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Jan 18, 2008 07:26 AM

Champagne pairing

I'm trying to prepare a 5-6 course dinner for two for valentine's day. Since there are only two of us, I really can't justify opening more than three bottles of wine. That means that the first course wine has to do double duty with the second course. And likewise the second bottle needs to work with courses three and four.

I've chosen to start with a NV Guy Charlemagne Brut. The first course is going to be caviar on white chocolate (sounds weird I know, but trust me it works). The third course is going to be duck. So I need a course of either some sort of vegetable, soup or light fish that works as a bridge and pairs well with the champagne.

Here comes the issue though, I'm trying to incorporate chocolate into every course. In some it's just a garnish or small component of the sauce. I don't want the chocolate to be the center of any course.

Also, I want something that can be done with as much of the work done in advance as possible.

Any ideas? I was thinking of possibly a light green salad with a citrus vinaigrette and cocoa nibs. I'm worried that the champagne just won't work with the vinaigrette though.

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  1. I'll start with the salad.... Using a champagne vinaigrette with honey and no acidic vegetables might work. OTOH: Perhaps a fruit salad with a few mild leaves like mache, or endive added could work as well. A citrus dressing, to my palate, would be too tart. You've given yourself an interesting challenge. Good Luck!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      imho, lemon juice is better for a vinaigrette with any wine, and even with Champagne. I would steer clear of vinegar when Champagne is the center of the menu. It's always worked for me.

    2. If you go the salad route, dress it with Champagne or still Chardonnay, not vinegar.

      The winter issue of Ricardo magazine has a simple recipe for a lobster soup thickened with egg yolk and a little white chocolate. Can summarize it here or e-mail it to you if you're interested.

      4 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        That sounds great and I'd love to hear it.

        1. re: vanillagorilla

          Here you go.

          (adapted from a recipe in the Winter 2008 issue of *Ricardo* magazine)

          Bring 2 CUPS fish stock to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 1 OZ CHOPPED WHITE CHOCOLATE and 1 EGG YOLK, whisking until smooth. Add 6 OZ CUBED SKINLESS SEA BASS, the CHOPPED MEAT FROM 1 COOKED 1½-LB LOBSTER (keep the claw meat whole and set it aside), 1 CHOPPED SCALLION. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the fish is cooked (3 to 4 minutes); do not let the soup boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the claw meat in half lengthwise. Serve in coffee cups and garnish each cup with a piece of claw meat.

          4 servings

          1. re: carswell

            Carswell, I have to ask, have you tried this soup yourself? I am having a bit of a tough time wrapping my teeny weeny brain around the concept... and would you pair this with something to match the lobster and ignore the chocolate (like an oaked, buttery Chardonnay of some kind?)

            1. re: moh

              No, I've not tried it.

              I think the chocolate could be ignored. As I imagine the recipe, the chocolate would act something like cream, adding richness but not much flavour (1 oz in 2 cups of stock with fish, lobster, egg yolk and green onion). As for the wine, I suspect the bubbly would make a fair match, which is what the OP had in mind.

      2. How did your dinner in December go, with some of the same menu items?
        Pairing for an all chocolate dinner

        3 Replies
        1. re: maria lorraine

          I actually canceled it as something else came up. My wife wanted to go out for her birthday instead of me cooking for the two of us. So, I'm trying to do it again.

          1. re: vanillagorilla

            I can't help you as far as chocolate additions to your savory courses (unless you were making Molé), but I can give you a trick in regards to serving Champagne with your vinaigrette. Use a splash of the Champagne as the vinegar component of your salad dressing. Usually the ratio (not absolute) of vinegar to oil is 1:3. Have a lovely evening. Goodness, you're planning ahead!

            1. re: maria lorraine

              part of the reason I have to plan ahead is I need to test some of the recipes. The duck in particular is fairly complicated, and contains many components that I've never tried before.

        2. Without ever having tried this combination all together... I would sautee up some fresh porcini mushrooms in butter and thyme and then create a sauce of hardly-sweetened salty dark chocolate and just lightly drizzle it over the mushrooms.

          1. Is this an NV Brut Rose or Blanc de Blancs?

            If Blanc de Blanc I'd like to see some smoke in the 2nd dish... smoked salmon w/ camembert dip, for example..

            If Rose, the duck course would probably benefit from grilling and a hint of truffle... As for the 2nd dish here.... perhaps roast or grilled pork w/ cocoa in the spice rub or mole.

            As an alternative for either BdB or Rose, you might like to interject a fruit and chocolate course between the caviar and duck as a palate refresher.... champagne can connect particularly well with raspberry which in turn is a great connection with many chocolates... also very fitting valentines.

            Lastly, I'm wondering since you have such a heavy theme of chocolate running through your first 3 courses if you might want to consider a bubbly that has (IMO) a much better connection to chocolate: Moscato d'Asti.... or something a tad sweeter than Brut... perhaps a Sec ?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chicago Mike

              It is neither a rose or a blanc de blancs.