Food Quest: Champagne
Text & photos by Marla Norman, TCO Publisher
Although the two “capitals” and small villages of Champagne may seem quaint, you’ll find outstanding restaurants in the region and plenty of great wines to accompany the dishes. A few of our favorites are listed below.
ANNA-S. LA TABLE AMOUREUSE
6 rue Gambetta
Although tiny, Anna-S. La Table Amoureuse is big on imaginative plates that provide a contemporary twist to classic French cuisine. A thoughtful wine list accompanies the food. Expect polished service as well.
Owners Anne-Sophie and Cédric Roger met while attending the Hostellerie du Mont Aimé. After graduating, the couple decided to open a restaurant in their hometown of Reims. Their goal was to create a place where both families and professionals would feel comfortable and couples could enjoy a romantic dinner. Judging from the number of diners who consistently fill the small place, Anne-Sophie and Cédric have been successful.
Menus change daily, of course, but you could begin your meal with a duo of Sautéed Foie Gras & Pâté de Foie Gras or try the luscious Pumpkin Soup with Scallops – the gorgeous presentation alone, incorporating a sweet, very edible pumpkin makes this dish unforgettable.
For a main course, try the Cabillaud (Cod) with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Leak Purée or Rolled Bar (Sea Bass) with Risotto and a sauce of Chorizo and Tomatoes. Medallions of Veal with Dried Fruit Polenta is another great option.
Chocolate Lovers will be particularly pleased with the dessert menu at La Table Amoureuse. The Chocolate & Praline Cake, Hot Chocolate and Caramel Cake are sublime. Other desserts include a Lemon Meringue Bavarian and Soufflés – so beautifully prepared, you’ll almost hate to eat them…but you’ll be so glad you did!
AU PETIT COMPTOIR
17 rue de Mars
This charmingly decorated bistro serves classic French cuisine and has been a fixutre in Reims for some time. At Au Petit Comptoir, you’ll notice numerous wine professionals dining at the linen-covered tables. The skills of Sommelier Thierry Henrion are frequently put to the test.
Chef Thierry Sidan changes the menu frequently to provide the best in local, seasonal products. A typical starter might be Foie Gras of Duck with Speck Ham and Fig Chutney, Monkfish Cakes with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Salad with Smoked Duck Breast and Goat Cheese or Potato, Leek & Beet Soup.
A main courses could be Spareribs, French Beans and Beetroot or Lamb Chops with Risotto, Carrots and Cumin.
RESTAURANT LES AVISES
59 rue de Cramant
For a true culinary tour de force, reserve at Restaurant Les Avisés. The property, which includes a hotel and winery, is owned by Champagne Wizard Anselme Selosse.
Here, you’ll not only find beautifully prepared food, but – given the scarcity of Selosse Champagne – you’ll ensure a sample of his rare, cult wines.
Chef Stéphane Rossillon presides over the kitchen and prepares his own, distinct style of classic French dishes. His pantry is filled with the freshest produce from the region, local herbs and Asian spices he blends to create his own savory potions. His wife Nathalie Rossillon supervises the dining room to provide flawless service.
The menu changes daily, of course, but you might find something akin to the following dishes: Smoked Salmon & Gambas in an open Ravioli, with a Cod Mousse topped with Bouillabaisse Crème. Another main dish could be Angus Flank Steak with Roasted Figs, a Sauté of Wild Rice and spring vegetables.
For dessert, a possibility could be a Mousse of Chocolat with red fruit and an espuma of white chocolate with a Hazelnut Crisp – out of this world!
Occasionally, Chef Rossillon conducts a cooking class. In our session, he demonstrated advanced knife skills and deboning techniques. He also shared a basic sauce made from fish bones and gave us a peak at his famous spice cabinet with Asian seasonings: star anise, galangal, lemongrass, saffron and turmeric – to name a few.
The meal we prepared was truly gourmet. The starter: Seared Sea Scallops on Spinach with emulsified orange saffron butter. Main course: Guinea Fowl with Walnut Crust, Pears with Saffron, and Spiced Potato Mousseline. Dessert: Baked Apple with Hazelnut Crumble & Tonka Bean emulsion.
Both the meal and the Champagnes were unforgettable!