Most people try to match food and wine, a few beer and food, but very few bother to think about food and spirits.
The majority of consumers think spirits must be drunk either on the rocks, or neat, or in cocktails, yet a lot must be said about pairing food and spirits.
Spirits by the very nature of their high strength of alcohol cannot be consumed in quantities like beer or wine, but they can be stretched with water or other liquids. You can match grilled rib eye steaks with aged Armagnac or Cognac, or any brandy, but also with Armenian brandy that was the favourite of the Soviet apparatchiks in the heydays of the Soviet empire.
You can also match Armagnac or Cognac with truffle ragout if you have the means.
Chilled vodka with its “oily” texture is a better match to caviar than champagne, although marketers have been able to convince the vast majority of rich and “cool” people to consumer them.
Try roasted duck breast with regular of aged Armagnac or Cognac, or any other brandy to see how well they go together.
Smoked salmon and Scotch whisky have proven to be an excellent match.
Have you ever thought of pairing seared foie d’oie gras or pate de foie gras d’oie or goat cheese with brandy, or Armagnac or Cognac? You will be surprised.
Incidentally if like chocolate try aged brandy with dark high quality chocolate.
Next time you have a pan-fried and sauced fish, try silver label tequila, or an aged (anejo) tequila with a medium-rare steak.
BBQ beef goes better with Bourbon than any other spirit, and I would suggest better than wine because of the intensity of the food. You can match Scotch with grilled red meat successfully.
Vodka in cream sauces to embellish pasta is an excellent way to change the flavour of pasta.
In matching food and spirits, the key is acidity. High acid foods clash with spirits.
While trying pair food and spirits, consider texture, sweetness, saltiness, acidity, and umami (astringency).
If you have ceviche (marinated fish fillets), consider pisco sour, or game terrine with London dry gin.
In Scotland, haggis is often matched with 10 year old Talisker whisky successfully, and believe it or not, sushi, smoked salmon, dressed crab meat, bread and butter pudding, goat cheese, cock-a-leekie, parsnip soups, all go surprisingly well with light whiskies like Glenkinchie.
If you have langoustines with saffron, or tartare of sea bass with extra virgin olive oil, or melon soup, try chilled VS quality cognac to be pleasantly surprised.
You want to find a new taste sensation, try Roquefort or Stilton with VSOP level cognac.
Pigeon breast wrapped in bacon is a proven match with chilled XO level cognac.
High-quality Japanese whisky is an excellent match with tuna tataki, or grilled lamb chops, or pork dumplings.
You will be pleasantly surprised how well spirits complement food once you try.
In fact, in many Asian countries groups in restaurants order all three – wine, beer and spirits and let each diner choose according to his/her taste.
In Hong-Kong, business lunches of four people are known to “polish” a bottle of XO or high quality cognac, and in Armenia many people match-grilled trout with vodka.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.