I will jump at any excuse to sip Champagne. On my breakfast cereal? (POP, snap, crackle!) Why not? Pair it with dessert and I’m in heaven.
So when I heard that Chef Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake and Orson) had created a dessert menu for the Bubble Lounge, I was there – at a sneak preview of Falkner’s spring menu, sampling five items designed to be paired with sparkling wine.
“I don’t want dessert to be too sweet, ” Falkner explained as she introduced dishes at the tasting, “Dessert is just another course. It’s about playing with the sugar, knowing when to let it out.”
In fact, Champagne is a bit tricky to pair with desserts so, fortunately, Falkner’s philosophy means there’s no overpowering sweetness that drowns out the wine. “I love the balance of acid, sweetness and richness these desserts offer, ” she said. “I want to wake up the palate with refreshing flavors – no overkill anywhere.”
Bubble Lounge Wine Director Sabawun Kakar has paired each dessert with a suggested flute of Champagne from the venue’s 300-label inventory.
My favorite dessert choice to go with bubbly was the whimsically titled “Madeline” versus “Olive Oyl,” which featured olive oil madeleines; fresh strawberries and shaved fennel tossed in rose vinaigrette; and olive oil ice cream. Falkner explained that the title was a tribute to the two female cartoon characters represented in the dish’s components.
“I love vegetables in dessert,” Falkner added. “And the rose is the poetry.” This dish danced perfectly with the pairing of Pol Roger Brut. The wine cut the richness of the olive oil ice cream, and each element added a different texture and taste. To doubters who might reject fennel in a dessert, give it a try – you might be surprised. The whole effect was like a hip update of strawberry shortcake (hmm, another female cartoon character…).
All the desserts were designed with a lightness that doesn’t weigh down the bubbles, though the Lemon Drop (Lemon curd, yogurt, blueberry compote, meusli crunch and Champagne granita), tasty on its own, tended to shout down its pairing partner, the delightful, biodynamic Fleury Carte Rouge. To me, lemon is just way too assertive for Champagne.
But the menu is filled with other pleasures that beg to be paired: Dark Chocolate Pain Perdu (just wicked enough, but not heavy), Upside-Down Cheesecake (creamy and not too sweet), and the Ice Cream Sandwich (with spot-on flavors for the pairing).
Falkner said the seasonal elements in the menu, like fruit ingredients or ice cream flavors may change, and she’s experimenting with French-style macarons, which could be real winners with sparkling wine.
Each dessert item is $8 – though those attending the preview clamored for the Bubble Lounge to offer a tasting menu with small versions of all five offerings. Here’s the complete dessert menu, with the suggested pairings. See the slideshow below for photos of each one.
Lemon curd, yogurt, blueberry compote, muesli crunch, champagne granita
Suggested pairing: Fleury Carte Rouge NV
Upside Down Cheesecake: A Little Sweet in the Big City
Fluffy cheesecake mousse with buttery graham streusel and Amarena glazed fruit
Suggested pairing: Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs NV
Madeleine versus Olive Oil
Olive oil Madeleines, strawberry fennel salad with rose vinaigrette and olive oil ice cream
Suggested pairing: Pol Roger Brut NV
Ice Cream Sandwich
Pizzelle wave cookies, chocolate sorbet, passion fruit sorbet, pistachio ice cream, caramel sauce, candied pistachio
Suggested pairing: Jean Milan Blanc de Blancs NV
Dark Chocolate Pain Perdu
Pain Perdu over chocolate sauce, citrus caramel, and pink peppercorn Chantilly
Suggested pairing: Bruno Paillard Brut NV