Bubbles and the Beast: Bollinger “Special Cuvee” and the Cuisine of Animal

24 Feb

My good friend Jaclyn came to visit LA a few days ago.  It was lovely to have her.  Our friend Jeff and I shared some good meals with her, including a much-anticipated tour to that bastion of snout-to-tail eating, Animal.

The prospect of a nearly-exclusive animal-based meal got me to wondering what to select as the alcoholic accompaniment.  I could have safely selected a Burgundy, or a Beaujolais, but instead I went for another B: a Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne.

Bubbles.

Many commentators have noted that Champagne and other sparkling wines are rather underutilized pairing partners for food.  This is a shame, as a brut (not sweet) Champagne is perhaps one of the most versatile wines: the mineral notes in a good Champagne can serve as a perfect complement to oysters, for instance, while the effervescence can enliven the palate after a rich bite of ribeye.  

The Bollinger Special Cuvee–their standard non-vintage bottling–is composed of mostly Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay and then a bit of Pinot Meunier.  Like Krug, Bollinger ages its Champagne in oak and experiences some malolactic fermentation, so there’s both quite a bit of toastiness and richness.  (Unlike Krug, it is about $60 retail.)  This wine was full, creamy, with just a hint of green apple and lemon.  Apparently, James Bond is fond of Bollinger: I can see why.

As for the restaurant: excellent.  Be sure to get the pork belly sandwiches.  The pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth tender and was the best thing I tried that evening–besides, of course, the wine.  Other standouts were the pig tails “buffalo style” (impossibly crisp, with a very spicy, nicely vinegary sauce) and, interestingly enough for such a restaurant, the brussels sprouts with pancetta, parmesan, and a soft-poached egg.

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