Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Perfect Pair: Champagne Dinner

“Bonjour Mademoiselle.” These were the first words I heard when I walked into iCi Urban Bistro. Two seconds earlier, I had been on the streets of D.C. With the blink of an eye, I was transported to France. Having spent time living in Paris, I yearn for the days I spent sipping champagne and slowly devouring dishes of rich French cuisine. Saturday night, I got the opportunity to do just that at iCi Urban Bistro's Fête de la Gastronomie Française Champagne Dinner.

As soon as I walked into the contemporary-styled yet elegant restaurant situated off the lobby of the Sofitel hotel, everyone from the hostess to the customers was chattering away in French or speaking with French accents.

My dinner companion and I were seated immediately and waited anxiously for one of our five empty champagne glasses to be filled.
We didn’t have to wait long. Within minutes, the champagne was flowing and Pierre, the general manager of the hotel, began explaining the significance of the event. Saturday, September 22nd was chosen by the French government as the first Fête de la Gastronomie Française or “Festival of French Cuisine.” To celebrate this occasion, Executive Chef Franck Loquet, along with Pastry Chef Vincent Bitauld, designed a five-course menu paired with select champagnes from Laurent-Perrier, which was celebrating its 200th anniversary.
The first course, Foie Gras de Canard Poêle, included an enormous piece of foie gras that I can only describe as a foie gras steak. It was so decadent I could barely get halfway through the “steak” but I devoured the accompanying lightly-salted Candied Baby Beets. The acidity of the Ultra Brut – the driest champagne available in the world – was a great contrast to the fattiness of the foie gras.
Next, we were served the Brut which was a bit smoother. Rather than the stark contrast of the first pairing, this delicious champagne was the perfect complement to the Cured Seabass flavored with Lemon Oil, Peach and Fennel Confit. 

The third course was served with Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle, otherwise known as the great century. This champagne is considered the best expression of the House of Laurent-Perrier, a blend of three exemplary vintages. Interestingly, while my dinner companion and the rest of the diners were blown away by this wine, it was my least favorite. Perhaps, because I was so pre-occupied by the Organic Chicken Breast with Mushrooms, Gnocchi and Truffle Cream Sauce. Everything on the plate was so perfectly cooked that it literally melted in my mouth. The mushrooms were like butter and truffle sauce came through on every bite. I could eat this every day! 
The fourth course was a Chaource cheese which reminded me of a strong creamy Brie paired with a Red Fruit Jam and a sweet but understated Cuvée Rosé. It was a perfect pairing in my opinion.

By the time the final dessert course arrived, I was filled to the brim with French cuisine and champagne. The Apricots Veneziana with Caramelized Almonds combined with the sweet Demi-Sec champagne lulled me over the edge into a food coma.
Eating at iCi Urban Bistro was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a long time. Aside from the fantastic food and excellent champagne, the wait staff was incredibly attentive, and while the décor isn’t what I would imagine as traditionally “French bistro,” the atmosphere and focus on gastronomy was quintessentially French.

Located near the White House and Smithsonian, iCi Urban Bistro is about experience - the opportunity to indulge in fabulous sensations, artful presentations, and cool, contemporary twists on timeless French dishes. Executive Chef Franck Loquet believes in utilizing only fresh products of the highest quality. His French heritage and world-class training motivates him to ensure each dish is a masterpiece of flavor and presentation. iCi Urban Bistro is located 806 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20005. For additional information, please visit http://www.iciurbanbistro.com/ or call (202) 730-8700.
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