You know that one line from that one movie that perfectly and concisely sums up the entire plot? One of my favorites is from the Audrey Hepburn film called Love in the Afternoon, which was released in Europe under the title, Ariane. If you haven’t seen it, you must, even just for the glamorous costumes alone! It’s set in beautiful, mid-century Paris. Audrey plays the very lovely, but very naïve Ariane. She’s the daughter of a private detective specializing in affaires d’amour, played by the ever-charming Maurice Chevalier. By a twist of fate, Ariane meets the subject of one of her father’s investigations – an extravagantly rich, handsome, (and much older) American playboy by the name of Mr. Flannagan (Gary Cooper), and when the two instantly fall for each other, Ariane coyly, and quite humorously, tries to convince him that she is just as well versed in the ways of love as he is, using all the cases in her father’s files as inspiration.
I won’t dare spoil the ending, it’s too good, but in one scene Mr. Flannagan hands Ariane a flute of Champagne. They’re together in his hotel room at the Ritz, being serenaded by a four-member Gypsy orchestra (which Mr. Flannagan always has on call to set the mood for just such occasions…naturally). Ariane takes a sip of her Champagne and innocently asks, “Is this Pepsi-Cola?”
“This?” he chuckles. “This is Champagne. Domestic.”
“Oh, she replies sweetly, without even realizing her huge faux pas, “I know…with fish you have white wine; with Gypsies, Champagne. Right?”
I can’t have Champagne without repeating that line in my head. It still makes me smile, and not only because every girl growing up in Paris knows the difference between Champagne and cola, but because I absolutely love the idea of Champagne with Gypsies. Champagne with anything, really. In fact, I even love to cook with it. It makes everything just a little more glamorous. Think about it. You could say, “I made a vinaigrette,” or you could say, “I threw together a Champagne vinaigrette.” You can make white wine poached pears, but how much better do Champagne poached pears sound? It’s like the difference between a love affair and une affaire d’amour. And it’s not any more difficult, especially if you’re like us and are a little too ambitious with the bubbly when friends and family are over. This is the perfect way to use Champagne that’s lost its sparkle when you’ve popped too many bottles and the Gypsies have all gone home. Of course, if you don’t happen to have a bottle of flat Champagne in the fridge, use an inexpensive bottle of Prosecco or California bubbly. There’s no need to splurge here. (Just don’t use Pepsi-Cola!)
Champagne Poached Pears
4 – 5 firm pears
2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine
2 cups water
2 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP honey
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
whipped cream for serving
In a sauce pan just large enough to fit all the pears evenly, mix the Champagne, water, sugar, honey, vanilla pod and seeds. Place the liquid over medium heat and while it comes to a simmer, peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Place the pears upright in the poaching liquid and simmer gently for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size and ripeness of the pears.
Allow the pears to cool in the liquid for several minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Bring the remaining poaching liquid to a boil and simmer until reduced to about one cup. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the sauce over the pears in the bowl. Refrigerate until cold.
To serve, place a dollop of sweetened whipped cream in the bottom of a small bowl. Rest a pear on top and spoon over the sauce.