Wine Director Jared Hooper and Champagne Specialist Mike Hoagland
My passion in life is Italian wine, but a close second-place might be Champagne. Cold, cutting acidity and lively bubbles. Refreshing, yet serious at the same time. Aromatically superior to any other category of sparkling wine. Equally ready to lay down and develop for years in your cellar, or to be chilled immediately and enjoyed.
I had the chance to taste some real blockbusters the other night with Champagne Specialist Mike Hoagland, who presented the wines of Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, and Krug at Faith & Flower in downtown Los Angeles. The night was all about celebrating Champagne in all its elegant finesse and bawdy playfulness. A night of serious wines, down-home cooking, and enthusiastic revelers.
Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV, paired with creamed corn topped with corn bread which had been smothered in fresh white truffles. Yep. It worked.
I love food pairing with Champagne. There is so much to work with! These are not typically delicate wines- they have backbone and verve! Try Champagne with a grilled steak. Or a cheeseburger. Or pizza. Seriously. As Mike Hoagland reminded us, “these are wines equally well-enjoyed in a fancy restaurant as they are from a paper cup on a beach.” Agreed. And don’t relegate your Champagne to brief stints as the welcoming party-opener before the “serious stuff” is opened. These wines are serious. And fun. And they deserve their time in the spotlight!
Salty, spicy, herbed popcorn with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV.
I love the idea of taking a “luxury”or “specialty” product like “Champagne” and delivering it in an unorthodox way. Opening with a glass of Ruinart (Champagne’s oldest winery), and serving something fun and addicting like this salty popcorn really struck a chord with me. Thank you, Jared Hooper & Chef Michael Hung, for giving me something I want to eat with this fine glass of wine. Oh, and double thank you for making it a great pairing that truly highlights the wine.
And thank you most of all for not taking it all too seriously, and for letting me enjoy myself while I experience this excellent food & wine combination!
Veuve Clicquot Vintage 1985. En Magnum.
What do you pair with the most impressive, Vintage Champagne in your wine dinner?
Well, (and this is why I am a little bit in love with Chef Michael Hung right now), why not a brilliant little play on the classic green bean casserole? Bright, snappy green beans cooked to a perfect al dente, kissed by some kind of creamy-mustardy sauce and spiked with radishes and tarragon. Topped with the requisite fried onions, this was the most platonic incarnation of that classic holiday casserole I have ever tasted. And it was brilliant with the wine. Just enough acidity to match the wine- more than enough toothsome umami to play nicely with the bubbles. Perfection.
High-class green beans.
At this point in the dinner I started to really get into the wine and food pairings. It was playful- like being on a really fancy picnic. Post-modern foodie stuff. With great lighting and ambiance. And beautiful people. And perfectly polished stemware.
Krug Grande Cuvée NV. Classic guilty-sommelier-pleasure. Paired with…
Continuing in our salute to unconventional (yet brilliant) food and wine pairings, we arrived at the main course- Krug Grande Cuvée NV Champagne and Fried Chicken. As Samantha Dugan (Champagne Specialist Extraordinaire) would say- Champagne and fried chicken is a pairing everyone should know about. There is something special about that salty friend crunch paired with those happy, brightly-lit bubbles. That acidity and bright fruit rolling over a grease-slicked palate. It’s so happy. I urge you to find the best fried chicken possible, and to enjoy it with the most awesome bottle of Champagne you can get your hand on.
paired seamlessly with a Not-Your-Mammas-Miso-Apple-Crumble.
Mike Hoagland treated us to a sweet ending, using the Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec NV to highlight Chef Hung’s golden, flaky dream of a desert. He decanted the Demi-Sec, explaining that this helps to loosen the bubbles a bit, rounding out the fruit in the Pinot Meunier-heavy wine. Mike also informed us this “pays homage to the Widow Clicquot, who is the inventor of record for the riddling table, which allowed for Champagne wines to become significantly clarified during the riddling process.” I think she’d be impressed with the food and wine pairing, as well as the dramatic fanfare. The ritual of decanting is pretty sexy stuff.
I love that there are people like Mike Hoagland and Jared Hooper in the world of wine, urging you to have fun with whatever you’re consuming. Drink what is delicious. Eat what you like. Learn a little something while you’re at it.
And please, enjoy more Champagne!