“bistro!” and how to open a champagne bottle like a cossack

gretchen miller neuman’s love affair with wine began when she was fifteen on a field trip to france.  she developed into an oenophile although that didn’t prevent her from enjoying the bottle of cold duck her grandparents gave her for her sweet sixteen birthday!

gretchen manages good grapes in winnetka where one can get a fantastic bottle of something.  whenever i’ve gone in, she’s offered me a sample and we’ve sat down to talk.   mosty about raising kids.  she has two, i have two, and we have pretty much come to the conclusion that one is always giving you trouble and the other is doing okay, but they switch positions all the time so that it’s a little like a seesaw.  but i have never seen gretchen outside the store until yesterday evening.

gretchen wanted to demonstrate how the russian soldiers reacted when they stormed through france (i couldn’t tell you which war but i’m assuming after napolean sort of lost interest in taking over moscow, deciding it was way too cold and josephine was out with other guys in paris).  they were pretty keen on that champagne. . . .

in order to do it up right, you should probably yell “bistro” while whacking the cork because bistro means “fast” or “hurry” which is what russians would say when they wanted their food in a little more timely fashion than the french would allow.  now i know where the word “bistro” comes from.  it’s fast food for france.

gretchen and her family have gone through their difficulties, just like all of us.  and it’s made her reconsider her original career as an urban planner.  she now sells wine, but she also uses that urban planning background to make maps of the american vitacultural areas.  you might ask what is a vitawhateveryoujustcalledit area–it’s a place where there are wineyards.  when this girl develops an app for this, we’re all going on a road trip with gretchen!  she’s a resilient woman who has taken what she’s learned, what she loves and what she’s good at–and it’s coming together in an interesting career for her!

here’s how i did on my tutorial with a cheap bottle of the bubbly stuff and a sciabola del sommelier (aka a saber)

somehow i don’t think i’ll be doing this at the next dinner party i host!  too alarming!  but a lot of fun!


January 27

since that post, i’ve had some questions about how to saber your champagne bottle.  i’ll try to be concise:

1.  hold the bottle with your thumb in the indentation at the bottom of the bottle at a forty five degree angle.  point the bottle towards a pretty fair expanse and yell “fore!”

2.  slide the blade from the middle of the bottle down the stem in a long, steady, forceful manner.  you’re not hitting it, you’re sliding it.

3.  do as i say not as i did:  don’t act so surprised when you’re a success.  assume the air of one who is bored by life, because then you will feel most french!  yelling “bistro!” is always good because nobody except us knows why you’re doing it, so somebody’s bound to ask you to expound.

4.  pour generously.  then repeat as necessary!

3 responses to ““bistro!” and how to open a champagne bottle like a cossack

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