Surprising Pairings with Bill Summerville
Bill Summerville + Kitchen in the Market = whirlwind evening full of food & wine pairings, laughter and learning. Bill will be back for another twist on wine & food pairing in January, hopefully I’ll see you there!
Bill is a managing partner and the sommelier at La Belle Vie, generally considered the finest dining experience in the Twin Cities. He shared his extensive knowledge of wine pairings in a fun, entertaining and down to earth way with over twenty participants. The kitchen and viewing facility at Kitchen in the Market was a perfect setting for learning.
The evening was packed full of activity; we started with a discussion and some taste and smell exercises. Then we took off on a fast paced tour through a whole variety of good, bad and indifferent pairings.
The first pairing was a good indication of the rest of the evening: surprising, fun, and delicious. We first tried a pairing concept of contrasts: an inexpensive American sparkling wine and potato chips. Yes, potato chips! Try it, you’ll be hooked. The acidity of the sparkling wine contrasts with the fat and salt of the chips.
The next pairing was a real experiment for us. We tasted caviar with a standard red wine, a real French Champagne, and vodka (the Russian classic).
The red wine was an an awful match. No fault of the wine or the food, just the wrong combination. It tasted metallic and finished tasting of mud. Yuch. Next, caviar with the Champagne. It was nice, but it wasn’t great. Especially after we tried the caviar with vodka. As Bill said – the Russians got it right! With the vodka, flavors emerged and the finish was so clean and refreshing. I’m not a big caviar person, but the next time I have it, I’ll go for a nice shot of Vodka, no question.
The Champagne was very, very nice.
There were lots of questions, and Bill was happy to answer every one.
I love oysters, so I was looking forward to the next pairing. The wine choice was surprising to me: oysters with a Manzanilla (dry) Sherry. This is a new wine type for me, and the flavor just wasn’t that enjoyable. The group had three views: those that thought the sherry was good and paired well, those that didn’t care for the sherry but agreed that it paired well, and those who just didn’t like either the sherry or the combination. I think I’ll stick with Chablis or Champagne, but I am interested in trying the sherry again sometime.
The crew at Kitchen in the Market really outdid themselves with the next dish: lobster bisque. We need the recipe for that one! It was so good. We paired the rich bisque with the Manzanilla sherry as well. Here, I could see that it was a nice pairing, even though I didn’t care for the wine.
On to the next pairing. Time to pour the Riesling.
Next, we tried a great piece of pork belly with a German Kabinett Riesling. The Riesling was sweet, but it also had a high level of acidity. The acidity really helped to cut the richness of the pork belly. Wonderful!
Now it was time to actually use the Chianti we had in an extra glass for much the night. The next dish was a comparison of a freshly broiled piece of hot, rare steak and a “leftover” piece that had been broiled earlier and was served cold. We tried all combinations of the hot and cold steak with the Chianti and a Chardonnay from Beaujolais. The Chardonnay was my favorite wine of the evening. It had Chardonnay richness but it was so nicely balanced with what seemed to me to be the merest hint of oak. Both wines worked with both pieces of steak. Bill was right, the red did go better with the freshly broiled rare steak, and the white did go better with the cold steak.
How many pairings have we tried? But wait, there’s more. The next one was the biggest surprise of the evening. Moscato d’ Asti, a sweet sparkling wine came alive with the intense spicyness of jalapeno peppers. It was so fun to take a bite of the jalapeno and then a taste of the wine – wow!
The last pairing of the night was another fascinating comparison. We tried the dessert sherry shown below with a very nice vanilla bean ice cream. We also tried the Moscato d’ Asti from the previous pairing. While they both worked, they exposed two very different personalities. The sherry was luscious and matched the vanilla bean in the ice cream and the smooth texture. This is one I will definitely try again at home. A perfect ending to the evening.
Thanks to Bill Summerville for an entertaining, educational and fun evening; and for bringing an amazing variety of wines. Thanks to Molly, Tracy and the whole crew at Kitchen in the Market for a tasty array of foods and for making the whole evening easy and fun.