How to pair comfort food with fine wines, champagnes

Have you ever felt like something was missing from your favorite Louisville comfort food? A glass of Merlot, perhaps?

Wine doesn’t just add sparkle to delicacies. When you find the right combination, the “aha” glass that makes every bite a revelation, wine can turn anything, and I mean anything, into a culinary marvel.

Anyone got fried chicken and sparkling wine? How about greasy burgers and a bold red wine?

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What looks like magic is actually science. And art. And an understanding of how certain flavors work together.

Hailing from Louisville, Vanessa Price is the sommelier and the brilliant brains behind the funniest wine pairing book I can imagine. His “Big Macs and Burgundy: Wine Pairings for the Real World” entertained and wowed my quarantine pod during the dark (first) winter of COVID-19, and it still provides me with jaw-dropping “how-know-how” moments. her that it will work?”

After tasting some of her funniest pairings, like Sour Patch Kids and Demi-Sec Riesling, at an event at Nouvelle Bar & Bottle, I wondered: how would she pair foods that are close to our hearts here at Louisville?

Some bottles and stemware at New Bar and Bottle in Louisville, KY.  November 9, 2017

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Fortunately, Price was more than up to the challenge of finding wines to work magic with some of the comfort foods we know and love best around here.

Note that some of these should take place in a carryover situation. I recommend setting your table with your favorite dishes or grabbing your TV tray and leaving it in the to-go container.

Either way, prepare to be blown away by these comforting food and wine pairings.

Vietnam Kitchen Faux Duck and Long Island Merlot

The Vietnam Kitchen duck.

Price may not live in Louisville anymore, but she hasn’t forgotten the deep and abiding love many of us have for faux duck and crispy green beans from Vietnam Kitchen, 5339 Mitscher Ave., in the south of Louisville. In fact, his family’s family grew up in South Louisville, right next to Iroquois Park and a stone’s throw from [Vietnam Kitchen]. Definitely a staple for life.

When I’m at Vietnam Kitchen, I like to have fresh coconut juice. But Price wants you to try the Merlot next time. Specifically a Merlot from Long Island.

“The tip of Long Island can have extremely cold winters and summers with back-to-back days as hot as parts of the Sahara,” she says. “This insane mix of endless challenges must be why the masochist in me recently decided to take on a vineyard project here (Ev&Em Vineyards). Winemakers also have to deal with mould, rot, drought, floods, and every disease you can think of. Yet we still do, because Long Island is a place that makes great wine that too often gets shunned for its more glamorous American competition on the West Coast.”

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Vietnam Kitchen has been serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine for 26 years in the same unassuming building behind the Iroquois Mansion.  The food is a taste of home for immigrants as well as a favorite for Americans.  The food has drawn praise both locally and nationally.  June 4, 2019.

Long Island Merlot “has a tannin as velvety as a puffy hotel pillow and an earthy mineral thread that is distinct from the eastern end of New York. There are a few places in California where Merlot is grown with an identity of terroir so unique. You get the classic plum vein you might expect from Merlot intertwined with semi-sweet licorice and a crush of acid that the West Coast just can’t match,” says Price.

“Mock Duck Stir Fry [at Vietnam Kitchen] lucky to have such an island beauty by her side,” she says, “because there’s a good kind of green pepper in the merlot that helps support the sautéed green beans. Seitan is always more textural than it is flavorful, but that sharp bite and salty element of the wine brings out all the soy and sesame you can get from the sauce. The “wok taste” will shine against the tar, earth and mushrooms that these wines can embody. »

Mayan Coffee Lima Beans and Arios Loureiro Vinho Verde

Lima beans at Mayan Cafe, 813 E Market St., have a cult following.

You all might know that if I had my way, Tok Sel Lima Beans at Mayan Cafe, 813 E. Market St., would be Louisville’s official dish. Bruce Ucan’s treatment of creamy beans with toasted pumpkin seeds and a whisk of sesame oil turns them into a dish you’ll never stop thinking about.

And there’s the perfect wine on the Mayan Cafe menu to take this favorite to the next level.

“Vinho Verde translates to ‘green wine’, in this case meaning young, and it comes from the region around Minho in northern Portugal which makes its wines the same way Provence makes its rosés,” Price explains.

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Lima beans at Mayan Cafe, 813 E Market St., have a cult following.

“They almost taste like someone made a tart lemonade, then added a bit of bubbly and a pinch of fruit flavor to the sea spray (all natural, of course) – a refreshingly simple wine for a light and easy meal. Since these lima beans are served with pumpkin seeds and cooked in sesame oil, there’s a richness to the dish that the crisp acid of the wine backs up nicely. Aided by its gentle effervescence and salt, Vinho Verde lights up the wick that makes the flavors of parsley explode in the mouth. They’re practically light in the body and not overly complex, so the fireworks don’t linger too long after swallowing.

All types of BBQ and Côte-Rôtie

A variety of smoked meats from Louisville Smokers BBQ, 1500 W. Oak St. in Louisville.

“Barbecue is in my blood, and I sincerely believe that smoking giant slices of meat is one of the greatest forms of culinary art in the world,” Price says.

She and her family had a permanent date at the now-closed Hometown BBQ, but we all have our favorite barbecue spots in town (I’ve been loving the Louisville Smokers BBQ, 1500 W. Oak St., lately.)

“I also know that there are many bottles that can amplify the smoky, fatty sublime of a perfect brisket or tender rack of ribs. But above all, Côte-Rôtie from the Rhone Valley in France, can help barbecue achieve transcendence,” says Price.

This diverse and vibrant region can be bisected geographically and stylistically, she says, with a gorgeous red grape variety called Syrah in the north used as a base in several appellations.

“What makes Côte-Rôtie such a unicorn among them is actually its name,” says Price. “In English, this translates to ‘the roasted slope’, as the steep slopes where the vines grow face south towards the Rhône and receive plenty of sunshine. This allows the grapes to ripen to their full and strongest tannic potential, and the resulting expression yields a robust set of aromas and flavors like olives, white pepper, bacon grease and dark fruits of all kinds. , as well as a distinct smoke that is a lookalike of charcoal.”

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No matter what kind of barbecue you like, Price says, “These wines will make the most of every juicy, smoky morsel. The appellation is small and prestigious, so the wines start out expensive and only go up from But Côte-Rôtie is so good you get what you pay for every time.

I cannot recommend Price’s book highly enough. As a casual wine drinker at best, I’m often mystified by the sommelier’s mannerisms. Trying out its awesome combinations and reading its notes illuminates the chords in a way that makes it exciting and fun and something worth learning more about.

Shirley Mae’s Cafe and Champagne Fried Chicken

Fried chicken and champagne from Shirley Mae's Cafe make a perfect picnic.

I’ll leave you with two more Louisville agreements. Price loves her grandmother’s fried chicken cooked in an old cast iron skillet in hot, bubbling lard. It sounds like the soul-satisfying chicken that comes out of Shirley Mae’s Cafe, 802 S. Clay St. With that, she wants you to have some champagne. Really. Look for a Brut Multi-Vintage, she says.

The bubbly high acidity with a hint of sugar helps cut through greasy, greasy chicken, she says.

“If you take a sip of champagne between bites, you will cleanse your palate and prepare for the next bite. It becomes that way of heightening the experience of every bite.

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Ollie’s Trolley Burgers and Chilean Carmenere

Cash, Dana McMahan's dog, loves outings at Ollie's Trolley in Old Louisville.

And the next time you bring home a grease-splattered bag of Ollieburgers from Ollie’s Trolley, 978 S. 3rd St.? This hot and spicy burger needs a big red like a Chilean Carmenere, says Price. The green grassy character will complement the Ollie sauce and its cornucopia of spices, she says, while the higher alcohol content helps tame the fatness of the burger.


Pass me the Ollie fries and a drink, please.

Tell it to Dana! Send your restaurant “dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.

About Michael Brafford

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