Me: You need a see-through fridge
Him: A what?
Me: A see-through fridge
Him: Oh! I thought you said a seafood fridge.
Me: See-through, see-food – same thing.
Him: No, I thought you said seafood fridge, as in S E A.
Me: Ohhh…. Ooh! We should get a seafood fridge. You know, a shelf for lobster tails, one for mussels and clams, one for scallops, one for shrimp… Yeah! Let’s get one of those.
Him: We should have scallops for dinner. I have some gorgeously plump ones in the freezer.
Me: Seared scallops sounds yummy, but what on earth would I pair scallops with?
A month ago I would’ve popped open a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc or a sparkling rose to accompany our scallops. Now that my little book of food & wine / food & beer pairings has been permanently shelved, I’ve been experimenting these last few weeks as part of my mission to pair food with non-alcoholic beverages. I love dining out as much as I love cooking and over the last month it’s been quite an experience figuring out what pairs with what.
I don’t drink soft drinks or juices from concentrate so my options are pretty limited when I’m dining out: water (still and sparkling), coconut water, and fresh juices (which are difficult to come by and are often already sweetened with sugar.) I don’t mind the club soda but I miss the harmony which can be created when a dish is paired with the right beverage. Which explains my gastronomical mission: Find beverages which will match the intensity and strength of my meal and either compliment or contrast the flavours.
The green tea I paired with sushi and sashimi a few nights ago worked well enough, although I did notice that the flavour of the sashimi had changed when the tea cooled down. In doing some research online, I discovered that darker teas would’ve been a better match, according to The Nibble, which has quite a substantial list of food and tea pairings worth reading if you are a fan of tea. Teas may actually be a pretty viable option once they are available: Lalani & Co., argues that tea’s 5,000-year history, and the impact of soils, altitude and ageing methods, give it a similar complexity to wine that’s only starting to be explored for food pairings.
Tony Conigliaro, a famous mixologist, has other suggestions as well: He says making drinks at home to complement food isn’t tricky. “Say you’re having a bolognese, you can make a basil water, two or three basil leaves, stir them into iced water, and you’ll get that beautiful perfume. All you need to do is release some of the essential oils, and herbs are great for that because they’ve got a quick release.” As with food, it’s about experimenting. “People need to be more adventurous, try things. Get some orange peel, cinammon, cloves. Just boil them up into syrups, mix them up and see what happens.”
I’m not too sure I’m ready to boil cloves and infuse basil just yet, but I’m willing to start simply. This afternoon, I’ll be experimenting with a virgin bloody Mary, white grape juice with club soda, and a cheese plate.
P.S. All pairing suggestions are welcome!