When I think of classic Champagne pairings, Michelin Stars glimmer in my head. That is, until I snap back to reality and remember that I am not a Michelin star chef. (If you want to talk Michelin Stars, you’ll have to take it up with Last Bottle writer and trained chef Connor Swanson.)
Yes, like many of you, I am just a home cook who is Trying Her Best™, but that does not mean that I can’t cook something spectacular to pair with my bottles of sparkling wine– and you can do the same! So I’m sharing all of my favorite home-cooked dishes for every style of Champagne.
Let’s get to cookin’.
Blanc de Blancs
Traditional Pairing: Fresh Oysters
Our Pairing: Lobster Mac and Cheese
Blanc de Blancs deserves a pairing that’s truly special, and for me, that’s lobster mac and cheese. My mom makes it every New Year’s Eve, and we pair it with the good stuff. This is a recipe that every home cook should have in their roster, it’s showstopping, but deceivingly simple.
Blanc de Blancs can be more of a serious wine, most producers make it with a Brut dosage or less, and a drier style tends to do extremely well with the ultra-creamy lobster mac. The acidity cuts through this heavy dish and Blanc De Balncs fresh creamy flavors play well with the delicate lobster. It’s a revelation.
For the past few years I have been making my own lobster mac on special occasions, hoping to emulate the one I fell in love with in my college years from Barley Mash in San Diego’s Gaslamp district. Barley Mash’s macs are creamy without becoming cakey in the oven, filled with herby compote butter, absolutely loaded with claw and tail meat and finished with parsley and parmesan instead of breadcrumbs. They also use cellentani, which is perfect here.
Use this lobster mac as a base recipe. Be sure to shred the cheese yourself for maximum flavor– I use cheddar, monterey jack, gruyere, and parm. And use more lobster than whatever your recipe says, it will pay off in the end.
Blanc de Noirs
Traditional Pairing: Roasted Duck
Our Pairing: Cheese and Charcuterie
Blanc de Noirs is by far my favorite Champagne to pair with charcuterie. It’s bold, fruity, and salivary gland-inducing goodness and charcuterie boards are the quintessential choose your own adventure food. This is the ultimate crowd-pleasing duo– Blanc de Noir’s full bodied fruitiness contrasts beautifully with aged nutty cheeses like gouda and parmesan (or any other cheese that crystallizes with age.) When paired with an arrangement of grapes, berries, jams and honey, the creamy, fruity character of the Blanc de Noirs will shine. Every bite of your board is different, and the Blanc de Noirs is the bubbly that can keep up with it all.
Cheese boards have made quite the splash as of late, some people (including myself) will pull out all of their design expertise to play the part of World’s Best Hostess. Don’t be intimidated by us and our salami roses, we’re just being obnoxious.
All you need is some good cheese, a few cured meats, and some background support from fresh fruit, veg, and crackers. Shopping is the hardest part, if you feel lost in the luxury cheese fridge, I don’t blame you and if you feel intimidated while making small talk with your local cheesemonger, I feel for you– cheesemongers are the scariest type of hipsters out there.
But I digress, cheese shopping has a learning curve. Take some inspiration from some of my favorite “cheese board influencers” (God, I love my generation.)
The cheese board queen bee is Marissa Mullen, (@thatcheeseplate) she created the cheese by numbers concept (@cheesebynumbers) that has helped thousands of people build creative and delicious boards with ease. For your Blanc de Noirs, I would recommend recreating her “Tuscan Countryside” plate.
Traditional Pairing: Roasted Duck
Our Pairing: Brioche Burgers
If I’m having Rosé bubbly, I want a burger… it’s just the law, or a key rule in my honor code, at least. But not just any burger, a big, obnoxious, F-U burger. It’s one of the best low-key Rosé Champagne pairings out there, but don’t let the simplicity fool you– this is a rocking combination.
Medium bodied Rosé will bring ripe fruit and enough acid to match up to a homemade burger’s richness. Pinot Noir Rosé does the trick beautifully.
My dad taught me from a young age that the secret to the best burger you’ll ever make at home is to add a bit of ground lamb, about 25% ground lamb and 75% ground beef (80/20.) If you don’t want to measure from your heart, use this recipe as a base, but sub out ¼ of your beef for ground lamb. I usually eyeball my recipe, I throw in some worcestershire, steak sauce, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and some red chili flakes into the mix. Put it on the grill, don’t let it get a hair over medium well… and there you have it. I can’t believe I am giving away a family secret so easily, but I like you guys.
Add a slice of swiss or white cheddar, and put it on a brioche bun with a heap of rosemary aioli, butter lettuce, and an heirloom tomato slice. It’s just… So good.
Traditional Pairing: Caviar
Our Pairing: Tinned Fish Board
Ever heard of a tinned fish date night? These totally aesthetic spreads are trending all over your foodie friend’s Instagram feeds. They’re kind of like a charcuterie board, but the centerpiece is tinned fish.
Brut Nature is the prime contender to pair with your tinned fish board. It’s the driest of the dry, and its high acid levels create the perfect palate cleanser to sip between your oily tinned fish tastings. It’s like champagne and caviar, but way more affordable (and dare I say more fun?)
Tinned fish not for everybody, but neither is Brut Nature Champagne. When it comes to tinned fish, you either love it or you don’t. If you’re usually an adventurous eater who’s turning your nose at the thought of eating fish from a can– hear me out. Tinned fish is more than just sardines, in fact, there’s a whole world of briney goodness that isn’t on your radar yet. If you haven’t given tinned fish an honest try, now is the time to do so.
There are several trendy tinned fish brands popping up, and they have some of the best product packaging I’ve seen in years. Head to your local purveyor of expensive grub and look for the most swagged out packaging in the store– that’s the tinned fish. Inside you’ll find smoked rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon, muscles, oysters, and of course, sardines and anchovies.
Tinned fish offers the essence of the fish in one of its simplest forms. Just a touch of oil, seasalt, lemon, or herbs and it’s ready with the snap of a can. My perfect tinned fish board is loaded up with kettle potato chips, toasted baguette slices, manchego cheese, Castelvetrano olives, pickled red onions, jammy soft boiled eggs, sundried tomato and herb compote butter, lemon wedges, and sprigs of dill.
It’s hardcore on the salt and brine, but the bubbles have a way of breaking through. You’ll be on the cutting edge of aesthetically pleasing food trends, and once you post your undeniably Instagramable tinned fish board, you will be knighted with an air of sophistication that comes only when you indulge in something that would have made your younger self squeamish.
Congratulations, your palate has developed, and you are better than… Now wash it all down with some dry DRY Brut Nature Champagne.
Traditional Pairing: Foie Gras
Our Pairing: Poké
To pair with the Extra Brut, I’m serving poké with crispy rice. Some salty, fatty fish will balance out the Extra Brut’s dry tangy flavors.
Poké has exploded in popularity here on the mainland throughout the past decade or so, and at this point it’s gone mainstream– even my grandparents are getting down with a poké salad from time to time. You don’t know them, but let me tell you, seeing 80-year-old Italian Catholics (who would hardly eat a California roll in years past) fork down an entire poké bowl… Well, it’s a revelation.
For your at-home poké night, start with sushi-grade fish. Your standard grocery store fish probablyyyy won’t cut it, even if it’s labeled sushi or sashimi grade. There is no official organization that distinguishes fish as sushi grade, so I always find that it’s best to go to a fish market or Asian market. Living in the Bay Area, I know I am spoiled on that front– if you aren’t near a coast or a trusted fishmonger– I would consider shipping some fish in for your poké night. Wild Fork has sashimi grade cuts of Atlantic salmon, wahoo saku, and ahi tuna that they’ll deliver straight to your door.
But if you are shopping from a fish market, note that local fish is always better– but for poké, I like to stick with the classics: salmon, ahi, and hamachi.
Once the primo cut of fish is secured, I marinate it in a bit of sesame oil, shoyu, kewpie mayo, sriracha and some chili crisp, measuring with my heart. Be sure to keep your fish cold! Pop it in the fridge and let it soak up all that flavor as you prep the rest of your ingredients.
These poké bowls are totally customizable, but I like to add thinly sliced persian cucumber, sweet onion, and avocado along with shelled edamame, scallions, toasted sesame seeds, and slices of fried garlic.
For the crispy rice, I like to cook sushi rice (preferably, rice that’s been sitting in the fridge for 24 hours) in my mini waffle iron. It’s a little trick I learned on TikTok, you get that crisp without the mess of a shallow fry. You can totally opt for the shallow fry, but the waffle iron is so convenient here.
Assemble your poké bowls on top of your waffles with all the fixins’ with your Extra Brut on the side. Bon appetit.
Traditional Pairing: Lobster
Our Pairing: Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich
Fried chicken and Champagne is one of the greatest pairings of all time, how could I not include it? Honestly, I’ll talk about Nashville hot fried chicken sandwiches anytime I can, they’re my holy grail, all-time favorite food, and making them at home is such a treat!
Here’s why the pairing is so good. The acidity balances the grease from the deep fry, and all of Brut Champagne’s buttery/brioche/yeasty flavors compliment the umami of the chicken. Brut is just the right amount of sweetness needed to balance that Nashville heat without obstructing it, and the bubbles add some vivor to the heavy comfort food.
There are several different styles of fried chicken sandwich you can go for, but I am forever in pursuit of recreating my favorite sando from World Famous Hotboys (if you’re ever in Oakland, you must stop by. They’re the best I’ve had outside of Nashville’s city limits, only second to Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish.) So bring out your extra tall dutch oven and a jug of peanut oil, and let’s get to work.
The recipe that’s gotten me the closest to Hotboys’ is from A Spicy Perspective. Use deboned chicken thighs, leave the skin on, brine them in buttermilk and pickle juice for at least 8 hours, double batter, deep fry, and love your life. Build the sandwiches with toasted brioche buns, fry sauce, pickle slices, and coleslaw. There’s a tear running down my cheek as I write this…
Extra Sec and Sec
Traditional Pairing: Soft Cheeses
Our Pairing: Brie, Bacon & Blackberry Grilled Cheese
We’re entering the sweeter side of the dosage scale. If you can get your hands on an Extra Sec or Sec bottle of bubbles, you’re gonna want to drink them quickly– these are not primed for aging in any sense. So with that in mind, I went for a pairing that you can make fast, so you can cut straight to the sipping.
The obvious pairing for Sec and Extra-Sec Champagne is cheese, soft creamy cheese at that. A wheel of brie is the standard pairing here, but I am taking it up a notch by making a brie grilled cheese.
Try this elevated basic– a brie, bacon (or prosciutto) and blackberry jam grilled cheese. I won’t wax poetic on the majesty of this combo, you already know how great it is.
Traditional Pairing: Creme Brulee
Our Pairing: Upside Down Puff Pastry Danish
Okay, I am taking things to a place of Tiktok one last time. The upside down puff pastry danish is still hot off of the Tiktok trend train, and it’s one of my favorite easy recipes I have seen online lately. Here’s how it works:
Squeeze a dollop of honey on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, then place some fruit on the honey. I’ve seen people use thinly sliced granny smith apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, dark cherries, peaches, brie, caramel, the list goes on. Then place a square of pre-made puff pastry over top, brush an egg wash on the pastry blanket, crimp the edges and bake! Once they’re out of the oven you’ve got a flaky, gooey fruit danish!
The standard pairing for a Demi-Sec has to be crème brulee, but you won’t catch me blow torching my at-home desserts anytime soon, I happily leave that to the professionals. These upside down puff pastries kick things into the next gear without having to flex all of my technical prowess. Jammy berries play well with the sweetness of Demi-Sec and the buttery, flaky puff pastry brings out any brioche flavors in your bottle. This pairing makes your Demi Sec SING with complexity.
These are SO easy, and totally customizable, so feel free to experiment! Top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and devour these poppable desserts with your Demi-Sec bubbly!
Traditional Pairing: Chocolate Truffles
Our Pairing: Icecream
Dessert Champagne needs a dessert pairing, no doubt about it. You might think that the sweetness should be contrasted by a savory bite, but you would be wrong. In the case of Champagne, sweetness craves sweetness. There’s no better at-home sweetness than a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
I realize that a pint of ice cream isn’t a homemade meal, but I won’t be making the classic Doux pairing, chocolate truffles, at home anytime soon (because I keep my fridge stocked with Guido Gobino, Venchi and Caffarel truffles… in case of emergencies).
For Doux, keep things simple: Grab a pint, pop your bottle, then watch [INSERT FAVORITE REALITY TV SHOW.] That sounds like my kind of weeknight.
With that being said, I wouldn’t dare to leave you without harping about my favorite ice cream brands that you can find at grocery stores across the US. Okay, I am climbing onto my soapbox now…
Prove to all your friends that vanilla is not a flavorless ice cream. Coolhaus’ Best of Both Worlds uses both Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla. I discovered this brand when I was still in high school, back when they only had a small handful of flavors, and I have been a champion of the brand ever since.The quality here is unparalleled.
I couldn’t narrow it down to just one flavor from Jenni’s, it was even a challenge to narrow it down to two. I’ll start with my pick for those who prefer their pints without any chocolate– the Gooey Butter Cake flavor is SO good. It has a buttery richness that balances the sweetness, totally to die for. And for chocolate lovers, the Darkest Chocolate is bitter in all the ways you need it to be– it’s not for the faint of heart but damn is it delicious.
Okay, this is unfortunately not available in stores, but Salt & Straw ships nationwide if you aren’t near one of their 11 locations across the west coast (and Las Vegas.) Their olive oil flavor is what launched my passion for frozen desserts. It’s simple, rich, buttery, earthy, salty, and truly unforgettable. It’s the perfect ice cream for those who don’t want a sweetness overload. Truly, this is the ice cream I dream about.
You don’t need to be a certified chef to make something worthy of pairing with your prized bottles of bubbly. Your pairings can be as simple as a sandwich, salad, or a pint of ice cream. There’s no need to be ultra fancy with your Champagne, just have fun, and make something delicious. That’s all it needs to be.
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