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What to serve with a great Port

A friend is coming by next week with a really nice Port. I'd like to serve some nice tidbits/tappas/small plates. This won't be following a really big dinner, but it will be in the evening. What do you suggest? (I hope this doesn't get moved to the cooking board because it's all about the Port. What little snacks make the Port even better?)

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  1. With a truly outstanding Port I would stay away from sweets that can be tempting - I would instead pair it with some equally good cheese - almost any high quality creamy cheese (not a brie) or blue cheese would do it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: olasek

      I'm with the cheese and maybe some nuts. Depending on the Port (I am assuming a Vintage Port here) I'd probably go with walnuts. For me, VP is a dessert, in, and of itself. If your friend brings a Tawny, the doors open up a bit. I love pecan pie (no chocolate) with Barros 20 year, but a good bleu cheese and nuts are not out of the question. I also enjoy a bit of dark to semi-sweet chocolate (just do not like it in my pecan pie), with a good Tawny, but realize that I am in the minority.

      I usually abstain from my cigars, until the VP is done, and the Tawny comes out - again, personal tastes.

      Some years back, my wife and her chef did a Port tasting menu, to pair across the board with Rubies to VP's. Unfortunately, it's been too many years, to recall the dishes that they came up with, but it was basically heavy appetizers, in enough diversity to seem like a full meal. The big hit was a pecan-stuffed tenderloin, that I grilled. There were another 10, or so, dishes, and we did a taste-off, as the menu was being finalized. After a week of Port and dozens of dishes, I held off of fortified wines for a month... well, about two weeks!


    2. Roasted chestnuts, a bit of grated salt, and a fantastic Stilton. Followed by a very expensive cigar. At least that's what my father and his friends did.........

      4 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        Aaaaaaaaa, cigar! - I knew I forgot something ;)

        1. re: olasek

          Cannot forget the cigars, but as I posted elsewhere, maybe save them until any VPs are done, then bring out a btl. of Tawny. I usually try and keep a bunch of Cohiba Siglo IVs around, but will never divulge the country of origin, or how they came into my possession.

          To get almost anal about VPs, most of the houses, when hosting a dinner, move to an adjoining dining room, where no food has been served. This room is just for the VPs, and ladies and gentlemen are instructed to not wear any scents to the events. After these are completed, the party moves to other quarters for the cigars, and Tawnies, with nibbelies.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Good call on the Siglo IV's; I have a partial caja left of Siglo III's. Few counterfeits of either. 85% of "Esplenditos" are counterfeit.

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              My preferred with port is a Monte Cristo #2 (torpedo). they're spicy,but not overpowering, Whch the Cohib's are to me.

        2. Also, are you serving a mini-meal (savory) or after-dinner bites (cheese) or dessert bites?
          From your post, you said tapas, so I'm thinking savory mini-meal things. Is that right?

          If so, that wouldn't be my preference. I'd stick with cheese and slightly sweet items.

          And what you serve depends on the port...what kind is it? A classic port will pair differently than a tawny...

          Classic accompaniments are: Stilton and toasted walnut halves; cocoa-dusted almonds,
          chocolate. For the tawny: dried fruit, toasted nuts, dark chocolate, peanut butter cookies
          If you go sweet rather than savory, make sure the sweetness level is muted.

          7 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            A necessary question. So very much depends on the Port. It could be a fine 20-40 year Tawny, or a VP, and the difference would fill a small book. If it's a grand VP, then pick up a bottle of 20 year Tawny to go with some food-items afterwards - and the cigars.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Fruitcake (the real, homemade kind, not the overly sweet, candied storebought kind) is a beautiful pairing with just about any port. The flavours of dried fruit and nuts in the cake are a fantastic pairing with the kindred flavours of port.

              Stilton is the classic cheese pairing for a reason.

              I'd be interested in trying lightly toasted hazelnuts with port. Walnuts and almonds are more typical port-like flavours, but I happen to live in a part of the world where there are many hazelnut farms.

              1. re: anewton

                Toasted hazelnut is one of the flavors often found in 20-year-old tawny. So you could have toasted hazelnuts in stereo. Nice.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  MMMM...toasted local hazel nuts with 20 year old Taylor's tawny....sounds like a good idea for a cold, rainy pacific northwest winter day (would want the obligatory fire going...)

                  1. re: anewton

                    Works for a cold night in AZ too, even without the rain. I think I know which bin I'll hit next!


                2. re: anewton

                  I have enjoyed a very few "good" fruitcakes (that is NOT an oxymoron), but I would reserve those for pairing with a Tawny. Call me "old school," or whatever, but VP is for the enjoyment of it, and it alone (in most circumstances). Start talking food, and I reach for the Taylor 20, or the Porto Barros.


                  1. re: anewton

                    You caught my attention. Wife got a real fruitcake from someone in ASU extention, without the candied stuff - some purred dates and rasins, but only nuts an cake otherwise. All I had handy was a Taylor 10 year Tawny, but the combo was sublime. See, people are reading what you write, and taking it to heart. Not sure how it helps the OP, but good "fruitcake" and Tawny do work well!


              2. Completely agree about the blue cheese and nuts. The only time I like stilton is with a good port.

                If you want something more savoury, you may consider some kind of beef tenderloin appetizer with a port-based sauce. If you put some port into the sauce, it would make it more port friendly. After all, one can only eat so much blue cheese....

                1 Reply
                1. re: moh

                  Wife used a Port (Ruby) reduction with her tenderloin, and it did not do badly, across the Port-board. Still, I'd have paired it with a Ruby, or, more likely, a Tawny, had we not had 24 Ports set out for the guests.


                2. Toast some thinly sliced baguette in the oven until crisp. Remove from oven and place some good quality crumbled blue cheese on top followed by toasted or roasted and salted pecans. Arrange on a plate and give the whole thing a dramatic and liberal drizzle of honey. The savory sweet - creamy - crunchy - combination of everything is delightful and will buddy up nicely with port.

                  1. You've given me wonderful ideas. I'm going to do just about all of them (including a good cigar). I'll report back later. Thanks and Happy New Year.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ccferg

                      Just don't tell us the country of origin for that cigar - you smile will be all we need!

                      Enjoy, and please report back, in as much detail, as you can recall...


                    2. second(or third) the stilton and walnuts. some dried figs or a fig paste would complement as well. with a ruby, some good dark semisweet chocolate is a treat. when they're available, a nice cuban

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chazzerking

                        I'm allergic to nuts, so I can't comment on the walnuts and hazelnuts, but Stilton definitely goes great with port. I'd only advise you to taste the Stilton before you open that bottle: Stilton can be very variable in quality, so hope you find a good one.

                        1. To be a member of the chorus, Stilton, gorgonzola, or other really good blue-veined cheeses and fruit like pears is the classic pairing. If you want to have baked goods, I'd suggest a good dense cookie, preferably not something too sweet or spicy (i.e., stay away from fudgy cookies or ginger cookies) or a fruit tart.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dinwiddie

                            we just had a port/cheese course after dinner on new year's eve and we had a zinfandel port from Sonoma, not traditional but very enjoyable. I served it with a Canadian stilton, beautifully creamy not too strong, plus a gruyere delpage (hard cheese), and a nippy old cheddar left over from making cheesy cookies, I also added a home made xmas cake, pecans (would have preferred them candied, but I ran out of time), some good dark chocolate with hazelnuts and without.

                            I also always serve raincoast crisps with any cheeses they are a cracker created up in Vancouver, light, slightly sweet and herbed (rosemary). they are found in the states now too....here is the website. http://www.lesleystowe.com/raincoast.htm

                            It all came together very well. Oh ya, and sliced pear and persimmon.

                          2. Absolutely concur on the Raincoast Crisps! Try the fig, cranberry or date flavors.

                            My menu - tomorrow - for a friendly get together based around a good port is:

                            Grilled flank bites with gorgonzola on crispy bread slices
                            Stilton with toasted walnuts (half candied, half not)
                            Chocolate permeated figs from Fran's Chocolates

                            I am adding the raincoast crisps! (I had forgotten how good they are - a meal in a bite)


                            1. IMHO, it all depends on how great that bottle of Port is. For truly awesome one like the 1963 or 1966 Taylor, I would just drink it on its own and enjoy the multi-dimensional sensation the wine brings!! Why cloy the smell and taste with fruits or cheeses??!!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                Years ago -- back in the early-to-mid 1980s, actually -- several of us in various facets of the wine trade in and around Santa Cruz, California (winemakers, writers, importers, wholesalers) got together and formed a "Port & Cigar Club." We would once a month, and open three bottles of Vintage Porto per meeting.

                                For our first bottle, we would open a bottle at least 40 years old, ranging from (at its youngest) 1948 back to 1900. This we served on its own.

                                For our second bottle, we always opened something from the 1950s or 1960s -- rarely but upon occasion, 1970 would have been the youngest allowed. This we served with dried fruits, cheese, etc.

                                The third bottle we opened was something recent, 1970-to-date. Here is where the cigars came into play.

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Great story.

                                  We should all have or organize our own tasting groups. They don't have to be as organized as your Port & Cigar Club, but regular get-togethers where wines of a similar type are sampled are so fun, and such a good way to find wines you like. You can even impose a price limit to find great everyday wines.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Well, admittedly, some 80% (or more!) of what I USED TO DO is now impossible . . . not only could you (probably) not find today -- for example -- a 1912 Cockburn, 1935 Sandeman, and a 1955 Fonsenca (as we opened one night) . . . not only could you not *afford* them today, even if you did find them . . . but few could afford the equivalents today (i.e.: a 70-something, a 50-something, and a 30-something year old bottles of Vintage Porto). Sadly, those types of tastings are long gone . . .

                                    However, you're quite right that price limits can (and should!) be imposed to find great everyday wines.

                                    This is precisely how the Thunderbird-corollary to the UC Davis 20-point scale was born! ;^)

                                2. re: Charles Yu

                                  If one does a dinner at Taylor-Fladgate, there are two dining rooms, that are basically identical. The meal is served in one, and when finished, all go to the other. There, away from food aromas, the VP's are served. Everyone finds their identical seats at the table, and the VP's are presented, with no morsels, cheeses, or any other foods.

                                  OTOH, we have done many Port tastings, and they usually include many of the dishes mentioned in this thread - though the tastings usually go from Ruby, through Tawny, and on to VP's.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    >>> . . . we have done many Port tastings, and they usually include many of the dishes mentioned in this thread - though the tastings usually go from Ruby, through Tawny, and on to VP's. <<<

                                    Interesting, I'd probably do it the other way 'round -- depending upon the age of the Vintage and Tawny bottlings . . .


                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      For me, the majority of my guests are somewhat new to Port, though not always.

                                      I begin with Rubies (several different house treatments), then move to Tawnies, and finally head to VP's, working from the younger, up to the older.

                                      With few exceptions, that has worked well.