Don Kavanagh: Striking the perfect match

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Beer and spirits are also great accompaniments to a meal, observes Don Kavanagh.

Venison paired with pale ale is a perfect match. Photo / Supplied
Venison paired with pale ale is a perfect match. Photo / Supplied

The subject of wine and food matching is a popular one, with a plethora of websites, books, columns and mobile apps dedicated to finding the perfect pinot to go with your wild mushrooms.

There are people whose entire lives revolve around wine matching so I'm not going to bore you with my views on the subject. Instead, I'd like to talk about widening the horizons a little.

I've had plenty of long, lazy lunches with wine sloshing around the table, but I've also had some fantastic meals where the accompaniment was beer. Roast beef and ale are a match made in heaven and I've gone into swoons of delight over venison paired with pale ale.

But what about spirits? I was at a marvellous dinner at Mollies Hotel in Herne Bay recently, where the object of the night was to pair Remy Martin Cognac and the Dalmore range of single malts with food, and it worked brilliantly.

Few things have thrilled my palate as much as tempura quails partnered with the limited edition Dalmore Mackenzie.

The whisky's rich vanilla, spice and orange characters set off the quail perfectly and it reinforced for me just how well spirits can be matched with food.

I've also had some less formal evenings in the company of friends, where any food that was consumed was washed down with whisky and I can tell you that if you are going to have a whisky with each course then it's best to keep your meals to a maximum of three courses, otherwise the night dissolves into the swamps on the other side of memory.

Whisky, brandy, rum and even tequila can be fantastic matches for meals and they can offer a little more variety for the diner instead of the often boring options of sauvignon or pinot noir.

Matching spirits to food can also be a recipe for disaster. I was invited to dinner by some Polish friends in London and was told that all I needed to bring was a bottle of vodka.

Assuming the vodka was my gift to the table, I trotted off happily to dinner, only to find - to my horror - that the vodka was for me alone, as everyone else had a bottle too. And the only food in view was a large jar of pickled onions on the table.

Decency demands that I draw a veil over the rest of that evening, but take it from me - if you're planning to match spirits to food, make sure the food is plentiful and very filling.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

- NZ Herald

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