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Food & Wine Pairings

This is an attempt to answer the question – “Which wine pairs well with which food?”. The article is partly structured as an ode to my good friend Bedig Margossian – originally an Armenian from Lebanon. A Ph.D. in Abstract Math (ABD) from the University of California, Berkeley; however, happier being a gourmand. Wine, Food, and Cigars are what define him.

Margossian grew up in a family of avid cooks. When the relatives got together, small talk lasted about five minutes before the aunts began comparing notes about recent meals. Even as a small child, he had a perceptive palate. One aunt would often ask her young nephew after the guests had gone, what she could have made better.” (sfgate.com / San Francisco Gate)

 

I wish there was a science to the pairing of wine with food. You can match terroirs – Mediterranean food would go well with Mediterranean wine. Or you can play on the acidity or tannins in the pairing. One can choose the intensity of the finish, whether a wine is fruity, chalky, earthy, the flavors of the grape, age of the vines or the wine, etc. One can choose a wine that compliments, over-powers, or is subtle in comparison to the food pairing. The list is endless. I do believe that one can make incorrect pairings, but the correct pairings likely also depend on someone’s palate. There may not be a one size fits all.

Bedig runs a wine-pairing twice a month dinner group for decades in the Bay Area (San Francisco / Berkeley) – I have attended over fifty of these. He is a one-man army / sole chef (with some minor assistance) for all these delectable meals and his thoughts on wine pairings make for an interesting study. While Bedig's day job is in quantitative finance, I don’t believe he will be able to quantify his choices in wine pairing. It's simply ‘Je ne sais quoi’. It's simply the gourmand gut-feel. Below are his menus and his pairings for reference.

This May dinner will feature the food of Provence paired, mostly, with wines from the South of France.

Aioli, as you know, is the garlic mayonnaise made of pureed garlic, olive oil, egg yolks, and lemon juice. When made well, it is a fiery condiment with a luxurious mouthfeel that gives much pleasure.

A Grand Aioli is a Provencal term for a feast consisting of all sorts of foods that are paired with aioli. Raw, boiled, steamed, fried vegetables, seafood, and meats are dunked in aioli and eaten, all washed down with refreshing Provencal white, rosé, and red wines. We are going to have a Grand Aioli.

With Spring here, I will be featuring many young, tender, seasonal vegetables, including asparagus, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, leeks, onions, and garlic, yellow banana potatoes, beets, radishes, zucchini, chard, and many more. These will be augmented with prawns, and other seafood, plus some ACME bread to anchor things. All these foods benefit from being dunked in aioli.

Now as much as I love aioli, I feel there is room for another condiment. The choice is tapenade, that puree of olives, garlic, herbs, olive oil, capers, and anchovies.

Provencal style braised octopus (or squid) is one of the most delicious things I know of. We will have it at this dinner. Octopus is braised until tender (about 2 hours) in red wine. The braise is then added to a sauté of onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The whole thing is spread on a crostini and topped by a dollop of aioli. This dish is good with a crisp rosé, even better with a red Cotes du Rhone.

Just as the lengthy Mezza course is followed by kufta or kebabs during the Middle East Feast, the Grand Aioli will be followed by a grilled leg of lamb. The butterflied leg will be marinated in olive oil, garlic, and herbs and will be grilled on mesquite. It will be served with potato gratin or ratatouille or something else.

What about dessert? By late May, I may be able to find perfect strawberries at the Farmer's Market. These strawberries will have great texture, a taste of true strawberries, with nice sweetness balanced by some acidity. The strawberries (or maybe cherries) may be served as is or in a tart or clafouti.

A few years ago, I featured, for the first time, a menu based on Moroccan and Tunisian dishes. It was a huge hit and has become the menu that many of you expect in June.

The late spring/early Summer produce, especially the first of the heirloom tomatoes, will be featured at these dinners. Here are some of the dishes I’m considering:

Chlada B’Flefla – diced, roasted Anaheim peppers seasoned with garlic, lemon

juice, olive oil, cumin, parsley, and lemon zest. This is a tangy, smoky, zesty

dish that is tasty.

 
Hezzu M’Chermel --- caramelized carrots with sweet paprika, garlic, and red

wine vinegar.

 
Zahlouk --- Morocco’s most ubiquitous salad, also called “poor man’s caviar” is a blend of pureed eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and spices.

 
Bamya --- okra stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and spices.

 
Bissara (Moroccan) --- this is similar to hummus, except it is made of fava

beans and omits tahini.

 
Bissara (Tunisian) --- a ragout of fava beans, onions, garlic, spices,

served with a punctured fried egg on top.

 
Shrimp Ojja --- a stew of peppers, tomatoes, garlic, harissa (pepper sauce),

shrimps, thickened with eggs.

 
Tunisian Salad --- diced cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, mint, and

apples, with olive oil and lemon juice. The ingredients for this salad seem

standard, except for the apples. I think they make the salad special.

 
Moroccan Seafood Pockets --- seafood, preserved lemons, olives, garlic, coriander, cilantro, and olive oil, all sealed in a pocket and baked.

 
Tagine Bil Kok --- lamb tagine with prunes, saffron, spices, and herbs,

served over couscous. This is amazing!

 
Tmar B’Looz --- a dessert of dates stuffed with almond paste.

 
Red, white, and rosé wines from the Mediterranean region will accompany this menu.

We're at a culinary inflection point. Winter is far behind us and Summer is here. The markets are full of peppers, eggplants, stone fruits, and some heirloom tomatoes. This dinner will reflect all this.

Here are some of the dishes I'm considering for this dinner.

With tomatoes nearing peak form, we will start with a cool, refreshing, gazpacho. Tomatoes are blended with onions, peppers, cucumbers, and some red wine vinegar. The soup is topped with finely diced red onions, cucumbers, and peppers. A crisp white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Fino Sherry, will be a great match for the gazpacho.

Next, we'll have a prawn dish with a thick, garlicky sauce. Large prawns are sautéed quickly in a steel pan, which is then deglazed with Pastis. They are placed in a baking dish along with sautéed zucchini. A sauce, made of aioli and whipped cream, topped with some grated Parmesan, covers the prawns and zucchini. The dish is finished off under a broiler. Baguettes will be provided to sop up the amazing sauce. A big-bodied white wine such as a Chardonnay or a Marsanne / Roussanne blend from the Rhone will be a perfect match for this dish.

At this point a palate cleanser will be needed, something that will be paired with rosé. With all the products available at the farmer’s markets in July, we must have a platter of vegetables, some marinated or sautéed, some raw, some, maybe, grilled, all served with a light vinaigrette or a dipping sauce.

For the main course, we will have a grilled flat iron steak. I will season it with salt, pepper, olive oil, herbs, garlic, and freshly ground, toasted fennel, cumin, and coriander. This steak cooks in 3 minutes over a mesquite fire. It will be served with olive oil and garlic mashed potatoes and a sauce made from grilled tomatoes and onions and peppers.. A robust red wine, such as Gigondas or Vacqueyras, or maybe a Zinfandel, will pair beautifully with this dish.

Dessert will be fruit-based. We might have just plain fruit or a fruit tart paired with a yellow dessert wine such as a Muscat.

The theme for this dinner is ... Heirloom Tomatoes. The tomatoes are good this year and will only get better in the coming weeks.

Here are some dishes I'm considering for this dinner.

- A tomato salad that features the tomato in its purest form ... practically unadorned sliced tomatoes, seasoned with salt , and olive oil and garnished with mint and scallions. There might be a dollop of goat cheese on the side. So where's the lemon or vinegar you ask? Well, these tomatoes are so balanced that they don't need any external acidity.

- A classic Panzanella is no good unless you have superb tomatoes. This Tuscan dish is made with toasted crusty bread, tomatoes, red onions, basil, olive oil, and vinegar. Some people add garlic. As the salad macerates, the liquid (oil, vinegar, and tomato juices) slightly softens the toasted bread and makes it unbelievably delicious.

- A BLT sandwich is usually tasty because of the bacon; when you have great tomatoes, the BLT becomes amazing since the soul of the BLT lies with the tomato (the other ingredients do not fluctuate in quality or taste throughout the year). Usually, Brandywine tomatoes are best for this sandwich (and Greg, there will be an ALT for you and any vegetarians who attend).

- For the past several years, some of you considered the following your favorite dish: scallops on top of a confit of tomatoes and fennel.

- There may be something with pesto. Tomatoes and pesto go so well together. OK, goat cheese will probably be involved as well. What the dish will be I don't know. Perhaps it will be a savory tart.

- We may have a bruschetta spread with goat cheese on one half and tapenade on the other. It will be topped with a slice of tomato, probably Purple Cherokee.

- Instead of the bruschetta, I might go with the labne sandwich. Labne is, essentially, the cream of yogurt (it is made by draining yogurt of its water). In this sandwich, labne is spread on pita or lavash bread and is topped with tomatoes, onions, mint, olives, pepper, and olive oil. It is super duper delicious.

- Pasta with fresh tomatoes is great too. The key is to not cook the (peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped) tomatoes; they will be tossed with the hot pasta, olive oil, basil, and maybe feta cheese.

- An alternative pasta would be one with goat cheese or ricotta, eggplants, basil and tomatoes, baked until a crust forms, a variation on pasta ala Norma.

- A burger made with Niman beef topped with a thick slice of an heirloom tomato is a possibility.

- There might be some grilled meat, perhaps a leg of lamb or flat iron steak served with a tomato-based side dish, say a Provencal gratin of tomatoes and zucchini topped with garlic, thyme, olive oil, and breadcrumbs.

- Another possibility is a ragu of beef and tomatoes. Onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and cubed chuck roast are braised until the meat is fork-tender. At this point whole early girl tomatoes are added and baked until the tomatoes are cooked. As they burst during the cooking, the tomatoes release some of its juices, which flavor the rest of the ragu.

The wines that pair well with these dishes include Sauvignon Blancs, Barberas, Provencal reds and rose, Spanish wines, Zinfandel, and Southern Italian reds and whites.

Iman Bayendi - this is a melt-in-your-mouth melange of roasted eggplant, tomato, onion, peppers, and garlic, all of which are at their peak now.

Musakhan - this is a famous Palestinian chicken dish. Chicken thighs rubbed with spices, including sumac, are roasted to a crisp. The chicken is then spread over pita bread in a baking dish and topped with lots and lots of sautéed onions, pine nuts, currants, preserved lemon, herbs, and olive oil. The dish is finished in the oven. The pita bread absorbs all the juices and is sublime. I think of these dishes as a Palestinian version of the Zuni chicken.

For those of you who have not been to past Middle East Feasts, below is a description of the rest of the menu.

The Middle East Feast starts with a mezza course.

Most mezza courses offered at Middle Eastern restaurants around these parts consist of hummus and baba ghannooj and a few other things. In the Middle East, mezza courses are made up of anywhere from 20 to 80 or more dishes.

Ours will clock in at around a dozen. First, we will have labne, the cream obtained by draining the yogurt of its water. It is served with salt, red pepper, and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Next, there will be mohammara, a puree of sun-dried peppers, pomegranate extract, walnuts, and breadcrumbs, seasoned with cumin and lemon juice.

There will be heirloom tomatoes in various forms, assorted pickles (including the quintessential turnip pickles), assorted marinated olives, several herbs (mint and savory that one eats between nibbles to perfume and refresh one's palate), and several marinated vegetable dishes.

There might also be a Lebanese zucchini dish in a spicy yogurt sauce, almost like an Indian curry in its intensity. We might also have fool, the slow-cooked fava bean dish that is a staple breakfast dish of manual laborers in port districts of various Middle Eastern cities. We will have a vegetarian kibbe, a mix of lentil and bulgur, mixed with onions and spices.

As you might imagine, this food is a perfect vehicle for trying all types of interesting wines from all over the Mediterranean. We might even have some (really good) Lebanese wines.

After the lengthy mezza course, we will have either kebabs or the aforementioned musakhan.

Just as with the Middle East Feast, where we begin with a long-lasting mezza course followed by kebabs, this dinner will begin with tapas followed by either Fabadas Asturianas, an amazing dish from Northern Spain.

There will be romesco sauce. This classic, incredibly delicious sauce, is made of ground almonds and hazelnuts, grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and Spanish smoked paprika.

The tapas course will consist of some of the dishes listed below.

- slow-cooked beans and tomatoes infused with Spanish smoked paprika

- toasted sliced almonds

- olives marinated with herbs

- chickpea salad

- leek in Moscatel vinaigrette

- squid with anchovy sauce

- octopus stew

- walnut and blue cheese coated grapes

- stuffed tomatoes

- roasted pepper and eggplant salad

- green bean salad

- Cabrales cheese with walnuts and endive

- gambas al ajillo: prawns seared in supper hot olive oil seasoned with pepper and garlic

- clams with chorizo: the most delicious part of this dish is the juices which are mopped up with crusty baguettes

- mushrooms: sautéed mushrooms will be deglazed with sherry, creating another delicious sauce which will put the baguette to work

- tortilla Espanola: this is the famous cake made of potatoes, onions, and eggs

- meatballs in saffron-almond sauce

- pork chops with prunes

- marinated, fried fish cubes

- carrot salad with cumin and oregano

- paprika glazed baby back ribs

- stuffed piquillo peppers

- chicken wings with romesco sauce (ground almonds and peppers)

- assorted vegetables with romesco sauce

We will be having Spanish wines and maybe other Mediterranean wines that match this food well.

Properly made, this is one of the most amazing soups ever. On day 1, ribollita starts life as a chicken stock-based vegetable soup (like a minestrone) with carrots, onions, celery, garlic , etc. The next day, country-style bread slices are incorporated into the soup. What happens is that the texture thickens as the bread dissolves in the broth. Next, Tuscan style cannellini beans are added. Some of the beans are added whole while others are pureed and then added ... more thickening! Finally, chard or Tuscan kale and some other secret ingredients are added. All I can say is that ribollita has the most amazing taste and unctuous texture imaginable. It's as if you are having a great cassoulet in a thick soup form.

For the main course, we will be having a great dish that I first introduced ten years ago. This dish is from Napoli even though its name is Genovese style pork.

So, here it is. A pork shoulder is browned on all sides in a big, heavy pot. A puree, yes, a puree of bacon and garlic is added to the pot. Next, finely diced carrots and celery are added. And most importantly, a vast quantity of a finely diced, almost pureed onion, is added. Two hours later, brown chicken stock is added to the pot. The whole thing then cooks for another 4 hours. Can you guess what happens? The onions become caramelized and crispy, the pork becomes a quivering mass of fork-tender goodness, and all the juices intensify in flavor. It may be impossible to even lift the roast out of the pot as it may just collapse into pieces. This pork will be served over polenta or with potatoes.

Somewhere along the way, we'll have a salad that will contrast the rich robollita and pork ragu. The last course will either be a cheese course or a dessert.

The wines for this dinner will be mostly Italian. The ribollita needs a Sangiovese-based wine, while the pork dish needs a bigger wine like a Taurasi or a Montepulciano.

Cassoulet is one of those dishes that restaurants can't do well because the logistics surrounding the making of cassoulet properly are incompatible with the pace at which a restaurant runs. The dish itself looks simple enough; it's a bean stew filled with various meats and sausages. But once you taste it ... a properly made cassoulet is a bite of culinary heaven. No wonder, based on a survey, the French consider it to be one of their five favorite dishes. I can say with confidence that you will not find a better cassoulet at any restaurant in the Bay Area. Here are the attributes of a great cassoulet.

The beans have to be perfect, delicious after absorbing all the wonderful stock they swim in. They have to be cooked to a creamy and luscious stage but should retain their shape and not be too mushy. There should be several types of meats, like lamb shoulder, ribs, ham hock, and various types of sausages that benefit from long cooking. The ham hock is key because of the luscious texture, the kind of sticky mouth feel of a reduced sauce, that it imparts to the dish. The stock used should be homemade and infused with the aroma of thyme. There should be plenty of sautéed onions and garlic. The confit of duck leg should be crispy on the outside, fork-tender on the inside, and fat-free (this is where the duck fat comes into play - the duck legs, marinated with garlic, thyme, pepper, salt, cloves, allspice, and juniper berries, are cooked for 6 hours in a giant vat of duck fat). There should be a cap of caramelized breadcrumbs, rendered crispy by duck fat.

Most importantly, all of these ingredients have to be integrated to produce glorious texture and flavor in the same way that the various instruments in an orchestra are integrated to produce the complex sound world of a Bruckner symphony. This takes time. After all the ingredients that go into this dish are cooked, they are assembled into a large casserole, and the cassoulet then spends 12 hours in a low-temperature oven. Every three or so hours, the cap that forms is folded into the stew, thickening the texture and making way for a new cap to form.

A rich and powerful dish like the cassoulet requires brawny red wines. It is no wonder that the southwest of France, home of the cassoulet, is also home to just such wines. But in addition to these wines, we will also have some great reds from the Rhone and Provence.

This dinner will start with a turnip soup garnished with something crispy. It will be paired with an Alsatian white such as a Riesling or a Pinot Gris.

Next will come a beet tartare that is served in half an avocado. The beets are cooked; I call it a tartare only because the chopped beets, mixed with shallots, capers, cornichons, parsley, mayonnaise, and Sherry vinegar look like beef tartare. A Beaujolais Nouveau is the perfect foil for this dish. We will be having Dupeuble's 2018 Beaujolais Nouveau that was released last Thursday. This is the Beaujolais that Kermit imports and it is much, much better than the mass-produced stuff you see in supermarkets, you know, those mass-produced wines made by the "Gallo" of Beaujolais, Duboeuf, the so-called "King of Beaujolais," whose products dominate the Beaujolais market and whose "house brand" of wine yeast – a product called 71B that's closely related to a beer yeast used in some Belgian monastery ales - imparts a banana-oil/sweet cotton candy flavor to the wines. Dupeuble's is the real deal, something that is as hard to find in France as it is here.

After the cassoulet, we will have a dessert.

This dinner will feature, as the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon. When done right, this dish is one of the greatest comfort foods of all time. I make a really good Boeuf Bourguignon. It's the essence of beef braised in wine and stock, served swimming in a reduction sauce, layered with baby onions, mushrooms, carrots, and served over root vegetables. We will have a Burgundy with it.

The first course will be a cauliflower soup garnished with drops of a puree made of raisins and capers. The natural sweetness of the caramelized cauliflower will make for a rich soup. The unusual puree that garnishes the soup adds an exotic, salty, and sweet accent. This soup will likely be paired with an Alsatian Riesling or Tokay Pinot Gris, or a similar wine from the Friuli region of Italy.

Next, we will have a mushroom crostini pocket. Basically, the parchment paper (or aluminum foil) pocket will contain a piece of toasted country bread topped with various mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and butter. The bread soaks up the mushroom juices and melted butter while retaining a bit of crispness. This is a soulful dish that hits the spot when it's cold outside. As you open the pocket, you will inhale the intoxicating aromas of the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. The mushroom crostini will pair well with a medium-bodied, earthy wine such as Chianti, Dolcetto, Barbera, or a Zinfandel.

We will end with a dessert, probably a seasonal tart.

Comfort food is wonderful to have in Winter, which is why it is the theme of the February dinner. As the weather gets warmer, the dinner menus will transition to the tangy, crispy, and acidic.

We will start this dinner off with my version of choucroute, the famous Alsatian dish consisting of tangy sauerkraut topped with various cuts of pork. In my version, scaled to an appetizer portion, the cabbage will be lightly pickled as opposed to fermented. It will be topped with crispy pork belly. The classic wine pairing for this dish is Riesling.

Next, we will have a mushroom crostini pocket (which was scheduled for the January dinner that never took place). The parchment paper (or aluminum foil) pocket will contain a piece of toasted country bread topped with various mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and butter. The bread soaks up the mushroom juices and melted butter while retaining a bit of crispness. As you open the pocket, you will inhale the intoxicating aromas of the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. The mushroom crostini will pair well with a medium-bodied, earthy wine such as Chianti, Dolcetto, Barbera, or a Zinfandel.

The last savory course will be a brisket (or beef shank) braised with red wine, vegetables, and herbs. This braise, served with potatoes, will be incredibly delicious and comforting. As for the wine pairing ... I have my work cut out for me as there are so many choices.

The dinner will end with either a dessert.

The Italian Feast will start with antipasti that feature tangy, bright flavors that will tickle the tongue and pair well with wines from Italy and neighboring countries. Some of the antipasti I am considering are:

- Crostini of tomato, that magical spread made with tuna, butter, cream soy sauce, and lemon juice (typically this is a served as a sauce for thinly sliced poached veal).

- Grilled radicchio and cannellini beans drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

- Caponata, one of the great vegetarian dishes of all, made with eggplants, onions, garlic, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, capers, olives , and peppers. My special touch is to add a touch of cocoa powder at the very end. It gives the dish that certain je ne sais quoi.

- Damn hot peppers ... you just have to experience these.

- Fennel salad with an orange juice/olive oil vinaigrette.

and finally ...

Pasta and braised ribs. So this is a scaled-down version of Sunday Gravy, the iconic Italian-American dish that has its origins in Napoli. Pork (lamb for those who don't eat pork) spareribs are braised in tomato sauce that contains aromatic vegetables, herbs, and red wine. After several hours, the ribs are removed from the super delicious (and by now thick) braising liquid, which is then tossed with some pasta. The fork-tender ribs are served alongside the pasta.

Zinfandel is a perfect pairing for this tangy, rich dish.

I love reduction sauces. Roasted bones are simmered in water for seven or more hours with herbs, onions, shallots, etc. Once strained, the liquid is reduced and eventually finished off with red wine or Cognac. Just before use, butter is whisked in to give the deeply flavored sauce a silky texture. Up until a few decades ago, upscale (Western) restaurants featured reduction sauce prominently on their menus. This is how great chefs rolled. These days, it is hard to find restaurants in San Francisco that feature this kind of cuisine (of the exceptions, my favorite is La Folie).

The main course for the January dinner will be a meat dish with a reduction sauce. The meat could be steak, shank, oxtail, or something else. I'm leaning towards accompanying the meat with roasted root vegetables (parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and carrots). This dish will pair beautifully with Burgundy.

The first course will be a cauliflower soup studded with a poached cylinder of turnip and garnished with drops of a puree made of raisins and capers. The slight bitterness of the caramelized cauliflower will be offset beautifully by the sweetness of the scallop. The unusual puree that garnishes the soup adds an exotic, salty, and sweet accent. This soup will likely be paired with an Alsatian Riesling or Tokay Pinot Gris, or a similar wine from the Friuli region of Italy.

Next, we might have a mushroom crostini pocket. The parchment paper (or aluminum foil) pocket will contain a piece of toasted country bread topped with various mushrooms (chanterelle, oyster, porcini, shitake, portobello, and button), garlic, thyme, and butter. The bread soaks up the mushroom juices and melted butter while retaining a bit of its crispness. This is a soulful dish that hits the spot when it's cold outside. As you open the pocket, you will inhale the intoxicating aromas of the mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. The mushroom crostini will pair well with a medium-bodied, earthy wine such as Chianti, Dolcetto, Barbera, or a Zinfandel.

Alternately, we might have a salad of roasted beets with an orange juice-based vinaigrette, sliced avocado, watercress, and topped with toasted almonds and goat or feta cheese. This would pair well with a Cru Beaujolais.

There will be a dessert. It will either be something made by the Dynamic Dessert Duo (should they attend) or a seasonal tart.

 Several factors make my roast so special. I buy the meat from the Cafe Rouge. They sell Niman beef that they age for up to thirty days. As meat ages, some of the water in it evaporates and as a result, its flavor intensifies. On the morning of the dinner, I cover the roast with crushed, aromatic pink peppercorns and Dijon mustard. The floral aromas of the peppercorns permeate throughout the meat. Combined with the aroma of the tenderizing mustard, it creates a magical perfume that registers many pleasures with every bite.

This worthiest of roasts demands a classic Gratin Dauphinoise. This gooey-gooey gratin has a crisp exterior of bubbling grated Gruyere cheese that hides a mass of milk poached and garlic, nutmeg, and thyme-infused potatoes that attain the texture of thick, edible silk. A classic vegetable accompaniment for all this is caramelized carrots with tarragon or French-style peas with caramelized baby onions and lettuce.

What about the wine? Well ... the roast dish requires Burgundy. Nothing matches prime rib like a pinot noir based wine. Some think Cabernet Sauvignon goes best with prime rib. I tend to think that the Cabernet or Bordeaux will overpower the roast and the potatoes. Maybe we'll have both a Burgundy and a Cab and see what shakes down.

In addition to this greatest of roasts, the menu will feature a soup; either a mushroom-leek soup that will be made with dark chicken stock, cream, garlic, and finished with a puree of parsley or a cauliflower soup enriched with blue cheese, like gorgonzola or a Roquefort. This course will likely be paired with some Alsatian Riesling of Tokay Pinot Gris, or a similar wine from the Friuli region of Italy.

There will be a course between the soup and the roast. It might be a crispy salad (perhaps endives with blood oranges, pear, bacon, and caramelized pecans). Or I might go for a mushroom crostini pocket. This pocket will contain a piece of toasted country bread topped with mushrooms, garlic, thyme, olive oil or butter, and perhaps a splash of Marsala. The salad would pair well with a German Riesling, while the mushroom would go well with a Chianti or a Dolcetto or a Zinfandel.

And there will be a dessert. I am leaning towards a tiramisu or a refreshing citrus semifreddo.

The point being there are many options. Certainly, the Mediterranean and North African menus use some of the same spices as Indian food and we have seen the many pairings above. It’s time for some experimentation! Drink up!

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