Category: France

Duval-Leroy at The Greenhouse Mayfair

When we think of champagne, we inevitably think of canapés; indeed, this is the most frequent mode of delivery. At a stretch, perhaps, we think of demi-sec or sec with desserts. But outside of champagne enthusiasts, how many of us sit down to champagne matched to every course?

Well, as I discovered over a Duval-Leroy lunch at The Greenhouse, the French serve nothing but champagne at weddings, making it the ultimate celebratory drink. That’s a rather apt discovery since Duval-Leroy is one champagne house that’s very focused on their food. Take their Lady Rose, which was originally created for Pierre Hermé macaroons. But more on that later.

First, let’s sit down to a selection of their champagnes matched by head chef Arnaud Bignon’s specially created menu.

Duval-Leroy has 15 cuvées in its portfolio. We started with Fleur de Champagne 1er Cru NV as an aperitif, a champagne which celebrated its centenary last year and is Duval-Leroy’s best sellers in the restaurant trade. It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular – a delicate floral nose with a solid structure, ready to stand up against any likely canapé pairings.

Wild salmon, coconut, wasabi, curry, salad, Champagne Duval-Leroy lunch at The Greenhouse, MayfairNext up was the Rosé Prestige 1er Cru NV. This salmon-pink champagne is said to boast a bouquet of cherries, figs and even a hint of ginger – a difficult match but the chef’s wild salmon dish, with hints of curry and wasabi, worked beautifully.

The third champagne, La Femme de Champagne 2000 Grand Cru, was the favourite amongst the wine writers around the table. The powerful vintage, only produced in certain years and from selected Grand Cru plots, had great structure and finished to a soft mousse on the palate. Cornish crab highlighted with mint jelly, Granny Smith apple and curry made another challenging match but one that La Femme easily overcame with finesse.

The only blanc de blancs we had, the Clos des Bouveries 2005 cuvée oenoclimatique, was Duval-Leroy’s special experiment. The champagne, produced solely from Chardonnay grapes harvested from a century-old Duval-Leroy owned vineyard near Vertus, is vintaged every year so the effect of the weather on each vintage is fully explored and exposed.

The dish matched was an equally experimental looking chicken with truffle, chestnut and squash. Champagne with meat is perhaps the most difficult match and in this case there was a little too much experimentation on the palate.

The final champagne was the champagne for food lovers, and in particular, desserts – the aforementioned Lady Rose NV. Duval-Leroy still celebrate this champagne with their annual Dessert of the Year competition. At 25g/l dosage, the champagne falls firmly into the super sweet sec category.

Originally produced as a half bottle, it has proved so popular in Asia, matching well with Asian cuisine, that a full sized bottle is now produced too. With berries on the nose and slight acidity on the palate, the Lady Rose NV married well with the raspberry, lychee and rose dessert.

Raspberry, lychee, rose, Champagne Duval-Leroy lunch at The Greenhouse, Mayfair

It seems that there’s certainly room for champagne with every course, though matching is not always so simple. Duval-Leroys champagnes did well with the fish and of course dessert but further explorations are certainly needed for meats. And that’s not something to complain about!

It was also interesting to learn about the champagne house’s dedication to the sustainable development of their vineyards and winemaking. This includes continued commitment to reducing water usage, use of solar panels to reduce their carbon footprint and a move towards organic vinification with some of their cuvées.

Now that is something worth raising a glass of champagne to.

See the menu and additional photos here

(First seen on Bon Vivant)

Japanese food, French wines: an evening with Luiz Hara and Bordeaux wines

 Luiz Hara, London Foodie Japanese Supperclub with Bordeaux Wine

French wine and Japanese food, why wouldn’t you?

After all, there are some surprising similarities between French and Japanese food. Stock, for example, features prominently in both cuisines, albeit with different basic ingredients. And then of course there are plenty of French restaurants, employing classical techniques but using Japanese ingredients. Joel Robuchon‘s empire, in particular, comes to mind.

So French wine and Japanese food, not too wild a path for the stretch of imagination.

And it was at Luiz Hara‘s (The London Foodie) lovely home that this combination came to life – a Japanese supper club hosted with Bordeaux wines.

Having cooked with Luiz at his supper club before, I sort of knew the food to expect – home cooked food done well. There were a couple of old-faithfuls like the salmon sashimi South American way and teppanyaki of rib-eye but it was also great to see Luiz’s new creations like “Ankimo” and “Deconstructing Sushi”.

And you know that well known fact about the expense of Bordeaux wines? About how it’s auctioned at record prices in Hong Kong? And how the buoyant Chinese wine market is what’s driving it up? Well this supper club dispels that myth too.

All the wines chosen to match Luiz’s dishes were under £20, and there were some interesting combinations too.

Take “Deconstructing Sushi” (essentially a Japanese version of Coquilles Saint-Jacques) and Roquefortissime 2010 from Château Roquefort for example, the dish was a lot spicier than I would have expected of Japanese cuisine but the wine was robust enough to stand up to that very powerful dish. It was also rounded enough to drink alone and would, I imagine, go rather well with pork or walnuts too. It’s probably something that I’d choose if I didn’t want to change wines between a starter and a main and I’m usually not a Sauvignon fan.

The dish that delighted me the most was definitely “Ankimo” – sous-vide ballotine of foie de lotte, shredded daikon and ponzu dressing. I had wanted to try the foie de lotte while in France but sadly never got round to it so this was a great opportunity to try something new. It’s a lot less rich in comparison to foie gras but no less delicious. The wine match was a 2011 rosé from Château Méaume which, while not something I’d drink on its own, did work surprisingly well with the dish.

The evening drew to a close with a Sauternes; what else could it have been? I was surprised to discover that the Ginestet 2009 we had was only priced at £10. It doesn’t hold the same intensity in flavour as some of the greats and will literally pale in comparison to say the golden hues of Château d’Yquem but it is also a tiny percentage of the cost.

That’s the thing you forget under the thousand pound a bottle umbrella of the Latours and Lafits – there are every day Bordeaux wines, quite capable of being matched to interesting food, that are also very affordable. Well, even the New York Times agrees with me.

(Check out the menu and additional photos here)

Bordeaux Wines hosted the supperclub. Amateur Wine was a guest at the event. You can find out more in our Editorial Policy.

Laurent-Perrier Tous Les Sens: A Preview

Laurent Perrier Tous Les Sense at Massimo, The Corinthia, London

Flowers aren’t my thing. It’s all that pollen irritating my hayfever. And all that floral femininity making me feel like I have to be all girly. But flowers on a plate, it just makes me all weak at the knees with glee.

At the Laurent-Perrier Tous Les Sens Masterclass at Taste of London this year, it is all about the flowers. Not just to look at or to smell but also to eat. International florist Ercole Moroni leads the class and guides you through a specially created tasting menu of floral delights. As well as exploring the menu and learning about the different flowers on the plate and on the table, you also get to sample a small flight of Champagnes from Laurent-Perrier.

If the preview at Massimo, The Corinthia, is anything to go by, you will surely be in for a treat. We had dishes inspired by apple blossom, green shiso, wild garlic, courgette flower, jasmine blossom, and elderflower, just to name a few; and by inspired I mean it was on the plate. While we sipped the champagne and tried the food, Moroni talked about why each champagne was chosen to match the menu and how they relate to the flowers. By the end of the meal, even I was warming a little to the bouquet.

Laurent Perrier Tous Les Sense at Massimo, The Corinthia, London

The Tous Les Sens Masterclass menu at Taste of London is slightly different though and has been put together especially for the event by specialist caterers, Urban Caprice. Canapé portions of starter, main and dessert will be paired with Ultra Brut, Grand Siècle and Curvée Rosé respectively, from Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

The starter will be Mottra Osetra caviar, apparently the world’s only truly sustainable caviar, on white toast. The caviar is sustainable and ethical because the sturgeons are massaged to release the roe rather than cut open while still alive. The main course is a Champagne infused risotto with asparagus. And finally the dessert is a white chocolate and strawberry sphere with strawberry mousse, macerated strawberries, rose jelly and crystalised rose petals.

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Desserts and wines with Nancy Gilchrist MW

dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Leiths School of Food and Wine, famed for training professional and amateur chefs alike, has recently launched a new series of evening tasting classes. I went to its West London kitchen classroom to try some food and wine matches.

The class was fairly informal and led by Nancy Gilchrist MW – author, journalist and Master of Wine. For any worshipper of desserts, the evening promises to be enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Unfortunately the class took place when London was in the grips of icy wintry weather.

Having braved the snow and ice with a questionable choice of footwear, which got me cursing every two steps, I was very well rewarded. We were welcomed into the class with a glass of Zonin Brut Prosecco, which given the warm embrace of the classroom, was like an injection of summer. As guests slowly trailed in, the hubbub in the class grew.

Nancy Gilchrist at dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Nancy introduced the format of the evening – there were six dessert wines to try with six matched desserts. There was brioche to cleanse the palate, water for rinsing and we could request a personal spittoon, if we wanted to. We also had a course booklet with notes on all the wines and recipes for all the desserts. It was a case of “you can take it as seriously as you like”, or just enjoy.

First up was a delightfully summery Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2009. At only 5% alcohol, it was the least alcoholic of the wines and also my favourite. It was matched with pomegranate meringues, pomegranate and strawberry compote and sweetened whipped double cream. Nancy suggested tasting the wine in four stages – on its own, with just the meringue, with the meringue and the compote and finally with everything. It was interesting to find that the perceived flavour profile of the wine was changing according to what it was paired with.

Nivole Moscato d'Asti with brioche, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

The wine was very pleasant to drink to begin with and pairing with just the meringue seemed to make little difference. With the compote the contrast was a lot sharper and the wine, although not unpleasant, didn’t taste nearly as nice. When the cream was added though, the natural taste of the wine returned but with a new-found richness.

The second wine was Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2006 from Waitrose paired with crème brûlée and raspberry coulis. There was a hint of marzipan in the wine which worked particularly well with the caramelised sugar of the crème brûlée. This sweet wine is produced via a very labour intensive process as it’s made from grapes affected by noble rot. The grapes are infected by a special strain of Botrytis which causes them to dry out like raisins. They must be harvested at a particular stage of the infestation to produce the required characteristics in the wine, which means that each vine must be harvested several times by hand. Nancy tells us that this soft and mellow wine would also work well with foie gras or blue cheese.

Tarte tatin, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Wine number three was the Royal Tokaji 5 puttonyos 2005, which was paired with tarte tatin and Calvados crème anglais. Made with hand picked Aszu berries, the production of this wine is also highly labour intensive. The 5 puttonyos indicates the amount of berries added to the wine and therefore the level of sweetness. As the scale is between 3 and 6, this wine is very sweet.

Next up was an intensely sweet Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Malmsey Madeira 1998 matched with stollen. Sweetness is definitely a defining characteristic of dessert wines but this one was particularly so. It was very interesting to learn about how Madeira’s distinctive flavour was first discovered as a result of some wines being carried aboard merchant vessels making long journeys across the world. These days, instead of making that long journey, the wine is heated to around 50°C and maintained for some three months. Madeira is a fortified wine which continues to improve with age, is relatively insusceptible to oxidation and will therefore last for a long time.

Fig frangipane tart, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

After that large dose of sugar, it was on to a slightly less sweet wine – the Les Vignerons de Maury, NV Solera 1928 Maury. This is another fortified wine but produced using a Solera process, where new wines are blended with older wines in rotating barrels, which began in 1928. It is a non-vintage wine as, in order for a wine to be deemed a vintage, at least 85% of the bottle must be wine produced from that vintage year. (Port and champagne must be 100%.) The dessert paired to this non-vintage was fig and frangipane tart to match the hint of fig and tobacco in the wine.

Last but not least we had the Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal 1999 paired with a chocolate and mocha layered cheesecake to pick up on the hints of coffee.

The evening wound down in the same relaxed manner as it began – guests were able to explore the different combinations of desserts and wines with Nancy on hand to answer any additional questions. For me though, it was a matter of stomping through the snow in an attempt to get home. After all, I now had renewed energy from all the sugar consumed to make the best of my impaired balance.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Rules for entertaining with Laurent Perrier

Mandarin Oriental barThe Christmas season is definitely upon us with snow descending across the country and the opening of advent calendars. To ease us into the party season, Laurent-Perrier held a little class on the art of entertaining. I was there to enjoy a little champagne and take notes.

The class took place in the Mandarin Bar of Mandarin Oriental, the home of Bar Boulud and the soon to open Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Leading the class were David Hesketh MW, MD of Laurent-Perrier UK, and Lucia van der Post, journalist and author of “Things I wish my mother had told me”. The focus was of course champagne and in particular, the selection from Laurent-Perrier.

Laurent-Perrier can trace its history to 1812 when Alphonse Pierlot was trading as A. Pierlot & Cie in Tours-sur-Marne, Champagne, France. He was a cooper and bottler before turning his hand to making champagnes. When he died in 1881, the company was bestowed to his cellar master Eugene Laurent who ran the Champagne House with his wife Mathilde-Emilie Perrier. It wasn’t until 1887, when Laurent passed away and Perrier took over the running of the company, that the brand Veuve Laurent-Perrier & Cie was established. The brand has since gone from strength to strength before being acquired by the Nonancourt family in 1939.

Laurent Perrier Grand SiecleToday, the House of Laurent-Perrier is the fourth largest champagne brand in the world and remains a family owned business with members of the Nonancourt family on its Management Board.

But back to the evening and learning about the art of entertaining. As the guests gathered at the bar, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle was served in classic champagne flutes and matched to savoury canapés. There was quite a selection, from wild mushroom risotto to roulade of Foie Gras, but the pan-fried scallops with parsnip purée and Alsace bacon and the smoked salmon with caviar on toasted Brioche were particularly excellent.

After a short while of mingling, the party retired to an alcove of the bar to enjoy more champagne and to learn more about selecting champagnes for different occasions from David Hesketh before being entertained by Lucia van der Post with anecdotes and suggestions on the finer points of hosting etiquette. After yet more champagne, the evening winds down with a selection of sweet canapés including a very moreish praline and raisin feuillîte.

So here is what you need to know:

  • To open a bottle of champagne, you should first release the cork from the foil and its wire cage, minimising the agitation to the bottle. Then hold the bottle at a slight incline, with the cork in one hand and the base of the bottle in the other, gently twist the bottle to ease the cork out. Ideally the sound should be a hiss rather than a pop as it means more bubbles are retained in the champagne itself.
  • A champagne flute should always be used. The correct way to pour is to first fill to 1/3 of the glass before topping up to ¾ full. This allows the guests to appreciate the aroma from the champagne before enjoying the taste.
  • For a bigger party, it’s usually best to select a non vintage. It goes well with most canapés and will facilitate ease of conversation, adding a sense of occasion without imposition. Hesketh suggests the Laurent-Perrier Brut NV or the Ultra Brut for those calorie conscious.
  • For smaller parties of discerning guests, you want a vintage. There’s more depth of flavour and complexity of aroma – the sort of drink that you might enjoy and discuss. Hesketh suggests vintages from the 90s, in particular, 1996 and 2000 from Laurent-Perrier.
  • For special occasion or Christmas lunch, you want something with real complexity. Hesketh suggests the multi-vintage Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle – it even has its own special pewter holder.
  • For those romantic occasions, there’s always a rosé. Hesketh suggests the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rose Brut.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

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