Fall Spice is Nice

November 18, 2014 No comments »
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No season like the fall

American’s are suckers for fall.  Take the Pumpkin Spice Latte…this year it debuted in late August – translation – late summer.  Summer!  The hashtag “#PSL” blew up on social media the day it came back to Starbucks.

Folks couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were for fall, about the cool weather, the changing leaves, the pumpkin-flavored everything.  Growing up in southern California, I liked fall, too.  Of course, we usually had to wait until January for it to actually feel like fall, but still.  Living in western Pennsylvania, I love fall even more.  By the time mid-August rolls around here, I’ve had it with the heat and humidity and begin to long for the shorter days and my scarves. Fall is a wonderful change.  Berries and grilled-everything give way to squashes and stews.  Cooking indoors isn’t as oppressive as it is during the height of summer and suddenly, the craving for stick-to-your-ribs meals and the warm spices of autumn are there.  The herbs and spices that have sat idle in my pantry for months – cinnamon, cloves, ginger, etc – are again superstars.  And because of this, my wines shift a little as well.

I practically swim in dry rosés and lighter-bodied white wines in the summer time, and while I tend to purchase more reds when the temperature cools down, don’t think for a moment the lighter wines of summer have no place in fall.  One of my favorite side dishes during this season is North African Roasted Cauliflower.  Boring cauliflower?  Oh no, not even close.  When broccoli’s less popular cousin is roasted in the oven at a high temperature with olive oil, garlic, lots of interesting spices like cumin and coriander and then doused in lemon juice, you get a caramelized, nutty sensation that is deeelicious!  The spice and garlic in the dish call for a lighter white wine with a decent amount of fruit; I like it with 2013 Vigonier.

Indian food is a genre of cuisine that I love, yet I don’t make a lot of it at home.  I admit, I’m a little intimidated by the number of ingredients many of the recipes call for, however, there is one recipe I have for lentil and chickpea curry that is to-die-for and is practically soul food on a chilly autumn evening.  There are so many interesting and complicated flavors in it – fresh ginger, curry paste, cumin, cayenne, coconut milk, honey, cilantro – that it would seem finding a wine pairing would be impossible.  Here’s a tip: the less spicy (hot) the curry, the easier it is to pair a wine.  Thankfully, the recipe I use is not terribly hot, it’s just right.  The aromatic and lovely 2014 Torrontes is a wonderful choice as is the slightly sweeter and bubbly 2012 Rose Spumante.

And how about the king of all fall dishes…the star of tailgating parties…the darling dish of cold nights, chili?  Beer, of course, is the classic counterpart to a big bowl of chili.  It cools the palate, the hops compliment the fatty goodness of the meat.  But the right wine with chili might surprise you.  I find that high alcohol and tannins clash with the spiciness of chili, so I like a lighter, very juicy, very fruity red wine like 2013 Beverino.  Chill the bottle for about 40 minutes in the fridge for the perfect sipping temperature.

Try me with chili

What are your favorite wine and food pairings in the fall months?

–Erica Martinez


Posted by , November 18, 2014 No comments

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