Sunday, January 23, 2011


There are several ways to approach the wine and food pairings, whether doing it is at a restaurant or to enjoy the proper wine with your dinner at home. The first step is to decide on the food to be served. At the Inn, I always start with the food. It is much easier for our wine expert and me to match wine to food than food to the wine. If you will be doing multiple courses, make sure to start with lighter flavors and work your way up to bigger, bolder flavors, then end with sweet dessert. The wines will progress the same way and the flavors from the earlier foods and wines will not overpower the following courses.

Once you have the foods decided upon, now comes the tricky part of matching the wines. Of course, the most important choice is to make sure to drink what you like. If you prefer a particular wine regardless of the food you are eating, by all means drink that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking a light white wine while eating a steak, just as there is never an issue with drinking a big cabernet sauvignon with a piece of light fish. What matters most is that you like how your wine tastes. However, to make every bite count, by matching the flavors and characteristics of the wine to the flavors of the foods, I think that you can more fully enjoy how certain wines pair with some foods.

Now that you have decided to try to match wines to your foods, the most basic guideline to follow is light foods go with light wine and heavy foods go with heavy wines. But you must also keep in mind the accompanying ingredients. For example, a Sauvignon Blanc goes very nicely with a piece of fish with a light sauce. However, if you were to add tomatoes and a rich lobster stock to the sauce, a medium bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir will actually be a great choice. The old rule of white with fish and red with meat is a great place to start, but do keep in might what else will be on the fish or meat.

If you are going to do a spicy dish, this will certainly determine what type of wine you choose. Certain wines more perfectly complement the spiciness of certain dishes, just as the spiciness can bring out the good (or bad) flavors of the wine. A slightly sweet Riesling or Gew├╝rztraminer is a very good choice for spicy foods.

The best way to find the best pairing for your food is to do a little internet research. There are hundreds of websites that can guide you to the right match. Simply Google the name of the dish and add “wine pairing” and you should have several hundred links to choose from for a suitable wine choice.

If you are planning a special dinner, another option is to test the dish beforehand with two or more wines. Yes, this can be time consuming or costly, but you get to sample wines and make sure you know how to prepare the dish before the big dinner. Sounds good to me! Make sure to taste each wine without the food first, then, taste each one after taking a couple of bites. See how the flavors all come together (or not, if they are the wrong choices).

Now, if you already have a special bottle of wine, you can always match a food with that. The bottle may have some basic suggestions. If not or if not enough information is provided, go to the winery’s website and look up that wine. There will probably be some more detailed suggestions on what to have with the wine. The next step is Google the name of the wine and add “food match”. There should be plenty of links to follow.

Remember- wine and foods go great together, so do not get too intimidated with finding the perfect wine to drink with your meal. Focus on flavors and characteristics of the foods, do some research, ask questions at the wine store or even call a Chef. I have taken many phone calls and emails from family, friends and strangers asking for advice on what to drink with a particular dish or what to eat with a particular wine.

With all of the wines out there to choose from, it can be somewhat daunting, but drink what you like, like what you drink and make every bite count.

Poached Pears with Spicy Honeyed Vermouth Syrup
This dessert is very easy to prepare, looks fancy and difficult and matches very nicely with a sweet dessert wine like a sauterne or late harvest Riesling.

6 servings
1 bottle dry white vermouth
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 pears, preferably Bosc

In a sauce pan deep enough to hold the pears, add all ingredients except pears. Bring to a boil, then, turn to low simmer.

Peel pears, leaving whole with stems intact and cut out core. A melon baller works best to core from the wide, bottom end for this.

Put pears into pot, turn up heat slightly, cover and cook pears until soft enough to easily pierce thickest part with a knife, approximately 20-25 minutes. You can do the pears in batches if needed.

Remove pears from syrup to cool.

Once all pears are cooked, reduce liquid uncovered until it is a thick golden syrup. Let cool.

To serve, place one pear on dessert plate, drizzle with some of the syrup. Garnish with mint and some unsweetened whipped cream. Serve with your favorite dessert wine and enjoy.

Orlo Coots is Head Chef at Adair Country Inn and Restaurant. Enjoy his cooking Thursday through Monday. (603) 444-2600. Orlo can be reached at for any questions about this recipe or any other food-related questions you may have. Remember- whether cooking for 1 or for a crowd, make every bite count.

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