Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bubble Pairings

Champagne (or sparkling wine)  is usually considered a celebratory beverage, or a drink to be shared with girlfriends with the only food being a bit of cheese and some really juicy gossip.

The selection of sparkling at The Palm dinner

But, thanks to an annual event at The Palm restaurant in Nashville (aptly named, Boots, Bubbles & BBQ), I've found that sparkling vino can be more versatile; and when aligned with certain dishes, can be a wonderful compliment to a complete meal. 

My favorite memory of this dinner was 6 years ago when a mason jar (way before the trend of using canning jars as glasses was so mainstream), was filled with crushed ice, Moet Whitestar and lemon twists. It was the most amazing cocktail... and one that I've enjoyed often since then.

The finishing touches on the Chilled Corn Bisque

This year's dinner started off with an incredibly enticing chilled summer corn soup, and it was paired with a Poema Cava (extra dry). The combination was magic, and perfect for an August night. I loved the soup so much, I had to step back into The Palm kitchen to get the recipe. It was a busy Friday night,  but they indulged me. What I found was the talented chef Lee garnishing the soup that was prepared in advance. This is the best part-- you make it the night before, so serving it just requires a bit of garnishing when guests arrive. Less time rushing around and more time to sip! 


4 lbs cleaned and shucked fresh corn
1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TBSP ground cumin
4 roasted Ahaneim chilies, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
1 quart heavy whipping cream
4 TBSP Olive Oil
4 tsp Queso Fresco
4 tsp chopped pork cracklings
2/3 cup fresh corn kernels
Salt and Pepper

In a large sauce pan, heat oil to medium high, add the chopped garlic and onion and sauté until translucent. Add cumin, salt and pepper and heat/stir for 1 minute. Add corn and sauté until very hot. Add chicken stock and allow to simmer until reduced by 1/2. Add heavy cream and roasted chiles and continue to reduce. Remove from heat and puree. Strain to remove particles, place in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, pour soup into bowls and garnish with bits of bacon (pork cracklings), corn kernels and freshly ground pepper. Serves 10 6 oz portions (keeps well for leftovers, so make the entire batch).

The 'special' wedge 

For the second and third courses a lovely wedge salad topped with crisp, fried onions and large scallops lightly seared in a cast iron skillet served with jalepeno-bacon and fresh cantaloupe were a huge hit. The pairing was Segura Heredad Reserva. This is one of my top sparkling choices, as the bottle is so festive. Always a good (and surprisingly affordable choice). What I love most is how inventive that this steakhouse kitchen can be for special dinners, and how willing they are to share their secrets.

Perfectly seared scallops

The evening continued to include prime rib and a chocolate dessert with equally enticing bubbly pairings. I had to skip out early (am still thinking about what I missed). But, I did stay long enough to relish in the generous pours, creative table settings and (of course) a bit of education on how to create an entire evening around the very best bubbles. Thanks to Paige Dixon at The Palm and Michelle Rubarts of Horizon Wine and Spirits, I'm feeling fully educated on new ways to enjoy my favorite libation. 

Paige thinks of every detail for special parties in The Palm's private rooms, like having creative
flower arrangements for the occasion from Oshi Flowers

What is your favorite way to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine/Champagne? Do you have a dish you like to serve along with your bubbles? Please do tell?! 

Are you following the Southern Sophisticate?