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Most of us are familiar with the sight of a glistening, bubbly glass of champagne. For centuries champagne has come to represent the finer things in life. A symbol of luxury, wealth and fame. The drink of celebration. The history of champagne however is far less glamorous than the reputation it now enjoys. Once considered an impurity in the wine, vignerons spent countless years trying to figure out a way to remove the bubbles from their wines. Indeed it was this challenge that was first presented to the cellar master at Hautvillers Abbey, a certain Benedictine monk by the name of Dom Pérignon.
The Champagne Flute - Of course we are all familiar with the now classic flute design. The narrow bowl of the flute was designed to retain champagne's signature carbonation, principally by reducing the surface area at the opening of the bowl. Nucleation in a champagne glass helps form the bubbles seen in champagne. Too much nucleation will cause the carbonation to quickly fizzle out. A smoother surface area will produce fewer bubbles in the glass, and more bubble texture in the taster's mouth. It is now widely considered that the flute shape design is the optimal design for enjoying the unique characteristics of champagne.
The Champagne Coupe - The champagne coupeis the saucer-shaped stem glass originally used for serving champagne. Legend has it the shape of the glass was modeled on the breast of Marie Antoinette, although this is almost certainly false. The glass was designed especially for champagne in England in 1663, preceding Marie by almost a century. The coupe has now fallen out of fashion except for traditional occasions such as weddings.
The flute has largely replaced the champagne coupe or saucer, the shape of which allowed carbonation to dissipate even more rapidly than from a standard wine glass. Modern aficionados consider it inappropriate for the current style of dry or Brut champagnes, versus the sweeter champagnes of the 1800s, and widely popularized when the coupe came into fashion in the 1930s. Its broad surface area means that the champagne quickly loses its carbonation, and lets face it, nobody likes flat champagne!
Sorbet, Sherbet and Sherbert - Despite the fact that the legal definitions of sorbet and sherbet could be used interchangeably, there is a distinction among American frozen dessert manufacturers. Sherbet — which is alternatively spelled sherbert — is a frozen fruit and dairy product that contains anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent milkfat from milk or cream. Anything above 3 percent is generally labeled ice cream; anything below 1 percent is referred to as water ice.
On the other hand, sorbet generally implies a fruit-based frozen dessert with little to no dairy — although the use of the term sorbet is unregulated. To add to the confusion, in other parts of the world, sherbet may refer to a fizzy powder stirred into beverages, or a beverage made of diluted fruit juice.
For centuries, condiments were necessary because of the lack of refrigeration. Even when used expediently, meat sometimes had begun to spoil by the time it reached the dinner table. Spices, vinegars and oils were used to hid the pungency of the spoiling meat. In addition, salt and pepper on food were an absolute necessity at the Victorian table. Abe offers an array of antique silver plate items made for serving these condiments, ranging from fabulous silverplated cruet sets to various salt and pepper receptacles.
The basic condiment set began with salt and pepper servers. Next, a mustard jar would be added. Other containers, called cruets, were then added in various sizes. These were generally used for a variety of vinegars and oils. Another serving piece was the muffineer, a caster that held sugar or any other condiment meant to be sprinkled onto foods.
Salt was usually served in open containers, sometimes referred to as a salt cellar or salt stand. Some salt containers had glass liners to help prevent the corrosion that begins when silver and salt come in contact with each other.
Mustard was an important condiment, warranting its own server. At the time that mustard pots were in favor (probably from the 1840s on), dry mustard powder was mixed with water to make a mustard paste, as prepared mustard in its modern glass or plastic jar was not yet available until the early 1900s. Mustard is extremely corrosive to sterling and silverplate, causing a chemical reaction which results in heavy discoloration of the silver. Many mustard pots have glass liners to prevent this. Gold can also be used to provide a barrier. many old mustard ladles were gold-washed on the lower portion where the silver would have touched the mustard.
Fine Crystal and Glass Care - Do not use your dishwasher to wash your fine crystal, gold decorated or encrusted glass or crystal. These fine crystal items should never be cleaned in a dishwasher. The hot water and detergent will damage them. Hand wash using a mild dish soap and dry with a towel.
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