“Champagne should be a drink for celebration, but not only, it should be enjoyed day-to-day.”
The above statement by Enguerrand Baijot from Lanson, set the tone for an elegant evening of Champagne and sustainable seafood creations at Blue Water Cafe last Sunday. The Champagne Wishes Dinner was one of the final events of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, wrapping the festival up with a bitter-sweet feeling.
Executive Chef Frank Pabst, who takes pride in creating dishes that have “complexity without complication”, created a five course menu to pair with Champagne from Lanson, one of the oldest Champagne Houses in the world.
Since its birth in 1760, Lanson has been handed down from generation to generation. Founder, François Delamotte, handed it over to his son Nicolas-Louis Delamotte, a Knight of the Order of Malta, who appointed the Maltese Cross as the brand’s trademark. It wasn’t until 1837, upon the death of Nicolas-Louis, that Jean-Baptiste Lanson (a family friend) took over the company.
Over a century and a half later the company’s success has grown exponentially and now exports nearly 80% of their product, with the largest importers being the United Kingdom. [Which leads to an interesting article on The Independent, “France is Drowning in Champagne as Britain Loses Taste for Bubbly] Their Champagnes, which are made predominantly with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are some of the purest produced today, lending a fresh and crisp mouthful to both the experienced and novice palate.
“We’re not claiming to be the best – there are a lot of beautiful champagnes out there – but we are very, very proud to be different.”
It goes without saying that drinking mannerisms are very different in Europe than they are in North America, with any alcohol, but particularly when it comes to Champagne. “I see Vancouver as a trendsetting city, and I have a feeling that champagne will soon be a trend,” encouraged Baijot.
Over the course of the evening, Baijot offered information on Lanson’s products in a witty and insightful manner, with many women mesmerized by his thick French accent and his room presence that screamed “joie de vivre”.
“If you’re in a restaurant and you don’t know what to order, have Champagne!”
“If you’re happy, it’ll make you happier and if you’re sad, it’ll make you happy.”
How can you ignore a man who spits out jovial statements like that?
Although only tasting a fraction of the Champagnes while creating it (due to market availability and time), Chef put together an outstanding menu for the Champagne Wishes Dinner. Alongside Executive Sous Chef Ricardo Valverde, Pastry Chef Jean-Pierre Sanchez and Wine Director Andrea Vescovi, the Blue Water Cafe team mastered the pairings.
My favourite pairings were the Dungeness Crab Salad with Lanson’s Extra Age Blanc de Blanc Brut and the Pheasant with Lanson’s Vintage Collection 1990 Brut. However, my favourite dishes were the Winter Squash Pastilla and the Vanilla Yoghurt Panna Cotta, which both offered a slew of flavours and textures that were well-integrated.
Dungeness Crab Salad with jicama, persimmon, basil lime remoulade
Pairing: Lanson Extra Age, Blanc de Blancs Brut
Savoury with slight sweetness, this dish looked beautifully elegant and tasted extremely fresh. It was perfect way to whet one’s appetite before the following, heartier courses.
Winter Squash Pastilla with squash, spinach, sultanas, bulgur wheat, almonds and pistachio in morrocan warqa, bosc pear mostarda, maple pecans
Pairing: Lanson Extra Age, Brut ($115 Canada versus $125 USA)
Blackened Sea Scallops wrapped in duck prosciutto, sweet potato roesti, braised Belgian endive, candied ginger citrus beurre blanc
Pairing: Lanson Gold Label 2004, Brut
The sea scallop dipped in the beurre blanc was delightful, and the braised endive was great on its own. The roesti was flavourful, but I didn’t feel that it was necessary for the dish.
Poached pheasant breast with leeks, sunchokes and chestnuts, honey white balsamic glaze, pithivier of pheasant leg with foie gras and kumquat, vanilla scented parsnip puree, pheasant jus
Pairing: Lanson Vintage Collection 1990, Brut [Magnum] – the older the champagne, the more pronounced the yellow colour
The extremely salty jus was toned down by the slightly sweet and smooth puree, making a phenomenal combo to be paired with the flaky pithivier. The poached peasant breast was tender and juicy with natural flavours pronounced, and was best eaten with a bite of chestnuts with honey white balsamic glaze, or the leeks.
Vanilla Yoghurt Pana Cotta with rhubarb compote, lemon shortbread, strawberry sorbet
Pairing: Lanson Extra Age Rosé, Brut
Part of every dining experience is the atmosphere and the company. I enjoyed catching up and sharing petit fours with Mijune Pak (Follow Me Foodie), while also chatting with Lanson’s Enguerrand Baijot and Marc Anthony Groups‘ Stephen Lane. The rowdy bunch of diners beside me, including the lovely Val and her husband, were a pleasure to get to know and made the experience even more exceptional. Mr. Jean-Christopher Fleury, Consulate General of France in Vancouver, was also dining with us that evening with his wife, Hyunsum Shin; I didn’t get a chance to speak to either of them unfortunately.
A big thanks to Blue Water Cafe and Lanson for making my Sunday a spectacular night: well-organized, relaxed and decadent.
Disclaimer: My ticket was comped for this event by Vancouver International Wine Festival, though my opinions remain my own (obviously), and this is not a paid post. If you don’t believe my authenticity in saying how successful the evening was, ask any one of the other guests. 🙂