Wine Time

Eggs and Pinot Noir, a Guilty Pleasure


Of all French dishes, the omelette is perhaps the most thoroughly representative. The French omelette is known far and wide, by reputation, at all events, and various are the parodies of the great French dish that are to be met with in the different corners of the world. In some places, omelettes are served up in a liquid melting mass; in other places they take the form of solid custard-like composition; elsewhere they take a leathery shape, and are altogether as unpalatable as they are unlike the real thing. An omelette, moreover, is a dish which most Frenchmen, whether he cooks or not, declare that they are adepts [sic] at concocting. The French poet, the painter, the dramatist, the statesman, the aristocrat -- all will tell you that had it pleased Providence to place them in the classes from which, as a rule, cooks spring, they would have won renown by the excellence of their omelettes alone. No saying is more true than that which declares every French man to be a born cook; and the foremost dish on the execution of which he prides himself, is the omelette.

--Charles Dickens, Household Words, 1882

At our house, we prefer the Italian frittata over the French omelette: The main difference between the two is that the former is flipped and cooked on both sides while the latter is folded onto itself, thus leaving the center still slightly liquid (depending on your style and preference).

Of course, the Italian frittata is classically made with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, while the canonical omelette is made only with the addition of cream or milk.

But when it comes to serving the frittata at our dinner table, Francophilia overwhelms our natural love of all things Italian: I must have Pinot Noir, ideally from Burgundy, to pair with my eggs.

"If it were true that wine and eggs are bad partners," wrote Elizabeth David in her landmark essay entitled "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" (first published in T.B. Layton's Besides in 1959), "then a good many dishes, and in particular, such sauces as mayonnaise, Hollandaise and Béarnaise would have to be banished from meals designed round a good bottle, and that would surely be absurd. But we are not in any case considering the great occasion menu but the almost primitive and elemental meal evoked by the words: 'Let's just have an omelette and a glass of wine.'"

On Saturday night, when I returned home late after a speaking at a wine dinner, Tracie P whipped up a frittata with zucchine from our CSA.

I opened a bottle of 2008 Fixin by a traditionalist producer (the 2008s are showing nicely right now although I imagine my Fixin will begin to close down again soon).

But Pinot Noir from other countries will work just as well -- think Willamette, Oregon or Pfalz, Germany.

Just make sure to avoid high-alcohol Pinot Noir from warm-climate wine producing regions. Beefy, super-charged Pinot Noir is best served as a cocktail (or even better, simply avoided) in my view. When I drink Pinot Noir, I look for that ineffable balance of power (in tannin) and elegance (in acidity and nuanced fruit) as opposed to the sledge-hammer delivered by the "modern" breed. I don't want my Pinot Noir to be a lumberjack; I want it to be a ballerino.

Thirteen percent (alcohol content) is a good rule-of-thumb for identifying a balanced Pinot Noir if you're not familiar with the producer (13.5 percent is pushing it; 15 is not allowed in our home).

Next time you whip up some eggs for a late-night summer supper, pop a cork on your favorite (low-alcohol) Pinot Noir. You won't be disappointed...

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen