By Andrea Stuart with Kristie Compau
Founded by culinary and wine paragons Robert Mondavi, Julia Child, and Richard Graff, The American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) is a non-profit organization that promotes a healthy lifestyle through the enjoyment of fine fare and vine-grown libations. They fortify this principle by organizing educational events that are designed to thrill the tongue and cultivate an appreciation of that which is consumable.
On March 16, the AIWF Monterey Bay chapter hosted their 9th Annual Champagne and Caviar event at the Clement Monterey, the principle of which was simple: to demonstrate and celebrate the naturally evolved relationship between two delicacies, Champagne and caviar. Perhaps one of the most classic pairings, Champagne and caviar are an irrefutable twosome that literally erupt on the taste buds, tattooing a most indelible experience on memory. Champagne and caviar are not simply a food and wine pairing; they are part of an elusive experience, a moment submerged in refinement. Where tangential qualities between them exist, a most effervescent affair is born.
The AIWF’s Champagne and Caviar event introduced members, as well as Champagne and caviar fans and individuals with a curiosity about the marriage, to the world’s oldest Champagne house, Ruinart. Established in 1729, Ruinart wines are prided on their unique taste that incorporates brightness, intensity, and elegance.
On the other end of the pairing, the event featured Tsar Nicoulai, a leader in sustainable caviar farming. Three decades of pioneering has earned the company a commanding lead in cultivating artisanal caviar from 100% American White Sturgeon. The proceeds from the event, including the live and silent auctions, supported the AIWF Scholarship Fund and the Big Sur Fire Fund.
Chef Jerry Regester of C Restaurant guided culinary design and implementation for the courses, each of which created a composite of delicate yet impressionable flavors. Attendees were escorted through caviar-laden passed hors d’oeuvres and Blanc de Blancs, into a spoon of select caviar, and then into line-caught tuna Carpaccio with estate caviar, shaved apple, fennel, and shallot soubise. As the third course waltzed onto palates—enter rock shrimp and Bucatini pasta with beet-saffron caviar and local golden beets in a Mediterranean mussel emulsion—it was arm-in-arm with Ruinart Rosé. The finishing move was pan seared sustainable Chilean sea bass with truffled tiger-eye caviar and Dom Ruinart 1998 and Dom Ruinart 2002. The 1998 is a sensual wine that created a most flirtatious coupling.
“What is more celebratory than caviar and Champagne?” says Toby Rowland-Jones, AIWF Director and Champagne and Caviar Co-chair. “The mere thought makes me salivate! And to enjoy the very best of the best in both Ruinart and Tsar Nicoulai made for a fabulous afternoon at the Clement.”
The AIWF is currently comprised of 18 chapters across the U.S with 3,000 food and wine enthusiasts, who participate in a number of events each year. National events provide members with opportunities to enjoy coming together, conversing about food, and learning from renowned culinary professionals, winemakers, and authors. From book signings, garden tours, wine and chocolate tastings, culinary cruises, winemakers’ dinners, and golf tournaments, to artisan food gatherings and picnics; AIWF events are stimulating and educational. Champagne and Caviar was no exception.
To learn more about The American Institute of Wine and Food, please visit www.aiwf.org.