January 31, 2011

bubbles & nibbles

This past weekend, I had vaguely fancied a champagne brunch for Sunday. Waking up to a stack of pancakes and a flute of mimosa would have been really nice, I dreamed.

But in reality, I had to work on Sunday, at least in the morning - and couldn't really afford to get tipsy straight out of the bed. So I got up, had a quick bite of what I had around, and got to work without further ado. And when I was done past middday and swapped my laptop for a skillet, I felt myself perfectly deserving a glass or two, if I do say so myself.

Although mimosa, a half-and-half of champagne and orange juice (or Buck's Fizz if you prefer) is my favorite among champagne-based cocktails, and definitely my choice of drink for leisurely breakfast/brunch/lunch, I settled for apples instead, taking advantage of fuji apples we had around (from our family orchards, even), for both the drink and the pancakes.
After I juiced a bowl full of apples, I tipped some of the remaining pulp into my pancake batter (wholewheat and buckwheat). The idea was the same as when I made bread with the leftover pulp from juicing apples.

To be honest, this particular batch of pancakes didn't exactly turn out fantastic; it was quite an opposite (um, have I told you I'm quite hopeless at making pancakes?). Halfway through my batch, I almost dreaded ruining my supposedly perfect Sunday brunch. Yet thankfully, the apple-buckwheat pancakes still managed to taste alright with honey and butter, so that saved my day.

So here it is, my first glass of the day - apple cider & bubbles.
Half freshly pressed sweet fuji and half dry sparkling wine, it tasted so light I could have had it in the bed and I would still have been able to work without trouble (but ahem, I didn't try). And I'd also like to add that it was also excellent with a dash of calvados (apple brandy) added to it, although that would make it more suitable for enjoying in the evening, rather than for breakfast, but maybe it's just me.

Strictly speaking, by the way, this should have been considered lunch as it was nearly 2 o'clock in the afternoon and I had had breakfast in the morning, albeit just a small bite. But in my head, this was my first 'proper' meal of the day and I liked to think it as a Sunday Bubbly Brunch. This was the best favor I did to myself that day.

Now after a bubbly brunch, what one should do?
To have more bubbles, of course! And this time with another winter fruit - possibly my most favorite: yuzu. Here I used yuzu honey that I'd made in the evening before.

Yuzu honey is an easy thing to make, as long as you have some fresh yuzu, which may actually be the hardest part for many of you who are outside of Japan (or Korea or China, I assume). But if you do have a few, all you need to do is to cut your yuzu in half, take all the seeds off (there are LOTS of them) and cut off the stem end, then slice the whole thing very thinly, peel and pith and membranes and all. Then pack them into a clean jar and fill with honey (a clear, mild-tasting kinds is good) and push the fruits down to make sure everything is well submerged in honey. Let it steep for a few days and you'll have an aromatic syrup that makes a wonderful yuzu-ade, topped with ice or hot water.

So what I did here is basically a yuzu-ade, only with sparkling wine rather than good old plain water. Along with a few spoonful of the syrup, I also added a good splash of fresh yuzu juice for an extra flavor and tartness, before topping it off with sparkling wine. You can call it tipsy yuzu-ade, or simply yuzu & bubbles.
Whichever you prefer to call it, this makes about the most refreshing drink, a kind that will wake you up with a crisp citrus zing and a hint of bitterness.

You can probably make something similar by simply mixing up honey and yuzu juice and topping it with bubbles, but the flavor of yuzu is concentrated in the peel, so you wouldn't want to miss it, I imagine. I know I don't. And oh - the fruit (mostly peel) in the syrup makes a great mix-in when you bake cakes; preferably leave them in the honey for a week or so for sweeter and milder 'candied" yuzu peel. This way, you can make a very good use of the whole fruit; you can even save the seeds and use them in marmalade, which I am about to do right now.

Speaking of using a whole citrus fruit, there is another citrus that you can easily eat the whole thing:
Kumquats are my favorite snack in the wintertime. While I enjoy candied kumquats, I find myself popping them fresh into my mouth more often, for eating them involves very little preparation; rinse, take the stem end off, and eat. Easy enough. And I'll admit that I don't even bother with the seeds myself, but you can of course remove them if that makes you happy.

Anyhow, it occurred to me as I was munching on yet another handful of wonderfully sweet kumquats that we had happened across at a local grocery store; what happens if you pop a few of these sweet pebbles in bubbles? Yeah, why not?

I took the idea from one of my all-time favorite ways to enjoy champagne, which is to pop fresh strawberries in a glass. I have tried this with other fresh fruits such as peaches and watermelon, but never kumquats - and there was frankly no reason why I shouldn't. (In fact, I'm known to try and throw just about every fruit in a glass of bubbles....)
So here you go - kumquats in bubbles, which turned out to be an excellent way to enjoy these sweet, ripe kumquats. You simply cut the fruit into quarters (with the stem end cut off, and seeds removed if you prefer) and pop them into a glass before filling it with bubbles. I know I didn't need to fill the glass all the way up with kumquats like this, but I liked the way it looked - a crystal glass filled with orange gold gems.

Now I should probably point out that here I used really ripe, really sweet kumquats; make sure yours' too should you like to try this. If your kumquats are not that sweet and you suspect they would taste too bitter in dry wine, you can probably candy them first, like they do it here. It won't have the same bite and tang of fresh kumquats, but I'm sure it'll taste good in its own way.

And now you've mentioned it... (hang on, I have?)
Strawberries in bubbles. These aren't the extra-large, extra-sweet amao that I had a while ago, but worked just fine. You can enjoy a subtle note of the berry as you slowly sip your way through the glass, and when the glass is emptied, the remaining fruit will have absorbed the wine a little, which you can taste when you pop them into your mouth. A sheer pleasure. Honestly, this must be the best thing that has ever happened to strawberries since cream, and certainly the best way to finish up my bottle of bubbles on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend and have started a wonderful week - and a month(!). Also, happy lunar new year if you are celebrating it, and otherwise happy february to you all! -cx


Boulder Locavore said...

A beautiful post as always. Love your descriptions and the photos are sublime. Like going on a perfect vacation!

Anonymous said...

Loved your entire sight. Spent many years in Japan so I can almost taste the local fruits as you speak about them. Just a beautiful sight to visit. I wil visit often.

passingthethyme said...

They may not have tasted as good as you expected them to, but these pancakes sure look irresistable ! I love your original fruit and berry pairings with the sparkling wine; you are such an inspiration !! : )

Anonymous said...


I really love your posts and pictures! They are forever so 'charming'!


chika said...

hello there, thanks for your kind words - much, much appreciated! x