The Perfect Pairing: Balancing Food & Drink
When most people hear the word "pairing" in regards to a meal they most likely think of wine. It's common for high-end restaurants to offer assistance with the process, and plenty of people recognize the enhancement of their eating experience when paying attention to these details. But have you ever tried pairing your own food and drink at home? What if you don't have any wine, or are an alcohol-free household? Good news, you can pair any type of beverage to the food you're eating.
That's right - juices, sparkling waters, beer, cocktails and sodas can all be "paired". And honing your pairing skills is nothing to be pretentious about. It's something we should all be able to do. Since many people associate "pairing" with wine or fancy dining experiences, the word can sometimes be intimidating. But we all have to drink something, so why not drink what tastes best with your food?
Check out our infographic below to learn how to begin. It's a basic platform for pairing drinks with your food, and is a method that can be used for any meal, at any time of day.
MIRROR or CONTRAST
the flavor of your drink to that of your food. Always begin with what you actually like to drink, and then consider whether you want to compliment similar characteristics of your food, or contrast the flavor of the meal. Think about which flavors are similar to the profile of your food, or opposite of the tastes you discover. Using a combination of both is the best policy. Always focus on balance to get the most out of your pairing and your meal.
IMPACT, BODY and ALCOHOL
are all fairly common and self-explanatory elements of the pairing process. Impact considers how heavy the food is. If you are having rib-eye steaks, that would be considered a fairly hefty and hearty meal. You would want to pair it with beverages that offset, or offer balance the dishes "weight" (and your stomach).
Body is often a term heard in reference to wines, however the terms "light-bodied or "full-bodied"could also apply to a drink such as milk (skim and whole comparatively). And alcohol, of course, means the content of alcohol in a drink. Alcohol can greatly affect the temperature in your mouth, thus affecting the flavor of your food. So consider low-alcohol beverages with lighter foods, and vice versa (a whiskey goes great with duck, red meat or even a slice of pumpkin pie).
BRIGHTNESS and ACIDITY
are also terms commonly associated with wine pairings, but they can be attributed to any type of drink as well. Think about a glass of orange juice in comparison to a glass of apple juice. The orange juice probably feels and tastes more acidic than the apple juice does. And the same goes for wine, beer or any type of beverage. Brightness is a bit more confusing, really meaning just the quality of acidity in a drink. Perhaps you have added lemon or lime juice to a cocktail or a simple glass of sparkling water. This will change the brightness to a different quality than say that of a Riesling wine.
CARBONATION, BITTERNESS and SWEETNESS
are pretty straightforward and easy to understand elements of pairing. Once you have decided which type of drink (wine, juice, soda, beer) and you've considered all of the above factors, it's time to consider my favorite profiles: carbonation and how bitter or sweet a drink is. Carbonation can enhance foods texture and offers a refreshing weight to a drink. Sparkling sodas or cocktails are often good with summer dishes and can be a good way to stay hydrated as well.
Bitterness verse sweetness is the last thing to consider when choosing your drink of choice. Bitter flavors in beer can help cut through smoky, meaty flavors and even beverages like green teas even have their own level of bitterness due to their tannins. Sweet options, like fruit juices and cream soda or fruity wines are often go-to choices for newbies, but pairing your food with these drinks may not always enhance the flavor of your meal. If you are already eating something sweet, try sipping on something that contrasts this and see what happens. Chances are your taste buds will thank you.
One of our favorite wine pairings is a dry blush with seared scallops in herb butter sauce. The dry blush rose wine has hints of white and red, and is full of refreshing acidity. The dry wine has a mineral quality to it that is perfect for the sea saltiness of the scallops. And the berry aromas are a nice touch.
A less traditional pairing we are a huge fan of is spicy fish tacos with coconut and pineapple juice. These lightweight tropical juices bring out the seaside senses and offer a refreshing counterpart to the pepper and spice of the tacos. We like to use our Grow.Bar® Microgreens (like Red Cabbage), instead of the traditional lettuce, and we always top it off with some homemade Grow.Bar® Guacamole.
What are some of your favorite food/drink combinations? Sign up and share. We are always looking for new inspiration and we love hearing from our community!
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