Category Archives: Pairing Wine With Food

The Odd Couple: Strip Steak & Sancerre

Wine people seem to always ask other wine people to recall their most memorable wine, or their most exciting wine pairing . I always falter with the first, being lucky enough to have had many an amazing wine memories, but the second I have nailed down. I was in Genoa, Italy with my now-husband after we’d just missed our outbound train to Nice. We had just learned that driving in Italy has a learning curve and we were very far down on it. We found a hotel nearby, wandered the streets and settled on a lovely little restaurant, where we found a most agreeable sommelier. Ordering the local steak, he suggested we pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc from Alto-Adige. Sorry? Don’t you have a more suitable suggestion that might be RED? He asked us to trust him on this. To this day, that pairing is my most memorable. Simple, grilled, local meat and a delicious, local white wine. Not the pairing you would expect, but it was one that wowed. So it makes sense that the other night I found a similar delight.

After the initial sticker shock of realizing how much I just spent on grass-fed NY strip steak at Whole Foods, my husband set out to find a suitable big, blustery Cabernet worthy of drinking with $50 steaks. But the Cabernet was just making the cut for me. So I poured some of the Sancerre we’d brought home and voila. A match. The Sancerre on its own had faltered a little too close to all grass, no fruit and a bit too acidic. One sip after the steak, the fruit coated my mouth, the acidity cut through the fat of the steak and the wine was twice as good as before. It brought me back to that time in Genoa, nearly 10 years ago, and reminded me that food and wine pairing is not a science, it is an art. And one NY strip may taste well with a Cab, but mine was shining with my Sancerre.

Basic Food & Wine Pairing Tips

Pairing food & wine is not a science. It has a lot to do with personal preference and tastes, wineanddineso there are no cut and dry rules. Occasionally you’ll get a pairing that makes you say “WOW!” By the same token, you will occasionally find a pairing that makes your taste buds recoil in anguish. But most pairings fall somewhere in the middle. In fact, most wines work with most foods, but knowing a few basic rules can enhance your enjoyment.

Complementing Flavors

Complementing flavors means you are matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. Some examples are:

Match creamy with creamy – Creamy wines, such as Chardonnay or Viognier, matched with cream-based sauces (pasta or poultry) or a creamy cheese.

Match acid with acid – Bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely match for that fish with a lemon sauce. A good rule of thumb – if the recipe or food has lemon or other citrus in it, you’re going to need some acid to match. Great high-acid wines includ Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Chablis.

Match sweet with sweet – Chocolate cake? Lemon custard? Match a similar wine with the similar food. Rich and dense chocolate cake is a great match to Port or other dark, sweet wines. A light lemon custard looks for sweet and acid, so a Moscato or Muscat-based dessert wine is not too heavy and a perfect match.

Contrasting Flavors

Contrasting flavor means you are trying to offset a taste or structural element in the wine and food. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

DO match spicy with sweet – A big tannic red with spicy chow mien? Not so much. Take that dish and pair an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer, and it’s a party in your mouth. The sweetness of the wine is offset by the spice in the food and instead of tasting sweet, you taste the delicious fruit in the wine instead. Pair Riesling, Pinot Gris (Alsace style) or Gewurztraminer with spicy Thai or Indian food. It’s a great combo.

DO match creamy with crisp – Another fun match is to pair a bright acidic wine to cut through a cream-based food. Take creamy cheese. Sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc can cut through that cream and bring out the best flavors in both the dish and the wine.

DON’T match tannin with sweet – oh boy, a sweet food will zap all the fruit out of a tannic red and all you’re left with is… tannin. Now tannin is a good thing, but we want to taste it in the BACK of the wine

DON’T match tannin and acid – Go ahead, take a lemon based sauce on pasta or fish and pair it with a big tannic red. You may feel like someone put braces in your mouth because metallic is the flavor that will be most prominent.

Regional Pairs

Not sure what to have with a certain food? If you’re having a regional dish, such as pasta bolognese, try pairing it with a regional wine, like Chianti or another Tuscan red. Chances are it will be a good match. Something about the food and wine coming from the same soil and area make a perfect pairing!

For more pairing tips, check out our Wine & Dine pairing tool on the site. Should help guide you towards some good wine matches with your meal!

How to Prepare for Large Holiday Gatherings, from our friends at Omaha Steaks

We’re using the wisdom of our partners at Omaha Steaks to share some excellent holiday tips! The post you’ll read below is from the very useful Omaha Steaks blog, steakbytes.com, where Chef Karl shares his culinary wisdom. We hope you find it useful for your holiday gatherings.

From Karl’s Kitchen on SteakBytes.com: 

A question that I am often asked at this time of the year is how to prepare a holiday meal for a large gathering of people? Back in my hotel and restaurant days I often would do 400+ person dinners on Thanksgiving Day, but that was in a professional kitchen with a full crew. At a home it is a little different but the same basic principles apply.  At this point I should mention that at Omaha Steaks we have everything you need for your holiday gathering including the roastsside dishessaucesdesserts andappetizers. Most of which are just heat and serve which really cuts down on the amount of work, complication and most importantly allows you to spend more time with your guests. That being said if you prefer to do everything the hard way, then here are my tips.

Plan Ahead
The most important thing is to be organized and plan ahead. You want to do most of the work long before your guests arrive. Several weeks before the event figure out the guest list and menu. Make sure you have enough plates, silverware, glasses and serving dishes for the event. Figure out the menu. Gather all your recipes of the dishes you want to prepare into one place. Even if you do not use recipes, write down an outline of the ingredients for each dish. Order your roasts from Omaha Steaks. Make sure you have the kitchen equipment you need to pull of the event. Now would also be a good time to borrow or buy roasters to hold hot food on the day of the event.

Make a shopping list
Once you have your menu done and recipes in hand it is time to make your shopping list. Make it as detailed as possible even if you know you already have the ingredient on hand. This should be done several weeks before the event and then as you do your regular grocery shopping you can start chipping away at the list little by little. Don’t forget things like beverages, extra ice and other items you will need for the event.

Thaw your larger roasts and turkeys
This seems to be the most common mistake most people make is waiting until the last minute to thaw your large roasts. If you have a good cold fridge it can take up to a week for a large 15lb turkey to fully thaw. I recommend allowing a day for every 2 pounds of roast. This will be overkill in most cases but having it thawed a day or two early will not affect your meal in the least.

Make a prep list
This is the key to a smooth event. I recommend making three separate lists. One for things you can do several days in advance, one for the day before the event (this should be your largest list) and one for the day of the event.

Do as much of your prep the day before the event as possible
I always try to do as much as possible the day before the event. For really large Thanksgiving gatherings I will go so far as to cook the turkeys, slice them and put all of the meat into reheating pans the day before. This allows me to make my gravy and stuffing the day before. This frees up lots of time on Thanksgiving Day for me to visit with guests or handle any last minute items that pop up. One thing to keep in mind when cooking food the day before is to cool it quickly and completely to prevent any bacterial growth. It is also important to reheat pre-cooked food quickly. That being said, be sure topractice good sanitation at all times. Don’t let kids or family members help without first washing their hands. Make sure all containers and equipment are clean and sanitary. The last thing you want around the holidays is a case of food poisoning.

Make a fire list for day of the event
Most professional chefs make a list they call the fire list. This is basically a timeline for the day of the event that tells you when to start things and when to finish things. This is particularly important if you only have one oven. You want to plan what time things go into the oven and what time they come out.  The times should be in chronological order so on the day of the event you just go down the list and never forget anything. Things like large roasts can come out of the oven up to an hour before you are going to serve them. This allows your roast time to rest and frees up the oven for side dishes. If you have one recipe that needs to be cooked at 400 degrees and another that needs 350 just compromise at 375 and adjust the cooking times appropriately. There are many tricks to keeping hot food hot but the best is to use electric roasters and crock pots. This frees up your oven and stove which allows you to make several recipes well ahead time.

There you have it. I find that if I craft a detailed plan in advance it takes away a lot of the stress of cooking for large gatherings and allows me to do a better job and enjoy spending time my friends and family.

Cheers!

Thanksgiving Wine Picks

Think it’s impossible to pair wine with all of those turkey day flavors? Believe it or not, it actually is quite possible. Pairing wine with all of the variety can be tricky but there are certain wines that pair well with all of your wonderful, traditional turkey holiday dishes. After all, the Thanksgiving table is filled with a variety of foods, differing in flavor and texture. All of your family’s favorite dishes are delicious and deserve some fabulous wine alongside. These wine picks will be sure to enhance your traditional Thanksgiving meal this holiday season.

Toast the holiday

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have in our lives. Why not celebrate what we are thankful for with bubbles! Sip in class with Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee or for a little less money, try the Charles Lafitte Brut Prestige, excellent bubbles from France that won’t break the bank.

Classic Pairings

Riesling and Beaujolais wines are classic matches to pair with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Not only is Riesling a good match for the flavors of turkey day dishes because of the acidity, most Riesling wines are low in alcohol, making it a smart wine to drink if you tend to eat your Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day. After all, you want to stay awake for your turkey sandwich at the end of the day while you watch football! Try the 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington state or the 2011 Clean Slate Riesling from the Mosel region in Germany.

Beaujolais wine, which is a light red wine from France, has nice fruit structure and good acidity, making it a classic red wine match for your holiday meal. Try the 2010 Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Domaine des Rosiers or the 2010 Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents. Both are classic Beaujolais wines, crushed red berries, excellent acidity and have a great finish.

All American

If you want to stay with the red, white and blue this Thanksgiving, Zinfandel is the way to go. There are two styles of Zinfandel and you could go either way for your turkey dinner. Choose either a jammy and luscious Zinfandel or a spicy and structured one depending on your taste.

If you prefer a jammy and luscious Zinfandel try the 2009 Murphy-Goode Liars Dice Zinfandel. If your palate leads you towards the earthy, spicy and structured Zinfandels, try the 2008 Sebastiani Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

We recommend two other fabulous wines to try if you want to keep it “All American”. The 2011 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir ; it’s smooth and supple with ripe flavors of cranberry and dried red cherries with a light finish and the 2010 Montinore Pinot Gris from Oregon, which has wonderful stone fruit aromas and a hint of minerality. It is nicely balanced, fruity, smooth and has excellent acidity.

Classy and Versatile

If you want a delicious, classic wine with your Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate in class and style, go with white and red Burgundy. Both will pair beautifully with the variety of dishes on your table.

Keep it classy and stylish with the 2010 Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches Premier Cru Blanc white burgundy. It’s fruity, smooth with rich texture and structure. For a red Burgundy, try the 2009 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin. It’s smooth, supple and is a beautiful bouquet of aromatic floral notes and red fruits.

For more turkey day wine suggestions, check out our Thanksgiving Wine Guide for ideas. Do you have a favorite match? Share with us!

 

Halloween Candy Wine Pairings

M&Ms and Merlot? Charleston Chews and Chardonnay? Skittles and Sangiovese? Yes, you CAN pair wine with leftover Halloween candy (or those pieces you swiped from your 4 year olds Trick-or-Treat stash on the sole basis of protecting her teeth).

In the basic world of food & wine pairing, the wine should always be sweeter than the food. But, when looking at most candy that is passed out on Halloween night, you’re talking high sugar and lots of sweetness, and there are exceptions to that rule. After all, the adults schlep the kids through the cold, dark streets on Halloween night and deserve a little treat of their own! Here are our picks for tasty treats for the adults:

Hershey Chocolate Bars paired with a Jammy Zinfandel

Snickers Bars paired with Port

Skittles paired with Moscato

Sour Patch Kids paired with a Bubbly NV Rosé from France

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups paired with Ruby Port or Sherry

Heath Bars paired with Sherry

Candy Corn paired with a round, buttery California Chardonnay or a Viognier from Provence, France or even a Gewürztraminer

Red Licorice paired with a Pinot Noir

Kit-Kats paired with a Merlot

M&M’s paired with a Malbec or Merlot

100 Grand Bar paired with….why a Grand Cru Bordeaux of course!

Happy Halloween candy and wine sipping!