Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food and Wine Pairing for the 21st Century

Food and Wine Pairing for the 21st Century

By:Chef Cristian Feher

As a chef I have been indoctrinated into the old tradition of pairing wine with food. But as of late I have come to the realization that in order for anything to advance, it must change. And so it has been with food. We have taken the old, and with constant change, have managed to keep people interested in the art by creating new exciting dishes and combinations. So why not leave the dogma of food and wine behind and move towards an evolution of pairing?

I have always been a firm believer that the right wine to pair with a certain food is the one you enjoy! And so I have taken this further to include all drinks - beers, juices, and even sodas! I see food and wine pairing as arranged marriages; traditional, but outdated in today's modern world. There are new ways to fall in love. Now, don't get me wrong - I am not against wine. I just find that there is a level above wine that belongs with fine food. And It is a new adventure that I look forward to developing with my own menus.

Below are five pairings which I invite you to try. And if I have the pleasure of cooking for you, will be showcased at our next dinner party.

Sushi and Club Soda with Lime, sea Salt and Ice. Although you wouldn't necessarily pair sushi with wine, I am very excited about this simple combination. The whole attraction of eating sushi is the raw and natural flavour of this cuisine. Sushi is all about simplicity and basic flavors. And so the simplicity of this drink is a perfect match. Fill a tall glass with plenty of crushed ice, squeeze half a lime on the ice, add a small pinch of salt and fill the rest with club soda. Not only is club soda a palate cleanser which will work as a buffer between the different sushi varieties, but the sour and salty flavours pair very well.

Steak and Pineapple Merlot w/ Papaya. As I mentioned above, I am not against pairing food with wine. I am about taking it further. It is very traditional to enjoy a nice rib eye steak with a rich glass or Merlot. But it's even better to add pineapple juice and small-diced papaya. If you like sangria, this will be right up your alley! Just mix 2 parts red wine to 1 part pineapple juice and add ice cubes with a couple of spoonfuls of papaya diced small. This drink has a hidden purpose; you see, papaya and pineapple contain enzymes that break down protein. So eating a large steak dinner with this drink will greatly aid in digestion, and the flavour combination is sure to please!

Spanish Seafood Paella w/ Wheat and Clementine Ale. This recipe brings fond memories of skiing in Quebec a few years ago. We stayed in a beautiful wooden chalet near Mount Tremblant where we came up with this combination. The Paella was thoroughly enjoyed with pale wheat ale to which was added pieces of chilled clementine. This is a great holiday drink as the Moroccan clementine are available during December and most of winter.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Apple Cider and Hot Sauce. I was lucky enough to get two dozen Tatamagouche oysters that were flown in from Nova Scotia last week. I experimented with several different pairings and came up with a simple, yet out of the ordinary one. I found that the oysters tasted best with a little shot of organic apple cider and a drop of crystal hot sauce (which is a cayenne based sauce). The combination provided the traditional acidity and hot spice with the addition of a surprisingly workable sweetness! Organic apple cider was also enjoyed at the end of the meal mixed with a little sparkling champagne which worked well to cleanse the taste of the oysters.

Chicken Coconut Curry with Riesling. I saved this last one to demonstrate how you can pair wine with foods you wouldn't normally think would go with wine. Traditionally, Indian food is not paired with wine. However, this fragrant and savoury dish is a pleasure to have with a chilled glass of fruity Riesling.

I hope that this article has sparked your inquisitive side and I look forward to hearing what interesting combinations you have come up with. I'm constantly working to find new pairings which can augment the pleasure of a meal. You can always write to me at tampabaychef@gmail.com