Of late I have been running into the quirkiest of pairing situations. First was a wine dinner I attended at the Red Zen, a Thai fine-dining at the Courtyard Marriott in Mumbai. The food was impeccable but what astounded at first were the Italian wines from the Tuscan house of Piccini paired alongside it. Even in Thailand that is rare. I learnt that day that basil leaves pair very well with red Chianti. I also learnt that if the wine is gentle and not too heavy on the alcohol, it will pair even alongside a spicy dish and not seem too much out of place.
And then there was Soy; one of the few low-key places with expat chefs churning out some great dim-sums and Thai fare in the capital. Pairing of the evening was good Chinese tea. I would have opted for wine but dim sums beget tea. This lingered on till a few days later at Yauatcha which consistently serves the best dim sums in Mumbai. Once again, tea sat fabulously well alongside the cane boxes that were stacked high and hungry.
The next dinner was back in Delhi and this time it was Australian wines from the house of Penfold’s being paired with one of India’s finest Spanish restaurants, Sevilla at the Claridges. The lesson here was: when both food and wine are individually good then the pairing is always great.
Then was a tasting of Bulgarian wines with local food. This event introduced us to some fantastic local grapes and dishes, all pretty yummy. Little surprise that from UK to US, they are quite the new rage on the international wine scene. The trouble however was that with no idea of what to expect in dishes and in wines, the idea of how to pair was as open as the wide seas for the early explorers.
Finally, to round all this off I found myself back in Mumbai for two lovely meal experiences. The first was at Arola with the legendary Rey of Spanish wine, Miguel Torres with Spanish tapas. And then, at the Sassy Spoon I paired everything from the Mediterranean to the Orient with a St. Clair Pinot Noir from New Zealand.
Lastly, I was witness to the Taj opening its 100th property in NCR. The star of the ceremony was the Delhi-6 menu which follows the route of the number 6 metro line serving up cuisine along the route. From chaat to momos were quirkily paired with milkshakes and good ol’ banta. All in all, an action packed few weeks and yet how effortlessly they glided by. The lessons of the fortnight were:
● Pairing is not just about the food: the setting, the company, and the mood matter too.
● When in doubt, believe the only palate that counts: yours. No matter how crazy a match, if you like it, say so. And if you don’t, likewise.
● Pairing may appear tough but is really most fun when the elements are previously unknown to us.
● It doesn’t always have to be wine. From whiskies and cocktails to tea and banta, all goes.
● I take planes more often than a pilot and am living more the life of a gathering nomad than a settled hunter.