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Pairing water with food??? C'mon now -- is this for real?

I read a post on another board offering the sale of prepaid reservations at a Chicago restaurant. The post mentioned that the price of the meal includes "water pairings." Admittedly, I'm not the most sophisticated diner around, but pairing water with food seems pretty farfetched to me. A bit of Googling on the subject turned up more than I ever would have imagined, including a soon-to-be-published book entitled, "Finewaters Guide Book -- A Connoisseur's Guide to the World of Premium Bottled Waters."

Should we expect to see water menus alongside the wine lists in our favorite restaurants? Is this to be taken seriously -- or is it a case of the Emperor's New Clothes revisited?

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  1. :) I think I may have made a post about the water pairing thing. Yes, it is very unique. 45 pages of water pairing: http://eater.com/archives/2013/08/06/...

    I have never seen a menu that is 45 pages, let's alone a water menu for 45 pages. :P

    7 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      i just looked at their water menu...I geneally like the one with a nice balance and structure and with enough sweetness with slight acidity. The one that has chocolate note. It's just that i don't know which bottle has that characteristics.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        A 45-page water menu!!! That has to be the epitome of pretentiousness!

        1. re: CindyJ

          How about a water sampler, as is done with beers and scotch - 7 little glasses of water! Yum! Maybe some stale bread to go with it.

          1. re: Veggo

            Maybe a 10-page menu for stale breads ......

            1. re: LotusRapper

              Good idea -gotta cleanse that palate between waters!

              1. re: Veggo

                I think you two are missing the point. You need 75 pages of stale breads to go along with the 75 pages of water. One special water to drink along with one particular stale bread. This is why these are "pairing" water. 10 pages menu of stale bread is just not enough.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  That's why you're the Master Po and I'm the Grasshopper ......

      2. I'm going to go with option B.

        1. I heard through undisclosed sources that the new trend following the water-pairing is air-pairing.

          Bottles of street-level air from various foodie cities (Paris, NYC, SF, Buenos Aires, Rome, Tokyo, Sydney, HK, Singapore) are collected and released through high-tech HVAC systems in select Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Currently there are no plans to collect air from Beijing or London due to healthy liabilities. In between courses, the restaurants' HVAC shall release the "standard" air of their respective cities, as to neutralize the patrons' olfactory, before proceeding to the next courses and paired air.

          Stay tuned, but don't hold your breath ..........

          8 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              And why little veggo (and I) prefer the Yucatan jungle.

                1. re: LotusRapper

                  I have mentioned this many times before, but you probably miss it. I am an orc.

                  http://www.wallpaper4me.com/images/wa...

                  http://i676.photobucket.com/albums/vv...

                  Among my race, we don't have a water pairing menu with our food. We don't tolerate BS like this.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    LOL ! This is too good.

                    PS: char siu bao is one of my fave comfort foods too. We got some real good ones here in town: NTB being one of 'em:

                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/181263...

                    Look at that, eh ? :-D http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-k-uimwhb7OY...

                2. re: LotusRapper

                  I guess you have never driven through the Caldecott tunnel after spending a week in the Central Valley of California and been almost assaulted by the smell of salt and the dampness of a foggy summer evening in the Bay Area. Or deplaned in Singapore or Honolulu and smelled the rich ripe tropical air, dripping with floral scents - strong enough even to temper the jet fuel saturated air at the concourse. How about the ion charged air in the high Sierras after a thunderstorm? And it has been years since I have been in a snowfield, but can anyone really forget that smell? Waking up in the middle of the night and knowing it has snowed in the pitch black because of that unique smell. Why, it smells almost like… like… well, water! Air is anything but boring if you take the time to notice it. It's like saying that rice, potatoes, or bread have no flavor of their own.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    I agree with you, I love the smells of different countries (I haven't been to that many).

                3. What you like some freshly grated ice on that, M'am?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: DockPotato

                    "That depends where the ice came from, and how long it's been aged."

                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      According to pink skin (human), the temperature of aging is very important.

                    2. re: DockPotato

                      "Um, do you have 800,000 to 1.5 million year old Arctic ice core sample ice?"

                      1. re: Kate is always hungry

                        Waiter: "Yes in fact we do, Miss. We price it at $0.05 per 1000 years of age, the best value in all of Manhattan."

                    3. Molecular gastronomy has picked up on this, with sous vide ice cubes and sparkling water foam. However, several sous chefs were severely burned preparing the deconstructed water (hydrogen plus oxygen, I think).

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: therealdoctorlew

                        < several sous chefs were severely burned preparing the deconstructed water>

                        This is so sad. They should let the professional (engineers and scientists) handle the reaction. Combing hydrogen and oxygen is a very violent reaction.

                        1. re: therealdoctorlew

                          Molecular gastronomist should be required to take a few chemistry and physics classes in culinary school! '-)

                        2. Even though P.T. Barnum never really said, "There's a sucker born every minute," he should have because that saying is sooooo "on the nose!"

                          Sometimes I think America and Japan are trying to outdo each other. The first "water bars" I ever heard of came at the height of the Japanese "Bubble Economy," when teensy weensy houses in Tokyo were a million bucks, and the banks of that country were offering 100 year mortgages, but only to couples with children with exceptionally high GPAs in school, and the kids were part of the "family package"... At that time, the most expensive water in Tokyo water bars was "Million Year Old Water" sold by the glass. It was water from icebergs calved from glaciers in the arctic, which were then towed to Japan by tug boats, melted down and sold. At ridiculous prices!

                          Air bars? As in air captured from all over the world? Anyone else remember Edward G. Robinson's scene in Soylent Green, where "for a price" he could be/was euthenased while watching pristine Alp scenery from a time past when there really was pristine Alp scenery? hmmm.. Can I order a canister of air burdened with the aroma of fresh lemon blossoms of my youth? How about the air that I breathed walking past a bakery in Munich? Hey, this idea has some possibilities! Or is there just some screenwriter out there writing a new Star Trek movie of an "Air and Water Bar" on a distant planet where Earthlings can get a taste of home?

                          Sounds a lot better to me than Earthlings in L.A. and N.Y.C. paying top bucks for such foolishness... <sigh>

                          I am SUCH a curmudgeon! '-)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Hold on a minute now. We did (do?) have O2 bars, remember?

                            1. re: DockPotato

                              Yeah. I've got a couple in my kitchen! One at the sink, one in the refrigerator door. What more can I need?

                              Oh. Wait a minute. This isn't about "needs," is it! '-)

                          2. A number of years ago we had the pleasure (DH's pocketbook wasn't pleased lol!) of having a wonderful dinner at 3 star Michelin La Pergola in Rome. They brought me a menu with no prices (my choice as I really didn't want to know) but gave me a water menu. Back then the cheapest was 10 Euro - I of course chose a wonderful water which tasted like........water.

                            1 Reply
                            1. Of course we are going to see this. Remember the derision of beer pairings 15 to 20 years ago?

                              The hospitality business is designed to separate customers from their cash. This is just another arrow in the quiver. And I am sure the storage costs for water are far less than humidity and temperature controlled spaces for wine, beer, and cigars.

                              And at only 45 pages, the water list has a long way to go to approach the wine menu at Berne's in Tampa.

                              1. Does all water taste the same to you? Not to me and I'm not talking just about bottled water. Living in NYC, we have pretty good tap water, but I've traveled enough to taste a lot of different water. Some of it is just "water" but some is pretty bad and others in comparison are much better. Despite the popular concept of water being tasteless (and perhaps true for distilled water), there is quite a bit of variety. I know I have a distinct preference for different mineral waters. If you think all water tastes the same, well there are some people who think all, beer, wine, vodka, etc. tastes the same. I still think a water tasting menu is silly though.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  no, it doesn't. In southwestern AZ, we have a blend of groundwater (which is good) and CAP water (piped in from the Colorado river, in open channels for hundreds of miles and is salty and gross). My workplace has well water. It's a world of difference. I save gallon iced tea botles and fill them with water from work, because my aquarium does much better with our local groundwater, and always has. I thnk it's hilarious that we have such a huge bottled water bill in my dept, because once the necessary chlorine is gone, the water tastes really, really good. And it's naturaly mildly fluoridated. The tap water at home has a minerally taste, even after the chlorine is filtered out, and I don't care for it. But I can drink it if I had to.

                                2. "is this for real?"

                                  Not so much. The Chicago place in question is an uber-pretentious restaurant called NEXT, which among other things totally "re-invents" itself a couple times a year (thereby garnering 3 or 4 times more publicity per year than other restaurants - clever.) They only do multi-course pairings dinners anyway. The "water pairings" menu isn't some special big deal, it's just the regular menu but without alcohol.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: chowyadoin99

                                    This whole post reminds me of the bottled water episode of Penn and Teller's, "Bullsh*t!"

                                    See link, and there's a NSFW language warning...
                                    www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHx6BX3HZJc‎

                                  2. I have to go with BKeats on this one, especially when recalling the water I drank in scenic downtown Newark some decades ago. Whatever they used for water treatment definitely lent its own insouciance (lol) to the meal. And of course we all know the taste differences among branded waters. Some of the European ones are god-awful. I'd pay THEM to avoid it. I like many city waters, and my local one is terrific.

                                    The taste of a local water can make a big difference in the food, too. Who wants pasta or rice cooked in lousy water? Who wants a stock made from it? Some restaurants use filtered water to cook with if they live in a stinky water locale. So I don't believe it's a waste of money to pair a water with your meal at all.

                                    We rarely go out to eat; however, it's usually for Indian, Chinese, Mexican, etc., with flavors strong enough to override subtle differences in water flavors. At home, even my "plain" food, such as pot roasts, stews, chili, etc., are seriously flavorful. The garlic in my standard spaghetti and meatball sauce probably sterilizes it, too, so pairing the water with it would be silly.

                                    CindyJ, do you know what type of food is served at that restaurant? Is it subtle enough that water flavor would make a difference?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: hopeh

                                      <Who wants pasta or rice cooked in lousy water? Who wants a stock made from it?>

                                      Yes, but these are not arguments for the topic. Who wants lousy salt anyway, but do you need a 75-pages for the salt selection for your meal.

                                      Chef, please use the sun dried salt from Saudi Arabia for my pasta, and my wife here would like her lamb to be cooked in the mined salt from Mongolia.

                                      That is the point here, not that we cannot taste difference in different water.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        CK, I was responding to the question raised about if it was b.s. or not, and if it was kind of silly or useless. It has a use, imo, because waters taste different, just as wines do, theoretically making for good/poor pairings. Thus my reply was on-topic. I've never done it since that kind of restaurant doesn't appeal to me, even if I could afford it. Also, I know there are people who say they can taste the difference between salts, but I can't, to respond to the rest of what you wrote.

                                        1. re: hopeh

                                          My understanding is that we know water can taste differently based in the impurities in it. This is a major reason why people buy water filter.

                                          As for salt, I know you can taste the difference. There may not be a huge difference between the sea salt you buy from supermarket and the table salt are very similar and you will unlikely to tell the difference. However, different mineral salt will taste different to you because of the impurities in them -- just like water.

                                          http://www.theodoregray.com/periodict...

                                          Same thing for sure. Most of us can taste the difference between white cane sugar vs brown cane sugar vs HFCS vs honey vs ....etc.

                                      2. re: hopeh

                                        I'm not personally familiar with the restaurant, which, as chowyadoin99 says above, is a place called Next. A quick look at their website reveals nothing of the food content of the menu; all it says is, "The current menu is the Bocuse d'Or. The menu runs until the end of December 2013."

                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                          LOL that's exactly the kind of place it is! "You want to know what you're going to be served? How plebian!"

                                          1. re: chowyadoin99

                                            If the price of the meal doesn't exceed the price of a round trip fare to Paris, a Bocuse d'Or menu could be a real gem! ...If you like "small plates" dining, of course. '-)

                                      3. I prefer a dryer water, with a very subtle and dry finish.

                                        1. Retarded people have to eat, too.

                                          1. Want a wine pairing? That'll be $191 dollars.

                                            Want a water pairing? That'll be $191 dollars.

                                            FRICKING BRILLIANT!!!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: shezmu

                                              John 2: 7-9
                                              7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
                                              8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so,
                                              9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.

                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                And if you keep filling and refilling unglazed clay jars with wine, in time you too can do that! Unglazed clay is the secret.

                                            2. Shite- I'm just glad if the tap water doesn't taste like it came from an indoor swimming pool. We use a water service at home, but we go get the water in order to avoid the horrendous delivery fees.
                                              But I don't think I would ever go to a place that had the yarbles to announce a water pairing with its meals. I understand completely that a lot of people don't want to drink alcohol, but this just seems like smoke and mirrors and giving the people an alternative scenario in case they really, really miss the alcohol-centric rituals.

                                              6 Replies
                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                      Not if he's talking coconut water! '-)

                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    Well, one of the great mysteries of my lifetime is Perrier water... I first began drinking it in the late '50s, and the darling little artisian well in France whence the water came was being pushed full bore to bottle all that could possibly be captured. It wasn't much. Wasn't available much beyond Europe, if even beyond France. Yet today that poor little natural artisian well produces a quantity of water to fill the Pacific Ocean! How did they do that???????

                                                    There is also one water-of-yore that I do miss. It was called Calso Water, was a natural mineral water, somewhat tingly (as in naturally carbonated) as I recall. To the best of my knowledge, it's no longer bottled. And yup... I'd pay a fairly hefty tag for just one more bottle of that! Perrier? Well, it comes in a damned cute bottle! '-)

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      >>> Perrier? Well, it comes in a damned cute bottle! '-) <<<

                                                      And therein lies the secret of "designer" bottled water's success! It's 99.9% packaging and .1% content.