Bubble bubble

Toil and trouble

Money burns and

Pleasure doubles.

(Inspired by William Shakespeare and Fantasia)

 Champagne is the consummate Valentine’s Day libation.  It oozes romance and lightens one’s wallet in a way that demonstrates a commitment or great expectation to one’s spouse, significant other, or date for the evening.  Apropos of Valentine’s Day, Helen Gurley Brown said:  “Two warm bodies and one cold bottle of Champagne will produce something more wonderful than would happen without Champagne.”

For this Valentine’s Day Wine Pairing Weekend challenge I guilted Sous Chef into making Champagne and sparkling wine the cornerstone of our Valentine’s Day dinner.  And then I made him celebrate Valentine’s Day several days early so I could write about it.  Regardless the timing of the dinner or my undue influence on Sous Chef, I had great expectations for this meal as I planned to make Roasted Monkfish with Curried Lobster Sauce from a Daniel Boulud recipe in Chef Daniel Boulud Cooking in New York.

Schramsberg Brut Rose & Billecart-Salmon

Great wine can save a disastrous meal.

Sous Chef loves monkfish, not because it is the “poor man’s lobster” and he wants to save some coins of the realm, but because it has wonderful texture and taste.  So when  in Los Angeles recently, we stopped at our favorite meat and seafood supplier:   McCall’s Meat & Fish.  We bought two gorgeous monkfish tails to accompany the  Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé  and 2011 Schramsberg Brut Rosé that he purchased for the occasion.

During preparation of this special meal things were going along fine.  We don’t often prep together since Sous Chef is fast and I am slow and knife challenged.  But for once I was keeping up and, consequently, feeling pretty cocky in fact.  So much so that I chose to deviate from Daniel Boulud’s fairly complicated recipe and instead of roasting the monkfish as called for in the recipe, I put it in my Sous Vide water oven.  Arrogance can be a bad thing and I had just completed a series of Sous Vide meals that left me thinking I had mastered this unique and wonderful cooking tool.  But arrogance has its bounds and my cockiness was shattered by the results for this meal.  While the components were delicious – the caramelized apples, salpicon and curried lobster sauce– the monkfish was nearly inedible.  The texture was off and missing was the depth of flavor you get from roasting.  I am certain it was not a product problem and I hope it was not an operator error.  But since the lobster that cooked in the Sous Vide for the same duration was perfect, it could be monkfish is not appropriate, or at least a tricky item, for this cooking method.

Waffles Strawberries Cocktails 103

Schramsberg, Billecart-Salmon & Roasted Monkfish with Curried Lobster

Fortunately a disappointing meal can be redeemed with a good bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine.  As some very famous people have noted about Champagne:

“In success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it.”  Winston Churchill

“I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate . . . and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

Sage advice and definitely needed in our case.  The saving grace of this meal was our taste test comparing the Billecart-Salmon (beel/kahr sahl/moh) to the Schramsberg.  Most will say the results were predictable since Billecart-Salmon dates back to 1818 and remains one of the few family owned Champagne houses.  Plus its retail price is about twice the Schramsberg’s.  But don’t count the Schramsberg short.  It dates back to 1862 and three years before Treasure Island was published, Robert Louis Stevenson describes his visit to Schramsberg in Silverado Squatters.  Although each is a splendid sparkling wine, I found there is a marked difference.  The Schramsberg is fruitier, bolder in flavor, and has very slightly larger bubbles.  It is very refreshing and extremely well made, but a little sweeter than the Billecart-Salmon.  And by that I don’t mean it is a sweet sparkling wine by any stretch.  It is dry and complex, but in comparison the Billecart-Salmon is more refined and subtle in flavor and drier in taste.  I noted a suggestion of vanilla and sandalwood on the nose with a subtle hint of raspberry and rose on the palate.  Tiny bubbles, beautiful color–this wine is well worth the price.

So for this Valentine’s Day, go ahead and splurge on a bottle of either the Billecart-Salmon or the Schramsberg rosés.  Remember what Mark Twain said:  “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”  And never, never be like John Maynard Keynes whose dying words were:  “I wish I had drunk more Champagne.”

Join us for a live Twitter chat February 14, 2015 at 11 a.m. ET. on our theme “It’s All About Romance Wine Pairing Weekend # 9 Bloggers.  Connect with us on twitter, using hashtag #winePW. We’ll chat for an hour about everything from appetizers to desserts.

Be sure to check out what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the February Wine Pairing Weekend!

Interested in joining #winePW?  Our theme for the March Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on “Open That Bottle Night (OTBN)” Pairings on March 14, 2015, #winePW 10, hosted by Cooking Chat.