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Review - Champagne tasting and dinner At Caulil's Deli Amsterdam

By February 08, 2015 ,

“There comes a time in every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.” Bette Davis

I'll happily admit that there is an element of truth in that quote, having worked in the city of London I have quaffed my fair share of fizz. I used to have lunch with a friend who if he had a bad day it would require a glass of fizz to restore his spirits, though it never ended up being a glass and we always ended up drinking a bottle (or two, depending on how bad the day had been).

I do like my champagne and of course my holiday to France last year did include a trip to Reims and Epernay before ending up in Burgundy. Some of my favourites are Taittinger, Devaux, Ruinart and Billecart Salmon. I was lucky enough to visit the ancient caves of Taittinger and left with a case of their 2005 Comtes de champagne, which is now sitting in my cellar waiting for the right moment to be opened.

I often forget that attitudes to champagne will vary from country to country. I was surprised when I first moved here to find, well, not very much diversity on offer in some of the wine shops. You would find the usual culprit such as Moet lurking on the shelves but not much else. Thankfully this situation is improving so I now know that if I'm having a bad day there will be something good that I can purchase. 

So enough waffle, you probably want to hear about the dinner.

Being in an indulgent mood I decided to take myself to Amsterdam to partake in an evening of decadence (most of you are probably thinking, she must have had one hell of a bad week!) that involved caviar, oysters, lobster and champagne. The evening took place at Caulil's Delicatessen in Amsterdam just a short walk from the Amsterdam Centraal. The deli itself is a little gem, the outside not giving away much of what to expect inside. I may have mentioned Caulil's before as they have a place in De Foodhallen as well. The deli is two levels with the upstairs devoted to a seated area and downstairs to a veritable cornucopia of excellent meats, cheeses, wines and beers from artisan producers. 

It was a small gathering of nine which was nice and people seemed to have travelled for the event from as far as Rotterdam and Zeeland. Our hosts for the evening were Bart (wine) and Pepijn (food).

We started off with a glass of Roger Manceaux which was fresh with a clean nose that didn't give anything away.On the palate it had a hint of gooseberries and granny smith and a tart finish. This was served with the Baeri caviar of which we were given a dollop (I don't know if there's any other way of putting it) on the back of our hand. Before you think that they were skimping on the washing up, this is a traditional way of eating caviar, but there were a lot of bemused looks on peoples faces. The caviar itself was less salty than other caviars and had a soft rounded flavour and worked well with the tartness of the champagne.

Next was a classic pairing with Oysters from David Herve which have been described as the Rolls Royce of Oysters. These are from the Marenne area in western France and have been known to grace the table of many a 3 Michelin star restaurant, but on this evening graced ours. They are smaller in comparison to many oysters from the UK and Ireland, but not lacking in flavour. They were paired with Billecart Salmon Extra brut, which has a very crisp nose and palate, and the saltiness of the Oysters provided a good match. I liked the fact the Oyster was served "au naturel", so the flavour was uncompromised.

From Oysters to Lobster which was served with nothing more than it's shell as it should be. The accompanying champagne was a Duval-Leroy Brut premier cru. When I saw this on the list when I first sat down, my heart sank as it is the one champagne of which I am not the worlds biggest fan. I've found it rather unimaginative with a dull palate. So was I going to be proved wrong with the Premier cru? It didn't knock my socks off in comparison with the previous two. It was fuller in body, had a typical chardonnay nose and a sharper earthier palate. Paired with the sweetness of the lobster the predominance of the chardonnay worked nicely. Did it help me overcome my prejudice? Not really.

We were next served some pata negra which was paired with Bollinger. For those of you unfamiliar with pata negra it is a cured ham which comes from pigs that been allowed to roam freely and gorge themselves on acorns until slaughtering time. Some hams are then cured for up to 12 months, but the curing process can often be up to 48 months for some hams. Bollinger on its own is a typical split of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes and has a good full flavour with a biscuity nose which stood up well against the ham. The pairing brought out the best flavour in both the ham and the champagne which is something I love about wine and food pairings when you get a good match.

Onwards and upwards as they say with what would be deemed a difficult pairing; champagne with cheese. The cheese in question was a 36 month old comté and the champagne a De Venoge Blanc de Blancs 2004. To me this was the highlight pairing of the evening. Both have a depth of flavour and nose. The champagne has a good full flavour with a brioche nose and palate, the buttery flavour working well with the cheese. It is definitely something I'll be trying again at home.

Last but not least the dessert course, you would expect a sweeter wine to be paired at this point, it was not the case. With a raspberry tart (from Le Petit Gateau just down the street) we were served a Mignon Rosé. This is a biodynamic wine which is produced in the most natural way but is filtered. It has a depth of colour that is unlike the normal pink or coppery hues, of your average rose, an almost creme de cassis colour, it is that dark. The nose is light on fruit and it has a tart floral palate with a long aftertaste. The tartness of the raspberries worked well with the champagne bringing out a hidden fruitiness on the palate, all in all a good note to end on.

Overall it was an enjoyable evening, the courses were well paced and the hosts knowledgeable about the champagne and food. I think my only reservations were that the champagne was served a little too cool so that it took a while before you could really get the nose and palate of each one. Another reservation was portion sizes, maybe two oysters instead of one and a bit more pata negra and comté, but these reservations didn't detract from an enjoyable evening with some surprising pairings.

The cost of the evening was €85 inclusive of drinks and food, Caulil's Delicatessen is located on Haarlemmerstraat 115, 1013 EM Amsterdam.

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