In Chicago, the most prominent of all sommeliers is a young woman named Alpana Singh. She manages the wine lists for the city’s leading operator of high-end restaurants, and also hosts a restaurant review program called “Check, Please!” on the local PBS station.
Singh wrote a less-than-memorable book a few years ago, but her blog is must-reading for anyone who enjoys pairing wine with food. You can tap into her vast knowledge of the subject at: WhatWouldAlpanaDrink.blogspot.com.
Although quite successful in her career, Singh maintains a down-to-earth attitude and readily admits to enjoying “comfort food” every bit as much as the fancy dishes created by the master chefs at the restaurants for which she works.
The fact of the matter is that many gourmet dishes can pose a wine-pairing challenge since they may have so many different flavors revealing themselves. The trick is to pair the wine with the most dominant flavor, but what if a dish has three or four dominant flavors?
Pairing with comfort food, on the other hand, is a relative snap.
Here are Singh’s wine recommendations for a quartet of comfort food faves…
* Barbecued ribs: “The fruitfulness of a well-chilled rose provides the perfect contrast to sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. This is a fun pairing, especially with a sparkling rose.”
* Grilled cheese sandwich: “The acidity and tart cherry flavors of Sangiovese pair with the gooeyness of grilled cheese in very much the same way tomato soup does.”
* Burritos: “The next time you’re faced with a burrito bigger than your head, wash it down with a rich and fruity glass of Malbec. This pairing works particularly well with chicken or steak burritos.”
* Fried chicken: “I was introduced to this pairing about 10 years ago, and now I can’t enjoy fried chicken without a glass of Champagne. The lemony zip of sparkling wine cuts through the oily richness of the chicken, cleansing your palate for the next bite.”