For the uninitiated foodie, the thought of creating the perfect pairing is understandably intimidating. Endless choices of beer, wine, fruit, cheese, bread, meat...the whole pyramid really! So many places to go wrong. Right? WRONG! Rather than being overwhelmed by possibility, why not revel in the fact that there ARE so many possibilities? Plus, we are so much more adept at pairing food than we give ourselves credit for. If you can cook, even just a little, then you've already got a head start.
So where do you begin? With what you like. Start with a drink - wine, beer, or otherwise, and from there you may go one of two directions: complimenting or contrasting. A complimentary drink will have flavor characteristics similar to your food (think a crisp, grassy white wine with our fresh goat cheese) while a contrasting drink has a bold dynamic that sets it apart from your food (think a full-bodied red with an aged cheese). It is also important to note that the body and alcohol content of the drink should match the impact of the dish. A robust dark beer will overpower a salad or fish dish while a light white will be lost in the texture and heartiness of a New York Strip.
Even though every palate is a little different, here are a few universally helpful tips for your next pairing foray:
- Fatty foods tend to coat your tongue. Acidity from fruity, citrusy, hoppy, or sour drinks cuts through the fat and refreshes you for another bite.
- Slighty sweeter drinks are a good compliment to both spicy foods (by counteracting heat) and not too sweet dishes (by maintaining consistency).
- Carbonated drinks are good palate cleansers.
- Confused as to where beer falls on the spectrum? Think of ales as red wine and lagers as white.
- The higher the alcohol percentage, the spicier a food will taste.
- Oak is a strong flavor that tends to overpower
Are there any other guidelines you follow while pairing foods?