When Table Wine’s NOT What’s on the Table!
Sometimes an unexpected beverage is better than the usual vino.
Cognac and Chinese Banquets
While wine and beer are often the felicitous accompaniments for Chinese food, a classic banquet beverage is Cognac, that elite grape distillate from France, and a status symbol around the world. The bottles sit right on the table, and the brandy is consumed straight. Kampai!
Guinness and Oysters
Wonderful seafood is to be found in Ireland, and myMEGusta’s favorite bivalve, the oyster, is there in force. She was delighted to taste them in a new way, with a drop of stout in lieu of her usual squeeze of lemon. You can try this anywhere, or just enjoy with your usual lemon wedge and a glass of Guinness to wash it down.
Foie Gras and Sauternes
Sipping wine with food is nothing new, but most folks don’t know that Sauternes, the rare, very sweet white from Bordeaux, is the classic accompaniment for foie gras, fattened goose or duck liver, which arrives as a cold terrine or as a perfectly seared slab. The wine’s slight acidity and elegant sweetness are the perfect foils for the intense flavors of the liver. The best in New York City is to be found at Le Perigord on East 52 Street (www.leperigord.com) and at Petrossian on 7th Ave/58 Street (www.petrossian.com) .
Calvados, Le Trou Normand
There was a time when formal banquets commonly went on for course after course, and not necessarily in the portions or sequence one might expect in a tasting menu at a place like The French Laundry today. They still exist, mostly in the world of gourmet societies, but one vestige of these feasts is what’s commonly called a “palate cleanser”, originally a tiny taste of something sprightly to wake up and prepare one’s taste buds for the next course.
The Trou Normand, or Norman Nail, was a favorite among French hosts, literally a small shot of the exquisite apple brandy from Normandy called Calvados, garnished with a spoonful of apple sorbet, a welcome treat amidst courses like fish in a cream sauce and rack of lamb. A variation is a tiny bite of sorbet, never excessively sweet, just a zippy taste, floating in a related spirit (for example, pear sorbet in Poire William Eau de Vie). Alas, the custom is no longer so necessary, now that dishes tend to be lighter (in richness and in size), but some pretentious places pass out little ice cream cones filled with commercial dessert sorbets between appetizers and main courses, a waste of calories and sorbet which could be a nice “extra” before the dessert arrives.
Margaritas! Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Actually, this cocktail has become ubiquitous. It is wildly popular with Mexican food and is one of myMEGusta’s favorite exceptions to enjoying wine with a meal. That said, it doesn’t happen very often when dining out, only at the best Mexican restaurants where Margaritas are made the traditional way: lime juice, Triple Sec and Tequila, or some variant thereof, never using the vile sweet and sour mix which transforms a Margarita to a dull foo foo drink, particularly when extruded from a slushee machine.
Readers! Any other unusual beverage pairings you can share?