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Oddest/Most Surprising Food and Wine Pairing That Really Worked

Here’s one of mine…

In one wine-tasting class, the other students and I pooled our money for a special evening of Sauternes tasting. Our instructor was French, a genius and dedicated student of gastronomy, one of the best teachers in any subject I’ve ever encountered. The evening arrived, and the instructor asked us to enjoy the four Sauternes selections. He asked us to taste the freshly baked baguette first by itself, then with some creamy blue cheese. The next taste was the bread and blue cheese again, but this time spread with apricot preserves. Amazing – I never thought it would work. Then, he asked us to taste the bread/blue cheese/apricot preserves combo with a sip of Sauternes. It was brilliant. I was stopped in my tracks. This was quite a while ago and probably the very first time I was totally overtaken and catapulted into ecstasy with a food and wine pairing. To this day, the experience continues to be one of my favorite
all-time food-n-wine pairing thrill-rides.

Have one of your own? An oddball or surprising one?

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  1. In Sauternes, the young wines are enjoyed with numerous savory foods...especially spit roasted chicken.

    At a colleague's home we served rare prime rib of beef generously sprikled with coarse sel gris; the wine was D'Yquem with a bit of age on it. The lush fatty meat worked rather well with the opulent sweet wine.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

      I'd heard that Sauternes went with everything, like Champagne. I once tried it throughout an entire meal that, in truth, wasn't specially designed to pair with Sauternes. It was wonderful. Another surprise.

      1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

        I recall in Jeremiah Tower's cookbook he was an advocate of pairing rare roast beef with D'Yquem.

      2. tocai from friuli works wonderfully well with cured meats. never thought a white wine could be so compelling in this circumstance.

        1. WADR, how can this be a surprise? Sauternes is an incredible match with both blue cheese and fruit....

          In fact, this is a classic example of "triangulation" in meal planning to bring the food closer to the wine.... I frequently recommend adding either a slight dusting of cheese that matches the wine selected for the entree... or serving a wedge of same on the side, and I'm uniformly lambasted for such suggestions...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chicago Mike

            I described an experience that happened many, many years ago and yes, then, I was surprised. You don't see apricot preserves (not fruit) and blue cheese slathered together very often.

          2. Well, it isn't SO surprising... my frends and I have a thing about cheeseburgers and high end CA Cab.

            One thing that really did surprise me, however, I brought a 1998 Bussola Amarone TB to dinner once, but what I wanted to order was the Grouper with morel and lardons. The hostess said that the lardons would give enough weight to the dish that it could pair well. So I tried it -- unbelievable. For those of you who don't know, Bussola TB is the same weight as Quintarelli or maybe even Dal Forno.

            1. Champagne with pepperoni pizza. This was long before I read whiner's PSA a few months back.

              Petite sirah with chocolate cheesecake. I've been in the underground petite sirah fan club as a pseudo-dessert wine since this glorious accident. Ok, maybe not glorious, but very pleasant.

              Vouvray with White Castles. Something about the sweetness of the steamed onions make it a poor pairing for most reds you'd tend to drink with hamburger.

              Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Picolit blend with lamb's tongue. This was at Babbo in NY. I had expected the sommelier to serve it with a red, but given the additional ingredients of chanterelles and a poached egg, it makes a lot of sense. Surprise surprise, Batali didn't add any cheese to this dish! No triangulation necessary!

              2 Replies
              1. re: mengathon

                Was the lambs tongue pickled or served as a salad? The wine sounds similar Jermann Vintage Tunina, which has the density of a red wine.

                1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

                  The lamb's tongue was served as a salad with baby spinach/arugala.

                  The wine was the Bastianich Vespa Bianco. I think it was the '04, though I cant be sure.

                   
              2. A few years ago we were out for a birthday or anniversary dinner and started with a bottle of Billecart-Salmon rosé for the appetizers and first courses. For the main courses I ordered a nice Gigondas or something, but we ended up finishing the Champagne because it went so beautifully with the pork.

                Not a total surprise, since Champagne does go with everything, but unexpected.

                1. I have two.

                  Champagne with popcorn. "Real" popcorn, not microwave. lightly seasoned with real butter and lightly salted.

                  The other that blew me away.
                  Chocolate is near impossible to match. I have tried all the Ports and Banyuls with only marginal success at best. However, once in Paris I was served a Chocolate Amer (Bitter) concoction that was just barely sweet with a magnum of older Vieux Telegraphe and the combination was perfect. VT is almost pure Grenache. My host said that in his opinion the only thing that truly works with Chocolate is dry Grenache. I would have to agree.