Every now and then I decide to get all cheffy and do great stuff. This Monday night, Veterans Day (Ooorah), was one of those days. A little explanation is required, I think.
First, I’m planning a wine-and-food-pairing party (or *event* would be far more accurate) at my home in a few months. An invitation-only event, only those whose palates I trust will be there. What that means is that I’d better have my crap together because if I have any notion of being taken seriously as a certified wine professional in an area where I plan to shine, I’d better get it right. While I know that the typical pairings (Red with meat, White with seafood, blah blah blah) are good bases and “can’t go wrong” guidelines, there are enough things going on in the foodie world to make things a little more challenging.
My oldest son, Zach, about whom I’ve written several times, has been staying with me for the last couple of months (long story). He decided that he wanted to be a vegetarian a couple of years ago, primarily because he’s active, a runner, a hiker, and felt that a meat-heavy diet wasn’t conducive to what his plans were for competitions and events.
Okay, I’ll buy that. By the way, covering myself in ashes and gnashing of teeth for my failures as a mom did not occur. Hey! He’s a good kid who’s looking after his health! I myself am a happy omnivore and will remain that way. Life is incomplete without fried chicken.
With the above event looming on the horizon (okay, several months away), I decided that just maybe I needed to check out wine pairings with vegetarian dishes. it’s one of the fastest growing segments in the foodie world, and guess what? Vegetarians love wine! Pairing white wines with vegetarian dishes is pretty easy, Sauv Blanc with a spring greens salad for instance, but reds are definitely more challenging.
My menu tonight consisted of the following:
Tongues of Fire Heirloom beans in a “baked soup” (I think the French call it a cassoulet except I added no meat), with aromatics and Herbes de Provence, slowly cooked in a slow oven and finished with tomato puree (for acidity) and salt.
Chanterelles mushrooms sautéed in garlic brown butter.
Kale Two Ways salad (Russian Kale, Dino Kale, garlic, green onions, Jerusalem Artichokes, Flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, Meyer lemon, Maldon salt). This was good, and could have paired with a hearty red by itself.
Paired with 2009 Louis Latour Marsannay Côtes du Beaune Burgundy. That’s French Pinot Noir for Americans.
Almost a home run. Why *almost*? Because this was the first time that I had Chanterelles, and was very surprised that even in the garlic butter, they were quite sweet. Yes, there was some of the earth that you’d expect from mushrooms, but these had a fruity aroma, a lot of “chew,” and an earthy sweetness to them. Delicious.
While the earthiness of the beans and polenta were great, the flavor of the chanterelles threw a wrench (small) into the near-perfect pairing. A more earthy mushroom – porcini, shiitakes, Morel, or truffles for example – would have made this exquisite.
I paired this with what should have been a stellar choice, a 2009 Louis Latour Marsannay, Côtes du Beaune. Was it?
The Tongues of Fire transfer their nutty flavor into the soup (lots of aromatics and vegetable broth) and are ideal with the Herbes du Provence seasoning. The addition of tomatoes made this a luscious vegan dish. Finishing the polenta with a pat of butter and sautéing the Chanterelles in the brown butter sauce made a wonderful pairing with this wine. Only added earthiness – whether it’s another type of bean or much earthier mushrooms – would have made this absolutely perfect. Without meat. The wine is a low
If I had been cooking this for folks who are happy omnivores/carnivores, I would have added a smoked meat to the beans for even more flavor. Otherwise, it was good even without it. Yeah, I’m surprised. Pardon me while I pat myself on the back. I done good.
While I’ve taken pairing beans/veggies with wine as a challenge, it’s not a focus. Since I’m not a vegetarian, I’m not going to spend a lot of time figuring out wine pairings with veggies only. However, if I have a happy accident, I will be sure to share it with my vegetarian friends (and relatives!) And those who love vegetables as much as I do.
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