Cognac is not just an after-dinner drink anymore! Its unique flavors pair exceedingly well with food to create new experiences for your taste buds. Here’s the first article in our Cognac Food-Pairing Series–we’re starting off with Seafood.
Earlier this year, in the city of Cognac, Expérience sur Mesure, a company with a new food and wine concept to offer, was born. Oriane Chambon, former Château de L’Yeuse sommelier, and Cédric Coulaut, chef from the same fine-dining establishment just outside of Cognac, struck out on their own to create tailor-made experiences for your tasting pleasure. Both partners are passionate about discovering the true flavors of the region to make the best food, wine and spirits parings possible, and, luckily for us, sharing what they find with others.
It seems that our region, known for the fruit of its vines, offers an abundance of other delicacies, which, incidentally, taste delightful with Cognac. Charente-Maritime is known for its beautiful beaches and its matured oysters. There are several renowned oyster growers such as Gillardeau, who laser-mark their oysters. Experience sur Mesure introduced me to another, David Hervé, whose family has been growing oysters in the ‘claires’ since 1939. He uses a “terroir” system, similar to the one we have in the Cognac appellation, to determine the maturing process which ultimately gives his top of the line shellfish their different flavors and textures.
Cédric and Oriane often select organic food and beverages, always according to the season, for a question of terroir and taste. As a starter, they suggest a frozen JLP L’Organic 04 paired with small hors d’ouvre oysters. Putting Cognac into a freezer at -18 and serving it right away, leaves only the fruit and spice aromas on the palette while the sensation of alcohol disappears. Oriane suggests taking a sip of Cognac first, before eating the oyster, and then, taking another sip of Cognac. The flavor and texture of the oyster is complementary to that of the frozen Cognac and the first sip of Cognac is completely different from the second. Pierre Lecat VS Instinct is another superb choice to serve this way. Caviar, prawns, and crawfish all pair well with a frozen young Cognac, as well.
Imperial prawns also live in the same oyster pool. David Hervé has added this Japanese variety of shrimp in the same pools as the oysters and they are raised completely naturally; he does not even feed them, much less give them antibiotics, etc. These are grilled to perfection and pair well with JLP L’Organic 07 by Cognac Pasquet, served chilled (at about 8 C), but not frozen.
The temperature changes the sensation of the Cognac on your tongue and also alters how the flavors work together. With slightly older Cognacs, oysters also go well, the DH “Ronce” or the “Royale”. Smoked trout or caviar from Pisciculture du Moulin in Gensac-la-Pallue is another delicious option for this age of Cognac and Jacques Denis Grande Champagne VSOP would also work well here.
If you would like to try an even older Cognac, it is probably best to serve it at room temperature, with cooked seafood, like lobster or scallops. Bitter foods can pair more easily with these Cognacs as well. The BNIC gives some basic suggestions to sum up food paring: match texture and weight, create synergy, avoid strong spices. Paired with a surf and turf dish, the L’Organic 10 compliments both the prawns and the steak and vice versa. La Pouyade Vielle Grande Champagne Cognac from Jean Fillioux would pair exceptionally too.
Generally speaking, Cognac and all things salty go well together, thus seafood is a wonderful partner. The alcohol can, in turn, be a taste exhauster for the food being pared, essentially a symbiotic relationship. Experience it first hand with Cédric and Oriane or you can reserve at one of our finest restaurants in Charente, La Ribaudière, with their “Savours” menu, featuring a different Cognac with each of its five courses. If you are not planning a trip to our region soon and want to try at home, the BNIC offers you guidelines and it is always fun to experiment with Cognac!
Let us know what you find with your own local and not-so-local food parings and stay tuned, especially if you are a carnivore, to learn about which meats go best with which Cognacs. Up next in our Cognac Food Pairing Series!
Sources: experiencesurmesure.com, davidherve.com, laribaudiere.com, cognac.fr