Spit Happens #37 Wine and food are the best of friends

I have been involved in the food service and hospitality industry for almost 40 years. During that time I have been fortunate to complete a culinary program, hospitality training and many years of retail. My current main job is doing wine tours in the Kelowna area. Over this time I have been lucky enough to talk to many food service professionals and learn some tips on food and wine matching and what works and doesn’t work. It is a vast body of knowledge and can be hard to keep it all organized . There are a few books I recommend to use as reference when doing menus and creating a nice flow to a dinner. There are also a few principles I use to pull it all together.

  • Try to have a cohesive plan if you are going to open multiple bottles over the course of an evening. A thematic approach can work to hold it all together. IE all Burgundy or Tuscan wines. All from a single country or sometimes all the same grape Riesling anyone
  • Try to match food from a region with wine from the same region whenever possible. There is a reason why pasta works with Italian wine or why big Argentine reds work with beef. Regional wine and food concepts rarely develop separately from one and other. Regional recipes reflect the characteristics of the local wines because that’s the wines the have access to and see on a regular basis.
  • Look for a flavor echo or a complimentary flavor profile . IE match a high acid white with oysters as the acidity brightens the seafood much the same way squeezing lemon over it brings up the brinyness. An earthy red with long slow cooked dishes or anything mushroomy does the same thing.

I also use a number of reference books to do my home work ahead of time when assembling recipes and shopping for ingredients.

  • Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins 1996. A very comprehensive look at the greatest cheeses from around the world. I can’t think of a dinner party theme that can’t be improved by the addition of very good cheese. I make a short list of cheeses I want and then go to Les Amis du Fromage or Benton Brothers and let them know what I need. If they don’t have it they are great lateral thinkers and will come up with a great substitute.
  • The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornberg 2008 LINK This isn’t so much a cookbook as it is a way to adjust and create recipes on the fly. Flavor = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + “ The X Factor” the components of a great dish are what is perceived by the taste buds, what is perceived by the rest of the mouth, What is perceived by the nose and what’s perceived by the other senses plus the heart mind and spirit. These two geniuses get “it” , whatever it is. Lots of great ideas on flavor affinities and complimentary herbs and spices for almost any dish. Plus advice on the function of various dishes in a menu plan and the relative weight ( in flavor terms ) that each food can have. Outstanding.
  • Red Wine With Fish , The New Art of Matching Wine With Food 1989. This was the first book that really opened my eyes to the power of wine and food.  Brilliant concepts on food and wine pairing , a section on the 10 greatest matches ever and some really groundbreaking thoughts on comparing and contrasting flavor styles in wine. Never reprinted so I have linked to the results page for Abebooks. ( You do know about Abebooks don’t you ? If you are a book lover this is a rabbit hole you might not ever crawl out of)


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Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food.

David Lancelot