The Psychological Ramifications of Food & Wine Pairing
This morning I woke up to gray clouds, a light drizzle and a slight chill.
The grumblings in my stomach were for more than just sustenance; I needed comfort food. Today was definitely Pot Roast Monday. I seared the beef, tossed in fresh vegetables, herbs and a whole bottle of red wine, all the while thinking about the perfect wine for our comfort feast. The roast needed about six hours to cook, so I used a portion of that time to scour through every resource I could get my hands on. I came across an interesting chapter in David Rosengarten’s book“Red Wine with Fish.” He proposes the question:
Should grand food always be served with grand wine, and humble food with humble wine?” As long as the texture, flavors and components match, why not challenge tradition? Well, as Rosengarten puts it, “[that] is usually settled in the psychological sphere.”
The Psychological Ramifications of Wine Pairing:
When the cork from a Two-Buck-Chuck is popped, are there any real expectations for a paramount dinner match? If it works well enough – great – no huge risks or expectations. I mean, it’s two bucks – how much pressure can one bottle of vino take? However, when you release the cork from a long-saved, much-anticipated, pricey boutique Bordeaux – well, something quite grand should be on the horizon. The food situation is similar. Although pot roast is a very convivial, comforting dish – it is what it is, and one should not fret much over the commitment. However, when you spend many bucks & many days preparing duck confit with seared foie gras on a bed of hundred-dollar-bill-chiffonnade – there are greater concerns. Indeed there is the fear of screwing it up, but, the bigger question involves missing an opportunity for gustatory transcendence.
David & his partner opened a cheap-but-good Beaujolais – a fun, uncomplicated wine with a strawberry nose and just a touch of sweetness. They also opened a ten-year-old Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – a $300 Burgundy from the top vineyard of that region. It’s a Pinot with a complex bouquet and “sexy decadence that makes a great Burgundy one of the world’s most desirable and expensive wines.” They served a variety of beef dishes from a rustic hamburger to an elegant Filet Mignon in puff pastry with seared Foie Gras and Sauce Perigourdine.
Though there were thoughts of a gastronomic coup d’etat, the majority of pairings seem to lean toward tradition. Example: Steak Frites (steak & thick fries in France) with an elegant, earthy Burgundy match well in flavor and texture, but it seems frivolous & a little naughty to enjoy something so special with something deliciously common. Also, while contemplating over the nuances of a great Burgundy, David points out, those fries can get soggy. This casual dish just seems more enjoyable with an easy-drinking Beaujolais. On the other hand, the aforementioned complex Burgundy paired with the aforementioned Filet Mignon in puff pastry, I believe, could thrust one into the aforementioned gustatory ecstasy.
Perhaps in the gastronomic pecking order, it’s both taste & psychology. So venture forth, mix it up, hazard a few wild experiments – whatever shakes up Pot Roast Monday.