Welcoming 2023 with Champagne & Dim Sum
by Bill Babash, Vicé Charge de Presse
The Bailliage of Greater Washington, DC, welcomed 2023 with a delicious afternoon of dim sum, Champagne, and plenty of Chaîne camaraderie at Han Palace in Tysons, Virginia on January 22, 2023. Following the popularity of last year’s New Year’s dim sum brunch at Han Palace’s sister restaurant, China Garden Han Gong in Rockville, Maryland, the bailliage was excited to once again pair Chinese dishes with French bubbly – an outstanding fusion across continents and cuisines.
Arriving members and guests were welcomed with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Réserve NV from the bailliage’s cellar. This extraordinary wine is a blend of sixty Champagne crus including three pillars that define Heidsieck’s Brut Réserve style: grand cru chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, grand cru pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims, and meunier from the Vallée de la Marne. Each cru is individually vinified mostly in stainless steel vats, with 5 to 10% vinified in old Burgundy oak barrels. The finished wine is 40% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay, and 20% meunier, blended with 50% reserve wines. The result is an elegant and complex Champagne with aromas ranging from brioche to red fruits to vanilla.
Attendees took their seats for the first of four rounds of Chinese delicacies, served family style. The first dishes featured a variety of traditional steamed dumplings – shrimp, scallop, and chive and shrimp – as well as shumai and bean curd rolls with oyster sauce. Lightly sweet and sour cucumber slices were crisp and fresh accompaniments to the lovely textures and rich seafood flavors of the dumplings. Champagne and seafood is, of course, a classic combination, and the Heidsieck Brut Réserve was superb with these dim sum.
The next course was a spectacular version of a palace-style stuffed duck, a dish that dates to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). The chef steams a whole, boneless duck stuffed with sticky rice, ham, shrimp, dried scallops, chestnuts, and egg. The duck arrived whole at each table, where servers finished it with a savory glaze before slicing it so that diners could serve themselves. Thanks to the slow steaming, the duck was meltingly tender, and the rice was richly infused with duck juices and the myriad of flavors in the stuffing. Garlic snow pea leaves were a tasty accompaniment.
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV was a worthy partner to this imperial dish. Similar to the Brut Réserve, each cru in the rosé is separately vinified in stainless steel vats and then blended with reserve wines which, for the rosé, are younger than those of the Brut. The wine gains its enticing pale pink color from 5 to 6 percent pinot noir wine vinified in red. With an overall balance of 40% pinot noir, 35% chardonnay, and 25% meunier and 48 months of aging, this sophisticated sparkling wine reveals deep notes of berry and aromas of gingerbread and cinnamon that paired wonderfully with the luxurious flavors of the duck.
The third set of dishes explored a range of dim sum’s techniques and flavors: crispy pork belly and roast pork, deep fried crab ball, braised eggplant, and (for the adventurous) steamed chicken claws. Each dish was delicious, and the medley of flavors and textures illustrated the skills of the chefs in the Han Palace kitchen. Champagne continued be a wonderful match for these tempting dishes.
Brunch concluded with a selection of delicious Chinese desserts: sesame ball with sweet bean paste, almond ball with custard egg yolk heart, coconut pudding, and Portuguese custard tarts. Portuguese tarts may seem unexpected on a Chinese menu, but European exploration and colonization – the Portuguese first landed in Guangzhou Province in 1513 – created the pathways for the European pastries to migrate to Asia. In the early 20th century, the tarts spread broadly in China and evolved with their own local style. As Chinese desserts tend to be less sweet than their American counterparts, a final glass of one of the Champagnes paired particularly well with treats.
Han Palace General Manager Johnnie Ling (photo by Bill Babash)Bailli Judy Mazza presented a Chaîne wine coaster to Han Palace General Manager Johnnie Ling to thank him and the entire Han Palace team for the warm hospitality and superb cuisine that made the bailliage’s first event of 2023 a memorable one.
This was the second January in a row that the bailliage has enjoyed a Champagne dim sum brunch, enabling members and guests to extend the celebratory holiday season with distinctive and tasty food, outstanding wine, and great friends. A January tradition is born!