Friday, December 3, 2010

Champagne Dinner

I typically tend to pair champagne only with appetizers, so the Gordon's Annual Champagne Dinner turned out to be an eye-opening experience. Chefs Bryan Roof and Dan Souza from America's Test Kitchen came up with some fantastic food pairings for every wine, and at the end of the night I found myself wondering why I hadn't started exploring the world of champagne pairings earlier. After an aperitif of Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top (a really nice light, slightly fruity chamapgne), the meal got under way with an Amuse of Chatham Oysters with Tobiko Caviar Vinaigrette.The oyster was fantastic and the vinaigrette was the perfect complement to its briny loveliness. For my palate, though, the pairing of a non-vintage Billecart Brut was one of the least impressive of the night. The champagne was quite nice on its own, but seemed to pick up the a shallot-y element in the dish and bring its flavor to the front. It also ended up tasting kind of briny when tasted with the oyster... Anyway, the next course was a salad of Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear with Lardo.
The salad was nice on its own, particularly the bites that included the crunchy pine nuts... but things got much, much tastier when this dish was tasted next to a 1999 Alain Thienot. My tasting notes on this course say "PERFECT!" This was a gorgeous champagne (which unfortunately costs $174 per bottle...) and completely elevated the salad. Love. The next course, which I will most likely be trying to replicate in my kitchen one of these days, was Marinated Kingfish with Radishes and Jalepeño Broth.
This was a totally awesome dish. The cilantro-marinated fish had the perfect texture, and the light jalepeño spice of the broth was lovely. This course featured another perfect pairing as well, in the form of a non-vintage Henriot Blanc Souverain. Mmmm. So very yummy. The next course was the one I was least looking forward to, but turned out to be one of my favorites. The key ingredient is blood sausage, which calls to mind heavy, greasy English breakfasts when I think of it. I didn't think it was possible for blood sausage to be elegant. Turns out I was very wrong. This course was a Blood Sausage Croquette with Rouille and Green Apple.
The blood sausage was combined with a béchamel, then panko-crusted and deep fried. The bright, crisp apple and the complex rouille were the perfect complement to the rich, creamy croquette. The pairing on this course was another great one: a non-vintage Delamotte Rose. (Apparently I only love wines that are beyond my budget, since this one is $105 per bottle...) This course and its pairing were heaven. I'm going to have to see if this is something I can do at home, as well... Awesome. Very, very awesome. The final course was a Pork Tenderloin with Citrus Compote and Virgin Olive Oil.
The pork was beautifully cooked, and the tarragon and olives gave a nice contrast with the compote, but it didn't really rock my world. The pairing here was a 1998 Henriot Rose, which I enjoyed on its own but wasn't that impressed with as a pairing. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't awesome, either. (My tasting notes on this pairing said "Meh.") Still, I can't picture any non-champagne wines pairing well with the complex mix of flavors in this course, so I think the idea was right. All in all, it was a fun and educational night. I will definitely have to start working champagne pairings into my repertoire... and get to work making some homemade blood sausage...

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