Thursday, March 5, 2009

Champagne and...Chinese Food?

Because of the nature of my job, I don't get to spend too many nights at home with my wife. So when I do have the opportunity to hang out on the couch with her for a few hours before the craziness of the next work day is upon us, I tend to gravitate toward comfort food-type dinners. And one of my all-time favorite dinnertime treats is Chinese food and Champagne.

Now, this might sound counterintuitive, but the match is as close to perfect as you're likely to find. Don't get me wrong: If someone were to offer me a bowl piled high with caviar alongside a bottle of bubbly, I wouldn't turn them down. That combination ranks right up there with foie gras and Sauternes, or classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a simply grilled steak. But I would absolutely include Champagne and classic Chinese food in the Pantheon of great pairings...

(NB: China is a huge country that is home to a wide range of regional cuisines, so I am not suggesting that Champagne will pair perfectly with all Chinese food. The dishes I'm referring to here are the familiar ones that so many in this country have grown up with. To imply that China's cuisines are monolithic would be tantamount to claiming that the food is the same throughout the United States, which, of course, is untrue.)

So why does this partnership work so well? There are a number of reasons: The bubbles cleanse the oils from the tongue, the high acid in the wine cuts right through any fat in the dish, and Champagne's yeasty, bready quality matches beautifully with soy sauce.

The other night, I stopped by one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia's Chinatown and brought home a bowl of roasted pork and roasted duck noodle soup, eggplant and chicken in black bean sauce, and a spring roll. Paired with a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV, it was a match made in foodie heaven. And a great way to spend a few hours at home.


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