New Year’s Eve is the yin and yang of holidays: past and future, rebirth and resolutions. Most of all, it’s a time to celebrate with those who make your life special. What better way to bring the elements together than a theme party — barbecue and bubbly. We went to the experts with a wide-open definition of barbecue, and as you’ll see, grilling encompasses much more than falling-off-the-bone meat that’s been slow-smoked over red-hot aromatic wood (not that we find anything wrong with that). Considering the enthusiastic response we received from chefs participating in February’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival (see left, “Bubbles And BBQ In SoBe” ), members of the American Airlines Chefs Conclave, and other renowned chefs across the U.S., it seems that grilled foods and sparkling wine go together like, well, New Year’s and resolutions.
Robert Mondavi, ambassador of all things wine-related, has said, “Wine is part of our culture, heritage, religion, and family, and it is certainly an essential part of the good life.” In that spirit, we invite you to raise a glass to the delicious possibilities of this New Year.
(Recipes for all of the chefs' On The Grill selections can be found by clicking on the link provided.)
Norman Van Aken, chef/owner, Norman’s, Miami
On the grill: Mongolian veal chop
In the glass: Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV ($37.99)
“The idea for my Mongolian barbecued veal chop came from reading about Marco Polo’s voyages to China, searching for a way to bring back the spices of the Far East. He voyaged along the Silk Road and was the first European, it is widely believed, to have tasted some of the exotics that now define our more global table. If any beverage is equally intrepid in its ambassadorial qualities, it’s champagne. It is one of the most versatile wines and one of the very few that can be consumed throughout an entire tasting menu. With our piquant/sexy barbecue flavors, I’d recommend some of the more forward nonvintage blends with the ‘dance friendly’ Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Veuve Clicquot is an excellent choice in this category.”
Douglas Rodriguez, chef/owner, Chicama, New York
On the grill: Roasted Oysters with Shallot Truffle Mojo
In the glass: Taittinger Brut La Française 1998 ($39.99)
“The black trumpet mushrooms give the oysters an earthy flavor that beautifully plays off the brine of the oysters. Champagne makes the whole dish an explosion of flavor: briny, earthy, and citrusy. Grilling is very rustic, almost primitive; and champagne is thought of as a more sophisticated experience,” he says, but, adds that, luckily, diners’ tastes have become more educated and experimental. “Champagne goes well with barbecue because it has very clean flavors that cleanse your palate and cut through rich flavors that you get from barbecue; also, a lot of champagnes have a smoky quality.”
Tom Douglas, chef/owner Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s Seafood, and Palace Kitchen, Seattle
On the grill: Grilled chicken skewers with tangerine-ginger glaze, followed by Etta’s pit-roasted salmon with grilled shiitake relish
In the glass: Dom. Ste. Michelle Sparkling Blanc de Blanc NV ($11.49) or Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV ($55)
“Domaine Ste. Michelle is Washington’s only real sparkling wine; it’s really crisp.” To stand up to bold grilled flavors, Douglas also recommends Billecart-Salmon Rosé, a wine favored by several chefs in this story. “From start to finish, this salmon dish has become a classic in Seattle,” he says. “While it grills, the salmon gets a beautiful burnished glow from the sugar and paprika in the rub.” He and his wife, Jackie, and daughter, Loretta (namesake of Etta’s Seafood), spend most of New Year’s Day visiting friends and family, and cooking or making party arrangements for the annual company shindig on January 2, when all three restaurants close and the 800-plus employees gather as a family.
Kenny Callaghan, executive chef, and Danny Meyer, co-owner, Blue Smoke, New York
On the grill: Blue Smoke barbecued mussels
In the glass: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé ($55) or Taittinger Brut La Française NV ($39.99)
“These mussels are luxuriating in a sauce that is richly flavored with smoke, salt, and hot spices,” says Callaghan. Adds Meyer, “For many of the same reasons people love to wash back spicy or salty foods with an ice-cold beer, champagne is a perfectly versatile mate for barbecue. The bubbles refresh your palate after each bracing bite of hot spice, and the crisp acidity cleanses your tongue to set you up for the next bite. The Billecart is refreshing, and has plenty of acidity, which goes with the vinegar and tomatoes frequently found in barbecue sauce. Year after year, Taittinger is one of the most dependable values available in champagne. This vibrant, accessible wine has no trouble standing up to spice — and it’s equally delightful to quaff as an aperitif.”
Allen Susser, chef/owner, Chef Allen’s, Miami
On the grill: Tropical grilled steak and mango salad, followed by jumbo racks of shrimp with couscous and red curry
In the glass: Veuve Clicquot Rosé Réserve 1995 ($60)
“Barbecue in South Florida is an all-year-round sport. I like to grill steak, but I prefer to make it into a salad to give it just a little taste as an appetizer, as in the tropical grilled steak and mango salad. Jumbo racks of shrimp with couscous and red curry is my main choice. I would pair these with Veuve Clicquot ’95 Rosé. This champagne is full-flavored and yeasty, with a lot of forward fruit to complement and refresh. I would serve this New Year’s treat with a bowl of simply cracked and chilled stone crabs with a spicy tangerine-infused mustard sauce, along with some roasted breadfruit basted with a garlicky mojo sauce.” For New Year’s, Chef Allen plans to “escape to the Florida Keys with a few close friends and family.”
Claude Troisgros, chef/owner, Restaurant Claude Troisgros, Rio de Janeiro; consulting chef, Blue Door at the Delano, Miami Beach
On the grill: Grilled marinated red snapper filled with red onions, green pepper, cilantro, and Yuca-flour farofa, with a ginger sesame-oil vinaigrette
In the glass: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé “Cuvée Elisabeth” 1997 ($95)
“This high-quality champagne rosé comes from a small, family-owned winery. It is an exceptional cuvée. Rosé goes really great with grilled fish, especially spicy. Also, for the joke, this champagne has a fish in its name.” The snapper can be precooked in the oven and finished on the grill in front of your guests, says Troisgros. “This kind of dish is a feast dish because it is of South American influence and its generosity.”
Dean Fearing, chef, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas
On the grill: Smoky bacon barbecued beef salad
In the glass: Horse Wedding Cuvée Blanc de Noirs 1999 ($29)
Fearing says the combination of the smoky flavors of barbecue and sparkling wine “rocks his world” because it’s so quintessentially Texas. “When I think of celebrating, I think about having friends over and grilling out in the backyard.” Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards is a good friend, and Fearing says her family’s vineyard produces some of the very best California sparkling wine. To herald in the New Year, Fearing makes sure to hug and kiss his wife, Lynae, and their two young children, Jaxson and Campbell, after serving the family the Texas-traditional black-eyed peas for luck.
Nancy Brussat Barocci, owner, Betise and Convito Italiano, Wilmette, Illinois
On the grill: Peperoni alla Piemonte (roasted peppers in an anchovy sauce), Bistecca alla Fiorentina (grilled steak served on fresh spinach), accompanied by Patate e Fagiole alla Toscana (potatoes and beans), and a selection of Italian cheeses, fruit, and nuts
In the glass: Bellavista Gran Cuvée Brut Rosé 1996 ($44.99)
“This Pinot Noir-based bubbly has big body to hold up to the meat, but great acidity,” says Barocci. “The wine is a natural match for the white-bean dish made with shallots. It also has the fruit and crispness to contract with the anchovies in the roasted-pepper dish. Bellavista is one of my favorite Italian producers.”
Paul Sale, executive chef, Blue Fin, W Times Square Hotel, New York
On the grill: Miso-grilled barbecued drunken lobsters
In the glass: Gaston Chiquet Brut Blanc de Blanc 1997 ($39.58)
“Most think of champagne as special occasion only. But sparkling wine is by far one of the most flexible wines, as it has crisp acidity and a touch of sweetness. Lobster needs a rich, big wine and many blanc de blanc champagnes, which are made of 100 percent Chardonnay, are fermented or aged in oak, which gives richness.” For his Asian-inspired lobster dish, which marries miso- and marin-infused grilled lobster with a cucumber and toasted almond salad, he suggests a blanc de blanc champagne, especially the Gaston Chiquet, which hails from the village of Mesnil.
Bradley Ogden, chef/owner, The Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur, California
On the grill: Grilled wild sturgeon with frenched bean salad
In the glass: Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1993 ($109) or Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs 1996 ($55)
“Both the Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1993 and the 1996 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine are luscious, round, and full-bodied wines with a long, smooth finish that make a wonderful match with this dish.” He says that the mellow flavor and texture of sturgeon pair beautifully with champagne. “The higher acidity of the champagne really complements this dish, and makes it especially good for any celebratory event, such as New Year’s.”
anja kroencke is an award-winning illustrator whose clients include estée lauder, travel + leisure, and the new york times.
bubble and bbq in sobe
guests at the second annual south beach wine & food festival, february 28 to march 2, will dine on some of america’s best barbecued and grilled foods accompanied by mini bottles of moët & chandon champagne at the “new world barbecue with norman van aken and friends” dinner, february 28, at the delano hotel. tickets are $200 per person and available now. other events include wine and food tastings, star-studded dinners, and seminars featuring prominent figures from international wine, spirits, and culinary industries. for information, call (305) 348-9463, or visit www.sobewineand foodfest.com. —