The Most Important Rule of Food and Drink Pairing
The most important thing to know when it comes to food and beverage pairing is that if you like it, it's a good match for you. Food and beverage pairing, like most aspects of consumption, is totally subjective and differs from person to person. Many of us have been made to believe that only certain beverages are appropriate with certain foods, and this has been especially true as far as wine is concerned. It is now more commonly recognized, however, that every person's tastes are different and that there is no right or wrong when it comes to this topic.
Pairing Food and Wine
When there is mention of food and beverage pairing, wine is probably the beverage that comes to mind first. Wine has been paired with foods for centuries and is inarguably one of the finest complements to a meal. What is arguable, however, is which wines are best with which foods. There are classic pairings that most would agree were made for each other and which, when put together, seem to bring both components to new heights--seared foie gras with Sauternes and raw oysters with Chablis. Drinking Sauternes with your oysters and Chablis with your foie gras is no less correct, however, if that is what you prefer. Wine experts agree that all wines have underlying flavors and aromas ranging anywhere from strawberries to wet soil and it is often easier to pair a wine with a food if you have some knowledge of these flavors and what complements them.
Pairing Food and Beer
Beer is another beverage that goes very well with many foods. It is produced in so many different styles with flavors that range from light and fruity to rich and complex that it is often better suited to certain foods than wine. A thick cut of steak, for example, pairs beautifully with a rich, dry stout. Sushi is perfectly complemented by light Japanese style beers and amber beers offer great relief and flavor balance with spicy foods. Even a thick, malty beer can offer an original and delicious accompaniment to dessert.
Pairing Food and Cocktails
Cocktails have gained stature in the culinary world recently and bar tenders and mixologists are often influenced by food flavor combinations when creating innovative, new cocktails. The latest trend is in creating cocktails that are specifically designed to pair well with certain foods. There are some classic cocktails that include savory foods such as olives, onions, and tomato juice. Today we find cocktails flavored with more unusual ingredients such as fragrant herbs, chili peppers, pickled vegetables, and jasmine. It is not uncommon to see restaurants featuring multi-course meals with cocktails pairings instead of wine. Some restaurants also offer food pairings that have been designed to be eaten with high end liquors such as whisky or tequila, served on their own or over ice.
Non-alcoholic beverage choices are abundant today and extend far beyond the limited choices of the past. Homemade sodas are infused with creative flavorings like herbs and spices, lemonades and teas are made with fruits and herbs, and many non-alcoholic versions of creative new cocktails are offered and are delicious when paired with food.