Champagne and Sabres

I’m in a cellar, surrounded by over 20,000 bottles of carefully chosen wine, a bottle of Moet et Chandon Imperial in my left hand and a large knife in my right. To the sound of metal on glass, I run the blade up and down the neck of the bottle slowly. Then, a quick flick of the wrist, and the blade slices off the cork and glass together. Moet spurts and foams on the floor.

I have sabred my first bottle of champagne.

Andre St. Jacques is the world record holder for sabring: he sabred 21 bottles in under a minute. He’s also the owner of The Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler in Canada, and he’s happy to teach anyone to sabre; just pay for the bottle of champagne, and after Andre has taught you how to slice off the top you have the rest of the evening to enjoy it.

Sabreing is a French tradition dating back to the time of Napoleon, when the Hussards used it to show off their skill on horseback and to celebrate their victories. At a full gallop, the sabres had to strike the bottle’s neck at exactly the right angle. Needless to say, it’s easier standing still, guided by a world expert at your side.

It’s worth visiting the Bearfoot Bistro for more than just a lesson in sword play. Their award winning chef Melissa Craig does a wonderful taster menu: a number of courses each exquisitely served like a work of art. Each course, as the name implies, gives you a taste of a dish, allowing you to try everything on the menu at one sitting!

As each course is served, the waiter carefully explains what you are eating, where it has come from and how it has been prepared. There is also a different wine with each course, all from vineyards in British Columbia and all carefully chosen to complement the food. Each is served in a different shape or style of glass. And, like his foodie counterpart, the wine waiter explains each wine, why it has been chosen, which vineyard it came from and perhaps some personal anecdotes about the vintage or the growers.

My vegetarian meal looked and tasted as carefully thought through and considered as any of the meat dishes. In no way was I made to feel that somehow my vegetarian status meant I was being given a second rate meal.

There are two dessert courses to finish the meal – one served with a maple syrup whiskey and the other with a local ice Wine from Mission Hill. The whiskey is created as a blend of Scotland and Canada celebrating the area’s Scottish ancestry with its Canadian heart.The ice wine is made by leaving the grapes on the bush until the first frost. This produces a grape very high in natural sugar. The grapes are crushed will still “frosted”. The result is a sweet desert wine that slips down the throat like nectar – beware it’s easy to drink too much if you have a sweet tooth.

The showpiece of the meal is the liquid nitrogen ice cream. It’s prepared at your table in a large metal bowl. First, in goes a jug of cream, this is stirred as ice cold liquid nitrogen is poured on top. The chef disappears in a cloud of dry ice and by the time it clears your ice cream is ready.

Like everything at The Bearfoot Bistro it’s a feast for all your senses.

For more information
:The Bearfoot Bistro:

About the Author: Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster. As well as founding the PASSION for the PLANET group of radio stations, Chantal also writes for a number of national newspapers and magazines.

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