Its creation is usually credited to a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Around 1670 the choirmaster bent the straight candy sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s crook. The canes where then distributed to children during the Living Crèche Ceremony. This practice spread throughout Europe and became a popular tradition. READ MORE

by Catrina Sally