Sushi and club soda with lime, sea salt and ice. Although you wouldn't necessarily pair sushi with wine, I am very excited about this simple combination. Sushi is all about simplicity and basic flavors, so the simplicity of this drink is a perfect match. Fill a tall glass with plenty of crushed ice, squeeze half a lime on the ice, add a small pinch of salt and fill the rest with club soda. Not only is club soda a palate cleanser, which will work as a buffer between the different sushi varieties, but the sour and salty flavors pair nicely.
Steak and pineapple merlot with papaya. As I mentioned above, I am not against pairing food with wine. I am about taking it further. It is very traditional to enjoy a nice rib eye steak with a rich glass of Merlot, but it's even better to add pineapple juice and diced papaya to the wine. If you like sangria, this will be right up your alley. Just mix 2 parts red wine to 1 part pineapple juice and add ice cubes with a couple of spoonfuls of chopped papaya. This drink has a hidden purpose: papaya and pineapple contain enzymes that break down protein. So eating a large steak dinner with this drink will greatly aid in digestion, and the flavour combination is sure to please.
Spanish seafood paella with wheat and clementine ale. This recipe brings fond memories of skiing in Quebec a few years ago. We stayed in a beautiful wooden chalet near Mount Tremblant where we came up with this combination. The Paella was thoroughly enjoyed with pale wheat ale to which was added pieces of chilled clementine. This is a great holiday drink as the Moroccan clementine are available during December and most of winter.
Oysters on the half shell with apple cider and hot sauce. I was lucky enough to get two dozen Tatamagouche oysters that were flown in from Nova Scotia last week. I experimented with several different pairings and came up with one that was simple, yet out of the ordinary. I found that the oysters tasted best with a little shot of organic apple cider and a drop of Crystal hot sauce (which is a cayenne based sauce). The combination provided the traditional acidity and hot spice with the addition of a surprisingly workable sweetness! The organic apple cider was also enjoyed at the end of the meal mixed with a little sparkling champagne which also worked well to cleanse the palate of the taste of the oysters.
Chicken coconut curry with riesling. I saved this last one to show how you can pair wine with foods you wouldn't normally think would go with wine. Traditionally, Indian food is not paired with wine. However, this fragrant and savoury dish is a pleasure to have with a chilled glass of fruity Riesling.
I hope that this article has sparked your inquisitive side and look forward to hearing what interesting combinations you have come up with. I'm constantly working to find new pairings which can augment the pleasure of a meal. You can always write to me at [email protected]
Chef Cristian Feher