News & Politics

The French Embassy Kicks Off the Holiday Season With a Champagne Ball

The party featured bubbly from producers both well known and more obscure, plus bites from local restaurants.

Pol Roger, just some of the different Champagnes available for tasting at the French Embassy’s Champagne Ball. Chefs from Taberna Del Alabardero prepare traditional “coca,” grilled squid with tomato and leek. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

For ardent fans, an ice-cold bottle of Champagne has no specific season. It’s good
at any time and with anything. But for most people, the peak season for bubbly runs
from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, because it is festive and complements the
foods of the holidays. Nothing cuts through a carb quite like a perfectly chilled
glass of fine Champagne.

The French Embassy took advantage of the holiday timing this past weekend with its
annual Champagne Ball. Guests were able to sample as much as they wanted of the various
labels from eleven French producers, including some of the brands that are especially
well-known in the US—Louis Roederer, Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger, and Taittinger—as
well as some that may be more obscure, such as Gosset, Besserat de Bellefon, Henriot,
Heidsieck Monopole, Nicolas Feuillatte, Lanson, and Pommery. Tickets cost either $85
for regular admission or $165 for a VIP ticket, which allowed early entry.

The black-tie soirée, sponsored by the French-American Cultural Foundation, was held
at La Maison Française on Reservoir Road. In addition to the multiple tables offering
pours of Champagne, there were food stations, a silent auction, and then dancing to
Doc Scanlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra. No one went thirsty or hungry or without
a good workout. Among the standout food items were Michel Richard’s lobster bisque
with chunks of butternut squash, Ici Urban Bistro’s scallops with pineapple, Bistro
La Bonne’s braised lamb shank with macaroni and cheese, and Taberna Del Alabardero’s
grilled squid over tomato and leeks.

The sweet shops providing dessert included Georgetown Cupcake, Moorenko’s Ice Cream,
and Patisserie Poupon, whose owners made a special creation for the party. Ruth Poupon
said it had to do with nuns, and the components were pastry, orange cream, whipped
cream, caramel, and gold. “We made it specifically to go with Champagne,” she said.

The auction items were extravagant and included a week at an 18th-century chateau
in Normandy, France, for 15 people. Another item was round-trip air fare to Paris,
plus a special tour of the Champagne region. But really, the party was an excellent
tour all on its own.