September 7, 2006

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer
   Grazing Guide

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Find A Hippo

   Manchester

   Nashua

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


Got milk?

What are Malpeques, Alex?
Jeopardy at an oyster, champagne tasting
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Ever watch Jeopardy and the phone rings during Final Jeopardy and you’re stuck with knowing the answer but not the question, which really is the answer?

That’s what happened last week when Joan threw her annual summer party.

Joan and Liz are sisters. I went to high school with them. Joan became a high-powered business executive. Liz is an editor and a mother. We skied together. Went to homecoming together and saw each other through the bad-haircut ’80s together. Now Joan lives in a fashionable cottage. One year she had a potato salad cook-off. I almost won with my hot German potato salad. But the judges thought it was too severe, too Germanic. And not hot enough, since I made it the night before and they microwaved it.

I always say microwaved, not nuked, just to be on the safe side. One never knows who’s listening.

This year Joan must have gotten a big bonus because she went all out and threw a Champagne and oyster tasting. And nobody was required to bring anything.

The Champagne and oyster thing reminded me of Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War. Apparently that was what President Lincoln thought of General McClellan’s invasion of Northern Virginia, “Champagne and oysters on the Potomac.” It’s rare in today’s society with salmon mousse lollipops and sea urchin foam to see a party based on a 150-year-old menu. But there it was.

The premise was we’d blind taste four champagnes and four types of oysters. The oysters and champagnes would be numbered one-through-four and we’d place the number next to the description Joan provided.

I like oysters. Some people don’t. They’re salty and gritty and they always have a little bit of chipped shell in them, unless you have a really experienced shucker. Shucker. There’s a one line job description — oyster shucker. Duties include: shucking crustaceans.

Joan had Blue Points, Chesapeakes, Cotuits and Malpeques. The Blue Points come from Long Island and supposedly have a briny fresh taste. Chesapeakes come from Maryland and have a meaty flavorful bite that requires a little bit of chewing. Cotuits, also known as Barnstables, come from the Cape. They’re small but pungent. And Malpeques are flown in from Prince Edward Island in Canada. Personally I couldn’t tell the difference between the different kinds, but they sure were tasty. They were served in a big plastic trough filled with ice. Each shellfish had a little dollop of cocktail sauce on top. I didn’t even try to identify them by name, I just slurped them down. On the Champagne I did a little better.

Joan used the same one-through-four numbering system and corresponding title page with the names of the champagnes. I knew the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label on first taste. It’s $45.99 and has a slightly bitter finish that’s not all that pleasing. I pegged the Moet & Chandon White Star too. It costs $32.99 and has a light one-dimensional taste and a fly-away finish. It disperses quickly, without any lingering goodbye or even a quick kiss. The Laurent Perrier Brut was the nicest bubbly of the evening. It’s reasonably priced at $34.99 and has that sweetish finish that’s thirst-quenching and reminds you of soda on a hot day. It’s fun, easy to drink and has a malty, toasty backbone. It’s also the official champagne of the Emmy Awards and is served on several airlines in business and first class.

Although I couldn’t be sure I suspect it was served to that wingnut John Mark Karr on his Thai Air flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles because it pairs so well with spicy food like Tom Yam Kung, which is hot and sour soup with prawns. It’s amazing how suddenly prawns have become so notorious. Perhaps next year Joan will throw a prawn tasting? Then maybe she’ll take a page from Thai Air’s Royal First Class Service and serve Cuvee Dom Perignon 1996 and Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” 1995, which are known as vintage champagnes and are blended from grapes grown only in that year.

The final champagne was Roederer Brut Premier, which used to be my favorite champagne and still is delicious but comes in a close second to Pol Roger Winston Churchill Vintage 1990. The Roederer costs $46.99 and has zesty lemon cur flavors with a hint of malt and a slightly sweet metallic finish that satisfies and delights. It was the perfect drink for a warm summer evening. I remember one January night at Le Francais in Chicago, drinking Roederer and learning about a tiny little Alsatian bistro where the German chef fought tooth and nail with the French Maitre’D, but somehow the served the most extraordinary food. Sometimes kitchens are a little like oysters; a tiny grain of irritation makes a beautiful pearl.

• Wine Hit of the Week: Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel — $16.99. Smooth with low tannins. This wine had Justin’s attention and he named it “the best red we’ve tried in a while.” Fruity with a supple understated finish, one-dimensional, but rustic and true to its roots. Made from vines that are 60 to 100 years old, that once supplied the thriving pre-Prohibition domestic wine market.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com


08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce

Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it a bad mixer