For the Pairing of Wine With Food – There’s No Place Like Home

For some people, learning about wine can seem rather overwhelming or daunting. Add to that a certain amount of social pressure and it’s easy to understand why many people do not even dare take a stab at wine tasting. At home you need never feel self conscious, awkward or ashamed in choosing wines. When enjoying wines in the comfort of your own home, you can easily become ‘at home’ with your choices.

There are two ways you can dive headlong into experimenting with different wines. And why not dive right in? After all, what do we enjoy about our homes? At the most basic level, we enjoy shelter or comfort, rest, and meals. The rest and comfort of your home is an excellent environment if you choose to select a few bottles from various price ranges and styles at a time and open them up for your tasting pleasure during your leisure. But, while rest and comfort will aid in the enjoyment of trying out wines, our meals at home offer the perfect catalyst for the excitement involved in tasting various wines.

The pairing of foods and wines is done in the exact same way as the way they are tasted: on the palate, where it comes together. You match wine the same way that you match anything that tastes good together. Foods and wines are matched with a little common sense, and a lot of personal preference. All food and wine matching is more easily understood when the taste components of wines are thought of in the same way as ingredients in a dish. After all, wine is a food. Good cooking involves a balancing of ingredients and technique and good wine/food matching involves focusing on how specific components in wines interact and achieve a sense of balance and harmony with specific components in dishes.

Let’s begin with how the taste buds perceive what you are consuming, whether you are tasting wine or food:

Sweetness pertains to the amount of sugar in your food/wine and is sensed by taste buds located towards at the tip of the tongue. Tartness has to do with the acidity in both foods and wines. The taste buds at the center and sides of the tongue pick up this sensation. Saltiness may not be a significant component in wine, but is important in how a wine relates to it in foods. Saltiness is perceived somewhere in the center of the tongue. Bitterness is tasted in many foods, also in the tannin content of red wines and to a lesser degree in white wines. The rear of the tongue is responsible for communicating tartness to you. Umami is the term used to describe the flattering, amino acid related sense of “deliciousness” found in many foods, and to a limited extent in wines.

Just as umami is so difficult to define, it is also difficult to determine just where on the tongue we perceive it.

Along with taste sensations we also have tactile sensations. For example the density, body or weight of a food is contributed by proteins, fats and/or carbs, while primarily related to the degree of alcohol content in wines (bolstered by tannin in reds). Soft textures contrast with crisp textures in foods while wine textures contrast in terms of smooth or easy vs. hard, sharp or angular. Spicy and/or hot sensations as with chilies, peppers or horseradishes are found in foods but not felt as tactile sensations in wines. Instead they are suggested in a wine’s aroma and flavor or “spice” notes. Actually, most foods’ flavors cannot be detected much without the sense of smell. By the same token, both Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petite Sirah are two types of red wine that tend to be dark, full bodied, dry, and fairly hard in tannin; but the Cabernet gives aromas and flavors of herbal, minty, berry/cassis aromas and flavors, whereas the Petite Sirah gives ripe berry/blueberry and black peppercorn-like aromas and flavors.

There are essentially two ways foods and wines are successfully paired. The first is by the similarities they share. For example: the buttery sauce in a fish dish enhanced by the creamy or buttery texture of an oak barrel fermented white wine. The other way is by the contrasts they contain as when sensations in a wine contrast with sensations in a dish to positive effect. For example: the sweetness of a white wine balancing the saltiness of a dish like ham or cured sausage, and vice-versa.

No matter what your personal taste, invariably you will discover this natural occurrence: the easiest foods and the easiest wines to find a match for are the ones with their own intrinsic sense of harmony and balance. This is because taste buds and sensations of tactile qualities work for you collectively. This is not to say that a young, overly bitter or hard textured Cabernet Sauvignon cannot be served with food. But it does narrow your food choices somewhat. For example: a gamey meat such as lamb can be made more interesting with a sweet natural plum sauce but that would also increase a young Cabernet’s toughness and so you are probably relegated to simply grilling the lamb to a slight char to at least reduce the drying effect of the wine’s tannins, and serving it with a more neutral sauce (if any) made with Cabernet and the lamb’s own natural juices.

Then again, if the Cabernet is extremely rough to the point that it is barely drinkable, not even the simplest piece of charred meat will help it taste better. The same thing for a lamb chop that is drenched in a sauce or marinade that is too sweet, too salty, too spicy hot or sour: the palate knows when a dish is unbalanced, and so even the finest, smoothest, most elegantly balanced Cabernet Sauvignon will not make that poorly prepared lamb taste better. When it comes to food as it relates to wine, it is always easier to match a dish that does not need as much alteration of taste to make it taste better; and vice-versa in the way a wine relates to food. It is simply easier to find matching components of similarity and contrast in foods and wines that are already well balanced in and of themselves.

At this point, it is all a matter of actually tasting and becoming familiar with the wines you like — just as we continue to discover delicious, new foods. The nice thing is the variations in both foods and wines are virtually endless, and so it will always be as much fun as you want it to be. And, if you want try the suggestions of others, opinions of good pairings by others are virtually endless as well. Just know that as you become more comfortable with wine-food combinations at home, you will have no reservations about selecting wines while dining out.

Planning the Best Baby Showers – From Baby Shower Decorations to Food

In the lead up to having a baby, for the parents everything can feel like a production. Besides the stress of the actual childbirth, you have to get the nursery together, deal with the insurance costs and make sure the child has a financial nest egg to start their life.

This is why baby showers are left to the new mother’s friends and family, because the last thing a mother needs to worry about is getting the right baby shower decorations. While it’s not exactly brain surgery, if it’s your first time doing it planning the right baby shower can be a little bit stressful. There is figuring out the guest list, sending out invitations, planning games, getting food and drinks, and, most of all, making sure everyone has a great time. It might sound like a lot, but as long as you take it step by step it shouldn’t be any more of a hassle then, say, planning a get together with your friends.

Maybe the easiest part of the planning is getting a guest list together. This is pretty much all on the expectant mother, whoever she wants she can invite. Chances are she’ll already have a list in her head ready by the time you come with her with your inquiry. Just make sure you have enough room for everyone in either your or her residence.
Picking the right invitation again falls under the discretion of the mother-to-be. Some women might not care what invitations go out (at that point you can purchase them at Target or Wal-Mart), while others might want something more formal. You might want to check shops like Paper Chase and Papyrus for a wide variety of cute (though somewhat pricey) invitation ideas.

When it comes to planning games for the baby shower, your best bet might be to check out the countless number of planning books that are out there or, more economically, you can check out internet websites which highlight baby shower games. Some expectant mothers might want to skip the games and make the shower a more streamlined affair.

Two of the most important components of the baby shower will be the food and the drinks offered during the affair. Let’s face it: one of the main reasons to go to any party is to graze on the food and drinks offered at it. While freshly made party platters offered from local grocers are a good idea for any party, those looking to get the affair catered might want to look towards a chain restaurant that offers platters off different “ethnic” food such as Greek, Mexican, Japanese, etc. Make sure the food matches with the expectant mothers and attendees tastes. As for drinks: soft drinks, mineral waters, juices, and wine are always good ideas.

The key to making any baby shower a hit is making sure both the mother to be and guests have a good time. The combination of good food, drinks, fun games and an overall good atmosphere will make any baby shower a hit.

Wines And Their Perfect Food Matches

There are approximately 75,000 types of wine in the world and they all match up perfectly with some type of food, whether it be appetizer, entree, or dessert. Experts have even come up with rules for how to match up a wine with its perfect type of food. There are so many to choose from it’s impossible not to find one you’ll love.

White Zinfandel is a common wine made with blackberry flavors with a little bit of black pepper. This wine is paired nicely with spicy dishes, likely a beef carbonara pasta or a spicy meat lovers pizza. A zinfandel pairs wonderfully with meats like beef, pork, and sausage, but not with any seafood or poultry. Sauces like basil, mild tomato, and pepper all work with this wine, however butter and cream sauces do not.

Pinot Grigio is a light wine for a carefree, easy drinking day. It’s critusy-lemony flavors make it an ideal match for light Italian foods. This wine goes well with light seafood, like oysters or light fish, ham, veal, or chicken. You could pair a pinot grigio with a chicken antipasti or a veal ravioli. Experts don’t recommend mixing this wine with heavy cream sauces or strong meats like duck, gamey birds, or red meats.

Merlot wine has black cherry and plum flavors. Newer styles of Merlot have a light vanilla oak flavor while older bottles have a cedar flavor. This wine is usually paired with more mild dishes. The only type of seafood recommended to mix with Merlot is tuna or salmon. A great dish to have with a Merlot is beef with wild rice and mushroom sauce. You can also pair it with duck and squab but not pork. Citrus and cream sauces are also not good choices when it comes to dishes with Merlot.

The Riesling is a German wine with a number of fruit flavors behind it. Apple, peach, pear, and apricot flavors are accented by a mineral or almost steel taste. There are three types of this wine. The Northern style is fruitier and goes better with ham, oysters, lean shellfish, and veal. The Southern style has more of a steel taste and is better with chicken, fish, or rich shellfish like lobster. There is also an off-dry style which is fruitier and goes better with apple pie and spicy Eastern food. Riesling in general is a wine that is not recommended with rich cream or red meat sauces.

Champagne is a sparkling wine made from two different types of grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A sweet Champagne usually has an apple, grapefruit, citrus or lemon flavor. This type of sparkling wine, due to its sugar content and flavor, is usually paired nicely with anything salty. Seafood such as caviar, lobster, and oysters fit into this category, as well as chicken with a light butter sauce. It’s not advised to mix Champagne with strongly flavored meats and red meat or rich, creamy sauces.

No matter what type of wine you prefer, there’s something for everyone. As long as you follow some of these rules and others set out by the experts, you’re bound to have an excellent meal, drink and all.