THERE is often a moment that crystallises as the point where book learning is superseded by experience.
As a young waiter/barman I was informed by my bible on wines and other drinks “All You Need to Know About Drinks”, that eggs “do not go with any wines particularly well”.
It warned me that “the sulphur in them somehow flattens the taste of the wine altogether”. So I had studiously avoided drinking wine with any dish that had eggs in it, although at the time two-egg omelets were often on the home menu because they were cheap and filling. And there’s only one thing money can’t buy and that’s poverty.
I was part of the outside catering team for Domain Receptions. I was the sommelier and wine waiter at an expensive 80th birthday party in the hob-knob Auckland suburb of Remuera.
There was plentiful wine and food and to this day I can recall the gorgeous smell of the game soup as it was served as the unctuous first course of a feast that money can buy.
The evening was pleasant and somewhat subdued given the average age of the guests. And the guest of honour was the life of the party even though it was after 8pm that the party really took off.
When we returned to home base, the boss was extremely happy. He had received good reports about the service and the food, and he was to make good money. He proposed that we celebrate by having his favourite early morning (it was about 1am) meal: scrambled eggs with cream and shallots and a glass of French champagne. I thought of the advice about the clash of eggs and wine but as I’d never tried real French champagne before, I kept my mouth shut. As the book said, it might be better to start the wine when you’ve finished the egg.
But it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The richness of the eggs matched perfectly with the clean, yeasty taste of the non-vintage Veuve Cliquot. The wine was engaging and its mouth-filling crispness underlined all of the fuss about its supremacy as a wine. It was far removed from the wines of the time that I usually drank such as Cold Duck and Mateus Rose. The difference was planetary. And since, food and wine blogs have told me to eat my eggs Benedict and other eggy dishes with fizz, advice I’ve followed.
The problem is to continue to justify the additional cost of drinking French champagne generally let alone with the humble egg. So that is why I preened when I read the 2013 reports that purportedly showed that drinking one to three glasses of champagne a week may counteract the memory loss associated with ageing as well as potentially helping to delay the onset of degenerative brain disorders, such as dementia. I can’t forget that research. Apparently, champagne has relatively high levels of phenolics, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties, and these compounds assist the brain’s functioning. But even if the research is wrong, to this day the intense pleasure that this first-time treat generated can be and is replicated: into the night make scrambled eggs with cream and shallots and drink a glass of quality fizz, marvelling at how it never fails to satisfy.
“Always keep a bottle of French champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge.”
–Hester Browne, author.