Corks were flying everywhere last week at Bullfeathers Restaurant. Over 50 bottles were uncorked as part of a five-course champagne dinner. Guests at the special event enjoyed a nice selection of sparkling wines and champagne: Domaine St. Michelle Blanc de Blanc, Caídel Bosco Franciacorta Brut, Gloria Ferrar Blanc de Noirs, Perrier JouÎt Grand Brut Champagne and Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui.
The drinks were paired respectively with appetizers of hickory grilled shrimp, scallops wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon and brie in puff pastry; butternut squash soup; molasses duck spinach salad; lobster thermidor with risotto and haricot verts; and a dessert consisting of profiteroles with chocolate sauce, chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate truffles.
Approximately 50 guests took part in this dinner. Lori Paul heard about the event through her daughter who waitresses at Bullfeathers. Paul's friend, Darla Rivi, is a big champagne fan and so they decided to come to the dinner.
"It's wonderful, very informative," said Paul. Rivi said, "I drink champagne every time I can."
This was actually one of the points being made by Lisa Helm, marketing specialist with the National Distributing Company, Inc.
"The purpose of the dinner is to show that sparkling wines go with everything," said Helm. "It can be served anytime you serve wine."
She mentioned that the first two sparkling wines were made primarily of Chardonnay, while the third selected used pinot blanc and pinot noir grapes. The Perrier JouÎt was the only champagne that was served; the literature says, "This wine's hallmark character is defined by the addition of 20 percent of Chardonnay from Perrier JouÎt's 100 percent rate grand cru Cramant estate."
The wine served with dessert is relatively new. Owner Gordon King was excited about that one, as were most of the diners. Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui is a strawberry colored sparking wine made from the Brachetto grape. It was sweet, but not too much, and went very nicely with the dessert selection.
Mark Cable and Michele Lane said that they found out about the dinner when they received a flyer in the mail.
"The food is different," said Cable.
NOT ONLY DID Helm talk about the individual wines, she also spoke about the fermentation process that sparkling wines go through. When she was finished, everybody had a greater appreciation of how champagne is made.
She explained that any quality champagne or sparkling wine requires an in-bottle second fermentation. During this stage the hundreds and thousands of bottles must be rotated in their racks. This remuage, as it is called, is still performed largely by hand in many champagne houses by experienced "riddlers" who rotate up to three bottles a day. Bottles are then frozen and the sediment pulled out.
Heidi Koontz of Intuitive Fare said, "You know who the riddlers are, they have huge muscles and some have lost their eyes [from the corks popping out]."
Throughout the dinner, King helped pour the champagne. When asked about the secret to his success, he said that owning the building makes a big difference.
"You're in control of your own destiny," said King, citing several other Old Town restaurants who have stood the test of time. They all own their own buildings. He's also kept the prices reasonable and said, "I've had great people [working here]."
Another thing that King has is good sense. While he served lobster thermidor for the champagne dinner, he said that he doesn't serve it on a regular basis because it's easy to do it wrong. He, of course, wants it to be just right, as it was when served at the champagne dinner.
Also attending the dinner were several fellow restaurateurs, including Bobbie Lee and Greg Shiner. Shiner was the former owner of Pier Street Annex in Washington, D.C.; he now works for AC Beverage, Inc. Lee owns SoBe Seafood Co. and Mister Days in Arlington.
Bob Bannon, who recently invested in The Wine Room, a new restaurant soon to open in Georgetown, was also there. Judging by the guest's comments, the evening seemed to be a success, and King definitely will be announcing some future dining events.
Bullfeathers is located at 112 King St., and can be reached by calling 703-836-8088 or visiting their web site: www.bullfeathersoldtown.com.