Vegetable gastronomy triumphs on the plate | The weekly country


Aubergine flambéed with arugula and beef juice explodes like a supersonic sweet / savory, meat / vegetable rocket. La Grande Dame 1989 Rosé – a rosé based on pinot noir and chardonnay, fatty, sweet and full of structure, caramel and ripe red fruit – explodes in the mouth for what it is: a historic Maison Veuve Clicquot. You could continue with aniseed hyssop and its hints of licorice and mint, or with kale, that vegetable that was already cultivated 4,000 years ago for its therapeutic and ornamental values ​​long before it became a staple food. Or with that indescribable aromatic plant that, squeezed between the fingers, gives off an intense smell of … Coke. And with La Grande Dame 2012, and with 2008, and with rosé 2006, and with Jeroboam from 1990, and with many other plant and oenological treasures produced by the orchard and the Manoir de Verzy vineyards, half an hour from Reims, the terroir in the north of France from where the Grands Crus from House since it was acquired by its founder, Philippe Clicquot, before passing in 1805 to his daughter-in-law, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, the historical widow of Clicquot.

It is a sunny and cold day in the heart of Champagne, with the autumn mist embedded in the vineyard, the imposing facade of the mansion looking out over the fields and those responsible for the legendary brand of the orange label stressed by the presentation of his latest gastronomic invention: what in English (the marketing is important, and the clients of the United States, numerous and powerful) have called Garden Gastronomy and that can actually be translated as plant gastronomy.

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Corne de Gatte truffled potatoes, chaourse cheese and crispy vegetables.
Corne de Gatte truffled potatoes, chaourse cheese and crispy vegetables.Sébastien Vincent (Veuve Clicquot)

The reader has guessed it: vegetable cuisine is not exactly new. Yes it is more the variant introduced by the group of European chefs signed by the brand as “ambassadors” and which consists of creating dishes of reverse kitchen: plants, vegetables, vegetables, fruits and herbs are the main protagonists. And meat and fish, if any, are mere garnishes or accompaniments. Dominico Schingaro (Italy), Amélie Darvas and Gabriela Benicio (France), Dario Cadonau (Switzerland), Robin Gill (Ireland), Marcel Ravin (Monaco) and Iker Erauzkin (with his restaurant Uma in Barcelona) are the forefront of this new religion culinary consisting of pairing the most unsuspected vegetable creations with luxury champagnes. It is a new avenue in the vegetarian and vegan trend that, little by little, is gaining ground among the palates of the youngest customers (young and powerful pockets, in this case).

Each of these chefs has their usual suppliers and their favorite gardens, from where they extract the raw material for menus that in some cases, such as Iker Erauzkin’s, can end up being directly translated into sauces (one of the menus they serve in the Uma from Barcelona is made of salty and sweet sauces, with accompaniments of vegetables, meat and fish in some cases).

But today the setting is the extraordinary orchard created in Verzy – which The weekly country visit by invitation of the brand—, a plant area of ​​2,500 square meters with more than 300 species. The project started conceptually a year and a half ago (with the pandemic in between) and began to be planted six months ago. A team of 10 grape pickers from the Maison Clicquot takes care of it directly, under the supervision of the landscapers Xavier Mathias and Eve Gaignard. The destination of the vegetables that are born here is, mainly, the casseroles of the chefs who officiate at the Hotel du Marc, the headquarters of Veuve Clicquot in Reims and the place where the brand welcomes its most important clients and certain guests of honor. . At the same time, the garden is a test bed for the gastronomic creations of the aforementioned group of European chefs.

Marcel Ravin, chef at the Blue Bay restaurant in Monaco.
Marcel Ravin, chef at the Blue Bay restaurant in Monaco.
Sébastien Vincent (Veuve Clicquot)

“A garden of edible plants, contrary to what it may seem, is not the most common; the most common is to make plants to decorate. We are losing the habit of eating plants, and that is the reason why we have created this garden ”, explains Xavier Mathias in the middle of the Verzy garden, adding:“ It is not only a garden, but also a meeting place and training. It is also a bridge between several worlds, such as vegetables, gastronomy and viticulture. And forgive me, but for gardeners specialized in vegetables like me, viticulture is a bit aberrant, since it is a monoculture and that is extremely, dangerous and requires extreme technification, while we are committed to diversity “.

The Manoir de Verzy and its vineyards were conceived in 1840 as a symbolic gift made by Madame Clicquot to Alfred Werlé, her German partner and future heir to the company. In 1896, the estate was handed over by Werlé to his daughter Marcelle and her husband, Bertrand de Mun, as a wedding gift. De Mun would be one of the great managers of the brand, from 1907 to 1950. Around 1920 the couple created the vegetable garden (the plans of the vegetable garden are in the archives of the mansion), from which vegetables and vegetables would come not only for them , but also for your employees, vine growers and farmers. The newly created orchard follows those plans of the original orchard from a century ago.

Red plum tartlets.
Red plum tartlets. Sébastien Vincent (Veuve Clicquot)

“We are in the fall, and that means that we are in a moment of transition between the collection of products from the summer garden and the imminence of the winter garden,” explains the landscaper and specialist journalist Eve Gaignard. During the months of October and November, his work has focused on the grove of edible sweet berries, which will surely populate some newly created desserts. In addition to this fruit area, the orchard has others for aromatic and culinary herbs, perennial vegetables, cabbages, potatoes, curcubitáceas, mints (up to 25 species) and edible flowers.

New times, also in gastronomy: it is time for vegetable cuisine the other way. Don’t be surprised foodie on duty if, when the longed-for dish lands on your table, what you contemplate is a julienne of cabbage with aubergine filling accompanied by a micron of stewed cheek … instead of the other way around. And don’t be surprised if the sommelier proposes a rosé champagne to pair with the artichokes. Although, as those who know, no better pairing for a good artichoke … than a good glass of water.

The Manoir de Verzy Veuve Clicquot, in Verzy, in Champagne (France), one of the first parcels acquired by Madame Clicquot in the 19th century.
The Manoir de Verzy Veuve Clicquot, in Verzy, in Champagne (France), one of the first parcels acquired by Madame Clicquot in the 19th century.
Sébastien Vincent (Veuve Clicquot)

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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