Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not (just) about wine and dine: my evening with Krug

An American author once wrote in her book about cooking, that “one of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.” I was lucky to have exactly such an experience last week in an event by invitation with a group of food lunatics, courtesy of friends from WOM Guide.

I guess if there’s one invitation that I can never afford to turn down, that would be it – a Friday dinner at a Michelin 3-starred restaurant featuring wines from one of the most prestigious champagne houses in the entire world, especially the restaurant I am talking about here is my favorite 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, and the champagne house is none other than the glorious Maison Krug.

As I was joined by 10 other fellow food lovers in the private dining room at the restaurant, we started off our evening with a guided tasting session with Mr Arnaud Mirey, the charming Brand Ambassador at LVMH which owns Krug, while learning the colorful history of Krug, their philosophy in wine-making, and some of the interesting facts and stories surrounding this relatively “young” champagne house (in its 160+ years of history). For example, do you know how Krug Rosé first came about? Story has that Paul Krug II – the 4th generation owner – has long resisted the addition of rosé to Krug’s lineup of champagnes, dismissing it as gimmicky. It’s only after his sons Henri and Remi secretly made one behind his back and presented it to their father for a blind tasting. Paul mistakenly thought this was made by other champagne house and surprised that they were able to imitate the style of Krug with an unconventional rosé. Only after the truth was revealed he was sold on the whole idea and Krug introduced its Rosé for the first time in 1983.

To me, this is certainly not an everyday opportunity to be able to taste a fine vertical flight of the great Krug champagnes, so to say this is memorable is an understatement. Starting from the flagship Grande Cuvée, we moved on to their vintage offerings, the Krug 1998 and also the highly coveted Clos du Mesnil (also of 1998 vintage), and finally came back to their multi-vintage rosé. Of those we have tried this evening, their blanc-du-blanc Clos du Mesnil was perhaps the most unique, in the sense that, not only this is in small production and released only for select vintages; it came from a single year, single grape varietal (chardonnay) and a single vineyard which is owned and planted by them.

I literally felt like I was in heaven as I tasted the Clos du Mesnil for the first time in my life – it’s elegantly clean with the fresh citrus note and unforgettable hint of toast on the palate, followed by a long-lasting, breathtaking finish. Guess hot and humid Hong Kong summer days won’t be that unbearable if only I could have this every day as my after-work drink - as I dreamt about while taking a sip.

I wanted to say I loved all the champagnes I have tasted, but if I have to pick one favorite of the evening, my vote would go to their 1998 vintage, for its captivating complexity and creaminess, as well as the inter-winding citrus, brioche, nuts, floral and mineral flavors which went hand-in-hand with the food served.

Warm Lobster Salad, on Roast Ligurian Artichoke, Savoured with Cinta Senese Ham
As the evening progressed, we went on to our food while continue to enjoy our lovely bubbly for wine-matching. Tonight’s dinner was presented in 5 courses – warm lobster salad with artichoke and “cinta senese” ham; foie gras with hazelnut sauce; fettuccine with black winter truffles, butter and parmesan; the main course of roast Challans duck with apple and eggplant compote, and finally, a crispy pear tart.
Roast Duck Foie Gras with Piedmont Hazelnut Sauce, Smoked Duck in Dice, Greens
Homemade Fettuccine with Fresh Black Winter Truffle, Butter and Parmesan
The foie gras was essentially a repeat of what I had a few months ago at the same place. It was my favorite dish of the night then and this one didn’t disappoint either, but tonight I definitely loved my pasta course most. Sumptuous Australian winter truffle flakes were piled on top of the homemade fettuccine which has been cooked to perfection, as always. Conventional wisdom has that the earthy truffle flavors go well with old vintage wines which often exhibit similar characteristics through aging, and this time, my glass of Krug 1998 came in just handy.

Spiced Roast Challans Duck Supreme with Apple and Eggplant Compote
Not meant to be disrespectful to the gorgeous wines and food that we enjoyed tremendously, the most awesome part of the evening was actually the great conversations we were able to strike with one another across the table. And as you can imagine, with a bunch of food fanatics sitting around, we talked about nothing but food. With topics ranging from sharing our recent cooking/eating experiences, to the perfect way to cook spam – who would have thought of the suggestion to cook spam with goose fat and then use the leftover oil in pan to do a scramble egg? – We definitely enjoyed our dose of “double whammy” of talking about eating while eating with friends.
Crispy Pear Tart - I must say it went really well with the Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998

It's said that umami - often dubbed the perfect taste - comes from a unique combination of conventional flavors hence creates a new sensation beyond description. I guess the same applied to a perfect dinner - it's a combination of many little things: a well-picked food menu, fresh ingredients, excellent cooking techniques, great wines that complement the food, comfortable decor and table service, the right state of mind (and an empty stomach), and most important of all, friends - new and old - that we can all share good talks and laughs with, that makes one occasion a perfect dinner. I am sure all of us at the table learned this in a jubilant way this evening.

when? July 27 2012
where? 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA, Alexandra House, Central
menu highlights: Homemade Fettuccine, Fresh Black Winter Truffles, Butter and Parmesan
Krug Grande Cuvée
Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998
Krug 1998
Krug Rosé

Past visits:

Krug x WOM

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