La Dolce Vita: A match made in Thai heaven

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Regular readers will be aware that I am a big fan of pairing food with appropriate wines. And I believe that there need to be no hard and fast rules in the selections — what’s good for the goose might not be so good for the gander — because personal tastes are as wide ranging as the food and wine available to us.

That said, there are some generally accepted principles when it comes to food and wine pairing, and they are a bit more complex that “red for meat, white for fish” (which really isn’t a very helpful rule at all). Ideally, the characteristics of the wine provide a balance to the food, so that when the flavours of both are in the mouth the combination harmonizes and enhances, making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Recently, Angela and I had dinner at Creston’s Thai restaurant, excited at the prospect of a meal that would be prepared with specific wines in mind. Owner Anthony Kwan is a very knowledgeable wine enthusiast, but he credits his Aunt Debbie with the pairing selections. Interestingly, Debbie isn’t much of a wine drinker, but she has a superb palate and a unique ability to identify flavours and aromas that might go unnoticed by others. She created a menu to pair with four different Baillie-Grohman wines.

It was nice to sit down and just inform Anthony that we would be having the wine pairing menu. No muss, no fuss, just sit back and let the food and wine come to us. And come it did.

We began with a tasting (about three ounces) of 2009 Pinot Noir, which came along with satay gai, skewers of sliced chicken marinated in coconut milk and spices, along with homemade peanut sauce.

Immediately afterward came tom kha goong, which is a creamy coconut soup with prawns, lemon grass, galangal (similar to ginger) and mushrooms. In both cases, the Pinot Noir, with its silky mouth feel and subtle spices, complemented the silkiness that comes with coconut milk and the food tastes.

Next up was another tasting size wine serving, this time a Gewurztraminer. This choice was hardly a surprise, because most Thai food afficianados turn to Gewurz as a wine of choice. The appetizer courses were completed with the delivery of a Thai spring roll stuffed with mixed vegetables and rice noodles. They came with a delicious homemade sweet sauce which was topped with crushed with peanuts.

The main courses came next — four samplings, each one tasty and beautifully presented. They were accompanied by came with a full glass of 2010 Pinot Gris, a nice, full-bodied white wine from a grape that I think is perfectly suited to our BC climate. Garlic calamari was sautéed with fresh garlic, black pepper sauce, broccoli and carrots. Pad-see-iew beef includes stir-fried noodles, broccoli, cabbage and egg with soy sauce. Red curry chicken brought a return to the coconut milk theme and included a variety of vegetables along with Thai sweet basil. The final main, sweet and sour pork, whose the sauce, vegetables and pineapples were beautifully complemented by the wine.

We ended our evening with a tasting size serving of one of my favourite wines produced in B.C., the 2010 Blanc de Noirs, a rose made entirely from Pinot Noir. It came with Anthony’s Thai deep fried bananas, scrumptious fritters served with vanilla ice cream.

The entire dining experience could not have been better. Each of the wine pairings worked wonderfully with the dishes and I would have been proud to have made similar offerings for guests in my own home.

The Kootenay Thai wine pairing menu serves as an excellent guide for diners in other areas. Think about Pinot Noir with coconut  dishes, Gewurz with almost anything spicy and, well, you get the idea. And completing almost any meal with a sip of rose is very satisfying.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.