Food and Wine Pairing.... Down an Unexpected Culinary Path

Food and Wine Pairing.... Down an Unexpected Culinary Path, Wine Tasting, Dinning

Well last night was my first night working the dining room I’m the Sommelier and Wine Buyer here at Mecenat Bistro and Gathering Place here in Western Springs.  So as the Sommelier it is my greatest pleasures to assist guests with their wine selection to enhance their meal and dining experience. 

As I introduced myself last night, I was asked what a Sommelier is.  Well simple answer is I am the “Wine Guy”.  What that means is that I know more than some, and less than others, and will be a student of wine for the rest of my life.  I am hopeless romantic when it comes to pairing wine and food.  Being new to the team here at Mecenat Bistro I’m also new to you as I write this blog, and as you get to know me you will quickly learn that I am passionate about Food and Wine. 

Some will tell you as Sommelier I get to eat and taste a lot wine, well that is partly true, I also need to listen to my guests in helping them select the perfect wine.  One of my favorite dishes of Chef Ryan’s is the Grilled Hawaiian Butterfish accompanied with a rich Soy glaze, Baby Bok Choy, and a Wild Mushroom Dumpling.  The first time I had this dish my thoughts of wine immediately went to three wines on the list here at Mecenat Bistro: the 2011 Patton Valley Vineyards Rose (Willamette Valley, Oregon), 2010 Errazuriz Wild Fermented Chardonnay (Casablanca Valley, Chile) or the 2009 Yamhill Valley Vineyard 2009 Estate Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon)….. Trust amazing you won’t wrong with any of these wines.   

Ok but for today I want to take you on a different culinary road that you might not expect to go with a Sommelier.  So I ask you to trust me and travel on this unexpected culinary journey with me.  About 5 years ago, I read an article about pairing Wine with, hold on to your seats “Junk Food”.  Ok I know what you are thinking, but it was an eye opening concept that really may attract a whole new audience of wine drinkers.  “Junk Food”, Snack food whatever term you would like to use it is really part of many our daily lives…… 

So where would you like to start? 

Well tell me what your favorite junk food is: Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cracker Jacks, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, for me it is the king-size Snickers candy bar.   I know well for my favorite junk food, If you think about is chocolate and wine is a classic pairing so I really want to pair it with a rich jammy Zinfandel or even fruit forward Malbec.  The Cracker Jacks a nicely aged French Marsanne or Rosanne the nutty quality of these wines plays very nicely with the caramel peanuts and the sweetness of the kernels while the acidity will still cut through the overall sweetness of the snack.  Just think of a 15-30 year older Madeira with the Ben and Jerry’s the contrast of the warmed wine and the cold ice cream what a great way to enjoy my nightly bowl of ice cream…… 

One of the article’s that I read “Closet Wine Snob: Super Bowl Wine and Junk Food Pairings” by Andrea Rothe, took some classic fare for the big game on Sunday and suggested the following pairs:  Spicy Chicken Wings with a Moscato d’Asti, Nacho’s with a chilled Chardonnay, Pulled Pork or Shredded Beef Slider with your favorite Red Blend, and a hearty Beef Chili with fruit forward Pinot Noir.                             

So why do these pairings work in one on-line article “What wines pair with junk food?  Author Taylor Eason he suggested in the article that snack (junk) foods falls into one of two categories: Salty or Sugary.  Being the Sommelier pairing “Junk Food” and Wine may not being so far out, keep in mind when tasting food or beverage traditionalists will tell you there are only four basic flavor component that we taste: Salt, Sour, Bitter, and Sweet.  So with these types of snacks falling into two of the categories why wouldn’t you consider pairing them with a wine? 

As a Sommelier I believe that the rules for pairing food with wine have changed.  We no longer need to hold true to the rules that White Wines only go with Fish, Shellfish and Chicken; Red Wine with Pork, Beef, and Wild Game meats.  The culinary diversity that is available to us has really been a game changer for those rules, and that includes thinking about our favorite snack with the game on Sunday.

As a wine and food geek I still want an awesome aged French Burgundy with a beautiful grilled bone-in Rib-eye roast that has been rubbed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs of Provence.  Or my favorite dish here at Mecenat Bistro the Grilled Hawaiian Butterfish which is a symphony of sweet, spice and an earthiness that I could really enjoy one of the wine I mentioned earlier.    

But I will be thinking next Sunday during the game what wine can I pair with my nachos.  Just some food for thought…….


Gregory Hayes, cs. cwp

Sommelier/Wine Buyer

Mecenat Bistro & Gathering Place

821 W. Burlington Ave., Western Springs, IL. 60558 

708- 246-8668

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