I like to think I can’t be bought, but my weakness is games. Going on year 13 in NYC, I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoys playing games like I do (Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Scattergories and even Foodie Fight–all gifts from game-playing relatives–languish in the closest). So, when the promised, mildly intimidating-sounding “sensory experience” at a Ruinart tasting and dinner turned out to be a game of sorts, I was won over. (Yes, this is a fully disclosed freebie, which I indulge in occasionally.)
Guests were given eight vials of natural fragrances that can be found in Ruinart’s Blanc de Blancs champagne and asked to match them to a list of 18. That’s ten extra to throw you off. Surprisingly, ginger, pink peppercorn, white peach, pineapple, cardamom and jasmine were all easily detectible. But I bombed on citrus. Not only could I not tell lemon from citron (this was the one that caught nearly everyone), I had originally confused the two for grapefruit and bergamot. Clearly, I need to build up my citrus-sniffing skills.
The most basic theme Jean-Marc Gallot, president of the house of Ruinart, wanted to convey was that Americans should drink more champagne (and to drink it from wine glasses, not flutes nor coupes). I don’t think it’s so much of a recession-related issue, but that we associate sparkling wine with special occasions. New Year’s Eve for sure, maybe at a wedding, possibly a birthday and that’s it. I’m all for champagne (with a big C or little C) becoming a regular occurrence.
I already love sparkling wine with raw fish (I recently had a Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose with the omakase at 15 East) and the whole menu provided by David Burke Kitchen in the Treehouse Bar was seafood-based, showing off how an all-Chardonnay Champagne works well with delicate dishes like the uni and fluke sashimi with cured cucumber and orange tea vinaigrette and the john dory with guanciale, clams and cauliflower. The famous cheesecake lollipop tree was paired with Ruinart Rose.
Snacks included peanut butter-stuffed dates wrapped in maple bacon and fried grapes on skewers, as well as a jar of ricotta, eggplant and tomato spread—yes, part of that crazy new trend: toast.
For what it’s worth, these (as well as the other options of pretzel crab cake with green peppercorns and white beer foam and black bass with green herb butter) are all available on the regular menu at David Burke Kitchen. I suspect that our versions had been gussied-up with hits of flavor from the scent-guessing game. My sashimi had clearly been hit with cracked pink peppercorns.
It turned out that David Burke was in the house, kind of surprising for someone with numerous restaurants.
I’ll admit that Ruinart is not one of the names that initially springs to mind when I think Champagne, but now I’m biased towards looking for it on wine lists. I have a surprise birthday dinner planned at Marea (don’t worry; the boyfriend doesn’t read blogs) later this month, and I imagine Ruinart will be present. Marked-up to Central Park South prices it will probably be out of my moderate range, though.