Matching food with sparkling wine presents little challenge. The fizz of Champagne and bright, lively feel of New World bubbly cozy up nicely with a wide array of different flavors and textures. Like any other wine, though, classic styles of méthode Champenoise create a certain je ne sais quoi with some foods.
But I never thought of the one chef Michael Chiarello recommends. Tuna crudo, the Italian version of sashimi? Sure. But spicy Calabrian chiles? Fried garlic and basil?
Damned if it didn’t work perfectly with an elegant Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs North Coast 2006 (88, $36) when we tried it earlier this year. I was visiting him at his home in St. Helena, Calif., researching my recent story, “Where Italy Meets California,” and caught him on video demonstrating how it’s put together.
It’s really a simple idea. Don’t be scared off by his preference for serving the tuna on a chilled block of salt, as he does in his Yountville restaurant, Bottega. The block neatly seasons the fish, but you can always serve the slices on a plate and season the fish lightly with sea salt.
Another tip from the chef: Have the fish monger slice up the ahi for you and wrap the overlapping slices in wax paper, then plastic wrap. keep it refrigerated until serving time and it works just fine, if you serve it the same day. As he says, “We’re not a sushi bar.” Neither are we.
As I wrote in the story, the crisp balance and vibrant citrus and spice flavors of the wine bring a zingy contrast to the richness of the tuna. The chef applies the herb, chile and garlic garnish sparingly, which is the key to making the match work. Overloading the fish with those strong flavors would change the balance.
You can find the full recipe for "Angry" Ahi Tuna Crudo in the in the Oct. 31 issue of Wine Spectator.
[You can now follow Harvey Steiman on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/harveywine.]
Angela Medeiros Slade — Oakland, CA — October 5, 2010 1:30pm ET
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