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Food and drink matching to elevate your meals

4 June, 2021

Perfect pairings

When you want to take dinner beyond an ordinary meal and turn it into an experience, a carefully selected drink match can be just the ticket. It’s why matched drinks is such a thing at premium restaurants with degustation menus.

But how can you decide what’s going to be the right drink for what you are eating?

General principles

In her book, The Wine Dine Dictionary, Victoria Moore recommends a few different strategies for choosing the drink to have with your meal. You can pick by mood, choosing a drink that naturally makes sense for the setting, like an Aperol spritz and antipasto platter. You can choose by weight, choosing a big, bold wine to go with your rich casserole. You can select by place, working on the principle if it grows together, it goes together, and choose a Greek wine for your spanakopita.

Other principles include assessing the acidity of the dish and the drink, either to complement each other (like a crisp Semillon with seafood) or to cut through fattiness. A richly flavoured dish might need an equally bold drink that won’t be drowned out.

Beer-y nice matches

While wine matching is the classic go-to, there’s also a big wide world of beer varieties out there that can add an extra dimension to your foods. And we’re not just talking about a slab of cold VB cans for your backyard barbie (although there’s nothing wrong with that!).

With a huge range of international beer styles and craft beers packed full of flavour, food and beer matching can be exciting. Beer can play well with a range of spices, as well as being great friends with sweet foods too. 

Some unusual food and beer matches you might not have considered include:

  • A light wheat beer with eggs
  • A toasty, coffee-flavoured stout with chocolate desserts
  • Belgian farmhouse ale with a deeply spiced curry

And for a true delight, try experimenting with beer and cheese varieties to find new taste sensations!

Paired to a tea

Is there a more iconic food and drink pairing than tea and yum cha? Or a tier of afternoon tea treats with a pot of Ceylon? We’ll wait.

But beyond this duo, there’s a world of food pairings with tea. Just like with wine, certain tea varieties and blends will match better with some foods than others. In her book, World Atlas of Tea, Krissi Smith recommends pairings including:

  • Earl Grey or lavender-scented black tea with gelato or ice cream
  • Floral jasmine green tea for spiced foods
  • Genmaicha or Chinese roasted green tea with smoked cheese
  • Hibiscus-based fruit tea with chocolate

Mocktails and more

Some restaurants are creating their own perfect non-alcoholic pairings for dishes, usually taking inspiration from a key ingredient in the dish. Just like with wine or beer pairings, consideration is given to acidity, dryness and body to find a match that either perfectly matches or provides just the right amount of contrast to create an experience bigger than either the dish or drink alone.

Ideas include:
– Infusing water with basil leaves to accompany your pasta
– Embracing the tannins in coffee to cut through creamy cheeses
– Ginger ale with spicy Indian food

But what’s the most important rule of food and drink pairing?

Beyond the science and the technicalities of matching or contrasting flavours and textures, we think there’s one rule for food and drink pairing that should never be broken. And, happily, it’s super simple.

It’s choose a drink that you like. If you hate Riesling, no food in the world is suddenly going to make you a fan. Similarly, if you prefer beer to wine, choose that. Start from what you enjoy and find pairings within that group and you’ll discover plenty of fun and delicious options.

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