The "Champagne of Friends" - Charles Boyle to Jake Peralta
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
In a cute episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine, the ever so goofy and sweet Charles Boyle calls his BFF Jake Peralta "the champagne of friends." This random phrase has stuck with me, to the point where I've started referring to certain things as the "champagne" of other things, for example:
(1) Cotton candy grapes are the champagne of grapes. If you've never tried any, keep your eyes peeled when you go to the grocery store, or if you're like my friend, call your local Sprouts / farmer's market religiously during the season (approximately August 10 through September 20) and see if you get lucky. There are several brands, but The Grapery reigns supreme in my book... Fun (albeit disappointing) fact: some people don't taste the cotton candy flavor, and cotton candy grapes can taste just like regular grapes to these folks. :(
(2) Rainier cherries are the champagne of cherries. Not only are they beautiful, they are so juicy sweet that I literally started salivating while typing this. General cherry tip - you can use a straw or one of these other methods to pit them if you or your loved one(s) find that the pits discourage you from enjoying these luscious fruits.
(3) Marcona almonds are the champagne of almonds. No disrespect to its almond cousins, but this Spanish almond is rounder, softer, and more buttery, with a slight hint of sweetness and addictive quality. For some storage tips, see here.
(4) Blood oranges are the champagne of oranges. What's not to love about a blood orange? Not only does it have an intense and usually sweet flavor, it's easier to peel, looks amazing sliced, and will color your plate with shades of ruby, maroon, dark blood red, and sometimes you'll even see a streaks or specks of yellow/orange/marigold. Blood oranges are also super versatile: you can peel or slice and eat them plain, juice 'em (my favorite is getting blood orange tea with boba), make cocktails, salads, or other dishes that call for oranges, use them to garnish your fruit plate or cheese and charcuterie platter, or even bake with them! If you slice any blood oranges, try to use them up that same day, as they do tend to ferment quickly (unless you like fermented flavors)!
(5) Meyer lemons are the champagne of lemons. Have you ever had anything so fragrant? Also lowkey obsessed with their smooth peels and not as tart taste.
(6) Peonies are the champagne of flowers... Err, actually they are known as "the king of flowers," at least in China. Peonies symbolize a variety of desirable qualities, from honor, wealth, and nobility in the East, to prosperity, good fortune, and compassion in the West. Be it because of their beautiful fragrance, transformation from sweet buds to magnificently ridiculous lush and full blossoms, soft petals, or variety of colors, I'm not the only one who can't get enough of these beauties, and every peony season always feels too short. I've definitely put peonies in the fridge before to make sure they last a liiiiitle longer, and look fresh for whatever occasion I'm eyeing!
(7) And finally, since we're on the topic of "the champagne of _______...", let's discuss some actual champagne... As in, Cristal is the champagne of champagnes. I can't help but be disappointed that this one really does live up to the hype, because I was hoping it wouldn't justify the price tag! My palate is not refined enough to provide a concrete description what makes this such a tasty and desirable champagne, but in terms of comparing Louis Roederer's Cristal Champagne to offerings from other wonderful champagne houses (e.g., Dom Perignon, Moet Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier Jouet, to name a few), all I can remember is that Cristal somehow tasted cleaner, fresher, smoother, and yet more flavorful and vibrant. It really sparkled compared to the other champagnes we've tried.
"A great wine comes from an assembly of myriad details" - Forbes article. In reading a little more about about the history and process of creating Cristal, it's apparent why Cristal is a veritable Veblen Good: the grapes are hand-harvested using biodynamic farming techniques from vineyards located in the best terroirs of Champagne, using the oldest vines (25 to 60 years old) which are (of course) low-yielding. The soil is tilled using traditional methods, and each block of grapes is fermented separately and examined to ultimately create a final blend of high-quality craftsmanship: a true masterpiece.
So far we've been lucky enough to taste the first Cuvée de Prestige (Prestige Cuvée), created by Roederer in 1876 for the Russian Tsar... Maybe someday we'll get a chance to try some of House Roederer's other vintages.
What do you think of this list? I'd love to hear about any items you'd consider putting in your "champagne of ________" list!