Perfect pairings? Shakespeare and the Globe, Bacall and Bogart, Kesey and acid, Jagger and Richards. We're happy to add to the list something concocted in 1861 at the venerable Brooks's, a Whig party hangout in London. Hailed widely as a morning-after recuperative, Black Velvet is a killer combo--champagne (the real stuff; no nasty New York State eau de urinal, thank you very much) and well-chilled stout. For those shuddering at the thought of adding anything to a $750 bottle of 1995 Krug, Clos de Mesnil, we gotta agree with you. But your everyday restaurant or decadent-evening-at-home Moet & Chandon or Perrier-Jouet? Go for it. You're in for a tasty surprise.
You can ease into things by mixing a split of Taittinger Brut with a Yeti Imperial Stout at The Cellar in San Clemente--upscale and friendly, and enough fromage to bait every mousetrap in Southern California.
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Patience is the key. To one-third of a champagne flute of luscious Double Stout from San Diego's Green Flash brewery, we dribble in Veuve Cliquot Brut. Holding the glass up to the window reveals a fascinating work of art--delicate, dark veins working their way through the upper layer. (Kesey would have been transfixed for hours.) A judicious sip produces crisp, clean flavors of apricot and white peach. The second sip has us raising the glass to the gentlemen at Brooks's--the creamy, dark grab of the stout (toast/tar/caramel/coffee) and the fruity zing of the champagne produce a smoky finish to savor. Mon dieu ... so many champagnes, so many stouts, so little time.