My first trip to Culver City took place 20 years ago, and our destination, a pool hall that served cheap beer by the pitcher, was hardly memorable but definitely served its purpose. A lot has changed in two decades, and the options in this part of Los Angeles have grown to include a gallery district, terrific furniture shopping, the Sony Pictures Studios, the brand new Kirk Douglas Theatre, and some of the city’s most stimulating dining options. On a recent Monday night I was fortunate to participate in a four-course dinner and Champagne tasting at L’Epicerie, Culver’s newest multi-purpose food and wine destination. Opened by owner Thierry Perez, formerly chef at the nearby and still-popular Fraiche, L’Epicerie, which is at 9900 Culver Boulevard (310-815-1600 or lepiceriemarket.com) promises to be a haven for the Santa Barbara daytripper at any hour, offering breakfast, lunch, tapas, and supper along with food and wine to go, all with a distinct continental flair.
Sponsored by members-only luxury goods and services Web site Gilt City (giltcity.com/los-angeles), and catered by Perez and Grand Cru French Champagne house Louis de Sacy, the meal and the four Champagnes served to accompany it were a perfect match for the cool fall evening and the holiday season. Deliciously tender pork belly slices resting on soft, creamy polenta arrived just as we were lapping up the first round of the Louis de Sacy Brut Tradition, a pinot noir-driven Champagne that’s delightful and smooth. The courses that followed—a chestnut soup, ceviche of Mexican seabass with peppers and popcorn, and spectacular morsels of foie gras—all flowed nicely on a river of increasingly elegant bubbly. The second Champagne we sampled was the Louis de Sacy Grand Cru, and it was the unanimous favorite. At less than $40 a bottle, we felt that this wine outperformed many options costing twice as much. Comparable to the category standard-bearer Veuve Cliquot, the Sacy Grand Cru adds something even more interesting to its dry finish by virtue of the inclusion of higher percentage of chardonnay than in the Sacy Brut, and the addition of 15 percent reserve wines from the cellars of the venerable estate. Another Champagne highlight on the way to desert was the crisp and taut Brut Rose NV, a Wine Spectator 93-point top value also priced at $40.
When desert did come it was simple and stunning, with berries and crème brûlée supplemented by the most delicate and addictive macaroons imaginable. The size and shape of an Oreo, but with a bouquet and an aftertaste fit for the conclusion to this Champagne-saturated evening, these baked-on-the-premises treats had us begging for one more plate before we shuffled out the door, laden with bottles of Brut and determined to return to L’Epicerie.