Prepare for New Years in style with delicious sparkling wine pairings that will have your taste buds transported to an elegant evening in Paris
What are you doing New Year’s Eve? If you’re dreaming of toasting the new year in the City of Lights, but your passport has long expired don’t fret mon ami, downtown Cambridge is where you need to be before the clock strikes midnight.
To see if I could re-create a night in Paris, complete with endless bubbly, on the Eastern Shore, I traveled to Chef Ian Campbell’s Bistro Poplar on Poplar Street. Within seconds, I was transported to a formal yet welcoming little bistro much like the ones I spied as I traveled the streets of the 8th arrondissement.
Since I was a party of one, the bar was perfect for me. General Manager Natalie Brewer gleefully greeted me and helped me select the perfect sparkling wine from the well-stocked bar behind her. With my sparkling Simonet Blanc de Blancs brut in hand and images of the Eiffel Tower in my heart, I couldn’t wait to figure out what to pair with it first.
The tapas-style menu is always changing, but customer favorites are always on the menu. As I scanned the menu, Brewer suggested the perfect starter to compliment my sparkling wine, the onion soup gratinée.
“A lot of love goes into it,” Brewer assured me just as was about to dip my spoon into the gruyere. It was true love and then some, I believe, as I spooned the hot broth and caramelized onions in my mouth, only stopping to sip my wine. The full-bodied broth and the tartness of the sparkling brut paired quite nicely and within minutes, I discovered that instead of just tasting the soup, I had devoured the entire dish.
Next up, what’s a night out in Paris without a beautiful display of roasted oysters on a bed of rock salt. I sipped a bit of sparkling wine to cleanse my palate, and I’m glad that I did because the sharpness from the wine really complimented the cheesy, bacon-y, buttery, garlic goodness that coated the oysters and heightened the surprise kick of the cayenne. I didn’t think I could eat all five of the oysters, but I was surprised by how easy it was.
While I may not always know what tapas pair best with champagne and sparkling wine, I do know that dessert pairs nicely with everything, right?
Thankfully, Brewer was able to point me in the right direction to keep me with my theme or I would’ve ordered every single dessert pastry chef Emily Salisbury created.
Minutes later I was presented with a perfectly round scoop of freshly prepared blackberry lime sorbet. I skimmed the deep purple confection with my spoon and popped a dollop on my tongue. Divine. I then sipped a little of my wine and enjoyed another spoonful, and this time: magic. The bubbles danced around on my tongue and the tangy blackberry played well with the dryness of the wine. Every time I sipped the wine and had a taste of the sorbet, I had my own little magical fireworks in my mouth.
Some believe that French women stay slim because they only have small bites of their meals and very rarely indulge. Well, my goal for the night was to enjoy an evening in Paris with perfect pairings so overindulging was a must. Another must in my book is crème brûlée, but could the creamy cool custard with a brittle sugary crust pair well with a sparkling wine? It was my duty to find out. I tapped the tip of my spoon on the glossy, toasted crust before it made its way to the creamy center. The smooth sweetness was exactly what I needed to finish my meal and the tanginess of wine made the custard even sweeter.
After my make-believe night in Paris, it’s clear that a dry sparkling wine or Champagne pairs well with most any French delicacy. It’s also clear that without frequent flier miles or a passport, a little bit of France is never far as long as you have a great glass of bubbly. I now know what I’m doing on New Years Eve.