Chef sat with us briefly and described the wines, while Landoll led me gently by the hand through a tasting, just as she would one of her students at MCI.
As a chef, I’ve always held the theory that you should drink what you like, and that typically wines and food from the same region go well together, although I never really gave much thought as to why this was the case. Chef Geddes explained that this is due to few things: tradition, region (the food and grape are grown in the same soil) and body chemistry, which is why to a certain degree there is always a bit of subjectivity in wine tasting.
A huge fan of German riesling, Geddes blew my mind when he had me taste cheeses with both red wine, which I would typically drink with cheese, and a riesling, which I was not familiar with, but now know is the right pairing. It turns out that all that puckering I’ve been doing from the tannins in the red wines is not desirable with my cheese.
Landoll finds that people gravitate toward what they know, so she spends most of her time educating people on how to step out of their wine “comfort zone” and taste things they’ve never had before. “I try to tell my students that we can’t tell people what’s good unless they themselves have had it. Also, [when working with a restaurant sommelier] people should be comfortable saying, ‘I have no idea what that is,’ and be open to new pairings.” Nobody knows this better than Landoll. She works with sommeliers in some of Cincinnati’s finest restaurants and is adept at helping them craft wine lists that work perfectly with their kitchen’s food.
Since they don’t take as long to make as wine, craft beer is a beverage that in recent years has exploded on the food pairing scene. According to Bryant Phillips, general director — as well as a sommelier himself — of Django Western Taco, a traditional Tex-Mex joint in Northside, beer is “easy to pair with food, due to the fact that it’s palate cleansing as well as refreshing, sort of like champagne.”
“Beer is super good for food pairing, and I like to try new pairings all the time,” says Phillips. “You really can’t do it wrong with some of these new craft beers since you don’t have to deal with the tannin issue that you have in wine. It’s a really fun crap shoot.”
Eric Faber, Django’s manager, sommelier and wine director welcomes the chance to help people to try new things without being too pushy. “When people order things that don’t go together, we’ll try to educate them. But some people want to drink what they want to drink. Our job is to make people happy.”
Phillips adds, “The clientele at La Poste [Phillips’ other, more upscale restaurant in Clifton with partners Kelly Lough, Chef Dave Taylor and Jens Rosenkrantz] really wants to be educated. Here at Django, it’s a taco bar, and we’re just having fun.”
Since both Phillips and Faber are sommeliers, I asked them if wine makers have food in mind when they produce their wine. “It depends on the winemaker,” says Phillips. “Some of them do, but a lot of them just consider themselves farmers. There are three different kinds of winemakers. Those who make wine for money, those who make wine for drinking at the table and those who make wine for the craft of wine.”
There are approximately 9,000 taste buds on a human tongue, and according to Scientific American, “Flavor is a complex mixture of sensory input composed of taste (gustation), smell (olfaction) and the tactile sensation of food as it is being munched, a characteristic that food scientists often term ‘mouthfeel.’ ” Given the unfathomable possible combinations of food and drink, and the fact that each person processes information in a completely different way, I’m of the belief that although there are generally accepted guidelines as to what goes with what, taste is and will remain totally subjective, and, as Phillips says, “The bottom line is, eat what you like and drink what you like.”
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