The Plight of The Cab-Drinker

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By Deirdre Bourdet

One of the biggest challenges facing a fan of cabernet sauvignon is finding foods that stand up to their bold and brawny wine. Unless you subsist entirely on red meats, you have no doubt noticed cab's tendency to overwhelm or clash with more delicate flavors and textures, particularly vegetables or white meats and fish.  Does this mean that you can never enjoy a glass of cab with these kinds of meals?  Of course not.  It just means you need to be more creative about bridging the gap between them.

Here are a few pointers on making your food more compatible with cabernet:
1. Add some earth.  Earthy flavors are delicious and, generally speaking, easy crowd pleasers.  Roasted garlic, onions, fennel, and other root vegetables have a sweet earthy richness to them that really helps boost flavor as well as red wine-friendliness.  Slip some mashed up roasted garlic or caramelized onions into your veggies and both the food and the wine will taste better.  Legumes also have an earthy aspect to them, so slather on the hummus (great in warm chicken salad) or serve up some beans as your veggies.

2. Season with flavors you find in the wine.  Dried thyme, rosemary, coffee, pepper, chocolate, and cherries are probably some of the reasons you like cabernet.  Echoing these flavors in your food helps you notice them more in the wine, and also gives the wine something to cling to.  Espresso-rubbed meats are fantastic, and virtually all your standard American staples pair well with dried thyme or fresh rosemary.  Potatoes, spinach, corn, tomatoes, squashes, beans, and meats of every color and texture benefit from their herbaceous kiss.  Dried cherries (rehydrated in cognac, for example...) are also surprisingly versatile in sauces and vegetable sides, bringing rich flavor and tart sweetness to whatever they touch.

3. Finish with wine-friendly fats.  Although many dishes are legitimately delicious on their own without a final flourish of fat, adding a bit of roundness and richness at the end does vastly improve the chances of a successful match with wine.  For red wines like cabernet, I think a quick drizzle of walnut or truffle oil just before serving makes whatever you're eating the partner your wine has been dreaming of its whole life.  If you're fresh out of truffle oil... my condolences... use an olive oil with herbaceous notes like your wine, or even just plain, perfect butter melted in at the last minute.  Enjoying your food with your wine of choice is well worth the extra calories, I think.

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