Wine & Food Pairing Tips from Chef Jeffrey Saad at the Wine Bloggers Conference #WBC10

There were many great sessions on the agenda at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference last week, (ok ok yes to my FourSquare followers, I snuck out a few times to go taste at Rhone producers – sue me!), but my favorite, and I think many was the Food & Wine Pairing Seminar by Chef Jeffrey Saad.

The fact that so many people enjoyed it, and Tweeted so heavily about it, is an even stronger testament to the seminar and his energy; this was the last day for the group, and many of us were going on our 4th+ day of late nights, and there was a large contingent of people, self included, who blew it out the night before, and were a tad less functional than normal.

I love to cook, and its no secret I love wine, and I enjoy pairing the two, but I have always felt it was something I could improve on, so sleep deprived or not, I was in my chair all ears at the start.

I did a series of Tweets about the key points to share with the #WBC10 team, as well as for my own archives. Whether everyone else was to tired to do their own, or they found them salient, they were heavily ‘retweeted’ so I thought I’d share them here.

The underlying rule that came out really emphasized acidity in wine, when pairing with food, and generally being careful with tannic wines.

Chef Saad started out with a great analogy, demonstrating most of us inherently are wired for the basics: “What sounds better with a pizza, a cold coke, or a glass of milk?” For most people, the glass of milk just doesn’t sound appealing. The acidity and spice in the tomato sauce, pairs nicely with the tannins and sweetness in the coke.

Pair acidic foods  with acid.  Pair fatty foods with acid.

Acidic wines in most cases are the safe choice. Salad dressing pairings can be a challenge, match the acidity in the dressing to an acidic wine.

Acidic wines also pair nicely with fatty foods, as they cut through the fat, and the flavor of the wine and food is enhanced, mutually.

Pair proteins with tannin; animal fat softens the tannin

Tannins (bigger red wines) softens when paired with animal protein and fa. They also cut through the fat, and again enhance the food, allowing its flavor to come through. This is why beefy cabs and steaks pair so well.

Pair sweet with sweet; The wine should be at least as sweet as dessert, if not more.

This is an important point for desert pairings, a dry wine clashes horribly with sweet desert.

Avoid spice with tannin – major no no.

Spice and Tannins clash, the affects of the tannins are (negatively) enhanced by the spicy food, fight with the heat, for a culinary disaster. Pair with a wine that will let the spice be in control. Slightly sweet wines are often recommended, but others pair well too.

Always put shallots in your vinaigrette

More of a food tip, than a pairing, but Chef Saad was passionate about this point, and I always am looking for ways to improve salads!

Treat your food and wine like your (good) relationships – pay attention, remember

I am not sure my relationship history is the best source for this but the advice was sound. Just as we try and educate and advance our wine palates by association of flavor and aroma profiles,, we should do so with food.

3 safe wine bets for any pairing – dry Rose, Champagne, or Barbera

  • A dry Rose pairs well with many meals; high acidity, a touch of tannin from brief skin contact, and holds up against spicy as well.
  • Bubbles – perhaps the universal safe (and fun!) pairing; high acidity, low. alcohol.
  • Barbera – this one surprised me, and refers I think more to old world Barbera, than US produced. Barbera’s are high in acid. (see a theme yet?)

Personally I’d add Pinot Noir, especially ligher more traditional style. (Compared to the sadly growing fad of Syrah like Pinots.) Pinot has good acidity and (usually) subtle flavor profiles that don’t clash, and moderate (excluding the syrah-ish pinots) tannin presence. If I am taking a bottle of wine to a restaurant, I almost always take Pinot as my red, unless I know in advance what I intend to order.

There were some other great tips such as “Pair funky with funky”, “Red wine kills stinky cheese” (go for aged cheese), and “Go Local” (think Italy.)

After this great seminar, we were treated to an amazing set of food pairings with white and red wines, which was just what the doctor ordered after talking about food for an hour!

Have any great food and wine pairings you love? Or advice, experiences you wish to share? Post them in the comments.


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5 Responses to “Wine & Food Pairing Tips from Chef Jeffrey Saad at the Wine Bloggers Conference #WBC10”

  • In light of above comments, explain the delightful pairing of a Mark Herold cabernet with 70% Shramsburg chocolate – or equal.
    Walter Collins

  • Excellent wrap up. We had to leave early for the airport in PDX so did not get to stay for the all the pairings.

  • Awesome recap, thanks for posting. I was so fired up about this seminar, but I think I may have been one of those who blew it out a bit too much the night before as well and sadly may have been a bit too sleepy-eyed to fully absorb or remember these great tips. I feel almost like I just sat through it again, though no one could re-create his energy (it even kept ME awake!) or the post-seminar food/wine pairings! I’m with you on the Pinot as well, it’s far more versatile wine than ever given credit for. Thanks again for the memory refresh and fantastic summary.

  • William:

    Thanks for all the great feedback, glad it was useful.

    Walter, a question similar to yours was asked, as indeed red wine and chocolate is paired often.

    Its generally DARK chocolate, or high percentages of. Dairy can poor badly with red wine, especially milk chocolate. Dark chocolate however, is high in tannins, a bit bitter, and thus enhances the nature of many red wines, such as a beefy cab. Hope that helps!

  • Thanks for sharing some really interestig information. One of the most amazing pairings I’ve ever had was seared foie gras with fleur de sel and ARIS petite sirah port, slightly chilled. Your blog made me think of that combination–it was a play of hot and cold, fat and acid, salt and sweet. Everyone at the table was stunned by how well those two things played together on the tongue.

    The ARIS port is from Sonoma Valley Portworks, which specializes in ports and after-dinner wines. I’m connected to the winery, and always looking for pairings that dazzle. The art and science of taste is always fun! (We offer complimentary tastings and pairings every Saturday at our tasting room in Petaluma.)

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