When challenged to match wines with difficult flavors, I tend to think Italian. That is unconventional, perhaps, as most people would look for wines on the sweeter side to tame spice or bitterness. But I find that Italian wines are amazingly food-friendly, and their acidity is more than a match for most foods.
For the first-course salad in chef Michael Friedman’s bitter-themed dinner (see recipes, Page E6), the safe approach would be to stick with Fiola bar manager Jeff Faile’s Negroni cocktail. But the bitter greens and vinaigrette ingredients — especially the orange and anchovy — suggest Sicily and the wines of Planeta. This leading producer crafts an excellent rosé and a lovely white called Cometa, made entirely of fiano grapes, that will conjure visions of the Mediterranean.
For the main course of short ribs with polenta and escarole, a fizzy lambrusco from Emiglia-Romagna should tame the heat of the dish’s peppers and the acidity of its tomatoes. Try the excellent Fiorini Becco Rosso Gasparossa 2011, best when slightly chilled.
The chocolate budino gives lots of options for a sweet ending. If you’re up for another fizzy red, try the Fracchia Antichi Giochi Piemontesi Casorzo 2011 (also best chilled). A moscato d’Asti, such as the Annalisa I recommend in today’s column, would bring out the red-berry notes in the bittersweet chocolate and dance a tarantella with the grapefruit. If you don’t want another bubbly, try a more serious vin santo, such as the Val D’Arbia 2004 by Altesino.
More from Food:
Bitter Greens With Shaved Radish, Orange, Almonds and Anchovy Vinaigrette
Bittersweet Chocolate Budino With Grapefruit Cream and Espresso Crumbs
The Negroni d’Amore
Tomato-Braised Short Ribs With Polenta and Escarole