Food-drink pairings add flair to parties
by Karen Deer
Whether you’re planning a cocktail party, intimate dinner party or Thanksgiving feast, matching the food and the drinks can be a key to success.
For maximum impact at a cocktail party, pair each food with its own drink, and display each combo on its own table. Arrange the plates and glasses around a simple centerpiece or use a two-tiered tray or cloth-covered box or cake platter to elevate the beverage above the food or the food above the beverage.
“Pairings are great for holiday cocktail parties,” says Cassie Burd, vice president of sales and catering at Butler’s Pantry, 1414 Park Avenue in Lafayette Square. Placing the tables in different locations will encourage mixing and mingling, she says, and offering small portions will allow people to sample everything without becoming overwhelmed.
Pairing food and drinks can seem intimidating, but it can be simple. “Start with the basics,” Burd says. Choose a food or drink you like, then think about what you would normally eat or drink with that. Finally, figure out a fun spin on the traditional.
For example, start with a classic margarita. Margaritas are often served with Mexican food, so pair them with tacos. For a fresh twist, make them miniature fish tacos, and serve the margaritas in airplane-size tequila bottles with straws.
“Pairing is just as simple for desserts,” Burd says. Perhaps you’d like to serve small ramekins of crème brûlée, which is basically cream and sugar (plus eggs). What goes with cream and sugar? Coffee. Espresso martinis or coffee spiked with a favorite liqueur would make perfect accompaniments.
Suggested food-and-drink pairings:
Paté, tangy dips or cheese logs • “Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza is a Belgian-style, strong dark ale with surprising tartness from wild fermentation in oak barrels,” says Phil Wymore brewmaster and co-founder of Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis. “I like this beer as a pairing with multiple appetizers prior to Christmas dinner. This beer is complex, full-bodied and mildly acidic, which makes it a nice candidate to pair with multiple offerings.”
Shrimp cocktail • “Try a sparking wine, such as Ruffino Prosecco. It’s a sweeter wine that will complement a spicy appetizer,” says Tyler Maddox, sous chef at Bravo Cucina Italiana in West County Center.
Turkey • “A classic pairing for a traditional turkey Thanksgiving meal is Beaujolais, a light, fruity red wine,” says chef Lauren McCabe of MealThymes Personal Chef Service in St. Charles.
Ham • “Schwarzbier is a black German lager, smooth, malty and mysterious. It has only a hint of roastiness and a great balance, leaning towards malty more than hoppy, and goes superbly with the rich character of hams in all fashions, especially from the grill,” says Stephen Hale, Schalfy’s chief brewer.
Lamb • “Choose a merlot, something that doesn’t have a lot of tannins or oak in it,” says Paul Hayden, wine manager at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton.
Pumpkin pie • “Two great local beer options to pair with pumpkin pie are Schlafly Pumpkin Ale and O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer,” says the Post-Dispatch’s beer columnist, Evan Benn. “This year’s version of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is big on the spices you typically associate with pumpkin pie — clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. And O’Fallon Brewery uses lots of real pumpkin puree in its fall seasonal, which really gives it that pumpkin-pie-in-a-bottle flavor.”
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