Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back From Champagne

I just returned from several days in Champagne! In Peter Liem, I had the finest tour guide imaginable. I'll share stories and photos in the coming days, but first a few tidbits from our one day in Paris.

The French love Sharon Stone. This movie poster appeared in every metro station I passed through. She is something like 65 years old, but in France she's still a leading lady.

I hope that I never stop feeling thrilled by the streets of Paris. It was a Sunday and instead of dealing with crowds at museums, we pounded the pavement and devoted ourselves to the gastronomic arts. We ate lunch at Le Comptoir de Relais in the 6th Arrondissement. At lunch this place specializes in French "grandma" cuisine, country food that although rustic, is beautifully served and completely delicious. At night this is a "gastronomique" restaurant with far more lofty aspirations, and the few tables are booked two months in advance.

We ate several great things at Le Comptoir, my favorite among them a thick slice of pork foot and green lentil pâté served with an equally thick slice of bread, pickled red onion, and horseradish cream.

The wine list is very good at Le Comptoir, offering interesting things at all price points. The 2009 Houillon/Overnoy Arbois Pupillon Poulsard was truly fantastic, one of the best versions of this wine that I've drunk. And it was perfect with the food. This is a wine that might show best before it travels over the ocean. No sulfur added, after all.

We burned off lunch by walking all the way back to our friend's apartment in the 20th. That way we would have room for dinner at Le Verre Volé. I first read about this place on Bert Celce's Wine Terroirs several years ago and I've always wanted to go. We decided that we would drink Champagne. Vouette et Sorbée Extra Brut Blanc D'Argile was delicious, although oddly not as great as the bottles I've had here in the States. Peter guessed that it might have been in the very cold refrigerator for too long.

I ate a great plate of sardines en escabeche followed by an Andouillette. This earthy* sausage is made of tripe, and as a specialty of the city of Troyes, is not as odd of a pairing with Champagne as you might think. I enjoyed it, but it I was jet lagged and the sausage was incredibly pungent, and I had to throw in the towel at about two-thirds of the way through.

No towels were thrown in on the Champagne, however. Selosse is part of (a leader of?) what I'm learning to think of as a new school in Champagne. The wines are barrel fermented and the style is quite oxidative, which to my palate underscores their incredibly vinous depth. This bottle of Initial was one of the best Selosse wines that I've ever had - amazingly fresh and vibrant with very clean and long salty and chalky flavors. When the wine shows this kind of freshness, it balances and elevates the rich and oxidative character, and it was a truly special bottle.

Early the next morning Peter and I drove to Champagne to begin three days of non-stop visiting, tasting, and drinking. I learned more about Champagne in these three days than in the entirety of the past several years. More on that coming soon...

* "earthy" in this case is a euphemism. The Andouillette offered many pungent smells, one of which was poop.


Dee said...

Lucky you!:) It is one of my greatest desires to visit Champagne, France. I love the wines and the champagne from there. Reading this just increased that desire to go. :)

The Wine Place

Anonymous said...

Dude, you got to meet Sharon Stone? Awesome trip!!

-Levi D

Anonymous said...

pas tres gallant: Stone is 53. Just you wait until you're 53!

Joe Manekin said...

Initial, does go well with the poo sausage!

Do Bianchi said...

Love le Comptoir. It's actually super close to Verena's parents' house.

Tim Buzinski said...

I congratulate you on making it 2/3 through andouillette! I could only manage about 3 bites.