Sunday, December 29, 2013

Food Pairings: Solstice Wine Tasting 2013

Wine Folly
Part of the challenge of the Solstice wine tasting is deciding what food to pair with the wine.

Taking a regional approach suggests the wine be matched to the foods usually available in the area e.g. chianti and a nice tomato sauce; or shiraz and grilled kangaroo.

There's also mirroring, where you match the colour, flavours and 'weight' of the wine with ingredients in the food e.g.white wine with fish or chicken; red wine with beef.

Food pairing tree, Pinot Noir
It's fun to read the experts' approaches, like sommelier and Wine Diva Christine Ansbacher's  'White Cuffs," chef Jerry Comfort and his 'Progressive Food Menu," or Francois Chartier and his "molecular gastronomy."

The website Foodpairing has come up with thousands of foodpairing "trees" with fascinating illustrations and contemplations on some surprising matches.

But experimentation and direct experience are always the most reliable of guides. An afternoon concentrating on one of life's most simple and basic of pleasures, eating and drinking, is what makes the Solstice tasting such a treat.  Being able to try a good number of combinations in fairly quick succession helps to hone in on what you really like, and broaden your repertoire of favourites at the same time.

Eat and drink what you like. Like what you eat and drink.

Here are some notes on the food/wine pairings from this year's tasting, with recipes if available....

Blue Cheese, Candied Ginger, and Pralines with Fortified Wine
Nicolette chose not just any old blue, but Devil's Rock Blue from Thornloe, with its creaminess and salty kick. I brought the pralines and candied ginger, which paired together nicely even without wine.

The candied ginger offered a nice hot spicy bite with the ice wine but came on a bit too strong for the Tokaji.

The blue was a wonderful match with both the Tokaji and Riesling Ice. I especially liked the crunchy pralines with the creamy sharpness of the blue. Multi-layers of flavours, tastes and textures.

Spicy with Riesling
Grace brought samosas, dips and veggie chips to try with an Old World Riesling, and Margaret paired salmon and rice wraps with a tangy sauce with the New World. The spicy tastes enhanced the crisp, chilled Rieslings.

Onion Tart and Bordeaux
Debra prepared onion tart for the Bordeaux. Eggs are one of those foods that are difficult to match with wine, because the creaminess of the yolk can become a bit of a shield against your taste buds... maybe the onion counteracted the effect, or maybe it was the tanin in the Bordeaux that did the trick, but this pairing definitely worked! 

Grilled Pork and Merlot
Ann M. brought some tasty toasts topped with shaved beef and carmelized onion. Great combination with the wine! 
Marinade for pork:
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c brown sugar
1/8 c soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 c fig preserve, wine jelly or other sweet preserve
1 tsp 5 spice powder
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and marinate for 2-3 hours. Then grill on BBQ or sauté in pan till cooked till slightly pink in the middle. Rest till it cools down then slice thinly.

Foccacia bread
Thin layer of plain goat cheese
Thin layer of caramelized onions (Ann used red onions caramelized for a couple of hours with some vinegar and brown sugar
One large basil leaf
Top with 2-3 thin slices of grilled pork

Pork Tenderloin, Mushrooms, and Russian River Pinot Noir
On its own, the Russian River Pinot Noir was tasty enough, but the food choice was a really memorable match and an outstanding example of how food enhances wine.

Kaarina combined recipes from several different sources.  The recipe for the pork tenderloin (served with Rodney Strong Russian River Pinot Noir) came from a Russian River Winery website. She used teriyaki sauce instead of Hoisin sauce to better blend with the mushrooms, which were adapted from Chef Jose Andres book "Tapas — A taste of Spain in America." She used a mixture of shiitake, Cremini and Portobello. and half-and-half sweet sherry and brandy.

White Mushrooms with Garlic and Parsley, as made in Logrono
6 tbsp Spanish EVOO
1 pound mushrooms
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 cup manzanilla sherry
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Heat EVOO in karge saute pan over medium flame. Brown mushrooms, turning over three or four times until all the mushroom water has evaporated.
If the pan seems dry, add more olive oil, Add garlic and thyme, stir until garlic turns light brown about half a minute. Take care not to burn garlic.
Pour in sherry and cook about one minute until it almost evaporates. The pan should contain a nice brown sauce of reduced sherry and mushroom juices. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Equally good hot or room temperature.

Then she spread a little mayo on slices of baguette and piled on arugula, thinly sliced pork, mushrooms and a sprinkling of orange zest.

Mushrooms on Baguette with Burgundy
Pinot noir seems to blossom when paired with mushrooms. They complemented the Burgundy so well, too.

Laura said she doesn't have a recipe but shared the method:  Sautee sliced mushrooms, chopped garlic and chopped fresh thyme in butter and olive oil. When liquid from mushrooms has evaporated, season with salt and pepper. Stir in soft goat cheese (chevre) until melted and creamy. Serve on toasted baguette slices.

Fondue with Syrah
Caroline warmed up fondue to go with the St. Joseph. It was fun to stand up and dip the bread on the forks into the warm, cheesy goodness of the fondue pot. This pairing made me think that it is not just what we eat, but how we eat it, that adds to the experience. Pairing fun with food and good wine!

Sharp Cheese and Meatballs with Shiraz
Christina brought an old cheddar that stood up to the shiraz.
Maj-Lis paired brochettes/frikkadels (spicy meatballs).

Common elements here were strong flavours and dare I say it, "fat", both which added another dimension to the wine.

Much maligned, fat really does taste good. We're hard-wired to enjoy it. Why not indulge, at least in moderation, and use it consciously for the good of all, like a food super-power. It certainly worked magic in the next dish...

Seared Scallops with Herbed Butter and Champagne
Wendy skipped the shallots and used white wine instead of vermouth (click on the link for the full recipe and method).

Another example of the pinot noir grape loving the taste of umami. The scallops were an absolutely brilliant match for the champagne! Not just the taste match - champagne seems to 'go' with everything. Sensory contrasts, of chilled champagne and warm scallops. The mouthfeel of the dancing bubbles and the tumble of textures with the scallops, so crispy outside and tender inside. Outstanding!

An epic afternoon! That night we would all be  plunged into the Great Ice Storm of 2013, leaving most of us to more primitive cooking methods and ingredients in the coming days and nights.

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