Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My review of What to Drink With What You Eat from the Examiner

This blog post is another of those pieces that originally appeared in the Weekend Edition section of the Washington Examiner print edition back on April 21 & 2, 2007. Like MOST of my fairly regular output for them, this was never posted to their website and so it lost for all time...until now. ;-)

Avid wine drinkers and food lovers the world over all face a fairly regular question: What should we drink with this meal?
While there have been many published guides on this, nearly all are dry and far too involved and reference- like for regular day-to-day use.

Redeeming this genre of book is the recent publication of Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page’s What to Drink With What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea — Even Water — Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers (Bulfinch September 2006; 368 pages; $35; see their website for their latest work.)

Despite the unwieldy, if straightforward title, What to Drink With What You Eat delivers exactly what it promises — the definitive contemporary guide to food and beverage pairings based on current “expert” opinion and tastes from a wide cross-section of wine and food professionals and sommeliers (a fancy French word for the waiter in charge of the wine service). The book begins with an engaging and instructive introduction to the art of food and beverage pairing, both at home and commercially, then gallops along at a nice, very readable pace.

There are two basic parts to this informative and practical book. The first offers a comprehensive alphabetical listing of foods from Aioli to Zucchini, and each entry is accompanied by a list of suggested beverages that would best accompany it.

The second part of the book offers the same but leading with the beverages instead of the food, offering an equally comprehensive alphabetical listing, from Aglianico (pronounced “ah-LYAH-nee-koe”; a red varietal wine from the Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy) to Zinfandel. Again, the entries here are accompanied by a list of compatible food suggestions.

Peppering the text throughout are quotes, situational advice, and instructive and entertaining anecdotes from their experts.
The back section of the book contains interviews, advice, dream menus, and the like, distilled from the book’s “Who’s Who” list of experts from America’s best restaurants. This is the part of the book you’ll either find absorbing or dreadfully dull, depending partly on how familiar you are with the wines and dishes, but mostly on how much pleasure you take in reading the culinary fantasies of others.

Despite this feature — either a fault or virtue, depending on tastes — What to Drink With What You Eat is a wonderful guide filled with excellent advice.

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