Some of the best food pairings sound strange at first. On paper, they’ll raise eyebrows before they rumble stomachs — smashing together dishes and delicacies that really shouldn’t work. Take chili and chocolate, for example. Or banana and bacon (trust us). These combos are mouth-watering but they’re night and day: chalk and cheese. Or should that be cheeseburger? Because the latest unpredictable pairing to hit our plates and palates this year has seen fine champagne paired by the fluteful with fat, sesame-speckled hamburgers.
It was a coupling uncorked in Manhattan. Inspired by a vintage advertisement of theirs printed in a 1964 issue of The New Yorker, Veuve Clicquot partnered up with over a dozen iconic restaurants earlier this year to bring bubble-meets-burger pairings to the city’s specials boards. From Brasserie Fouquet and Osteria Morini to Peak in Hudson Yards, 14 venues took on Veuve’s challenge and reinvented the takeout staple in a flurry of brioche buns, choice cheeses, and fizz that ran the gamut from the French brand’s much-loved rosé to its La Grande Dame Blanc 2015.
So what makes the pairing work? Champagne tends to lend itself to luxury, but burgers? They’re some of the fastest food around. Allow Chef Mike Sonier, a tastemaker in Veuve Clicquot’s New Makers Collection and the founder of Vancouver’s Ethical Table Food Co., to explain. He’s hopped on the burger-bubble bandwagon and brought the trend north of the border because he believes foods shouldn’t be denied a seat at the dining table just because of some silly perceived social status.
“Many people think of champagne as a celebratory drink,” Sonier tells SHARP, “which it is. But it can also make an incredible pairing wine for so many foods because of its acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles. That makes it work exceptionally well with indulgent or savoury foods such as burgers, french fries, or even fried chicken.”
In Toronto, Veuve Clicquot is free-flowing on the terrace at bosk, the restaurant at Shangri-La, and diners are being encouraged to pair their champagne with dishes like dry-aged beef burgers and truffle cheeseburgers. “I love the idea of using these types of foods to make champagne more approachable for people,” Sonier says, “and using champagne to elevate the experience of some of our most comforting and nostalgic dishes. It shouldn’t be about what fits into what ‘class’; it’s about the flavours as well as the feeling that experience gives us.”
But the far-reaching flavours of your average burger — which sandwiches sweet, sour, and salty between two buns — are not easy to pair with. Champagne, however, says Magalie Harvey of Moët Hennessy, does a fine job because it doesn’t even try to marry or match these taste types. Instead, it fizzes in the opposite direction, offering a lightweight, effervescent counterpoint to even the heaviest food.
“The freshness in champagne cuts through the greasiness of the burger,” Harvey explains, “preventing the dish from becoming overwhelming or heavy. The contrast between the savoury, umami flavours of a burger and the fruity and toasty notes in champagne, along with the bubbles, creates an enjoyable harmony on the palate while balancing the burger’s texture.”
So next time you swing through the drive-thru, why not pick up a bottle of something sparkling on your way home? It’s a proven pairing, utterly defiant in its difference, and will take your takeout to new heights.