To explain the art and enjoyment of Pairing Food and Beverages
My passion for food started early in life. Watching my mom cook breakfast for all of us before going to work and always having dinner on the table at 6 after a full days work. Growing up in Canada, the schools did not have cafeterias. Therefore, we all went home for lunch (rain, snow, nice weather – it did not matter) and it was either making a quick sandwich or making something in the toaster oven.
You have to remember that growing up in the 70’s as a kid was an adventure. We did not have bagged salad, multiple types of ready to cook meals in every cuisine or even a microwave until high school. What we had was a limited variety of seasonal produce, fresh made products from local shops or we processed our own products.
My passion for beverages can be traced back to the Pop Shoppe (www.popshoppe.com). Can I tell you how excited I was to drink a bottle of Black Cherry Soda? One of the most amazing flavors that instantly bring myself back to childhood even today. They still make this in limited quantities – my suggestion would be to source it out to try one.
For alcoholic beverages, my first experience leads back to my first wine purchase. It was a 1987 Vouvray and I remember it clearly for a few reasons. I had no idea of what a Vouvray was but it sounded classy and was from France so it had to be good. It was in my price range since I was a poor college student. I thought the label was cute.
I drank that bottle with a roasted Chesapeake Bay Bluefish stuffed with rice and herbs. I remember that clearly since my family had caught that fish when I spent a summer in Virginia and my dad showed me how to prepare it. THE PAIRING WAS MAGICAL!
Over my career, I have been blessed to train under numerous chefs and sommeliers. Over all of the training that I received, one thing has always remained in the back of my mind. Food and beverage pairing was an art unto itself but is not really talked about.
Its been on my heart for 15 years to dive into the subject and explain my mindset on how to pair with others. This was refined at my time at the University of South Carolina during wine dinners. As a chef and sommelier, how far could I push the envelope for each menu? For over 5 years and multiple dinners, I never made the same food twice. I never was able to try the wine until approximately 45 minutes prior to dinner so writing a menu came from vintner information about a particular wine and lots of divine intervention. In addition, we had to have multiple menus for diet options (gluten free, vegan, allergies, religious concerns) that still had to match. During that time and the incredible amount of stress to pull it off, I never felt more alive, in control and in tune with our guests and the meal.
My tagline is “One Pairing at a Time.” Every time I drink a beverage, I take a moment to look at it, analyze it and enjoy it. I’m hoping to share this with you.
Chef Brian Hay