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15.05.2018 | Words by: Alise Akimova

Unusual ingredients call upon your creativity and demand an adventurous and open mind. These aspects are exactly what hosts Jim and Nina of Restaurant DS are seeking for, when pairing wines with the veggie-dominant meals. But is there even a perfect way of pairing a wine with food that contains flavours which sometimes have overpowering tastes in its palate?

The wine pairing starts with the region where the food is from: in some ways both the winemaking and the culinary traditions have evolved together. They share the same history, and in that case, one hand washes the other.

For example, a dish with truffles that grow abundantly in the North-Italian Piemonte region, pairs excellently with a Barolo wine made from harvested grapes grown in that same region. Also when matching drinks with food, one can consider a focus on the underlying tones in both, that when consumed together a complexity is encountered that enhances the food and wine. Light and delicate dishes can be a bit overwhelmed by heavyweight wines while delicate wines can look a bit flat when paired with dishes that consist of heavier sauces by example. Also the density of the wine influences its flavour (like its thickness and alcohol level).

Some foods or ingredients can actually distort the palate a bit, like when an umami-bomb comes around it changes the rules of the game. Umami is the fifth flavour next to sweet, sour, bitter and sweet that can be described as savoury. It is claimed to be discovered by a Japanese professor as recent as 1908, and is particularly present in abundance in foods like seaweed, ripe cheeses, tomatoes and fermented foods. Umami as being described as savoury is more of a feeling then a flavour in itself, allowing you to taste the food multi-dimensionally.

One of the first courses at De School’s restaurant – inspired by what chef Lenny loves to eat himself when he goes out for dinner – is a cheerful array of dashi broth (kombu seaweed), horseradish, cream of avocado and potato gnocchis. The beautiful rich umami flavour of the seaweed broth is present, while vibrant droplets of horseradish are contrasting with tempting fatty dots of avocado and chubby potato gnocchis. Different beverage options could be considered for pairing with a dish like this.

Sake is winning popularity among wine drinkers because of its delicate character but pairing the dish with a fresh beer could also work well. According to research from another (yet again) Japanese university, aged wine shows an increase of the inherent umami flavour in wine, probably because of the texture in the mouth. In this case the dish was paired with a slightly aged Riesling, while retaining some of its vibrant acidity and still complementing the fresher flavours of the dish. The two fuse beautifully.

While less obvious, another hearty umami dish was on De School’s menu – brill (fish) with an octopus tentacle, cream of artichoke, paksoi and a buttery sauce of fermented bean paste – a hearty sauce that again shows its umami through the fermented sweet bean paste contributing to the complex flavours of the dish.

One of Jim’s favorite wines is from Sicily, where the grapes grow high on the slopes of the Etna volcano. Because of their favorable geographical position in the south of Italy the grapes are exposed to a lot of sunlight during the day, and this advances the ripening. Meanwhile, the temperatures at night drop quite drastically, allowing the grape to maintain a higher acidity level. Because of the volcanic soil the wine still retains a beautiful minerality to it. While the more firm brill fish and the octopus together with the sauce could be considered a full-bodied dish, the luscious personality of the Etna Bianco together with its sheer minerality complement this dish in almost all facets.

So the best combination is the one where you love both components individually, and both the wine and the dish happen to improve and move each other from subtlety to power. Perfect wine-and-food pairing is not a goal in itself at Restaurant DS. Especially once you consider that there’s not always a perfect match for some flavours. It’s like the holy grail that can never actually be found. So even if you will never possess that grail, there’s probably some other glass or cup available for a delicious complimentary wine.

*Please note: because we like the surprise aspect of a menu that changes constantly, the dishes and wines in this blog are not guaranteed to be served during your visit at Restaurant DS. More info: https://www.deschoolamsterdam.nl/nl/restaurant/
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