Skulls' Road: The Basics of Bubbly at The Pantry

Skulls' Road: The Basics of Bubbly at The Pantry

Meanwhile, in Seattle, Katherine sampled bubbly bevs from around the world. Learning a lot as she drank her way through a chilly, autumn afternoon. Dairy-free adult beverages galore!

In this first entry for Skulls' Road, I want to share with you a bit of background. My Mr. Wonderful travels two to three times annually to meet with a group I will refer to as the Skulls. Sometimes I join in these trips, and when I do, I like to plan one educational culinary experience for myself while he is in meetings. In the months to come, I will share with you some of my food adventures on my Skulls travels along with a recipe or two.

On a chilly, drizzly November afternoon in the Ballard area of Seattle, I found myself taking a corner 'round an unassuming building and entering into a courtyard filled with succulents and interesting back door entrances. There I came to the doorway of The Pantry, a gem of a cooking classroom setting. Months before, I had successfully enrolled in one of their hotly-sought-after classes to held while the Skulls were in town. And much to my delight, said class just happened to be one of my favorite topics of all time - Bubbles! This effervescent course covered Champagne, sparkling wines made in the Traditional Method, those made in other methods, Prosecco, Cava, and Lambrusco.

Two things that I learned from an afternoon with our instructor, the lovely Janet Beeby, certified sommelier and owner of Pairable. Firstly, I had no idea how to correctly open a bottle of champagne. Secondly, there is a reason I do not care for Prosecco - my palette prefers the mineral and toast flavors of Chardonnay grapes as opposed to the fruity and aromatic flavors of other grapes such as the Glera (used in Prosecco), Muscat Canelli (used in Spumante), and Pinot Meunier (another of the Champagne grapes). However, if paired with cantaloupe and a good prosciutto, the flavor becomes less sickly-sweet to my tongue. You might be in total disagreement with me, and that's what's so lovely about bubbly drinks! There are so many of them that one is bound to fit your particular taste! Cheers!

Champagne Lessons

There is a right way and a wrong way to open a champagne bottle. Here's the proper way, the one that won't release an entire flute-full of bubbly; the one that won't ruin your party clothes; the one that won't break light bulbs and knock out your date for the evening.


  1. Dry off the bottle.
  2. Remove foil.
  3. Cover the wire cage with a clean kitchen towel. Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle. Place your thumb over the cork, holding the bottle with the remainder of that one hand.
  4. Leaving the wire cage on the bottle (as in, do not remove, dummy), with other hand, unlock the cage with counter-clockwise turns six times (only six, no more, no less).
  5. With your thumb still over the cork, slowly twist the bottle at its base.
  6. The cork should be released gently with a "kiss" not an explosive pop.
  7. Should Champagne mousse (that is, the foam of the Champagne) begin pouring from the bottle, then gently turn the bottle to a 45 degree angle again.

Kir Royal Recipe

Janet Beeby shared her dynamite Kir Royal recipe. It is a delicate, dark purple-pink drink served in a coup glass (you know, the little Marilyn Monroe style Champagne glass) and looks like a liquid jewel. Just gorgeous. Oh, and the taste is delicious but very, very sweet; three sips and I was good. Do not be alarmed, my dairy-free friends; Creme de Cassis is not made with dairy; it is simply macerated black currants, 13 lbs of these little fruits for one bottle, that's it. FODMAPers, please omit the blackberry and limit yourself to one glass.


  • ¼ ounce (½ Tbsp) Creme de Cassis (liqueur made of black currants)
  • 3 ounces sparkling wine (I prefer Champagne, of course)
  • 1 - 2 whole, fresh blackberries for garnish


  1. Into a coup glass, add Creme de Cassis and sparkling wine.
  2. Plop 1 or 2 blackberries into glass as garnish.
  3. Drink to your little heart's content!


Honestly, I have never been to a more well-organized, thoughtful culinary course. And the setting was simply perfect. I was immediately greeted by several assistants who were busily setting up work stations and sensory boards. They had everything laid out in such an orderly fashion that there was never a lull in the instruction. The instructor was dynamic and personable; she gave great info in an entertaining way all while keeping the course on-topic and importantly, on time. I was happily amazed at how much knowledge I picked up from this afternoon course...and pleased with the amount of beverage and appetizers that were provided...especially the variety of non-gluten items (thank you so much, The Pantry, for not being bread-heavy). My only regret is that I cannot fly out to Seattle on a quarterly basis to make The Pantry my classroom of preference.