I recently posted a blog concerning a tasting I conducted of French brut Champagne versus California brut sparkling wines produced by leading French Champagne houses. At the end of that posting, I promised to say a word or two about appropriate food. Well … what does one eat with a brut sparkler? Of course, Champagne and its brethren are widely known for their astonishing versatility with food, particularly with food that is salty. So … would you have guessed that Champagne and salted popcorn are the closest of gustatory friends? The same can be said for the likes of caviar or smoked salmon.
For this most recent tasting, I served caviar, but not bowls of Beluga or Sevruga caviar, both of which used to be moderately priced and widely available, neither of which is true today. Rather, I used a good whitefish caviar, mixed it with some mayo and other flavorings to make a mousse. I poured that into a mold – makes a handsome presentation when unmolded – and served it on thin slices of rye. For another accompaniment, get some good smoked salmon, chop it up, moisten it with olive oil and add some chopped shallots and ground pepper. Then, place spoonfuls of the salmon on lightly toasted and oiled baguette slices, and add on top a bit of crème fraiche, embellished with a few capers. If you like, you can mix in just a touch of prepared horseradish with the crème fraiche. Smoked salmon, caviar mousse, and popcorn … who would have thought it?
By the way, for those interested in the more general question of the pairing of food and wine, give a close look at A. Dornenburg and K. Page, What to Drink with What you Eat. It is surprisingly inexpensive for a book so handsomely turned out, and deserves to be in every wine lover’s library.