HOME ENTERTAINING: TIPS FOR PAIRING WINE WITH FOOD
Entertaining at home has evolved into a sophisticated art form, with homeowners wanting to do more than merely cook dinner for their guests; instead, they want to create a culinary experience to remember for days, weeks and months to follow. The dinner party, Sunday brunch and even the backyard barbecue, once simple get-togethers of family and friends, have become meticulously planned gourmet events worthy of their own program on the Food Network. Now, home chefs spend time researching ingredients and experimenting with recipes that would take a professional chef years to master.
Instead of a basic potluck gathering, today, the perfect dinner begins with a carefully planned menu featuring the finest ingredients – only the best cuts of meat and the freshest produce will do for your guests – prepared on your pro-style range. However, the menu does not end with the food. Completing your extraordinary meal requires a selection of wines that will refresh the palate and invigorate your guests without overpowering the cuisine.
And while wine and food are meant to be together, like bees and honey, there are few basic things to understand about how they interact with one another before you pop open your favorite Bordeaux or Sauvignon Blanc.
From the center of wine country, Chef Carlo Cavallo of Sonoma-Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grill helps us out with a few tips for pairing wine with food that will work whether you are cooking at home or dining at your favorite bistro.
“I opened my restaurant in the heart of Sonoma County expressly to take advantage of the year-round abundance of locally grown fresh products, artisan food producers and superior wines,” says Cavallo, who began his culinary career at the early age of three in his Grandmother’s trattoria.
With a keen understanding of how the right wine can enhance the dining experience, Cavallo recommends you first take into consideration how your food is prepared.
Whether the dish is sweet, sour, salty or bitter, the overall flavor of the food will have an effect on the taste of the wine and can either contradict or complement the flavor and texture of your food.
Foods that are sweet or bitter make wine textures appear stronger and will bring out the dryness of wine. Avoid pairing these foods with a wine that tends to be dry and instead look for wines that are lighter in flavor.
Well-seasoned foods and salty dishes will bring out the sweetness of wine. You want to be careful when pairing these foods with wines that are sweet to avoid an overbearing sweetness that will prevent truly enjoying the wine.
In addition to flavor, another important thing to keep in mind is how heavy or light a dish may be.
“Food that is light and subtle such as seafood will work better with lighter wines and food that is heartier will work better with full-bodied wines,” says Cavallo.
“Start the meal off with lighter wines and then move to medium-bodied and full-bodied wines with each course. This will allow you to appreciate the subtleties of each wine.”
Another factor to consider is acidity. Dishes that have dominant acidity, like those finished with lemon or tomato sauce, will make a wine milder or softer, so you should pair dishes that are high in acidity with wines that share an acidic undertone.
These few tips, however, are designed only to assist you, not to restrict you. While on your pairing journey to finding the perfect wines to release the hidden flavor in your food, you should let your personal preference be your ultimate guide.
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