I love Maneet Chauhan’s outlook on life.
“If I have the perfect meal and I’m with the person I love most,” she observes, “what more can you want out of life?”
Maneet is the executive chef at Chicago’s acclaimed Vermilion restaurant, where contemporary Indian and Latin American cuisines meld deliciously.
This is where gourmands congregate to share small plates such as artichoke pakoras and blue corn-crusted scallops, feast on signature dishes such as chili-glazed and blackened tamarind ribs or a pistachio-crusted veal chop, or submit to the untamed spices of dishes such as Sri Lankan whole fish (with 16 spices!) or lobster Portuguese.
Maneet is a wine enthusiast, and carefully selects bottlings that match nicely with even the spiciest of the spicy dishes. So, even if it’s not Valentine’s Day, a romantic dinner is possible.
Ah, romance. Granted, we women are a bit more in tune with the concept than many men, which is why we need to be aware of the dishes (and the wines) that are most likely to heat things up – even without Maneet Chauhan’s spices.
With that in mind, here are a few classic pairings…
*** Oysters and Champagne. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, and the perfect wine to slurp with them is a Blanc de Blancs -whether it’s an authentic French Champagne, or a refreshing Italian Prosecco.
*** Chiles and Riesling. Here’s a case of opposites attracting – the hot, sweat-inducing spiciness of the chile with the cool, calming mouthfeel of the wine. It should come as no surprise that there always is a Riesling featured on Maneet’s menu at Vermilion.
*** Basil and Cabernet Sauvignon. Turn those basil leaves into a simple pesto, slather it on your favorite style of pasta, pour a glass of Cabernet and prepare to be seduced – by the food and wine, to be sure, but probably by your significant other as well.
*** Chocolate and Tawny Port. When pairing wine with almost any kind of dessert, it’s best if the wine is a little bit sweeter. So, go with a high-quality chunk of bittersweet chocolate.