For most sommeliers, the pairing of food and wine is not only an art, it is a required staple. When pairing food, wine, and coffee, we open the door to an innovative and exciting experience that is a sure-fire way to excite and stimulate the taste buds. Join me for a look of what lies on the other side of the looking glass, for a new and invigorating experience in the world of gastronome.
In the first article of this series we started our day with breakfast and the ideal coffees to pair with our meals. Now as we move on to our midday meal, let’s explore how to further enhance our dining pleasure.
In Most of Europe, what we Americans refer to as lunch, Europeans call dinner. Time and care is taken in the afternoon to break from work, and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, for many, this is the most important meal of the day. With this in mind, you won’t find many Europeans making a mad dash for the nearest fast food drive-thru.
First and foremost, coffee like wine brings out the flavors in savory foods. It only makes sense then that they are quite a natural pair. Let’s begin by looking at some of the similarities between coffee and wine. Much like wine, the terroir, growing, harvesting, and processing of coffee is a skilled-craft, undertaken by only select artisans. These factors combined, influence the flavor profile and complexity of coffee. When pairing with food and wine, it is imperative to understand the undertones and complimentary flavors of coffee. Remember, our overall objective is to excite the palate.
Our perception of flavor is directly related to our sense of smell. Taking note of the initial aroma is critical in properly experiencing the full taste of both coffee and wine.
When tasting either coffee or wine, it is imperative to take not of the acidity of each. Coffee or wine that is highly acidic is described as crisp, tangy, and bright. While those coffees and wines with low acidity, are described as smooth and easy to drink.
The feel of coffee or wine on the tongue is known as the body. Both coffee and wine can be described as light, medium, or full.
Now that we have an idea how coffee and wine are similar in character, let’s take a look at how they enhance each other. I’m sure you will enjoy this innovative twist.
Did you know that sniffing coffee granules in between courses actually acts as a palate cleanser? The rich aromas of coffee actually excite and stimulate our senses. In fact, when we combine coffee and wine with our meals, in actuality we are pleasurably assaulting our taste buds. In essence, a true taste explosion.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that by drinking coffee with our meals, we help to reduce the potency of the effects of alcohol. Caffeine aids in kick-starting a listless digestive system and speed up the metabolism of fats. A word of caution, caffeine does indeed cause dehydration, so ensure that you also enjoy plenty of water with your meal.
Let’s start with a Gouda Cheese. Soft cheeses with a mil-strong flavor pair best with white wines. For my palate, a crisp Riesling is the perfect choice. This is because Riesling is mildly sweet in flavor, with citrus undertones. This perfectly balances the distinct and slightly tangy flavor of Gouda Cheese. Now that we have selected our wine, what about the coffee? A Colombian blend seems in order. This style of coffee is smooth, yet utterly complex, dark, robust, and rich. The mild flavor of Gouda will also help to bring out the layers of flavor and the subtle sweetness to the coffee.
When starting a meal with a salad, selecting the right coffee can either make or break the meal. Say you have decided on a vegetable and herb salad with a light oil dressing, a Pinot-Gris is the perfect accompaniment. The wine’s peach, pear, and herbal notes enhance both the salad’s fresh vegetables and herbs. For our coffee selection, my preference would be Kenyan. This style of coffee is full-bodied in flavor with low acidity, and the currant and grapefruit hints bring out the best in fresh vegetables.
One of my favorite dishes is Paella de Marisco. Paella is considered by many to be Spain’s national dish, and Seafood Paella is indeed my favorite. For me, the obvious choice in a wine is Albarino. It is light in body, searing acidity, and intense minerality all serve to brilliantly enhance the amazing blend of seafood, vegetables, herbs, spices, and rice. Personally, I wouldn’t dream of eating Paella without serving Albarino. For my palate, it is one of the most natural of food and wine pairings. As for coffee, let’s keep with tradition. A Spanish roast (dark) is the best accompaniment to bring out the variety of textures, flavors, spices, and herbs in a Seafood Paella.
Foccacia (spicy Italian sausage flatbread), or pizza both pair nicely with an Italian Primitivo, or a California Zinfandel. For such a treat, we need a wine with zesty flavor. Both Primitivo and Zinfandel are filled with notes of berries, licorice, and a distinct peppery richness. Due to its moderate acidity, the robust flavor of this style of red wine perfectly accents bold foods with a spicy sweetness. As for coffee, here I would go with a Sumatra. This style of Indonesian coffee has virtually no acidity. It is intensely aromatic, earthy, and the herbal notes linger on the tongue. The added plus is that the bold flavors of the coffee stand up to the robust flavors of Italian sausage without overshadowing its hints of sage and spices.
It is only fitting that we make time for dessert. How about a Chocolate Tiramisu? Strong flavors of dark chocolate are best accompanied by equally strong, full-bodied wines. Cabernet Sauvignon immediately comes to mind. The intense flavors with notes of dark fruits provide a good contrast to the sweet and slightly bitter taste of rich dark chocolate. For coffee, my preference would be an Italian Roast. The coffee has a slight sweetness resulting from the dark roasting process. When coffee beans are richly roasted, they prove to be a wonderful match for most chocolate desserts.
So the next time you are hungry, instead of making a mad dash for your car and the nearest fast food joint, why not take a leisurely stroll to the corner café. Have a seat, and while you relax and ruminate over the menu, enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee. Why not bring your senses to life as you enjoy a well-prepared meal. After all, what could be better than coffee, food, and wine?
“That my friends … is another story!”