Food and Wine in Balance – Interesting Knowledge

Jerry Comfort from Beringer Winery

We all have been taught that white wines go with fish and red wines go with meat (red meat especially) and never the two shall cross.  But my recent Food and Wine in Balance seminar at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival tore down that pairing barrier.  So you can enjoy a California Cabernet Sauvignon with a steamed fillet of sole.  Really!

Our speaker with Mr. Jerry Comfort, the head/executive sommelier at Beringer Winery in California.  He brought with us the following wines to taste with our food samples:

  • Beringer White Zinfandel 2010
  • Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010
  • Beringer Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2006
  • Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

The Food & Wine Balance Rules

First the dominant taste in your dish will change all wines in the same way but to a different degree.  For example, sweetness in your dish will make all wines taste sour (or less sweet).   Your goal is to find a dish that doesn’t change the flavour of the wine too much, as to impair the pairing.

Beringer flight of wines

Second, sweet food can make wine taste sour.  I know I just mentioned it, but previously as an example of the first rule. How does sweetness make wine taste sour?  The sweet food makes our tongue’s tastebuds used to the sweet taste so that we don’t taste the sweetness in the wine.  If you want to taste the sweetness of a wine with a sweet dish, e.g. a dessert, then the wine must be sweeter than the dish.

Third, sourness in a dish makes wine softer, less acidic tasting.  As an example of these last two rules, we tasted the Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 with a sweet slice of apple and with a sour wedge of lemon. The Sauvignon Blanc became extremely sour tasting after eating the apple, while the wine became very soft, and you could even taste sweetness from the wine after trying the wine with the lemon.  On it’s own this wine had passion fruit and grapefruit aromas.  High acidity with tropical fruit and vanilla flavours.

Food for wine pairing

Fourth, sweet wines can also make red wines taste more bitter.  Toasted barrels used in red wines leave bitterness on your tongue.  We tested this rule by trying a Beringer Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2006 with some apple and some lemon.  The apple made the Pinot Noir bitter tasting, while the lemon made the Pinot Noir taste soft.  As Jerry, our instructor stated, “Sour food is our friend”. The Pinot Noir on its own had nice violets aroma.  Cinnamon, cloves, soft and round on the palate.  We tried the same test to the Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.  It tasted very dry, tannic and bitter with the apple, yet was quite soft on the palate with the the lemon.

How can sweetness in food make wines both sour and/or bitter?  Well these flavours in the wine were already there.  Sweetness makes these characteristics in the wine even stronger.

Fifth, salt blocks bitterness and acidity.  So salt can soften tannins in red wines, along with lemon.  From this, it would make sense that if you have a dish with low or no salt, that you should pair it with a wine that has little or no oak.  If you can’t eat salt due to health concerns, use acidity to tame those tannins.

As a test of this salt and acidity balancing out bitterness, we had a steamed piece of white fish that we each added lemon and salt.  We then ate a piece of this seasoned fish and a sip of the Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The pairing worked wonderfully.  Everything was in balance.

We also tried adding some salt and lemon to grilled steak and eating this seasoned steak with a Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010.  The Chardonnay on it’s own had vanilla, less and tropical fruit aromas.  Round with medium acid, vanilla (from oak) and tropical fruit flavours. The steak did not overpower the Chardonnay.

Sixth, spice (such as black pepper) does not affect sweetness or fruitiness in wine, but does taste spicer with red wines.  We tried some cheese with a black pepper rind with the Beringer California White Zinfandel.  This off-dry wine did not make the pepperiness go away, you just tasted the sweetness in the wine, which then wore off and the pepperiness reappeared.  This cheese with black pepper tasted more spicy with the Cabernet Sauvignon.

How do you deal with spiciness? Again through the proper addition of acidity and salt balanced out the spicy food so that they had less effect on the wine’s flavours, so the wine tasted good.  Adding some lemon juice and salt to the pepper rind cheese made a very nice pairing with the Cab.

Take Away from this Seminar

My take away from this seminar is that you really can enjoy more than one type of wine with a dish, as long a the dish has an appropriate salt & acid balance.  This is important, if you are having a party for example, and you have some people that prefer red wines while others prefer white wines.  Through the proper balancing of the food’s flavours, you can make a dish that both types of wines lovers will love even more.

If you have food with low salt, you may choose a high acid wine, or a wine with low oak. A dish that is very salty would do better with a fortified or a dessert wine (think salty cheese and port).

Overall I thought that this was a really different food & wine pairing event, and one which I would like to try on my own now.  Enjoy!

Do You Like Chocolates? And Red Wine? Get Tickets

Who doesn’t like chocolate with red wine?  A wonderful pairing.  I like to pair my 70% dark chocolate wafer, or dark chocolate truffle, with a juicy Merlot.  Maybe a Zinfandel with a raspberry flavoured chocolate truffle would be divine too?

Learn about chocolate, and in some wine pairings events, during the Festival of Chocolates.  Here is information that I received recently about upcoming events.  Enjoy!


2011 Festival of Chocolate expands across the Lower Mainland

Join the Festival of Chocolates for events held from October 15 through to
November 10, across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Awesome events to experience!

  • Chef Alessandra Quaglia and Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia expand outside the chocolate box with Chocolate and Salsa – the Dance, not the condiment. On November 2, 2011, at Provence Marinaside, Vancouver. Chefs pair these delicious appetizers with three wines: Cocao and Coffee Braised Shortribs, Cocao Butter & Espelette Seared Scallops and a Duck Confit with a Cocao Nib vinaigrette. Following this, a chef’s demo (and tasting!) of mini pot-du-crème shots. To end, a Salsa Dance Lesson, with Ivan from
  • Moving south to White Rock, the Ocean Park Village Pub, and Dione’s Chocolates of Crescent Beach pair up for an evening of fine wines and fabulous chocolates – at only $28 per person for 5 wines, 5 chocolates, and a chocolate infused Village Pub specialty coffee; this is one event that is not to be missed! Dione Costanzo, Dione’s Chocolates, loves the pairing of hand rolled lemon chocolate truffles with a Lindeman’s Shiraz.
  • Moving east to Port Moody, Rubens Chocolate host Chocolate High Teas and Chocolate Fondue – an amazing menu, filled with Belgian Chocolate – and family friendly. The Rubens Chocolate Bistro in Port Moody is delightful, the gelato delicious, and the chocolate fondue delectable. Peter Paul Rubens would be pleased.
  • Moving west to Wellbrook Winery in Delta, wines, chocolates, and chocolate  blueberry infused appetizers are the theme of these events. Chef is pairing lamb, venison, and scallops in the test kitchen. Only $28 per person, another delicious few evenings with chefs, wine, chocolate and chocolate influenced foods.
  • Sinfully The Best Chocolates, in Steveston, is offering complimentary samples every day throughout the Festival. Owner Cathy Cheung says “The Goats cheese and chocolate truffle was inspired by Donahue’s Cheese, Chocolate and Champagne Tasting Seminar in 2010.” The lemon mousse truffle is sinfully luscious. Cathy Cheung, owner, Sinfully The Best, Steveston, says: “The Festival of Chocolate inspired us to create, bake, test, try and finally open our own artisan chocolate shop here in Steveston. We use fresh local fruit, and have regulars popping in every day to taste our newest creations.”

Hundreds of chocolate events and locations over the course of the Fall
Festival of Chocolate – including chocolate spa treatments, chocolate
romance and chocolate pairings galore. Festival Director Dawn Donahue says:
“There are no limits to the use and enjoyment of chocolate – the unsung hero
of the pastry chef, the baker, the home cook, and kids treats – the sinfully
delicious small indulgences that have proven to be a healthy part of
everyday life.”

CTV, in partnership with the Festival of Chocolate, is hosting a contest,
where the prize is an amazing Chocolate Experience. Enter at The Grand Prize includes:

  •  Chocolate pedicure and manicure for two at Absolute Spa in Vancouver
  • Return flight for two from Vancouver to Victoria with Harbour Air
  • Stay two nights at The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria
  • Chocolate high tea for two The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria
  • Private Beer and Chocolate tasting at Spinnakers Gastronomic Brewpub in Victoria

Festival Director Dawn Donahue says “Bringing chocolate and events to the
forefront of culinary tourism, chocolate lovers, and chocolate producers is
so much fun. Working with our team of interns and students seeking work
experience just makes it that much sweeter.”

For a full listing of chocolate events for 2011

Upcoming Food and Wine Event – Thai Food & German Wines

Maenam Restaurant Thai curry

Do you ever wonder about how to pair spicy Asian dishes with wine?  Here is your chance to try a pairing of Thai food from Maenam with the German wines of Schloss Reinhartshausen. Here is the announcement and menu.  Get tickets soon before they quickly sell out.

The best Thai food is a perfect balance of 4 taste sensations: hot, sour, sweet, and salty: perfect for Schloss Reinhartshausen’s balanced and finessed wines. Taste how these mouth-watering, luxurious wines compliment Maenam’s aromatic and spicy cuisine.

The pairings.

  • Scallop Ceviche
    Live jumbo scallops from Sawmill bay, nahm jim sauce, ikura, lemongrass and coriander
    2009 Schloss Reinhartshausen Dry Riesling
  • Pork Satay with Pineapple Peanut Sauce
    Slopping Hills pork, satay marinade, cucumber relish
    2007 Schloss Reinhartshausen Spatlese
  • Hot and Sour Soup of Holy basil
    Clean flavours of holy basil and fresh seafood, typical soup of Thailand seaside
    2009 Schloss Reinhartshausen The Prinz von Preussen
  • Panaeng Curry of Grilled beef Chuck
    Rich and smoky flavours of the beef braised into the panaeng curry, one of our favourite variation of this popular classic
  • Chanterelle and Baby Corn Stir Fry with Wood Ear mushrooms and young ginger
    Fresh BC Chanterelles with fresh Baby corn and wood ear mushroom. Earthy and aromatic
    2006 Schloss Reinhartshausen Pinot Noir

Where, When, and How to Get Tickets

Maenam, 1938 West 4th Avenue.
September 27, 2011 6:30 P.M.
One seating only, space is very limited.
$75 per person.
For the complete menu and to buy tickets, click here.

Pairing a Loire Valley Red with a Petit Camembert in France

You know that you are having a great day when you have a chance to wander through French shops, looking for wine and cheese to pair together. My trek lead me to select a Pierre Chanau Saumur Champigny 2009 with a Petit Camembert au Lait Cru from E. Graindorge.

Getting to my room, the smell of the camembert filled the room, like freshly baked bread, but this time with a more earthy aroma.  Hunting in the kitchenette for a corkscrew, I feel like a child waiting to open his Christmas presents… And with the corkscrew being found, on to my review.

The Pierre Chanau Saumur Champigny 2009 is produced in the Loire Valley.  This wine is produced from the Cabernet Franc grape. Nice medium reddish purple in the glass.  Some leather, sour cherry, raspberry and oak aromas.  Medium body, dry with oft tannins.  Sour cherry and raspberry flavours up front, with cedar notes showing up mid palate and cherry on the finish.  Medium acidity to make the wine lively.  After letting the wine breathe in my glass, violet aroma and flavours opened up with this wine.  A nice wine to sip.  Not super complex, but not all wines need to be.

The Petit Camembert au Lait Cru by E. Graindorge came in a 150 gram round. Unwrapping the camembert there was a nice white rind.  Cutting into the cheese there were small holes in the cheese. It had a light creamy yellow interior. Quite aromati with an earthy aroma.  Taking a bite it was smooth, with earthy, mushroom, cooked corn, and nutty flavours.  Many different flavours happening at the same time.

The cheese went well with the wine.  Neither overpowered the other. The wine toned down the earthy, mushroom flavours, leaving the nuttiness and creaminess on the palate.

Here is the link if you would like to read more about E. Graindorge and their cheeses. Cheers.

Canadian Culinary Federation Culinaire Canadienne Chef’s Conference Is Almost Here!

Have you heard that Vancouver is hosting a national chef’s conference, June 12-15? That is next week! There are opportunities for the public to attend some of these events, and sample the fantastic food created by these chefs.

The Canadian Culinary Federation (CCF) was founded in 1963 and incorporated in Ottawa as a non-profit association in 1972. Since its inception, the federation has enjoyed a deep and long-standing tradition as Canada’s true representation of the professional chef and cook. Further details about the conference, please visit the conference website.

Some Events You Can Attend:

  • Canadian National Chefs (CCFCC) Competitions Dinner presented by Unilever Food Solutions 6/10/11 4:30PM – 7:30PM
  • Global Chefs (WACS) Challenge Dinner 6/11/11 5PM – 8:30PM
  • WACS Hans Bueschkens Chefs Challenge Lunch 6/12/11 12:30PM – 4PM
  • Tastes of CCFCC Canada – Opening Reception 6/12/11 5PM – 10PM
  • Breakfast with Chef Rob Feenie 6/13/11 7AM – 9AM (Very cool)
  • CCFCC Seminar Day Pass, Monday June 13 6/13/11 9:30AM – 7/4/11 5PM
  • Lunch with Chef Dana Reinhardt and Karen Barnaby featuring a panel on Women in the Industry 6/13/11 12PM – 2:30PM
  • Aboriginal Potlatch Supper 6/13/11 6PM – 10PM

and much more!  You can buy tickets for these and other events at this web link.

You can see me at the Aboriginal Potlach Supper on Monday and Dragon Feast of the Century Luncheon in Richmond on Tuesday. The Potlach supper includes food and wine pairings.  I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll be blogging about it before then and during the event.  Enjoy!

Helping to Choose Your Wedding Wines

Your wedding is coming up. So many details to plan for. But for many, knowing which wines to pick, can be daunting. One way to help relieve this pressure is to have a wine tasting in your home with someone knowledgeable about wine, like me!

Whether you contact me or someone else, look for someone that has WSET (Wine Spirit Education Trust) or ISG (International Sommelier Guild) certification. Tell him/her what food you will be serving, as this is an important factor. Also tell them what style of wine you like. Do you like big red wines, soft wines, wines with lots of citrus flavour, Okanagan wines, etc.?

Your wine guide for the evening should pick 4 or 5 white and 4 or 5 red wines for tasting. It would help if you could have similar food to nibble on at the same time, as you would have at your wedding.  Having someone with a wine background can help, especially if you want something quite specific.  For example, if you love Pinot Noir wine, the person arranging your wine selection, should ask you about some Pinots that you have enjoyed in the past, and use that information to maybe select some wines from Burgundy, Oregon, California, and New Zealand, which all produce very nice Pinot Noir wines, and have different styles.  Even within one country, there can be different styles of Pinot Noir produced (e.g. Try a Pinot Noir from Marlborough and then one from Central Otago in New Zealand).

I would love to help make your wedding spectacular.  I do offer custom wine tastings, so please give me a try if you are in the Vancouver area.  Here is a link to my Private Wine Tasting page. Otherwise if you are elsewhere in the world, try searching online for WSET  or ISG courses and talk to an instructor, or go to a private wine shop and ask there.  Have a great wedding!

Banana Bread with Vidal Icewine Pairing

Today I made a batch of banana bread and thought about what to pair it with. Sifting through my memory, I thought that Mission Hill Winery’s Vidal Icewine (or their Late Harvest) would fit the bill. The Vidal grape has a honey and tropical fruit aroma and flavour. Banana from the banana bread is a tropical fruit, so it should mesh beautifully. While the bread is cooling, I am writing this article.

In case you would like to try this pairing, here is the recipe that I use for banana bread. It comes from the “Centennial Cookbook” and the recipe is by a lady named Lil Karpyshyn. I’ve made a few modifications, to make the recipe my own.

Picture courtesy of Bread Recipe

1.25 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
dash of vanilla
3/4 cup oil (I use canola)
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups mashed bananas (2.5 bananas)
1/4 cup raisins

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla till creamy. Slowly add in oil. In a separate bowl, mix flour, making soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix in the mashed bananas and the raisins. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out dry.

Indulge and enjoy with the Vidal Icewine!

Free Valentines Chocolate and Wine Pairing in Kelowna

If you live in the Kelowna area, you may be interested in trying this wine and chocolate pairing event. Two great things on their own, and even better together. Plus it is in time for Valentines! Here is the announcement, by Volcanic Hills Estate Winery. Enjoy!

You are cordially invited to attend our Complimentary Valentines Chocolate and Wine Pairing Event.

Come and sample a wonderful handpicked selection of Roger’s Chocolates paired with our award winning wines.

Date:   Saturday, Feb. 12th, 2011

Time:  11:00 – 5:30 (or until we run out of chocolate!)

Price:  No Charge

Location: Volcanic Hills Estate Winery, 2845 Boucherie, Rd, West Kelowna

No RSVP required.

Red Door #dineout Wine and Food Pairing was Delicious

Thursday night’s Dine Out Vancouver meal was at Red Door Pan Asian Grill on Granville (2996 Granville Street,  The menu I selected was:

  • Indonesian Chicken Satays Served with peanut and spicy plum sauce. (appetizer)
  • Spicy Ginger Beef Tender slices of crispy beef, spicy Thai chili peppers, served with Mongolian noodles and vegetables. (Main course)
  • Curry-Butterscotch Pot de Crème Buterscotch custard spiked with a mild curry and aged Scotch. Topped with chocolate ganache and rice pearls. (Dessert)

To pair with this food, Red Door was offering a flight of 3 red wines (2oz), consisting of: Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyard Merlot, Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Rooster Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend. The Merlot was quite round with cherry fruit.  The Cabernet Sauvignon was much more full-bodied, heavier mouthfeel, with ripe cherry flavour.  The Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend I think was the lightest bodied of the three reds that evening.  Sorry it was quite dark in the restaurant, which is good for ambiance but makes it difficult to take detailed wine notes.

The satay chicken was ok.  The dipping sauce was interesting with ginger mixed in with the ground peanuts.  The Sumac Ridge Merlot was a nice pairing with the satay chicken.  It was not too heavy in flavour compared to the satay.

The Spicy Ginger Beef was deep fried slices of beef in a dark soy sauce with spice and a bit of sweetness.  The noodles had a bit of ginger in them.  The beef needed a full-bodied wine to handle the amount of flavour from this dish.  The perfect pairing was the Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fruit of the wine balanced out the spice of the beef, the tannins in the wine balanced against the bit of sweetness in the beef.

I didn’t have any of my three wines with the dessert.  The Curry-Butterscotch Pot de Crème was perfect on it’s own.  The hint of curry mixed with the butterscotch was remarkable, and topping it with the chocolate ganache and crunchy rice pearls was over the top. 

I recommend trying out Red Door Pan Asian Grill. Enjoy!

Wine and Filipino Food Pairing

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} catch(err) {}Yesterday I held a Filipino food pairing with wines around the world. Filipino food is a cross of many cultures, primarily from Malay, Spanish, Chinese cultures. Foods are not typically spicy, but can have lots of vinegar and garlic (which are 2 ingredients that are hard to pair with wines). My other constraint was to find wines that were not too expensive, e.g less than CAD $20 a bottle.

I selected 3 whites, 3 reds, and 1 late harvest wine for the evening. The white wines were:
* Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2006 $16.49 USA (Washington)
* Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $14.99 Chile
* Nk’mip Cellars Chardonnay 2007 $15.99 Canada (BC)

The 3 reds were:
* Mirassou California Pinot Noir 2006 $15.99 USA
* Inniskillin Okanagan – Reserve Merlot 2006 $16.99 Canada (BC)
* Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $17.99 Australia

The late harvest wine was:
* Sauvignon Blanc – Concha Y Toro Late Harvest 2005 $14.98 Chile

To the white wines I paired:
* Lumpia Shanghai (a deep fried egg roll with dipping sauce)
* Bihon Guisado(a dish made with thin noodles, mixed vegetables and pieces of pork)

To the red wines I paired:
* roast pork with liver sauce
* Chinese bbq duck (made with five spice powder)

The late harvest wine was paired with leche flan (an carmelized egg custard) A recipe for leche flan.

As I hoped the wines showed their varietal characteristics. Some wines were nice sippers on their own, such as the riesling, while others did not, such as the pinot noir. That being said, when we tried the wines with the food, some of the wines, such as the pinot noir paired wonderfully. I particularly liked the Chinese bbq duck with the pinot noir. The pinot really cut through the grease in the duck skin, plus the spices in the 5 spice powder used in the bbq duck brought out flavours in the pinot noir. The late harvest wine was also very tasty on it’s own, and with the leche flan.

I usually ask a group for their favourite white and red wine of the evening, but I decided to try something slightly different last night. I asked the women and the men separately for their favourite wines, and suprisingly they were both different. The women preferred the riesling and the pinot noir, while the men preferred the chardonnay and the cabernet sauvignon. I am going to have to try this at other tasting I host and see if this generally holds true.

I also had another wine to try which I had recently purchased from Pacific Breeze Winery; their 2006 Killer Cab ($22.90), but we ran out of time. I’ll have to save it for my next tasting. For those that are interested, this wine is medium purple/red in the glass, with black cherry and vanilla nose. Cassis, sweet fruit, black cherry liquor and spicy flavours. Nice round mouthfeel, medium tannins and long finish. A buy.

Either way, it was a fun evening had by us all.