By Marsha Fottler
Jeffrey Saad is a chef, restaurateur, runner up for the Next Food Network Star (season 5) and he’s soon to have his own cooking show. His motto is “cooking without borders” and he proves it in his global cooking style and his willingness to travel anywhere for a culinary thrill. Saad started his food adventures in Chicago at age 13 when he was hired to work in a diner. Today he owns Sweet Heat Mexican restaurants and several others in San Francisco and he is available to the world on his popular Web site www.jeffreysaad.com.
Lately Chef Saad is interested in simplifying the world of food and wine pairings. He revealed that he experienced his food/wine match epiphany in San Francisco at a small French Bistro over foie gras and a glass of Sauterne.
According to Saad, this was the first time he truly understood and appreciated that “aha” moment when a perfect match occurs between food and wine. And he was the successful matchmaker. Saad recently shared his favorite food and wine pairings and tips for finding your perfect match.
“Approach your food and wine the same way you approach your relationships,” said Saad. “Stop and listen to your food and wine. Really pay attention to what’s in front of you and give the first couple tastes your full attention. When you do this, you will start to notice how your food and wine communicate with each other, learning which relationships are complementary and which are not.”
Saad urges people to trust their palates. When experimenting with a food/wine pairing, the expert suggests you take a sip of wine first, then follow with a bite of food and then another sip of wine. Now stop and focus on the flavors going on in your mouth. If you do this enough times, you’ll begin to appreciate what flavor combinnations work for you. Some of Saad’s favorite food/wine matches: are ribeye steak and Malbec wine, sherry and Marcona almonds, foie gras and sauterne and Pad Thai with Sauvignon Blanc.
Want more? Then try Chef Saad’s tips when matching food and wine.
* Foods higher in fat pair with more acidic wines, such as Yealands Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity cuts through the fat allowing the flavors of the food and wine come through. Most cheeses pair well with Riesling, sauterne, Tilia Torrontes, or chenin blanc wines.
* Salty foods best pair with wines lower in alcohol, the saltiness will exaggerate the alcohol in wine. Try an off-dry or sparkling wine like Zardetto Prosecco.
* For rich protein foods such as steak serve a wine with tannins. The proteins soften the tannins and the fruit will come forward. A good pairing is High Note Malbec with duck or Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon with Kobe beef strip.
* Spicy food such as Indian cuisine or West African accelerate the tannins in wine so choose an off-dry or fruity wine, such as Clean Slate Riesling.
In his repertoire, Chef Saad has “wines to the rescue.” These are bottles he considers to be most food friendly. Fail-safe alternatives for novices. “The Barbera grape has enough acid and bright fruit flavors to pair well with a wide range of food so look for this grape,” he said. “A dry or off-dry Rosé goes with most foods because it has enough acid to match the acid in a salad; enough fruit to offset spicy food; and just enough tannin to stand up to most protein.” Europeans drink more rose wines than Americans who have yet to fully appreciate the food range that a good rose can cover. Investigate these wines.
Finally, the low alcohol and high acidity of Champagne make it a perfect choice for most meals, according to Saad. From canapes to chocolate for dessert and anything in between, if you don’t know what to order, choose a good quality champagne and no one at the table will every complain about your wine-choosing skills.
Now it’s time to discover your own “aha” moment of matching. It’s less about right and wrong and more abut what pleases your individual palate. So experiment. That’s what great chefs do.