Book Report: For food and wine pairings that exceed the ordinary
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A wine distributor I follow on Twitter recently pleaded, "Can we please toss out all the wine and food pairing 'rules' once and for all?"
The general ones, maybe. But surely not the guidelines in Evan Goldstein's new cookbook, "Daring Pairings: A Master Sommelier Matches Distinctive Wines With Recipes From His Favorite Chefs" (University of California Press, 2010; $34.95). The California wine educator and former sommelier has one-upped his own 2006 "Perfect Pairings" by concentrating on wines from 36 lesser-known grape varieties. The recipes they are paired with come from an impressive chef crowd that includes Suzanne Goin, Frank Stitt, Charlie Trotter, Dan Barber, Emily Luchetti, Susan Spicer and Nate Appleman.
The wines are what people are drinking more of these days: gruner veltiner, torrontes, tempranillo. Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre has written about most of them in the past few years, and, by all rights if not sheer osmosis, an editor of average intellect should have learned a thing or two about pairing them with dishes more specific than "grilled seafood."
And yet, I admit the lessons haven't stuck. Goldstein's have the potential to do so, in part because of redundancy and cross-referencing in each chapter. Take mourvedre: It can be a full-bodied dry red or a medium-bodied dry rosé. The author lists dishes and flavors it can complement in either capacity. (Red: beef carpaccio with a heavy dose of cracked black pepper. Rosé: turkey kebabs with caramelized sage onions.) And then he explains the many ways the wine does not work: by itself, with most white meat, with sauces that are mildly sweet, tart or hot.
There's a lot to take in, and the recipes are suitable for intermediate to advanced cooks. As it happens, that slice of the population usually is up for a challenge.