My Fast Food & Wine Pairing Experience: Pancheros

After reading an article recently about pairing fast food options with wine, I decided to try my own version to see if it was even worth attempting to pair in my opinion.  I decided that I would like to try the concept of fast food pairing with some of my favorite carry-out options.  I want to test a spicy Chinese dish with a Rose, a local fried chicken joint with a barrel fermented Chardonnay, a local pizzeria pairing as well as a burger pairing from the local dive bar that dishes out some fabulous, juicy burgers and hand-cut fries.  My first experiment was with one of my go-to lunch/dinner on the run stops, Pancheros.

One evening I stopped at Pancheros Mexican Grill and bought a steak and carnita burrito with chips and salsa for dinner.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pancheros, it is similar to a Chipotle.  They make their own homemade tortillas and press them fresh when you order and load up the burrito with your choice of proteins and fresh vegetables (along with the typical rice and beans). In a word, delicious. On my drive home, I decided that I would try to pair it with a red wine that I had at home.  Upon finding a Tempranillo on my shelf, I decided to go for it. The Tempranillo was from Spain, the burrito derives from Mexico.  They speak Spanish in both countries.  That seemed like enough reason for me to pair them.  In all seriousness, I thought the flavors from this wine would compliment the pulled pork in my burrito.  This pairing did not fail me.  The particular wine I purchased was fairly weak in intensity, but the savory spice flavors in the wine married with the acidity of the pico de gallo and chips as well as the fresh veggies and meat in the burrito.  I would definitely put this combo together again!

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Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Aged & White Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is aged and white:

* Serve with dishes that feature similar flavors (nuts, sherry and dried fruits) to mirror the flavor profile.

* Compensate for the lost acidity in the mature wine with acidity in the dish (a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar).

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Aged & Red Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

 

When the wine is aged and red:

* Serve rare preparations of meats to fill in the flavor gaps left by the drying out of the youthful fruit that occurs as the wine develops in the bottle.

* Remember that because tannins soften over time, an aged red gives you a broader range of food options than a tannic young wine.

* Remember that wines become more delicate as they age; choose simpler preparations to show them off rather than make them compete with complex recipes.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Oaky Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is oaky:

* Accompany them with bold recipes, because really oaky wines will always seem “bigger” with food.

* Play up the oak through the choice of ingredients (include nuts or sweet spices) or cooking methods (lightly grilling or smoking).

* Remember that oak aging adds rich texture that can be nice with rich and textured sauces and dishes.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Tannic Wines

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is tannic:

* Counterbalance the tannins by serving foods that are high in protein, fat or both.

* Remember that an entrée relatively low in protein or fat may make the wine appear more tannic.

* Remember that tannin and spicy heat can clash!

* Use pepper (cracked black or white) to counterbalance the tannins, as it is somewhat bitter by nature.

* Serve foods that are bitter (eggplant, zucchini, chard, endive, broccoli rabe, etc.) or prepare ingredients in a way that accentuates bitterness (blackening, cooking over a wood fire, or grilling) to achieve taste symmetry.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: High Alcohol Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine has a high alcohol content:

* Make sure that the dish being served is ample in personality and weight, or it will be overwhelmed.

* Don’t serve very spicy-hot food!

* Remember that food will make the wine appear even hotter.

* Avoid excessive salt, which will exaggerate your perception of the wine’s heat/alcohol.

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.

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Baumgartner’s is clearly an institution in this area.  We were told by multiple sources that we had to visit the shop and try their chili and cheese sandwiches after our brewery tours.  The chili was certainly worth mentioning.  I had to laugh at their tagline stating that they were the second best chili, right after your mother’s.  They topped it with cheese or raw onions.

The list of cheeses available for the cheese sandwiches would only be found in good ol’ Wisconsin.  I wanted to try something different.  When in Rome philosophy.  I noticed one type of cheese was brick cheese.  I assumed that this was so named because it was a large brick of cheese and the type rotated based on the local selection, similar to how farm-to-table restaurants rotate their fresh selections.  So I inquired with the waitress about what type of cheese the brick cheese was currently on the menu.  Some of you may already know the punch line to this riddle.  There is a mild, white cheese that is actually called brick cheese.  I went for it.

In my mind, the cheese sandwich was going to be a grilled cheese sandwich, so I was a little put back when they dropped a slice of cheese between two slices of white bread on our table.  I felt like a child.  In my opinion, it would have been infinitely better if they had slapped some butter on it and grilled it up a bit, but who am I to judge the preparation of a cheese sandwich in Wisconsin. Clearly they know more about cheese than this Iowa girl!

My biggest piece of advice would be not to try the limburger cheese! My brother bravely ordered one for the table so we could all sample a little bit of it.  I hesitated and decided that it would be best to let the boys try it first and if they could handle it, then I would consider.  They are big fishermen and likened the smell to stink bait.  I quickly decided that the accolades of eating limburger cheese were not worth it.

I would love to return to this quaint establishment.  My brother bought a few types of cheese to put on sandwiches for future lunches and said it was the best colby-jack cheese he has ever tasted.  They definitely sell high quality cheese in their store and I would love to purchase more of it on the way out than I did on that particular trip.

If you are ever in the area, do not miss Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern.  You will not be sorry!

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Sweet Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is sweet:

* If you’re serving the wine with dessert, choose a dessert that’s less sweet than the wine, or else the wine will taste sour.

* If the wine is not too sweet (closer to off-dry), try serving it with foods that are slightly sweet to complement it, or dishes that are mildly hot or spicy as a foil.

* Try playing the wine against dishes that are a little salty; you may find some fun combinations, especially with chesses and many Asian and Nuevo Latino, North African, Floridian/Caribbean or Hawaiian-influenced “tropical” preparations.

Chinese Chicken Salad

I enjoy salads year round, but there is something about the summer that screams salad for lunch.  This delicious salad graces the cover of my copy of Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein and makes me salivate every time I pick up the book.

This recipe would pair well with an apple and apricot flavored, dry or slightly off-dry Riesling.

Chinese Chicken Salad

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

vegetable oil for frying (such as canola or olive oil)

Ginger-Soy Dressing

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

3 tablespoons finely  minced peeled fresh ginger

2 tablespoons hot mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons white or rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (such as canola, peanut or grapeseed oil)

salt to taste

Salad

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch slices

2 small heads romaine, coarsely shredded

1 cup bean sprouts

1/4 cup minced green onions (mostly green parts)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

For the chicken:

* Lightly pound the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform thickness.

* Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

* In a large sauté pan, pour the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and warm over medium-high heat.

* Add the chicken breasts and fry until golden and cooked through, turning once, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

* Drain the chicken on a plate lined with paper towels.  When cool, shred into a large bowl.

For the dressing:

* Puree the garlic and ginger in a small food processor.

* Add the mustard, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and pulse to combine.

* Gradually beat in the vegetable oil, a drop at a time, until the mixture emulsifies.

* Season the dressing to taste with salt.

To serve:

* Add the cucumber slices to the chicken in the bowl and toss with 1/2 cup or more of the dressing to moisten the mixture well.

* Combine the romaine, bean sprouts, green onions, and fresh cilantro in another bowl and toss with 1/2 cup of the dressing.

* Distribute the greens mixture evenly among salad plates.

* Place the chicken and cucumber mixture atop the greens.

* Drizzle with some of the remaining dressing if desired.

* Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Variations:

* You can broil or grill or poach the chicken breasts instead of frying them.

* You can try sweet sliced jicama in place of the cucumber.

* You can use toasted pine nuts as a sweeter substitute for toasted sesame seeds.

Recommended Riesling Wine Producers:

Everyday:  Dr. Burklin-Wolf, St. Urbans-Hof, Navarro

Premium:  J.J. Prum, Zilliken, Grosset Wines

Splurge:  Robert Weil, Franz Kunstler, Gunderloch

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Tart Wine

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When the wine is tart:

* Select dishes that are rich, creamy, high in fat or salty to counterbalance the wine.

* Match the wine with tart food (sharp ingredients, vinaigrettes and other sharp sauces.)

* Use the wine to cut the heat in mildly spicy dishes.

* Try skipping the lemon wedge that you might otherwise serve with the dish (with fish, chicken, veal, pork, vegetables and grains.)