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Blue Hill's Michelle Biscieglia Pairs Champagne With City Island Seafood

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The right beverages can enhance any food. We asked several wine pros to pair up wines with a meal of cheap eats.

Michelle Biscieglia, Wine Director at Blue Hill New York:I had only heard of City Island because of the movie, which I had actually never seen. Somehow my husband, who grew up in Italy, knew all about it and wouldn’t stop bringing it up. It’s an island on the western side of the Long Island Sound that is actually part of the Bronx and especially known for seafood. We landed on a perfect summer day, so we decided to take a day trip up there to feast on some local specialties. We hopped into a rented Mini Cooper convertible around 11 am and headed north on the BQE.

When it comes to desert island wines, I always fall back on Champagne. When I was first learning about wine, Burgundy and Champagne are what made me dive first into the wine business and let go of all other life plans. Pierre Peters was the first grower champagne I really fell in love with. It knocked my socks off, so I immediately went out and bought a few bottles. I had saved a bottle of 2005 Les Chétillons and had been waiting for a special occasion to open it. We chilled it before we left the house, threw some plastic Riedel glasses into a bag, and withdrew some cash on the way to our destination.

It took us just about an hour to get to the Island from Brooklyn, blasting Zeppelin pretty much the whole way. HEY, HEY, MAMA, SAID THE WAY YOU MOVE…

You can feel the difference when you are at City Island. If you haven't been there, it's a little creepy, a little wild, and practically a mini mall of fried seafood. It really feels like you aren’t in NYC anymore. No one seems to care what time it is, or what they look like… everyone is just relaxed and life seems simpler. It was the perfect spot for a lazy Sunday. We ordered a smorgasbord of seafood: fried calamari $10, fried shrimp in a basket with fries $11, half a dozen raw little neck clams $5.50 (and then a reorder of this), and shrimp cocktail $6, all from Johnny's Reef Restaurant. We were able to forego the Planter’s Punch and Johnny’s Sea Breeze and sipped the Champagne outside at a blue picnic table amongst our lunch lady trays of food. The Blanc de Blancs couldn’t have been better for the food or the day. It tasted like the sea itself, was fresh and floral, and made all of the fried food seem less greasy. We sipped away and feasted while we fought off seagulls, yet we somehow still felt classy. After we finished eating, we drove to another part of the island and watched the sunset before heading home. I need to get more Champagne for another visit!

Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant

2 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY 10464 (718) 885-2086

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