What to Drink with What You EatBy Marisa D'Vari | April 6th, 2007 | Category: Book Reviews | 1 Comment »
Are you curious about what wine to order with your cheesecake? Intimidated by five-hundred page wine list at a top restaurant? Downright scared when the sommelier comes charging toward your table?
Relax. In the book What to Drink with What You Eat, Authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have created a resource that helps even the ‘average Joe or Jane’ understand the principles of wine and food pairing. They take the conventional, canned, old-school advice of “red wine with meat, white wine with fish” to an entirely new level, based on insights learned from their previous books on cuisine, as well as interviews with America’s top, cutting-edge sommeliers.
In many ways, the format of What to Drink with What You Eat resembles a substantial wine/food pairing encyclopedia specifically designed to be quickly skimmed before heading off to a restaurant or purchasing wine for a dinner party. For example, let’s say you are entertaining clients at a steakhouse, and want to sound intelligent about wine. You know red wine typically goes with red meat, but which red? Old world or new? And what are the virtues of each? By spending just five minutes with this book (and perhaps jotting down some notes) you will be able to help your guests order a Shiraz, Barbaresco, Barolo, or good old Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon based on the elements of the sauce and cut of meat they choose.
In a similar fashion, let’s say you want to dazzle your friends and show off your new kitchen with a fabulous dinner party. Spend a few moments with this book and you will be able to pair every element of your menu with an exciting, unusual wine. No need to consult a professional wine expert, as you have this knowledge at your fingertips.
Sommeliers interviewed for this book are mostly young and more free-thinking than sommeliers of years past. They are enthusiastic about wine, regardless of it’s an exciting, new world find of exceptional value, or a fine-aged Bordeaux worth hundreds of dollars. As a group, they see their mission as helping you find a good wine to accessorize your meal within your price range. And the individual quotes from sommeliers are what makes this book so fresh and appealing.
For example, Steve Beckta of Beckta Dining & Wine in Ottawa believes that as a sommelier, it is almost more important to match a wine to a person than to match the wine to the food. Curious thought! “The most important part of being a sommelier is not your ability to taste, but your ability to empathize with the person who is in front of you,” he explains in the book.
How very true. In one instance, Beckta recalls three ‘big businessmen’ sitting at a table. One wants lamb, one wants halibut, and the other guy wants scallops. They tell him they want the “perfect” wine that matches all three, dissimilar dishes. By carefully listening to the subtext of what they are telling him, Beckta realizes they are after a wine that fits into their comfort zone, not necessarily the best match. To him, that means a “big red” from Australia and as it turns out, the businessmen love it.
Sommelier Alpana Singh, formerly of Everest in Chicago (now with the Lettuce Entertainment Group) agrees that comfort is important. She likes to serve California wines on big holidays like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, because people who dine out only a few ‘special nights’ a year want something they can recognize and appreciate.
If you entertain or dine out frequently, What To Drink with What You Eat is a dynamic desktop resource and wine and food pairing primer that will stimulate you to learn more about wine by further reading or classes. If you like oaky Chardonnay, for example, this book will also motivate you to try unoaked Chardonnay wines and realize the difference, especially when paired with food. Yet what works best about this book is the way you can take advantage of the authors’ extensive research and with just a few minutes of skimming, come across as a credible wine expert in front of clients, colleagues, family and friends.