An invitation to an evening of ‘fizz’ with friends tomorrow night found me wondering about the complex issue of what to drink with champagne. Whilst it’s often enjoyed as an aperitif at the start of a dinner party, it rarely features as an accompaniment to the meal itself and more’s the pity. I can proudly admit to having drunk champagne all the way through a dinner party on a couple of occasions and a jolly good time was had by all!
For me, favourite foods with non-vintage, dry (Brut) champagne include Thai-influenced dishes – monkfish saté, meatballs in a coconut, chilli and coriander sauce with noodles and a simple Thai chicken curry spring to mind. Seafood is an obvious pairing perhaps – a platter of fruits de mer seems very sophisticated and fresh crab is perfect. If you're feeling really decadent, why not poach some white fish (turbot or seabass perhaps) in champagne with a little butter , a splash of cream, a squeeze of lemon and some chopped chives and shallots - and then drink the remaining contents of the champagne bottle with it!
Soft, creamy, white cheeses and goat’s cheeses can be surprisingly good matches for champagne as can cheese-based canapés like the Burgundian speciality, gougères (cheesy choux buns), that I made on Sunday - see photo. A recent cheese find, Brillat-Savarin, is a cow's milk cheese which hails from Northern Burgundy although its true provenance is often disputed by those over the border in Champagne-Ardennes. I adore this cheese and it doesn’t last long in our house – you can get it at Waitrose. It also works with the Burgundian sparkling wine, Crémant de Bourgogne, which will be lighter on your pocket than champagne.
Other reasonably-priced French sparkling wine options include, from the Loire valley, Vouvray Mousseux Brut from Chenin Blanc which I particularly like with Thai food. Another favourite is Crémant de Limoux from down in the Languedoc – often a blend of two of the champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir although Mauzac is the indigenous and traditionally-deployed grape.
I wonder what will be on the menu with our fizz tomorrow night!