Log in Newsletter

Food: The Perfect Pairing

By: Katie Gard

A tiny bead of sweat trickled down my temple as we entered the foreboding stone walls of the towering castle. This place has an actual drawbridge, I mused to myself. I stared in awe at the buttresses and towers that surrounded the 121,000 square feet of vintner Dario Sattui’s Castello di
Amorosa winery in the Napa Valley. As a living room wine aficionado at heart with a basic  understanding of which $3-$10 purchases at my local grocery store pair well with my favorite olives and cheeses in the deli “splurge” section, the idea of participating in an actual wine tasting at an actual winery in the most famous wine producing region of the United States was intimidating…to say the least.

When I arrived back home, prized purchases in tow, I found the idea of cracking open a pricey bottle in my own kitchen even more daunting. After all, I didn’t want to waste them. But, when it comes to finding the perfect cheese to complement the flavors in a rich bottle of red or a crisp, honeyed
white, how does one decide between the sharp, tangy Roquefort, or the stinky Blue Stilton? Was my new bottle of Sangiovese worthy of a steak or was a burger the better fit?

And if I’m craving seafood, but I’ve already opened a bottle of cabernet, am I committing a culinary crime? It was time to turn to some Fayetteville experts. “The general rule,” said Josh Angelini, manager of Circa 1800 on Person Street, “is that white wines tend to go well with fish and poultry, while red wines tend to go well with red meat. That makes it easy to remember.” His favorite wine
at the restaurant is the Kaiken Malbec, a full-bodied red that tastes delicious with their rib eye steak. He also finds it helpful to think of flavors that might complement each other, suggesting trying a white sauvignon blanc with their chicken piccata. “The fruity flavors of the sauvignon blanc
would contrast nicely with the saltiness of the capers on the chicken. It’s all about finding balance.”

“Just eat, drink, and be merry!” smiled Oscar “O.C.” McMillan, chef and manager of Sherefe off Gillespie Street. One of his favorite wines, Ferari Carano Siena (Sonoma County Red Wine), pairs beautifully with several different items on their menu. It marries the typical flavors of white and red pasta dishes, and it doesn’t compete with their filet mignon cooked with a red wine demi glaze. He recommends the Cantina Zaccagnini for emphasizing the flavor of their grilled chicken, fish or lamb kebab, while a refreshing glass of Guenoc sauvignon blanc would taste fantastic paired with their smoked salmon pasta covered by a dill cream sauce. He doesn’t think you should stress too much
about the decision, and order what you like. “There are no rules set in stone when it comes to pairing. If you want a shot of tequila with your burger, get a shot of tequila with your burger!”

So they’re saying we don’t have to stick to wine when it comes to food and alcohol pairings? That’s exactly right. “When it comes to food and beverage pairing, beer is kind of like wine,” said Brian Schrock, General Manager of Huske Hardware House on Hay Street. “The darker the meat, the darker the beer.” Huske’s thick cut rib eye, sirloin or New York strip can handle a sturdy, dark beer
like their Sledgehammer Stout. Their club sandwich or angel hair Toscana pasta might pair better with their crisp, light, Level-Headed German Blonde ale. For heartier sandwiches and burgers, Brian insisted you couldn’t go wrong with their Kill a Man Irish Red. When in doubt, just consult the
menu or ask a server. They’re happy to recommend the perfect beer to accompany whatever you order.

“We pride ourselves in offering unique beers,” said Kirk Blue, manager of Blue Moon Cafe on Hay Street. Though the stronger flavors of most brews make them more difficult to pair with food than wine, it can most certainly be done so all flavors can be appreciated, according to Kirk. “Typically,
there is no rule. You definitely want to order what you like. But, generally, wheat and blonde beers tend to pair better with salads and sandwiches than say a heavy stout, which could almost be a meal in itself!” Two of the restaurant’s best sellers, the La Fin Du Monde beer and the turkey avocado baguette, happen to go really well together.

However, if you still enjoy a darker beer with your food, he suggested trying one of their beer blends. Back home with my coveted bottles from Napa, I wiped the sweat from my brow, took a deep breath and popped one of the corks. I looked at the selection of cheeses I’d grabbed in a harried panic from the deli — a creamy, champagne brie; a gym sock smelling Taleggio; and a salty, yellow
Manchego. The best way to learn, I finally realized, was to try them all. When it comes to finding foods that compliment the delicate (and sometimes not-so-delicate) flavors and aromas of your favorite alcoholic beverages, it seems like most experts agree: eat what you like, drink what you like and most important, always, always be merry.