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My top 20 drink pairings of 2013
So what stood out in the way of food and wine matches - and pairings with other drinks - in 2013?
As usual it was tough to pick out just 20 from my matches of the week so in the end I had to overlook some highly successful but more obvious ones (dark rum with chocolate, vin santo with Gorgonzola, venison cottage pie and claret) in favour of pairings that had in some way surprised me. (You can obviously check out the rest if you trawl through the Match of the Week section.)
Click on the title of the pairings below to see the full post.
The first pairing of the new year and a brilliant way to enjoy a stellar whisky. Just the sort of treat you need to spoil yourself with in these flat days after Christmas.
My first trip of last year was to Sanlucar so the highlight could only be sherry - a complex manzanilla pasada which totally hit the spot with some delicious little fried soles called acedias
Cider and apple pie? Stands to reason when you think about it but I didn’t realise just how well this combination we served at Cheese School would work. The cider comes from Once Upon a Tree - one of the standout drinks of the year.
It’s always a struggle to find one wine to go with several dishes especially ones as spicy as those we cooked for our Sichuan-inspired Chinese New Year feast but this delicious off-dry Clare Valley riesling sailed through.
It’s not every day you get to drink Chateau d’Yquem - unless you’re a Russian oligarch - so that was exciting enough but this sublime match with one of the signature desserts at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner was icing on the cake
A rare soft drink pairing that wasn’t over-sweet. It fused beautifully with this gorgeous dish of chicken from Honey & Co
A brilliant dish at the Rust-en-Vrede winery restaurant in Stellenbosch, matched not with Sauvignon (the obvious go-to) but ‘steen’, the old name for Chenin Blanc. The essence of spring.
A trial run of cocktail pairings at one of my favourite local restaurants, The Ethicurean included this amazing creation from mixologist and front of house Jack A Bevan which proved the perfect match for a dish of slow roast pork flavoured with chipotle.
Cheesecake is always tricky but rhubarb helps offset its richness and adding a glass of Canadian red ice-wine as the sommelier at The Kitchin in Edinburgh did was just inspired
Another asparagus dish, another cabernet franc! (Yes, you’ve guessed it - I love both) Just to prove asparagus CAN work with red wine. At least that’s my excuse. Great dish from Bell’s Diner, btw.
There aren’t enough beer pairings in this round-up I must confess but this one with Bristol-based Arbor Ales Belgian style De Rokerij was a cracker. (They also came up with my favourite Christmas ale this year - a clementine saison).
I’d always been taught to look down my nose at warm sake but this match with grilled Chilean seabass with white miso at top Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana’s Introduction to Sake course was spot on.
Cider had a good year in 2013 (and will have an even better one in 2014, I predict) so no surprise to find such a successful pairing at The Stable, a newly opened cider and pizza restaurant in Bristol
Not the obvious dish you expect to find in the Languedoc but Jean Paul Mas’s Côté Mas has taken the daring step of hiring a Japanese chef. Great match with grenache
Sweet wine and venison? No, I wouldn’t have thought that would work either but this fantastic dish at Zum Krug during a summer trip to Germany proved that in skilful hands it can.
A pairing from a Scandinavian trip? Not as it happens. A brunch dish I came across in San Francisco’s Bar Tartine proved the perfect match for a glass of Sonoma Sylvaner. (Yes, they grow it there now. Who knew!)
Cocktails have really rocked my boat this year especially this delicate tomato flavoured one from the team at Galvin at Windows which was imaginatively paired with oscietra caviar. (Hopefully they’ll follow it up with a full caviar dinner)
The more left-field of two pairings with Muscadet this year (the other being with whitebait) which underlines what a versatile wine this crisp Loire white is. It’s already the toast of New York - time we gave it more credit here.
Port and blue cheese - tick. Dark chocolate and sweet red wine - tick. Ergo truffles with blue cheese and a young ruby port has got to be a winner. It was.
If forced to choose one pairing from the 20 it would probably be this one (picture at top of the post). A sublime dish at the Trattoria della Posta at Monforte d’Alba matched, as it generally is in the region, with a barbera rather than a barolo. Heaven
And, following last year’s precedent, two honorary awards . . .
Most thoughtfully paired meal of 2013
The brilliant lunch I had back in March at 110 de Taillevent in Paris where every dish is paired with alternative matching wines
Food and drink personality of the year
Academic and restaurateur Dr Peter Klosse of de Echoput who conducted me through a fascinating food and wine tasting back in June and whose book The Essence of Gastronomy will shortly be published in English
A happy new year, all!
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