Exploring Foods And Drinks That Were Made For Each other
As all foodies know, certain food/drink combinations are a match made in heaven: wine and cheese, beer and pretzels, chocolate and just about anything. I would like to explore some of the lesser known -but still perfect – food and drink combinations, with an emphasis on the vegan pairings I love.
Coffee And Fruit
We’ll start out with a “softer” pairing involving coffee. Of course, coffee pairs well with breakfast foods (especially breakfast pastries) since it is so often consumed at breakfast. But did you know it can also pair well with fruit? Tart fruits like lemons, grapefruits, and granny smith apples, for instance, are known to make the perfect match for a dark-roasted coffee, such as Costa Rican and Brazilian blends.
Stone fruits (fruits that have a pit, like apricots, peaches, and plumbs) are known to pair well with Haitian and Tanzanian coffees. These mellower, lower, acid coffees pair well with mellower fruits. And if you’ve never paired blueberries with a smooth Jamaica coffee, do so ASAP and thank me later.
From tea and crumpets to tea and cakes, the time-honored tradition of British “high tea” is very well known. But tea doesn’t have to be paired with light snacks—it can also make a great accompaniment to a full meal. For example, tea holds a very important place in Chinese culture and almost always accompanies dim sum, the delicious assortment of savory small plates often served as a weekend brunch.
Like so many of the other drinks on this list, different teas pair better with different dishes. As a vegan, I usually go with green tea, because its light, earthy flavor pairs well with vegetables and lighter proteins. Some of the more omnivorous chefs I know swear by a robust black tea as an accompaniment for red meats like beef and lamb. The softer white teas pair well with sweet desserts. And remember, if it’s too hot for a steaming cup of tea, the iced versions of the teas mentioned above make for great pairings too.
Arguably, no drink is better known for its pairing properties than wine. After all, many restaurants employ special staff members (sommeliers) whose job is to play matchmaker between the food and wine menu. So, what are the best pairings? Conventional wisdom holds that red wines are better matches for heavy proteins, while white wine better accompanies lighter fare, like fish, chicken and vegetables. This is a helpful guideline, but it is certainly not an unbreakable law. For example, tuna – which eats more like a steak than a fish – makes an excellent pairing for a cabernet. Likewise, a nutty, rich Riesling (a German white wine) is said to pair well with steaks.
What are my favorite pairings? As a vegan, I am always looking for great wines to pair with fruits and vegetables. I love the combination of salad and Rose (a light pink wine). To me, nothing says summer like this crisp, refreshing flavor combination. I also love the combination of strong Port wine with a rich fruit pie or tart. And here is a pro tip from someone who has been pairing good food with delicious wine for quite some time now: you can rarely go wrong pairing food and wine that comes from the same region: pasta with Chianti, Bordeaux with a rich confit, Spanish tapas with a bold Rioja…you get the idea. After all, the inhabitants of these regions have been making these pairings for centuries.
I have a special place in my heart for Josh Cellars Wine.
The craft beer boom has unlocked beer’s pairing potential in a big way, to the point where it’s almost become as versatile a companion as wine. I’ve been lowkey obsessed with sour beers (a super tart Belgian style) lately and find that they pair really well with root vegetables. It helps that I at least feel healthier when I am eating a fresh beet salad with my pint of beer. I also love to drink a crisp lager when I am eating spicy food. The spice – say of a well-cooked curry – helps bring out the flavor of the beer, while the cold lager helps douse the heat. It’s a true win-win.
There are, of course, many types of beer and many ways to pair them. A general rule of thumb: stronger, more robust beers tend to pair better with richer foods. This is why stouts and porters are so often paired with rich desserts. Likewise, a robust dark lager makes the perfect accompaniment for a thick stew. I urge you to experiment with different combinations until you find the perfect match for you. Since beer is generally cheaper than wine, you should have more pairings to play around with. And you can always fall back on the classic pairing: buffalo wings (or cauliflower wings, in my case) and an ice-cold domestic!
Food Pairings With Liquor
Hard liquor can also be paired with the food, though you have to be careful, as strong alcohol has a tendency to overpower other flavors (plus, a strong buzz tends to dull your senses, including taste and smell). The best food and liquor pairings help refine the taste of the drink. For my over 21 readers, here is a fun game you can play at home: take a sip of your favorite bourbon, bite into a quality piece of chocolate, then take another sip. You’ll find that the flavor profile of the bourbon has changed, with those sweet cloying notes coming through stronger. This is why bourbon pairs so well with desserts. In fact, you’ve probably had desserts with “bourbon” listed somewhere in the ingredients, if not the title.
I am also a big tequila fan, and find that it pairs exceptionally well with Mexican food (this should come as no surprise, since the drink comes from Mexico). Tacos and tequila is a favorite combination of mine, though overdoing it almost always leads to a night full of bad decisions for yours truly. Some other favorite food and liquor pairings of mine include rum and coconut (you’ve probably seen coconut flavored rum, why not try the real thing?), gin and berries, and vodka with pickles. Gosh, now I sound like a lush. As always, drink responsibly.
Find Your Own Match Made In Heaven
We’ve covered a lot of great pairings, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. As all of my regular readers know, I encourage people to find the foods and drinks that resonate with them. So, use this list as a guide, but feel free to experiment until you find the pairings that work for you. And once you’ve found them…keep on searching for more! A foodie’s work is never done.