Earlier this season we suggested some wine and food pairings based on what we were seeing in Paris restaurants. The sun is shining, and we are all trying to eat lighter fare so we can squeeze into those swimsuits. But duck, pork, steak, burgers and foie gras remain on the menus in Paris no matter the time of year—it’s all a matter of finding a more seasonal way to enjoy them.
Duck is now being paired more often with fruit chutney, with the fruit being heated and other ingredients, like spices, sugar and vinegar, added to enhance the sweetness. Verjus Wine Bar has served small strips of rare duck with chunkier bits of apricot, making for a refreshing but substantive taste.
Here a wine that has lower tannins yet is juicy and slightly smoky would do very nicely. Grenache comes to mind. Raw fruit is a challenge, but cooked fruit can be a dream for wine pairings. Cooked prunes, apricots and cherries can be very wine friendly. Try Domaine la Garrigue, Vacqueyras for $25.
Pork is always popular in Paris, and I recently enjoyed a unique presentation at the newly opened Semilla in Saint-Germain. Fatty pork spare ribs were grilled with a little garlic, and served with bright orange sweet potatoes.
Pork and pinot is an excellent marriage of flavors as well as weight, with neither dominating the other. I’d recommend either Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Bourgogne Rouge for $25, or Domaine Alain Gras Saint-Romain Rouge for $35.
You’ll always find a cut of beef on a menu in Paris, but in warmer temperatures you’ll see less béarnaise sauce in favor of a simpler, lighter cooking technique. Sharing the plate are now more summer vegetables, like beautifully grilled artichokes, which make a better companion that a heavier cream-laden potato dish. Le Severo serves some of the best steaks in town, with rotating seasonal vegetables, but it’s always hard to turn down the salty frites here.
Steak is an easy pairing in general, as the cabernet, merlot and syrah grapes have lots of natural structure and higher tannins, which work well with the fat and viscosity of red meat. But the artichokes are the challenge here, as they contain a pesky compound called cynarin, which can play tricks on the palate and throw many wines off completely. I’d try a Bordeaux with a little age on it, maybe the Xavier Flouret from the Premières Côtes de Blaye, Bordeaux; with 60 percent merlot and 40 percent cabernet, it will show a clean structure with smooth tannins.
The burger craze is still going strong in Paris. Newly opened burger shop Blend is doing well, and the first burger truck in Paris, Le Camion Qui Fume, is still attracting lines of people willing to wait more than an hour for a curbside burger. When the truck parks along the canal, people will grab a burger classique, with beef, cheddar, mayo, tomatoes, pickles and onions. On a warm evening, they then grab a waterfront spot and a bottle of wine.
With a nicely grilled burger, I’d recommend a Cahors. These wines have great acidity and firm tannins, and are a bit rustic and peppery, which will work beautifully with grilled ground beef. Consider Clos la Coutale for $16, or Château la Coustarelle Grande Cuvée at around $19.
Foie gras and Paris are practically synonymous, so you can always find it somewhere in Paris. Because foie gras is about 90 percent fat (but I don’t recommend keeping track), I find that searing it quickly in a very hot pan is the best preparation, because this allows the foie gras to melt a bit and lets it caramelize nicely. Les Affranchis served it just how I like it, with an added side of a sweet onion chutney, which was the perfect topping on thinly toasted bread.
The classic pairing for foie gras is Sauternes, with its sublime apricot and honeyed flavors balanced with fine acidity and a luscious mouthfeel—a lean, dry wine just would not do here. I’d also recommend a vin doux naturel, like a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, which is essentially a fortified wine with gorgeous mandarin orange flavors and a floral character that will provide a rich counterpoint to the unctuous foie gras and savory-sweet onions. Try Domaine de Durban for about $20 for 375 ml.
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