Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vday Bubbles

Say what you will about Hallmark’s cooptation of Saint Valentine’s Day, when you’re married – or in any kind of relationship for that matter – it’s unwise to ignore the holiday. This year, it was a moot point, as Thursday’s one of my late nights at the office and an evening of extracurricular activities for my spouse. Even Wednesday was hectic but we made do with a little carryout from our favorite neighborhood Chinese spot as an early way to celebrate the day.

Ever since a recent close but not quite encounter with Selosse, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of pairing Champagne with Chinese cuisine. Champagne, Blanc de Blancs in particular, has long been one of my favorite options for the Japanese staples of sushi and sashimi but I’d never given much thought to extending Champs’ range to the greater hodge-podge and challenges of the Chinese table. What better occasion than V-day to give it a whirl?

Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru, Larmandier-Bernier NV
Larmandier-Bernier hit my radar after reading about their wines on more than one occasion on the blog of the overtly bubble-fueled Brooklynguy. This is naturally grown and produced Champagne from Chardonnay grown in the villages of Vertus, Cramant, Oger and Avize. Its low dosage – only 4 grams – is not immediately apparent, as the wine shows generous fruit and has some substantial flesh on its bones. Not as laser-like in its acidity and minerality as some Blanc de Blancs or as overtly lemony as others, it nonetheless exhibits attributes from both of those palettes. Brioche, blanched hazelnuts and red apple skin nuances add to its depth. After the initial intensity of the mousse subsided, it turned out to be a very fine aperitif. To my joy, and slight surprise, it also fared quite well in the company of grilled shrimp with a lightly stir-fried hash of red and green bell peppers and a few spikes of fresh garlic. As my wife partook of only a small glass, I was able to save a little into a second day. An oilier texture emerged. The delicate lemon chiffon elements from day one gave way in the wake of more overtly apple flesh driven flavors. I'd love to try a bottle with a couple more years of aging on the cork.
$47. 12% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Louis-Dressner, New York, NY.

Quite by coincidence, Eric Asimov briefly extolled the virtues of Champagne with Chinese food, Sichuan in particular, in a posting on The Pour that appeared on Valentine’s Day. Scrubbing bubbles and cleansing acidity, he asserts, are its keys to success. I found the charms of Larmandier-Bernier’s Blanc de Blancs to extend beyond that simple yet entirely accurate formula. It actually brought out a particular savor in the food, a one plus one equals three pairing as one of my co-workers likes to say. Apparently, I’ve been missing the boat all these years. Rest assured, I won’t wait until next February to repeat the experience. Carryout Chinese is good for any night when time is at a premium. And good Champagne is a delight on any night, period.


RougeAndBlanc said...

David, champagne will work well with spicy Chinese food. If you opt for Cantonese food, I find a Cab Franc or Gamay works better. As a matter of fact, I dig those wine with Pinot/Gamay mix, such as Famille Laurent Saint-Pourcain.

Brooklynguy said...

so psyched that you liked this wine. great notes too. and it's true, i guess i am bubble-fueled. could be worse...

David McDuff said...

I've always leaned towards Riesling, RandB, but have found fruitier styles of Beaujolais as well as similarly structured reds like Bardolino to work quite well.

Could be worse indeed, Neil.

Do Bianchi said...

Sparkling wine in general is great with Chinese food. I love the concept of Chinese take-out and Champagne for Valentine's! Great post.

Anonymous said...

Would you be willing to share the name of the chinese restaurant?

David McDuff said...

As chance would have it, Jeremy and RandB, I went out for Chinese again last night. We opened with a sparkling Cab Franc from the Loire ("La Cravantine" from Fabrice Gasnier in Chinon). It made a lovely pairing with our starter of roast squabs.

As to the Chinese place mentioned in this posting, Anon, I'll be happy to share. I live just outside of Philly so, as much as I love going out in Chinatown, for carry-out I usually stick to a couple of local places. My usual go-to, including last Wednesday, is Sang Kee Asian Bistro in Wynnewood. It's the more upscale, suburban outpost of Chinatown stalwart Sang Kee Peking Duck House.

I've yet to write it up but I do find it to have the most interesting Chinese food in the eastern extreme of the Main Line. The quality of cooking seems to have slipped a notch since they originally opened but it's still pretty sound. The duck, soups and noodle dishes are the best bets.

Kevin Porter said...

Posted previously as anon. Thanks for sharing the Sang Kee info. I live on the Delco/Ardmore border and believe that I'd heard that you're in the I presumed Sang Kee but didn't want to miss a gem if there were a place you considered better!

Hmm - duck soup and noodle dishes - guess my favorite duck udon falls in that sweet spot.

Have you tried Sukho Thai?

David McDuff said...

Hey Kevin,
Thanks for reading. I've been to Sukho Thai twice now. The first meal was very good, the second less so but still decent. I'd like to get back once more before writing it up. Suffice it to say that I'm happy to have it in my neighborhood and I hope that it survives the apparent curse on the Oakmont shopping district.

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