Wine, Spirits, Beer and Food Pairing
A Complement to Any Meal
by Ellen Hiatt
A dash of this and a little of that — the meal is perfected. But what will you serve with it? The best advice from local sommelier and wine shop owner Mina Williams is to appreciate the foods you favor, ask for advice if you want it, and drink what you enjoy.
No meal has been ruined by a host or hostess serving an ‘improper’ bottle, said Williams, owner of Blanc & Rouge wine shop in Snohomish and a nationally published food and wine journalist.
PAIRING WITH WINES
King Lake Cellars’ Danielle St. Pierre says pairing food with wine doesn’t have to be too complicated. It can be for “every day food. If you want to sit outside and drink wine and eat chips you can do that. A Sauvignon Blanc can be herbal or citrus and pair very nicely with chips and salsa.”
She enjoys a Cabernet or a Syrah with spicy foods like jalapeños.
I like big red wines with really spicy foods. It brings the fruit forward, St. Pierre said.
For spicy Asian food, sommelier Williams might pair a slightly sweet Riesling or a GewÜztraminer to tame the spice. White wines pair best with lighter meats such as fish or chicken. But a silky salmon or a buttery sauced dish calls for a “silky white wine, like a California Chardonnay,” she said.
The key is to complement the flavors. St. Pierre and her husband and wine maker Khaled “Cal” Shawish paired popcorn with the winery’s blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre (GSM). Their GSM is a big, bold, spicy wine with floral overtones. The popcorn, dressed up with rosemary and parmesan and a second truffle oil version, could translate to spaghetti and meatballs with herbs, or a truffle risotto. Bigger and bolder wines balance the bolder flavors of dark meats, the earthiness of mushrooms and punchiness of strong winter dishes replete with herbs like rosemary and sage.
The capable team at The Cottage at Bothell serves up a Cuvée B Alleromb red blend with a very bold serving of vegetarian green curry kofta. “I am a hard carnivore, but I order these,” bartender Erik Etzkorn said. A lighter wine wouldn’t hold up to the power and strength of the kofta, which ultimately brings the fruit forward from the wine.
Of course there’s a science behind the pairing: the tannins more abundant in red wines soften the fats, which in turn, releases flavors from the meat and, in turn, release the fruitiness of the wine. The acidity of white wines reduces seafood’s “fishy” smell by turning volatile amines into ammonium salt.
The Cottage Chef Mark Kerkstra serves up more than 140 French toast croissants with berries every weekend. The highly popular dish pairs beautifully with a seasonal Sidecar, made of Clear Creek apple brandy with peach puree, lemon juice and simple syrup. The acidity of the drink pairs with the sweetness of the decadent French toast. “It’s a yin and yang,” said Kerkstra. “The acidity cuts the sweetness.”
Yin and Yang is a perfect way to think of pairing options for spirits with your meal. Lemonade, after all, is made with acidic lemons and sweet sugar — both are too much alone, but a match made in heaven together.
The Cadboro Chocolate Whisky of Everett’s James Bay Distillers is a sipping whiskey. Imagine that matched up with any chocolate dessert, stirred into your hot cocoa, or used as a key ingredient in a tiramisu or a trifle. James Bay’s Lochside Summer Gin No. 5 is made with orange blossoms and kumquats among the botanicals and makes an “unreasonably good” creamsicle style drink served with Fanta and a little light cream — or, as proprietor Ernie Troth likes to say, a “Ginsicle.” Those citrus notes also benefit any dessert with a candied garnish or a creme brûlée made with an orange base instead of vanilla.
Bluewater Organic Distilling also serves their Navigator Martini with a smoked salmon chowder.
It’s filling. It’s flavorful and it’s super Northwest, said Master Distiller and proprietor John Lundin.
The spirit-forward nature and bitters of their martini cocktail — complex and slightly less dry than other martinis — cuts through the rich heartiness of the chowder. And, as Executive Chef Bryanna Mateo notes, “A martini is always good with food or by itself.”
“Wine can’t do it and beer can’t do it,” said Lundin. “There’s nothing you can drink like a dry martini that is so concise. It is so potent to clear a palate — it lets you enjoy the food.” Kim Karrick of Scratch Distillery in Edmonds says gin is a natural with fish. For an upscale appetizer, she would pair a gin gimlet with Salt ‘n Pepper Kettle Chips laid out with a dollop of creme fraiche on each large chip, and a small dollop of caviar. “The herbal notes of this gin, and the tartness of the fresh citrus help cut through the salt and richness of this fun appetizer,” she said. The Waiting Room cocktail, made with whiskey, orange liqueur, black walnut liqueur and coffee has “tons of layers — what else could stand up to the complexity better than steak and bleu cheese?” Karrick asks.
Like the wines, a Chardonnay isn’t just a Chardonnay, and a Gin isn’t just a Gin. The botanicals used by the distiller shape the flavor profile and how you might consider a cocktail that ties into what’s on your plate.fresh citrus help cut through the salt and richness of this fun appetizer,” she said. The Waiting Room cocktail, made with whiskey, orange liqueur, black walnut liqueur and coffee has “tons of layers — what else could stand up to the complexity better than steak and bleu cheese?” Karrick asks.
The humble beer — so much less complicated than complex cocktails and fussy wines.
Haywire Brewing Company in Snohomish has 15 of their own beer on tap with a regular rotation. Wonder what goes great with their beer? About three days of every week you can find out by visiting, while one of a half-dozen rotating food trucks is on-site serving anything from tacos to poke, to pork- stuffed Cubano sandwiches.
“In the winter, we do more beers aged in bourbon barrels,” said owner and nano brewer Bryant Castle. “Bigger beers go with heavier meals, like barbecue and pizza. Our hazy is a more citrusy IPA that pairs very well with fish tacos or poke.”
Similar to wine or spirits pairing, lighter fare of fish and white meats are complemented by lighter, more citrusy flavors in the drink.
At The Cottage, Operations Manager Madison Wean coordinates every menu item, from the bar to the kitchen, with her team. She recommends the Foggy Noggin’ Old English Ale with their Wagyu beef burger with onion jam and arugula. The richness and complexity of the meal is complemented by the hearty ale.
In short, eat what makes you feel good, drink what you like, and when you want to elevate the experience, think about the yin and yang of pairing your victuals with your libations — whether it’s a martini, a glass of wine or a mug of beer — and enjoy the experience anew.
Haywire Brewing Company in Snohomish