July 16th was a big day for me- it was Cinnamon and mine’s tenth anniversary. She had asked to enjoy the occasion in Champagne, so we planned a trip. For the big night I was able to get reservations at L'Assiette Champenoise, which had just earned its third Michelin star, as well as Gaut & Millau’s highest ranking for restaurants. It was an incredible experience.
We arrived early and enjoyed our aperitif on the terrace, a bottle of the 2004 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99 here at K&L) which was a surprise from the Paillards. It was waiting on ice when we arrived! We took a look at the menu, and settled on the 2007 Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Volnay 1er Cru "Clos de la Bousse d'Or" for our red and the “Gout” menu. We then ran into Stanislaus Thienot, of Champagne Thienot, who had come in to celebrate his wife’s birthday. We sat down and offered them a glass of the Paillard, which was showing its Chardonnay side with a ton of chalky drive. Cinnamon and I are very lucky to have married in a good vintage for Champagne!
When we sat down, we realized that we were going to need more Champagne, and ordered a bottle of the 2004 Michel Loriot "Les Sources du Flagot" Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($49.99 here at K&L) to go with our first few courses. We were treated to a beautiful amuse bouche of potato foam with Guanciale and croutons- it was a fantastic, buttery first bite. The Loriot 2004 is the only Blanc de Blancs that we sell besides the Salon that does not undergo malolactic, and although it is very rich and leesy, had great acidity to cut the “Torteaux Navet Croquant”, an Atlantic crab with impossibly thinly sliced radish and a top notch sweet and sour sauce. I think this was the most inventive of all the dishes, and a real delight. Alas, not every crab is born a Dungeness, but the meat was still very good. Small drops of concentrated of yuzu sauce really made this dish stand out.
The next course was the “Bar de Ligne Petite Pois, Crème Coquillage Poivree” a super mild sea bass that was filleted in a way that allowed the chef to roll it up like cigar, skin side out. It was served with a cream sauce, and the texture of the crispy skin contrasted with the feather light meat perfectly. With the cream sauce, the Loriot took on a brie like character, but was up to the job of cutting the richness with its high 2004 vintage acidity.
Our main course, the “Canard de Pierre Duplantier” was a duck breast piece that had been cut into the shape of a small candy bar, and served with thin pasta shells stuffed with duck confit. It looked small, but was so rich and full of flavor that it was more than enough! We set our Champagne aside, and reached for the 2007 Pousse d’Or, which we had asked to have decanted. Sometimes sommeliers in France don’t like to decant Burgundy, but our man at L’Assiette thought it was a great idea for this bottle. It had probably been two hours by the time we drank it, and it was a dead ringer for a top class Vosne… I am glad that I didn’t get this wine in a blind tasting, because I would have been dead wrong on it! It had showy, sweet cherry fruit and catnip like oak to start, and took a little while to show the exotic, even flowery character I more associate with Volnay. The combination was perfect with the duck.
Cinnamon and I are both crazy about cheese and had been looking forward to the “Chariot de Fromages” since we made the booking months ahead. As usual, there were too many great cheeses to choose from, and we were both too full to give them their due. The perfectly ripe, lava flow like Brie de Meaux was my stand out, but everything was at its peak of ripeness without being over. I prefer Port or Sherry to red wine with cheese, but since we were on our third bottle, I stuck with the Volnay. We both needed to save room for dessert.
Of course, at a great restaurant like this, you can’t have dessert before the dessert before dessert. Cinnamon’s favorite part of the pre-dessert was the canelés- we had served them at our wedding. Just before the main course dessert arrived, Stanislaus Thienot kindly sent us over glasses of the Thienot Brut Rosé Champagne ($59.99 at K&L) and we were very grateful for the treat, and for the cab that was coming to take us both back to the gite. This was a rich, gastronomic rose with plenty of personality and good chalky zip on the finish. After a great dessert of raspberries, we were ready to be rolled into the taxi cab.
If you are ever in Champagne and would like to enjoy a very special evening of dining, L'Assiette Champenoise is a great destination. I have stayed at the Relais and Chateau hotel at the property before, and it is very luxurious as well. I hope that you get a chance to visit!
A toast to you!