D’Artagnan’s Culinary Mission: Impossible in Washington, DC

Summer Whitford

Profiteroles filled with pâte de foie gras by The Hamilton’s pastry chef Sally Roach.

If you have ever struggled to choose the right wines for your dinner party menu, imagine the Herculean effort it takes to pair wines with an opulent five-course meal that includes foie gras, duck, truffles, steak tartare, and dessert. This sumptuous menu was recently served at a 30 year anniversary party for D’Artagnan, the internationally renowned gourmet food company.

Although this wine and food pairing may seem like an episode of Culinary Mission: Impossible, the meal and wine selections were a resounding success because the wines complemented the aromas, flavors, textures, and weight of the food.

So let’s review the case.

Mission: pair wine with a five-course menu of foie gras, duck, truffles, steak tartare, and dessert.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Venue: The Hamilton
Date: March 3, 2015
Targets: Foodies and wine lovers

To mark D’Artagnan’s 30 year anniversary the company is throwing epic gourmet parties in different cities across the country in what has become a progressive dinner sensation. Recently, the party came to Washington, DC and reservations to attend were one of the city’s most coveted gourmet prizes.

The event was held downtown at The Hamilton and co-hosted by Ariane Daguin and chef Anthony Lombardo, executive chef at The Hamilton. Fifty lucky food writers, food and drink industry pros, and devoted consumers were fêted with a welcome reception followed by a five-course meal that was a collaboration between The Hamilton’s executive chef Anthony Lombardo, pastry chef Sally Roach pastry chef, and three respected local chefs that included:

·         Sam Kim (1789 Restaurant)

·         Erik Bruner Yang (Toki Underground)

·         Mike Friedman (The Red Hen)

For the dinner, a pairing of carefully selected wines was served from French wine producer Michel Chapoutier, and each course centered around one of D’Artagnan’s gourmet products.  

Chef Anthony Lombardo
Foie gras torchon brûlée with brioche, apple butter, and whiskey maple syrup

Michel Chapoutier Banyuls Roussillon France 2012

Although it may seem premature to serve a sweet, red vin doux naturel at the beginning of the meal, this Grenache Noir-based wine has the sweetness, acidity, and spice to foil the rich, fatty, umami depth of the foie gras and still complement the whiskey sauce without being overly sweet.

Chef Erik Bruner-Yang
Thai-style beef tartare with Wagyu beef, radishes, and seasonal vegetables

Michel Chapoutier “La Ciboise” Blanc Luberon France 2013

This unusual pairing perfectly illustrates that you don’t have to follow old rules about white wine with fish and poultry. Wagyu beef is a rich, heavily marbled meat, but it’s combination with the zing of the radishes and scallions needed a crisp light wine to keep the course from weighing the down the palate before the next course. If the wine had been red, the tannins would have heightened the spice of the radishes and onions and masked the buttery texture of the beef.

Chef Mike Friedman
Saffron rigatoni “al Maialino” with rustic potatoes, rosemary, and black truffle

Michel Chapoutier “La Petite Ruche” Crozes-Hermitage Côtes du Rhône France 2012

The iodine tang of saffron, heady aromas of black truffle, and herbaceous, woody nature of rosemary could make this a challenging pairing. However, Syrah, the king of grapes in the northern Rhône, and particularly in Crozes-Hermitage, has a rigid spine of acidity, soft blueberry and black currant fruit notes, and classic earthy, leather characteristics that beautifully complement the same aspects of the food.

Chef Samuel Kim
Rohan duck breast with black trumpet marmalade, caramel apple, duck confit, and bitter greens

Michel Chapoutier “La Bernadine” Châteauneuf-du-Pape Côtes du Rhône France 2011

D’Artagnan’s Rohan™ duck is a designer bird created exclusively for D’Artagnan. It’s a hybrid of the Heritage Mallard and Pekin ducks and tastes like the ducks raised in France with deeply flavored, soft rosy meat. Pairing this dish with the soft, supple blend that is Châteauneuf-du-Pape (mostly Grenache Noir with Syrah and Mourvedre) prevents the bitter greens from overpowering the wine and food while blending harmoniously with the slightly funky notes of the mushrooms and confit. Lush dark cherry is kept from being jammy by hints of garrigue, coffee, and the tang of licorice. [related]

Pastry chef Sally Roach
Ginger angel food cake with passion fruit curd, Champagne sabayon, and blood oranges

Michel Chapoutier Banyuls Roussillon France 2012

Sally Roach created a dish so perfectly in tune with the progression of the menu, so delicious without being cloying or heavy, that it was unforgettable. The intense tang of passion fruit curd and the pungent zest in the ginger flavored angel food cake calmed the stomach after all the rich food. The fruit refreshed our palates and the smooth creaminess of the Champagne sabayon dotted with bursts of cacao from the tiny chocolate pearls left guests craving more. The acidity of the blood oranges and passion fruit were aromatic enough to stand up to the wine’s fruit and acidity and made the creamy sauce feel like velvet on the palate.

The evening ended with profiteroles filled with pâte de foie gras, mousseline, and salted caramel and topped with toasted caramelized toasted walnuts, which with snifters of Château Tariquet Bas-Armagnac VSOP, c’etait magnifique!

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Summer Whitford is the D.C. City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal and the DC Wine Examiner. You can follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva