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Jewish Christmas: Chinese Take-Out, Woody Allen, and Champagne

Champagne isn't just for celebrating. It's also one of the world's greatest food-friendly wines.
Champagne isn't just for celebrating. It's also one of the world's greatest food-friendly wines.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.

Like many Jewish-Americans, I grew up going to the movies and eating classic Americanized Chinese food on Christmas Day.

Today, now that I'm all growed up and married to a Methodist from East Texas, we celebrate in our home with a Christmas tree garnished by gifts, round-the-clock Christmas music, and a Christmas Eve dinner (this year, roast pork loin paired with Lapierre Beaujolais Morgon).

And as a nod to my Jewish heritage, on Christmas Day, we watched Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, feasted on Chinese take-out, and toasted with a glass of Champagne before we opened our presents.

Because of the way that Champagne has been marketed to us historically, we tend to think of it solely as a celebratory wine. In fact, Champagne is one of the world's greatest food-friendly wines: It's low in alcohol (usually around 12 percent), bright with acidity (thanks to Champagne's cool growing climate), and graced with an elegant fizziness that cleanses and refreshes our palate.

We loved Allen's parody of pedantic wine snobbery in the film.
We loved Allen's parody of pedantic wine snobbery in the film.
Image via SonyClassics.com.

And what better wine to pair with Asian cuisine -- however Americanized -- than Champagne? Where the canonical meal in western gastronomy is structured around a main event -- the entrée -- Asian cuisine riffs on a polyphony of ingredients, flavors, and aromas, some of the more intense, others more subtle. Champagne's intrinsic versatility is ideal in this situation: Its minerality will assuage the heat, while its acidity accentuates the flavors.

This year, we opened a bottle of Delamotte classic brut, which you can find in the Houston market for under $45, a more-than reasonable price considering the caliber and elegance of the wine. While the entry-tier label from Delamotte may not have the character of the winery's blanc de blancs, it was the perfect pairing for this meal of tasty, however humble, stand-bys.

When I was kid, my parents always told me that the reason for going to the movies on Christmas Day was to avoid the long lines and that we ate Chinese because it was the only take-out option on a holiday when our favorite Mexican and pizza parlor were closed. Add Champagne and pay-per-view to the mix and this not-so ancient Jewish tradition gels like aspic on gefilte fish.



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