By Morgan Perry
Lessons learned from my first "CCW" event, tips, and the best bottles.
First of all, credit for this idea goes to Matt Ahern from Scribe Winery/The Wonderland Project, and I also have to say thanks to my friend Matthew Kaner, an LA based somm and entrepreneur, who took me to Matt's party in LA as a guest a few years ago. (I was sold immediately and we had some AMAZING champagne that day!)
When deciding to throw my own CCW party, the concept was the same, and pretty simple: I provide the fried chicken, waffle fixings, and each guest (or pair) brings a bottle of champagne. But, real champagne, from Champagne, France, made in the traditional method (my favorite style of sparkling wine). That way, we each get to try some badass bottles, and have a fun afternoon!
Tips for your own event:
Though a simple concept, I made a few minor mistakes that I will keep in mind for next time, so here's what I learned:
Buy the pre-mixed waffle mix. I tried to make mine from scratch and it was hard to do when people are chatting with you, in fact I messed it up the first time and had to bring in help! It was stressful. Not ideal. Just have a bunch of mix, pre-made on hand so all people have to do is scoop it into the machine and no one is waiting on you.
Buy waaaaayyyy more chicken than you think you need and/or provide other things to munch on. This was a brunch, starting at noon meaning most people had NOT EATEN before coming. (There were also some big guys there who could put away some chicken.) I doubled my original order (had to order more mid-party) but I should have tripled it, the second order was gone quickly! I will also have more breakfast items (fruit, maybe some croissants, etc. ) laying around for folks who get the munchies.
And a few best practices:
We started off using real plates, but paper plates would have been fine the whole time and would have made for an easier clean up. (I use real ones because it's more environmentally friendly and seems nicer, but no need if you have TWENTY guests!).
Have enough real glasses, if you can. Borrow from a friend, if needed, and most wine glasses will do for champagne. I am not a flute fan (I prefer tulips or white wine glasses for sparkling wine) but we had to use some old flutes I had, some Bordeaux glasses, etc. But no one cared which style of glass they drank out of. I did purchase some more tulip glasses that were pretty reasonably priced and I was very happy with them!
I don't own a big wine chiller bucket, so we used a combo of my fridge (which had limited space) and my Igloo cooler for bottle storage, and it worked well. (Don't forget to buy ice!)
Keep some extra bubbles on hand. We went through three of my own bottles and probably would have had more if I had more chilled. You don't have to have three bottles of champagne, though, we drank two other bottles after my champs.
Test your waffle maker ahead of time to be able to instruct guests on how to use. I borrowed one from a friend who was there :)
Finally, traditional waffles are not vegan. I had one vegan friend attend and I had a box of vegan toaster waffles handy for her!
Honestly, all of the champagne we had was great, and a lot of it was only around $40 a bottle. Here were my personal favs though:
Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. Super complex and concentrated for a non-vintage - normally around $70 but I found it for $57 on Wired for Wine! Thanks, Aarial (a wine friend) for this one).
This uniquely shaped bottle was another delicious NV Blanc de Blancs, it'll set you back around $100 (so thanks, Rebekah and Garrett!) but I liked that it had some caramel notes as well as the linear citrus you expect from a BdB.
Probably the most fried-chicken friendly option was my bottle, the Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois. This cuvée is entirely vinified in oak, meaning it has a bit more body & complexity—it's also made from the three traditional Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier) adding a bit more depth of flavor. Try this with food! This one is pretty easy to find nationwide, and runs around $80.
My friend Lucas came late but strong with this Etienne Calsac
l'Échappée Belle Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru, which he paid $66 for locally but I found on my friend Thatcher's site for only $45! Another BdB winner for the day.
Hope this was helpful! Cheers, and tag me during your champagne drinking adventures this season.