Talk to me about Champagne wishes and caviar dreams and I could have a different spin on things than showcasing a dream castle high in the sky on your own private island off the coast of… Croatia. Why wish and dream, when you can have them both. The caviar and the Champagne. I am talking about food and wine, and how they come together. The perfect food and wine pairing can be … orgasmic, you might feel exalted or inspired as if you are in a dream, or in some other gratifying situation.
Food and wine, with the proper balanced and even opposing chemistry can create a third element or sensation. Kinda reminds you of something else doesn’t it?
Champagne and caviar. Let’s break down the chemistry here. I’m not talking some boring organic chemistry lesson, though it is all very organic. Champagne is fun, bubbly, fresh, and lively. The bubbles and crisp acidity make it all those things, but it has got another side — an earthiness — something that reminds you of home with notes of fresh brioche or freshly made dough about to become brioche. Caviar is lively too, it has that just came out of the water briny, gentle saltiness which can only come from mother earth. Have a bite of caviar and sip on some Champagne. Wait for it… You will think you are eating neither of the two. The earthiness both seem to exhibit, disappear, the ocean subdues the bubble. The perfect chemistry of the two creates a fruitiness, a fresh forest floor after the rain while mushroom hunting, those same mushrooms being chopped for Duxelles, soft white flowers, the ripest Anjou pear you’ve sunk your teeth into and with the juice is now running down the back of your hand…
Champagne and Oysters? Very similar to the last pairing aren’t they?
Here is another pair. Merlot and Beef Wellington. At first, you might think, “Merlot? Isn’t that a bit on the light side for Wellington?”
No. Even a Bordeaux, which is even more on the lighter side will work with this plate. Whether Old or New World Merlot, it has got those red fruits and acid working for itself. They cut through the buttery goodness of the puff pastry and balance with the juiciness of the tenderloin. Merlot has got a little bit of earthiness with subtle tannins to stand up to all the richness of the crust combined with the hearty herbaceous seasoning of the meat. When you bite into the Wellington and have a sip of your chosen Merlot, you might think you just had a bite of grandma’s cherry pie.
Pinot Noir and Snapper. There are many a person hard to convince, that yes, a red goes with fish. Wrap the snapper, whole–filleted stuffed with a couple lemon slices and a sprig or two of rosemary, season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper–in some parchment paper, and put it in the oven or covered grill for 10-15 minutes. The fresh fruit of raspberry, strawberry and minerality of the Pinot Noir are a perfect balance with this fruit of the sea. They enhance each other, as in any great relationship, with elements from the meaty Snapper softening the bite of fresh picked spring berries. The aromatic rosemary seasoning balances perfectly with the dusty earth of the Pinot.
New York Strip Steak and Cab. What is it about this undeniable duo. They just seem to have it going on. Simple yet so refined. Where fat is not such an ugly word. If you have a perfectly aged, tender, marbleized steak all you need is some salt and a bottle of your favorite Cabernet. Oh, and fire… and a grill. You don’t even have to have these two sitting right in front of you to think or remember this, maybe later you might want to refresh your memories. The perfect kiss of char, salt and melt in your mouth bite seems to fall away even before your teeth have made a cut. The saltiness makes your mouth water and you savor every second. It might seem as if you need nothing more in this moment, it couldn’t get any better. It can. Have a sip of even the biggest, fattest Cabernet. The tannins will transform into cashmere and velvet, or maybe vanish altogether. You left with the beautiful remnants of meaty dark chocolates, black cherries, maybe some aromatic spices, berry preserves, maybe some blueberry cobbler…
Port and Chocolate. I am talking dark truffles or even just the purest, most unadulterated form of nothing less than 68% (yes, that’s a magic number) cacao chocolate. Many think the previous big red is meant to go with this blessed gift. They are mistaken. Maybe you are one who has been drawn into the sale of those marketable blocks of chocolate claiming to go with a specified wine. They are very wrong! Don’t believe me? After all the pairings I just gave you, when you sit down and truly taste your food, experience your food, and then you experience the wine. Do that with your knocked of piece from the brick of chocolate. Really taste it, think about it, you don’t even have to, it does not go.
Now, Port. Yes. The sweetness of a great Port will balance out the bitterness of the dark chocolate. You mix in some sugar (brown sugar please) with those chocolate morsels for your favorite cookie, right? Well, the Port is your sugar to your favorite dark chocolate. If you have some truffles standing by, they’ve got some extra butter fat to tie it together even better. Chocolate satin-wrapped cherries, you might even get some of the terroir from the chocolate on this pairing, toasted hazelnuts (and there aren’t any in the chocolate!), exotic flowers, caramelized sugar, spice and all that is nice.