Mister C’s Wine and Food Pairing


On September 29th Mister C’s Beach Bistro  presented their first wine and food pairing of the fall season. 78 guests were treated to an assortment of six wines and six food samplings designed to delight their palates. Mister C’s chef, Micheal, impressed the entire contingent with his culinary skills.

The first selection was a Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California 2009 paired with Goat Cheese Medallions, heirloom tomato relish and crostini. The guests were instructed to first take a sip of the wine and reflect on the acidity and flavors,  try the food and sip the wine again. When tasted with the goat cheese, the citrus, mango, kiwi, and lime aromas and flavors were softened and the flavors of vanilla, guava and grapefruit shone through complementing the tanginess of the cheese. The crisp freshness and subtle oak characteristics added a bit of complexity and depth for this classic pairing. Many who said they didn’t enjoy the first taste because they thought it was “too acidic”, said they were surprised by how much they liked it with the cheese and how creamy the wine and cheese became when paired together.

The second offering was a very traditional pairing, Smoked Salmon Crepe, shaved fennel and creme fraiche with a Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River, California, 2008. The smokiness of both the salmon and the pinot noir melded together beautifully on the palate. The supple texture of this lively, medium-bodied  wine offered cherry and rose petal aromas and flavors which beautifully set off the shaved fennel. The subtle, toasty vanilla flavor of the wine was topped off by the fresheness of the creme fraiche. This seamless tasting proved why Pinot Noir and Salmon are a perfect classic pairing.

Vegetarians take note: the third selection was a very happy surprise to everyone: a Grilled Vegetable Kabob with braised lentils paired with a sangiovese. At first, it seemed the Antinori Santa Cristina Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy, 2007 would overpower the vegetables because it has an intense aroma of fresh fruit and flowers. But, when sipped with the vegetables, this structured wine proved to be well-rounded and harmonious. In fact, the wine made the lentils stand out and seem so much richer. The sweet tannins and a lingering taste of fruit blended beautifuly with the charred grilled flavors of the squash, tomato, mushroom, and onion kebab. It was truly a delight.

Then came one of the most favorite pairings of the evening: Saffron Risotto Cake, filetto sauce and shaved pecorino paired with Montes Purple Angel Carmenére, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 2006. Purple Angel is a blend composed of 92% Carmenére and 8% Petit Verdot. The pungent scents of red and dark berry preserves complicated by musky herbs, cracked pepper and potpourri, with an undercurrent of oak spices, balanced the acidic tomato base of the filetto sauce and shaved pecorino.The delicious risotto was cooked to perfection and balanced by the sweet blackberry and candied cherry flavors of the sangiovese. The combination of the wines velvety tannins and bright minerality enhanced the tangy edge of the pecorino and filetto sauce. Delicious flavors lingered long after the dish was finished.

The Risotto cake was followed by a Grilled Diver Scallop on a bed of Asparagus Corn Salad olive aioli paired with Esperto Pinot Grigio, Veneto Italy, 2008. Guests were told the wine was selected to act as a lemon lemon would for seafood. The freshness was the first thing one noticed followed by a delicate orange peel spiciness that complimented the scallop so beautifully. The structured full-bodied palate was intense with citrusy acitiy that balanced the olive aioli accenting the rich flavors of the asparagus and corn. It was a clean, crisp, and super satisfying pairing.

The last pairing was the dessert pairing. Normally, one would think salad would be the first course, but the Watermelon and Fresh Mint Salad paired with Columbia Winery Cellarmaster Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2008 made for a delicious and semi-sweet finish. The watermelon was perfectly chilled and the bits of fresh mint lifted the flavor. Bits of craisins added a sweet tartness and chewy texture. The Riesling, with its pleasing, floral aroma with hints of peach, quince, lime and clove offered rich, crisp and full-flavored fruit that, when combined with the watermelon, created a delicious mouthful of fruit salad. The wine and watermelon combination was fresh, refreshing, bright and a bit off-dry. A perfect finish to a delightful tasting.

The servings were generous and it was easy to see no one left hungry. Hostess and owner, Karen Marzulli, stated that “everyone received a little more than a pound of food each.” The best part? The price, an affordable $35 for six generous portions and wine samples and a beautiful view.

If this first of Mister C’s series of food and wine pairings is any indication of what is to come this season, you will be well served to begin making reservations now. Mister C’s Beach Bistro is located on the beach at Allen Avenue in Allenhurst, New Jersey 07711. Future pairings and events are posted on Mister C’s Beach Bistro web calendar.

On pairing wines with steak


For years diners have been stifled by over-generalized, over simplified rules of food and wine pairing: “Drink white with white meat. Drink red with red meat.”

But is knowing that basic rule enough? How does one know which wine to select? The short answer is: the one that you will enjoy the most. But what if you don’t know what you’ll enjoy the most with your meal? Should you pick red? Or white?

First, red wine is a natural accompaniment to grilled meat. The secret is knowing which wines to drink with which dishes. Take a grilled steak, the hearty flavor of steak is always enhanced by the right wine.

Many reds taste better paired with beef­—or lamb—than they would if consumed without food (Chee-tos don’t count as a food group for this article. Note: Champagne works well with Chee-Tos).

Yalumba cabernetA simply-grilled steak pairs beautifully with a full-bodied red wine. A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with black currant, coffee and dark chocolate notes and a long finish would balance nicely with  steak. The tannins in the wine combines with the protein in the meat to create a lush, flavorful taste, and the steak’s proteins soften the Cabernet’s tannins. Summers Adrianna’s Cuvee from Napa Valley, Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from South Australia, Los Vascos Colchaugua Valley, Cabernet  or Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Chile are all affordable good choices.

Not in the mood for Cabernet? A California Merlot or a Hermitage like Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2006 from France’s Rhône Valley are also good choices.

2005 Twomey MerlotAlthough Cabernet Sauvignon will pair well with one of the most delicious steaks available— Ribeye or a Delmonico Steak, a Merlot would be better suited. A favorite is Twomey Merlot 2005 — a voluptuous, robust and balanced concentration of black cherry, blackberry essence, wild game and freshly ground black pepper. This is a full-bodied and velvety wine, with fine-grained tannins and an extremely long finish. This Merlot will continue to give drinking pleasure through 2018, and it  will delight you and your dining companion(s) today. This is a BIG, rich flavorful wine and it will leave you wanting more.

Bogle Vineyard’s Zinfandel blend.
Phantom by Bogle

If you want to add a little spice to your ribeye, cajun ribeye, or New York Strip Steak, a spicy Zinfandel with its blueberry and blackberry flavors is a match  made in heaven for this gorgeous marbling and mouth-watering aroma of beef at its best. Try The Phantom, Bogle Vineyard’s Zinfandel blend. This succulent full-bodied blend combines lush blackberries and blueberries with the fierce spice essences of black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.

A full-bodied, peppery California Zinfandel is always the first choice to accompany a spicy steak, such as a “steak au poivre”. Steaks that are highly spiced or one marinated in a spicy brine, are best paired with a spicy wine. If you would rather not have a Zin, a fruit-forward Merlot, with plum, blackberry, and clove is another alternative. The fruit flavors, when blended with the spicy steak, will appear sweeter and temper the pepper.

Chardonnay lovers, take note…“steak au poivre” is the steak to pair with a lightly-oaked, ripe, crisp Chardonnay. The Chardonnay should be rich with apple, pear, and citrus flavors.  Try  Alph Omega  Napa Valley Chardonnay 2006 with its fresh entrance evolving on marzipan, Meyer lemon, apples, yellow raspberry and pear, with a strong minerality and lingering crisp acidity. This 94 point* rated wine will surprise you—especially the fact that it is long-lived, it will continue to drink well through 2015.

The classic porterhouse is a cut that offers two unique steak flavors in one. The rich taste of the meaty sirloin strip and the tender, buttery-soft filet mignon. The larger filet mignon portion, is sure to satisfy your beef-lover’s appetite, and it just calls out for a medium-bodied Pinot Noir. The rich silkiness of the wine enhances the filet’s soft texture. Pinot’s flavors of red cherry, strawberry and smoky, earth tones shine in Castle Rock Mendocino, California Pinot Noir.  For a French twist, Joseph Drouhin Vero Pinot Noir 2006 is not only a delicious Burgundy, it’s affordable.

Prime rib becomes more of an occasion when paired with a Syrah/Shiraz. If you want a fruity Shiraz, look to Australia’s Peter Lehmann’s Barossa Shiraz. The nose is typical of Barossa Shiraz, with scents of dark plums and chocolate. There are also notes of  sweet cedar and a hint of black pepper. The palate has a good depth of dark berry flavors with a touch of savory fruits and a good tannin structure in harmonious balance to the fruit. This wine does very well with both steak and lamb.

Guigal Crozes HermitageIf you want a more elegant and refined syrah look to France’s Rhône Valley. The Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2006 mentioned earlier is a structured, tannic wine. This well-made, medium-bodied 2006 is a classic example of the appellation at a high level of quality. This  Crozes-Hermitage is richer, and more textured, offering peppery, tapenade, and cassis scents with an undercurrent of minerals. The spicy, fine red berry and cherry flavors mingle with refined tannins thus lending support and a focused peppery quality. All of this leds to  a strong finishing snap.

Somewhere between the two, is California’s Pedroncelli Alexander Valley Syrah . Pedroncelli’s Syrah has rich aromas of ripe berry and black pepper spice with concentrated flavors of blackberry, plum and licorice. This Syrah has well-balanced tannins providing structure. Expect this delicious wine to take on complexities for the next 5-7 years.

Italy’s Rocca della Macie offers an elegant, an innovative blend of Sangiovese and Syrah called Sasyr. This wine is velvety smooth, supple and vibrant, with fruity aromas cherry, blackberry and raspberry. It is intense and complex and as the winemaker likes to say “it will introduce you to an array of flavors beyond your wildest dreams.” Needless to say, Sasyr is both easy drinking and quite elegant with steak.

For something different, a Petite Sirah, is a good choice. No, it’s not a smaller version of Shiraz/Syrah, it’s a hybrid, making it a different grape. Durif is a cross of Peloursin and  Syrah. This grape makes a dark colored, tannic wine with blackberry, plum fruit and mushroom flavors—perfect for pairing with prime rib, a T-bone,  or a  sirloin steak. Try David Bruce Central Coast Petite Sirah 2006. This Sirah exudes bright, spice-tinged, jammy fruit, earthy mushrooms, and dense blackberry, blueberry and white pepper aromas. The wine offers a supple and balanced feel full of red and blueberry fruit with hints of cassis and firm tannins.

Altovinum’s Evodia Old Vines Garnacha 2008 will add some peppery goodness to any steak. Evodia is the Greek word for “aroma” and this red has very fresh, straightforward scents of raspberry and blackberry, plus cracked pepper. Juicy and tannin-free, with spicy berry and pepper flavors and a gentle mineral lift. Easy to drink and a superb value, with a good finishing bite— you won’t need to reach for the pepper mill when you pair grilled meat with this one!

Okay, your steak is slathered in barbecue sauce, what do you drink? Chianti. Chianti is the traditional wine to accompany red tomato-based sauces. That’s why Chianti is the preferred wine for pizza or to drink with spaghetti and meatballs. The high acid content in Chianti balances well with the high acid content in red sauces, such as barbecue sauce. Marchesi de Frescobaldi’s Nippozzano Riserva Chianti Ruffina proves itself year after year. This classic Chianti is from the sub-region of Rufina in Tuscany. The smooth, supple wine is full of red fruits, violets, cinnamon spice, fine tannins, and gentle cedar complexities that lead to a beautifully fine tannins a clean finish. Chianti is the traditional wine to accompany red tomato-based sauces.

Serve a red Bordeaux with grilled lamb steak. A smooth, subtle Red Bordeaux, such as Chateau du Taillan Cru Bourgeois Superieur Haut-Medoc 2005 is an ideal companion to grilled lamb. A Spanish Rioja such as El Coto Rioja Crianza also pairs well with grilled meat.

Many classic examples exist of food and wine pairings that are tried and true: grilled steak and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or grilled lamb and red Rioja. These are reliable, low-risk ventures that will likely result in an enjoyable overall dining experience. Just remember to open these wine 20 minutes prior to mealtime to allow for the flavors in the wine to fully develop.

*Wine Spectator rating

The Joy of BYOB


This month we explore the joys of BYOB. BYOB is  most commonly meant to stand for “bring your own bottle”.  It is generally recognized that the more modern usage of the term was initiated by drinkers in the 1950s, but in the early 19th century, the term BYOB was used in society slang to mean “bring your own basket”, with reference to group picnics. A basket would of course often include alcoholic beverages, but this is not believed to have been the primary focus of the term. Later, “BYO” (Bring Your Own) emerged to allow guests to bring their own bottle or bottles of wine.

Here on the Jersey Shore Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants represent an incredible windfall to the conscientious diner. Many are exceptionally fine dining establishments to which you may tote along an exceptional vintage of your own choosing and match it up with superior cuisine. This gives us the best of both worlds fine dining and favorite perfectly matched wines.

If you are a relative newcomer to the world of wine, a visit to a BYOB restaurant could seem to you to be a major inconvenience. Not only does it necessitate a trip to your local wine shop, and the time and trouble spent scouring the shelves for what you hope is an appropriate vintage; it also represents the mental anguish of wondering whether your selection(s) will ultimately be considered beneath contempt by some restaurant lackey. But as you become more adept at deciphering oenological esoterica and, perhaps, even begin to lay away a few bottles in that unused hall closet or cellar, your fears will undoubtedly dissipate. In the meantime, console yourself with the fact that you are saving your hard earned dollars by frequenting a bring your own restaurant.

There is only one rule of thumb to consider: Choose a wine that will be compliment both your food and your surroundings. Fine restaurants call for equally fine wines or, more simply put just bring a good wine.

The rules for wine pairing have relaxed a bit, but the fact remains that certain flavors of food and wine mix better together than others. When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. While it isn’t unheard of to have a white wine with meat or a red wine with fish or seafood, you don’t want to serve a very strong tasting wine with a delicate entree (think Cabernet Sauvignon with sole), or the other way around. The wine and the food should complement each other, not battle against each other. One way to decide is to remember what some experts recommend, “Simple wines with complex foods…complex wines with simple foods.”

When in doubt about your menu choices, bring  two bottles, one white and one red. This is particularly important when you’re not quite sure where your taste buds may lead, or when you’re dining at an exceptionally fine restaurant. When you tote along two bottles you are not only increasing the spectrum of gastronomic possibilities, you are also serving notice that you take both food and wine seriously. Like it or not, whether purchased on site or ferried across the threshold, wine makes a statement, a statement that restauranteurs are quick to pick up.

I often bring two of the bottle I plan on drinking with my meal. No, not because I plan on drinking more, but in case the first bottle opened is tainted in some way, corked, oxidized or displays some other fault. There’s nothing worse than having only one bottle and discovering it’s gone off.  Of course a stelvin enclosure (screw cap) or zork top will greatly decrease the odds of a bad bottle. (Yes, good quality wines can be found in these easier to open bottles) .

BYO is not only affordable, it’s also a guarantee that you’ll get to drink your very favorite wine or beer, no matter where you are.

Above all don’t stress over the perfect food and wine pairing. The best pairing is good food, good wine and good company. Friends and loved ones are the most important ingredients—we’ll drink to that!

Simple Rules for Pairing wines with your meal

  • Wine drunk by itself tastes different than wine with food, because wine acts on food similar to the way a spice does. Acids, tannins and sugars in the wine interact with the food to provide different taste sensations.
  • A good match will bring out the nuances and enhance the flavors and unique characteristics of both the food and the wine. Remember that if you are having more than one wine at a meal, it’s customary to serve lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavored dish is served early in the meal. In that case, match the sweet dish with a similarly sweet wine. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines.
  • Balance flavor intensity. Pair light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes.
  • Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods — poached or steamed — pair best with delicate wines. It’s easier to pair wines with more flavorfully prepared food — braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed. Pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish.
  • Match flavors. An earthy Pinot Noir goes well with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with fish for the same reasons that lemon does.
  • Balance sweetness. But, beware of pairing a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine, although I do occasionally like dark chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I also like chocolate with a beautiful single malt. Come to think of it, I like chocolate with just about anything.
  • Consider pairing opposites. Very hot or spicy foods — some Thai dishes, or hot curries for example — often work best with sweet desert wines like sauternes, or reislings or torrontes from argentina. Opposing flavors can play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and cleansing the palate.
  • Match by geographic location. Regional foods and wines such as French fare with French wine, Spanish food with Spanish wine, having developed together over time, often have a natural affinity for one another.
  • Adjust food flavor to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will decrease awareness of sourness in wine and making it taste richer and mellower — sweet wine will taste sweeter. Bitter flavors in food increase the perception of bitter, tannic elements in wine. Sourness and salt in food suppress bitter taste in wine. Salt in food can tone down the bitterness and astringency of wine and may make sweet wines taste sweeter.
  • If a dish is acidic — citrus or vinegar — then an acidic wine would be appropriate, although a lightly acidic dish can be balanced with a lightly sweet wine. Acidic white wines are Sauvignon Blanc and most sparkling wines. Acidity in wine cuts saltiness, so sparkling wines generally pair with salty foods better than less tart wines such as most red wines.
  • Tannins from the skins and sometimes stems of grapes and the oak barrels used for aging cause the bitter or astringent aftertaste in some red wines. Tannins mellow with age and are one of the components that add complexity to a mature wine. Foods with a prominent salty, sour or bitter taste will make a wine seem sweeter and less tannic. Bitter red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel and Syrah.
  • Alcohol gives wine a sense of body and weight, the higher the alcohol, the more full-bodied the wine. Rich meat, fish or chicken dishes that include cream are well suited to full-bodied wines (13–15 percent alcohol) whereas light, simply prepared and flavored dishes pair better with low alcohol wines (7–10 percent).