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wine and food pairings question

w
WineWidow Sep 20, 2006 03:12 PM

I figured you chowhounders might be able to answer this, or offer insights at least.

Everytime I go to a winemakers dinner or some similar event the focuses on wine and food pairings, they always seem to pair foie gras with icewine or late harvest vidal or another similar heavy, rich, albeit delicious, nectar.

This is a pairing I heartily disagree with -- I think that combining a heavy, rich food with a heavy, rich wine makes no sense at all and would rather see foie gras paired with a nice biscuity champagne. But whenever I ask anyone about it, they say that that's the way its always done or something similarly unhelpful.

So, my question is, do any of you know what the logic is behind these kinds of food & wine pairings? Any similar experiences where you disagree with something that appears to be tried and true?

  1. MMRuth Sep 20, 2006 03:30 PM

    I think that pairing foie gras with a dessert wine (typically a Sauterne) is pretty standard and traditionally thought to work well, showcase both the food and wine etc. - which doesn't mean you have to like it of course.

    1. c
      chow_gal Sep 20, 2006 03:33 PM

      i like foie paired with suternes and other sweet wines. It is the complement vs. contrast school of pairing. i.e. sweet and rich with sweet and rich. Your champagne match would follow the 'contrast' approach, but I don't think it would be good. The bubbly effervescence and the unctuous mouth feel of foie doesn't appeal to me.

      1. w
        WineWidow Sep 20, 2006 03:44 PM

        Ahhh, I see -- I've thought about it and realized I tend to always like contrasts over complements (or same-same, in my book) in almost everything. That explains quite a lot actually.

        I think, also, I'd rather have sweet wines on their own with nothing to eat at all, so in that way I'm also probably an odd girl out.

        1. Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2006 04:49 PM

          Champagne and foie gras go well together.

          The classic combination with foie gras is Monbazillac, which most of the time is not nearly as rich and unctuous as Sauternes.

          A nice old riesling is a good match.

          1. d
            DaveSit Sep 20, 2006 05:33 PM

            Don't forget because of the richness of the foie gras, it is usually prepared with a sweet sauce, so a dry Champagne wouldn't really work. In addition, since the foie gras is almost alwyas seared, a Sauternes, which often has a carmelized quality to it, works really well.

            Having said that, I am not sure if one needs to drink any wine with foie gras at all. It is such a treat by itself. Also, at a restaurant, by the time you finished the foie gras, you have taken but two sips of the Sauternes, leaving you with almost a whole portion of the wine left. Drink that and it'll surely ruin your next wine. Oh, I guess you could save it for dessert. :)

            8 Replies
            1. re: DaveSit
              MMRuth Sep 20, 2006 05:48 PM

              Just curious - why do you say that the foie gras is almost always seared?

              I can attest from personal experience that it is possible to consume a 1/2 bottle of Sauterne with foie gras but only at a place that serves you three rather large slabs of terrine (L'Ami Louis).

              1. re: DaveSit
                Melanie Wong Sep 20, 2006 08:54 PM

                With cold terrine of foie gras, an older honeyed Champers is my choice. I like the contrast rather than rich, layered on rich approach.

                More thoughts on wine and food matching -
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  w
                  WineWidow Sep 21, 2006 01:39 PM

                  Yes, HONEYED is exactly the kind of champagne I mean....my descriptor is "biscuity" but I think we both mean that sort of less dry, more flavoured wine you get with a really nice champagne. That is what I crave with foie gras, rather than sweet wine.

                  1. re: WineWidow
                    n
                    newJJD Sep 30, 2006 05:17 AM

                    In that case I would suggest a Moscato D'asti from Italy.
                    We had foie that was seared and served atop brioche toast and topped a bit of maple - paired with a La Spinetta Moscato D'asti. The sweetness, acidity, low alcohol and bubbles all helped cut through the rich foie.

                    I used to be strictly Suaternes or Tokay with foie, but I now have a 3rd to add to the mix.

                    1. re: newJJD
                      Robert Lauriston Sep 30, 2006 05:15 PM

                      Eeew, no way. I love a good moscato d'Asti naturale, and the Spinetta's one of the best, but to my taste that's way too sweet and simple to pair with foie gras.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong
                    e
                    eapter Sep 22, 2006 11:44 PM

                    But Mel - you're falling into the honeyed-sweet Sauternes trap - move to something younger with more citrus-acid and less body and you're cutting the fat and giving you the contrast that Wine-Widow is looking for.
                    Regards,
                    Elliot

                    1. re: eapter
                      Robert Lauriston Sep 23, 2006 12:28 AM

                      I think by "honeyed" re aged Champagnes she's referring to the hints of honeylike flavors such wines sometimes develop, not actual sweetness.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        e
                        eapter Sep 23, 2006 11:39 PM

                        Perhaps I didn't make myself clear - I'm suggesting a younger Sauternes with higher acidity, more of the grapefruit-lemon elements, rather than Champagne.

                2. Robert Lauriston Sep 20, 2006 06:40 PM

                  I love foie gras but hate it when it's served with sweet sauces. Mostly I've had it just as a cold terrine or torchon.

                  At the Ambassade de Sud-Ouest in Paris, they have/had a toaster at every table.

                  1. h
                    HeelsSoxHound Sep 21, 2006 09:29 PM

                    the thing with icewine, sauternes, montbazillac, coteaux du layon, quarts du chaume, etc. is not just the sweetness and richness, it's the acidity present in those wines in conjunction with said richness/sweetness. the fact that those wines have a great zip of acid running through the middle of the palate to cut the richness is what makes them such a great pair for foie-- you have both the contrast and the complement.
                    it's also why they are to be revered as wines in and of themselves--pulling off that trick of acid in those wines requires specific climate conditions, geography, and a skilled hand in winemaking.

                    1. limster Sep 29, 2006 11:16 PM

                      I like foie gras paired with a slightly older Tokay Pinot Gris from Alsace. Also on the sweet side and can develop a hint of that smokey, kerosene-like pungence seen in older Rieslings -- will pair very well with a rich and smokey foie gras.

                      1. c
                        Chris Weber Sep 30, 2006 02:01 AM

                        Eapter's on the right track. The match for foie gras is not just any Sauternes - the French save the truly unctuous ones for dessert and the ones from lighter years for foie gras.

                        I used to use '85 for the foie and '86 for dessert. If you know those two vintages you'll know what I mean.

                        That's the difference and one that doesn't seem to get much publicity. Go for the elegance, not the size in your Sauternes.

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