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Food And Drink Pairings

There is no surer way to take a meal from excellent to outstanding than to add the right drink. While food and beverage pairings can be highly personal, some foods lend themselves well to particular drinks. Traditionally, wine and food pairings have been the topic of much discussion but with the explosion of craft breweries in recent years, beer and food pairings are also getting attention. Of course, your taste will dictate which pairings are right for you but keep reading for some suggestions to get you started.

Wine and food pairings

When deciding how to pair food and wines, acidity and strength both play key factors. Ideally you'd want the level of acid in both the meal and the drink to be comparable. Neither one should overpower the other. The chart below reviews some common pairings that are traditional favorites.

Beverage

Ideal Food Pairs

Why They Pair Well

Champagne

champagne

Salty foods

oysters

The light and slightly sweet taste of champagne balances out the salt.

Pinot Grigio

pinot-grigio

Light fish dishes

light-fish

The flavor of this light white wine complements, rather than overwhelms, fish.

Chardonnay

chardonnay

Pasta and cream sauces

pasta

The crisp, clean taste of Chardonnay lends itself well to practically any pairing.



Pinot Noir

 pinot-noir

Earthy dishes

earthy-food

Pinot Noir is a light red which goes well with robust flavors.

Merlot

 merlot

Beef and lamb

steak

This deep red wine has a complex flavor that works well with rich meats.

Cabernet Sauvignon

cabernet sauvignon

Wild game

wild-game

As a full-bodied red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon works well with richly flavored foods.

Beer and food pairings

Like wine and food pairings, the common practice is to match the strength of a dish with the strength of a beer. However, you still want to have some contrast in both elements. For example, a beer with some bitterness will nicely offset a sweet dish.

Beverage

Ideal Food Pairs

Why They Pair Well

Stout/Porter

stout

Smoked and barbecued foods

smoked-barbecue

Stouts and porters are heavy beers that work best with rich and bold flavors.

Lager

lager

Mexican food

mexican-food

The light, clean flavor of a lager cuts through the spice of many Mexican dishes.

IPA

IPA

Pork

pulled-pork

The hoppy flavor of an IPA balances nicely with the fat in pork.

Pale Ale

pale-ale

Burgers

burgers

Pale ales have a robust flavor and medium weight that pairs well with grilled foods.

Hefeweizen

hefeweizen

Soups and salads

soup-and-salad

Wheat beer has the right body and flavor to complement light meals and vegetarian dishes.

Red Ale

red-ale

Stews

stew

Red ales have a strong flavor that is best paired with hearty foods.

While wine and beer pairings are the most common, cocktail and food pairings are gaining attention. Some restaurants offer food pairings that have been designed to be eaten with high-end liquors such as whiskey or tequila, served on their own or over ice. What's more, pairing non-alcoholic drinks is becoming more prominent as homemade sodas gain popularity.

If you're ready to move beyond eating outstanding food and drink pairings and ready to start creating them, you may want to consider a career as a chef, bartender or restaurateur. To learn more, contact the schools below for information on their culinary programs.

Sources:

  • 15 Rules for Great Food and Wine Pairings, Food & Wine, http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/15-rules-for-great-wine-and-food-pairings
  • Wine pairings 101, Sunset, http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/wine-pairings/wine-pairing-101
  • Beer and food pairing, Epicurious, http://www.epicurious.com/archive/drinking/beer/beerpairings
  • Beer Styles, Craft Beer, http://www.craftbeer.com/styles/blonde-ale

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