would be smashed by a pepper steak. Yet, there are fuller-bodied white wines that can balance bolder meat flavors, and lighter-bodied red wines that can balance fish.” Traditionally, it was assumed that red wine was only paired with red meat and white wine was only paired with fish or white meat. Beer pairs naturally with heavy, salty pub foods, but there’s more to it than that. “Some beers are full meals on their own,” Gaspar de Alba says, “but there are so many types of beer now. If you’re serving a heavy red ale, for example, a nice smoky pork chop on the side is so perfect. Beer lends itself well to some of those fatty foods, too. Marble Brewery’s Cholo Stout, for example, is smoky, smoothtextured, and heavy-bodied, but when served with the Asian chili sauce gochujang, the sauce lightens it up and brightens the palate, mitigating the stout’s usual punch.” The nuances of a single ingredient can affect pairing options. For sake, Fleig says the place to begin is with “umami—the fifth taste known for savory qualities often found in soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, meat—and acidity and sweetness.” From there she can pick up conflicting flavors that will come from an ingredient. Each of these components works to balance other components of chemistry. Even water, which plays an important role in cleansing your palate, abides by pairing rules. Different types of water with varying bubbles, minerals, and pH levels help to accentuate flavors of food and beverages. Because water has no intrinsic flavor, the taste comes from mouthfeel and mineral levels. This is also vital for crafted beverages and food ingredients. Balanced flavors, textures, temperatures, acidity, body, sugar, and alkalinity are what create pairings like milk and cookies, cola and pizza, or beer and pretzels. 236
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How alcohol interacts with ingredients is also considered. For example, a high-alcohol beverage will not mix well with spicy ingredients, as the high percentage of alcohol will cause the spicy food to burn a palate even more. If the spiciness comes from chile, which is a fruit, a fruity wine works better because it complements the chile. This is an instance where the versatility of sake can win out. “The famous saying in Japan is ‘sake does not fight with food’—meaning that one sake will pair well with a large variety of food at one meal,” Fleig says. “Sake has low levels of elements—such as bitterness or acidity—that can make traditional wine pairings more difficult.” When preparing a meal at home, remember that gourmet doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make your dining experience a little more adventurous by trying some nontraditional matchups that are surprisingly compatible. Fatty foods can pair with bubbly drinks. You can serve fried chicken or battered fish-and-chips with champagne for an elegant twist. Or try a fruity red wine with chicken mole to complement the chocolate and tone down the spiciness. Goses and sour beers can pair with goat cheese as a refreshing summer snack. Chardonnay goes well with french fries, and sparkling limeade with heavily seasoned chicken wings. Dark beers can be enjoyed with rich desserts. It all comes down to experimentation, excitement, and, above all, experience. “Pairing events are such a beautiful thing. They help to build a community,” Gaspar de Alba says. “A lot of our meals are repetitive. The more we introduce new flavors to our palates, the more we learn to appreciate what we eat and drink and exercise that muscle. There is so much for us to discover.” R
ASHLEY TURNER/MARBLE BREWERY (2)
Marble Brewery pilsner, a beer style that pairs with most dishes. Right: Chef David Gaspar de Alba of Oni Noodles demonstrates cooking with beer during one of Marble Brewery’s Craft Kitchen events.