One of the reasons I love food and wine so much is the communal aspect of it. Growing up, meal time at my house was the one time of day where my whole family got together to talk and catch up. My mom also happened to like cooking so we'd have inventive meals with unique ingredients while we caught up on each other's day. My parents were also fairly open to letting us enjoy a glass of wine with them on special occasions, even if we weren't quite of legal drinking age yet. Don't worry, we weren't 9 years old and we didn't polish off a bottle on our own. So at an early age, I saw food and wine as a component of coming together.
In my subsequent learning about food and wine, I experienced what money can buy from fine Beluga caviar with sparkling Dom Perignon, all the way down to 2 Buck Chuck and ramen noodles - we've all been there, right? What I've learned though, is that there is much in between the 2BC and the Dom. The problem is that it can be a bit daunting to go into a store and identify a good in-between wine. So pulling on my food and wine is better with friends concept, I proceeded to collect a few folks for the 1st Tasting Page Taste Test.
The premise was this: bring a bottle of Pinot Noir, priced at $25 or under, and we'll try all the Pinots wrapped in brown paper bags - not so we look like winos, but so we don't have any prejudice on what we brought, label colors, recognizable names, etc...Everyone was to rate the wines using a 1 to 5 scale and the wine with the most points was deemed the best, and the owner would walk home with fabulous prizes, and of course, big bragging rights.
So people could actually walk when they left, I also had everyone bring a food item that would pair well with the wine, and we also listed our top 3 dishes and crowned a food winner.
The winning dish was a classic Pinot and Pigs in a Date pairing. Bacon does in fact make many things better (except for my photography late at night after much wine). Bacon pairs well with Pinot and the date lends a nice sweetness to the salty, fatty bacon. It's a win-win and was crowned our favorite food item of the night.
I contributed a version of my pickled and marinated vegetables (a little something to offset all the bacon!), which I can't say is a great pairing for any wine given its acidic vinegar level. It did off-set the heat of my spicy black bean quinoa bites with avocado sauce. Given the heat of the chipotle peppers in the quinoa bites, I'd make sure you're drinking this with a lighter, fruitier Pinot Noir with low tannins.
The spicy Buffalo chicken donut with a dollop of blue cheese on top could also follow my notes above on pairing with a less tannic, more fruity wine to balance the heat. And yes, you heard me right - spicy buffalo chicken donut. You'll never go back to eating chicken wings after this bold little number. The flatbread pizza had a more gentle touch with ground beef, leeks, tomatoes and pecorino. The touch of sweetness the leeks provided was spot on and paired well with a light, spicy Pinot.
Roast poultry like my favorite uber moist French cooked chicken is a classic Pinot Noir pairing. We also had some inventive twists at the party like home-cured bacon as well as grilled chicken skewered with beets and goat cheese for delectable bite size poppers. The savory notes of the bacon and chicken combined with the brightness of the beets making this a great Pinot pal.
The living room was full of tasty Mediterranean bites, dips, cheeses and wonderful endive cups stuffed with a mild blue, apples and drizzled with a reduced balsamic vinegar. Cheese made from sheep's milk can be a good Pinot match. Brie is a nice choice, along with other mild cheeses like camembert. You just don't want the cheese to be too stinky or it will overpower the more delicate Pinot Noir. A woodsy mushroom pate would also work with your starters and a lighter Pinot.
And there's always room for dessert, even at a wine tasting. A gorgeous plum tart brought it some matching Pinot fruit flavors and a simple, but rich chocolate mousse brought 2 perfect pals together. The mousse had just 2 ingredients - chocolate and coconut milk and was 1 big crowd pleaser.
So hopefully now you can understand why we'd need a lot to drink with all of these interesting tastes and flavors. Given Pinot's range in flavor from earthy and spicy to lighter and fruity, it can be quite a versatile player when pairing with food.
Up next, we'll look at the group's favorite Pinot Noirs under $25. Click here to keep reading.