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Sparkler in the Raw

I've been thinking about home a lot. Thanksgiving certainly helped, as do the December holidays just around the corner. The home of Lot18 New York, as some of you may know, is right in the heart of Koreatown, which makes lunch meetings gastronomically pleasurable –Dolsot bibimbap? Kalbi? Soondubu? – and afternoon walkabouts an exercise in restraint – Kimbap? Mandoo?!

Needing to find a bubbly for my wine rack, I decided to honor our office's location by pairing the 2006 Caraccioli Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine, currently available in the 12-Bottle Gift: Start Your Wine Cellar, with yukhoe, Korean steak tartare. I turned to Maangchi, as I do for any Korean dish, and whipped up her recipe for yukhoe. Sparkling wine can be a tremendous palate cleanser, so I figured it was a safe bet with this dish. But just in case, I decreased the amount of garlic from 12 cloves to eight. I also hedged that the wine's crisp apple notes would play nicely with the bed of juicy, julienned Asian pear that the yukhoe is presented on.

Well, I wasn't entirely wrong, as the pear was fantastic with the Caraccioli, but I would say that three cloves of garlic would have been plenty for the yukhoe. I would also brown the minced garlic, versus leaving it raw, so it's nice and nutty. What was completely unexpected, however, was how incredibly the Caraccioli paired with the fish side dishes (banchan), specifically dried anchovy (myeolchi bokkeum) and spicy stir-fried fish cakes (uhmook bokkeum). The bubbles cleanly stripped the fish of their spices and soy sauce, leaving a pure marine flavor on the finish. As we munched and crunched away on Korean food, the wine improved dramatically as it warmed up, something I have rarely experienced with bubbles. It became more mouth-coating and puckering and by the end of our meal, even contemplative.

Per my fiancé's family tradition, we enjoy homemade croissants with Champagne as we unwrap our presents. This year I might add some banchan and another attempt at yukhoe, especially if we've been good and have more under the tree.

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