What to Drink with What You Eat

Wine and food pairing continues to be a fascinating, and
sometimes intimidating, exercise. We often make it harder than it should
be; however, those who try to take away the uncertainty by saying
€œanything goes €“ drink what you like with whatever you like to
eat,€ are clearly setting us up for a fall, because some combinations
simply jar the palate. And the subject is complex, as we now drink wines
from around the world while eating food that is influenced by many
different cuisines, some with wine in their culture, some without.
Enter Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, the award-winning author duo who have brought us behind the scenes of the restaurant world with their books Culinary Artistry and Becoming a Chef, and described the lives of restaurant critics in Dining Out.
Dornenburg and Page collect the food-pairing wisdom of top sommeliers
for their latest tome, with their most unwieldy title yet: What
to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with
Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea €“ Even Water €“ Based on Expert
Advice from America€™s Best Sommeliers€
(Bulfinch, $35).
There€™s a lot to like in this book, for wine experts and novices
alike. We get a glimpse of the sommelier€™s life, or at least an
introduction to his or her way of thought. This can give us not only
insight into food-drink pairing but also on how to enjoy our restaurant
meals to the max.
The experts consulted by the authors include DC€™s own Michael Flynn,
sommelier at Kinkead€™s American Brasserie and wine director at Colvin
Run Tavern in Tyson€™s Corner, Va. I wish there was more of Flynn in
the book, because I have benefited from his insights for many years. He
does a good job with his pick of €œdesert island wines,€ an exercise
many of the book€™s experts use to show off unhelpfully by naming rare,
expensive vintages they have had. Flynn actually recommends beef stew
with a Bollinger Recently Disgorged Tête de Cuvée Champagne:
€œIt€™s that marrow-y side to a well-made Champagne that seems to work well with a red meat combination,€ Flynn says. €œBollinger is one of the richest styles of Champagne, as is Krug. Once you taste it, you€™ll know what I€™m talking about.€
The best part of What to Drink with What You Eat is
contained in two long chapters arranged as mini-encylopedias. Having
cheese? There€™s a section on various cheeses and suggested wine
pairings. Chinese food? Indian? They€™re listed, too, along with hints
on what to avoid (tannic wines). This section gets a little silly, with
entries for Hostess Twinkies (asti)
and Kit Kat bars (African tea). But if there€™s an ingredient in your
menu that you think might dominate a dish, you€™re likely to find a
drink suggestion here.
Similarly, if you€™ve got a special bottle in your cellar but want to
take care not to overshadow it with an inappropriate dish, Dornenburg
and Page have a chapter called €œWhat to Eat with What You Drink.€
This chapter includes nearly three pages on pairings for various types
of Champagnes. We learn that Beaujolais pairs well with charcuterie, hamburgers, sausages and fish €“ the list of pairings even includes €œlunch.€ In fact, Beaujolais
appears so often in the €œwhat to drink€ chapter that one wonders
why the wine continues to have a lightweight reputation among wine
What to Drink with What You Eat should end up under a
lot of Christmas trees this holiday season. It€™s a good book to pick
up, open at random and peruse for ideas, or to look up a specific wine
or ingredient before firing up the stove or pulling a cork.
A votre santé!

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