1202332369When most people have to work weekends, it means coming into an empty office and putting in hours of drudgery for no additional pay. Not so for Chowder. (Well, not this week, anyway.)

Lucky enough to score tickets to last Saturday’s $150-a-pop Tour de Champagne (Boston magazine was a sponsor), I showed up at The Charles Hotel a fashionable hour late and surveyed the scene: A mixed bag of giddy French and Bostonian guests, 18 Champagne houses pouring generous (read: half-glass) samples of bubbly, and some of the city’s top restaurants serving hors d’oeuvres. Yes, indeed: Another hard day on the job.

With my ever-willing husband in tow, I made a beeline for the Krug, followed by Bollinger, Taittinger, Heidsieck, Pommery and Roederer. Then came the small houses: Barthelemy, Gaston Chiquet, Lanson. Oddly enough, Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot were two of the least crowded tables all night. (Are the party people really that spoiled?)

The tastiest treats, however, were at the restaurant’s sampling stations, which were dishing out Champagne-friendly fare. I spotted Rialto’s Jody Adams and T.W. Food’s Tim Wiechmann working the crowd; at Adams’ table I tried a wonderfully briny squid-ink risotto, while Wiechmann served up oyster shooters and his signature charcuterie.

I easily devoured four of Sasso’s Duxbury oysters with Thai lime and mint, was pleasantly overwhelmed by L’Espalier’s rich chocolate-and-foie gras combo, and happily munched on Bouchee’s butter-soaked ham-and-cheese sandwiches. But O Ya’s raw hamachi with fried shallots and a soy glaze took top honors. An out-of-this world combination of texture and pure Japanese flavors, it had me coming back for seconds… and thirds.

At the VIP reception, I nibbled French macarons while watching the night’s cheerful, whisk-wielding chef/host wander through the room with a grin. I’m still not sure who he was, exactly, other than a man who loves his job. So do I, Monsieur Party Chef. So do I.