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May 21, 2008 07:39 AM

Wine Pairing Thoughts Sought

Doing a group dinner where the cooking will be in an "alta cocina" style - assume that the flavor profiles of the dishes will largely be true to the originals, but that the technique, form and presentation will be messed around with (menu is sort of a "some of my favorite things" revisited). I am not the chef so suggestions to tweak the menu or the dishes will not be particularly helpful. Restaurant has graciously agreed to waive corkage so I'm sizing up my cellar for options, and welcome suggestions from the always eager group here. We will have a large enough group to do a different wine with each course. Here are the concepts each dish will be based on ->

- New Orleans BBQ shrimp
- Japanese sake don (salmon over furikake rice)
- Serrano ham & accomaniments
- Pasta carbonara
- "Tournedos" of smoked duck
- salad w/ sweet cornbread and pork cracklings
(cheese course & desserts still up in the air at this point)


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  1. White burgundy for the first two and a CDP for the duck?

    1. For the first three, I'd say a riesling, maybe slightly off dry. A nice cru Beaujolais or a fruity pinot noir for the ham.
      Those reds might also worked for the smoked duck, depending how smoked it is.
      What kind of cream in the pasta carbonara? None or something like fettucine alfredo? A food friendly red like Clos Roche Blanche from the Loire would have you covered in either case.
      Sparkling wine would also work for the shrimp and for the salmon.

      2 Replies
      1. re: SteveTimko

        The carbonara will be done w/ a 65°C egg, pancetta dust, parmesan crisp, and spherified cream (so yes it will have cream as a component). The duck will be lightly smoked, not too heavy.

        The size of the group ought to be just right to open up 1 bottle per course so I'm not bound to stick with 1 wine for multiple courses.

        1. re: Frodnesor

          NEW ORLEANS BBQ SHRIMP: Riesling is first choice, but a well-fruited alsatian gewurztraminer can also be great with this, especially as the dish gets spicier. An interesting red twist here is beaujolais but I wouldn't serve it without the white on the table also.

          SALMON: First preference is probably Chardonnay or a high-chardonnay content champagne. Riesling also works quite nicely here. Because the riesling works, I'd keep it on the table and probably bring out a chardonnay champagne. Because it's probably preferable to start with a champagne, then this might be the first dish of the evening, serve with a chardonnay bubbly and a riesling to catch the dimensions of the dish, then leave BOTH the bubbly and riesling on the table as they continue to match stuff throughout the meal.

          SERRANO HAM: An interesting spectrum of wines works here. Riesling definitely does, beaujolais also. Ordinarily I'd bring out a richer red here also, one that would well-match italian carbonara. But because we have a cream-style carbonara the red isn't going to do so well... So probably riesling and beaujolais with the ham. I wouldn't get into a rich red at all for this meal, certainly not just to match this one "interim" course.

          CARBONARA. Ordinarily I'd go cabernet if the dominant cheese is parmesan (zin or syrah would be 2nd choices), or syrah if pecorino is used. Because of the cream in the americanized version of the dish, rich red pairings aren't nearly as interesting.... I'm preferring a chardonnay (if heavy cream), or a Garganega (soave superiore) if lighter on the cream. You've already done quite alot of chardonnay at this point, so I'd probably do Soave Superiore just to mix it up.

          SMOKED DUCK TOURNEDOS: Given the smoke, chardonnay (or the chard champagne) is about a must. Riesling also works and Pinot Noir should be good to very good also.

          SALAD w/ the SWEET CORNBREAD and PORK CRACKLINGS: Depends on what else is in the salad but one or more of the before-mentioned wines is almost certainly going to match whatever the full salad composition is.

          The most consistent wine themes throughout this meal, IMO are: Riesling, high-chardonnay champagne, and beaujolais. Soave and Pinot Noir would probably be the other two. Numerous of these dishes will match more than one of these wines and having the multiple wines out definitely broadens the experience.

          CHEESE COURSE: To match the final selection of wines, given the above I would see the following as musts: Emmentaler, Chevre, Gruyere, and Epoisses...

      2. By the way, a nice rose would work with most of the dishes above. You want a rose where the winemaker grew the grapes and intended to make rose from the start, not a rose made by bleeding off juice from a red wine batch.

        1. Before I answer, a question about the Japanese sake don:
          Is it salmon sashimi over furikake rice? What are your furikake seasonings?
          I know they vary a lot.

          Mind if I change the order of courses?

          4 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            Maria - salmon will be sous vide, likely w/ Japanese 7-spice brine, don't know the furikake seasonings. I'm letting the chef do his thang and so am deferring to him on the order of the courses though he'd probably be open to some input. The bbq shrimp will be a small one-bite amuse FWIW. I know the chef definitely wants the salad to follow the entree as a transition to cheese & dessert, in the French style.

            Mike - salad components will be wilted greens, cornbread, pecan , pork cracklings. It will be on the sweet side.

            The cheese course may be some form of a sweet variation on a caprese.

            I think you can do a virtual raid of my "cellar" to see what I've got available from the following link ->

            As you'll see, most of what I have is pretty young - I tend to drink rather than horde and only started buying more age-worthy wines the past few years. In addition with only about 200 bottles this is far from a wine library. I lean heavily towards reds, and then heavily toward CA pinot, zin, syrah, CDP, then to a lesser degree OR pinot and Spain.

            My current inclination is as follows ->
            shrimp amuse and salmon - bubbly
            jamon - still unsure- white rhone?
            carbonara - barbera or brunello
            duck - unsure - pinot (CA or OR)? cdp? bdx? CA syrah?
            salad - riesling auslese

            For the jamon, sherry would be traditional but I don't know it at all. Any thoughts?

            1. re: Frodnesor

              My current inclination is as follows ->
              shrimp amuse and salmon - bubbly

              ANS: My problem here is that bubbly is probably not the best match for the spice profile of the bbq shrimp. Even given that it's an amuse, I'd still want the best match for it and IMO that's either riesling or gewurztraminer. Because the riesling also matches the salmon quite nicely, if I can only pair one wine with these TWO dishes, it would be a riesling, prolly rich kabinett or an "average ripeness" spatlese.

              jamon - still unsure- white rhone?

              ANS: I vaguely get this connection but first choice would be riesling again, The way I'd structure it is just leave the riesling that you serve with the shrimp amuse and salmon on the table and introduce a new wine with this jamon... first choice would probably be beaujolais for me, but again I'd look at it as a two-wine match so the diners can sample the nuances that each wine brings to the dish.

              carbonara - barbera or brunello

              AND: Those are fine wines, IMO if you're not doing a cream-style carbonara.... these are great matches for a traditional non-cream italian carb but that's not what's being served up here. And americanized carbonaras tend to be quite "goppy" with cream so I'd do a white wine here. If I can only pick one, a chardonnay, but if you're tired of chardonnay or want an "italian" wine, go with garganega.

              As an aside, if I could recommend one change to the menu it would be do do the carbonara pasta in a non-cream more traditional italian style THEN you could definitely serve a bolder red with it. Also, if the chef will accomodate you on this, you could bring that red out for the jamon, alongside the white you have for it.

              duck - unsure - pinot (CA or OR)? cdp? bdx? CA syrah?

              ANS: Syrah and Bordeaux strike me as a bit heavy for duck and they don't really take advantage of the smoke element in the dish. Chardonnay matches both duck and smoke, second choice would be pinot. For me it doesn't matter too much where the pinot's from as long as it's a quality wine from a good vintage. I'd rather drink a great american pinot than a mediocre burgundy, and vice versa.

              salad - riesling auslese
              ANS: Auslese sounds very rich for this. In particularly luscious years a great auslese is about one step removed from sauternes in viscousity... because of the greens and the corn element I'm guessing chardonnay will your overall best match to this salad... better than, say, sauvignon blanc, because of the sweetish notes to the salad. I'd have the riesling on the table too here, just in case it's sweeter than I'm thinking it will be.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Thanks for the additional info.

                I wrote this late last night, so tired my synapses were failing, and thought it best to wait till today to post it…and in the meanwhile Whiner has shared his somewhat similar -- but more specific and wonderful -- suggestions.

                Shrimp Amuse – Rose Bubbly, can handle the heat and kicks off the party

                Salmon and furikake – My guess is Rose Bubbly again – it can handle the furikake spices and of course works well with the salmon. If the furikake spices are dominant, rather than being in the background, I’d be tempted to go riesling spatlese or a sec Rose Bubbly..

                Jamon Serrano and accompaniments – Rose is also a traditional pairing with Jamon Serrano or Iberico. I’d do Spanish or French. Or Grenache/Garnacha.

                Carbonara – Tough call. With traditional Italian carbonara, Rose Champagne (I know, I’m repeating myself, but there it is) is the best pairing I’ve had with this. (And before I became more watchful of calories, I made this dish all the time.) However, what makes the pairing tricky is that this is not a traditional preparation of carbonara – it’s made with cream and we don’t know how intense each ingredient is in the dish. The pancetta dust, for example: is that finely crumbled pancetta (non-smoked Italian bacon)? Is it an accent or incorporated into the sauce and thus its flavor is more intense? Same deal for the parmesan: Is it merely a crisp, or also in the sauce? Too many questions, you might say, but they’re being asked to determine – from a distance -- if this is a white wine dish or a Rose/red wine dish. Whatever the dish, its richness calls for high acid: Rose Champagne, Chardonnay with acid, Roussane, Marsanne…you get the idea. Only you and the chef can judge the intensity of the pancetta and parm to determine if this dish goes over into the rose/red zone.

                [I’d be tempted to put the Jamon Serrano and accompaniments after the pasta if it’s substantial, as a nice lead-in to the duck and red wine, but if it’s truly an app and nibbles, then maybe it belongs before the pasta.]

                Smoked duck – what first came to mind was an Oregon Pinot or Burgundy to pair with the duck, but the Syrah in a red Rhone would work nicely with the smokiness too.

                Salad with its sweet elements -- Riesling Auslese – agreed, and a nice lead-in to a cheese course if you choose to have one.

                Sounds like an interesting dinner. I hope it's flavorful and a good time.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Maria - am in complete in agreement with you on the rose bubbly suggestion and like your suggestions on the duck although I might have leaned toward a Gigondas for the Rhone.

            2. Shrimp: Rose Champagne. Second choice would be a Mosel Riesling Kabinett or Spatlese or perhaps a Pfalz Scheurebe at the same ripeness level.

              Salmon: Rose Champagne or dry Rose. You could also do an extracted drier Riesling, such as those that can come from Austria and Alsace (I can give lots of reccomendations here if you like) or a fuller Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris. White Hermitage and some other white Rhones would also work well here. (Again, I can give specific recs if you like).

              Serrano ham: Fuller Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris, White Rhones, 2006 Dettori Bianco from Sardegna --killer white wine that woud pair very very well. A Beaujolais or not-too-oaked Barbera if you wanted a red.

              Carbonara: I keep on coming back to a fuller Alsatian (Tokay) Pinot Gris for these dishes you have lined up. White Rhone, too. Other than that, you could do a very full dry Loire (Dagueneau Silex or Pur Sang, perhaps?) You could also do a Chardonnay that dffinitely had some oak spice elements, but still was high in acid so something like a Peter Michael or Aubert from the U.S. or else a Meursault of some sort or a Corton Charlemagne. (Obviously a lot depends upon the producer, but for ths I think I'd generally prefer those to the Montrachet hyphenates.)

              Smoked duck: Cote Rotie would be my first choice. Barolo/Barbaresco second. CdP would be third with other Rhones, both North and South to follow.

              Salad: If it really is on the sweeter side, I'd go Riesling Spatlese from the Pfalz or Auslese from anywhere.