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Dec 15, 2008 05:25 PM

Pairing: Duck with coffee/cinnamon/cardamom sauce

For Christmas Eve, we're having duck breasts with a sauce made from coffee, cinnamon, and cardamom and Madiera (from Marcus Samuelsson's Aquavit). Any wine suggestions, both red and white? Also on the menu will be pickled beets and Swedish limpa bread (more cardamom, anise, and orange zest. For Christmas itself we're having ham, and I was going to serve a Pinot Noir and a Riesling with that. Thanks!

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  1. What do they serve it with at the restaurant Aquavit? What does the sommelier there say? Email or call.

    Is this the cofee-infused duck breast that's served on the bed of lentils and lettuce greens? It's made with quite a bit of port.

    1 Reply
    1. re: maria lorraine

      I was gonna say, it sounds like you need to be mindful of the sweetness of this dish. You've got a twist on duck a l'orange going there. I would think with it being Christmas Eve and all, you may want to go with a nice, not too dry sparkler. Alternatively, I'd say you probably can't go wrong with a German or Alsatian gerwurtztraminer. My other choices are the ones you set aside for Christmas - Riesling and Pinot Noir - but there's no law against drinking the same varietals two consecutive nights! :-)

    2. Scheurebe Spatlese from the Pfalz

      1 Reply
      1. re: whiner

        Thanks for everyone's thoughts! I haven't been to the restaurant, so I don't know what they serve it with there. The recipe calls for port or madeira, so it probably is the one that Maria Lorraine is thinking of. I emailed the restaurant for their advice, so we'll see what they say.

      2. I hope Aquavit is able to provide you with a good recommendation. When they had their restaurant here in Minnesota, the wine list wasn't very good. It looked more like a steakhouse list than a list that would go with the Scandanavian-nuanced cuisine. That is, lots of Chardonnay and Cabernet.

        I'd lean toward Chareauneuf-du-Pape or Burgundy with this.

        1. Haven't tried this dish but have made Samuelsson's duck breast with glögg sauce a couple of times. It paired very nicely with an Amarone once and a Quintarelli Valpolicella another time. Will be interesting to see what the restaurant suggests. I'd probably be looking at a medium-bodied red with some spice and smoke, maybe a Château Musar or one of its cohorts (Ksara's Cuvée du Troisième Millénaire, Kefraya's Comte de M, Clos Saint Thomas's Château Saint Thomas, etc.). Left bank Bordeaux has a natural affinity for duck breast and, often, cinnamon, so a youngish but accessible Médoc or Graves with a high proportion of Merlot might also work.

          3 Replies
          1. re: carswell

            Marcus Samuelsson, the chef at Aquavit, calls the duck's sauce a "Jamaican mocha glaze." As such, I'm quite intrigued by the Amarone rec (with its passito quality).

            The bed of lentils and bitter greens upon which the duck is served add to the bigness of the dish and its huge dosing of [good] bitterness. I'd love to try a variety of wines with this, even Whiner's Scheurebe rec, as that might work well as well. I like the weight and spiciness of Cesanese, a lovely red from Lazio, a good deal. It *might* work here.

            How big, how rich, how sweet the wine needs to be to pair well with this dish is dependent on how powerful a role the Jamaican coffee glaze plays in the final dish, and also the degree to which the lentils and bitter greens offset the glaze's power and provide their own anchoring flavors.

            Recipe found here:

            1. re: carswell

              I am intrigued by the suggestion of Chateau Musar. I would love to try this dish with a wine with some spicy characteristics. I would also tend to lean towards a red wine because of the coffee and the port in the dish, I'd want a wine that can match the weight of this sauce, and I would be worried that white wines might not do so.

              1. re: moh

                Well, Aquavit never responded to my email. I notice that the dish isn't on their menu anymore. A grateful client dropped off a bottle of wine for Christmas--a Valpolicella from Giuseppe Lonardi, 2006--so I decided to use that. It went wonderfully with the spice of the duck.