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What food to serve at a single malt tasting?

I am hosting some colleagues on Tuesday evening to taste some single malts. I am supplying a comfy place, appropriate glasses, and something to munch on, they are entrusted with bringing the hootch.

This is perhaps the Final Frontier of alcohol which Mrs. K. has not yet mastered (and I’m doin’ my best to catch up). I can’t yet sniff something and tell which Highland or island it came from, but I am, at least, able to differentiate a Lagavullin from a Laphroaig. Give me time.

My question is: what can I serve – foodwise! – that will not get in the way of the tasting, but rather compliment it?

- Mrs. K.

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  1. Believe it or not, I love eating peanut brittle with single-malts!

    1. My father enjoys shortbread cookies with his single malts.

        1. My SO brought a can of haggis to a SMS tasting. Unfortunately, none of the guys there were manly enough to open it and give it a try. We ended up eating it a few days later: basically tasted like corned beef hash with some lamb in it. Pretty good, actually, though ridiculously overpriced for what is essentially a can of corned beef ($7).

          They had a lot of hearty food that night. I'm not sure it was intended to complement the scotch so much as provide a solid carb/fat/protein cushion for the alcoho.

          IIRC, they had roast vegetables, roast pork, pasta with some kind of meat ragu, various kinds of chocolate, and a pretzel mix.

          1. If you have access to some fresh scallops, i would serve these quickly seared. Diver scallops are generally the best. You get some protein and i think it matches well with some of the iodine in the Islay malts.

            Some smoked salmon might work well too.

            1. Sushi...especially with the peaty Islays (nice pieces of salmon and tuna that you cut up yourselves or even a tray you could get from a Chinese take out place).

              Come to think of it. Tapas has also worked really well with various single malts. Spanish sausage, manchego, squid, shrimp, anchovies, deep fried artichokes. Mmmmmmmm.

              1. Mrs K, how'd it go?

                I've had pierogi, believe it or not, and loved them with single malts.

                1. Thanks to all for your suggestions!

                  Well, living as I do in a landlocked country, scallops were the most tempting advice but the least realistic. Peanut brittle, too (it just doesn’t exist here).

                  Things got rather last-minute (I yet again managed to underestimate my housecleaning time), so I basically went on a quick spree to the nearest decently-stocked supermarket.

                  In the end, there really wasn’t anything very adventurous or unusual (and I did make a note to grab a pack of smoked salmon, but totally forgot about it). As best as I can recall there were: Kalamata olives, large green olives, artichoke hearts, cornichons, a sharp cheddar, a pumpkin seed brie, a nutty Bergkäse, smoked ham, a pâté topped with apples and another topped with lingonberries, baguettes, crisp bread, a dense dark bread covered with sesame seeds, cheese sticks, various mustards, and there must have been other things but that’s all I can remember for now.

                  After the marathon of cleaning and shopping, I needed a jumpstart. I fixed myself a quick Manhattan, and it looked so yummy my guests decided to join me before proceeding on to the whisky. So, a bottle of bourbon later...

                  The big winner was a 16-year-old Lagavulin. Most of the other less famous, smaller batch scotches lacked character and/or were too alcoholic. Rather a disappointing array, but then I didn’t pay for any of them, so I can’t complain too much!

                  The pumpkin seed brie went in a snap (I’d never had this combination before and it is heaven! I bought another huge wedge this afternoon), but it turned out that the food was totally secondary. At least I have a much better idea what to do next time (starting with cleaning the house a day earlier).

                  The other suggestion which I took from a Chowhound was dark chocolate and nobody touched it! So now Mrs. K. has this large slab of extra dark bittersweet Swiss chocolate tempting me every time I walk by the sideboard...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Mrs.Keenlyside

                    A Frenchman I met recently insisted, quite passionately, that Cognac and chocolate were made for each other. So there's your next tasting event right there!

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Bass player friends say Bourbon and chocolate.

                  2. Great post, I've been asking myself the same thing lately.