Whether Champagne or “Sparkling Wine”, most bubbly wines that people enjoy on New Year’s Eve are “Dry” to “Extra Brut”, which are terms the wine industry uses to identify the sweetness of their Champagnes. There are sweeter wines, (Demi-Sec and Doux), and they’re generally enjoyed on their own or, with sweets.
Today, I’ll focus on some of the many different foods you can enjoy with one of the worlds most popular beverages enjoyed on New Year’ Eve.
For starters, most Champagnes are made from one of 3 grape varietals. Chardonnay, which is a white grape, and either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier which are both red grapes whose juices, once crushed, are not allowed to be colored by their skins thus remain the same translucent, straw color as does Chardonnay. Each grape varietal produces its own
unique final taste, and, in some cases, multiple varietals are used by the wine maker to create a “signature” sparkling wine.
Choosing the “right” foods to go with Champagne is, on the one hand, a matter of what typically “goes” with a dry white wine, and on the other hand, foods you just simply enjoy. In a manner of speaking, it’s a good, better, best kind of decision.
Having said that, if I suggested to you that Foie Gras is an excellent choice and you hate liver…well? That’s not a very good choice for you.
On New Year’s Eve, if you’re probably enjoying your Champagne in one of 3 ways.
1.A toast to the New Year at midnight.
2.With appetizers leading up midnight.
3.With dinner on New Year’s Eve…because you’re planning on being asleep when the ball drops.
I’ll focus my recommendations on #2 and #3. Appetizers and entrees.
What are the best appetizers to enjoy with your Champagne?
· You absolutely can’t go wrong with a selection of cheeses and dried salamis with crackers or French Baguette slices. Regarding the cheeses, chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano should be among the choices. And if you have the budget, a Pâté of some sort with the same Baguette slices you have would be great.
· I have to mention here that the other obvious choice is Caviar but unless you personally love it, I wouldn’t make the investment, even if it’s an American Sturgeon (Paddlefish). People may try it because, well, it’s a traditional go-to with Champagne, but honestly, it’s more for the novelty for most people rather than for the true appreciation of its delicate taste. If you want to go with a fish spread, I’d recommend a smoked whitefish dip/spread (again with your Baguette slices). Besides, it’s kind of an indigenous Michigan thing.
· I’ll recommend Oysters on the Half Shell for sure but if you’re serving these for more than a couple of people, I’d recommend you shuck them an hour or so in advance, then cover them with a clean very damp towel and place them in the fridge. Serve with lemon wedges, hot sauce, cocktail sauce, or, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, with a Mignonette sauce you can make with ¼ cup red wine, 2 TBSP minced shallots and some freshly cracked black pepper.
· Sushi. Yep, generally speaking, Sushi goes very well with Champagne, I would however avoid the crazier combos. Anything with tuna, shrimp, eel, salmon is great, even California rolls. (Go easy on the wasabi and soy sauce please).
Other appetizer choices that work are:
Deviled Eggs (not too spicy though.)
Shrimp Cocktail (you knew this was coming)
Deep Fried Shrimp Tempura or Mozzarella Sticks
Petite Crab Cakes
Vegetable or Shrimp Spring Rolls
French Fries with Sea Salt and Parmesan Cheese (Can you believe it?)
Bruschetta. Those crisp, baked toasts topped with any number of Bruschetta topping we sell at Nino’s from those which are tomato based to those with olives or eggplant.
Kettle Fried Potato Chips and Buttery Popcorn (…and you thought everything that goes with Champagne is “fancy”. It would probably be the most popular choice of the evening!)
What about dinner?
· From a “cuisine” standpoint, pasta dishes, especially ones with a cream sauce, go exceptionally well with Champagne because the wine has a wonderful, refreshing, palate cleaning effect which cuts through the fat and gives you a clean start on the next bite. The PERFECT pasta dish would be one with seafood, particularly lobster, shrimp and scallops, Common now, you already sprung for the Champagne, no sense stopping the indulgences now? Seafood risottos (rice) or Seafood Raviolis are other alternative choices.
· Most fish are also excellent choices. Among the great choices here are Halibut, Sea Bass and Cod, which are white, flakey and mildly sweet. There aren’t too many ways you could prepare these fish that would be much of an issue regarding Champagne’s compatibility.
· Chicken, Duck and other “Game Birds” such as Quail and Partridge are popular Chef choices. Without going into detailed recipes, the safest preparation would be to just roast them and serve with natural juices. One of Nino’s popular Oven Roasted Chickens would be a good choice with some Roasted Red Skin Potatoes slightly mashed with a drizzle of Truffle Oil and perhaps some steamed Broccoli. That, in itself would complete a wonderful New Year’s Eve Dinner.
· And, believe it or not, wait for it…….. Mac & Cheese is actually a pretty darn good paring, Fried Chicken too! And considering just how rough 2021 has been on all of us it, might be quite apropos. Sorry, Ramen Noodle Soup isn’t a good choice.
· Generally speaking, most fresh fruits are poor choices to pair with Champagne but if fruit is your “thing” I would strongly recommend fresh berries on a custard tart or on a Crème Brûlée.
· Chocolate Covered Strawberries? Yes, if you’re Champagne is on the slightly sweeter side or perhaps a sparkling Rosé.
· A cheese course for dessert is probably the best suited to Champagne. Serve with toasted almonds and perhaps some semi-sweet dark chocolate.
It’s SO French! But then again, that’s where Champagne was born. Why not!
From all of us at Nino’s, from our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy New Year 2022!