If I had to pick one place in America for a romantic dinner, I’d choose a 200-year-old Creole cottage on New Orleans’s Rue Dauphine. Here Susan Spicer, 46, has created Bayona, an oasis of culinary sensuality in the heart of the raucous French Quarter.
I pose a challenge to Spicer, who is both chef and owner of the restaurant: Why not plan a holiday meal where, from soup to nuts — actually, from aperitif to after-dinner drink — every course features a champagne?
After all, champagnes are wines of great character and variety that can go with every kind of food — from Christmas Eve oysters to New Year’s Eve caviar. And of course, no drink option is more tinged with a feeling of romance and celebration than a bottle of bubbly.
Spicer likes the idea, and she turns the task over to her sommelier, Shannon Fristoe, 39, a champagne-o-phile whose supreme gift is pairing the right wine with the right food.
“This is kind of a fantasy meal,” Fristoe tells me, “so I’ll give you my fantasy recommendations. But for those who don’t have the checkbook for these options, I’ll also choose some great less-expensive wines.”
Fristoe offers a pair of selections for each category; I sample each option. I can vouch for her all-star lineup.
Champagnes For All Courses
Krug Grande Cuvee, $149.
An elegant way to start the evening.
“R” du Ruinart Brut, $26.
A light champagne, suitable for drinking without food — because food will overpower it.
With Hors d’Oeuvres
Pol Roger 1988 Blanc de Blanc, $59.
Great finesse and depth.
Louis Roederer Brut Premier, $38.
Among the least-expensive champagnes from this excellent producer.
With the Entree
Bollinger R.D. 1982 Extra Dry, $95.
A full wine and an incredible vintage. This champagne’s dryness goes well with food.
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut, $17.
A fine champagne with an affordable price.
Dom Ruinart Rose 1986, $65.
Stunning — with a floral nose that works exceptionally well with fruit and pastry.
Schramsberg Rose, $15.
One of the wines that put rose back into the wine lovers’ conversation.
Susan Spicer is the chef and owner of Bayona restaurant, located in a 200-year-old Creole cottage in the heart of New Orleans’s raucous French Quarter, 430 Rue Dauphine, New Orleans, 504-522-0588.
Prices (except for the Pol Roger) are from Liquor-by-Wire (tax and shipping costs not included), 800-SPIRITED, www.lbw.com