This week in class we covered beer, wine, wine pairing with food, and experimented with crafting our own cocktails.
One whole day was dedicated to beer- we learned how it is produced, what gives beer its distinct flavors, and then tasted a wide range of different beers, making note of their flavor profiles, on our journey to becoming “professional tasters”. I really hate hoppy beer, like really hate it. But chef always tells us that we have to step outside of the box of our personal preferences and evaluate the product for quality, regardless of whether or not it is pleasing to us. Which in theory is great. In practicality, is much more difficult.
Every day in this class we have some element of mixology. One day we infused vodka, made simple syrup and crafted our own cocktails. After tasting everyone’s we talked about the flavor profiles and how it could be improved to be more balanced.
The next day, we did the same exercise of crafting our own cocktails, but this time we took it a step further. After trying everyone’s cocktail, we took someone else’s and tried to improve it. To begin with I made a gold rum base drink with chambord, muddled blackberries and mint, and topped off with sprite. The group that took this to improve it added lemon juice to lift it a bit, and add another dimension to the taste. It’s so neat how you can take something that tastes “off”, be able to identify why it doesn’t taste right, and add something to it to make it more enjoyable and balanced.
The last two days of class this week were wine days- not only did we learn about wine, the different types of wine, how it is produced, and how different flavors are brought out in wine, but we started to learn how to pair wines with food. And I found this absolutely fascinating.
We went through and just smelled the wines. We identified the different aromas in each wine. After that we went through and tasted the wines on their own, identifying if they were predominantly sweet, tannic, acidic or alcoholic tasting. And then from there, we tasted different foods with all of the wines to see the effect that food had on those predominant flavors we had identified earlier.
Just to give you an example of how this works, take a really tannic wine for instance (tannin is the sensation you get after drinking a red wine like a cabernet sauvignon and your mouth feels really dry and sticky). I HATE that feeling. But then you eat a piece of cheese and taste the wine and that tannic-ness disappears! The protein and fat from the cheese coat your mouth so that the tannins in the wine can’t grasp onto your saliva and dehydrate your mouth. HOW COOL! So then to apply that in a practical way, a steak would go really well with a really tannic wine because the fat and the protein in steak would have the same effect as the cheese did in our tasting.
This picture is a really helpful guide on how food interacts with wine. Have you ever had spicy food with a really strong wine? It probably burned your mouth off. That’s because when the two are paired, the heat from the spice is intensified by the alcohol in the wine. But to counterbalance this, you can use sweetness. AKA this is why a margarita and spicy Mexican food go well together- because even though there is alcohol in the wine and a lot of spiciness in the food, the sweetness in the Margarita helps to balance that interaction and make it more pleasant of an experience.
What’s been really cool about this class is everything that we are learning about tasting and pairing alcohols with foods can be applied to cooking too. Even just after 6 days of learning this, I have been able to notice a difference in how I taste and think about food and recipes in relation to flavors and balance. And I think that’s what makes a trained chef so much different from a home cook. Those skills that a trained chef learns from hours upon hours of repetition and training to reach a whole other level of deliciousness. So prepare yourself……cause we’re on our way up!
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You can read about my other culinary school adventures here!