Champagne: it’s what’s for brunch, lunch, and… back porch dinners.

So, after many months of confusing signals from Mother Nature, summer has arrived. Once faced with daily blustery northern winds, the heat has finally penetrated our universe, and beads of sweat begin to form on my brow just thinking about leaving the house. Let’s admit the obvious: these evenings are perfect for porch sitting and grill tending. Our Sunday mornings are born for brunches. What better to soothe my ache for a refreshing summer beverage than beautiful, vibrant, sparkling Champagne?

Commonly, we will drink Champagne at Sunday brunch, not only because the effervescent nature can soothe any morning aches, but the smooth, creamy character of these wines pair beautifully with eggs, fruit, and toast. Now the majority of vintages are made with Pinot Noir, but you can also find those fermented from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, or blends of different grapes. The Monterey in San Antonio has various selections of bubbles, but specifically, a Premier Cru (1ER) NV Godme Pere et Fils Brut Reserve, a beautiful blend with notes of berries, lemon curd, and toast, which pairs foodgasmically with the Fried Green Tomatoes, Oysters and Eggs, or even Buttermilk Pancakes. Find it at Specs for $37.


At lunch or dinner, we frequently will start with Champagne, as the mass of appetizers will cry out from the menu, calling to us for the opportunity to plate next to a bubbling crystal glass. At L’Olivier in Montrose, recently named the best French Restaurant in Houston, country pate, lobster salad, and beef tartar have all made it to our table. And while they have an extensive and very well noted wine list, the sommelier and I covet the area of Bouzy within Champagne, so Andre Clouet Brut Silver (100% Pinot Noir) it is. A sommelier favorite, the dry personality of the style of wine also produces an earthy minerality, with citrus and green apple notes, and a crisp finish. An excellent Champagne, which you find at Specs for $42.



The humidity in South Texas can be a killer, and a nice change from the usual beer is definitely welcomed. As of late, I have been a big fan of a Champagne fermented from 100% Pinot Meunier grapes; in the past, this grape has been widely used for blending, but recently, the small black variety has been gaining recognition as having a unique flavor. Having been noted as the “unacknowledged grape”, Pinot Meunier is made to be drunk young, when the distinctive grapes are lush and soft. One of the better producers are Martine and Pascal Serveaux, hailing from the Passy-Sur-Marne region of France. The Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs is made exclusively from Pinot Meunier, and is harvested by the small family run winery, which only runs around 30 acres. Slightly pinkish with hints of golden color, traces of aniseed and hay, and a bouquet of redcurrants and strawberry, the wine produces a light bubbly goodness that tingles in my mouth, and is perfect for porch observed Texas sunsets, coupled with grilled salmon and asparagus. Find the Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs at Specs for $60.


What else can we ask for, other than a refreshing, vivacious way to celebrate our days? Let’s face it: whether you drink Champagne at brunch or dinner, inside or outside, this wine is a perfect bubbly component to summer. Cheers!

on hospitals, heaven at Haven, and a spicy Garnacha.

I think there is nothing worse than that “hospital” smell. In our case, it was a mixture of sanitizer, blood, and urine, all soaked into the air, coupled with a lunch tray of bland macaroni and cheese, applesauce, and microwaved cheeseburger. Of course, seeing your child, your toddler, your baby, hooked up to catheters and IVs and monitors is no task for the faint of heart. This was our life last week.

For those who have known our sommfamily, you know that from time to time we are saddled with long ER visits, late night pharmacies, and specialists. It started when Sommbaby was just five months old. She was diagnosed with bilateral vesicoureteral reflux (commonly known as kidney reflux), which occurs in 2.2% of girls, and commonly results in urinary tract and kidney infections. Unfortunately, no amount of nutrition, vitamins, or alternative therapy could reverse or treat her condition. A physical malfunction, she would either grow out of it, or would require surgery to repair the deformity.

To be clear, this condition is not something that limits Sommbaby in any way. It is not a cardiac diagnosis which requires open heart surgery, which I can’t even imagine; nor is it a neurological like epilepsy or autism, which are lifetime illnesses. Regardless of your own child’s condition, however, you find yourself their strongest advocate. Sommbaby has been on some form of daily prophylaxis antibiotics for well over 18 months now. That in itself worries me for her future, as overmedication results in hybrid bacteria and strong resistance to treatments. So, after several infectious breakthroughs and evidence of kidney scarring, our sommfamily opted for open surgery.


We were very lucky to have been in the hands of Texas Children’s Hospital, whose internationally renowned doctors and array of child and family specialists helped us through every encounter. Rhea was even taken back to the OR in her own Little Tykes car, being pushed by her anesthesiologist, and comforted with an iPad viewing of Curious George, held up by her child life specialist. The three-hour surgery went beautifully, so the doctor said; I barely heard the words as my heart was pounding, my ears incapable of detecting the faintest sound, my mind busy imagining the worst scenario possible. It took almost an hour, for me to hold my baby in my arms, for me to realize that everything was okay. I could breathe again. We spent the next two nights, as a family, in a patient room. Anyone who has ever spent the night in a hospital knows you don’t really sleep, especially with toddler patients, who are constantly being awoken for vital checks, medications, and the frequent “mommy” cuddles. The sommelier never left her side, not even to get coffee, until we were certain she would be discharged. He made her laugh and provided tickles, even when she wasn’t up to it. Therefore, I was the one who made trips to Starbucks, cafeterias, and found a sushi restaurant that would deliver to our room.

If I would have been braver, I would have taken the short 5 minute drive down to Haven, a farm to table restaurant located between Upper Kirby and Rice Village, and ordered a pulled pork sandwich. Served with a cider slaw and homemade potato crisps, the pork complements Houston’s own St Arnolds Elissa IPA beautifully. To top it off, I have always added a fried egg to my sandwich; as the gooey yolk swarmed my plate, I dipped my potato chip into the goodness and let my eyes close in pleasure. Heaven.


Another favorite is whatever they are doing with oysters at the time. I’ve had two wonderful dishes: fried oyster atop a buttermilk biscuit with andouille sausage gravy and a fried oyster tostada. Both are perfect with fun whites like a French Grenache a Spanish Albarino, both available on list for less than $40.




Definitely worth the trip, Haven champions: Texas agriculture, supporting farms from all around the state; sustainability not only through food, but through décor, such as reclaimed woods; and environmentally friendly practices, such as equipment purchases. No wonder it has various accolades and awards, to include Texas Monthly’s 2011 “Second Best New Restaurant in Texas” and one of Southern Living’s 2011 “5 best Restaurants of the South”. Yum.

But, let’s face it; I barely went across the street last week to get a vanilla skinny latte, extra shot. Yes, you read that correctly, three shots of espresso. Because I deserved it. And now that we have been discharged, are home, and Sommbaby is showing us that nothing fazes her, I deserve something more.

Like… an affordable Spanish red, such Juan Gil’s Honoro Vera Garnacha 2011: an earthy, spicy vintage with notes of licorice and dark berry. A very dark ruby-red color, the Garnacha is the second most planted grape in Spain, is resistant to wind and drought, and can have alcohol content in excess of 15%. One of the things I love about the Jaun Gil portfolio of wines is that it is family owned. The first generations built the first winery in 1916 amongst the Spanish countryside, and now, four generations later, Juan Gil is intertwining the traditional wine making process with technological advances, perfecting practices and providing the world with a variety of wines we love.


The Honoro Vera Garnacha is best with a paella, pasta, cold meats, or goat cheeses. It is versatile, spicy, warm, and very drinkable, and can not only be found on my personal wine rack, but at HEB for $7. (yes you read that correctly… $7…go get some!)

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather smell blackberry and dirty earth than antiseptic fumes from this Sommbaby’s hospital room. And now that we are finally home, I can get back to cooking instead of eating what’s available. So here’s a clink to you and yours, wishing all a wonderful beginning to a safe summer.


Cheers to good health and good wine.