By: Kyle Kurani | K&L Staff Member
Food and wine is something of a regular topic here at the K&L, as it ought to be really at any wine shop, but the topic comes up especially often with Gary and Cindy Westby and me. I am forever asking them what they had for dinner, what they drank with it, and how the paring worked.
Champagne is one of my favorite wines to drink with (and before) dinner, and so when Gary returms from his annual trip to Champagne, it is my habit to interrogate him about what he ate and drank. After returning the last time, one particular thing stuck firmly in my head: he mentioned that for the first time he could remember, he had been served a non-French cheese with a bottle of bubbles. To say cheese is a big deal in France is an understatement. I was surprised that this took place in front of a guest. It must have been a nearly perfect pairing.
Let me tell you, it is.
The Champagne is the 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) The cheese is Parmesan.
With this in mind, I set out to create a dish that would compliment this natural pairing, as well as highlight the savory components of the wine. This bottle of Champagne has both driving minerality contrasted with a beautifully creamy mouthfeel. Pinot Meunier always has this umami quality that tantalizes me the way that truffles and mushrooms can when incorporated perfectly into a dish. In order to find the right dish I found myself flipping through the French Laundry cook book.
Eventually I stumbled on the perfect dish: White Truffle Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms and Parmesan.
This risotto is constructed in the usual manor: soften shallots, toast the rice, add white wine, and then carefully ladle in stock until the rice has absorbed enough liquid to be cooked through but firm. After the risotto was cooked properly, I folded in a cup quartered Shitakes that I had sautéed in butter and a splash of Cognac separately (flambé carefully please), stirred in a touch of heavy cream, and a few drops of white truffle oil (a few drops really do go a long way, it is completely worth it to spend a bit more of high quality oil, the difference is truly amazing), and a half cup of grated Parmesan. I topped the risotto with a baked Parmesan cracker, grated the cheese on to a silicon pad, and popped it in the oven until lightly golden brown and crispy.
I poured a glass of the Champagne and proceeded to enjoy truly a great pairing. The interplay of the savory aspect of both wine and the dish were truly stunning. The richness of the Risotto was countered with the driving minerality and fresh acidity of the wine, and everything was in harmony. I encourage all of you to think about Champagne as a great wine to have before dinner, but also as a very capable pairing to many dishes.