Dynamic duos: Food and drink pairings make meals more memorable
December 24, 2016
Fork, bite, swirl, sip, swallow — repeat. The holidays are a time of celebratory feasting, from the spreads of fine cheese and charcuterie with accouterments to the savory roast with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, all the way through to grandma's rich fudge and your uncle's spiked eggnog.
And with each bite of food, you can find the best drink pairing to wash it down. To create a course or a whole menu of combinations, look no further than your local restaurateurs — chefs, sommeliers and bartenders who know how to make every taste memorable.
"Food and wine pairings are always fun for the synergy they create with each other," said Jeremy Campbell, advanced sommelier and co-owner of Root & Flower, a wine bar in Vail Village. "When done right, it's a wonderful experience where truly the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Campbell and Root & Flower executive chef Matt Limbaugh suggested a soup and white wine pairing for a festive occasion or simply a warming meal this season.
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A Kabinett-style Riesling, like the 2014 Dr. Hermann Urziger Wurtzgarten Riesling Kabinett, can be paired nicely with Limbaugh's coconut-curry soup.
"The curry soup and the Riesling pair on so many levels," Campbell said. "First of all, the comparative sweetness. The ripeness of the fruit matches perfectly with the sweetness of the coconut. Most importantly, though, the sweetness of the Riesling also works in a constraining manner with the spiciness of the soup — which is usually a death sentence for most wines — making the Riesling taste less sweet and also giving a cooking effect to the aftertaste of the spice."
Additionally, the always-present vibrant acidity of Riesling cuts through the richness of the soup, resetting your palate like "liquid sorbet," he said, to leave your primed for your next bite.
1/4 ounce lemongrass
1/2 ounce fresh ginger
2 1/2 ounces shallots
3 1/2 ounces fennel
1 1/4 ounces green curry paste
1 1/2 teaspoons tumeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup Riesling
6 1/2 ounces carrots (peeled and medium diced)
3/4 pound potatoes (peeled and medium diced)
32 ounces coconut milk
32 ounces water
2 tablespoons Sambal hot sauce
Dash fish sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
10 wild Gulf white shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Garnish with fresh Thai basil and cilantro
In a large soup pot, add sesame oil and saute lemongrass, ginger, fennel and shallots at a low temperature until very tender and translucent in color. Add curry paste and dry spices, and continue to cook on low heat for two minutes. Add wine, and deglaze; reduce by half.
Add coconut milk, water and salt. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes, and cook slowly until tender but not mushy. Taste, and add salt, if needed. When soup is ready and hot, add shrimp to slowly poach in soup until fully cooked (about one to two minutes). Garnish with fresh Thai basil and cilantro.
While wine is known by most as a complement to food, beer and spirits are also finding their position in flavor pairings.
At Harvest by Kelly Liken at The Sonnenalp Club in Edwards, chef-owner Kelly Liken's husband and restaurant partner, Rick Colomitz, said he and Liken "love to pair food with beer, wine and spirits."
"It's one way that we can complement our talents at the dinner table," he said.
When it comes to pairings, Colomitz said the inspiration could be drawn from the drink.
"We find it very helpful to start with the beverage and create a dish that will complement it because you can tweak your cooking to suite the drink, but you can't do too much to change the wine or beer that's in the bottle," he said.
Colomitz has a favorite beer on the bar list right now — it's a craft called the Alpenglow Amber Ale and it's made right down the road in Eagle-Vail at Vail Brewing Co.
"It has a beautiful, dark amber color and a deliciously well-balanced caramel and malt flavor," he said. "I typically enjoy hoppy IPAs or pale ales, and this beer delivers just the right amount of distinct flavor to satisfy my craving for that hop-centric style."
For a pairing, Liken and Colomitz recommend the beer with the restaurant's roasted cauliflower dish, prepared with crispy pancetta and capers, fresh herbs and basil salsa verde. He said the amber is light enough to work with the salty pancetta without overpowering its subtle flavors.
"It also lends a nice note of citrus flavors to highlight the caramelized sweetness of roasted cauliflower, preparing your palate for the next bite," Colomitz said.
Roasted cauliflower with basil pesto
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/2 cup basil pesto
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower in enough olive oil to lightly coat it. Spread it out on a sheet tray, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Put roasted cauliflower in a bowl, coat with the pesto and toss with the pine nuts and pancetta. Serve immediately.
Up at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, chef-owner Brian Ackerman has a team of beverage experts to properly pair his cuisine with wine, beer and spirits.
Veteran Splendido bar manager John Marotta offers a drink that's a unique rendition of a Moscow mule, a match with the kitchen's Colorado rack of lamb dish.
"The flavors in the cocktail bring out the flavors in the lamb marinade," Ackerman said. "With high heat, the marinade caramelizes the sugars and intensifies the flavors. The cocktail will then bring out the freshness and beauty of the seasonal ingredients."
2 cups pomegranate Juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
5 pounds Colorado rack of lamb
Combine all ingredients except the lamb, and mix well. Pour over lamb racks, and marinate for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring meat to room temperature, and season with salt and pepper. Sear in heavy-duty pan until the lamb caramelizes, and finish in oven to desired temperature. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
10th Mountain Pomegranate Mule
2 ounces 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co. vodka
1 ounces high-quality pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon Colorado wildflower honey
1/2 cup ice
Maine Root ginger beer (to taste)
1 sprig rosemary
Fresh-grated ginger root
In a cocktail glass, stir together vodka, pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, lime juice, honey and ice. Top off with ginger beer, garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and grated ginger root.
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