Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pairing Indian Street Food with Wine

By Liza B. Zimmerman

It’s challenging enough to pair regular Indian food, with its intense spice range, with wine. So imagine trying to balance a tender lamb samosa or a yogurt-overloaded sev puri in one hand and a glass in the other. So we are lucky that stateside we have some restaurants that are bringing all these street cart flavors served tableside, where you can enjoy a glass of wine with them.

Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley is a legend and serves some of the best Indian street food in town. The restaurant’s owner Amod Chopra, says that “The literal meaning of Chaat is to ‘relish,’ ” and adds that given that the flavors excite your senses “isn’t that what food and wine pairing is all about?”

He says that there are more than 20 distinct Chaat dishes, “and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Each region within India has their own interpretation, using local ingredients and catering to local palate preferences.” For instance the big, crunchy pancakes called Dosa are Southern Indian and beef samosas would only be served in non-vegetarian parts of the country. 

Key Pairings
The flavors in Chaat combine tangy-salty spices, sour-sweet yogurt and tamarind sauce, and herbs, according to Amod. So the challenge of finding a wine to suit these small, flavor-loaded bites is somewhat akin to pairing wine with regular Indian food. However wine choices with Chaat probably need to be even more flexible given the number of flavors you might experience in one meal.

Many Chaat dishes such as batata vada, or potato fritters, are fried, and have fresh garlic, ginger and coriander. They “tend to pair well with crisp and herbaceous white wines rather than riper, barrel-fermented ones or reds,” says Amod.

Sauvignon Blanc is a clean, fresh style such Loire Valley—such as La Foret des Dames Sancerre or Chilean versions are always great calls with spicy food. This grape may well be the most flexible of all varietals in stepping up to chili-inflected food with a range of spices.

The presence of dense and creamy yogurt in many Indian dishes begs for a wine with fresh acidity. Chenin Blanc, such as California’s Ken Forrester or Sula’s Indian-produced Chenin, and Riesling are both good pairings. In the fact that established Indian wine producer Sula produces these two as well as Sauvignon Blanc also is starting a new tradition of “what grows together goes together,” in India as well.

Beautifully made, off-dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, Germany and Ontario, such as Cave Spring would work well as they have loads of fruit and good acidity. Amod says that these types of wines can work seamlessly despite the fact that many, “Chaat dishes are very diverse and may use a yogurt that has been sweetened which can be tricky when pairing with wine.”

Slightly off-dry Rose would be a good choice as well, such as Vega Sindoa from Navarra. Amod notes that, “When you have a hot/spicy dish you need to go in for a wine, usually white, with a certain amount of residual sugar. The sweetness in the wine tones down the heat and soothes the palate, leaving room for the fruit to express itself. The big thing to avoid with spicy food is tannin and oak.”

This means that only the lightest bodied reds might work with the Indian spice palate. Perhaps a light Pinot Noir, or another Cabernet Franc-driven wine, such as Domaine des Forges “Les 3C” Anjou Villages Rouge from the Loire. You definitely want to stay away from earthy and tannic reds such as Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cod and Domaine Chauveau "La Charmette" Pouilly Fume

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I was recently up in Maine where the icy fog that blows in from across the bay seem to make everything from the ocean taste better.  There is a certain minerality in the seafood that mimics the salt-laden air that blows in from the ocean.  Sometimes this salty breeze gets up inside your nose, other times it sticks upon your tongue making everything that you eat and drink even more flavor driven.  When I’m up in Maine, all I want to do is eat items that seem to be coated in salt spray.  From the succulent lambs that graze upon grasses soaked in sea foam to fish, so glisteningly fresh that each bite yields textures unknown to those people who eat their fish frozen and microwaved into submission. 

When I’m eating fresh fish like Maine Cod, I want something that will stand up to this richly textured sea dweller.  I need to cook Maine Cod with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and sweet bell peppers.  Saffron is a requirement as are the essential seasoning that include French herbs such as rosemary, thyme, savory and tarragon.  I always use a bit too much black pepper and those who know me- appreciate that I don’t skimp on salt.  I’ve always believed that salt adds depth to cooking, especially when I’m trying to recreate dishes away from the ocean!

Pouilly Fume is my late summer choice for wine.  Cod, of course is a more assertive fish in the flavor department and Pouilly Fume has mineral and salt notes.  Each sip of a good Pouilly Fume like this one at DrinkupNY, lead to whiffs of sea-smoke and freshly cut French herbs. Coming into view are more compact aromatics of wet oyster shells. They grab me by the hand and lead me into Jersey tomato salads strewn with spicy red onion slices and slick vinaigrettes brimming with shallots and freshly crushed black pepper.  It’s no wonder that Pouilly Fume tastes so good with seafood, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is just perfect with shimmering fresh fish. 

Pouilly Fume shouts the ocean to me.  Is it any surprise that I would be attracted to this wine for any other reason?  I doubt it.   There is something compact about drinking the Domaine Chauveau.  This wine is just so pleasurable, either as an aperitif, or in this case a plate of cod and tomato… That’s really what this dish is.  It’s a simple dish, meant for the last weeks of hot weather when relaxation is the first name on your bucket list for the summer.  It can be served cool as well as hot, simply strewn with freshly snipped French herbs or presented in a bowl, redolent with both saffron and long cooked garlic. 

What is essential is the correct wine and the Domaine Chauveau “La Charmette” is the correct wine.  You should save all your nickels and definitely buy a bottle the next time you have cod…  Of course if it’s Maine Cod, then you should get that bottle right now at DrinkupNY!

Maine Cod-Moroccan/French Style- The Hot version

1 pound fresh Maine Cod, deboned and rubbed with Kosher Salt and freshly cracked pepper
4 pounds Jersey Tomatoes (or farm tomatoes) cooked way down into jam (sprinkled with a bit of  Demerara Sugar for sweetness)- at least two hours at 350
1-2 pinches Saffron
½ cup Green Olives- pitted
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 whole bulb of garlic, cooked slowly in olive oil (in the oven) until almost melted, then cooled
1 cup fish fumet (stock)
¼ cup assorted French herbs- your choice
Chopped Shallots
Virgin Olive oil
French Butter
Steamed boiling potatoes (cooled and brunoised)

Heat a sauté pan until quite hot
Take off the heat for a moment, add the shallot and the caramelized garlic with a splash of olive oil and the butter
Let the shallot caramelize a bit and remove from the pan with the garlic and the oil/butter mixture which may have turned a bit brown-this is ok… Keep warm

Wipe out pan, add a veneer of olive oil and sauté the Cod until crispy on one side, flip over, add the tomatoes and the onions
Cover with the shallot/butter/garlic mixture along with the reduced tomato jam olives, the onions and the peppers, along with the cup of fish fumet, add Saffron at this point
Place in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until sizzling hot
Let rest for 5 minutes before serving
Scatter French herbs over the top along with the brunoise of potato just after plating. 
Adjust seasoning and serve

You can trickle a bit of the Pouilly Fume over the top just before serving, or add a bit to the fish fumet while cooking in the oven.  It’s really up to you.

Serve this same dish cold with fresh garlic mayonnaise! 

Late Summer Means Cod, Tomato Jam, Green Olives, Peppers, Onions, Shallot, Garlic and Saffron washed down with Pouilly Fume!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy.
Photo Credit: JamesAndEverett