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March 31, 2010

Can Champagne and Hot Dogs Be A Perfect Match?


When it comes to Champagne, the French have got it right: they drink it all the time. In the US, we tend to save it for special occasions, like weddings or New Year's Eve. That's too bad. Because Champagne is truly one of the most versatile wines. 

That's probably what Jeffrey Pogash had in mind when he organized a Champagne and hot dog tasting the other day. Yes, the lowly hot dog sharing the table with the most prestigious of beverages! 

And these weren't just any old Champagnes. Pogash, director of communications at Moët Hennessy USA, the wine and 
spirits division of luxury purveyor LVMH, brought along some bottles of Krug and Ruinart, along with the more amply-produced Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. 

Then again, these weren't your standard issue dirty water dogs, either. The tasting was held at 
Bark, a year-old Brooklyn joint that features artisanal hot dogs made from locally raised pork and beef (none of the nasty bits either -- we're talking shoulder and jowl) braised in smoked lard butter and stuffed into natural casings. In fact, all the ingredients used at Bark, from the pork to the cheese to the heirloom baked beans, are sustainably, lovingly even, from the sound of it, produced by some earnest local soul. 

Still, could these haute dogs stand up to some of France's finest bubbles? An 8-course tasting menu (nine, including dessert) would tell.

The menu began with Bark's Classic Dog and Veuve Clicquot Yellow label, and ended, on a decidedly sated note, with a Kase Krainer sausage and sauerkraut and Krug Grande Cuvée. Call me barking mad, but they were all surprisingly good. Still, nothing prepared me for the ethereal match of a chili-cheese dog served with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée -- except, perhaps, the bacon-cheddar dog and dill spear with a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs that preceded it. The flavorful bacon-cheddar dog, a full-on dose of comfort food, somehow cozied up nicely to the elegant Ruinart, its layers of white flowers and yeast complementing the creamy smoked cheddar and visceral pork. They became dear friends, despite their pedigrees. Even the dill pickle was warmly embraced. 

The chili-cheese dog, also armed to the tooth with flavor -- what else would you expect from brisket chili and short rib topped with more of that smoked cheddar? -- was happily married to the rich, dreamboat Krug, in the pairing equivalent of the movie Pretty Woman. 

A veggie dog served with the newly released Veuve Clicquot 2004 Rosé was less successful, but that was more to do with the faux dog than the wine. That veggie dog, you might say, just didn't hunt.



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