Once again the mid afternoon yawns have caught up with you as you ponder the special creations you´ll prepare for dinner. Your eyelids are heavy and you need something to get you through the down time. Espresso has run its course. You have over- saturated yourself with Coca-Cola. That Kit Kat Candy Bar on your desk looks great and may offer the perfect boost.
Peeling back the wrapper you immediately realize how dry your palate is and begin thinking what to drink with the chocolate coated crispy something or other cookie. Coffee too bitter. Coke too sweet. Turning to the right you reach to the shelf hosting various volumes- guide books for your culinary journey- which you use spurn creativity when it appears to sputter. Your hand grasps the cover of What to Drink with What you Eat, the hottest new food and beverage guide to ever be published. Turning to page 131 at the top of the third column, directly under Kathy Casey´s Cucumber Cocktail recipe, Kit Kat Candy Bar stands proud, boasting the perfect beverage pairing: tea, African.
One of the greatest pairings in the book are the authors, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. The duo, who have captured the fantasy of readers with their previous award winning compilations- Becoming a Chef and Culinary Artistry- have outdone themselves with their latest work. Every restaurateur in the country should send the couple a thank you note for their insight on a territory less traveled. What to Drink with What you Eat is more than a must read bible of beverage and food. If studied and used wisely by the restaurant´s staff the 357 page book will become a profit center increasing beverage sales cross the menu.
Dornenburg and Page extracted the knowledge of more than 70 top wine experts, chefs, and other connoisseurs to develop pairings covering 1500-plus categories including 17 cuisines and over 100 cheeses.
Although the pairing of the authors are a true treasure of the industry, panning the gold that fills the book´s pages could possibly be the profitable creativity that the fledgling restaurateur needs to boost the banter into boasts.
You´ve finished the Kit Kat and the cup of tea. You decide to get back to that menu. Glancing to page 130, Jambalaya, one of your favorite dishes appears out of no where. A great special for a Thursday evening´s menu. Paired with the California Chardonnay that you bought by the case, but have yet been able to move, may be the way to go. Priced together on the menu? Why not.
Let´s take the KFC Fried Chicken, page 131, paired with sherry, dry, Spanish, or possibly an Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Of course you wouldn’t use the KFC brand, you would dust and coat with your grandmother’s recipe, but if Gordon´s served their chicken with the sherry or Gewurztraminer, sales may have been different, and yours will soar.
Don´t think for a moment that you need a wine cellar comparable to Randy´s Steakhouse to utilize What to Drink with What you Eat. Wine is not necessarily the pairing king within the pages, although it certainly holds top throne.
Take Pistachios for instance. The residents of Dixon, California, one of the largest Pistachio belts in the country will be pleased to know that their crop pairs nicely with Darjeeling or fired oolong tea. They also crack with pleasure when accompanied by Italian white wine.
We´ve all placed the Creme Brulee on our menu. We´ve longed for it after a delightful dinner with friends. However, never in all of my Creme Brulee experiences — even my most recent with Napa Valley culinary force, Catherine Bergen at Yountville´s Bouchon- was the dish ever suggestively paired with Champagne. If the Bouchon server would have suggested a bottle, the tab would have been substantially higher. Creme Brulee and accompaniments, page 112.
Operating a restaurant often becomes a tedious task hankering for a spicy spark to add fresh life, zest and flavor into the mundane day-to-day rituals. Creativity can wane, not for lack of it, but for lack of stimulation.
Cookbooks flood the market and shelves on a regular basis. And, out of the masses, an occasional star soars while others, unmentioned, end up somewhere with few spattering of butter or flour on their pages.
You can judge a book by its cover- over time. Peruse the bookshelves in any restaurant owner´s cookbook collection and the worn bindings, torn jacket covers, and folded over pages will shout where menu ideas were born. Other books, pristine in standing have little influence on the reader.
What to Drink with What you Eat should be sold in pairs. One book, used as reference will certainly be torn, tattered, floured, spattered, and scarred as though tucked in a back pocket and carried through a journey of hills looking for that gold mine.
The other, with its pages still crisp, it jacket cover pristine, and the abundant photographs and references, chef´s suggestions and master sommeliers wisdom, still in tact for generations to enjoy.
Dornenburg and Page have done more for the restaurant business than the beverage business will ever know.
Go out and buy two copies today. And then sit down at the table in the window, enjoy an Endive Salad and raise a tall glass of Fizzy Lizzy sparkling apple juice (page 118), toasting a great pair…of authors.