I’m delighted to introduce a guest on World of Booze. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky Danielle Bell now lives in Brooklyn with her partner Pablo Osorio where they run a dining club called de Porres . She’s been having a lot of fun searching for the right thing to drink with their food. Everything they cook looks exquisite (sadly I haven’t made it out to New York to eat any) and it now appears she has excellent taste in wine.
Nearly one year ago to this date my boyfriend Pablo and I began de Porres. Our idea was to host a monthly dinner party with dishes influenced by his native Peru and desserts inspired by my American South for the intellectually and gastronomically curious. Having cooked for one another often we knew it was winning combination of flavors, spices, and histories. We began, as one might expect, with ceviche, anticuchos de corazón (heavily seasoned heart, cubed, seared and served on a stick) with yuca cooked in duck fat followed. Our main course was arroz con pato with duck quarters Pablo and I had confited ourselves and for dessert derby pie. At the close of the meal we gave out small bags of my lemon curd and buttercream coconut alfajores to our guests. “Perfect with tea or coffee in the morning,” we told our friends—most of whom devoured the cookies on the spot.
While I can recall the look and flavors of each dish, I cannot say the same for the wine. I’m sure they were fine, as people drank them with no complaint, but remarkable they were not. In the months that followed great attention was paid to the food. We were very particular about creating an an atmosphere that encouraged conversation, laughter, and bonhomie. Each dish was meticulously plated and for drink we’d offer our guest the option of red, white, and, in the summer, rosé. However, as our menus and execution improved I began to wonder if we were doing Pablo’s food justice by not paying adequate attention to what we served with it. From then on pairing de Porres became a mission of mine.
Currently Peruvian cuisine is not particularly well known in the United States. Even some of the most adventurous gourmands, whilst open to the idea of it, have had little, if any, of it. Often with the mention of aji amarillo, Peru’s yellow pepper of choice, someone would suggest Riesling. Other times, as when describing aji de gallina, we’d be directed to Chile and Argentina for no reason other than Peru sharing a continent with these two countries. This, of course, was not particularly useful considering the many differences between Peruvian cuisine—Limeño in particular—and that of its neighbors. Hence, pairing de Porres was not easy even while it was delightfully fun.
We began with asking questions. We’d explain our dishes and their components to a wide range wine shop clerks, barmen and woman, waiters, and beverage directors. I contacted noted sommeliers and wine writers online (some named Henry Jeffreys*, some not). I made use of my highlighter with molecular sommelier/mad scientist and Adria Ferran frequent collaborator François Chartier’s Taste buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor . Pablo and I would gleefully take advantage of many a happy hours, we made weekly trips to wine shops throughout the city, none more so than Astor Wines. During all of this what surprised us most was how readily these professionals engaged with us and how eager they were to share their knowledge. That wine need not be elitist or stuffy was news to me and my boyfriend.
Pablo and I took what we learned back to de Porres. We got our always engaged diners involved by pairing separate courses with more than one beverage and asking that they be the judge. Many got in on the fun, graciously bringing bottles of their own to our dining table. We drank, we compared notes. Below are some observations from our year in pairing.
Tokaji Furmint Sec:
I suppose I could keep this post short and sweet by advising you to pick up a few bottles of Királyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec. Indeed, no other wine has proved to be as versatile and consistently reliable as this Hungarian white. Seductive, floral, tropical, endlessly charming, pleasingly honeyed we’ve found this bottle to pair exceptionally well with scallop tiradito, flounder ceviche, and arroz con pato. It’s gone on to be delicious with lomo saltado and I suspect would work wonderfully with aji de gallina, pulpo al olivo, and arroz con mariscos. Upon our second encounter with the ‘o9 Királyudvar I wrote on our blog, “One feels special when drinking Tokaji, even the smallest pour makes the room a bit more heady.” Many months later I remain enchanted. While it’s true we favor the ‘o9 Királyudvar, the ‘11 Evolúció Tokaji from the curiously named producer Love Over Money, at half the price is lovely in its own right.
As mentioned above Tokaji with ceviches and tiraditos makes for elegant, spirited pairings. However, as many Peruvians already know, a lighter beer (for us Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner) goes well with both. Beer would also pair well with anticuchos and jalea, although Cava would be my first choice for the latter.
As with ceviche the question you’d want to ask yourself when pairing is which direction you want to go. Should you want a more laid back presentation, by all means pour yourself a Pilsner or even a darker beer to go with your anticuchos. If you want to give your meal a more formal feel then go for red wine. We chose D. Ventura’s Viña do Burato ‘11, a fresh and playful Mencia from Galicia. I do think considering the earthiness and spice of the heart a Rhone Valley red could work very well.
Pulpo al Olivo (see left):
At our one year anniversary dinner we served pulpo al olivo for a second time. With the first we were pleased to see how nicely Manzanilla Sherry paired with the dish. For the second time I had something else in mind. We pitted Jorge Ordonez Botani ‘10, a dry Moscatel from Málaga, against Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Eco Torrontes ‘11. While both worked, the clear winner was the Botani. Aromatic, floral, with traces of limestone and enough acidity to cut through the richness of the aioli, while almost mirroring the brininess of the octopus and olives. You’d be hard pressed to find something better for your pulpo. We can confidently recommend the same bottle with choros a la chalaca, arroz con mariscos and smoked fish causas.
Ever had an Yalumba Antique Tawny Port with your alfajores? No? What a shame. Rich, with notes of chocolate, caramel, dried fruit, and mocha, this Australian Tawny Port along with my signature ganache, buttercream coconut, and salted manjarblanco alfajores proved to be an epiphany, three in fact. Of course, if you’re like me and love an alfajor or seven in the morning, at an earlier hour a cup Cafe du Monde Chicory Coffee will more than do the trick.
While writing this I could not help but relive the fun that got me here in the first place. I by no means wish to imply this list is definitive, as it is certainly not complete! Rather, I wish to share with you the beginning of what is sure to be a winding, lengthy journey. With that in mind, use my selections for inspiration but do not hesitate to try your own. And after, do share what you gathered. With me. Please.
* Danielle is being kind here, I think this is the last place one would go for help matching wines to food or vice versa.