La dolce vita: Matching white wines with meals

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When I saw tubs of oysters on special earlier this month I knew immediately what supper would be. All that was left to decide on was a suitable wine.

The plan? Oyster po’boys. This sandwich has been a tradition in the New Orleans area (a place I long to visit) since the depression era. A couple of stories compete to explain how the sandwich got its name. One says that a former streetcar employee who owned a restaurant gave striking streetcar workers free sandwiches, which came to be called “poor boys” after the men who ate them. Another says that the sandwich was tossed in for free to new customers who purchased a nickel beer at another restaurant. The “poor boys’ lunch” soon became synonymous with the sandwich and, in Louisiana, where New Orleans is called “N’awlins”, it became the po’ boy.

Because there would only be the two of us at dinner, I didn’t opt for the traditional French baguette, instead choosing couple of soft, chewy buns. I pan-fried oysters I had dipped in beaten eggs and then cornmeal. Preparation for the bun was simple—one side was slathered in seedy mustard, the other in a mixture of tartar sauce and chili sauce to kick the taste up a notch. A pile of mixed greens provided a nice bed for the juicy oysters.

The wine? I chose a Pinot Blanc from Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars. From its location near Okanagan Falls, Blue Mountain has been producing fine wines for a couple of decades now. It is a family-owned operation that tends to go its own way in the wine world. No VQA labeling, little or no participation in big wine events and rarely to be found advertising in wine publications. The Mavety family started the business with a vision of how they wanted to operate and it’s been a highly successful one.

Within a few days, a couple more dishes called out for white wine. It’s a rarity in our home, especially in the winter, to drink more than a bottle or two of white wine in a month.

The first was a recipe that has quickly become a favourite for its simplicity and ease of preparation. A Japanese pancake, the dish starts by laying strips of cooked bacon to cover the bottom of an ovenproof pan. A couple of inches of coleslaw-type vegetables goes on top, mixed with eggs, flour and spices. The baked result is turned over onto a plate and cut into pie slices. It makes a wholesome, filling meal and is completed with the addition of a sauce or two. I chose a Black Widow Winery Viognier that we had enjoyed on our last visit to Naramata. With a hint of sweetness to balance out the tart and spicy home-made sauce, it went nicely with the egg and vegetable dish.

The third white was a blend from Zero Balance Vineyards, one of a half dozen Holman-Lang wineries in Naramata that are now in receivership. The bottle was opened to enjoy with another quick meal—stir-fried vegetables, rice and jumbo black prawns pan-fried with a curry sauce intended for biryani dishes. The sauce has a strong, but not overwhelming curry flavour with none of the sweetness that many other curries have. Again, the match worked well.

Part of the joy of cooking is, at least from my perspective, thinking about what wine will enhance the flavours of the dish. I try to imagine how the tastes will work together and it is always fun to see if my selection is appropriate. What’s the worst that can happen? The match doesn’t work, you set aside the wine glasses in favour of water, then enjoy the wine afterward, on its own or with some slices of cheese.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.