Daniel: Wine pairing or not?
I will be dining at Daniel (NYC) with two friends. We were planning on doing the tasting menu. I noticed that wine pairing is offered at $75 per person. I was going to do it but thought that we could probably do better for ourselves by ordering two bottles of wine. The wine pairing would total $225 for three people. Is anyone familiar enough with the wine list to recommend two bottles to go with the tasting menu that total less than $225 or comment on the wisdom of my strategy?
I don't know, i don't find food and wine pairing to be that difficult, but I have been drinking and dining for some decades. I'm the other guy - I am usually matching food to what I wish to drink.
If you are not confident in your ability to pair food and wine, let the restaurant do it for you. You will be satisfied. If you are confident, be confident both before and after you order. You will be satisfied.
To greater or lesser degrees, everyone's taste sensations are different. One only need look at the post on the General Chowhound board 'I like everything but'... (or something like that). To the guy/gal that dislikes herbs or spices that you like, the flavors, particularly the nuanced complexities, of a wine simply taste differently than they will to you.
The sommelier says "I recommend wine A because the lychee nut notes and hint of white gooseberries respectively match and contrast the earth tones and and spare floral impressions of the sauce"
Well if you know what lychee nuts taste like and are familiar with white gooseberries that may work well for you. 'Course, it may not either. Would that be your fault, the sommelier's fault or just how it is?
As to what other diners at the table are ordering, if they want the quintessential match for their dish, let them order it. Because there is no quintessential match (let alone two or three) for a half-dozen varied dishes. There may well be wines that work well. Buy one of those for them.
It can't be both ways - if wine A is a perfect match for dish A, then it cannot be the perfect match for dishes B, C, 127, 354 and R-24-A/5. If it matches all these other presumably diverse dishes, then it cannot be perfect for A.
I looked at their site, and saw the main menu, but not the "Tasting Menu." One option, and their Wine Cellar did not offer up a list, would be to go with .375 btls. You can easily get three glasses, with enough wine for each course, from a .375.
One of the nice aspects of going with a wine-pairing, is that, if the staff knows their stuff, you will most often get wines that go with the course, as it comees from that restaurant's kitchen, and not just general pairings. It also takes much of the guesswork out of matching wines from the list, and even a great cellar is likely to have limited selections of .375's.
Though I love wines lists, and spend much time pairing my wines with my food, it can be a somewhat daunting task, especially if one is having a multi-course menu, or very much so, if you and guests are ordering ala carte. Picking the two, or three quintessential wines to cover all bases can involve a lot of work. Double the work, if one doesn't know the kitchen well - sauces, nuances, techniques can all effect the pairing.
I just did Restaurant Gary Danko, Michael Mina's and Viognier in the San Francisco area with guests. I took advantage of each restaurant's wine pairing and they were magnificant. Each sommelier/cellar-master took the time to explain each wine, and what elements he/she was considering for the pairing. Bottles were always presented and time allowed for examination. Each was great, and I got to spend time talking to my table-mates!
Just an observation,
You asked "Is anyone familiar enough with the wine list to recommend two bottles to go with the tasting menu"?
I would think the sommelier would be familiar enough to answer that question for you better than someone on a wine board.
If it were me, I'd ask the sommelier what wines were on the wine pairing list. He/she no doubt picked them out. If they didn't sound like something I would enjoy, then plan B - ask them for another recommendation, or look for a special bottle on their list yourself.
I would not tell you this for just any restaurant, but Daniel is a very serious place and should give you a good steer.
re: Chris Weber
I've heard that the wine pairing was not particularly spectacular and that it might be better to order on my own. The heart of my question is really about bang for the buck (i.e. whether spending $225 on two bottles would give more bang for the buck than the wine pairing). I'm sure people who've dined at Daniel might have an opinion on this.