One of the nicest people in local news, Carolyn Long, allowed me to have some fun this week: I answered her call to match wine with food.
But this was food outside the box — or actually from inside the box, the box in this case holding a selection of Girl Scout Cookies.
Sacrilege, you say? Why not a glass of milk, you say? What’s so special about milk? Warm milk is … well … some people think it’s kinda gross.
And some folks are lactose intolerant, though I’ve never understood why they don’t just say they’re allergic to it. What arethey
supposed to drink with their cookies? Water? Hah!
You see, there’s a reason why we drink beverages with our foods, though you thought it was to wash down your grandma’s overcooked roast beef. We have this sensory characteristic called “adaptation,” and it’s a skill developed by our species over millennia of selection.
Its purpose? To allow us to notice every new smell that comes along without being overwhelmed by the strongest smells in the room. Adaptation turns down the flavors the longer you taste them. Its effect? Nothing ever tastes as good as it does in the first bite.
Take the Thin Mint (the Girl Scout legend): a moist, yet crisp wafer dipped in dark and milk chocolate, with a hint of cocoa bitterness and a nostril-clearing burst of mint candy. It’s both mouth filling and mouth cleansing.
The first cookie — they tell me, I actually don’t like the things — is ecstasy. The second one? Not bad. Subsequent cookies are pleasant, but barely elevated above “meh.” You eat an entire box hoping, searching for that first cookie experience — or so I’m told.
Enter the glass of wine. My choice for Long’s show? Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port: thick, rich, sweet — even slightly sweeter than the cookie, but that’s why it works — with chocolate notes alongside cherry, raisin and fig flavors.
Chocolate is a powerful, oily flavor. It’s difficult to wash from the mouth unless you ramp up the alcohol level with fortified wines like sherry, Madeira or port, as in this port.
For the Lemonade cookies? HolyField Late Harvest Vignoles, a Kansas wine with intense peach and apricot flavors and a green apple, almost citrus, lemon note.
You see, when you’re pairing wines with foods, you don’t need, or even want, the same flavors in the wines and foods. You want them to complement each other.
That means a food that doesn’t overwhelm the wine and a wine that doesn’t overwhelm the food. Even when the food in question is a Girl Scout Cookie. Or perhaps I just like to drink wine every chance I get.
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section and the Chow Town blog.