The Art (or Science) of Wine and Food Pairing

Hosting a dinner party or making a special meal for a loved one can be a daunting task.  However, picking the perfect wine to pair with your meal doesn’t have to be difficult. There are two different schools of thought when it comes to food and wine pairing. A more subjective approach with general guidelines like serving red wine with meat and white with fish, dominated pairing recommendations for years. Recently, a new science-based approach proposed by Sommelier Francois Chartier and Chef Ferran Adria suggests that aromatic molecules act as sensory bridges and determine which foods and wines taste well together.

The simplest tip that subjectivists offer is “don’t drink wine you don’t like.”  But to move beyond that, it is important to recognize the structure, texture and flavor of both the food and the wine. Structure has to do with the sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, or acidity of the food and wine. The sweetness and the acidity are the most important as they interact with the sugar in food and change the taste of the wine. Texture refers to the weight of the food or wine and how it feels (ex. creamy, smooth) in your mouth. Light wines like Pinot Grigio go with light food like fish, and heavier wines like Merlot go with heavier dishes like steak. Flavor may be the most subjective part. Try to pick wines that complement your dish but don’t overpower it. Picking complementary or neutral wines is easier than picking contrasting flavors, although it can lead to a pleasurable result if done correctly!

It is also important to keep in mind the fat content of the food you are serving. The acidity of the wine should balance the dish or cut through the fat to taste pleasant. When serving wine with dessert, it should be sweeter than the dessert or the dish will taste bitter.

Another aspect of having a perfect wine pairing is ensuring that the wine is chilled to the proper temperature. Lighter wines taste better chilled, while heavier wines are better close to room temperature. It is also a good rule of thumb to serve simple wines with complicated dishes and vice-versa. The flavors and aromatics should not be overwhelming.

Research on aromatic molecular structure has influenced many nontraditional wine and food pairings like Riesling, rosemary and lamb. According to Chartier, who published a book Taste Buds and Molecules, foods and wines that share the same aromatic families will go well together. This groundbreaking approach rejects subjectivity and is beginning to change how sommeliers and chefs think about wine. Adria is opening the El Bulli Foundation in 2014 to further research aromatic synergies and how they affect our taste buds.

I think that no matter what it is important to drink wines that you like. Finding the perfect pairing requires a lot of trial and error. For someone on a budget like me, I think sticking with what you like is a good plan. However, that won’t stop me from trying new pairings recommended by professional sommeliers whenever I get a chance to eat out!

These Boston restaurants may be out of my price range, but they are definitely on my wishlist!

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And if you have extra wine (yeah right!), you can use it to make this delicious spaghetti squash with garlic white wine sauce!

Live Blog: TED Talk “Why 30 is not the new 20”

Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development, begins her TED Talk on taking your 20s seriously.

-There are 50 million twenty-somethings in the US right now.

-Your 20s are an important period in your life- 80% of life’s most defining moments take place by age 35.

-“Claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, but most transformative things you can do.”

-Although society and journalists tend to trivialize this period of life, it is an important period of adult development and crucial for your happiness later in life.

-Putting off career plans and wasting time with relationships can lead to a crisis as your 30s approach and your friends begin to settle down. Preparing and planning in your 20s can alleviate stress and help you get a good career and have a happy marriage.

-Jay lists three things that every twenty-something deserves to hear:

1) Don’t worry about identity crises and focus on building identity capital. Invest in yourself and have experiences and build skills that will add value to who you are.

2) Explore your weak ties and take advantage of them. Step outside of your established network and get to know new people, it may lead to new opportunities.

3) It is time to start picking your family. Be as intentional with love as you are with work.

-“Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.”

Halloween Wine: A Trick or a Treat?

Spoiler alert: I hate Halloween. I jump when people sneeze loudly, never mind when zombies with chainsaws deliberately try and frighten you.  Once when I was forced to go on a haunted hayride I hid under a blanket in the fetal position so no one could try and scare me.

Even though it’s not my favorite holiday, my friends still insisted on celebrating this year. When we went to the liquor store, I went straight to the wine section where I saw this:

zombie zinfandel

Zombie Zinfandel. As one of those people who will only eat pumpkin in October and November and peppermint in December, how could I pass up the opportunity to drink Halloween wine on Halloween?

However, this apparent treat soon became a trick. Perhaps if I wasn’t so excited and had read the label a little bit closer, I wouldn’t have made an impulse buy.

zombie zin

First of all, I hate blackberries. And combining them with Zinfandel grapes, cedar and black pepper is not a winning flavor profile in my mind. But of course, I did not look at the back label until after I had already poured myself a glass and tasted it for myself.

Sadly, it was more of a trick than a treat. Although the blackberries made the wine a deep blood-red color, I did not appreciate the acidity and sourness that they brought to the wine. I made my friends (who are fellow wine-lovers) try it and they agreed. Too sour and not drinkable was the general consensus. I did not finish my glass and no one wanted my leftovers.

Now I know to be more cautious with seasonally-labeled wine. Although I was a victim of a cruel trick this year, I will be sure to be vigilant in the future and actually put the knowledge I have about reading wine labels to work!

How to Have the Perfect Wine Night In

Let’s face it, going out can be overrated. Fall has arrived in New England and as the cold weather sets in, sometimes staying home in sweatpants can be more attractive than getting dressed up and paying for expensive drinks. Here are some tips for how to have the perfect night in.

moscato1

 

Every good night starts with the perfect bottle of wine. I am personally fond of the Barefoot brand because of its low price and light and sweet taste. It was recommended to me by a friend’s mother who owns an upscale restaurant and selects the wine for their menu. This moscato is one of my favorites and perfect for a quiet night at home.

chick flicks

 

Chick flicks with attractive men are also necessary for a night in. Any rom-com with Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling or Joseph Gordon-Levitt works for me, but every once in a while it’s nice to have a good cry and watch Titanic too!

brownies

 

Who could have a movie night without excessive amounts of chocolate? Snacks are a definite must for any relaxing evening at home. Although baked goods are my favorite, popcorn, guacamole and ice cream are all crowd-pleasing options that are great for any gathering.

mood lighting

 

Of course, it is very important to set the mood with lighting. No one likes to watch movies with the lights on and a strand of Christmas lights provide just enough light to prevent injuring yourself in the dark without distracting from the movie. I also love my Scentsy candle since it is fire-safe and makes my apartment smell inviting. In my opinion, there is nothing like the smell of fresh-baked cookies and vanilla to help you relax after a long week.

relaxing

Finally, it is time to put on your yoga pants, pour yourself a glass of wine, hit play on the movie and put up your feet and relax! There is nothing like a quiet night at home to help you refresh and recover from a long week.